Sunday, August 13, 2017

History Repeats, But We do Not Learn

Peekskill, NY - 1949
Charlottesville - 2017

Some must get tired of my history lessons but the record of history and current events compel me.   

I was Born in 1945, so I am old enough to remember the comments of my parents in response to national and world events. I remember coming home from school and finding my my mother doing her ironing while watching the Congressional sessions of the House Committee on Unamerican Activities, other wise known as the Army-McCarthy Hearings.  My parents were outraged by this travesty of justice. Later on in a casual conversation about visiting territory north of New York City the city of Peekskill was mentioned. I was surprised by my mothers immediate recoil. I did not 'get it' and asked for explanation. "Oh, that is where bigots rioted after a performance by Paul Robeson, a Negro with a great voice who had spoken out against some US policies and in favor of Russia." Whenever I drive through Peekskill today I remember the story, now further informed by an interview with Pete Steeger in which he described being in a car leaving the grounds and being stoned by the crowd with police doing little to hold down the violence.  

So now, 68 years after Peekskill, and more than 50 years since the passage of Civil Rights legislation, we are faced  with hideous images of rampant violence and organized hate groups unafraid to brandish symbols of Confederate slave states, the renewed Ku Klux Klan, and the Neo-Nazi Party.

Believing as I do that the campaign rhetoric and current language and behavior of Donald Trump have given permission for such pent up prejudice, anger, and lethal violence to erupt  I continue to worry about what will happen when he is unable to produce what he promised. How will the Right spew its lava of resentment, hopelessness and pure hatred? The volcano has erupted in Charlottesville. It will not stop there.

So now we face the prospect of war, nuclear or otherwise. One issue seems not to be enough. Both North Korea AND the likes of Venezuela present issues. Could Venezuelan oil have something to do with it?  And at the same time we face domestic warfare unleashed by power that does not know history at all.

For further information about the Peekskill Riot of 1949 go to for great video and documentary accounts.                                              

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