The endless repetition of history

I love history. I studied it at university and have always found that there is an historical perspective to my work and activities. There is much to be learned from history – as Winston Churchill observed, “Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong – these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.”

The US today is more than ever shaped by its founding. The Declaration of Independence stated that “all men are created equal”, yet the writers enslaved people and, when the Constitution was written, the founders compromised on slavery to the extent both of allowing it and counting slaves as “three-fifths of a free individual.” 

Another legacy of history from the founding of the US is the imbalance in representation that was built into the Constitution so that small states were not dictated to by large ones. This legacy has today resulted in legislative paralysis, partisan divide, and a US that seems more plural than singular – the United States are instead of the United States is.

I’m sure I’ll experience contradictions as I travel around the States. The ‘originalist’ majority in the Supreme Court appears to be interpreting the Constitution in a way that puts law-making back at state level, so denying many Americans access to abortion services. Yet the originalist interpretation of the Constitution would limit guns to “A well regulated Militia” instead of allowing citizens to be armed with AR-15s for duck hunting.

The signs I’ve seen so far tell the story of America today. I’ll no doubt see many more.

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  1. Hi John, I’ll be following your blog with interest. One thing that strikes me is quite how politicised normal America would appear to be based on these images i.e. a Church making a public statement about abortion and people with offensive banners outside their home. Is this new or has the US always had this level of ‘in your face’ political messaging?

    1. Good question and observation Andy. What is emerging is the impact of media. Back in the day there were three TV channels and papers galore at national, regional and local level. The internet has changed that, as did the end of the FCC’s (Federal Communication Commission) ‘fairness doctrine’ under the Reagan presidency in 1987. We’re reaping the impact.

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