All of us studied the US Civil War that started in 1861 - when our great democratic experiment was truly tested. After 4 bloody years and the loss of 620,000 souls, the country had survived and lived to see another day.
In 1914 (3 generations later) the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand brought on the First World War. At that time it was referred to as the “The Great War”, given the assumption that lessons were learned and such an atrocity would never happen again.
But it was not be. I can remember my father telling me about the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 (2 generations later) when he was 11 years old. He remembered listening to Roosevelt on the radio calming the fears of the nation.
My mother often referred to the Cuban Missile crisis (yet another 2 generations later in 1961) as bringing us to the edge of the abyss. She said that the country felt it could be the end of the world. Grainy black and white pictures on the TV covered the events of those 13 days. The effect of this incident was so ingrained in her that 50 years later she was fearful for my safety when I visited Cuba in 2011.
The first international crisis I experienced was 9/11 (in 2001, just 2 generations down the road from the missile crisis). Who can forget the TV coverage of twin towers collapsing in the perfectly clear blue skies of that September morning?
Now in 2022, (yet another 2 generations later) we find ourselves (hopefully not) on the brink of another possible international conflict. This time heightened by the fear of a nuclear holocaust. As of the writing of this missive, the jury is still out as to the outcome of this latest world threat.
All this begs the question, does our pain and memory only last several generations? How quickly can the population as a whole forget? There will always be international struggles, narcissistic autocrats, and those nations who feel personally aggrieved and are willing to rise up and fight for their cause.
Meanwhile so many are overlooking the cry in the wilderness of the environmentalist that the sky is truly falling. And this Earthly disaster will effect civilization as a whole. This frightening reality is not confined by geographical borders, limited to petulant rulers, or the obliteration of certain ethnicities. Unless we all face this reality and make changes, what will be left for future generations, if there are any?
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