Roundup: Talking About History
This is where we excerpt articles about history that appear in the media. Among the subjects included on this page are: anniversaries of historical events, legacies of presidents, cutting-edge research, and historical disputes.
SOURCE: FOX News (5-31-10)
Memorial Day. Those of us old enough to remember might recall a parent or grandparent who referred to it as “Decoration Day.” We might recall as well that “Memorial Day,” was not on the last Monday in May, serving as an endcap for a three day weekend of sales and vacations, but instead was observed on May 30, no matter what day of the week that was.
It started shortly after the Civil War when General Logan, who was part of the forces occupying the South, supposedly observed Southern women laying spring flowers on the graves of both Confederate and Union dead. Logan wrote of it, urged a...
SOURCE: Newsweek (5-30-10)
The beginning of the end of War, wrote the novelist Herman Wouk, lies in Remembrance. But what happens if Americans know so little of war that they have nothing to remember? Today, in the spring of 2010, nine years into one war in Afghanistan and seven years into another in Iraq, we are trapped in a strange moment: America is a country at war, but hardly anybody notices.
This Monday is Memorial Day. It is an editorial commonplace to lament that federal holidays, from Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday to Veterans’ Day, are now more about long weekends and department-store sales. The failure to commemorate the war dead, however, has a particularly corrosive effect on the country, for once we forget the price of combat, it becomes all too easy to allow others—and other people’s children—to pay it....
But we have forgotten, and one reason is that so few of us—I include myself—have any direct connection to those...
SOURCE: The Atlantic (5-28-10)
The basic story line is this: The "greatest generation" answered the call and proved their patriotism by winning World War II and thereby saving the world from the Nazis. Then came the boomers, who evaded the draft and spat at soldiers and generally have been a huge disappointment. Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut attorney general and senate candidate who "misspoke" about having served in Vietnam has given us a new reason to chew all this over.
There are problems with this narrative. For example, the World War II generation are also the people who paid almost nothing into Social Security and Medicare, but enjoy generous benefits that are politically impossible to cut. The boomers, who are just starting to retire (someone born in 1945 turns 65 this year), have been paying in much more for their entire working lives, and will never see anything like the deals their parents have enjoyed....
SOURCE: The Edge of the American West (Group Blog) (5-29-10)
[Kathy Olmsted is a history professor at UC Davis.]
Wallace Stegner famously said that California is like the rest of America, only more so. But when did he say it, and in what context? Yesterday I tracked down the original quote, which appeared in an editorial Stegner wrote for a special Golden State edition of Saturday Review magazine in 1967.
The references to Max Rafferty, Ronald Reagan, and Gary Snyder may seem dated, but in many ways the essay describes the California we know today:
If the history of America is the history of an established culture painfully adapting itself to a new environment, and being constantly checked, confused, challenged, or overcome by new immigrations, then the history of California is American history in extremis.
Like the rest of America, California is unformed, innovative, ahistorical, hedonistic, acquisitive, and energetic – only more so. Its version of the Good Life, its sports...
SOURCE: American Spectator (5-31-10)
Talk about a swift reversal in fortune. Consider how quickly British Prime Minister Winston Churchill went from winning a war to losing the peace. On V-E Day -- May 8, 1945, the day after the surrender of Nazi Germany -- Churchill stood on a balcony overlooking London's Parliament Square and addressed a great, cheering sea of humanity. When he told the people, "This is your victory," they roared back: "No, it's yours!" A little less than two months later, the British people went to the polls...and voted him out of office.
Just like that, the British prime minister went from basking in the glow of public adulation to staring at election results that showed an overwhelming lack of support for his continued...
SOURCE: HuffPo (5-26-10)
At the age of 17 he began dissecting corpses from the church graveyard. Between the years 1508 and 1512 he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Michelangelo Buonarroti, known by his first name the world over as the singular artistic genius, sculptor, and architect, was also an anatomist, a secret he concealed by destroying almost all of his anatomical sketches and notes.
Now, 500 years after he drew them, his hidden anatomical illustrations have been found -- painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, cleverly concealed from the eyes of Pope Julius II and countless religious worshipers, historians, and art lovers for centuries -- inside the body of God.
This is the conclusion of Ian Suk and Rafael Tamargo, in their paper...
SOURCE: The Edge of the American West (Group Blog) (5-20-10)
Students Frequently Ask this Question: when did the major US parties switch places, and why? Which is to say, when and why did the Democrats, who had been the party of limited federal government, begin to favor expanding Washington’s power? When and why did the Republicans, who had favored so strong a central government in Washington that they would accept a civil war rather than see its power curbed, become the party rhetorically committed to curbing its power?
When is easier to answer than why, though there’s no single date. (It would be nicer, though, if in one presidential election, say, the two candidates had done a partial do-si-do and ended up in each other’s places.) But we can pretty easily bracket the era of change.
At the beginning, we can put the Civil War. During the 1860s, the Republicans favored an expansion of federal power and passed over Democratic opposition a set of laws...
SOURCE: The American Conservative (7-1-10)
From the beginning, nearly 40 years ago, the evidence was in plain sight. For reasons unexplained, however, the mainstream press did not acknowledge it and has continued to ignore it to this day.
I’m referring to the evidence that North Vietnam—after the peace treaty had been signed on Jan. 27, 1973 in Paris—held back hundreds of American prisoners, keeping them as bargaining chips to ensure getting Washington’s promised $3.25 billion in war reparations. The funds were never delivered, and the prisoners were never released. Both sides insisted to their people and the world that all POWs had been returned, challenging the voluminous body of facts to the contrary.
But behind the scenes, where the press did not go then or now, President Nixon accused Hanoi of not returning a multitude of prisoners. In a private message on Feb. 2, 1973, Nixon said U.S. records showed 317...
SOURCE: The American Conservative (7-1-10)
Unlike the French or the Italians, for whom conspiracies are an integral part of government activity, acknowledged by all, Americans have been temperamentally prone to discount them. Reflecting its audience, the press follows suit. Editors and reporters like to offer themselves as hardened cynics, following the old maxim “Never believe anything till it is officially denied,” but in truth, they are touchingly credulous, ever inclined to trust the official version, at least until irrefutable evidence—say, the failure to discover a single WMD in Iraq—compels them finally to a darker view.
Once or twice a decade some official deception...
SOURCE: The Nation (5-27-10)
Art Linkletter, who died May 26 at 97, was important not only for getting little kids to say the darndest things, but also as a crusader against the counterculture of the 1960s, and especially against drugs. Nixon appointed him an adviser on drug policy, and on May 8, 1971, Linkletter went to the White House and met with the president.
The transcripts show Linkletter telling Nixon, “There's a great difference between alcohol and marijuana."
Nixon replies: “What is it?” The president wants to know!
“When people smoke marijuana,” Linkletter explains, “they smoke it to get high. In every case, when most people drink, they drink to be sociable.”
“That's right, that's right,” Nixon says. “A person does not drink to get drunk. . . . A person drinks to have fun."...
SOURCE: CS Monitor (5-27-10)
Fresh from his victory in last week’s Kentucky Republican senatorial primary, Rand Paul found himself caught in a whirlwind when MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow asked whether the 1964 Civil Rights Act properly outlawed racial segregation at privately owned lunch counters. Speaking circuitously if not evasively, Mr. Paul finally said:
“[O]ne of the things freedom requires is that we allow people to be boorish and uncivilized. But that doesn’t mean we approve of it.”
So although he supports striking down segregationist state Jim Crow laws, he objected to Title II of the Act, outlawing racial discrimination in “public accommodations.” “Had I been around I would have tried to modify that,” he said.
However, after a torrent of media and blogospheric criticism, he changed course, telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “I would have voted yes…. I think that there was an overriding...
SOURCE: HuffPo (5-27-10)
Here are the news headlines in 1924: Oil spills, coal mining disasters and immigration hysteria.
On the orders of President Obama, the 1,200 National Guard troops en route to the US-Mexico border will arrive just in time for the May 28th anniversary of the official establishment of the Border Patrol in 1924.
As this seemingly ridiculous photo from a 1928 Popular Mechanics article on the Border Patrol points out, President Obama's stop-gap measures simply repeat a reactionary historical cycle that have as much chance at inflaming the militarization of the borderlands amid Mexico's drug war, and our own $1 trillion dollar "War on Drugs" failure, as any hope to block the forever porous...
SOURCE: City Journal (5-1-10)
Jiang Chun Geng’s poisoned right leg, with its suppurating wounds, hangs limply over the gray wooden bench in the medical clinic here in Dachen, a village in China’s province of Zhejiang. Twice the size of his left leg, the limb is too tender to touch during my visit. Instead, Dr. Zhu Jian Jun gently dabs the putrid wounds with an alcohol-drenched swab. Jiang’s heavily lined face tightens as Zhu wraps the fiery stump with a white bandage and unhooks an intravenous antibiotic drip. Another treatment is over.
Jiang, a 70-year-old farmer, can’t remember a time when flesh-eating ulcers didn’t cover his legs. “They never go away,” he tells me. “They just get drier. Sometimes they hurt less.” He doesn’t know for sure how he got them, but his father told him that the wounds first appeared in July 1942, soon after the Japanese army passed...
SOURCE: The Root (5-26-10)
See, a bunch of guys needed something to do in 1865 and 1866, right after the Civil War. It wasn't like they could go back to their plantations; Northerners had seen to that. So these good ole boys amused themselves by dressing up in sheets and riding through the countryside pulling pranks. Just good, clean hijinks, until they discovered their antics terrorized former slaves. Then, things turned naughty and nasty.
But in the beginning, the Klan was just a social club.
How do I know this? I learned it in school.
Tennessee history was a required subject in the '60s, when I was a student. The Klan was founded in Pulaski, Tenn., a small town about 90 miles south of Nashville, my hometown.
Here's what the lessons omitted: The first Grand Wizard of the Klan, Confederate general and native Tennessean Nathan Bedford Forrest, made millions as a slave trader....
SOURCE: Dissent (5-26-10)
Zionism didn't begin as a unitary ideology. There was Theodor Herzl's liberal Zionism; Ahad Ha'am's and Judah Magnes' cultural Zionism. Socialist Zionism initially carried the day, dominating Israeli politics for the country's first three decades. In the remaining decades revisionist Zionism took over, fused with the messianic Zionism that gave religious significance to land and none to human rights.
Until a few decades ago, discussion between the different streams of Zionism was still possible. Now, alas, the self-appointed representatives of the Zionist cause - primarily from the right - make it seem as if Zionism requires blind allegiance to Israeli governments; that a Zionist is someone who admires Jewish power, whatever form it takes; and that Zionism requires shutting off your critical faculties. They have made a habit of calling all those...
SOURCE: Commentary (5-1-10)
Most every man in the known world has at least glimpsed a Playboy centerfold, and thereupon has vowed to go out and get himself something similar in a real live girl, or perused the luscious goods until the magazine has fallen into tatters, or run to confess his pollution to unsympathetic religious personnel, or cried “Death to America” and placed his hope in the eternal succor of 72 virgins, each of whom is the spitting image of the whorish temptress in the picture. Hugh Hefner, the inventor of Playboy, has sold his idea of what sex should be with the winning fervor of a true believer, and while not exactly everyone has bought into it, he has enticed multitudes into his fold with the promise of as much pleasure as a body can manage in a lifetime, all of it perfectly innocent, of course. And what sensible person, playboy or playgirl, could possibly want anything...
SOURCE: The Atlantic (5-20-10)
Having examined the finances of all 43 presidents (yes, 43; remember, Cleveland was president twice), we calculated the net worth figures for each in 2010 dollars. Because a number of presidents, particularly in the early 19th Century, made and lost huge fortunes in a matter of a few years, the number for each man is based on his net worth at its peak.
We have taken into account hard assets like land, estimated lifetime savings based on work history, inheritance, homes, and money paid for services, which include things as diverse as their salary as Collector of Customs at the Port of New York to membership on Fortune 500 boards. Royalties on books have also been taken into account, along with ownership of companies and yields from family estates.
The net worth of the presidents varies widely. George Washington was worth more than half a billion in today's...
SOURCE: Korea Times (5-25-10)
"It was the cold, the intense cold, that's what I remember. At the time we really felt we had been forgotten". Interviewed in London's National Army Museum, a septuagenarian British army veteran both smiles and winces at the memory of his military service in Korea.
June marks 60 years since the start of The Korean War of 1950-1953, a bitterly-contested conflict inspired by intense Cold War geo-strategic rivalry and competing West/East ideologies. The history is well known yet has daily relevance for North Asia's regional military, foreign policy and societal discourse. Visceral North-South Korean enmities persist, left from a conflict which ended in stalemate. Just last week, an international report concluded that North Korea sank the South Korean gunboat
Cheonan on March 26, killing 46 of her crew. Pyongyang disputes this and is now rattling its own sabres...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (5-24-10)
History is a great teacher, but sometimes it packs a nasty sense of irony. A case in point: South African Prime Minister John Vorster's visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem in April 1976, where he laid a wreath to the victims of the German Reich he once extolled.
It's bad enough that a former Nazi sympathizer was treated like an honored guest by the Jewish state. Even worse was the purpose behind Vorster's trip to Israel: to cement the extensive military relationship between Israel and the apartheid regime, a partnership that violated international law and illicitly provided the white-...
SOURCE: AHA Perspectives (4-22-10)
Recently, popular television personality Stephen Colbert invited the distinguished U.S. historian and former president of the AHA, Eric Foner, to appear on his nightly Comedy Central cable channel program, The Colbert Report, a rollickingly satirical talk show.1 The subject for “debate” was the annual review and revisions of school textbooks adopted by the elected Texas School Board. This year the board focused on history. None of the members of the board is a professional historian, and the board’s goals, shaped by the particular conservative values shared by their majority, are clearly not those of the mainstream historical profession. In spoofing the current controversy over the Texas School Board decisions, Colbert had a field day. He ominously warned that, despite “the triumph” in Texas, there were still “...