Saturday, April 16, 2011
The nation is celebrating the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the War Between The States. It has been a century and a half since Fort Sumter was fired upon to start our Civil War. It is interesting to me that now I feel compelled to drop the definite article before that name, since it could no longer be "the" civil war, but it is the one that involved the Unite States. Since 1861, there have been a number of civil wars, but only one that we would call "ours." It makes me wonder what sort of thoughtful documentary tribute Ken Burns or his offspring might generate for the conflict in Libya in another few decades. The Public Broadcasting Company would like to remind us that "history made them famous, Ken Burns made them real." Well, as much as I appreciate Mister Burns work, history has been creeping up on me pretty ferociously lately. For instance, there has been a flurry of books and commemorations of the Beatles' fiftieth year. I remember most of those, having lived through them. It was also a bit of a shock to have Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" performed on "American Idol" on a show that was centered around songs recorded in the year the contestants were born. "Twenty years ago today," indeed. What is the difference between the Beatles and Nirvana? Libya and Fort Sumter? Plenty. But they all reside in an ever-expanding toy box of history. George Santayana wrote, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." When I was going to college, there was a quote from another George, George Norlin on the front of the library that bore his name: "He who knows only his own generation remains always a child." I suppose, in the end, that makes me old enough to sense my own doom.