Tuesday, February 15, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: History's Events, Like Trees, Have Roots

I was speaking with a European friend recently, and we were

lamenting the world’s numerous political crises, and the

seeming inability of the various global democratic leaders to 

resolve these crises.

It occurred to me in the midst of this conversation that part of

the dilemma in such a discussion is our natural inclination          

to assume that the events of history can be turned from their

course in a matter of a few days, months, or even years  — or

that elected political leaders can easily, except in relatively rare

instances, alter or resist history’s most malign conflicts.

In the past, I have illustrated history’s negative longwindedness

with the example of the protracted consequences of World

War i. This war technically began in 1914, and formally ended

in 1918, but the upheavals and disruptions it caused or

provoked have endured over more than the past century in

new wars, violent conflicts and other aggressions.

(I have always marveled that this enduring event in history

had its immediate cause in a chauffeur’s wrong turn in a

crowded Sarajevo street. Perhaps if he had made the correct

turn, and thus no assassin would  have shot the archduke,  

history would  have found another event to begin that

calamitous war. or perhaps then the kaiser and his fellow

warmongers would have simply found another excuse to go

to war.)  

Democracy, as Ben Franklin and others have pointed out, is 

seemingly a fragile form of government — although our U.S.

version of it has survived and flourished through a variety of

crises and challenges from the War of 1812, the Civil War and

its aftermath, two world wars, the Great Depression, the Cold

War, and 9/11. 

But as Japanese Admiral Yamamoto so presciently

observed after he launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor

1n 1941, “I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant.”

Democracies, including our own, live passively until they

face danger.

Malign totalitarian regimes, on the other hand, are inherently

aggressive, and seek to intrude on political vacuums 

democracies allow to fester.

Neo-Marxists, certain religious fundamentalists, and others

today seek to challenge and replace democratic governments 

with totalitarian authoritarian regimes. Where democratic    

states are new, they are especially vulnerable to these efforts.

The 1930’s saw a similar phenomenon, and it took decades

to put down antidemocratic regimes — only to have new ones


For over 300 years, this political wrestling match has been

taking place.

There is no guarantee, of course, that the sleeping democratic

giant will awaken in time to renew and refresh itself in time to

meet the internal and global challenges it now faces. 

These challenges and threats have contemporary issues and

a new  cast of characters, but it should not be forgotten that

the national entities, in most cases, have had historical

experiences going back centuries which also instruct us about

the present. 


Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.