Tomorrow’s History: Weekly Roundup (Trump – Holocaust – Year Without Summer)

“Today’s news is tomorrow’s history,” is a quote attributed to Judy Croome, a South African writer. However, the jist has long been known to historians, is ignored by politicians and celebrities, and has become the fight song of History teachers throughout the world…if only students would listen!

So follow along as we look at some current events, possible implications, and a few random pieces of history that should interest and amuse:

THE GOP PICKS A FINALIST:

DONALD TRUMP APPEARS TO BE THE GOP NOMINEE FOR THE 2016 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

It seems the era of American oligarchies may have begun (though it has surfaced now and again for decades). Mr. Trump has the luck of FDR with him at the moment…a promise of better things, regardless of the existence of a down payment. Mrs. Clinton is a known quantity with a great deal of baggage and bad health. Mr. Sanders plays well before but one audience, the young, starry-eyed Millennial population that has been taught to idolize the socialist ideal, but has never lived in its dangerous and constrictive borders.

Above all, Mr. Trump is shiner, wealthier, and exudes more power, and those three things play well in American elections, especially in an era of underlying financial recession (where the economy looks good-ish on the outside, but beneath it is in peril). The outcome remains to be seen.

Whatever the choice, it is clear the U.S. is barrelling rapidly away from the foundations of the Union, the Constitution. We are drifting perilously close to the shores of a confederacy, rather than a union of states. Love them or hate them, the Judeo-Christian principles upon which the nation was founded gave us greater purpose, cause, and humanity. Without that we tread toward a dark age (incidentally, those are never pleasant to live through, and most die in them).

TO REMEMBER THE HOLOCAUST

An interesting news story re-surfaced this week thanks to the algorithmic aggregators of news that feed us our daily thoughts on Facebook as it followed on the May 4th and 5th occasion of Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), commemorating the Jewish lives lost in the slaughter by the Nazis. Featured on the “House Beautiful” magazine website, it related the discovery last year by renovators in Holland of an inscription on a door. Written in 1942, it appears to be the last written testament of a Jewish couple in hiding during WW2 (Nikki Erlick, “A House Reno Reveals A Heartbreaking Message Etched Into A Door,” House Beautiful at HouseBeautiful.com, July 17, 2015).

A short, simple inscription in Dutch which said, “Look on the roof and find my last personal things and try after the war to find family of ours. Give them my things and you will become something. Oh God of Israel, have mercy on your humiliated brothers. Signed, Levie Sajet born at 1-8-1881 born in Nijmegen and his housewife Ester Zilberstein born at Stettin on the 28-7-1899.”

Tragic events in history can become so big and anonymous that we sometimes fail to relate on an individual level to those who have suffered. But such a short, sad witness to two lives must affect us. It must bring us back to the understanding that people just like us died then, and die now, and that murder is evil.

This tragic replay of history was cited in a quote by Mordechai Palzur, a Holocaust survivor and former diplomat, “I’m not sure that there is any improvement because we see that hundreds of thousands of people are being murdered and they are showing how they cut off the heads and so on and nothing happens [referring to the current conflict across the Middle East]. I would not generalize and say that there has been a change, but altogether from what we see today the people who were cruel then they are cruel today,” (Sam Sokol, “Against Orders, Some Diplomats Saved Jews During Holocaust,” The Media Line for The Jerusalem Post at JPost.com, May 5, 2016).

1816, THE YEAR WITHOUT SUMMER

Let’s take a step back, say, two-hundred years to 1816. It was, in many ways, a frightening year. The sun stopped shining brightly, crops failed (accounts speak of frosts in mid-June), and the warm, sunny productive season of Summer was nowhere to be found. Don’t worry, in case you are, it wasn’t man-made global warming, but rather…just plain old global cooling courtesy of the planet itself.

The reason, fully understood much later, was a volcanic eruption in the Indian Ocean. Mt. Tambora, erupting in April 1815, had sent ash high into the atmosphere, which manually blocked the sunlight from filtering down to the surface of the earth, where it was needed. Overall the year wasn’t an overly cold one, it just happened to get very cold right during growing season leading to crop failure and food shortages. Even Thomas Jefferson noted the phenomenon in his copious records keeping at Monticello. (Robert McNamara, “The Year Without A Summer Was A Bizarre Weather Disaster in 1816,” About: Education at History1800s.About.Com, November 27, 2014.)

Some historians even suggest that this dismal year for crops pushed restless souls west to seek better land, becoming therefore an impetus for the vast westward migration and settlement in American history. My own family, one of them at least, had just survived a stint in Napoleon Bonaparte’s army in the disastrous invasion of Russia of 1812. He picked up his family a few years later in the 1820’s and departed the Swiss-German borderlands for Pennsylvania, a generation later his children would push west with the rest of the migration and settle in Nebraska.

The lesson, watch out for earthquakes and volcanic explosions that have far reaching consequences (I say this as we experience an increased amount of seismic activity in the Ring of Fire). Also, remember, an event here, a consequence there, and we, too, can feel the very pulse of history, if we are not careful. Events trigger other events, so keep your eyes open and stay the course!

I’ll be back next week to bring you another weekly roundup of tomorrow’s history!

Keeping thinking history in the meantime!

– Amanda Stiver

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