History Rarely Looks Like History When You Are Living It

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“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” – J.R.R. Tolkien 

 

It is a good day to be a tiger. 

 

It’s been said that history rarely looks like history when you are living it. The idea being that history is best seen through the lens of hindsight and it is difficult to comprehend if what a person is experiencing is in actuality worthy enough to be noted in a history book in the future. I feel there is some truth to this statement. I can recall an evening in November of 1991 when a cement wall separating east and west Berlin, Germany became the focal point of every news outlet in the world. I watched, as a twelve year old, hordes of German citizens as they picked and hacked away at a graffiti covered barrier for hours and hours on network television. They cheered and smiled. I had no idea what was happening, because I was twelve years old and my knowledge of the Cold War was nonexistent at that young age. But something big had happened. A war that had lasted over four decades had come to an end. 

The fall of the Berlin wall being one of many incidents that I experienced as a child that I did not fully comprehend the weight of because I was a child. Another example was in January of 1986, when I was seven years old, and I watched a live television feed as a shuttle prepared to launch into space only to explode violently on live television as the world watched in horror. The result of the failed Challenger launch thereby changing NASA and space science to this day. I was given the impression it was a big deal, but I did not understand why at my young age.  

On a personal level there have been moments I lived through in history that were significant to me because they strongly influenced the person I was or would grow to become. For example, in April of 1994, when I was fourteen years old, I arrived at school one morning to find that a favorite musician of mine, Kurt Cobain, had taken his own life. A friend of mine had shared the news with me before my first hour class in middle school and I remembered a song he had written “All Apologies” and how much I loved that song and how awful it was that he was not going to be making any more music. The world had lost someone I thought was a genius and on a personal level I was affected by that while others might not have even given it any notice. 

 

 

And then there are those moments that it cannot be denied that what is happening is going to change the world forever. It has been said that each generation has that moment in history. My grandfather, who lived on a farm in Nebraska, returned home one December, Sunday morning in 1941 from doing his chores to a news broadcast announcing the Japanese had attacked a US naval base in Hawaii. That attack on Pearl Harbor would lead to the US involvement in World War 2 and my grandfather being drafted into the Navy where he managed a large gun on the SS Marblehead in the Pacific theater of the war. My father was sitting in an algebra class on a Friday in 1963 when it was announced over the school loudspeaker that then president John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Texas. The result of that assassination led to a tumultuous decade for this country and it led to my father becoming involved with the “hippie culture” of the time. And I can recall a morning in September I spent huddled in a small college coffee shop with a room filled with other students as we watched the Twin Towers in New York City crumble to the ground. I don’t feel like the world has been the same since that moment either. 

As students at JHS what do you feel is your generational historical moment? It could be suggested that the pandemic we are experiencing could be the equivalent. The pandemic has taken many lives. It’s affected all of us. It’s controversial and it’s the kind of situation that I do not feel the grasp of which will be understood for years, perhaps decades, until we can look back at it with the clear lens of time. 

This up-coming Tuesday history is going to once again visit this nation and community with the upcoming election. I can’t recall an election in my lifetime that has garnered as much attention as this one. It would seem that a line has been drawn, politically, in this country and the amount of people not sure which side they are standing on is almost nonexistent. It would seem many of us have a strong opinion on where we stand. Whether or not this election will become something momentous and worthy of historical note is yet to be decided, but I feel some perspective should be taken into consideration. Regardless of what happens, like so many major turning points in this country’s history, it should be remembered that this moment will pass. It will pass just like every other noteworthy moment I have experienced in my life. What will remain the same is that we are still in this moment together and that is so important that we remember that we indeed one team, one town and one family. 

Have a week worthy of the ages

 

Mr. Jay 

 

One Team. One Town. One Family.