“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”
– Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr
Depending on your translation source, this can mean “The more things change, the more they stay the same” or “There’s nothing new under the Sun” or “What goes around, comes around”. And that leads me to something I recently read.
Victor Davis Hansen is a frequent OpEd contributer to the local newspaper. Academically, he is an historian. He is also a member of the Hoover Foundation at Stanford University. Now, I have great respect for Stanford, not just because Dad attended it, but because it is a premier school. The Hoover Institution, however, while a unit of Stanford, has its own board of overseers and is merely an adjunct and I’m not enamored with it as it’s politically quite conservative. As is Hansen; he knows his history, to be sure, but quite often his overly conservative world-view skews his objectivity – especially when he makes comparisons to today’s events (at least from my world-view perspective) – and he has no problem injecting his political beliefs into any of his commentaries.
Nonetheless, the article he wrote recently illustrates how not much has changed in the world, and in the States, in the last 50 years:
Really, when one considers everything, 50 years actually wasn’t so long ago; for today’s youth it is ancient history but, for many of us we were the youth then, and it was only yesterday.
And it was when America lost her innocence, her naiveness.
We’d gone to war before but Americans really hadn’t seen war until then (our Revolutionary War, Civil War, Indian Wars and others were only localized, regional affairs, and the World Wars and Korean War were fought overseas) and didn’t daily really impact the average citizen’s life compared to those where the wars were fought, until television brought the vividly-bloody horrors of war into every livingroom, every day, right at suppertime, of our war in Viet Nam. That and the Civil Rights movement – where the descendants of Africans brought here in slavery 300 years earlier, and the migrant farmworkers from Mexico who labored in our fields (fields that belonged to their ancestors before we took them as spoils in an earlier war we fought), both free people but still enslaved, living under political, economic and social fetters – rose in civil rebellion with marches, sit-ins and not-so-civil riots, all viewed as well on the nightly television news.
Americans were now exposed to and witnessing what others around the world had been experiencing for centuries.
Nothing new to the rest of mankind. America was only growing up and joining the rest of the world.
It makes one wonder if there is any hope for a difference in another 50 years. I think its safe to say, unlikely. And some pundit then will look back to today and make the same comparisons to his time.
C’est la vie.