I went to school with a girl who always complained about history class. “Ugh, I just don’t see the point in learning about history,” she said. “It already happened! Get over it, already….” Even though she had heard the old adages “History repeats itself” and “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” she still didn’t GAF. But that doesn’t mean those old adages aren’t true. Here are five phenomenons of today that have already happened.
In the late 1800s, “yellow journalism” applied to the style of reporting that preferred sensationalism over facts—the original click-bait. The favorite topic of that era was anything anti-Spanish. This kind of fearmongering journalism helped create a tense climate that manifested lots of international conflict and eventually led to the Spanish-American War. The press of the time wielded its fake news power in order to influence large groups of people with the intention of controlling their reaction to international events. Sound familiar?
Today we have “fake news” and “alternative facts”—and the future of this kind of reporting is going to get even sneakier thanks to budding new technology. A recent Vanity Fair article details the use of digital actors and audio programs that allow you to make anyone in the world say and do whatever you want and then put it online to share with the world. And just like the readers of yellow journalism in the 1800s, we’ll have no way of knowing what is true and what is not.
The Fight for Civil Rights
Although he has a national holiday now, back in the ’60s American’s view of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t so peachy. In fact, back then the only public figure more hated in a Gallup poll was the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Similarly, a recent poll done by PBS shows that most white people are not fans the Black Lives Matter Movement. (And PBS knows its white people.)
The poll showed that 59 percent of whites think the Black Lives Matter Movement distracts attention from real issues, compared to 26 percent of African-Americans. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the Black Lives Matter movement of today are not the same movements, but the two struggles for civil rights and equality are mirrors of each other. You can see it in the pictures.
The Refugees Crisis
The Syrian refugee crisis looks familiar because it has already happened, many times in human history. People have been forced out of lands since the notion of territory was invented. Ancient Israel, France, Russia, and many other countries have been the victims of historical refugee crises due to terrifying regimes and violent social unrest. Syria is sadly just the most recent.
U.S. Immigration Bans
The recent bans on immigrants are unfortunately nothing new. The U.S. has a long history of closing its doors to people in need. Chinese, Jewish, Iranian, HIV-positive persons, and more have been turned away from our borders in accordance with the president at the time’s wishes. And all of these bans have had grave consequences.
For example, FDR was afraid there were Nazis hiding amongst German Jewish refugees, so he severely limited the number of Jews that could enter the country, which caused an ocean liner full of people to be returned to Germany and killed in concentration camps.
My name is Regina Blumenstein. The US turned me away at the border in 1939. I was murdered in Auschwitz pic.twitter.com/TZXJM2Ar94— St. Louis Manifest (@Stl_Manifest) January 28, 2017
Cannabis as Medicine
But it’s not ALL bad when history repeats itself. The use of cannabis as a medicine has increased dramatically in recent years and legalization has become commonplace. Our plant friend Mary Jane has been a beloved medicine a lot longer than it has been an illegal drug. Records going back to 2737 B.C China show that cannabis was prescribed to help people with things like gout, rheumatism, and even malaria.
It was used as a medicine in America until the mid 1900s, when the government put the kibosh on cannabis. But that didn’t last too long. This plant is becoming more and more destigmatized every day and is helping people once again.
Since history keeps repeating itself, it wouldn’t hurt to add a little more history into your daily life. Whether it’s reading publications like the Smithsonian Magazine or curling up with a historical mystery novel, putting some historical perspective into your life can help you make sense of what’s happening now. Because now, more than ever, is a good time to GAF.