The History Lesson

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

The History Lesson

“Can I have your attention, please, students,” Mr. Hubert intoned. He didn’t have to say much to this collection of 15 year olds. Their cheerful and vivacious hubbub of conversation died down as each of the dozen or so students swiveled around and turned their attention to their teacher. They enjoyed their class, their studies, and recognized how fortunate they were to be in such a creative and interesting forum of learning. And, they liked this teacher. His dedication to their learning and amplification of their critical thinking apparatus, along with the tools their daily meditation inspired, prompted a natural respect and interest.

Waiting expectantly, they listened as their teacher introduced their next history lesson. They had recently travelled through the 1900s, and had been again (for they already had some familiarity with this time) aghast at the barbarity that this century revealed. In contrast, huge advances in technology had taken place during this time - the beginnings of the virtual apparatus that was so commonplace in their own lives. And, admittedly, some inroads into human rights had been in achieved. Much still needed to be done in this direction, but sincere attempts and great sacrifice has been in evidence during that time. In particular, a man known as the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, along with President Nelson Mandela, stood as shining examples of heroism and profound vision in this strata.

From their vantage point, in the year 2105, these students marveled at the incongruities these historical times revealed. They were young men and women on the precipice of adulthood and they had never known that pathology referred to as racism. Also, war was considered absolute lunacy and the world had evolved to assume that the power of diplomacy, and other such refined communications, would naturally resolve the various disputes that can arise amongst nation-states. So, this century stood in stark contrast to their experience of the world around them. Really, it was shocking to these students...

“Students, today we will turn our attention to the years 2016 to 2020 in this country,” Mr. Hubert continued. A groan arose from around the room. This time was known as the truly dark years in their country, replete with governmental deception, fear mongering and a very near spiraling down into disparate chaos and ruination. His term ended in what is described as an attempted coup which he very much helped to incite, a true desecration of the capital building in Washington, DC, and all it represents. It had been, indeed, a very dark day brought about by a falsehood the acting president had been circulating-that the election results were false, and that he had actually won. (In fact, the election was considered one of the safest and most secure ever, at that time. This was a desperate falsehood and contrary to all evidence.)

And, what was most surprising was that all this assault came not from outer forces but toxic elements inside their very own country. The corrosion and corruption had been brought about by citizens of their very own nation. This was perceived as truly incomprehensible and remarkable...

One of the quieter girls, Jamie, timidly raised her hand and asked, “How could this possibly have come about?” She was one of the artist in the group, more introverted but, indeed, very thoughtful. She had been listening carefully.

All the students - Jamie included - had seen, in various books and footage, the scenes from that day and how a flag known as the Confederate Flag-a flag that represented a time when human slavery existed was held in full view. And, her great, great grandmother, Annie - a writer - had written about these incomprehensible times.

Other students chimed in with their ideas. Mr. Hubert listened respectfully and with interest and interjected thoughts as he looked out on the group which represented so many races, ethnicities and religious and spiritual traditions. He was proud of these students who were so bright, kind and well-meaning.

It was already understood by all the students that the electoral college, a government apparatus which had long been seen as not appropriate to the times and discarded, had allowed for a man known as Donald Trump to win the 2016 presidential election, in spite of his having lost the popular vote by millions. (Again, these young people marveled at this.) The students knew already that he was a deeply dishonest individual who represented and called forth the darkest parts of the underbelly of their nation’s psyche. He brought to the fore those parts of the collective that resided deep in ignorance, such as racism and the attendant fear that some in the white (at the time) majority had. These folks were known in history as “white supremacist.” This group consisted largely of men and, for the most part, operated from perceptions fueled by huge distortions in the some of the deeply deceptive news conglomerates that were allowed to exist at that time, sources that resonated with their fears, deficit of education and the attendant lack of critical thinking. (The educational system, at that time, was sorely lacking along with a healthcare system that still rested partly on a for-profit model, a completely foreign concept for these students.)

Also, dark corners of the Christian Evangelical movement in their country allowed sacred teachings to be corrupted and these corners entered the fray in support of this white supremacy movement. This alliance represented, of course, the antithesis of their religious teachings.

Additionally, the disregard for the earth as evidenced in - what was referred to then - as climate change was truly bewildering to these young people, and very sad to apprehend as well. They grew up in families where they learned first hand of respect for the earth, and its innumerable array of species, by way of not only planting various herbs, fruits and vegetables in their own backyard, but also the cooperative gardens that adorned the more rural areas as well as their city streets. They beautified the entire environment and brought together their neighbors in a most convivial and joyous way. This was an expected part of their lifestyle. Oil-based energy sources were anathema to the crystal clear air and pure water in evidence in their world.

All this was known clearly and deeply. In sum, the earth was understood for what she is, a marvelous and intricate balancing act of which humans are a part.

The earth was seen for what she is - a gift - and each element has its place.

And, of course, an awful pandemic was also part of this time. This took place during the last year of this man’s presidency and was terribly mishandled. This was seen largely as a comment on his inability to care for fellow humans; an inability which came about due to raging narcissism (How could such a man ever have been elected, the students wondered. This deficit would have been so obvious to most everyone in their world.) And, it was also seen as a comment on the fragility of the healthcare system, in terms of the presence of a for-profit model in that realm.

The teacher proceeded to ask the students to contemplate this time in their nation’s history. He stressed the point that the lessons history imparts must be learned and assimilated or they stand a chance of being repeated.

Lively conversation and debate ensued and, in the process, a deeper understanding emerged for all present. They came to see that, for instance, leadership - when not founded in service and representing the whole. - and when the actual leader is not psychologically balanced and emotionally well, can lead to such dark situations.

Conversation and debate were encouraged, of course, for in their world competition was seen as good fun; and could sharpen focus and ability. But, it was always understood that this friendly competition was never at the expense of another. It was seen and experienced in its proper place.

Actually, this generation, these students, had never known gratuitous comparison. From birth, they had absorbed the tenets of fair play and an inherent respect for the other and their abilities. Each was encouraged to shine in their natural ambit, amongst their natural array of talents.

This is not to say that issues didn’t arise amongst folks and that the criminal element did not exist. But, these had been greatly reduced - especially the latter. The more punitive nature of the penitentiary system had been replaced by more constructive, healing measures, for the punitive measures were seen as only compressing, thus darkening and making more volatile, those parts that desperately needed healing. Those who had engaged in criminal activity were not let off the hook, though. Not at all. They were made to see the errors of their ways. This was part of their healing. In retrospect, the penitentiary system that occupied these very dark years in their nation was seen as akin to barbaric.

Also, they had previously studied Adam Smith and the economic tenets of capitalism. In theory, and operating in a vacuum, capitalism would seem meritorious. But, it does not - in fact - operate in a vacuum and was leveraged to profit the wealthy and their interests.

In a previous lesson, they had studied the rise of a profound income inequality that had started in the early 1980’s. During that time, the rich started to become, exponentially richer, largely due to policies enacted by various administrations. Billionaires came into existence during these years, and this seemed preposterous to these students. After the first few homes and yachts, etc, much does one person need?!

In the student’s world, millionaires of course existed and there was stratification, in terms of income. But, the wretchedly poor and massively wealthy had been taken out of the equation. And, capitalism still existed. It was legislated to prevent undue greed and co-existed alongside governmental social programs that actually had always been there and supported the health and well-being of the collective. In sum, capitalism was seen for what it is; an incentive to be highly inventive and creative in the marketplace and thus enrich and make more faceted that realm. It also provided a means to become prosperous, a natural result of this sort of societal contribution.

This hybrid system was seen as fostering creative dynamism, yet maintaining simultaneously an awareness of the larger good. And, again, regarding capitalism - undue avarice was legislated.

The students learned more about those dark years that day. But, then they learned that the pendulum really did swing and this deeply confused, dark and dangerous man was voted out and replaced by another man who really cared for the earth and her residents . This stood in such stark contrast.

They would learn more about this much happier time the next day.

As the students were leaving the class, they stepped out into the sunshine and were greeted by a courtyard replete with garden fructification, whistling birds and other inhabitants of this cornucopia. One student shook his head and looked at another...”Thank goodness,” he said with emotion, “the lessons were learned and humanity moved forward.”

His friend responded with a thoughtful gaze filled with compassion, and nodded in agreement.

Annie Kiyonaga

January 19, 2021

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