“READ your history!”
Los Angeles Times, October, 1910
I hear a lot of lamenting about how this decade is so turbulent and violent. Really? Those people do not know history. Violent eras in American history predictably come about every 50 years. 50 years ago, was the 1960s, the anti-Vietnam War, weathermen, Symbionese Liberation Army and the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. Half a century earlier it was the most violent era for terrorism in our history. The Los Angeles Times was destroyed by a terrorist bomb in 1910 and Wall Street suffered a massive explosion in 1920. In between was the Preparedness Day Bombing and on July 30, 1916 the Black Tom Explosion. The Black Tom explosion was a one megaton event which took place on an island off the coast of New York City. It was so powerful it was felt in Philadelphia. 50 years before that was the Reconstruction South with the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and, in the north, Social Darwinism and the ongoing abuse of the working class and the increasingly violent labor strikes. 50 years before that was the War of 1812 and the violence of Indian uprisings because the men with guns were fighting the British away from the frontier — and 50 years before that was the American Revolution.
Those who know their history will add that the eras after the decade of violence are incredibly good economically — with seeds for the next era of violence. After the American Revolution the cotton empire was born which lead to the Civil War. After the War of 1812, the steam engine revolutionized travel on land and water and lead to America’s industrial revolution. After the Civil War the North entered an era of massive industrial growth and the expansion of the Far West with the building of the Transcontinental Railway — and the South was left behind. The 1910 to 1920 decade of violence was followed by the Roaring Twenties and the inevitable stock market crash. The 1960s was followed by the growth of nonprofits which employed/employs millions and the beginning of the computer age followed by heart-stopping increases in the federal deficit. This decade of violence will probably be followed by an era of economic opportunity because of artificial intelligence.
THIS is what history classes SHOULD be teaching. History is not the story of the past; it is a study of the future.