MARCANO: The curse of now

Last week, I appeared on a radio program to talk about some of my columns, and the host asked whether I thought America was the worst it had ever been. That got me thinking about some of the things people have said that they believe encapsulates where we stand as a country. Things like this:

1. “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

2. “The unwelcomed, unwanted, unwarranted, and force-induced intrusion of the central government offers (a) frightful example of the oppression of the rights, privileges, and sovereignty of this state by officers of the federal government.”

3. Referencing a Supreme Court decision: “The most serious blow that has yet been struck against the rights of the states in a matter vitally affecting their authority and welfare.”

4. “But also out here in this dreary, difficult war, I think history will record that this may have been one of America’s finest hours because we took a difficult task and we succeeded.”

5. “What is the problem? The problem is race. It is a litmus test for America. I want to place the blame where it belongs. I think that the Senate Democrats don’t have the stomach to stand up to those right-wing Republicans.”

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Alabama Gov. George Wallace shook up the 1968 presidential election and won five southern states.

Alabama Gov. George Wallace shook up the 1968 presidential election and won five southern states.
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Alabama Gov. George Wallace shook up the 1968 presidential election and won five southern states.

6. “The president said that he would unite this country, that he was a uniter, not a divider. Have you ever seen America more divided? Have you ever seen Washington more divided?

7. Have you ever seen America more divided? Have you ever seen Washington more divided? The reality is it is not an accident. It’s the direct result of the choices … made and efforts that have created division in America. We can do better than that in this country.

You’ll not only be surprised who said these things, but when they said it.

Number 1 could certainly apply to the Big Lie, and the plague of people refusing to believe facts while creating their own sets of truths. But then-president John Kenney, at the Yale commencement In 1963, said that.

Number 2 could be any one of the GOP governors angry at President Biden’s vaccine mandates. But that’s George Wallace, railing about government overreach as he fought integration in Alabama 58 years ago.

For number 3, might this be a reaction to Minnesota Voting Alliance vs. Mansky, a 2018 landmark Supreme Court overturned Minnesota’s ban on political apparel at voting places? Nope. That’s Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia, following the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling in 1954. Byrd, a Democrat, was so opposed to integration that in 1956 he created the “Southern Manifesto” that included a “massive resistance” law that would eliminate state funds and close any school that integrated. Sounds like Florida’s failed attempt to bully local schools who wanted to implement mask mandates, huh?

Number 4 has got to be about Afghanistan, right? Wrong. That’s Richard Nixon commenting on the withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam.

If you guessed Stacey Abrams for number 5 — she continues to fight for voter rights legislation — you would again be wrong. Back in 1993, Ben Chavis, then the NAACP executive director, ripped Senate Democrats for not studying the qualifications of Lani Guiner, who was nominated as civil rights chief at the Justice Department. Guiner’ academic writings about race and whether majority rule could provide political power for blacks caused the ruckus.

Number 6 and 7 have to be Joe Biden, right? Alas, that is not the case. Both quotes are from John Edwards, the vice-presidential candidate in 2004, talking about the presidency of George Bush.

We have been fighting the same battles with the same rhetoric for decades and we don’t learn. Immediacy is the curse of history because if it’s happening now, it can’t have possibly happened before.

But it has. We know it, and we still can’t help ourselves.

Ray Marcano is a long-time journalist whose column appears each Sunday in the Dayton Daily News. He can be reached at raymarcanoddn@gmail.com.

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Ray Marcano

Ray Marcano
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Ray Marcano