Letter – Is history repeating?

Published 7:40 pm Monday, February 20, 2023

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

It is so tiring reading the continuing, disingenuous sophistry of the assault on public education. As a student of history, I am reminded that we live in a state where a county shut down its public schools rather than integrate them. 

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This time the trigger word is not integration; it is something called “CRT.” This time it is not massive resistance. It is parental control. Unfortunately, history can repeat itself. The hackneyed attack on public education is part of a trend in this country to attack public institutions, voting rights and democracy (Jan. 6th). And where is this going?

There is a worrying precedent: the attack on the Weimar Republic in post-World War I Germany. The world watched the rise of the assault on justice masked in ultranationalism by the brown shirts of Hitler’s Nazis. There was no shame in their assault, only histrionics. There was the weaponization of religious and racial intolerance in the guise of a greater country. It feels like experiencing Yogi Berra’s quote: “It’s like deja vu all over again”.

One thought that haunts people who want to make sure America will be equipped with the children who will become citizens who will uphold justice and democracy in the future is contained in the quote from Pastor Niehmoller’s reflection of what happened to Germany in the 1930s.

In Germany they came first for the Communists,

and I didn’t speak up

because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,

and I didn’t speak up

because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,

and I didn’t speak up

because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,

and I didn’t speak up

because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me,

and by that time no one was left

to speak up for me.

― Pastor Martin Niemöller

Jerry Tenney