Ok, put this down as a “hot take,” but as I watch the news reports today from Charlottesville I can’t help recall that the riots in Oxford, Mississippi when James Meredith tried to register to attend the University of Mississippi in the fall of 1962, took place just as Soviet missiles were arriving in Cuba.
History does not repeat itself, but it sure as heck does rhyme sometimes.
Of course one major difference between then and now is that in 1962 we had a president that took decisive action against the racist aggressors in Oxford without blaming “many sides,” or without using a moment when firm language against domestic terrorism was needed, to randomly tout the employment rate. And we had a leader who stood firm against the Soviets, yet without issuing off-the-cuff school-house bully rhetoric that only inflamed the situation. (And he certainly did not need the Chinese President to tell him to tone it down).
I also can’t think of any klansmen in 1962 claiming they only wanted to fulfill the president’s agenda, as we do today.
And this is coming from someone that is not particularly a fan of the JFK presidency.
Partisanship is probably the wrong stance for any of us to take right now. Objectively, I believe that no matter who won the presidency these debates over the monuments was probably going to lead to this.
Yet, we must face facts. Less than a year into this presidency, we are on the brink of a nuclear war again, and we have Nazis and other white supremacists openly marching in the streets, touting the president’s agenda, and committing acts of domestic terrorism in the name of preserving the legacy of the Confederacy.
It seems like we are going backwards, and you can’t say that historians did not do everything we could to warn that this would happen.
Meanwhile, one of my colleagues at the University of Alabama, Charles P. Clark, made perhaps the best statement about today, simply by posting this picture on Facebook: