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John Dingell

There was a short article on the Huffington Post this week from Amanda Terkel that has stuck with me.  In the light of this being the 50th anniversary of JFK’s inauguration, Terkel spoke with Rep. John Dingell to compare the rhetoric of that time with that now swirling around the Obama presidency.  Dingell has been a congressman (Democrat serving from Michigan) since 1955– 55 years- and has seen much come and go politically over that time.

He spoke of the harsh tone of the opposition against JFK in the weeks before his assassination in Dallas in 1963, which included an infamous handbill that circulated in the Dallas area in the form of  a wanted poster, portraying JFK as a criminal wanted for treason for imagined crimes against the American people.  Reading the charges on the poster, I am reminded of the current rhetoric and the way it makes baseless claims in a nonspecific manner, using catchwords to incite the willing mind.  It also brought to mind the hate-filled caricatures of Obama that are pushed forward by the right-wing media of the president as a fascist or Muslim socialist.

This constant incitement by a willing, partisan media was one of the differences that Dingell cited between then and now.  Polarized cheerleaders openly pushing there adherents further and further along on a 24 hour newscycle ,  all the time demonizing the opposing side, were not as visible then.  No Fox News nor MSNBC.  No Glenn Beck or Limbaugh .  No Olbermann.  Well, there’s no Olbermann now either since he announced that last night’s show was to be his last.

The point here is that we have become so ignorant of our recent history that we fail to see the patterns and cycles of history that occur, forcing us to possibly relive history over and over like someone with short-term memory loss repeating the same mistake again and again, thinking that this time the results will be different.  We are at a time of change, much as JFK’s term was a time of change for this nation, and there will always be great fear and opposition to even the most needed change.  However, if we look to history we can see that we will endure and emerge better if only we do not succumb to these fears and embrace change.

John Dingell is a bit of living history for us.  Heed his words and learn from his experience, which is our own history.

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