Although this planet is billions of years old, and life on this planet is measured in at least hundreds of millions of years, what is considered the beginnings of civilized society goes back a mere 10-12 thousand years. Barely a thimble of water in oceans of time. Therefore, the way I figure it, we’re still pretty far down on the evolutionary totem pole. Which explains why those 12 thousand years of of recorded society have been replete with bad behavior, mass killings, barbaric practices, evil despots and tyrants ruling over kingdoms built by using slavery, and, of course, ever-ongoing brutal, savage war-mongering. Although there were undoubtedly armed conflicts during the entire history of man on this planet, the first recorded war occurred just under 5000 years ago. It took place in Mesopotamia, (today’s Iraq, Syria and Kuwait), and the carnage has being going strong ever since.
So, just to pass the time of day, I was thinking about all that has transpired just in my lifetime. I was just a tot when a supremely gifted demagogue used his immense powers of preaching hatred to the populace to rise to power in Germany and eventually launch what came to be known as World War II. Which was really just a continuation of WWI with a couple of decades of respite. Before that confrontation was over, 60 million people would lose their lives throughout Europe, including millions of Americans. Several million more would die in the Pacific at the hands of Imperial Japan, Germany’s ally. Also, for the first time, the mass extermination of an entire ethnic group was just about successfully accomplished through the use of gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps. About 6 million Jews, and other opponents of Hitler’s Nazi empire, lost their lives in what came to be known as the Holocaust. In a history replete with evil savagery and barbarity, the Holocaust was probably the single most evil act of all time. And it wasn’t just Hitler and the Nazi’s that made the Holocaust work. It took hundreds of thousands of European bureaucrats to establish the network of railroads bringing prisoners to the death camps, and to provide the immense amount of logistics it took to make the camps functional. Hitler’s willing accomplices as one writer called it.
Toward the end of WWII, the Nazis had supposedly developed rockets that were capable of hitting the U.S. East Coast. As a child growing up in New York, I remember being subject to air raid alarms and warnings which required everyone to turn off all lighting. During these air raid drills my parents would bring chairs into my bedroom as we sat there silently in the dark until the all clear sign was given. Most people aren’t aware that Hitler was just days or weeks away at the most before he fell, from developing atomic bomb capabilities that could be employed on rockets that could reach U.S. soil. Or that if Japan had invaded our West Coast immediately after Pearl Harbor, it could have gobbled up at least two-thirds of the U.S. before the Roosevelt Administration was prepared to take a military stand around Chicago. Such was the precarious nature of the freedoms we take for granted today.
After the war, the U.S. quickly demobilized as it appeared that peace would be on the horizon for decades. In the meantime, the most advanced electronics in everyone’s home was a radio and a land-line telephone. When television started coming on the market shortly after the war, it was like the 8th wonder of the world. Our first black-and-white TV had an immense 13 inch screen, and only 3 stations which broadcast only during certain parts of the day and night. But to actually view what one could only hear on the radio, was considered beyond the pale. Also some kind of contraptions they started calling “computers” entered the American vocabulary. But as people learned, they were about as big as a Sherman tank and could be used only for business purposes. The thought of having this contraption in one’s home was considered ridiculous. Until suddenly, something called the “internet” became a hot topic of conversation and they figured out how to downsize computers so they fit comfortably in people’s residences. But telephones always had to be hooked up to a cord, didn’t they? Until they further figured out a way to get rid of the cord and turn the phone into a mini-computer. And thus, on-and -on marches the electronics revolution. All in my lifetime.
In the meantime, the peace-in-our-lifetime dreams that Americans had with the conclusion of WWII evaporated as quickly as the morning mist. With the rise of Communist Russia and China, Americans became highly fearful of the “Red Menace.” When both countries acquired nuclear bomb capabilities deep fears and anxieties spread throughout the land. After a mere 5 or 6 years since the end of WWII, the U.S. was back on war-footing; this time fighting Communists on the Korean peninsula. More death and destruction. Meanwhile a Senator from Wisconsin named Joe McCarthy saw a huge opportunity to demagogue the “soft-on-communism” issue. He was sort of like the Donald Trump of his day. He claimed that the U.S. government, as well as Hollywood and other institutions were riddled with Communist spies working for Russia. To be labeled a Communist by the McCarthy committee was equivalent to seeing ones life turned to ashes. McCarthy eventually went down in flames but not before he had destroyed countless lives.
The Communist scare, known as the better-dead-than-red mentality, eventually led from the stalemate in Korea to the huge loss of life in the Viet-Nam fiasco. Almost 60,000 Americans died in the hell-hole jungles of Viet-Nam before we lost the war and called it quits. To say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese that died during that fracas. And it wasn’t all that much later, that a new barbarism had come upon the landscape in the form of Islamic-Jihadism. Which has us militarily bogged down once more, this time in the Mid-East. It seems as if evil is like wild-fires. You douse one, and two more crop up somewhere else. In the meantime, in mid-2016, it’s as if the re-incarnation of Joe McCarthy has rose to power and he is now one step away from the White House. All of this, in my lifetime.
To say that I’ve lived through a fascinating panorama of events during my life would be a considerable understatement. But I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.