My mother was one of the wisest people I’ve ever known, often able to offer insights or gentle guidance to family members when the need arose. While much of her insight was drawn from simply living life, many of those little nuggets of wisdom came from her knowledge and understanding of the Bible.
Here’s one that came to mind last week: What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. (That is the New International Version, and to be fair to my mother, she would have quoted the King James Version).
That’s from Ecclesiastes, and I thought of that verse when I was reading this story:
PARIS — French policemen captured an Arabic-speaking gunman who shot his way into the Iraqi Embassy here Monday morning and held hostages most of the day.
But as the policemen freed the hostages and led the terrorist away, Iraqi security officials waiting outside the embassy tried to shoot the prisoner. They killed, instead, a French police inspector and wounded two other police officer as well as the prisoner.
Those were the first two paragraphs of a news article I came across, the type of story no one bats an eye at because they’ve become so commonplace.
Except this one was from a newspaper dated Aug. 1, 1978.
The paper came courtesy of Leroy Bowman, a Mount Airy resident who stopped by the office this past week to share the paper with me, along with some of his thoughts on the world.
Other stories in the paper? A woman was killed when a waterspout off the coast of Kill Devil Hills slammed ashore; the Soviet Union was saber rattling over looming international sanctions led by the United States; the coal industry was under national scrutiny and federal regulators were debating the merits of deregulating the natural gas industry while both the left and the right in Congress were finding fault with the plan; and Middle East peace talks between Israel and Egypt were faltering.
Oh, and Kenya’s Idi Amin — one of the crazier despots of the past 50 years — was making outrageous claims regarding his superiority as a leader, even talking about taking time off from government to become a race car driver because he fancied himself some sort of a combination of a Renaissance man and superhero.
If one were to pick up a modern paper, you might find these stories inside: terrorists with Middle Eastern ties striking some target in Europe; a recent swarm of waterspouts off the coast of Kill Devil Hills; Russia belly aching about international sanctions; the coal industry still waiting on President Trump to save it from extinction; natural gas continuing to grow into a dominant part of the United State’s energy needs; and Middle East peace talks between Israel and someone faltering.
Oh, and Kim Jong-Un — who exhibits all the signs of simply being certifiable and delusional — alternates between making outrageous claims of his own grandeur and making all-too-serious steps toward building a nuclear arsenal.
In sharing the paper, Mr. Bowman remarked to me how strange it is, nearly 40 years later, to see the same or similar issues being discussed as are common today.
He’s right, of course.
We see a constant barrage of politicians seemingly wheeling and dealing while completely out of touch with the reality most of us see day-to-day; political discourse devolving into shouting matches and personal attacks; individuals making up their minds based on inaccurate news or sensationalized entertainment disguised as news (and refusing to accept actual facts to refute their beliefs); scary world events transpiring every day, and absolute madmen running some countries and threatening the world.
With all of that blasting us nearly 24 hours a day, it’s easy to forget the world’s seen it all before.
I have to admit, I sometimes get pessimistic about the world, particularly our nation. I see so many people trashing one another simply because they happen to disagree on a subject; I see folks ridicule someone else for simply having a different opinion; I see far too many individuals refuse to even consider the other side of any issue. I don’t think that’s good for our society, and ultimately could be the downfall of the nation.
Then again, I remember that one principle: it’s all been done before. Maybe the specifics are a little different, as in the examples of the 1978 newspaper vs. today’s news. And maybe social media and the modern, 24-hour news cycle has made us a little less civil, a lot less likely to do anything worthwhile offline in the real world.
But I think of that idea — nothing new under the sun — and I realize as bad as it might seem today, we’ve seen far worse as a nation.
Someone born in 1840 might have thought the end of the United States was at hand twenty years later with the start of the Civil War. Someone born in 1910 might have wondered if the country would forever be a third-rate nation after the Great Depression fell across America 19 years later. And someone born in 1940 might very well have thought two decades later that the United States was doomed during the race riots, sit-ins, open violence in the streets and general widespread rebellion against societal norms so prominent during the late 1960s and early 70s.
So, yeah, as bad as things might seem at times, it’s safe to say as a nation, we’ve been there, done that, and we’re still going strong. I suspect the story will be the same long after most of us are gone.