The Road We’ve Paved

 

Shootout
“Go on, ya yeller-bellied coward — draw!”

I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s. Most of our staple TV entertainments were shoot-em-up Westerns and shoot-em-up Detective shows. Especially in the ’50s. My formative years. The hero shoots the bad guy. The bad guy falls down dead. No blood, no twitching, no ugliness or remorse.

Then John F. Kennedy was shot to death, and the world was shocked. Two days later, live on national television, we watched Jack Ruby shoot and kill Lee Harvey Oswald. Up close. Live. Dead.

I was 12-1/2, and I was not shocked.

Let me repeat that:

“I was NOT. Shocked.” 12-1/2 year old me after witnessing a real murder. Live. On TV.

It was like watching another TV program. But this time, it was real. Then I was shocked that I wasn’t shocked, and I started asking myself why. It didn’t take me — a 12-1/2 year old kid — long to conclude all the TV violence I’d seen had made it seem normal. Unreal. Today we would say it “desensitized” me.

So I stopped watching those kinds of shows.

But my parents never turned off the nightly news. During that decade, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were also shot to death. As a nation, we were shocked again and again. Maybe we shouldn’t have been so surprised, but we were.

Today, Joyce, who writes consistently excellent posts on Fix It Mommy, asked:

“How did it get so bad?” Joyce, who usually writes about kids, education, and leadership

Maybe we can find some answers in our not-so-distant history.

I remember the Huntley-Brinkley Report on NBC. (Good night, David. Good night, Chet. And good night from Texaco.) And Walter Cronkite on CBS. Good ol’ Uncle Wally. It was their responsibility to bring us the news. It wasn’t their fault the news was so depressing.

As the war in Vietnam escalated, its images were on television and in the evening paper every night. Every. Night. For more than 10 years. I was 11 when the brother of a girl in my class was killed in Nam. I was 17 and just starting college when the protest movement began. I was 19 when National Guardsmen killed four unarmed protesting students at Kent State. I was 23 when we finally gave up Southeast Asia as a bad investment.

In 1968, at least partially in reaction to that decade’s violence and as social commentary on it, along came Sam Peckinpah — blood and gore galore. He showed us what violent death really looked like, at least in the movies. Followed by an alarming number of like-minded film makers. And television shows. And video games. And rap.

Now, before you get all prickly and obnoxious, I know none of those things cause a person to become violent.

Let me repeat that:

“Violent movies, TV shows, video games, and music do NOT cause mentally balanced people to become violent.” Me. Unequivocally.

They desensitize people to violence — normal, mentally healthy people like you and me. Imagine how that desensitization might affect a less healthy mind, the mind of a person given to violence anyway. The unbalanced mind of a person who is angry at some injustice they feel they’ve suffered — real or imagined, angry at authority, angry at life.

We don’t have to imagine. We see it more and more frequently in horrific mass murders of people who have done nothing to the murderer except end up in the crosshairs.

How did it get so bad?

According to FBI data and media research (July 2009-July 2015, and adding the four mass shootings since then), more than 87.5% of mass shooters are 20-44 years old, with most of those being at least 30. These are the Vietnam generation’s children and grandchildren.

Our kids.

How? We gave them everything. Soccer, Little League, Pop Warner, Karate, Youth Groups, Scouts, dance lessons, music lessons, children’s theater, summer camps with every conceivable theme, home schooling, higher education. Cars! We took them to movies, rented videos, bought them video games, their own TVs, CDs, DVDs, computers. Phones. We gave them the world and access to everything in it. The good, the bad, and the violent.

We even gave them wars to fight in if they wanted to volunteer.

Because this is America.

And when witch hunters  tree huggers  bleeding heart liberals some people started whining  demanding an end to violent lyrics, TV programs, movies, and games, freedom loving Americans reasonable people said,

“No. Let’s lobby for Entertainment Ratings instead.” Calmer prevailing minds

And we got them. God bless America.

And when the violence started close to home, when emotionally bereft kids started killing other kids . . .

Those two shooters at Columbine High? If they were still alive, they’d be the same age as today’s average mass shooter. Curious. Most of them seem to come from the same generation.

Our kids.

But when those  broken hearted parents  damn liberals  anti-violence voices start crying for stricter gun control and greater attention to mental health problems,  gun nuts  real Patriots   angry, terrified Conservatives   other voices argue about rights and privileges and freedom and oppression.

The arguments continue. They flare up every time somebody shoots a bunch of people. People complain about  the idiots in Congress  our elected representatives. But they’re still there, not doing anything. Not about guns. Not about mental health.

Consensus among lawmakers seems to be:

“Mass shootings are part of the Price of Freedom.” America’s lawmakers

So let me ask you: Is that the price YOU’RE willing to pay?

No?

Well, if you’re not running for office, the only real option you have is to vote for other people who aren’t willing to pay that price either. And vote those who are — out.

Because this is America.

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Author: Sue Ranscht

I am a writer. Let me tell you a story...

45 thoughts on “The Road We’ve Paved”

  1. In my opinion, no matter which ideology or political leaning, the legislators will never solve anything about guns, because they don’t address the real problem that you did in this post.. Normal healthy minded people won’t turn murderer from entertainment or other indirect nudgings..
    Gun control is just a hot button issue that politicians flounder on about.. Take guns away, there’s still knives, poison gas, homemade bombs for people to utilize.. There will always be weapons for targeted or mass destruction at the hands of anyone determined to commit murder.. The mental health of the average American isn’t ok.. How do we change that ? That’s the top question I believe every public servant should be addressing.. But first they have to stop fencing as a politicians..
    If they did, the solutions would be hard work and long coming and bipartisan.. But at least they’d be on the right track.. The way the parties conduct themselves is just a train wreck for the nation, in my opinion..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for entering the discussion, Pan. I agree with you that a majority of our current legislators are ineffectual and counter-productive. The only hope of changing that seems to be to replace them with legislators who care more about the principles of democracy, majority rule, and responding to the will of the people than to special interest lobbyists.

      And you’re right, there are other weapons to kill with, but guns are the most convenient, except for bombs and chemical weapons — which far fewer people have access to procuring or making — for killing multiple people from a distance. I believe we will always be a gun-owning country, but I see no sense in making it so easy for anyone to get them. I think there may be some aspects of gun control that are worth pursuing. Like banning assault weapons, whose only purpose is murder — most likely the mass kind. Or closing gun show and online sales loopholes and requiring background checks even if they take longer than 10 days. Mandatory training, psychological evaluations. How about touch ID locks?

      We do have a long way to go to sort out mental health. How do we identify people who need help without infringing on the liberty each of us is entitled to expect? Will we force treatment on people who haven’t done anything wrong and might never do anything wrong? Will we establish the pre-crime police of Minority Report?

      For as thorny as those questions are, I agree, the first thing we have to do is choose legislators who will put their jobs before their petty egos.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No minority report please, but it’s been happening on a spying scale to an extent.. .. I see homemade bombs far easier than getting a gun and believe we will see an increase in them regardless of any gun laws changes.. As we “progress” as a society, I see a sickness that’s always plagued the human race.. The ego is a terrible thing when it gets twisted.. With advances in technology in all aspects, a little twisted ego can cause tragic consequences.. Multiply that on a global scale and it’s no wonder the news coverage is so gloomy.. We as a worldwide society have focused all our energies on material, social, political domination, with almost no focus on our humanity or where it’s heading.. Our “purpose” is a menagerie of meaningless victories instead of a productive, learning, gaining understanding, species.. Wild animals make more sense in how they live and die.. If there were true leaders to nurture and nudge the human race to a better view of the future, we might just have a chance making our way.. But I don’t believe there is such a leader.. I believe we need really intercession from much higher than us.. So, I just live my life and try and stay afloat and help who I can along the way..

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The horrific events that take place world wide certainly do paint a grim picture of the human ego. On the other hand, when I think about all the innocent victims of mass murders and religious fanatical terrorism, it reminds me that the vast majority are normal peaceful people just trying to live their lives. And other normal people with good hearts, rush forward to help those who have fallen. The same thing is true when natural disasters strike — most people want to help, to build up, not destroy and harm.

          I think it just seems all of humanity is sick because too many of those relative few who are (whether because of legitimate mental illness or religious fanaticism), commit such heinous violence. Right now the overwhelming reactions seem to express helplessness, hopelessness, and outrage. Your choice to try to live your life, stay afloat, and help who you can is not uncommon, and it gives me hope.

          So does the growing level of dissatisfaction among those who are most vocally outraged. I believe it will reach a tipping point similar to the late ’60s when so many Americans had finally had enough of their sons dying in a war they were drafted into against their will, enough of racism, and enough of the Government’s lies and violence against its protesters.

          The stage is broader now, and it seems the stakes are even higher. But when I look back at history, I see Golden Ages turning to complacency, allowing the basest traits of humanity to creep out uncontested, evolving into a new Dark Age until enough good-hearted people finally become dissatisfied enough, outraged enough to stand against the seemingly unstoppable evil that’s grown under their very noses, and say, “ENOUGH. NO MORE.” And finally do something about it.

          I don’t know if you mean intercession by means of erasing most of humanity from the world or offering a gentle hand to show us a peaceful ending to reckless hate, but I see our way to the next Golden Age coming about through our own free will to communicate and co-operate and take a stand. Maybe we don’t need a single leader. Maybe we need like-minded people from all over the world. We have the technology for it, we have the knowledge. We have the motivation. All we need to tap into is the will. At least that’s how it looks to me, and I know I can’t be the only one.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I love your optimism for the human race to put the greater good ahead of desires.. I truly meant a higher power (God).. I don’t believe the human race can collectively overcome our nature.. There are many people who are willing to help others.. But we have no bounds or standards to what that means, to make a significant shift in the world.. Not even on a nation scale, I’d be pleasantly surprised if it could be maintained on a state or provincial scale.. Without an ingrained moral compass for any group to see fit to maintain and that it is good, there is no direction..
            You know the saying, smile and the world smiles with you ? Smiles can be contagious, however, for some reason, people are much more inclined to join a riot than a lovefest.. And they don’t need a conviction of heart to do it.. The human race is that unstable.. If it weren’t for instinct of self preservation and lack of means, I think our species would’ve snuffed itself out eons ago..

            We now have the means to wipe out the human race.. I don’t think the world powers will let that happen to themselves.. As for us, I don’t think we’ll be invited into the bunker if some nuts try and swap nukes worldwide..
            I know I paint a bleak picture of being human but it doesn’t mean there isn’t some bright spots.. Just not enough to change the macro.. In each of our micro world’s it makes all the difference..

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Let’s hope we both survive to see how the next decade turns out. A sense of helpless hopelessness does two things: it prevents us from taking action and makes it easy to justify our inaction. I wonder whose plan for humanity that is. I think, as it seems you do, we are meant to take responsibility by using our free will to make the world a better place. However difficult that might be.

            Yes, I knew you meant God, but it isn’t clear to me if you mean an angry God who would intercede by wiping out most of the human race to begin again, or a gentle one who intercedes with leadership to show us how to help ourselves.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. I don’t know God’s plan and I’m not a good christian.. I believe He is true to His word.. There will be something after this life.. With many under His grace and mercy.. I hope I’m one of them.. The here and now has purposes, and I believe at least one purpose is the freewill to trust and have faith in Him through whatever befalls us.. Another purpose I believe in as strongly is that we are here to learn and rise above the curse that we make freewill, and embrace the blessing that it is.. Adam and Eve had the freewill to choose in the garden.. Eve chose to disobey and chose to urge Adam to follow suit.. Adam chose to lie and turn on Eve blaming her for beguiling him to eat the forbidden fruit.. So human nature is exposed in a nutshell in a few short sentences..
            My personal take on why WOULD God let us make mistakes and why does He let atrocities happen, is right there.. Freewill.. I believe He blessed us with it and we need to learn how to use it wisely.. And I believe this is only the first step.. Surrender and understanding is only the beginning of wisdom.. I think we have bigger steps to climb after this world chapter ends..

            I can’t change the world, which is why I don’t focus trying to.. My heart aches with the atrocities.. I fight back by trying to improve how I see and treat others.. To try and be a bright spot and a safety net when needed.. I fail in those things often.. But I ask for strength and move in the right direction again..
            So I guess I’m a pessimistic optimist.. Things will turn out in the end with huge challenges along the way.. Nothing I do will change the world but everything I do will impact someone.. It’s a hard thing to keep in mind and in check when pursuing dreams and goals..

            Liked by 1 person

          4. You seem to have a strong grasp of where you are. I respect your commitment. We all live in the same world, regardless of our different perspectives, and it comforts me to know there are many people like you and I who choose to live in helpful ways.

            “Pessimistic optimist” made me smile.

            Liked by 1 person

          5. I wish people would come to grips with what you said.. The little blue marble is only so big.. Big egos make it seem really crowded and unstable..

            A pessimistic optimist holds their arm out to have the bandaid ripped off but cries the whole time that it’s gonna hurt ! …and I do that too 😂

            Liked by 1 person

          6. I’m probably more the pessimistic one than the realistic one.. its gonna hurt, is still it’s gonna hurt.. Doesn’t matter to me at the time for how long.. 😄 Even though it certainly should and would be a brighter way to view it..

            Liked by 1 person

          7. I think the problem is where progress surpassed maturity.. At least in America.. When watching sports or entertainment is priority over “other people’s” problems or current issues in the world, then things start to unravel.. It
            isn’t that it’s hard to find out what’s going on around us, it’s just plain disinterest.. The game or the show, now that’s important.. That’s how I see the general mood around me.. I wish it was different but I only see it getting worse, unless something catastrophic happens, like the grid going down for a few weeks.. I believe that would prompt a change in many things..

            Liked by 1 person

          8. What I see are historic cycles, and where we seem to be in the current Dark Age — or maybe Darkening Age. I think the phenomenon you’re talking about (progress surpassing maturity) is part of the reason Alvin Toffler wrote Future Shock. That was 46 years ago, and we’ve caught up and fallen behind with each advance. If the immaturity seems more pronounced now, maybe it’s because technological progress is aimed primarily at the young. All the older folk are slower to adapt.

            Worldwide, the mood seems to be rising out of hopelessness into the anger and protectiveness that has to bloom before we band together to take any action to vanquish the insane violence that plague us. It’s just a matter of time… and something akin to that catastrophe you mention.

            Liked by 1 person

          9. I hope you are right in your assessment of things to come..
            When I think of tech surpassing maturity, it’s not that some struggle with adapting, it’s that people love it, love to use it, but don’t have the maturity to use it responsibly and to grow, learn and use it productively..
            Future Shock and 1984 are both lessons in fiction that shouldn’t have been ignored.. The authors may not have had the timelines correct but they nailed the human condition, tendencies and probable future, to the wall..
            I believe the immensity of the catastrophic event that would wake the human race up, will have to almost wipe it out, then the cycle of human nature destroying itself would start again..
            I just don’t believe humans will have an age of permanent enlightenment, without divine intervention.. In a way, even I think that’s a close minded statement on my part, but I believe this in my heart and mind..

            Liked by 1 person

          10. I agree the technology involved in social media and gaming pursuits seem to attract addictive personalities who don’t know when to stop. That’s the technology we seem to think of first when we thing of advancement. I think it’s easy to forget technology encompasses fields like transportation, medicine, agriculture, communication, energy — things that touch our lives every day and don’t seem to limit our maturity.

            Future Shock’s non-fiction sociological examination of the effects advancing technology and industry have on individuals, families, and societies helped to inform public policy about such things. The part I found most intriguing was that there is as much shock to a third world person entering a first world society as there is for first world people facing the next big technological advance.

            I think Orwell painted a grim picture of the power totalitarian governments have to re-write history and keep the population suppressed through constant observation. But he seemed to come to the same conclusion that changes to anything that vast start with a scattered few people who finally get fed up.

            I don’t believe there will ever be an age of permanent enlightenment, because every body starts out as a baby. I can see enlightenment on an individual level as a person takes the time to reflect and examine, but not as a matter of evolution. No one of us normal humans to come will ever be born enlightened. Our species comes with so many diverse gifts and interests and levels of ability and potential that it would be unreasonable to expect every one to value the same kind of life. Unless they’re stuck in a totalitarian state, and then I think human nature will eventually rebel. I hope so anyway. With or without divine intervention, I believe humankind has what it needs to straighten itself out. Eventually. 🙂

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  2. I couldn’t agree more. What baffles me the most is how tragedies from gun violence keep happening and still nothing changes. Both sides agree that something must be done, but still nothing changes. It’s just incredible to me that our lawmakers/society have seemingly accepted that this is just the way it goes. I don’t understand how they can’t even try change, every time a new incident occurs I think “Just try SOMETHING!” Still waiting for that to happen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If both sides could agree on what must be done, it would happen; they seem to want mutually exclusive solutions. One demands greater restrictions, the other wants greater access so not only “the bad guys have guns” (– which in my mind is a tremendously ignorant and manipulative twisted logic that conjures images of the Wild West. No thank you).

      It takes so long to write proposed legislation and take it through the process that finally results in votes in both the Senate and the House, only to have it rejected by the fear mongers who want people to believe that those who advocate reasonable gun control are really trying to “take your guns away”, it disallows the possibility of just doing SOMETHING.

      And so we are still waiting.

      I wonder if a Presidential Directive would be possible. I don’t know what the restriction on their use might be.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As so often, I can only express my outsider’s complete bafflement at it all, shared by the vast majority of Europeans and no doubt much of the rest of the world. Partly the bafflement is that although I know quite a few Americans, none of them supports the gun lobby, so I wonder who are the millions that do. And when I think of the way they think, it frightens me.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The “millions that do” may mostly represent the number the dollars the NRA spends supporting legislators who support laws that make gun (including assault rifles whose only purpose is murder) ownership so easy. The NRA also spends millions in campaigns to instill fear that people who want stricter gun control laws actually want to take everyone’s guns away, and then only the “bad guys” will have guns. Misunderstanding of the Second Amendment granting the “right to bear arms” is so pervasive and ingrained, there are people (like Trump) who believe everyone should carry a concealed weapon, and schools should not be “gun-free zones”. How could that possibly go wrong?

      No, Curtis, your bafflement doesn’t belong only to Europeans. I believe it is shared by a majority of Americans as well.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. It will all come down to November’s election of course, but there will be plenty of equal-opportunity mudslinging before then. With Bernie Sanders making a show of support for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party hopes to unite his backers with hers, but there is much vitriol aimed at the former First Lady from within her own party. It didn’t help her cause that Sanders looked sick to his stomach at their press conference. But if she actually wins the party’s nomination during the convention, what will be our real choice to keep Drumpf from winning? He scares me. I’m convinced his ignorant, thoughtless, narcissistic bullying will spew us into WWIII. On the other hand, like 60% of the population, I’ve never trusted Clinton. She cares about nothing but her own ambition. She just wants to be in charge, not make things better for the People. (Although, her stance on gun control is left of liberal — I suppose I ought to give her some credit for that.)

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  4. It’s almost as if the Congress passed out some cowboy hats for each of their members to wear as if to say “Welcome to the wild, wild west folks!” A stupid gunslingers mentality. I prefer “Back up the truck and lets clean house!” Let’s see how they like a voters mentality. Fabulous post, Sue. ‘o)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Paul. One of my consolations is that we overcame the wild, wild West through an insistence on lawful civilization. I have hope this election will make that possible again.

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  5. Great post, Sue. I agree with your points, particularly the last one. Every politician must bend to the vote; we the people have power there if nowhere else. People have been violent for millennia, and in my darker moments, I don’t know if sanity will prevail. As a victim of gun violence, I wonder why we encourage the access and distribution of guns. It’s so self-destructive. I also think we need to address the root causes of violence and that’s not easy – poverty, racism, guns, addiction, war, fear-mongering. In my brighter moments, I’m filled with hope and believe that kindness and compassion have the power to change the world for the better. Besides vote, spreading the love is something I can do every day. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Diana. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been (are?) a victim of gun violence. I imagine that must have been terrifying… perhaps bizarre. Are you willing to share that story?

      Someone suggested that our society has so internalized violence, we express normal life in violent language. For example, finally making an offer on a house you’ve considered buying might be described as “pulling the trigger”. As you say, violence has always been part of the species. I think only the process of civilization — society working to put its members on equal footing — brings it to heel. The root causes you’ve mentioned seem to me to evidence exclusion from that civilization or an effort to give an advantage to one particular segment of that society over another.

      Hm. More thinking to do.

      I sometimes indulge in those dark moments when it seems hopeless for the human race. But it’s a battle against ourselves, isn’t it? Doesn’t that put us in the position of fighting back? So I fall back on my stubborn realistic-optimism, and start looking for solutions.

      All worthwhile epics have dark times, don’t they?

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Diana. Maybe the best we can do right now is bring a light to dark places. Let’s keep spreading the love and getting out the vote. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the reply, Sue. No easy answers, which I think is why this doesn’t get fixed. Yes, it’s a matter of will – we are the creators, heirs, and casualties of our choices. Choosing kindness, curiosity and compassion is within out power and that’s the way I lean. The rest I write out in my books! 🙂

        I should make it clear that I personally wasn’t shot, but my younger brother was murdered. I mention it in a recent post “Rewriting the End.” Peace to you and thanks for the connection. I thoroughly enjoy your blog ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  6. You did a fantastic job providing at least one solution. I only wish that people cared enough to actually do something. It seems we all (myself included) are very good at complaining and pointing fingers, but when it comes to actually getting our hands dirty and doing something real, something tangible, something impactful, we leave it to someone else. I am working hard and trying to put myself out there and act versus just reacting because I am one of those kids too. I want my kids and their friends and their kids and their kids to have a great country to grow up in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Joyce. I think your plan of individual action is where any change has to begin. What sorts of actions are you taking? Campaign work? Working with kids? Writing letters to Congressional representatives? I sometimes envision standing on one of those little freeway islands at on and off ramps with a sign.

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  7. I agree with Laura, and I want to add that this was cathartic for me to read. It helps ease the tension that I feel bubbling up inside me when I read someone speaking out do articulately and reasonably about these important issues, because I don’t feel so disempowered and voiceless. I’m part of the generation you speak of, and I agree with your observations. I can see the violence and numbing in my parents’ generation seeping into my own and becoming magnified. It seems the more we are exposed to graphic violence, explicit sexuality, and other extremes, the more numb we become, and the greater the extremes we must seek in order to experience the same thrill. We can’t selectively turn off pain, anger, rejection, sadness, and all the difficult emotions without also numbing joy, love, gratitude, and all the positive ones, so instead we replace them with drugs, alcohol, food, sex, and violence in the movies just so we can feel *something.* Like you, I made the decision several years ago to stop exposing myself to all of the violence and depravity in the culture and media. I even stopped watching the news for awhile, and I stopped listening to the radio. It has made such a difference in my mindset, how I treat other people, my ability to cope with daily stress, and even my values! Thank you for writing about these issues. Please keep it up, because you have a talent for it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, Lulu, thanks! I’m glad you found catharsis and some empowerment here. When the problems are so huge and seemingly unsolvable, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by our own smallness. As you point out, any individual who notices the creeping numbness and escalating stimulation can find personal coping mechanisms that make a positive difference in their own life, like you have, even though the problem persists. I’ve learned — through single parenting, I suspect, lol — that one of my constant strengths is problem-solving. Combined with my stubborn realistic optimism, I’m convinced every problem has a solution. Big societal problems need many vocal individuals to share their solutions and raise awareness and hope in those who can’t see how things might get better, finally tipping the balance in favor of positive change.

      Don’t be timid about sharing your thoughts with everyone you know — you’re pretty articulate, yourself!

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    1. Thank you, Deb. I’m sincerely grateful you’ve shared your thoughts. I never really appreciated studying history as a kid, but it’s finally come home that the past creates the present, and our present choices create the future.

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