Political Animal

JURY DUTY….Dwight Meredith, riffing on

JURY DUTY….Dwight Meredith, riffing on my post about jury duty yesterday, asks a good question: why are so many people convinced that when their friends and neighbors serve on juries they suddenly go nuts and start handing out huge bundles of cash in frivolous cases?

As Dwight points out, we are all convinced that we would never do such a thing, but somehow trial lawyers are consistently able to pick 12 unanimous idiots to do their bidding and make ridiculous awards.

Maybe. Or maybe the problem is that if you actually hear all the facts of a case, it changes your mind? Hmmm….

THE LESSONS OF HISTORY….By coincidence,

THE LESSONS OF HISTORY….By coincidence, right after I finished my history lesson below, I got an email from Randy Paul of Beautiful Horizons pointing me to this Washington Post article:

“The earliest vivid memory in my life,” said Kazuo Matsubayashi, “is the day my father was arrested on January 7th, 1943.”

….The internment of Japanese Americans? No. Matsubayashi was recalling a shameful and forgotten chapter in American history. From 1942 onward, the United States abducted some 3,000 people of Japanese, Italian and German ancestry from Latin America, shipped them to the United States and placed them in internment camps. These prisoners were never charged with crimes.

This is why I think it’s important not to romanticize the past: it prevents us from learning from our mistakes. Yes, interning those people was wrong, but it’s different today. Don’t you understand that the world is a far more dangerous place than it was in our parents’ day?

No it’s not. And if in hindsight something was wrong 60 years ago, it’s also wrong today.

NOSTALGIC FOR THE 50s?….Just a

NOSTALGIC FOR THE 50s?….Just a quick comment on history and foreign relations. How often recently have we seen a statement something like this:

What distinguishes the North Korean crisis from any other is the nature of North Korea. The U.S. isn’t dealing with a rational adversary as with the Soviet Union in the Cuban missile crisis.

This nostalgia for the good ‘ol days of nuclear standoff with the Soviet Union is charming in its own way, I suppose, and is surely proof that we really did win the Cold War. But we’ve also lost our collective memory about it and this occasionally makes me miss graying pundits like David Broder, who were actually alive back then and know what it was like.

So, a quick history lesson: back in the 50s and 60s, when all this stuff was actually happening, nobody thought the Soviet Union was just a big, furry ? and rational ? teddy bear. Krushchev was the guy who banged his shoe on the lectern at the UN while promising to bury us, and risked global annihilation by sending nuclear missiles to Cuba. The Soviets invaded Hungary, they invaded Czechoslovakia, and they had two million troops massed behind the Iron Curtain. Schoolkids were taught to duck and cover because an ICBM from Kamchatka might be headed our way any minute. Sputnik was a terrifying example of Soviet superiority in science, raising the spectre of Russian space platforms stocked with nuclear missiles staring implacably down on us 24 hours a day. Lyndon Johnson ran television ads suggesting that nuclear war was right around the corner if you voted for Barry Goldwater. People were scared.

For some reason, every generation loses the ability to appreciate the emotional impact of events from the previous generation. They become merely words in history books, and the players seem somehow like misguided little children making silly mistakes that, really, are sort of obvious in hindsight, aren’t they?

Don’t fall for it. North Korea and Iraq are not the first dangerous countries we have encountered, 2003 is not the first year we have had to worry about nuclear weapons in dangerous hands, and Kim Jong-il and Saddam Hussein are not the first thuggish dictators we have had to face.

In fact, when you get right down to it I’ll take Kim Jong-il over Joseph Stalin any day. Anyone who thinks different is invited to read a biography of Uncle Joe ? pretty much any one should do ? and then report back. 2003 will suddenly seem a lot brighter.