In times of moral crisis in America, people tend to somberly repeat over and over: "Those who do not acknowledge the past are doomed to repeat it." While there is some truth in such a saying, the fact of the matter remains that history is not cyclical. We are not doomed to repeat anything as a human race, and it is our choices that essentially define our future.
While we may find such quotes to be useful, as a way to call out others in their ignorance, what it really clarifies is our own ignorance. I find it strange that people use this quote in terms of attitudes, as if racist sentiments and hate groups are simply a trend that crops up in this country every few years, inevitable and almost a part of our national identity. But you don't see carriages or petticoats making a comeback, do you?
If history repeats itself and I have to deal with hate groups, then where's my modern-day JFK? Or what about the widespread increase in African-American enfranchisement à la Reconstruction-era America? Can those make a comeback? The answer is no, and it's because those who want to fear change want the continuation of the past, thus inducing this myth that history is cyclical so as to validate their outdated and discriminatory attitudes.
You don't see Germany simply letting the attitudes and events that led to the Nazi Party and the Holocaust happen again. There is a strict outlaw against such behavior and it is because they saw the horror in their history and acknowledged that it never needed to happen again. And while I do believe that there is God above us who does control our futures and our paths, He also allows us to make our own choices, and it is up to us to make the right ones.
People look at Trump and the modern revival of racism and xenophobia and the KKK and attacking the press and they just shrug their shoulders, seeing it as the natural progression of things. Well, it's not progress at all. It is, quite frankly, a demented state of mind, conditioned by national leaders who prey on people's fear of change.
We are stuck in arrested development, regressing even, because people fear discomfort. "That's just the way it is" is a harmful idea, and it's why minorities still suffer, why misogyny still exists, and why I had a fax machine until like 2009.
History is always happening, always being pock marketed by people and events. We are not on some unavoidable course, we are the victims of our own fear. It's important to emphasize how we are always progressing in time and always developing new technology. Entirely new people are born every day. Things will happen today that may never happen again, and to say that only certain things, only harmful attitudes, are a hallmark of continuity and unavoidable is a dangerous excuse for such attitudes to further infiltrate our national consciousness.
We need to move forward with the clock. The old way is sometimes the best way, but not when that way involves the disenfranchisement of millions and the chance for selfish people to ascend to power. Yes, change is uncomfortable, but we cannot let our discomfort be the scapegoat for another national moral crisis. We must learn from history and use such knowledge to ensure that the attitudes that led to horrible events are forever gone.