Kadner: Take the time to capture this moment in history
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This is history. Right here. Right now. I telephoned one of the leading universities in Chicago and asked to speak to a history professor for guidance on how to observe and possibly record what we are seeing in the 2016 presidential election.
No takers, I was told. Not one academic type wanted to use the Clinton-Trump campaign as a teaching moment. That’s rather pitiful and perhaps one of the reasons so many people today have so little respect for history.
I have now lived through a little bit of history myself. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The Vietnam War. The Civil Rights Movement. Watergate. The resignation of Richard Nixon. The terrorist attack of 9-11. The Great Recession.
Looking back, I wish I had written down my thoughts at the time in a journal. Tried to capture key moments in my life for myself and perhaps for others. I never felt quite up to the task, believing in the end that I lacked the proper perspective, the academic credentials or political insight to make my observations significant.
But whenever I watch the historical documentaries by Ken Burns on PBS, it is always the observations of common people I find most profound and interesting. The housewives. The foot soldiers. The letters people wrote to each other about their everyday lives and concerns.
We don’t do that any more. We text. Email. Snapchat. Tweet.
If you were recording this moment in time, this historic election, for your great grandchildren, what would you want them to know? Does the campaign between Hillary Clinton, the first woman candidate for president, and billionaire upstart Donald Trump have any significance to your daily life? Does all the name-calling and hoopla about stolen emails really tell us anything about the country?
Do you think the Russian hacking of political email is meaningful, or just a bunch of baloney started by the Democrats to divert attention away from the real issue?
I think we’re all pretty frightened about the future, although the source of those fears varies greatly depending on where you live, your economic status and your racial and religious background.
I don’t think Tuesday’s election is going to decide much of anything. If Clinton wins, we already know that the Republicans in Congress are going to spend the next four years trying to block any major legislative initiative, roll back Obamacare and perhaps impeach her. We know that because the Republicans have made it pretty clear that’s their intention.
If Trump wins, we don’t know anything at all. The Republican Party as we know it may cease to exist. Will the president even live in the White House? Would he give up his business interests while president?
Most of the people I speak to are nervous and angry. They’re worried about the economy. They believe the politicians are influenced by people whose motives have nothing to do with the national interest.
People are scared of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. They’re worried their children may not get a quality education. They’re concerned about violent crime, the lack of respect for authority and the abuse of authority by law enforcement officials.
Maybe none of that is worth recording for posterity.
I know this for certain: I would love to have a written record of my parents and grandparents lives. What was their daily routine? What was it like to live through the Great Depression and World War II? What was grandma thinking when she boarded that boat on her journey from Poland to the United States with a 3-year-old daughter in tow?
All of that is history. It has meaning for future generations. But very few people ever recognize it at the time.