Providing Historical Context to Historical Times

2020 has clearly been a history making year from a pandemic to massive protests against white supremacy to the recent election. I certainly do not envy future historians trying to make sense of this year!

Recently, I was asked by a reporter from the San José Spotlight to provide some historical context to the political divisiveness and the seemingly unique situation that is our most recent presidential election. You can read that article here: “Amid deep political divides, how can the nation move forward?”

The political divisiveness we are experiencing is not new. This nation has often been on the verge of division (Elizabeth Varon’s book Disunion gives a good sense of this in our early history). But there is a sense of newness or difference when it comes to a president who is unwilling to concede the race and that this is being buoyed by high ranking members of his political party. I can’t think of a precedent for this.

I believe we have a strong constitution and a system than can withstand these threats. But I am also drawn to the late John Lewis’s sentiments regarding our democracy, which he reiterated in the essay he wrote for the New York Times before he died. He wrote,

“Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”

John Lewis, “Together, You 
Can Redeem the Soul 
of Our Nation” 2020

And it seems that it might be our turn to take up the mantle to fight for democracy.


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