Some Things Never Change

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Hayden Hollingsworth
Hayden Hollingsworth

What does change is the way we hear about them. Newspapers . . . that’s what we call them because they used to give the news. Now, by the time it appears in the paper chute it’s no longer news but old information. In the world of cyber news, happenings around the universe (literally) are reported nanoseconds after they occur. The land of Facebook, Twitter, smartphones, iPads, You Tube, Instant Messaging of countless types, Internet news streaming have, just in the last decade, changed the way we get our news.

Now, in a last ditch effort to save their industry, the print media is emphasizing local events in banner headlines rather than rehashing what everyone has already known for 24 hours. Online newspapers, including this one, have to compete in a way that was unimaginable in the recent past.

Thomas Jefferson is widely quoted as saying, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter.” That is taken out of context; he is really commending the dispensing of information to the general public as essential to government. Oh, Mr. Jefferson, you would love the Internet and the gadgetry we have to spread the news.

Lots of changes in the way we get the news but what the news actually is has changed very little, particularly in the realm of politics. If you think things are a mess today in Washington, you are right but they have always been a mess.

To read thoroughly the history of this country, one quickly realizes that we tend to emphasize positive points and overlook the monumental struggles that it took to reach the pleasant conclusions we like to celebrate generations later.

That is not to say that we shouldn’t remember with gratitude all the sacrifices our forefathers made for the freedoms we have today. Parenthetically, the use of the word “father” as in founding fathers is not politically incorrect. There were no “founding mothers’ but it did take two centuries for women to begin to take their rightful role in society. There is still a long way to do, but we are moving in the right direction of gender equality.

That said, some things have not changed. The bitter fights between the Whigs and the Federalists were more vicious than those we see in Washington today. At least the members of the national government do no take to physical violence and murder at they did in the first decades of our democracy.

Andrew Jackson, who changed the face of federal government, said on leaving the office “After eight years as President I have only two regrets: that I have not shot Henry Clay or hanged John C. Calhoun.”—1837. Now his terms are considered among the most influential of any President. Not so, during his lifetime. Thomas Jefferson said, “I feel much alarmed at the prospect of seeing General Jackson President. He is one of the most unfit men I know for such a place.”

The blissful day of political harmony post the recent election lasted only 24 hours before John Boehner and Mitch McConnell were foaming at the mouth, suggesting the executive orders from the President might be unconstitutional and thereby grounds for impeachment. So much for compromise as the art of politics. At least, there are no threats of physical mayhem, but don’t be too sure it can’t happen.

The news media is now so pervasive that a personal position can always find published support. That wasn’t true in earlier times but the happy news is that politics has ever been thus but we have always been able to muddle through. Let’s hope that will be true in the future.

If you doubt that, don’t just yell and complain; read some history and be grateful that terrific differences of opinion do not signify the end of our democratic dreams.

– Hayden Hollingsworth