Today also is National Holocaust Remembrance Day. I often think that there's little possibility anyone who's semi-sentient will forget how horrific the Holocaust was, but the truth is that historical education in this country is so crap-poor that many people cannot even discuss, let alone remember, the basics of American history and civics, such as what our Constitution is and how it came into being, nor when George Washington first took office or the city of Washington was established and why, nor the dates of the U.S. Civil War, nor the chronological window when slavery putatively ended in both the North (yes, Virginia, there were slaves in Maine and New Hampshire) and the South--or should I say, slavery as an official institution, nor the era of the Great Depression, etc. In fact, many Americans cannot locate the nation's capital on a map! So knowledge of events taking place elsewhere on this earth more than 50 years ago, even if as abominable as the Holocaust should not be taken for granted. And even with the presence of Holocaust museums and memorials in many of the major American cities, there still are many who have no clue. (Holocaust deniers or minimizers don't help.) Ignorance, Orwell once ironically wrote, is bliss, at least for some--but the truth is that promoting it is a sure means of gaining and maintaining power.
Today the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island held its general elections. The lapdog sitting Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who eviscerated the Labour Party all the way to two straight national wins, appears likely to win a third term, though I've read repeatedly that it will be a slender triumph. Exit polls predicted a drop of 100 seats, a number of them going to the anti-immigrant, racist-harboring Conservative (Tory) Party, which before Blair's charge in 1997 had held the reins of Britain for a generation. (Yet exit polls, as the 2004 U.S. presidential election showed, can be grossly wrong, especially with electronic voting machines that are easily hackable.) My late adolescence and early adulthood coincided with the dreadful reigns of Raygun the Ronald (who claimed he fought in World War II, though he was actually on a movie set) and the horrid, helmet-haired Thatcher Woman, who gutted Merry Olde England like there was no tomorrow, though she did show the dictators in Argentina a thing or two in successfully holding on to Britain's lone colonial patrimony in South America. The U.K. is still picking up (or through) the pieces; meanwhile, Blair has taken his party, once Britain's Social Democratic opposition, steadily to the right. As is well known, he has hewed as closely to W as Beethoven's beloved "trouser button," and was recently revealed to have been co-plotting the Iraq War with his Master in 2002, well before it was launched. (Big surprise!) He's also a devout Christianist who claims to never lie, though his record shows he's as slippery with the truth as his buddy, the horse masturbator.
There actually is a third major party in Britain, the Liberal Democrats, who once were the Liberals and the main, centrist party of the country (Gladstone, Asquith, Lloyd George, etc.), but since the mid-1950s, they have been relegated to third place status. (On the right there is the fascistic National Party, which would feel right at home with the likes of a total nutcase like Pat Robertson, who recently claimed that "activist judges" (meaning Republicans like Anthony Kennedy appointed by Republicans like Raygun) were a greater threat than, oh, Hitler and Osama bin Laden!) Oddly enough, since Blair has turned Labour into a catchall, Clintonian mush, the Liberal Democrats have become the major left-leaning party, and openly opposed the Iraq debacle. Right and sensible as that position is, the Liberal Democrats and their flame-haired leader are not expected to gain much traction.
A bizarre sidelight was the explosion of two grenades, early this morning, outside the building housing the British Consulate in New York City. New York's mayor and stadiophile Michael Bloomberg quickly reassured the public with blandishments, because, well, we can't have anything but business as usual, can we? (The Caterpillar Corporation also has offices there, and has been the object of past protests because, according to the New York Times, the Israeli military uses Caterpillar bulldozers.)
Other things that happened at various points in the past today (according to the Gregorian calendar) that I've basically cribbed from other Websites:
- 1818 Karl Marx is born, in Trier, Prussia
- 1891 Carnegie Hall (then known as Music Hall) opened in New York City, with Peter Tchaikovsky as guest conductor.
- 1905 Robert Sengstacke Abbott establishes the Chicago Defender newspaper, still in existence, calling it "The World's Greatest Weekly"
- 1925 John Scopes is arrested in Tennessee for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution (and in 2005 Kansas is debating whether to teach it or not)
- 1927 Virginia Woolf's masterpiece, To the Lighthouse, is published, to tepid reviews (it is now considered one of the great achievements of 20th century literature)
- 1941 Emperor Haile Selassie I, Lion of Judah, (right) returns to his capital, Addis Ababa, five years after it had been occupied by Italy, then led by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini
- 1942 As World War II rages on, Japanese forces landed on the Philippine island of Corregidor
- 1961 Astronaut Alan Shepard becomes the first American space traveler as he made a 15-minute sub-orbital flight in a capsule launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
And in my lifetime:
- 1969 Moneta Sleet becomes the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize for his photograph of Coretta Scott King and her daughter at Martin Luther King Jr.'s funeral
- 1970 US troops capture Snoul, Cambodia, which had been held by the North Vietnamese, but found no North Vietnamese troops there
- 1972 North Vietnamese turned back a South Vietnamese relief column that was trying to re1lieve the siege at An Loc
- 1975 Hank Aaron passes Babe Ruth's RBI record on his way to becoming the all-time home run and RBI champion in Major League Baseball (and he's never been honored enough for his greatness, in my opinion)
- 1985 President Raygun led a wreath-laying ceremony at the Bitburg Germany military cemetery, which included Nazi graves (cf. above under "Holocaust" and "Raygun")
Today it was easier to rattle off what happened today than come up with anything original. Sic transit...