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“The past is a foreign country; they did things differently then.” — L.P Hartley.

Google this and you’ll find David Lowenthal’s study guide explaining that we have extremely varied attitudes about the past. Simply, those having lived an epoch invariably see things differently than succeeding generations due to the prevailing styles and beliefs of the periods in which they lived.

Sundiata Cha-Jua wants us to have the courage to face the reality of our past by drum-beating its failures, which are many, down our throats with a vengeance jaded by racial animus toward whites.

While instructive, his manner of writing comes off as abrasive and offensive, predominately because he fails to account for the good the past, in the context of the foreign country metaphor, has produced. Which does nothing to promote what he seeks — a more democratic republic.

It’s a negativity dominating polity today. So, it is no surprise that a recent letter writer criticizes another for simply wishing a return to 1950s family values.

I remind the writer of the following: Brown vs. Board, Supreme Court ends school segregation (’54); Montgomery bus boycott (’55); Martin L. King initiates anti-discrimination movement (’57); Eisenhower sends troops to Little Rock, Ark., enforcing school integration (’57); Eisenhower signs Civil Rights Act of 1957; Lunch counter demonstrations begin (1960).

Many past evils began to fall during this period. To us, the ’50s was a time of promise, that the values of good over evil would prevail.

Sadly, much of that promise has since been squandered.

R. STAN MARSH

Champaign

News-Gazette