History Keeps Repeating

Carol A. Hand

I wonder how many have experienced being a sensitive child born into a world of chaos and abuse. Perhaps your first memories are similar to the ones described in a post I wrote years ago for a friend’s blog.

My first memory as a child is so clear in my mind even though experts in brain development say it is not possible. It was my first Christmas. A February baby born on the cusp of Pisces and Aquarius, I lay in my crib as the winter sun streamed through the window. My mother and father stood on opposite sides of my crib, arguing. The personal pain and insecurities that led to their argument were so clear to me. But more compelling were the strengths and beauty I saw in both of them. I struggled helplessly in a body that could not give voice to what I saw. All I could do was cry.

Thus began a life lived in the tragic gap between what is and what could be. A life straddling cultures, socio-economic classes, and religious beliefs. Surviving childhood abuse and rape as a sensitive soul brings powerful insights and abilities as well as deep wounds that may take more than one lifetime to heal. Compassion, sorrow, and rage at callous injustice compete in ongoing inner struggles. “Breathe. Detach. Reflect. Do what you can to inspire others to see their own beauty and create new possibilities even though you know it’s not an easy journey. Try anyway, even though you don’t always see yourself worthy of walking this path.”

Events like the bombing of Afghanistan – again – remind me why it’s important to try anyway. History keeps repeating itself. Maybe this time I’ll be able to communicate the message in a way that can be heard.

In 2001-2002, I conducted a critical ethnographic study of child welfare in a rural Ojibwe community. The topic was important to me because Native American children continue to be removed from families and communities in disproportionate numbers. Removing children is a continuing form of cultural genocide. Many previous studies of Native Americans offered justification for this practice. They portrayed Native communities as though they were isolated from the rest of the world, and cultures as if frozen in the long ago past destined to inevitably disappear. I still wonder how anyone could ignore the obvious and profound effects that colonial subjugation has continued to have for Indigenous communities and cultures.

Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Wikipedia photo

The past and present socio-political context of U.S. Indian and child welfare policies were an important part of my research. I wanted to understand the community and culture from as many different vantage points as possible during my time “in the field.” My first week, I was lucky. An Ojibwe elder shared a story about his childhood that provided a crucial framework and foundation for my study. The information would have remained significant in any case. But the date of our conversation, September 10, 2001, made it clear that even in remote areas global issues have profound effects.

As I work on editing the book manuscript I wrote about my research, I can’t help reflecting on our inability as a nation to learn from history. Two weeks ago, I edited and revised the following excerpt.


Research Fieldnotes: Monday, October 8, 2001

I’m eager to return to the border town and reservation. The morning is cool and clear as I set out for the long drive. But my heart is heavy with news from the world far from the ceded territories of the Ojibwe. The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan began yesterday as the U.S. and its ally, Great Britain, launched an intensive bombing campaign. Retaliation against a poor nation that is not responsible for 911 is so senseless. There will be no positive outcomes for killing other innocent people. “Operation Enduring Freedom,” as the invasion is named, will not bring freedom. I fear it will only result in more death and suffering.

As I drive, I remember President Eisenhower’s observations from so many years ago.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. (Chance of Peace speech delivered to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington, DC on April 16, 1953)

War will affect the hopes of all of the children in the U.S. and Afghanistan. I have no words to express the deep sadness I feel. So I sing, belting out verses of songs and prayers for peace as tears stream from my eyes. I notice the bald-headed eagle flying above my car, circling overhead as I pray and sing. I wonder. “Is the eagle’s presence merely a coincidence? Or is it a sign that what I’m doing will forge a path to build understanding and peace?


Present-day Reflections. I don’t remember ever learning anything about Afghanistan in school, even though it’s been inhabited for at least 50,000 years and is the location of some the oldest farming communities in the world. It has been a predominantly Muslim country since 882 CE comprised of diverse indigenous tribes ruled by a central monarchy. Despite its land-locked location, Afghanistan has remained an important connecting point between the Middle East, Asia, and Europe.

In recent history it once again became the site of competing interests. In the mid-1800s, Great Britain imposed colonial rule over Afghanistan’s neighbor, India, leading to an ongoing struggle between Britain and the Soviet Union for control of the area. Internal conflicts within Afghanistan between those with differing views of governance, monarchy versus communism, erupted into civil war. Both the Soviet Union and United States provided cash and weapons to aid and arm competing armies. In 1979, the Soviet Union finally sent in troops and took control of the country. It’s estimated that 1 million Afghan people were killed by Soviet troops and their Afghan allies. Many more Afghan people fled to other nations before the Soviet Union withdrew their forces in 1989 (Admin, PBS, 2006).

During the 1980s in the U.S., funding was significantly reduced for the social welfare safety net programs intended to help poor families and children with access to health care, education, housing, income security, and nutrition (Karger & Stoesz, 2010). At the same time, billions of dollars flowed into Afghanistan to arm and support insurgent anti-communist forces that were fighting against Soviet occupation (Coll, 2005).

Due to ongoing wars, Afghanistan was one of the poorest countries in the world when Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001. Between October 7, 2001 and January 1, 2002, an estimated 1,000 to 1,300 civilians were killed as a direct result of bombing (Conetta, 2002a). By mid-January, 2002, another 3,200 had died of starvation, exposure, illness or injuries related to invasive bombing by the U.S. and Great Britain (Conetta, 2002b).

Eisenhower’s warning proved to be true. Children and families in both nations have continued to be affected by the costs of war on many levels.


Research Fieldnotes: Monday, October 8, 2001 (continued)

The eagle and long drive give me a chance to compose myself before I reach the reservation.

I arrive at Henry’s house at about 10:40, only ten minutes late for our scheduled meeting….

Community members gathered at the elder’s center the next day for lunch, as they did most weekdays. “I can’t understand why the Afghani people don’t like us,” Maymie says. The elders talk of anthrax, gardens, and making apple cider. They don’t seem to be concerned about the threat of terrorism here, but they do express their confusion about why others in the world seem to hate Americans.


A few days ago, the U.S bombed Afghanistan again with “the mother of all bombs.” Operation Enduring Freedom? Other choices are possible and far more likely to be successful if that really is the goal of U.S. international actions.

I honestly don’t know how to effectively communicate with those who don’t seem to be able to listen or hear. Sometimes all I can do is find moments of beauty despite the deep sorrow I feel. Other times, I just cry, as I did on my first Christmas. Today, I choose to share this message along with my prayers for peace despite the risk of being ignored, criticized or misunderstood.

My Grandson, Ojibwe Ceded Territory, Spring 2001


Works Cited:

Admin (2006, October 10). The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. PBS Newshour. Retrieved on April 19, 2017 from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/asia-july-dec06-soviet_10-10/.

Coll, Steve (1005). Ghost wars: The secret history of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet invasion to September 10, 2001. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Conetta, Carl. (24 January, 2002a). Operation Enduring Freedom: Why a higher rate of civilian bombing casualties. PDA: Project on Defense Alternatives. Retrieved on April 19, 2017 from http://www.comw.org/pda/0201oef.html .

Conetta, Carl. (30 January, 2002). Strange victory: A critical appraisal of Operation Enduring Freedom and the Afghanistan war. PDA: Project on Defense Alternatives. Retrieved on April 19, 2017 from http://www.comw.org/pda/0201strangevic.html.

Eisenhower, Dwight D. (1953, April 16). Chance of Peace. Speech delivered to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington, DC. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chance_for_Peace_speech on March 15, 2015.

Karger, Howard Jacob & Stoesz, David (2010). American social welfare policy: A pluralist approach, 6th ed. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.


38 thoughts on “History Keeps Repeating

  1. Words to reflect upon from you and from President’s 1953 Chance of Peace speech excerpt delivered to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington. Tears and prayers that the world will listen. It’s way past time…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. My friend-sister: you seem to be going through similar cycles as I do, as so many other “empaths” as they call people like us now…I also have trouble detaching myself from despair, pain, fear and sometimes (later more often I have to confess) anguish, frustration and even anger…it seems difficult to use compassion (suffer-with) for those who seem not to have compassion for anything or anyone, or trying to see the beauty in things that are so horrendous we can’t barely pronounce them…I too experience abuse, neglect and rape when I was child. Now I’m privilege and “safe” (for now), the only sibling who was able to go to college and live abroad, still see so much suffering and injustice and destruction that my only way to stay sane is to focus on nature (not even humans)…and yet, when I seem to be at the bottom of the ocean in my despair and darkness, there’s always a soul, an image, someone who writes or calls, a quote I read, a book I find that keep me going, keep the candle on fire…
    Stay on fire my friend, the world needs you. I need you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dear Silvia, thank you so much for sharing your experiences and your deep and heart-felt feelings and insights. Nature is my solace, too, and the understanding and kindness of dear friends like you, a light in the darkness. Sending you love and blessings. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Carol you write well and your depth of empathy is touching. The eagle was surely a sign! Everyone loses when violence is perpetrated. All harm has ripple effects, just as all good does. I haven’t heard that speech before and it’s so profound, thank you!
    We also have ongoing issues with our Traditional Landowners children being removed … it saddens me deeply.
    The MOAB was dropped on Syria, a neighbour of Afghanistan. I was there in the 70’s when the Russians were moving in … I loved the country and the proud people. We are all one and until we sincerely embrace diversity we continue to violate the laws of nature.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Kate, and for sharing your insights and experiences. The removal of children from their families and communities is a global issue. Thank you for raising the issue faced by Traditional Landowners, and for sharing your perspective on the ongoing tragedies in Syria. As you so wisely and eloquently point out, “We are all one and until we sincerely embrace diversity we continue to violate the laws of nature.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My humble apologies Carol … I remembered this post and my incorrect comment but could not ‘find’ it again! I am wondering why we did not, have not heard about a second MOAB on Afghanistan in Australia? Guessing it must have killed too many civilians … here in Australia ONLY one on Syria has ever been reported … were there any more? After posting my comment above I did more research and discovered my mistake, sorry.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. There’s no need to apologize, Kate. The news about the bombing of Afghanistan has already disappeared from the mainstream news in the U.S., and the MSN reports about Syria only attempt to justify continuing invasive actions by the U.S. Both are cause for deep concern and finding news one can trust is a never ending challenge.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. That is so true … it is a very scary time in our world right now and it is triggering much depression and panic in too many! Next time I will research first before I type off comments … but how to know?

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Kate, the truth that was conveyed by your comments was clear – your genuine concern for people who are suffering as a result of invasive and oppressive actions. It takes caring and concern to share that, and I’m grateful that you did. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello Carol, I am dog tired. Your post says so much. I worry about my part. The killing being done in my name. The bombs and policies that enslave the less fortunate. I feel responsible. But I don’t know what to do and doing nothing seems wrong. My time as a warrior has ran out. That is a lovely photo of your Grandson beside crocuses. He has grown up to be a good looking man. Take care. Bob

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Bob. I share similar feeling of responsibility and guilt for not doing anything to end destruction and invasions carried out by governments “in my name.” Yet when I step back and reflect, I realize there are different kinds of warriors. Your stories and photos celebrate and preserve what matters most – the beauty of the mountains and the night skies, the tender love of family and passing on the loving understanding of nature through the generations. Honoring life, peace, nature, and beauty is a powerful kind of resistance, my friend, and I’m deeply grateful for the inspiration I find in your work. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much for your kindness. I wish I had your way with words. I also find inspiration in your writing. In our conversations, I consider the internet a campfire where we talk back and forth through the smoke. Like good friends, sometimes we just let each other talk, but we are always listening. Take care. Bob

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Dear Carol, you are truly an amazing writer and thank you from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of many Afghan friends, refugees and comrades that I have known since Afghanistan Invasion. How unfortunate that my entry into this world happened at the same time, these bombs and imperial slave policies have given us nothing as humans, today we are divided and broken.
    Having worked there, on the front line and seen the depravity of war and destruction also shaped my warrior identity.
    Your eagle is a sign and may it guide you, others like you and many more in the east
    P.s: your grandson is very adorable! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Saadia, my heart breaks over the unconscionable and needless death and suffering U.S. actions have continued to inflict on people here and abroad. I feel so clueless about how it can be stopped and powerless, and I know I’m not alone in that regard. I am grateful for your thoughtful comments and friendship and send my best wishes to you. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I am always so moved by your writing, Carol, and the full and generous heart behind it. I don’t understand the thinking in this world – the arrogant disregard for life, for the planet, for children, for the future, for the very air we breathe and water we drink. The absence of empathy feels alien. How can hearts, eyes, ears and fists be so closed? I tend toward despair, my friend, but you somehow always remind me that there are people taking a stand and raising their voices and I can and will do my part. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You’re an amazing writer. The depth and empathy you bring with your words. History does keep repeating itself and Every time as stand by the sidelines watching it happen. Cz the powerful don’t have things to say and those who have words don’t have the power. It’s Sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful, lovely comments, Manal, and for sharing your important insights about power. Truth and beauty carry a different kind of power, to touch hearts and awaken possibilities, but they don’t get much airtime these days. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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