History Keeps Repeating – A Reblog

The news about Afghanistan this morning was heartbreaking and decontextualized. How easily we forget the tragic U.S. and global actions that led to so much needless devastation, suffering, and death. It brought to mind my memories from the aftermath of September 11, 2001, almost 20 years ago. It seems important to reblog something I wrote in 2017. I hope it helps provide another perspective in these troubling times when news seems so one-sided.


History Keeps Repeating

(April 19, 2017)

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.

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.

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.


27 thoughts on “History Keeps Repeating – A Reblog

  1. Carol, I can identify with your reflections as our Native community struggles with “blood quantum” and enrollment issues, being among the first Indigenous people to be encountered by Caucasians along the east coast, and coming up to the point in our history when there are no Full-blooded Mahicans left, according to blood quantum. In general, we fought along side them (whites) in their wars, believing we were equals, but here is our Tribe today, struggling with whose enough “Indian” and whose not, along with real injustices within our own tribal government that threaten the very future of our Stockbridge (Mahican) sovereignty, with internal impostors rewriting blood quantum history to make themselves full-blooded Mahican, etc. (I spell it this way to buck what the tribes name evolved into today, Stockbridge Munsee Community). We’ve become the meltingpot of tribes, with mixedbloods and Caucasians falsely representing as Stockbridgers. A sad, sad, day for Stockbridge people, in our continued trail of tears…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your important observations and thoughts about the challenges tribes are struggling with these days. I wish I had words of wisdom to share. I don’t, but I do miss the days when I had a chance to work with folks like Dorothy Davids, Dave Besaw, and many others in your community.

      A history of oppression and child removal has left tribal people with a legacy of so much grief and loss. Many of us were denied the chance to learn our languages or culture. Some were left with a soul-deep need for a sense of belonging that they try to fill in unhealthy ways.

      It’s clear you care and want to help heal the divisions in the community. I send you my best wishes. Please feel free to contact me if you wish via the email address listed above in “Contact Information.” 💜

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Very touching Carol, thank you for sharing these facts and reflections. I remember when I first understood war was real, as in not just ‘history’ or stories on TV. I was about 7 and while I don’t remember the event, how/what happened exactly, I do remember the feelings—sadness, bewilderment, helplessness—and especially frustration that the adults around me found it completely normal and acceptable and my insistence that it was not to be annoying.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Kensho, and for sharing your memories, thoughts, and insights about how many people have been socialized to see war as a “normal” and “acceptable” way to resolve conflict. I’m grateful to hear that you asked those annoying “why” questions! People won’t ever realize there are alternatives otherwise.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Thanks back Carol, I feel you understand what it is like at some deep level to be that sensitive soul yet annoying voice. (Not that I find you annoying!) I think I will devote a longer post to this in the near future. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  3. My husband and I were talking about this exact same thing this morning! We can only keep sending out the wish, prayer, intention, that this country will stop trying to control other countries and that war never creates peace.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am glad to hear you were talking about alternatives this morning! We all need to do what we can. That’s why I decided to share this again even though I have courses to get ready. I wish I could do more, Thank you for your comments, dear friend.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Thank you for sharing!… there are closed minded elements in today’s world societies and the leadership merely follows the will of those that put them in power.. hopefully with today’s technology the world will come to a better understanding, doing away with the fears and superstitions of the past, and the world will become a better place… “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom”.( Isaac Asimov).. 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May your troubles be less
    Your blessings be more
    And nothing but happiness
    Come through your door
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Carol thank you for sharing your perspective and life experience. I had never heard the Eisenhower quote. If we simply follow the money of our presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, for me it begins and ends with Cheney. Frontline did a great job of laying out the war mongers Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Rumsfeld. Bush Sr. Was not as naive as W.. the rest as they say is history. Peace to you my friend. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/bushswar/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s always a delight to hear from you, Ray! Thank you so much for adding these important facts about those who were responsible for making such tragic choices along with a link to a video I look forward to watching!

      Sending my best wishes, dear friend. 💜

      Liked by 2 people

  6. If real history was taught, Westerners would be like that Michael Douglas character in “Falling Down” from the ’90s, looking around in shock and saying, “I’M the bad guy?”
    I love the US, specifically, for a lot of things. But, man, its shadows are dark and its sins are so, so deep too. It’s hard to wrap the mind around such duality and just keep going.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for sharing such an important and interesting perspective, Stacey. I had to turn to the internet to find out more about the film, “Falling Down,” and discovered a quote from Roger Ebert about it on Wikipedia that describes the current climate so well (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falling_Down).

      “Some will even find it [the film] racist because the targets of the film’s hero are African-American, Latino and Korean—with a few whites thrown in for balance. Both of these approaches represent a facile reading of the film, which is actually about a great sadness which turns into madness, and which can afflict anyone who is told, after many years of hard work, that he is unnecessary and irrelevant… What is fascinating about the Douglas character, as written and played, is the core of sadness in his soul. Yes, by the time we meet him, he has gone over the edge. But there is no exhilaration in his rampage, no release. He seems weary and confused, and in his actions he unconsciously follows scripts that he may have learned from the movies, or on the news, where other frustrated misfits vent their rage on innocent bystanders.”

      I thought of those who so easily follow people in power on all sides of the political or religious spectrums. Again, thank you for sharing such well-balanced, thoughtful insights. 💜

      Liked by 2 people

  7. My pleasure! But thank YOU for looking into Falling Down and expanding even more deeply on what I was saying. Have a wonderful weekend (if at all possible). 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. your observations are spot-on. i am a retired soldier. i have experienced and have learned to accept the horrors, the vicious cycle of tragedies that war imposes on everyone. i wish there was a fast and simple solution, for the use of the gun, and violent means, will only beget more guns amd more violence.

    Liked by 1 person

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