Current Events in Historical Context

Memory and Peace in Colombia

By Joshua M. Rosenthal

Colombia has maintained a reputation as a country of forgetting since the world fell in love with Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Since then, others have added to the tradition. In the recently translated Reputations, the novelist Juan Gabriel Vásquez updates the idea, “Forgetfulness was the only democratic thing in Colombia: It covered them all, the good and the bad, the murderers and the heroes, like the snow in the James Joyce story, falling upon all of them alike.” Nor are such assertions confined to literature.

“Boots on the Ground”: US Soldiers and the Strains of Overseas Deployment

By Susan L. Carruthers

On January 16, 2017, the New York Times printed an arresting image of US Marines arriving in Norway, the first foreign troops to be deployed on Norwegian soil since 1945. The accompanying text focused on Norwegians’ anxieties about what this deployment, announced as an opportunity for the Marines to “hone their abilities to fight in tough winter conditions,” might portend in geopolitical terms. Like any display of “alertness,” this show of preparedness risks aggravating tensions rather than alleviating them.

The Paradoxes of Presidential Power: A Brief History of Executive Orders

We’ve all seen the photo ops over the past few weeks: President Donald J. Trump sitting at his desk in the Oval Office, signing executive orders with a flourish, then proudly displaying his handiwork to the cameras. This flurry of controversial orders has given new attention to an old presidential practice. Earlier this month, the National History Center sponsored a briefing on Capitol Hill that examined the history of executive orders (EOs). Three leading authorities on the subject traced the evolution and exercise of this presidential power, placing the present moment in a context that offered both reassurance and concern.

February 27, 2017

Reliving Injustice 75 Years Later: Executive Order 9066 Then and Now

By Karen Inouye

In February 1942, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which directed state and local authorities to locate and detain Japanese American citizens and their family members in the western United States at a number of prison sites. In addition to being given only days to prepare for their imprisonment, Japanese Americans received little information about their destinations, the proposed length of their stay, or the conditions they would endure.

February 17, 2017

Today’s Banned Immigrants Are No Different From Our Immigrant Ancestors

By Tyler Anbinder

Underpinning President Donald Trump’s recent ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries is the belief that these immigrants are fundamentally different than those who came to the United States in the past. An unsentimental look at the history of American immigrants, however, shows that the banned immigrants are not fundamentally different from Americans’ foreign-born grandparents, great-grandparents, or even great-great-great-grandparents.

Nurses in the Navy attending class, 1940. Wikimedia Commons

Pink-Collar Pain and Our New President

By Katherine Turk

In the wake of this year’s presidential election, many of Hillary Clinton’s supporters are struggling to understand why her calls for sisterhood did not persuade the 62 percent of white non-college-educated women who voted for her opponent, Donald J. Trump.[1] One explanation came in Trump’s acceptance speech. In a 21st-century twist on Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Depression-era appeal to the working class, the president-elect praised the “forgotten men and women” who hoisted him to victory. Many of these women are indeed the pink-collar workers the civil rights revolution forgot.

December 27, 2016
Downtown Cleveland. Wikimedia Commons

Cleveland 2016: LeBron, Trump, and Life after the 10th Inning

By John J. Grabowski

It has been a memorable year for the city of Cleveland: the Cavaliers won the NBA championship; it hosted the RNC convention that nominated the man who is about to become the next President of the United States; and its baseball team almost won the World Series. The series loss was certainly a disappointment, but possibly not a problem given one of the defining characteristics of the city.

December 20, 2016

The Liberal Dilemma: Can the New President Achieve Both Guns and Butter?

By Matthew Dallek

“Wake up every one of you to the two fronts on which our defense must be built!”

-Eleanor Roosevelt, 1940

As of this writing, according to the latest polls, Hillary Clinton is poised to become the next president of the United States. Amid the onslaught of news coverage given to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, however, too little attention has been paid to the demands sure to face “a progressive who likes to get things done” (Clinton’s words) once she steps through the doors of the Oval Office in January.