Paul Johnson has written, “All historical situations are unique and unrepeatable; they are usually complex too, and the more closely they are observed, the less easy does it appear to draw thumping great conclusions from them which can be applied elsewhere.”
Now that’s true of my situation, probably of everyone’s situation. Yet we go on drawing “thumping conclusions” from what happens to us, and even more so do we draw our own conclusions about the events we read about in the news, much as the myriad commentators out there who are now writing about the latest massacre of the innocent at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando during the wee hours of the morning of June 12 .
These conclusions range from Donald Trump’s statement to the effect that the horrific act of violence against gay people at the Pulse by a Muslim legitimizes his own proposal to ban Muslim immigrants coming to this country from any part of the world with a proven history of terrorism, that is, from the Middle East.
Then from that “thumping” we go to the “thumping” of the President who accuses Trump of peddling a “dangerous’ mind-set,” recalling thereby the darkest and most shameful periods in American history, when there were those who would single out immigrants while suggesting that entire religious communities were complicit in the violence and the killing.
And in spite of appearances, in spite of the confident conclusions of those who write about these sorts of things while often pointing out the resemblances among all such events, should we adopt Paul Johnson’s opinion that the Pulse killings were “unique and unrepeatable” and that we can conclude nothing from them? I don’t know. But it does seem that in spite of all “we have learned” from history, history does go on repeating itself, and we go on making the same mistakes.
And then there are the “unintended consequences.” Although in the instance of the Pulse Night club event it does seem that there weren’t any unintended consequences, and that the perpetrator fully intended all that happened. Was there anything else, anything he didn’t intend? We’ll probably never know.