October 13, 2006

History doesn't always repeat itself

Apparently, there is a more newsworthy individual at UW-Madison this month than Badger running-back P. J. Hill, who annihilated the Wildcat defense last weekend with a supernatural 249-yard marathon. Although Professor of African Languages and Literature Kevin Barrett may not have any 60-yard touchdown runs in him, the continually provocative member of “Scholars for 9/11 Truth” is not afraid to play the equally exhilarating Hitler card.

Undoubtedly, anybody with some sort of doctorate (because even in the Humanities you have to pay several hundred thousand for one) announcing the reincarnation of a man who systematically orchestrated the extermination of 11 million should garner substantial attention. The more than valid shock factor that a man such as Professor Barrett, who happens to find himself on a relatively high podium considering his employer holds the coveted #34 spot on the U.S. News billboard, acted a little irresponsibly? How many similarities can realistically be found between a Texas debutante who reads Tim LaHaye books (or more likely just watches the terrible Kirk Cameron films) and a maniacal genius who preoccupies the majority of graduate history departments around the country? In all fairness, there are certainly some similarities between G.W. and Hitler and for that matter between Cheney and Goebbels. At the same time, there are similarities between Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan as well. Nevertheless, take an overpriced Southwest flight to California (because the man at O’Hare still won’t let Jet Blue set us free) and ask any Lakers-fans-soon-to-be-Clippers-fans if they are about to cut into their son’s or daughter’s Harvard-Westlake tuition fund to put a statue of the former up outside the Staples Center.

Regardless of that tangential analogy betraying my contemporaneous viewing of SportsCenter as I write this (don’t doubt my passion just my interest), why do Americans continue to allow all forms of media, academic and popular alike, to flood them with mindless, sensationalist comparisons?

It is becoming a little ridiculous that every single new “agent” to appear on the socio-economico-historico-politico scene is immediately compared by Brian Williams on NBC, Jay-Z in his comeback album, and dare I say even a certain U of C professor to a luminary from twenty years ago who, in turn, was linked to a more distant “great man.” It seems the only incomparable figure to materialize in American society in recent times is a Hasidic beat-boxer. This is not to say there is no dignity in formulating massive, labyrinthine chains of nations and individuals—otherwise there would be no political science departments and I would have to struggle through an economics major—but it seems that the novel thesis, the groundbreaking idea is ever-so-quickly and ever-so-tragically fading away. At some point will all the decidedly unique nomenclature, backgrounds, and aspirations surrounding the definitively new actors, movements, and occurrences in our midst fall prey to the modern-day American penchant for establishing redundancy? It would seem to the observer with a pulse that there could be some danger in perpetually assuming repetition and replication.

By all means let the 2006–07 Bears be a resurrection of the 1985 Bears so I can witness at least one Chicago team embrace victory in my four freezing years here. The White Sox don’t count because they used Journey for their theme song. On that note, let the winter of 2006–07 be the next Ice Age so I can justify my four freezing years here as truly epic. Furthermore, I hope the next Kanye comes out of Chicago soon because, since The College Dropout, the current, fame-deranged Kanye has abandoned his street-poet roots. He is starting to look a lot like the next Justin Timberlake. Whether this thirst for interconnectivity that has come to overwhelm American society is based on ambition, as in the case of Professor Barrett, or general indolence, as in the case of the supposedly creative Lions’ Gate Production Company, which has stricken fall moviegoers with yet another installment of the Saw horror travesty, it seems here to stay—much like the War on Terror.