When I was visiting my parents over the holidays, I came across a copy of Hubert H. Humphrey's 1964 book "The Cause is Mankind: A Liberal Program for Modern America." In case you haven't figured it out, Humphrey is a political hero of mine. In my quest to take a look at more political history, I thought this would be a great place to start.
I just started reading it, so I'm only a few chapters in, but already there's one passage that really caught my attention.
"I do believe, however, that freedom has grown enormously in the past half-century. This is an astonishing fact, a tribute to the vitality of our institutions, when you look at the outlines of the history of the era. In those fifty years, we've gone through two World Wars and several minor but deadly ones; a Depression that lasted the better part of a decade; a proliferation of extremist views of the right and left, here and abroad; the rise of totalitarian systems of unprecedented strength and horror; the Cold War of the nuclear age; such phenomena as the Ku Klux Klan, McCarthyism, and black-lists; the murder of a beloved President.
And yet, democracy has weathered all these threats to freedom. On the balance, today, our civil liberties and civil rights appear to be at least as secure as they ever have been-and, in some conspicuous cases, much more secure."
Each generation seems to have a romantically misleading view of the previous generations. Each thinks of itself as the most troublesome generation and longs for the assumed security of the past. I see that currently in our own nation. So many people lament at the situation they see in our society and how it may be the very thing that will rob us of our freedom. Yet, here Humphrey points out all the turmoil that the US has faced in his lifetime alone (up to that point-1964). When each event is laid out side by side, it certainly seems like enough to be the undoing of many of America's liberties. Yet, Humphrey proclaims that in spite of all of this democracy has not only weathered the storm, but come out better for it. It's an interesting contrast to the rhetoric we hear today.