History is a complex and multi-faceted subject. It is literally and simply defined as the past: past events, significant figures of the past, and the past decisions which have created the circumstances in which the world lives today. However, with history being focused on the past, it is natural to ignore the fact that the present becomes the past — meaning that history is being written every day.
It was not until recently that I realized how obviously the past ties to the present. The same treaties signed and circadian affairs established by historical events continue to affect the lives and relations of both nations and individuals. There were times when I could see glimmers of history peeking through and revealing themselves in the current day, such as the lasting rivalrly between India and Pakistan after the partition of India in 1947, or the recent calls for the overturn of Roe v. Wade (1973) as new anti-abortion laws were being passed throughout the country. Regardless, it was not until this year when I immersed myself in the daily news of prosaic life that I began to realize how the same cyclical headlines were not there because of a lack of gripping news, but because they meant something. Months of hearing statics on COVID-19, weeks of learning about the Black Lives Matter movement, days of startling stories on the insurrection of the U.S. Capitol– it was all history in the making, the content of textbooks for the next generation.
Over the past couple of weeks on my daily drive to school, one particular event continued to gain massive coverage on various outlets. The current situation between Russia and Ukraine. It is news like this that can be especially easy to ignore, to give into blissful oblivion as it appears insignificant to the workings of daily life. At the end of the day, staying unaware of the impending Russian invasion of Ukraine probably would not severely impend anything– anything expect an understanding of the world in relation to your own closed bubble. Affairs like these do not take place in a vacuum. They are an elaborate entanglement of long-held tensions, historical alliances, and present circumstances. Knowing about them and forming opinions can help to broaden our outlook on global occurences and force us to realize how these major occurences actually can affect our lives in the long run. But, even more than that, studying current events like the Russia-Ukraine situation gives us a greatter appreciation for the history we read about in textbooks. It allows for situations which seem so far away, so fantastic, to become more fathomable.
For me, the Cold War was always an idea and scarcely a real event. Clearly, I knew that it took place and could cite the presidents and arms treaties and proxy wars all contained within it. And, I guess for a time it didnt matter that to me, this major happening was merely a vision and not a reality. After all, the Cold War officialy ended in 1989, so does it really still matter today? Looking at the tumultous world around us today, I would argue the answer to that question is a resounding yes. Just because a historical period is technically “over”, does not mean that its lasting impacts are. When I hear about the rising strains between Russia and the US over Ukraine’s joining of NATO along with Putin’s demands over Western handling of former Warsaw Pact states, it dawns on me how connected the global stage still is to its messy past. Learning about the Cold War is not useless because it is impossible to know when history will repeat itself. All I know, is that when it does, it will be up to my generation to deal with it; and ultimatley, an age unaware of the past can never be prepared to face the future.
“The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future”
**PLEASE READ: I urge you to take some time to educate yourself on the situation going on between Russia and Ukraine tooday. It truly is a pure example of the past manifesting itself in the present and is vital to a well-rounded understanding of global events currently affecting the world. Here are some resources to start with:
- Aljazeera “A simple guide to the Ukraine-Russia crisis: 5 things to know” – https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/1/25/five-things-to-know-about-russia-ukraine-tensions
- BBC News “Is Russia preparing to invade Ukraine and what does Putin want?” – https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-56720589
- Council on Foreign Relations “Conflict in Ukraine” – https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/conflict-ukraine
- The Washington Post “What’s happening in the Ukraine-Russia crisis” – https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/02/07/latest-ukraine-russia-crisis/
- The New York Times “U.S. and NATO Respond to Putin’s Demands as Ukraine Tensions Mount” – https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/26/us/politics/russia-demands-us-ukraine.html
- The Washington Post “Putin claims Ukraine crisis is over Russia’s future, but that rings with Cold War brinkmanship” – https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/02/02/russia-putin-europe-ukraine/
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