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Robert Reich: What We Do With Tragic Anniversaries – OpEd

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Those of us who were alive and sentient 20 years ago remember exactly where we were when we saw the twin towers collapse and heard that other planes went down. 

Some of us are old enough to remember exactly where we were when we heard, many years before, that JFK had been shot and killed. 

I expect that most young people today, who have no direct memory of either, will continue to remember 1/6/21, when a president of the United States instigated a deadly attack on the Capitol. 

Dark days like these become etched in our memories. But more important is how these days altered history and changed our lives permanently, and what lessons we as a nation drew from them.

11/22/63 made Lyndon Johnson president, which led to the tragic escalation of the Vietnam War. 

9/11/01 motivated Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld to launch a 20-year war on terrorism. 

1/6/21 marked the culmination of Trump’s attempted coup, and perhaps the start of something far worse. 

All of these days now provoke the standard sentiments from politicians that “our hearts go out” to the families of those who perished. Yes, of course. 

But I wish these grim anniversaries also invited more consideration of what America has become as a result – war-prone, fearful, and deeply divided. 

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Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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