In his essay “The Crack-Up,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
On New Year’s Day 1919, the headlines in The New York Times gave a hint of how difficult that would be for Americans, struggling to live up to the shimmering promises they had made to the world during the Great War, which had ended just over a month before.
Poles, newly independent but already threatened by their neighbors, were calling on Americans to protect them.… Seguir leyendo »
“Hey, don’t take that, it’s not scheduled,” Frank Borman said, joking to his fellow Apollo 8 astronauts, Bill Anders and James Lovell, on Dec. 24, 1968. They were orbiting the moon, farther from Earth than any humans had ever been. On the fourth pass, they were confronted by an extraordinary sight that jolted them out of their regimented procedures. There, seen through a small window, was Earth itself, rising out of the void.
For a split second, the astronauts were dazzled by the luminescent blue sphere, whorled by a white cloud cover. Then, as they were trained to do, they went back to work.… Seguir leyendo »
On Nov. 11, 1918, a delegation of German representatives, not entirely sure that they represented their crumbling government, made their way through the forest of Compiègne toward a group of Allied officers. There, inside railroad car 2419D, they signed the armistice that brought World War I to a close.
It was the moment the entire world had longed for ever since lurching into war four years earlier. Both sides promised a quick victory before settling into a ghastly stalemate. Political leaders gave grandiloquent speeches about the purpose of the war. The young men in the trenches grew numb to their bombast.… Seguir leyendo »
Unas horas antes, no había certeza alguna de que Tommie Smith y John Carlos fueran a aparecer en el podio de las medallas. Smith, el favorito para ganar el oro en los 200 metros en los Juegos Olímpicos de 1968 en Ciudad de México, se esguinzó el músculo abductor en su eliminatoria y no estaba seguro de poder correr a toda velocidad. Carlos, su amigo y compatriota estadounidense, estuvo cerca de ser descalificado por abandonar su carril en la eliminatoria. Sin embargo, el juez no se dio cuenta y logró pasar a la final. Cuando llegó la final, fue la carrera de sus vidas.… Seguir leyendo »
On June 12, 1987, the cold war entered a terminal phase, in ways that few could have anticipated, and in fact, almost no one did — with the exception of a president down on his legendary luck.
If in 1984 Ronald Reagan had proclaimed that it was “morning again in America,” three years later the evening was coming fast for a presidency that had spent most of its energy. The Iran-contra scandal had damaged him, and in March 1987 only 42 percent of Americans approved of the job he was doing. Reagan’s diary reveals a president losing focus, with entries registering more enthusiasm for old videos than the crushing business of state.… Seguir leyendo »
Dominique Moïsi argued on these pages on Sept. 8 (An infamy in history) that the significance of 9/11 lies not in what many observers see as an opening salvo in a “clash of civilizations,” but rather in the fact that the attacks accelerated the end of the American Century. Ted Widmer, a historian who directs the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, joins the debate.
It was irresistible, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, to draw large historical conclusions about the demise of the United States, and to express regrets over paths not taken. And so a mighty wind blew across the media landscape, lamenting “the lost decade,” as Dominique Moïsi called it in his column.… Seguir leyendo »