Historical Perspective

Serene Karplus, Nederland.  This month we enter a new era in American politics.


With the inauguration of the new President, we face unknown adventures ahead. Appreciating our current life of peace and abundance in our corner of the world, we reflect on history in hopes that we can prevent repeating mistakes.

Since the dawn of time, humans have wavered between civilized enlightenment and our most primal animal instincts of pack mentality. We are capable of both high levels of compassion and base levels of cruelty, of generous charity and avaricious greed, of grace in welcoming melting pot neighbors and ugliness in shunning others.

Our own nation was built on the classic recurring story of a dominant race invading a territory and conquering those already inhabiting it. The subordinated race is seen both as competition for resources and as a threat to the values of the new settlers. We fear what is unfamiliar and to eliminate our terror, we destroy or render powerless what we perceive to be the source of it. In our country, Native American tribes either adapted to the dominant culture, starved on reservations, or perished.

Not everyone in the invading surge felt the same disdain for those who came before them. Those who reached out in friendship and respect formed alliances and kinship that served all well. But they could not control the power-hungry fearful ones who looked like them. Distrust grew on both sides.

Wars, riots, and civil unrest over the centuries changed the structure of society.


Conditions and opportunity improved for many and our nation appeared to stabilize, but old grudges and discontent still fomented under the surface. Like Shakespeare’s Capulets and Montagues or Bernstein’s Jets and Sharks, no one can find good reason for the enmity anymore, but all suffer the grave results of it.

America’s story is not just of conquering the natives, but also of pillaging other continents and enslaving those who could not adequately defend themselves. Although many of us are descendants of those who arrived here seeking a better life, some see immigrants arriving from distressed countries as a threat to the livelihood of those already established here.

One tribe that has been consistently persecuted throughout the world for thousands of years is the Jews. No one can quite define whether this name describes a race, a tribe, a nation, or a religion. Some fear the strength and determination of this group to survive, thrive, and maintain their values of education and culture. In history, still recent enough to bear living witness, we watched a force well up to try once again to obliterate them.


Millions perished, both Jews and those who fought to defend them. The survivors pieced together broken lives and created new generations to carry their values and their story forward.

If we fail to remember painful history, we may allow it to recur. If we permit our “leaders” to change our world in directions we know are wrong, but we fail to defend what we believe is right, we are defeated. When we allow our own values to shift to accommodate those in power, we surrender our own power. Through bloodshed we won our rights of free speech and peaceable assembly and any threat to these jeopardizes the power of the people. The loss of rights for any of us is a nail in the coffin for all of us.


One day the target is the other guy; the next day the target is us. We must all stand together for any of us to remain safe.

On Friday, January 27, National Holocaust Memorial Day, meet a survivor with a positive story. We gather for a meal and learn about the Kindertransport rescue of 10,000 children brought from central Europe to Britain at the onset of World War II. Henry Karplus, age 90, shares his perspective as one of the fortunate Kinder. All are welcome at this event. Please RSVP a week ahead for the Mountain MidLife dinner as shown below to hear one survivor’s grateful story.
All adults are welcome at all Mountain MidLife and Nederland Area Seniors events, attended mostly by folks over age 50. Everyone is invited to all meals at the Nederland Community Center. Please call two days ahead for lunch reservations (further ahead for dinners and breakfasts if possible) to 303-258-0799. Missed the deadline? Call anyway. Cost shown lists first the over-age-60 requested anonymous contribution, then the cost for under-age-60. Please note that all over age 60 are welcome regardless of ability to contribute financially.

Friday, Jan 27, 5:00pm social and 5:30pm meal, $5/$10: Mountain MidLife Dinner & Speaker – Three Varieties of Chili (Spicy Bison, Pork Green, Vegetarian), Sautéed Greens, Cornbread, Fruit Dessert

Serene Karplus

About the Author: Serene Karplus – is the Executive Director of the Nederland Area Seniors, Inc. (NAS) which assists senior citizens in enhancing their quality of life, enabling them to live a life of respect and honor.  This is accomplished through the facilitation of nutrition, transportation, education, recreation, socialization and outreach programs for all seniors living in the Greater Nederland Area. Serene is a contributor to The Mountain-Ear with her Senior Scene column.