The Past That Wasn’t And Is

Monday Morning Musings:

“The blacklist was a time of evil. . .no one on either side who survived it came through untouched by evil. . .it will do no good to search for villains or heroes or saints or devils because there were none; there were only victims.”

–Dalton Trumbo, Laurel Award acceptance speech delivered to the Writers Guild of America West, The Writers Guild of America Newsletter, April 1970.

“Until now, we scientists have only seen warped space-time when it’s calm,” Dr. Thorne said in an email. “It’s as though we had only seen the ocean’s surface on a calm day but had never seen it roiled in a storm, with crashing waves.”

New York Times, February 11, 2016 

Gravitational waves have been heard

A chirp, hitting Middle C

Einstein’s theory confirmed

Space and time moving,


Causing waves

A cosmic sea


Ever changing.


We watched the movie, Trumbo

My husband and I,

We missed it in the theaters

But saw it “On Demand”

Yay, technology.

And science education.

Without it, you wouldn’t be able

To stream your shows

Or read the latest gossip news.

Do you think this happens by magic?


During WWII,

When Franklin D. Roosevelt was president,

Radio was important.

Sound carried by waves.

Imagine that?

He talked to the nation through

“Fireside chats”

And told us that December 7, 1941

Was “a date which will live in infamy.”

Which it was and is.

That was the date of the attack on Pearl Harbor

By the Japanese military.

Two months later,

February 19, 1942,

FDR signed Executive Order 9066

And with that order


Citizens of the United States,

Were forced to leave their homes,

And placed in internment camps.

Did you study that in school?

Fear took over.

People were profiled by their ancestry,

By the way they looked.

Locked up.

Does this sound familiar?


A political candidate called for

Banning all Muslims from the US.

He wants a wall built to keep

Mexicans out, too.

No matter that it would costs billions of dollars.

Mexico will pay for it, he says.

He thinks Mexicans are all criminals, rapists.

People believe what he says.


But back to Trumbo.

Remember, I told you we watched the movie?

It’s about Dalton Trumbo,

The screenwriter

Played by Bryan Cranston

Many people have never heard of him.

Trumbo, I mean.

Perhaps they’ve heard of some of the screenplays though.

He wrote:


Roman Holiday (a must-see, Audrey Hepburn, in her first big role,

And the always wonderful Gregory Peck.)


But those are just a few.

Yet Dalton was not credited with writing these movies.

At least not at the time.

Though they won awards.

Because he was blacklisted.

So he wrote them under other names.

He was one of the Hollywood Ten.

He—and many others–served time for standing up to HUAC,

The House Un-American Activities Committee.

That’s right, the 1950s were not just “Happy Days,”

There was Joseph McCarthy and the FBI

Knocking on people’s doors.

Witch-hunting of communists.

Arthur Miller took the witch part literally

And compared the time to Puritan Massachusetts

And the Salem Witch Trials

In The Crucible.

It was a shameful time

Of fear

The Cold War.

No, the US is not a theocracy,

Though there are people who would like it to be.

But that is not OK.

The separation of church and state is guaranteed

By our Constitution

Our Bill of Rights.

Also, guaranteed is the right to free speech.

So you have the right to

Say what you want.

And I will defend your right to do so.

But I have studied history,

And I can read and fact-check.

I know it is not against the law to be a communist

Or a Muslim.

So it would be fine for our president to be one,

Though he is not.

You can believe the Earth is flat, or

That humans have not been to the moon.

I know those things are not true.

You can believe

That building walls is a good thing,

I have a right to believe you are wrong.

I want to believe

Not in conspiracy theories

But in the value of education

To believe that everyone, men, women, and children

Of all races, religions, and social class

Have the right to learn

To read

To explore

To understand that the past repeating itself

Is not always a good thing.


Water under the bridge

That flows one way only?

Or does it travel in a loop

Splashing like a waterfall

Into a river where it flows

Peacefully until the next storm hits?

An endless cycle.

Space and time






Walls built,

Walls torn down.

So many people and places gone.

So many crimes repeated.

So much to learn.


I can’t imagine never wanting to learn.

I feel sorry for those who fear knowledge.

“Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

–Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird




23 thoughts on “The Past That Wasn’t And Is

  1. I can’t imagine never wanting to learn either. So I watch Roosevelt’s story on PBS and read David Gerson’s Snow Falling on Cedars, highlighting the anti-Japanese sentiments in the US following WW II.

    The metaphor of the flow of history is apt here. I vote for history as an endless cycle though I can see other viewpoints. Thanks for another insightful post and the nudge to watch Trumbo.

    • Thank you, Marian. I know from your posts and comments that you are definitely a life-long learner!
      The movie Trumbo was much better than I thought it would be, and Bryan Cranston is excellent. Let me know what you think if you watch it.

  2. Oh no! Water under the bridge. How long I’ve relied on that metaphor to see me through the hard times. Trusting the water moves on, as will the struggle. The light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. But what if it does travel in a loop!! What if life swings like a pendulum instead? What if our voters have forgotten the lessons of history I’ve taken to heart? What if. What if.
    Thanks, Merril.

    • Your comment made me laugh, Janet. You know, I don’t think I’ve ever used the expression “water under the bridge” before, but it just came to me and seemed right. 🙂 What if can be powerful or paralyzing.

  3. Well said, thank you for this post. I have been writing the same thing the last couple of days on my blog, after a very long time. Nothing has changed, we refused to heed Santayana’s admonition about history and it is still the same world it used to be a century ago, probably worse. So, I decided to get back to blogging. Not that I can make a difference, but I can try, at least. 🙂 Thanks for this post..

  4. Another brilliant poem, Merril. They say that those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it. I wonder, sometimes, if our memories are that bad or if some just choose to forget? In either case, I do hope we humans get better at learning our lessons.

    I was born on that “date which will live in infamy,” although not in the same year.

  5. Good thoughts here, Merril. I can’t be very articulate as my sinus infection has infected my thinking cells, but we need to be thoughtful and not act like lemmings. We’ve been lemmings many times in the past and the fish are flocking again. (See my impaired brain function: birds flock, not fish, but you get the idea, I hope).

  6. Great blog Merril. I hope history doesn’t repeat itself, I remember Paul Robeson having to leave your country because of his beliefs or rather those beliefs credited to him by The HUAC. My country benefited from it though as he was well loved in Wales and in the UK.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

  7. Brilliant (as per usual) weaving the various topics from science to the personal to our history forgotten by so many (United States of Amnesia as one put it – in either “The Fog of War” or “Why We Fight” – both worth seeing).

    Einstein was right, but in the end lost to Bohr. Everything seems to be waves, even the particles of our body, quantum of energy (looping and swirling to rhythms of strings across time, that human construct?)

    • Thanks so much, Doug, for your kind and thoughtful comment. Yes, waves do seem to be everywhere, and yes, I guess time is a human construct. I wonder if beings who could live more longer would also see time differently, if at all?

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