The best piece heralding 2019 is a portrait of America. In 1919

Over the past few years, I’ve relished the gorgeously written essays by historian (and Renaissance man) Ted Widmer who appears occasionally in the New York Times.

I think there’s no more stirring and surprising way to welcome 2019 than reading Professor Widmer’s “1919: The Year of the Crack-Up: From the Treaty of Versailles to Prohibition, the events of that year shaped America, and the world, for a century to come.”

Several times while reading it I spontaneously said, “What????” Here’s one:

That year in the South, two children born near each other, on either side of the Alabama-Georgia line, revealed how quickly the country was changing. Jackie Robinson grew up in a new kind of America, thanks to his mother, who moved with him to California. George Wallace spent most of life trying to hold back the tide of change that Robinson’s generation helped unleash.

The events, the colossal figures, the movements appearing in this breathtaking one-year panorama are stunners. No less remarkable is how that one year, 1919, evokes so much of what we in the United States are living with now.

No, that’s not what I mean. That was cliché. More that the year 1919 arcs so persuasively into 2019, it makes “history” into a electric conduit to our present.

I don’t know if I conveyed that correctly.

Never mind me. You will love “1919: The Year of the Crack-Up,” and you will thank me for telling you to read it.



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