On the first of August this year, I made a speech about World War I. This was not unusual, I spent about five years earlier this decade learning about this little-known war. Like the Korean War, it was overshadowed by World War II.
As I prepared, I realized that two words kept jumping out at me: “Why” and “How.” I realized that both words are very important in explaining any event, today or centuries ago. Three days later, those words hit me in the face again when I picked up the newspaper to read news of the massacre at El Paso.
Why does the United States continue to experience massacres again and again? How can they be stopped? As I have thought about this and discussed it with others, I have no answer to either question. But, does anyone?
I know that almost everyone in the United States has an explanation for “why” and numerous answers “how” to cease this violence. I know that law enforcement at all levels, countless psychologists and government officials are working diligently.
I have no answer, no clue why these things happen and certainly not how to stop them. Every American seems to have a cause and cure but are they realistic?
Yes, hate is at the bottom of the massacres as it has since the beginning of time. Is that the only cause? What about wanting to have fifteen seconds in the spotlight? What about the man who killed those people at the music concert in Las Vegas recently? Was he killing at random or issuing a statement about that genre of music?
I do know that the United States entered the Great War, as it was then known, late in the war. President Woodrow Wilson stated in 1914 the United States would not be involved, even when ships were destroyed by German U-boats, labor strikes were organized by German spies, Mexican troops were supplied arms and ammunition to cause havoc along the Mexican border. He was reelected in 1916 on the pledge that he had kept America out of war. In 1917 the British code readers translated the Enigma Code of the Germans. Of course, the code was given to the United States. Known as the Zimmerman Telegram it contained a message from the German foreign minister to his ambassador in Mexico detailing plans to invade the United States through Mexico along the Rio Grande.
Needless to say, the word “how” came into play when the United States joined the war, quickly formed an army to assist the Allies of Great Britain, France, and other countries to defeat the German army. Many times, the “how” becomes clear, when the “why” is finally disclosed.
I am going to the Maritime Provinces of Canada in September. The thought of staying up there is appealing, except that I don’t like cold weather. But running from the “why” will not stop it any more than flowers piled on the sidewalks, footage on television and social media, or name-calling and finger-pointing. We, as United States citizens, must come to grips with the issue, support the groups that are trying to find the “HOW” and not express loose ideas and comments.
Let’s remember we are American citizens or guests of the United States. We must work together now.
Taylor is chairman of the Hunt County Historical Commission. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.