2015 - A Year of Anniversaries

L. R. Laverde-HansenStarred Page By L. R. Laverde-Hansen, 9th Mar 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Culture

2015 is going to be a major year, not only for its own self, but for its symbolic connection to other years.

A Year of Commemorations

Last week marked the beginning of the 50th Anniversary of Selma to Montgomery marches in Alabama. These historic marches helped set up the moral climate that prompted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. President Obama in front of other officials and celebrities commemorated them with one of the best speeches of his presidency.

Related to the Civil Rights struggle, 1965 was also the year of the assassination of activist Malcolm X in Harlem. On February 21st, he was shot while beginning to address the Organization of Afro-American Unity at the Audubon Ballroom. The man, most famous for his Autobiography of Malcolm X, was also born on May 19th, 1925, so this year is also the 90th anniversary of his birth.

Major Events in History

Probably the biggest international commemoration this year will be the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II. In Russia a massive celebration is planned inviting representatives of the countries which fought the Great Patriotic War from 1941-1945. This year's festivities are expected to be some of the last with living participants from the war. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt also died in office on April 12, 1945, literally within weeks of the end of the war in Europe.

150 years ago this April is the end of American Civil War, the bloodiest war in American history. On April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia. A few weeks later, General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to General William Tecumseh Sherman.

Additionally, on Good Friday April 15, President Abraham Lincoln became the first president to die by an assassin's bullet. This untimely death made Lincoln a martyr to the Union cause, a hero around the world, and lent a bittersweet aura to the end of the war and its aftermath.

Twenty Years ago was 1995. 1995 was the year of the Fourth World Conference on Women, better known as the historic Beijing Women's rights conference. As importance as it was, it became more famous for the speech made there by then First Lady of the United State, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The First Lady presented a blistering indictment of abuses against women at all stages of life from female infanticide to the human trafficking of young girls and women. Mrs. Clinton delivered the most ringing sentence of her career by saying, "It is time for us to say here in Beijing, and the world to hear, that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women's rights as separate from human rights..."

The remarks made her an international icon, separate from her role as First Lady. While she remains a polarizing presence in American politics, it is not surprising that her high stature has led her to the United States Senate, appointment as Secretary of State and a possible second campaign for the presidency in 2016.

Anniversaries of Culture

While cinema is a completely international medium and art form, no other country has had the overall impact on it as has the United States (though with heavy help from talent born in other countries). From the mythology of Hollywood and its stars, to the breakthrough of the Method actors after World War II, to today's modern superhero special-effects extravaganzas, American cinema has become as much a part of world culture as the Epic of Gilgamesh or the works of Shakespeare were in another. Who doesn't know: The Wizard of Oz, Fantasia; Citizen Kane; Casablanca; 2001: A Space Odyssey; The Godfather; Jaws; Star Wars; Goodfellas; Pulp Fiction; Titanic; and so many other motion pictures?

And if there is a Movie One: the film that little birthed the modern motion picture, that film would have to be Birth of a Nation, released one hundred years ago on February 8th 1915. Birth of a Nation is a landmark in cinema history, the first significant feature-length movie, which still is discussed by film historians. Unfortunately, this is not an anniversary that will have people cheering. Birth of a Nation is a history of the American Civil War and the Reconstruction Period, but it is also a glorification of the foundation of the Ku Klux Klan.

Twenty years ago marks a largely forgotten date in cultural history. On May 31, 1995, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (who ran for president the following year) gave his notorious "Nightmares of Depravity" speech, which condemned extreme sex and violence in Hollywood films and in musical lyrics. It was a suprisingly strong rebuke about the excesses of popular culture. As Dole put it, "A line has been crossed — not just of taste, but of human dignity and decency."

The entertainment industry struck back within days. Film and Television producers, partly concerned about issues of free expression, but also concerned with their livelihoods, attacked Dole's speech as being uninformed and borderline censorship.

There did, however, seem to be an ambivalence in many of the responses. British horror director, Clive Barker, put it this way: "We're watching the same nonsensical attacks that we've seen many times before. But at least Mr. Dole has the good grace to admit that he's never seen the films or listened to some of the songs he's attacking. We have to account for the fact that there are genuine concerns singled out in Mr. Dole's speech."

In the end, Mr. Dole failed in his efforts. Though defiant at first, he eventually toned down his rhetoric. Considering what is depicted in motion pictures or sung in lyrics, popular culture today has become seedier than ever (House of Cards, a show I generally like, has a President urinating on his father's grave and spitting on a crucifix in a church. What will be next year's outrage?).

And of course, this January 8th was the big one! Eighty years ago was born the one-and-only King of Rock and Roll: Elvis Presley in Tupelo, Mississippi. Rock on, friends!

Composed and Revised in New York
March 13-16, 2015

Tags

Birth Of A Nation, Civil War, Malcolm X, Selma, World War 2, World War Ii

Meet the author

author avatar L. R. Laverde-Hansen
Poet, playwright, commentator. I write wherever I can. Currently I reside in the City of New York.

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Comments

author avatar Retired
17th Mar 2015 (#)

In Britain we shall be celebrating the signing of Magna Carta in 1215, the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 and the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

And I shall be personally celebrating the birth of my mother in 1915, as will she!

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author avatar L. R. Laverde-Hansen
17th Mar 2015 (#)

Indeed--still more to this list. Wow--the Magna Carta! This is something. Of course you know I'd focus on the events stateside.

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author avatar Carol Roach
17th Mar 2015 (#)

very well done thanks for the tour of these all important events

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author avatar L. R. Laverde-Hansen
17th Mar 2015 (#)

Thank you, dear.

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author avatar Retired
20th Mar 2015 (#)

Great article.
One anniversary am looking forward to is a peaceful year.

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author avatar L. R. Laverde-Hansen
20th Mar 2015 (#)

We'll go for that. Thank you, David.

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