A Century Turns: New Hopes, New Fears is Bill Bennett’s latest book of current American History in a series that loosely includes the more formal series America: The Last Best Hope.
A Century Turns chronicles the last 20 years of American socio-political history from the perspective of a proud, cautious, involved, and hopeful American.
When picking up history books one expects to find events with which they cannot relate. I didn’t live during the Battle of the Bulge any more than I did the War of 1812. And there is a significant disconnect which makes study of history a true study, and not just an experience.
A Century Turns tells history, but the one telling is one who was there, one who was involved in the choices that shaped our country and the world as we know them today. And the story is one I lived through.
Perhaps my earliest memory of political affairs was the inauguration of George Bush, the senior. I remember watching on television as he spoke and watching him ride and walk in the parade from the Capital to the White House. I was 6 then.
When I started working at 14 I spent a lot of time listening to Rush Limbaugh on his original station, News Talk 1530 KFBK out of Sacramento. I was aware of events and began to be involved in them on a local level, writing letters to the editor of our local rag, speaking at City Counsel meetings. The events of the last 20 years are all memories to me. And Bennett wrote about them as history.
From the LA Riots to the OJ Simpson debacle. From the home grown terrorist acts of the 90’s to the growth of Islamic jihad to it’s breaking point over our shores and on our peace-seeking psyches. From the dalliances of politicians in the Democratic party to the indiscretions of politicians in the Republican party. Bennett chronicles the currents that have shaped our world so severely and significantly in the last 20 years.
I get the sense, reading old history, that the world changes slowly. It’s massive weight fighting change with inertia. And yet, in just my own brief lifespan so much has changed. From the dominant social theories to the scrappy upcoming ideas, change is coming fast.
One thing the book lacks, but not from purposeful omission, is the sense that history is perhaps always like that. While it is true that the more things change the more they stay the same, it is also true that things change. And some that is lost in that change can never be brought back.
A Century Turns is an excellent book for contextualizing the history of the lifetimes of me and my peers. It helps to see how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go.
Bennett ends with the election of then Senator Barak Obama to the office of the President of the United States of America:
There was a deep recession in the land. There were unfinished wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri were still alive. Russia was flexing its muscles. And a new president, with a new approach to the country and the world, would take the reins of power with new hopes and new fears on many sides of him and the country he was charged to lead.