When the past seems familiar

Andre Jackson, for the Editorial Board.

Another holiday season has raced upon us, somehow managing to temporarily pull past all the noisy debate, jostling, struggle, suffering and plain old disagreement that seems a constant of our modern world.

We can use the rest, putting aside for a few brief days at least some of the stress that comes as standard equipment in most of our lives. Thus, it is good that Christmas trees, menorahs, light strings and other holiday symbols have taken up strategic places in many homes and businesses across metro Atlanta, and the U.S.

The year-end holidays should be a time of fellowship, family and the renewal that can spring from celebrations and festive hours spent with friends and/or kin. It is natural at such times, we believe, to attempt, however briefly, to make sense of what seems a world gone mad.

There is nothing remotely new about that task, as the selection of commentary from decades past featured on this page today plainly reminds us. Fears of war — and actual war, human misery and other travail have greatly vexed previous generations. Ditto for public policy debates that seem without end. Newspaper letter writers in 1965 and 1990 complained about coverage of the Middle East on these pages. They voiced opinions about the state of public education here. Crime worried folks 50 years ago, way back in an era we now think of as a peaceful utopia in comparison with today’s fears of violence.

The challenges and ways of our society and world have a way of sticking around over time. Comfort and worry alike shake out of that. The downtown Christmas Eve of 77 years ago described by Ralph McGill would seem familiar today, down to streetcars making the rounds on Atlanta streets.

Looking back while enjoying the holidays can remind us that previous generations have seen their share of deep travail too. They handled their challenges then. We will too.