Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and His Lovely Wife Matilda - 100 years later, 56 Years Since I Was in the 8th grade

- OK, so Ferdinand's wife's name was really Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, as today we mark the 100th anniversary of the assassination. But to my 8th grade social studies class committee, consisting of 5 pubescent boys putting on a little reenactment of the assassination in front of the class as part of their report, she was his "lovely wife Matilda." (The teacher didn't laugh but I still break out laughing whenever the assassination comes up and think of our play.) We turned a few chairs into the car. I forget if it was me who played the assassin, Gavrilo Princip (right). Some of my family think that would make sense. So would some UFT officials.

I am an historian at heart - and with some training, having come close to earning an MA in history before I started teaching. I took courses that covered the roots of WWI (which did not earn that name until WWII broke out) and WWII - which, of course, are connected. I love the connections through history. No event exists in isolation. Look at the mid-East today -- their roots go back to that same period of time when these borders were being drawn. I have the latest book on Lawrence of Arabia sitting on the shelf. And since I lost my copy of Barbara Tuchman's "Guns of August,"(a summer project) in Sandy I just ordered a copy from the library (I am boycotting Amazon on books as much as possible due to their gangster tactics.)

And how about Sarajevo and Yugoslavia as the ground zero 100 years ago, then in the 90s horror show of the Yugo breakup and how the current Iraq situation is being compared to that? Really, the mistakes pre, during and post WWI just never seem to stop haunting the world. Which is why that event must be studied and studied.

Now just think of this - how old am I? When we did the play it had been 48 years since the assassination. It is now 56 years since we did the reenactment.

By the way -- I engage in some of these historical time line issues with my younger (and some closer to my age) when we talk UFT history. I always want to connect the dots to their origins. People accuse me of looking to the past. I certainly am -- but in order to explain the present and if you dig deep enough you can even discern patterns of the future.

I and others in MORE are doing an event on July 16 (the day after I take the Red-Eye back from the AFT convention in LA) on this very topic -- the historical role caucuses have played in the UFT - from Unity through MORE with the lessons that could be learned for current and future organizers. Save the date if you are in town -- I promise - no juvenile re-enactments -- like don't expect to see anyone play Al Shanker and his lovely whatever.

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