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A 17-year-old out of Farmington, Ark., sounds wise beyond her years. Maybe that's because Rebekah Love has studied so much history. And now she's made some of her own, finishing third among 94 students from across the country who made it into the National History Day Contest in June. Hers was the best ever showing by a student out of Northwest Arkansas in the annual event.

Her subject: the nuclear tests the United States conducted in the Marshall Islands during the early days of the Cold War, which were also conducted on the innocent Marshallese.

The title of Rebekah Love's documentary: Marshall Islands: A Culture Damaged Through Scientific Exploration and Encounters with Western Civilization. After watching it, the viewer might well wonder who were the civilized and who the uncivilized in this encounter. They tell a story about a barrister named Mohandas K. Gandhi out of India by way of South Africa. On his first day in London to open negotiations he hoped would lead to India's independence, he was asked what he thought of Western civilization. He said he very much looked forward to it.

What's the use of digging up all this stuff from the past? When the unlettered say, "it's history," what they mean is that it's over and done with. But as a philosopher named George Santayana pointed out, those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.

Rebekah Love wasn't the only student to represent her state, and represent it well, in this year's competition. She was joined by students from Springdale, Prairie Grove and Rogers. Who knows what future entrants may discover in the depths of Arkansas' past? "It's a powerful topic," Miss Love said about her chosen topic. Those nuclear tests were indeed powerful and revealing--much like the study of history itself.

Miss Love may only have begun her career as an historian and auteur. For she's also made a documentary about Hattie Caraway, the first woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate. Mrs. Caraway did it with more than a little help from south of the (state) border in the legendary personage of Huey P. Long, who came to Arkansas to help a "poor widder woman." And wound up shaming the state's whole establishment. The moral of that story: Never underestimate the power of a woman. Then or now. This state's history is full of women who faced down men who got more than a little big for their britches, including Orval E. Faubus in the Little Rock Crisis of 1957.

Once upon a time folks in Arkansas would look at the annual ratings in everything from education to per-capita income and say, "Thank God for Mississippi," which stood at the very bottom. But now folks looking for where Arkansas ranks should get used to looking at the very top.

Yes, this state has a sad history of discriminating against those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, from black folks turned away from the polls to braceros imported to help harvest crops when labor was short. But we have only begun to learn from the past. And it's only begun to teach us.

Editorial on 07/05/2016

Print Headline: Love's the name

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