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Another New Book Available: States of the Union, The History of the United States through Presidential Addresses, 1789-2023

Mount Greylock Books LLC has published States of the Union: The History of the United States through Presidential Addresses, 1789-2023.   St...

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Israel and the United States

 I have hesitated for a long time to write something like this post.  Chuck Schumer's speech the other day pushed me over the edge, because it exemplified one aspect of the American-Israeli problem that no one else seems to want to talk about.  I will get to that in due course, but before I begin, I want to quote a remarkable passage from the autobiography of Zora Neal Hurston.  I am indebted to the podcaster Coleman Hughes for first bringing it to my attention.

“There could be something wrong with me because I see Negroes neither better nor worse than any other race. Race pride is a luxury I cannot afford. There are too many implications bend the term. Now, suppose a Negro does something really magnificent, and I glory, not in the benefit to mankind, but the fact that the doer was a Negro. Must I not also go hang my head in shame when a member of my race does something execrable? If I glory, then the obligation is laid upon me to blush also. I do glory when a Negro does something fine, I gloat because he or she has done a fine thing, but not because he was a Negro. That is incidental and accidental. It is the human achievement which I honor. I execrate a foul act of a Negro but again not on the grounds that the doer was a Negro, but because it was foul. A member of my race just happened to be the fouler of humanity. In other words, I know that I cannot accept responsibility for thirteen million people. Every tub must sit on its own bottom regardless. So 'Race Pride' in me had to go. And anyway, why should I be proud to be Negro? Why should anyone be proud to be white? Or yellow? Or red? After all, the word 'race' is a loose classification of physical characteristics. I tells nothing about the insides of people. Pointing out achievements tells nothing either. Races have never done anything. What seems race achievement is the work of individuals. The white race did not go into a laboratory and invent incandescent light. That was Edison. The Jews did not work out Relativity. That was Einstein. The Negroes did not find out the inner secrets of peanuts and sweet potatoes, nor the secret of the development of the egg. That was Carver and Just. If you are under the impression that every white man is Edison, just look around a bit. If you have the idea that every Negro is a Carver, you had better take off plenty of time to do your searching.”

I happen to agree completely with that sentiment.  It was popular among minorities, I believe, in 1942 when she published it, and it was very much in the air for the two subsequent decades during which I was growing up.  Martin Luther King Jr. echoed it in his remarks about the content of our character.  The middle of the last century was an era of extraordinary human achievement--technological, industrial, and political.  Men and women focused more naturally on human achievement then.  Now they are focusing more on tribe, defined in various ways.

Now let me quote a very parallel remark from Albert Einstein--to whom Hurston referred--recording his own feelings about his own ethnic and religious group, the Jews.

“For me, the unadulterated Jewish religion is, like all other religions, an incarnation of primitive superstition. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong, and in whose mentality I feel profoundly anchored, still for me does not have any different kind of dignity from all other peoples. As far as my experience goes, they are in fact no better than other human groups, even if they are protected from the worst excesses by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot perceive anything ‘chosen’ about them.”

If you enjoyed those quotes, you may well appreciate this post.  If you didn't, I doubt very much that you will.  And before I go any further, I happen to be the child of a Jewish-American father and a New England/Midwestern protestant mother.  They raised me without any religion at all, something that I have never regretted.  And that means, as you probably know, that the state of Israel does not recognize me as a Jew or a potential citizen, which I would have no desire to become in any case.  I have never had and never wanted any country but the United States, and I think that the observance of impartial laws--domestically and internationally--is the only way for the peoples of the modern world to live together in peace and happiness.

The decision to create the state of Israel in 1947-48 (six years before Einstein wrote those words, by the way), was an entirely understandable decision.  Jews had lived as minorities for many centuries, often in very cruel conditions.  Zionism had begun in the nineteenth century mainly to provide a new home for the Jews of the Russian Empire (including Poland), who were not regarded as Russian citizens, and who were already immigrating in large numbers ot the United States and elsewhere. (Two of my grandparents were among them.)  Initially Zionism aroused very mixed reactions in the Jewish communities in western nations, many of whom wanted nothing more than to be treated as equals in their current homes.  The rise of Nazism, the Holocaust, and the Second World War obviously changed the calculus.  Almost nowhere in Europe had the Jews been safe from destruction, and the United States had shut off large-scale immigration from anywhere in the early 1930s.  Perhaps in part because they could not welcome Holocaust survivors into their own country, many  more American Jews now became Zionists, and the US government played in important role in the international recognition of Israel after 1948.  No one, however, could force the Arabs then living in Palestine or the governments of the neighboring Arab states to accept the creation of Israel, and they did not.  Israel has lived under military threat for the whole of its 75 years of existence, first from the neighboring Arab states and later from the Palestinian population of the Gaza strip and the West Bank, both of which Israel occupied after the 1967 war.  Israel successfully made peace with Egypt in the late 1970s and Jordan in the 1990s, but attempts to make peace with the Palestinians in the 1990s failed, and the political organization Hamas gradually emerged as the center of Palestinian resistance, winning an election in the occupied territories in 2006 and eventually securing full control of Gaza.  A parallel Shi'ite organization, Hezbollah, developed in Lebanon under the patronage of Iran, which since 1979 has been an avowed enemy of Israel as well.

The creation of Israel was a remarkable political and economic achievement.  It also freed the Israelis from the relative powerlessness that Einstein referred to in 1954, with exactly the results that he seemed to anticipate.  It is easier for weak states to be virtuous than strong ones, as Tocqueville remarked in Democracy in America.  The Israeli government developed very significant military power and used it ruthlessly in 1956 and 1967--when it began wars with its neighbors--and in 1973, when it was attacked.  (I know some readers will dispute my characterization of 1967, when Nasser in Egypt created the crisis that led to the war, but it is not at all clear that war would have occurred if Israel had not begun it.)  In addition, the 1967 decision to occupy, govern, and partially resettle Gaza and the West Bank made the Israelis the rulers of a foreign people, a role that inevitably involves cruelty and injustice.  The current war in Gaza--triggered, of course, by a very cruel attack upon civilians by Hamas--has confirmed Einstein's suspicions.  Given enough power and provocation, any nation--including both Israel and the United States--can do terrible things.  That is human nature.

1967 was also a key date for some elements of the American Jewish community.  As historian Judith Klinghoffer pointed out in her book, Vietnam, Jews, and the Middle East, it deepened the feelings of many American Jews for Israel, and it helped create neoconservatism by convincing certain Jewish intellectuals that the United States had to be a strong presence all over the world because it was one of Israel's few friends.  The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) dated from 1959 but became much more powerful after the 1967 and 1973 wars, and by the 1980s it was using its political power to make it very difficult for elected officials to oppose anything that the State of Israel was doing.  In 2006 Michael Massing wrote the most detailed analysis of what AIPAC had become and the power it wielded that I have ever seen, and I don't think anything has changed very much since then. Massing emphasized that the small number of very wealthy individuals who controlled AIPAC were much more conservative and much friendlier to the Israeli right than the great mass of American Jews were, and that is undoubtedly still true today.  Yet they remain, effectively, the voice of the Jewish community in American foreign policy all the same.

I am not going to review the whole history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the attempts to end it.  I have said before that I doubt very much that the leadership of either side wants a peace that would recognize the rights of the other side--that is, a two-state solution.  The Israeli government offered less than that in 2000, when agreement seemed to be the nearest it had ever been, and we will never know whether that Israeli government, which ruled by a very narrow margin, would have been able to get those terms accepted by its own people or not.  And to the extent that various Palestinian leaders have shown a willingness to compromise, I am not convinced that this was anything more than a strategic move to get something now in order to try to get more later--the same strategy that the Zionist leadership used in 1948 when it accepted in principle the UN General Assembly's partition plan.  I will return later to the question of where that leaves the Israelis and Palestinians now.

The current Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has explicitly rejected a two-state solution.  Some weeks before the October 7 attack he displayed a map of the Middle East before the United Nations in which the territory of Israel included the entire West Bank and Gaza.  In addition, several leading members of his government are calling specifically for turning most or all of the Gaza population of about two million into refugees in some foreign land and starting to resettle Gaza with Israelis.  Meanwhile they are once again expanding settlements in the West Bank and allowing settlers to terrorize Palestinians.  And in the five months since October 7, the Israeli air force and army have made most of Gaza almost completely uninhabitable, and are now preparing to finish the job.  I don't see how anyone can rule out the possibility that the Israeli government wants to complete the ethnic cleansing of the Gaza strip, or that it might carry out the same policy in the West Bank later on when a suitable provocation occurs.   And I don't want the US government to support that policy either openly or tacitly.

Senator Schumer's very strong criticism of Netanyahu and his government took courage, but it disturbed me because it reflected a fantasy that occurs among liberal American Jews who oppose what Israel is doing but want to continue to support it.  They tell themselves that Netanyahu does not represent most Israelis, that most Israelis oppose his policies, and even--as Schumer said openly in his speech--that Netanyahu has only adopted those policies to please the extreme elements of his coalition and stay in power.   I do not believe that.  My main source for what is happening in Israel is the liberal daily Haaretz.   It violently opposes everything Netanyahu stands for, and many other Israelis do as well--but they definitely appear to be in the minority now, and the Haaretz writers know that.  Netanyahu is personally unpopular, but were he to resign or be forced out of office, he might easily be replaced by someone whose views and policies were similar to his.  Schumer is apparently one of a number of liberal American Jews--exactly how many, I cannot say--who need to feel that Israel is made up mostly of Jews like themselves.  I do not think that that is true, and I don't think it made any sense for him to demand that the Israeli electorate choose someone else.   George W. Bush demanded the same thing of the Palestinians in 2002--and four years later they elected Hamas.

And what would a responsible Israeli policy look like?  Peace will be impossible unless both sides genuinely accept the other's right to exist.  Violence will continue at least intermittently until that day--if it ever comes.  Israel could in the meantime renounce the policy of making Gaza uninhabitable and stop further expansion into the West Bank--but no Israeli government has been willing to do that for a long time.  What both sides can do, and have done for long periods, is to make every effort to keep the level of conflict at the lowest possible level, even when seriously provoked.   Hamas would be in a much stronger position today, I think, if they had only killed Israeli soldiers on October 7.  Israel had to retaliate for that attack, but not to the extent of killing nearly 30 Palestinians--most of them civilians--for every Israeli who died on that day--a total that continues to increase. Yet having stated those views, I will do what Schumer did not do, and acknowledge that neither side cares what I think or shows any signs of adopting them now.  We are in the midst of a continuing tragedy.  I have found all my life that tragedy, real or imagined, can be cathartic in retrospect.  I don't know if there is any catharsis to be had from ongoing tragedies.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

States of the Union

Early in his State of the Union address last week President Biden quoted from Franklin Roosevelt's parallel address on  January 6, 1941.  He repeated Roosevelt's opening words: that this was "an unprecedented moment in the history of the nation."  Never before, Roosevelt said, had the security of the United States been so directly threatened from abroad.  This moment, Biden said, was equally unprecedented: "Not since President Lincoln and the Civil War have freedom and democracy been under assault here at home as they are today."  

A broader comparison of the two addresses makes a broader point.  They were given at crucially different moments in the two presidents' tenures.  FDR had just been re-elected for the second time by an impressive margin; Biden faces a very tight struggle for his own re-election.  The comparison suggests that they were speaking to very different nations, whose common political system was working very differently.  The differences raise profound questions about our future.

Television had just been invented and was not yet operating regularly in 1941.  Roosevelt's speech was broadcast on radio and printed in its entirety in  many major newspapers.  It began with a nine-paragraph summary of the country's relations with the rest of the world since 1789, insisting that " the United States as a nation has at all times maintained clear, definite opposition, to any attempt to lock us in behind an ancient Chinese wall while the procession of civilization went past."  Then he proclaimed a worldwide threat to "the democratic way of life" all over the world--"assailed either by arms, or by secret spreading of poisonous propaganda by those who seek to destroy unity and promote discord in nations that are still at peace."  Victory by the unnamed "assailants" on four other continents would threaten the Americas with overwhelming force. A "dictator's peace" would bring "no security for us or for our neighbors." The American people, he said, had to assist democratic forces now fighting around the world, and to increase their own armaments production dramatically.  He referred to the lend-lease program he had put forward in another broadcast a few weeks earlier to supply warring nations with critical opinion without requiring payments in cash or in debt obligations.  He talked in some detail about the industrial requirements of massive new arms production and the need to move more quickly in several areas. He called for higher taxes to pay for all this.  He mentioned that his opponent in the recent election had not disagreed with him on the basic principles of foreign policy, and like most presidents delivering their annual address in the first 160 or so years of the nation's history, he never referred to Republicans or Democrats.

All this, he continued, allowed the nation to "look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms"--freedom of speech, "freedom of every person to worship God in his own way," "freedom from want," and "freedom from fear"--the right to live in a world of reduced armaments that would no longer allow any nation to undertake aggression against others.  "This nation," he concluded, " has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose. To that high concept there can be no end save victory."  The joint session responded during his speech with periodic, polite applause.

Biden's speech reads very differently.  Roosevelt talked in short paragraphs; Biden talked mostly in one-liners.  He began by listing not one, but three major problems: Putin's aggression in Ukraine, threats to democracy at home, and the attack on abortion rights and even IVF in various states.  He asked Congress to approve aid to Ukraine and promised to sign a bill restoring Roe v. Wade as the law of the land if Congress would pass it.   

Then came the bulk of the speech: a long list of Biden's accomplishments, as he sees them, with respect to the economy.  The American people, he announced, "are writing the greatest comeback story never told." Following in the footsteps of his predecessors, he referred to progress in employment, unemployment, small business creation, health insurance, the racial wealth gap, inflation, infrastructure construction, the trade balance, chip production, lower drug prices, the Affordable Care Act, and clean energy. He praised the achievements of unions and bragged about standing on a picket line.  Then he turned to the future.

Biden called for lower prices for insulin and other drugs, and promised cheaper housing costs and rents.  He called for "the best education system in the world," as every president at least since George H. W. Bush has done,  more preschool opportunities, and cheaper college and more college debt forgiveness. Then he called for higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy and the restoration of the pandemic-induced child care credit. He announced cuts in credit-card fees and new requirements for stating prices accurately. Then he turned to border security, and blamed the Republicans for failing to pass a recent compromise bill, referring, as he did thirteen times, to his "predecessor."  He called for new voting rights protections, opposed banning books, and told transgender Americans, "I have your back."  He talked about new steps to reduce gun violence.  Returning to foreign affairs, he tried to strike a balance between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza and talked about measures taken against the Houthis in response to their attacks on shipping in the Red Sea. And in conclusion, he briefly reviewed his own long life in politics and asked the American people to "build the future together."

The reception of his speech was very different from that of FDR in 1940.  Democrats constantly interrupted with raucous cheers and applause, while Republicans sat stony-faced and occasionally heckled him.  Vice President Harris contributed to the atmosphere by repeatedly rising to her feet while applauding.  FDR aimed his words at the whole nation, threatened by war, while Biden generally aimed his at various Democratic constituencies and drew the maximum possible contrast between the two parties.  It would have been very hard to draft a speech that could actually have bridged the gaps between our parties--perhaps as hard as it would have been for Lincoln on March 4, 1861. Roosevelt also faced lots of very bitter opposition both in Congress and in the country, but he could ignore it because he had just been elected for the third time by very impressive popular and electoral majorities. Much of the Republican Party, including his opponent in the late presidential election, Wendell Willkie, agreed with him about aiding other nations--particularly the British--and preparing for possible war. Fortunately for the United States and for the rest of the world, the nation in 1941 was capable of united action on a scale we could never match today.

Roosevelt also talked throughout the speech about general principles and broad currents of history.  Biden focused on emotional specifics, reinforced from time to time by the identification of illustrative individuals sitting in the gallery.  And Biden could not have put forward four principles like FDR's four freedoms, because even their language has become controversial.  Freedom of religion, which all Americans in 1940 understood as the right to practice their own faith, now has an entirely new meaning, one endorsed by Supreme Court majorities.  Freedom of speech is under attack in many Democratic-leaning institutions.  All this raises a profound question.   My new book shows how the success of the  United States in its first 200 years may well have depended on certain measured forms of discourse, on a belief in the nation's institutions that transcended partisanship, and on attempts to keep emotions under control.  We are about to find out whether the American experiment can survive without those habits.

p.s.  A serious family medical emergency delayed the appearance of this post.  Fortunately I can report that the patient has weathered her crisis and is definitely on the mend now--although full recovery will take some time.

Saturday, March 02, 2024

Elite higher education--an undergraduate's view

 I went to college in the late 1960s and to grad school from 1971  to 1976--both at Harvard.  I taught there from 1976 through 1980.  I described all these experiences in great detail in my autobiography,  A Life in History, linked at right.  The great changes that have transformed higher ed began, really, in my senior year in college, and I watched them spread throughout the country during my own teaching career from 1976 through 2013.  I have written a good deal here and elsewhere about those changes, but nothing I have experienced depressed me quite as much as an article in the current Harvard Magazine--the alumni magazine--by a current undergraduate named Aden Barton entitled, "AWOL from Academics."

Let me summarize for the moment the key features, as I see them now, of the undergraduate education that I received.  First, we all had to read and enormous amounts of text.  One of my favorite courses--taught by a visitor from Chicago--was entitled "Dostoevsky, Camus, and Faulkner."  The reading included three of Dostoevsky's four major novels; three novels by Camus; and two long, demanding works by Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury and Light in August--and some shorter works by Dostoevsky and Faulkner as well.  The Slavic Department also offered a Dostoevsky course which assigned essentially all the works of Dostoevsky. In the same year, I took a course, International Politics, 1919-45, taught by Ernest May, who became my dissertation adviser, and my lifelong friend Sam Williamson.  That reading list included two general works on the diplomacy of that tumultuous period, and major books on the US, Britain, France, Germany, the Far East, and the USSR.  Almost no one did all the reading in all their courses--I certainly didn't--but we still got a lot out of it.  And crucially, grade inflation had not really begun.  Only 9 percent of grades were straight As, another 13 percent were A-s, and 48 percent were some sort of B,  30 percent of grades were C+ or lower.  A B was a good grade that no one was ashamed to get, and many people felt they had gotten a tremendous amount out of courses in which they could manage more than a C+.  Reading Period was another key aspect of the educational experience.  Classes began in late September (a wonderfully civilized time) and continued for twelve weeks, but exams didn't happen until late January.  Reading period, during which classes generally did not meet, took up about three weeks of January, and gave us all a chance to catch up on reading that we had not done.  I learned what I was capable of during my first reading period, and I know many other people felt the same way.

Reading period was nearly abolished about twenty years ago.  According to the administration, Harvard students complained that while all their friends at other institutions had finished their exams before Christmas vacation, they had not.  Faculty who had gone through Harvard College protested that decision but other faculty outvoted them and accused them of being driven by nostalgia.  Now the entire fall term lasts from the day after Labor Day until about December 10, including just four days of reading period, and exams last from December 11 through December 20.  The winter recess lasts a month and the spring term begins on January 20, with a similar calendar.   And something else has changed.  Half a century ago, the three-hour final exam was another critical Harvard ritual, requiring students to display what they had learned over the last four months in cogent essays.  Far fewer courses even give exams today.

And last but hardly least, the role of various disciplines has been dramatically altered. I found writing my autobiography that Harvard and Radcliffe graduated about 270 history majors in 1965, and 45 in 2017.  Humanities majors (which do not include history at Harvard, where it counts as a social science)  were just 12.5 percent of graduates last year, compared to 22.1 percent in the School of Engineering and Applied Science (a relatively new innovation), 28 percent in other science majors, and 37.2 percent in the social sciences.  

Let me now turn to this article, "AWOL from Academics," by an undergraduate named Aden Barton, that just appeared in Harvard Magazine.  The average college student, she reports, spent about 25 hours a week studying in 1960, but only 15 hours a week in 2015.  Many students, she says, now treat academics as a very secondary preoccupation. "This fall, one of my friends did not attend a single lecture or class section until more than a month into the semester. Another spent 40 to 80 hours a week on her preprofessional club, leaving barely any time for school. A third launched a startup while enrolled, leaving studying by the wayside."  Data from a Crimson senior survey, she says, "indicates [sic] that students devote nearly as much time collectively to extracurriculars, athletics, and employment as to their classes."

Grade inflation is another big, fateful change.  In academic year 2020-21, the most recent for which I can find data, 79 percent of grades awarded were As or A-s--compared to 22 percent in 1965.   Aden Barton provides an example of the results of this practice.

"Indeed, three of my friends and I took a high-level seminar one semester, and, although we knew hundreds of pages of readings would be assigned each week, we were excited about the prospect of engaging with the material. As time went on, the percentage of readings each of us did went from nearly 100 to nearly 0.

"In the final class, each student was asked to cite their favorite readings, and the professor was surprised that so many chose readings from the first few units. That wasn’t because the students happened to be most interested in those classes’ material; rather, that was the brief period of the course when everyone actually did some of the readings.

"Despite having barely engaged with the course material, we all received A’s. I don’t mean to blame the professors for our poor work ethic, but we certainly would have read more had our grades been at risk. At the time, we bemoaned our own lack of effort. By that point in the semester, though, many other commitments had started requiring more of us, so prioritizing curiosity for its own sake became difficult.

"And therein lies the second reinforcing effect of grade inflation, which not only fails to punish substandard schoolwork but actively incentivizes it, as students often rely on extracurriculars to get ahead. Amanda Claybaugh, dean of undergraduate education, made this point in a recent New York Times interview, saying that 'Students feel the need to distinguish themselves outside the classroom because they are essentially indistinguishable inside the classroom.'”

Barton works at the Crimson, and in fact some students in every generation have made that their first priority, but this kind of thing is much more common now.  One new innovation is pre-professional clubs, which apparently get students thinking about what they are gong to do after college instead of what they  might be doing while they were there.  Their attitude towards courses becomes purely instrumental.  A Russian Studies professor named Terry Martin put it this way.

"Professor Martin, for example, wrote to me in an email that 'students today…want to please, they want to understand what is expected of them in the course and to fulfill those expectations (as a general rule).' But that approach “comes at the cost of intellectual curiosity for its own sake and intellectual originality and even boldness.'

"Martin told me that he used to get more essays 'where the student was trying to ‘jerk your chain,’ i.e., write something that completely contradicts what you’ve been teaching,' but this is no longer as common. That certainly resonates with my own experiences. When approaching essays, I often automatically start by thinking about what my professor or teaching assistant wants to hear, rather than what I want to argue or what I have authentically learned.

"Instead of becoming wholly careless towards classes, then, students are often incredibly intentional about earning the (easy) A, at the cost of true or genuine curiosity. One of my classmates last semester, who is one of the more academically oriented people I know, told me that to get the best grade on an important essay, he simply 'regurgitated the readings' without thinking critically about the material."

There is, I think, a simple reason why nearly every faculty member has given into grade inflation.  The dirty secret of higher ed nowadays is that both the faculty and the administration are terrified of student opinion.  They are now charging 3-4 times as much as they did in the 1960s--adjusting for inflation--and they want to give kids their money's worth in terms of credentials.  As numerous incidents in various campuses show, they take their students' feelings incredibly seriously.  I was recently on a zoom with a well-known academic, a believer in the humanities, who inadvertently made that clear too. Yes, he told us, he told his students that Thomas Jefferson was a great thinker and founder of democracy, but also a "noxious racist."  Challenged on that term in the Q & A by a listener who agreed that every slaveowner was evidently a racist but questioned the term "noxious racist," he replied that he had to put it that way because that was what students expected to hear.  I do not think educators can do their job properly if they are afraid of their students.

There is much more in the article, and I recommend that you all read it in full.  Harvard has given up the mission that drew me and my contemporaries to it:  the cultivation of our minds and our exposure to the great worlds of the ancient an dmodern worlds. These problems are hardly unique either to Harvard or to elite institutions, either.  The humanities are nearing extinction in many schools, and only a few small colleges such as the St. John's colleges and Hillsdale are offering a distinct product focused on the humanities.  This means that the intellectual traditions I learned from are dead.  New institutions like the University of Austin might revive them, but finding faculty who could actually return to traditional approaches would be extremely difficult.  I realize that I have drawn enormous emotional sustenance from participating in those traditions all my life, and their disappearance is as painful as the loss of a dear friend.  Eventually I do believe new generations will rebuild them, but that may take a very long time.