A half-century ago today, 1,000 troops from the 101st Airborne Division deployed... to Little Rock, Arkansas. Their mission: ensure nine black teenagers could enter Central High School to attend classes. The "insurgents" they faced: an unruly mob of angry whites. Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus had decided not to protect the black students, whose mere presence in the school was deemed a cultural assault. So the president reluctantly sent soldiers to escort the teenagers.
The whole drama played out on TV, and Americans followed each development every night on the news as the stand-off dragged on for weeks. Every morning, the "Little Rock Nine" were accompanied by troops past a gauntlet of screaming whites into the doors of Central High. Less than 100 years after the end of the Civil War between North and South, it seemed that political tensions could boil over into full-on confrontation again.
Fifty years later, it seems a lot of sound and fury over a most trivial matter. The rage of the mobs looks insane. The high-pitch tensions between the Arkansas authorities and the President look so outdated. And the notion that the nine black students wouldn't be allowed into class seems ridiculous.
Or does it?