HISTORICAL MEMORY

Not to know what happened before you were born, that is to be always a boy, to be always a child. –Cicero

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. — George Santayana

So here we are today, historically illiterate beyond belief, and unaware of the dangers that beset us. How do we wake up those who have been taught no history, nor how to think with any logic or common sense? They are grown-up children with no real thought at all, no feelings for others nor knowledge of the needs and desires of their fellow beings.

Hannah Arendt famously coined the term “the banality of evil” and in our age that thought is true, many are so banal in their evil. But there are others who “think” and believe what they think is true simply because they are the ones who think it. Or, as someone else said, “If what you think about is BS, then what difference does it make?”

Are we to “repeat” history in our day? At a time when we are faced not only with a lack of historical context but have leaders and educators actively lying about that history, what are we, who lived that history, going to do?

I have wondered what some of these people who lie or rewrite our history do in the middle of the night when they awake, review their actions and have a crisis of conscience. I have finally concluded that they sleep the sleep of the just and never awake to question anything, especially not themselves. Thus we have IRS agents and other government bureaucrats who truly believe they have done nothing wrong, and see no inconsistency in hiding behind the Fifth. They continue their lies to advance their own agenda.

One of my grandsons watched “The Great Escape” and concluded that he “knew all about World War II and the Wehrmacht.”  Sorry, but not so. Later I gave the boys the series “Victory at Sea”, to watch. There was an episode about the Americans going onto a Pacific island and encountering a fearsome and very bloody Japanese attack. I was stunned to hear the boys talking about how “stupid” the Americans were to go there when there were that many of the enemy. I made them pause the episode and asked how the Americans could possibly have known the Japanese were there. Well, they could have seen them. How? Well, by satellites. They didn’t have any. Well, they should have flown planes over. What makes you think they didn’t? Have you ever heard of camouflage?  And planes have a limited range and get shot down. Their intelligence capabilities were very limited. The boys finally conceded that they knew very little and returned to their viewing. Then I heard a couple of them laugh about a dead body floating in the water. In black and white it didn’t look so bad to children raised viewing death and destruction on the big screen and seeing violent video games. Again I made them hit pause, and said, “That boy was somebody’s son or husband or father. He could have been my friend’s older brother. I remember the sadness and pain when he was killed in the Pacific.” That brought shock and silence.

The shock and silence of those who are not taught the realities of history.

We have many who are liars about history and everything else, and are too smug and self-satisfied to suffer “the long, dark tea-time of the soul” which leads to adulthood. They will always be children and condemned to learn the hard way.

It’s too bad they blind others and carry them to destruction with them.

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