Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Those who forget the past....

Anne at Palm Tree Pundit brought to my attention this David Gelernter article about America's utter failure to teach its young ones history, and the fact that this weakness is destroying the body politic. Gelernter starts with Sen. Durbin's appalling statement comparing Gitmo to the Nazi or Pol Pot death camps, or to the Soviet Gulags:

Ignorance of history destroys our judgment. Consider Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill), who just compared the Guantanamo Bay detention center to Stalin's gulag and to the death camps of Hitler and Pol Pot — an astonishing, obscene piece of ignorance. Between 15 million and 30 million people died from 1918 through 1956 in the prisons and labor camps of the Soviet gulag. Historian Robert Conquest gives some facts. A prisoner at the Kholodnaya Gora prison had to stuff his ears with bread before sleeping on account of the shrieks of women being interrogated. At the Kolyma in Siberia, inmates labored through 12-hour days in cheap canvas shoes, on almost no food, in temperatures that could go to minus-58. At one camp, 1,300 of 3,000 inmates died in one year. "Gulag" must not go the way of "Nazi" and become virtually meaningless. Europeans love calling Israelis "Nazis" — a transparent attempt to slough off their guilt like rattlesnakes shedding skin. ("See, the Jews are as bad as we were!") I'd like to ban the word "Nazi" except when applied to … Nazis. Lawbreakers would be ordered to learn what Nazi actually means.
With regard to Pol Pot's camps, I recall reading years ago about child survivors of those camps. One survivor was responsible for operating a machine that looked rather like an old-fashioned wood tire -- with spokes and a rim. Another child's head would be placed in a hole in the center of this contraption, the survivor would yank and a lever, and the child in the contraption would be beheaded. This was the surviving child's job -- to behead other child, or to himself be beheaded. That's history; and that's not Gitmo. Gerlernter goes on to describe other examples of American ignorance, and to tie this ignorance together with media misinformation and, by implication, bad, bad, bad political decisions:
I was amazed to hear about teenagers who don't know Fact 1 about the Vietnam War draft. But I have met college students who have never heard of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge — the genocidal monsters who treated Cambodia in the 1970s to a Marxist nightmare unequaled in its bestiality since World War II. And I know college students who have heard of President Kennedy but not of anything he ever did except get assassinated. They have never heard JFK's inaugural promise: that America would "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to ensure the survival and the success of liberty." But President Bush remembers that speech, and it's lucky he does. To forget your own history is (literally) to forget your identity. By teaching ideology instead of facts, our schools are erasing the nation's collective memory. As a result, some "expert" can go on TV and announce (20 minutes into the fighting) that Afghanistan, Iraq or wherever "is the new Vietnam" — and young people can't tell he is talking drivel. There is an ongoing culture war between Americans who are ashamed of this nation's history and those who acknowledge with sorrow its many sins and are fiercely proud of it anyway. Proud of the 17th century settlers who threw their entire lives overboard and set sail for religious freedom in their rickety little ships. Proud of the new nation that taught democracy to the world. Proud of its ferocious fight to free the slaves, save the Union and drag (lug, shove, sweat, bleed) America a few inches closer to its own sublime ideals. Proud of its victories in two world wars and the Cold War, proud of the fight it is waging this very day for freedom in Iraq and the whole Middle East.
Gelernter ends with a moving plea:
If you are proud of this country and don't want its identity to vanish, you must teach U.S. history to your children. They won't learn it in school. This nation's memory will go blank unless you act.