Every Memorial day, Veterans day, and Fourth of July; every election, legislative action, or world crisis, everyone has their righteous opinion they must project to the world in one form or another–myself included. It’s one thing to have a thought contrary someone else, but the thing I find most bothersome even from those I might agree with is a lack of historical background, a lack of context to supplement current events. To really understand the present, to decipher fraud from reality and the meaningful from the irrelevant, you must understand the past.
The notion of American exceptionalism and superiority is a joke. I’m a big fan of the US of A, but we are not the best at everything anymore. We’ve been telling ourselves that we are the best for so long that we have seriously lagged in the investments and policies needed to stay competitive. We rank 17th internationally in education, 37th in health care, and near dead last among developed nations in social mobility, which is the opportunity of lower income families to raise in social status. That’s the American dream, and we suck at it. Our infrastructure (schools, roads, bridges, electrical grid, sewage) and manufacturing capacity have been hollowed out and depraved of needed funds, putting us at a huge disadvantage in the long run.We are, however, numero uno in military spending, with a defense budget bigger than most of the world’s combined. ‘Merica!
This nation has a lot of strengths and potential today. We rode a gravy train following World War II because most of the world was bombed out, making us the go-to place to buy from. We had the regulations, taxes, and labor force rules to produce a strong middle class and growing economy. But our leaders forgot what made us great back in the golden days. They deregulated, dramatically reduced taxes on the wealthy, and have since ignored the very structural problems that caused crises like the Great Depression, impacting our ability to deal with the current economic stagnation.
Being a mainstream conservative today means something totally different than it did 20 years ago. Ronald Reagan could not make it in the party today. Nor could Richard Nixon, Dweight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, and recently Bob Dole, from way back in 1996, said he could not either. Republicans today feel pressure from the farthest reaches of the right wing in a way that Democrats have not from the left, producing the GOP we see today. Democrats are more of a centrist party than ever before, backing down from a more progressive health care and tax system in exchange for compromise. I say this because for many people, their political affiliation is a matter of whom their family is and what they were told growing up. And if all they know is how politics is today, they are without a true compass as to what subscribing to a party means.
You don’t have to love history or dedicate large amounts of free time to get a basic feel for how the world conducted itself before you existed. In order to add to today’s discourse you require intelligent thought to avoid falling victim to ever present historical revisionism. History allows you to sort through the bullshit and avoid the pitfalls that others have fallen in, to get a complete picture of the puzzle that the world is. Without a historical perspective, your thoughts are just shots in the dark.
“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”