Denial and Amnesia

Our nation suffers from a great deal of amnesia, with regard to its history. This has been made abundantly clear over the last two years, as we have repeated many of the mistakes of our past, as though we have no recollection of all of this happening before.

However, much of the amnesia results from denial. This generation’s denial is next generation’s amnesia. Rather than avoiding repeating the mistakes of history, we choose to deny that they happened, and thus, when the same situation comes up again, we don’t remember that it happened before, so we do the same thing over again.

Please recall: In 1798, John Adams signed into law The Alien and Sedition Acts. These are widely regarded (by those who have not forgotten history) as some of the worst pieces of legislation to come out of our legislature, ever. To summarize, and grossly oversimplify, they said that foreigners, and other suspicious types, could be treated however we saw fit, arrested and/or deported without cause or trial, and whatever seemed reasonable, in the name of National Security.

So very many of the laws of the last 2 years have reminded me of these acts.

Here’s one. Foreign students must register their presence (ok, I can deal with that) and must report to the federal government all their movements, even if they go on a weekend trip. Failure to do so may cause them to be deported, and may cause the school that they are attending to lose its right to have any foreign students. Yeah. That makes sense. Everyone’s a criminal.

Please recall that one of the big complaints that our Founding Fathers had about the colonial powers was the inability to travel freely without being hassled for their identification papers and travel permits. Free people should have the freedom to travel freely, without being hassled. Been in an airport lately? Everyone’s a criminal, and shall be treated as such. Preferably by folks that look like they’re on the work release program, or, if such are not avaialble, kids that look like they’re out on a hall pass.

Please recall that in the final years of the 1930s, we chose to pretend that the atrocities being reported from certain portions of Europe were not really true. And that in 1993 we chose to believe that the reports of atrocities coming out of Rwanda were not really true. And that last week we chose to believe that the reports of atrocities coming out of the Democratic Republic of Congo were not true. I’ll not take this one too far, because I’ve no wish to invoke the Godwin Law, nor do I wish to suggest that there’s any chance that the UN, the USA, or most anyone else would be able to do much about it. I merely wish to point out that, although I don’t claim to know what the right response is, pretending that it’s not happening is a good solid step in the wrong direction.

Please recall that a mere 45 years ago, schools were segregated in this nation, and men and women and children of African descent were still being lynched for no other crime than the color of their skin, and that these things were viewed, at worst, as embarassing events, or ignored entirely, by the “decent” white folks.

I’m not real sure where I’m going with all of this, other than the fact that I am apalled at the ignorance of *recent* history, let alone somewhat less recent history, that I encounter on a nearly daily basis: Folks that have never heard the abbreviation “USSR”; People who can’t imagine that the US government would “draft” young men into the armed forces; Folks who had no idea who Archduke Ferdinand was, and what connection I was making to the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic earlier this year.

But more than the ignorance of world history and events, the ignorance that our own government seems to have about our history is deeply alarming. Someone needs to get John Ashcroft to sit in on a grade school US History class. Or at least read John Adam’s memoirs. Clearly he does not place the same value on freedom that were cornerstones of our nation from the first days – that much is obvious to anyone that’s paying attention. He’s so caught up in his passionate paranoia that he doesn’t seem to realize that he’s giving away all the best parts of what it means to be an American, in the name of protecting the American way of life. And he can’t see the contradiction inherent to this.

Anyways, I’m rambling, and I need to go to bed. I encourage every US citizen to read David McCullough’s book John Adams. You’ll understand so much more about what our nation is supposed to be about.