I was a history major in college. While many of my fellow students found the subject boring and even irrelevant, I was fascinated by the stories of how we as humans and societies got to where we are today. I was fascinated too by the lessons to be learned from the historical journey of our world, its peoples and nations.
It can be most disconcerting when, in today’s high-tech world, a world with unparalleled access to information, so many remain oblivious to the lessons of history and the dangers of repeating the most glaring mistakes of the past.
To illustrate, let’s play, “Guess the Nation.” This nation’s political system is in disarray, unable to legislate and move forward during difficult days. Its political parties are divided, and factions of special interests are numerous. The economic status is shaky, growing increasingly so as a result of the global economic situation. There is growing unrest among the population with the current political leadership and national politics in general.
The United States? No. I am speaking of the state of affairs in Germany in the early 1930s.
There are lessons to be learned from this era of history – domestic and political landmines that, if ignored, can lead to disaster for any nation.
Before you angrily jump ahead of me, I am not comparing the United States to Nazi Germany. That would be beyond unfair and inaccurate. What I do wish to illustrate is how easily people and nations can, during these difficult and dangerous times, act out in ways that unwittingly mirror tactics used by certain political operatives to gain power in Germany.
Take note of the recent past and the current parade of political candidates who are choosing to play to our fears, our worst selves, the lowest common dominator. Since the tragic days of 9/11, such has been a dominate feature of U.S. politics – negative and nasty.
It has become an all-too-common practice in the current race to the White House to marginalize, if not even dehumanize, targeted groups of people, again playing to fear and our worst selves. As any political or social scientist will tell you, building walls and deporting millions of human beings is a sign of the total failure of a government and a society.
To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, “For every thousand hacking at the leaves of supposed evil, there is only one striking at the root.”
While illegal immigration and its attendant problems are a real concern, they are hardly the root of our problems and what is eating away at the soul of our nation.
Whether the discussion is about illegal immigrants, Muslims, home schooling, the LGBT community, abortion or any other issue or group, we cannot lose sight of the fact that even our supposed enemies are created in God’s image.
From where I view history, our root problem is ignorance and greed. It is the lack of an informed electorate willing to explore all sides of an issue, not just the perspectives that align with already held views.
Additionally, our root problem is a population of eligible voters who do not vote at the local, state and national levels. They claim to be patriots yet turn from the history of those who have shed their blood and sacrificed their lives to afford them the privilege and right to a free and democratic process.
This is the history we are currently writing. What lessons, if any, will future generations learn from it?