“Living history is more treacherous than merely witnessing it.”
As a somewhat impudent young man when I was in school, I didn’t really apply myself to history class. After all, history was about things that happened in the past, and I was contemptuously obsessed with “now” and what mysteries lay ahead. But when a “D” on my report card in history caught my parents’ eyes, they knew it was time to make sure I appreciated the significance of understanding history and, more importantly, our place in it.
My mother’s contribution was the short but time-tested phrase, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” I’ll get back to that in a moment. But my father chose to deliver his message in his own words, and those are the ones that ultimately haunt me to this day. He said, “We must all be sentinels to history, or else this fragile freedom we enjoy will be snatched away from us… and we won’t see it coming until it’s too late.”
I had the privilege of growing up in a home where my father often spoke with the wisdom and eloquence of Ronald Reagan. Sadly, until I left home, I didn’t realize just what an embarrassment of riches this was to a young man in his formative years.
But as I watched in awe the video documenting the fall of the Berlin Wall that Stoutcat posted yesterday, it struck me how fortunate we Americans have been, to witness so much of history’s drama unfold before our very eyes… from a safe distance. A perfect example is the Berlin Wall. I was able to witness its birth in 1961 and its demise in 1989.
Of course, the downside of being history’s witness at arm’s length is that one doesn’t really understand the pain and sacrifice that fills the history. After a while, it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming what we have in this country is permanent and unalterable. The truth is far from it. And we are now living through times that may well become our shame: allowing freedom to be snatched from our grasp… from within.
We’ve become a nation where perhaps civilization’s ultimate political achievement — freedom and democracy, fueled by a free-market economy — has become seen as an entitlement that is automatic, immutable, and self-maintaining. Left uncorrected, that assumption will soon be proven wrong: disastrously so.
The perfect storm has hit us: A Democrat majority in both houses of Congress, at a time when a young, vibrant minority who is also a gifted speaker came along with promises of “Hope” and “Change.” Unfortunately, the “Change” he referred to meant “fundamentally changing the United States.” While millions of voters assumed he meant “Life as we know it, only better,” he was secretly (and not-so-secretly) speaking about changes to this country that might forever alter what made it the envy of the world, whether it was the unlimited opportunity for entrepreneurs, or the finest medical research and care available.
We assumed democracy would always be ours. But, metaphorically speaking, as we dozed off from the inactivity of witnessing history, confident that things would be as they were when we woke up, opportunists helped themselves to our way of life… and are now redefining it using their own blueprint for change.
Are we blind to a Congress where one party locks out the other while debating future legislation? Do we neither see nor comprehend that what the President and the Democrats in the House and Senate are doing in fact spits on us and the spirit of the Constitution of the United States?
These leaders took an oath to defend and protect the Constitution. Are their actions, therefore, not in violation of the spirit of their oath of office? Will we as a nation step up, before the Constitution is rendered impotent?
Back to that cliche my mother used: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” It’s true; others have learned too late that civilization does not run for all eternity on autopilot. And now it is our turn.
As I wrote at the top of this rant:
“Living history is more treacherous than merely witnessing it. “
Yes, but it’s the only way of ever hoping to control the outcome.