Saturday, June 19, 2004

History Lessons
It was the philosopher Santayana who said something like, "Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it." (That's the only thing I know about Santayana.) History really does teach us lessons we can use in the here and now, provided we bother to listen to them. That's not something Americans are particularly good at, as I've noted here before. For example, one of the chief architects of 20th century America, Henry Ford, famously said, "History is more or less bunk." Americans are much more into making new starts and never looking back. But just because we aren't interested in history's lessons doesn't mean they don't exist. I came across several history lessons on the Web this morning.

Let's start with the biggest one. Few accusations are more inflammatory than the one that says the United States is sliding toward fascism under George W. Bush. It's not something to be thrown around lightly (although I confess I've done it a time or two). That we could be going the way of Nazi Germany violates so much of what we believe about ourselves that we don't want to think it, or hear others talk about it. So it's worth reading a sober analysis from Online Journal that says the slide is indeed happening here.

And while we're poking around on the World War II shelf of history's closet, do you remember hearing how the Japanese bombed the United States as far west as Detroit with incendiary bombs two or three times a day during the final months of World War II? Me neither, because the U.S. government censored reports of the bombings. Earlier this week in Slate, Liam Callanan told the tale, and drew a lesson from it regarding contemporary censorship of war news.

Our third and final tale doesn't have a lesson attached, but it's damned interesting anyhow. We can all conjure up the scene in our heads, like it was a movie: A small suitcase is opened; the president finds an envelope inside; he tears it open, reads a code inside, enters the code into a communication device, and launches a nuclear apocalypse. Well, now it can be told: the code is believed to have been 00000000.

Recommended Reading: My colleagues over at Best of the Blogs have really been rockin' the last couple of days, analyzing the Bush/Cheney response to the forthcoming 9/11 commission report. Lots of good stuff was posted on both Thursday and Friday of this week, so I suggest you go over there now.

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