There is a saying that those that forget the past are doomed to repeat it. I fully believe in this saying and is a part of the reason why I love and respect history. There can be many ways to look at historical events and what they mean but the history itself never changes. Once it has occurred it can not be changed. That does not mean that one can not attempt to change history or compare something going on today that really is not that big of a deal to some horrific event that happened in our past.
The worst violators of this last part are politicians. Not Democrats, or Republicans, or TEA Partiers, or Green Partiers, but all politicians. For whatever reason they absolutely love to compare anything that is going on now to Hitler and the Nazis.
One example that comes to mind is that because the actual name of the Nazi Party was called the National Socialist German Workers' Party then naturally the Nazis had to be liberally minded. Of course when this analysis is used people tend to ignore the actual history and stances of the party. Another issue that is commonly ignored is that the party was a political party and their main goal was to win elections. At the time that the party was formed (1919) Socialism was sweeping Europe. What better way to draw people into your party then to compare yourselves with the big ideology sweeping that landscape.
Most people do not believe that the NAZI Party was an actual socialist party just as they do not believe that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (or as we know it North Korea) has really anything to do with democracy.
Another issue with our history is how much of it is just made up by politicians looking to make a political score. I have already discussed in a previous blog Michelle Bachmann's serious issues with history in that she believes that the Founding Fathers were responsible for ending slavery (even though the last Founding Father, James Madison, died almost 30 years before the slaves were freed) and that the shot heard around the world (that started the Revolutionary War) was fired in New Hampshire not in Massachusetts, where it was actually fired.
There is Sarah Palin who believes that Paul Revere actually warned the British that we were not going to simply put down our guns, eluding to her idea that Paul Revere's ride was about gun rights. The ride was actually very quiet as he and other riders went from town to town letting American militias know that the British were on their way and they needed to be ready.
Then there is Bill O'Reilly who actually has a degree in history going on national television a few years back and telling the nation that American soldiers during World War 2 had massacred Nazi soldiers in cold blood after they had already surrenedered. The fact that it was completely opposite that did not seem to matter much to him. To this date I am not aware of any apologies he has made for actually sullying the name of our military though he continues to demand apologies from people he believes have done the same.
However, the real problem exists at the local history level. While a good amount of local history has been preserved a lot has just been let go or destroyed. McCook is home to an Air Force base from World War 2 but unfortunately (as I have blogged before) most of the land that the base stood on is no longer recognizable. Most of the runways are gone. Most of the buildings are gone, though the footprints are still in existence. The buildings that are still there are in mostly horrible shape.
Here in Russellville the area is fairly rich in history but a person visiting the town would not know anything about most of it. The area is (was, which I will get to) home to the oldest Presbyterian mission west of the Mississippi. It was called Dwight Mission and it was mostly meant for Cherokee Indians that were in the area at the time. The mission was moved to Oklahoma when the Cherokee (and the rest of the nations Native Americans) were moved to that territory. The site of Dwight Mission is now under Lake Dardanelle. The only way that you would know this is if you happened to stop at the boat dock at the former site and read a very unmaintained sign there.
There is also a large stone at the crest of a hill that was put there by the Daughters of the Confederacy. It is a very nice entrance, unfortunately in order to get to the actual memorial one has to go up an overgrown trail littered with smashed bottles and trash. Once you get to the memorial the words have been weathered so badly that 90% of is illegible.
In Hot Springs for years bath row was left in very poor condition before the city stepped in and began to conserve and rebuild the buildings there.
At Ground Zero instead of simply just turning the site into a memorial for those lost on that day a decision was made to rebuild on the site and to make the building taller than the originals. My fear is that the history of the site will be lost to that building no matter the best efforts to conserve that history.
The reason that we repeat history is that we forget history we let it erode and disappear into history. Instead of studying history and respecting it we seek to rewrite it for personal reasons or just let it go in hopes of not having to deal with it.
In order for us to truly advance into the future we must actively pursue to preserve our past, to understand it, and to respect it. In order to keep from repeating our past negative history we must remember it and learn from those events. In order to learn from our positive history we must remember it and learn from those events to progress into the future.