“From the Bridge”
The Importance of History
Not all that many years ago the Importance of history would have been a “no brainer!” People understood that there was very little new under the sun, and history was a good barometer to the future. “Those that fail to heed history are doomed to repeat it, “was an adage frequently heard. It gave us a perspective by which to stabilize our bearings and allowed us to find one of the few ways by which we could understand who we are. The myth that George Washington, not being able to lie, admitted to chopping down his father’s favorite cherry tree helped us create a moral compass. Abraham Lincoln’s moniker “Honest Abe,” took root when he worked as a young store clerk in New Salem, IL. The name stuck before he became a lawyer or a politician. His writings show that he valued honesty and in 1859 when he ran for the presidency the nickname became his campaign slogan. However, apparently ”Honest Abe” did lie about whether he was negotiating with the South to end the war and also knowingly concealed some of the most lethal weapons ever devised during the Civil War.” These however, were very minor infractions when compared to what we are now expected to believe from our politicians.
Since World War II the pace of life has moved faster than ever and may actually have overrun our ability to understand the significance and value of our own honesty. We no longer turn to our past for guidance regarding the future; rather we look into our future in terms of what we want and how we will get it. We have developed to the point that we are much smarter than our ancestors and no longer need their morality and guidance. What we don’t know we frequently fabricate and in most cases, no one picks up on it and if they do, it really doesn’t seem to matter. In short the past has become outdated, obsolete and therefore has become largely irrelevant to us. Being less informed about our past is not the result of a lack of information or education, but of ambivalence and indifference. Perhaps history belongs to the ages but not to us. To a great extent we as a people really do not believe that history matters very much, if at all.
My quote “History is not owned solely by historians. It is part of everyone’s heritage,” was written for the opening page of my award winning book “The Exciting Story of Cuba.” Not only is it the anchor holding our Ship of State firmly secure, it is the root of our very being. Yes, history is important. In centuries past this statement would have been self-evident. Our predecessors devoted much time and effort in teaching their children history and it helped provide the foundation to understanding who they were. It provided them a reference whereby they could set their own life’s goals. However society has, to a great extent, turned its back on the past. We now live in an era where the present is most important and our future is being built on shifting sand. We, as a people are presently engaged in a struggle for economic survival and choose to think of ourselves in terms of where wind and tide is taking us, rather than where we came from. We can no longer identify with our ancestors, thus they are no longer relevant. Their lives were so different from our own that they no longer can shed any light on our experience or existence. Therefore, in the minds of many of us, the past no longer has the value it once had nor do we give it the credence it deserves.
As in war, the truth is the first victim; however this casualty threatens the very fabric of our being. When fact and fiction are interchanged to satisfy the moment, the bedrock of history in undermined. When we depend on the truth to structure our future, it is vital that it be based on truthful history and the honesty of those who write it. It is a crime without penalty when our politicians tell us lies. In fact they are often shamefully rewarded; encouraging them to become even more blatant in the lies they tell.
Not so long ago “A man’s word was his bond.” Honesty was highly prized and history guided us. It gave us a solid foundation upon which we could build our future and form our dreams. We as a people have to regain the value of the truth and openly indict those who disrespect it. The only way to reclaim our heritage is to value the truth and insist on history we can rely on. Then and only then will “the truth set us free!”
By Captain Hank Bracker, the author of award winning “The Exciting Story of Cuba” found on Amazon.com. He writes a daily blog and a weekly commentary called “From the Bridge.” Help spread the word! Found exclusively on Facebook, Goodreads & his Website. Mail comments to PO Box 607 Elfers, Florida 34680-0607.