It was refreshing to read Michael McKenna’s recent Commentary piece on history, specifically World War I, as a reminder of where the world is now and how we got here (“What did we commemorate on Veterans Day?” Web, Nov. 14). The abuse of history by Americans has always been an intellectual problem, and it has never been more prevalent than it is today.
The destruction of symbols and the overall rejection of the origins and values of American society have left the subject in most of academia and the media comatose for any intent and purpose. We have come nearly full circle in our understanding of anything that may have preceded us: either ahistorical (indifferent) or anti-historical (hostile).
McKenna’s reflections on World War I provide the perspective required for any meaningful appreciation of how the world has become what it is today. McKenna writes that the war was a “seminal event” and it cast “a long shadow” when it comes to the the way in which the political globe behaves now, more than 100 years later. The issues that first surfaced in 1918 are still dominant now (terror, socialism. fascism, communism, the Middle East, the Far East, Islam, U.S. leadership, etc.). The same can be said for U.S. history and the many stepping stones that have led up to today.
In his second inaugural address, with the Civil War nearly over, President Lincoln called upon Americans to show “malice toward none, charity for all.” Today, absent both Lincoln and history, we have entered a new age with malice toward all and charity for none.
And there is no end in sight.
JOHN J. TIERNEY
Professor emeritus, The Institute of World Politics