It should be recognized as a fundamental truth that Americans don’t understand history. Because of this lack of reflection, Americans spend little time asking what our parents and our grandparents would have done and instead just push forward of their own choosing. This fact alone is why I am not hopeful that we can stem the tides of “progressive” change. It all looks forward…and in doing so holds a hubris and hypocrisy of the present. It assumes that 1. We are better than all past human beings as a result of us just living in “extraordinary times.” 2. It assumes that even bad change is good because it is couched in terms of “progress.”
The Gateway Pundit has the video of Jane Roe. It is a commercial and it is fairly graphic in nature. The problem that is often stated with these tactics is that we should never be graphic in showing the atrocities of abortion. It is a good thing that William Wilberforce and the American abolitionists didn’t follow this “progressive” advice. Why? Because it wasn’t until they showed the drawings of slave ships, the bloody chains, the inhumane treatment of fellow men that slavery was able to be abolished. In the case of Wilberforce, he stated that if they won’t come to see slavery, he will bring slavery to them.
The hubris of the present doesn’t accept that we are merely standing on the shoulders of giants. It argues the giants have inexplicably held us back and only if we ignore them can we move forward. It is a dangerous offshoot of humanism which preaches that we can be self-fulfilling, then why do we need to study the thoughts and actions of those who went before? In doing so, they ignore the learning of human history and experience. For the record, this permeates all of American thought. It is why there are more liberals and libertarians than conservatives. Conservatives have always held a firm view of history and human past to inform the present and future. Liberals and libertarians throw these constraints off and treat them as chains to progress. It is held in the viewpoints of the federal reserve by libertarians who ignore why we went with a federal reserve in the first place. It is held in the viewpoints of gay marriage, abortion, and economic policy which ignores basic natural rights because “we just know better.”
The problem is not in teaching history. We teach history to students. The problem is in not presenting history as important for navigating the future. Our current history programs in schools are nothing but exercises in what was wrong for thousands of years before we got it all right in the present. Even the Tea Party’s understanding of the Founding can’t be full without understanding our Greek and Roman roots. Or how Montesque, scripture, John Locke, and Thomas Hobbes influenced our founders.
And this doesn’t just apply to policy or politics. The booming increase of non-denominational churches that have no Biblical accountability and have pastors whose view of theology is…I don’t need to understand the past church leaders who have struggled with these questions…all that matters is my own opinions and as long as I can twist a scripture…boom. Hubris of the present. Or more importantly, scores of American christians who believe because they read the Bible, they don’t need a church and can be as good at understanding scripture as a seminarian or leader in the church. It is a society that believes that it can recast gender roles, decrease the relevance of fatherhood, redistribute ourselves to prosperity, spend more than we earn, and make life a choice without any negative consequences. Negative consequences we would know and learn if we would not only study the past…but desire to learn from it.
It is often said that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. That is incomplete. The true repeaters are those who know history but just don’t feel it applies to anything going on today.