Saturday, February 20, 2016

On the Subject of History

I sat down in a Rotary Club meeting in North Canton, Ohio and was asked the following question, "Do they teach history in school today?" My friend, a North Canton insurance salesman, implied young people were ignorant of American and world history. I answered him from my own experience. As a college history instructor for 20 years it was my conviction the students in my classes had little or no knowledge of world-shaping events or the personalities who shaped history. My students admitted they had taken Social Studies courses but nothing identifiable as history.

A few minutes later, the superintendent of the North Canton schools joined us at the table. I asked him, "Does the high school require history courses here in North Canton?" (North Canton schools, by the way, had an excellent reputation for academic excellence...and their football team wasn't bad either!) As I recall, his answer went something like this: "Education today is more interested in providing quality education designed to help graduates find jobs. The only history courses we offer are in advanced placement programs." Most of the Rotarians at my table were surprised and maybe even shocked at his answer.

It is no wonder so many Americans believe history is irrelevant! After all, it is only about the activities and lives of a bunch of dead guys. For most students, history is boring. I blame this view on the fact most history teachers in public schools see history as the repetition and memorizing of names, dates, places, and events. There is little linkage of these events to contemporary culture. Historical personalities are often presented as dry lifeless individuals driven by the force of certain events. Furthermore, all too many twist the facts of history to fit preconceived ideas. Presenting the various interpretations of personalities and events is okay as long as students understand the presenter is doing so from a perspective and having the honesty to explain their view.

On the first day of class, one of my history professors at Cincinnati Christian Seminary slammed a book on his desk and said, "I have an axe to grind, and I'm going to grind it!" Translation: "I have an agenda, an interpretation of historical events and I'm going to present it in such a way you'll agree with me." Okay, I thought, I'll hear you out but I'll form my own view thank you very much!

In the current political climate it is more than obvious the American people have no sense of history. That's a shame, too, because the events of the past shape the present and the future. If you don't know where we've been, you'll certainly have no idea where we are or where we are currently headed. As philosopher George Santayana rightly said, "Those who fail to learn the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them." (That's not an exact quote, but that's the gist of it.)

Santayana was right! I see history much like the wheels on a wagon. The same, or very similar, events reoccur but history moves forward in time. Technologies change but human character does not. I suppose my view is shaped somewhat by my biblical (at least in part) worldview. Specific circumstances change, but the events arise out of the same type stupid selfish and flawed human decisions. It doesn't take a biblical scholar to read the Old Testament book of Judges to see how events reoccur simply because God's people failed to learn from the lessons of the past!

With that in mind, I recently shared a rather lengthy post on Facebook. The original post was from an Austrian survivor of World War II. She experienced Hitler's rise to power in Germany and the assimilation of Austria. From her experience she traced the gradual assumption of Nazi power and the elimination of individual rights. Her presentation of the facts dovetails nicely with the description given by reputable historians. Further insight can be gleaned from the writings of Dietrich Bonhoffer and others who lived in the 1930s and 1940s.

Here in Sun City, I met Marie and Lowell Amos. Lowell was a cartographer during World War II. He did most of his work in North Africa during Patton's campaign against the Desert Fox, General Erwin Rommel. As Lowell studied the photographs taken on an overflight of a desert oasis, he noted the vestige of a tire track. Knowing the Germans had hidden weapons caches in the desert, he surmised one of those caches lay hidden at the oasis. Allied bombers attacked and destroyed the weapons. This raid launched the Battle of El Alamein, one of the decisive battles in North Africa.

Marie had an interesting story all her own. Raised in Poland, she found herself and her family imprisoned by the Nazis during the war. When the Soviet Union took possession of Poland after the war, she found herself in a Stalinist Gulag. She eventually got her freedom, made her way to the West where she met and married Lowell Amos. I remember hearing her tell her story and how angry she became at those who tried to bad mouth her adopted country. She was aghast at every move by American political leaders, protesters, and anyone who pushed the country toward greater government control and anything smacking of socialism.

Her story agreed with the post I shared on Facebook. Those who do not see the parallels to contemporary events and circumstances are either historically ignorant or blind. There is no one so blind but those who cannot see!!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Non-Existent Freedom of Speech (for some)

Today I posted a comment in opposition to a Facebook post. The post to which I reacted presented a left leaning view which I find repugnant even when it comes from the pen of a Christian historian. It just goes to show how divergent social and political views are.

Frankly, even though I disagreed with the perspective of the author, I would uphold his right to express his views. I also insist on the right to express my disdain, disagreement, and dislike for the views he expressed.

One response came from a woman who once expressed a belief in God, but has since wandered away. In her response, she said I was unloving, cold-hearted, and ugly because I "didn't understand what the left is trying to accomplish" and was close minded. She blamed me and others who think like I do for "pushing [her]farther from [your] 'god.'" She said my thinking was responsible for her loathing [the Christian] religion. Furthermore, my rhetoric was hateful!

What did I say? Let me post it for you: "The key to understanding this document is to note the source. They key phrase is, 'Challenging the Right, Advancing Social Justice.' Social Justice is in reality no justice. Justice is getting what you deserve, i.e., what you work for and earn. Social Justice, as used by the left, is taking what isn't yours to benefit those who believe they are entitled regardless of personal effort. My Bible still says, "If you don't work, you don't eat."

Disagree with my statement if you wish, but it is my view. I did not mean to imply there was never a sense in which help should be given to the "working poor" or those desperately in need. In fact, quite the opposite. However, if the "working poor" are making the effort to succeed and thrive, then they deserve a hand up. But a hand up is not a hand out. I do all I can to help someone who was in need if he or she were making the effort to help themselves.

The "nitty of the gritty," however, is the fact the response to my post came from a person who does not know me. She does not know where I come from, what I think, how I view my relationship with God and others. She just knows my views do not match hers. Therefore, I have no right to challenge her thinking or express my views. She can call me names, vilify me, call me unloving and uncaring without any understanding of who I am or what I think it total. No, I'm just supposed to "shut up."

And that's the Social Progressive (liberal, radical, leftist) view these days. If you disagree with them just "shut up." If you refuse to be quiet, you will be labeled racist, homophobic, fascist, unloving, unchristian, or ______________(fill in the blank). Those labeling me as such really don't know and don't care how I really think; they just want me to "shut the hell up." Don't get in their way, don't counter their views, don't try to reason, just "shut up." They demand the freedom to say the most vile things, label me with the most insane labels, or, if all else fails, shout me down...but for heaven's sake, they want me to  just "shut up." The same goes for you when you express an opposing view to theirs.

Frankly, I was not all that nice in my response to her--dare I say it--hateful accusatory speech. I simply said, "That's your opinion. I could not care less if you agree with me." To which she responded, "Your god must be so proud."

Well, let me add just one observation. Young lady, her photo indicates some youthfulness, I do not answer to you! Furthermore, you do not answer to me. You will one day stand before the true God of the universe and answer for your statements, your actions, and your disbelief. I am not responsible for your acceptance or rejection of the truth. I am only responsible for my own. I'm sure there will be much for which I'll have to answer. But there is one major difference! My sins are hidden by the blood of Jesus who loves me even when I'm mistaken or drastically in error. I only answer to God, my Savior. Can you say the same?

Since I answer only to God, I intend to speak my piece, to express my views, to say what I think...and if you don't like it...well, "Tish Tish!"