If we don’t know our history, we are destined to repeat it – a much needed reprise

I read this week from an UPI article that 60% of millennials and Gen-Zers are unaware that 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust by the Nazis in World War II. I use the word “exterminated” as that is what the Nazis did by gassing Jews after they rounded them up. If the brashness of this statement offends – I apologize for the needed candor. It is meant to wake people up.

But, the Nazi genocide of Jews is among too many persecutions around the world and over time. The United States has had three persecutions of groups of people, two of which leading to many deaths. We should never forget these sad parts of our history or white-wash (word intentionally chosen) them away.

– European settlers of the US over time seized land from, killed many and moved Native Americans over the course of three centuries. Even today, Native Americans have to go out of their way to protect the rights granted when they were forced to move or areas dear to them were protected by law. It seems the pursuit of fossil fuel acquisition and transport usurps rights.

– Slavery of blacks in the US is well known and was the principal reason the Civil War was fought. Even the reason for the war was white-washed and taught as a battle for states’ rights in too many class rooms. This propaganda was to get poor whites to fight the battles of landowners to allow their richer neighbors to keep slaves. Slaves were treated and abused as property. Yet, after the reconstruction period was legislated away years later, an ugly era of Jim Crow laws began to suppress blacks and make/ keep them as second class citizens. I encourage you to read “To Kill a Mockingbird” or listen to Billie Holiday sing “Strange Fruit” about black bodies swinging in the trees regarding this hateful period.

– To protect them (and other Americans, as a stated reason), FDR ordered the encampment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. These folks and their families were taken from their jobs and homes and imprisoned in camps during the war. They were not killed, although maybe some were while trying to escape, yet their rights were taken away.

Outside of North America, USSR premier Josef Stalin rounded up and killed far more people as enemies of the state than Adolph Hitler ever did. Yet, it did not get the notoriety of Hitler’s heinous crimes of the holocaust. In the 1990s, Radovan Karadzic and the Bosnian Serb military commander, General Ratko Mladic, were among those indicted for genocide and other crimes against humanity as they captured and killed about 8,000 Bosniaks.

In 1994, a planned campaign of mass murder in Rwanda occurred over the course of some 100 days. The genocide was conceived by extremist elements of Rwanda’s majority Hutu population who planned to kill the minority Tutsi population and anyone who opposed those genocidal intentions.

More recently, in Iraq the Sunnis felt left out of the largely Shia governing body after Saddam Hussein was toppled. They made the mistake of inviting in Daesh to help them. Daesh conducted genocide against all who stood against them, with beheadings and terror, until they were contained.

Sadly, there is so much more. Often the conquering power or the group in power will suppress people in their own lands. The leaders of the Mongols, Romans, Spaniards, Greeks, Brits, Syrians, North Koreans, Russians, Chinese, etc. have put down dissidents or dissident groups or made them disappear. There is an old saying – winners write the history – so, written history may be kinder than oral history to the strong-arming

These sad events involve two themes – power and fear. The first theme is obvious. The second is an age old practice. Tell people to fear another group, tell them these groups are the reason for your disenfranchisement and the people will do what you tell them.

How do we avoid this? So-called leaders who tell us whom to fear, should be questioned. This is especially true if the voice is not one of reason or veracity. Fear is a lever to divide and conquer – we must guard against its wielders.

26 thoughts on “If we don’t know our history, we are destined to repeat it – a much needed reprise

  1. Very well said, my friend. This one needs to be posted at least once a year and needs to be seen by many. We humans have failed to learn so many lessons throughout history, and today there are those who wish to simply write these events out of the history books, to pretend they never happened. As your title suggests, if we do that, if we forget, then we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes again.

  2. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    Keith’s words today are so true, so important, they should be heard by every person in this country, young and old alike. Please take a few minutes to read his words, to contemplate them in this period when some are trying to literally bury the history of this nation. Thank you, Keith.

      • Well, at least the several followers from Great Britain to Australia to Canada to Pakistan to India to Lichtenstein are seeing it. They know America’s (and probably other country’s) faults better than most Americans. Keith

  3. Definitely, EVERY country and inhabitant has to take this to heart. We cannot point with our fingers towards another country while we overlook that we are not better. We should rather learn from the history of every country to never repeat what was already proved as “not so good”.

    • Erika, well said. This white-washing is a tool to allow future discrimination. It is unproductive and irresponsible to ignore the ugly truths. When we only focus on the Nazi holicaust toward Jews, we lose sight of a rise in anti-semitism that was occurring in the UK and US. The KKK was alive and well in the 1930s in the US. Keith

      • I couldn’t agree more, Keith. And I witnessed it on myself when we moved to Liechtenstein. Someone from another country was not easily accepted. I was bullied only because of that although, I looked the same and even spoke the same language. This changed a lot meanwhile but still, racism and xenophobia still exists.

      • Erika, it is that fear of the other. I have seen division over stupid things. I lived in a neighborhood that had a North and South designation on the development. I once heard one person in the South division define those in the North division as them as if they were different. I actually said something like “Really. They are different as they have a different entrance? Keith

      • This is so ridiculous. But reminded me again of our country. Even this small country is divided in two sections “Unterland” and “Oberland” (kind of like upper country and lower country). The one has 5 municipalities and the other on 6. There were times (not to long ago) when people could not understand when someone moved from the one part to the other. Remember, this country only has 38’000 inhabitants. Meanwhile this is not taken that serious anymore but there are still jokes going between the two parts.

      • Erika, I am reminded of the popular song “One Tin Soldier” about the mountain people who had a buried treasure that the valley people were envious of. Keith

  4. Thanks Keith! I am not surprised, because here in Germany in particular, the innocent Jewish population is publicly commemorated. However, any closer and further research is repressively prevented. We had the Flossenbürg concentration and extermination camp here (20 km away). It had several hundred so-called sub-camps. Certain clues would be found in the archives of the communities. Therefore these must not be sighted. The disappearance of thousands of forced laborers (prisoners of war from the USSR and other communist states who never came home) is kept secret. Elderly people told me that there is an undiscovered mass grave every 10 square kilometers in this region. xx Michael

    • Michael, you are most welcome. Your added comment is alarming, but I am sure there are many things like this which remain hidden. I fear when the last person who knows the past is buried, the story dies with it. Keith

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