The title of this piece, a quote from George Santayana – a Spanish American philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist, is a familiar refrain to all. Most of us have heard this many times throughout our lives. So much so, that I think many of us choose to ignore it as a tired and hackneyed phrase seemingly irrelevant in our modern and “enlightened” state of mind. Yet, this is one of those ‘old saws’ that continues to cut deeply into our collective bodies when we do fail to remember the lessons of the past. We need no more evidence than both our current economic condition and our political climate that we are in dire need of this lesson.
Yes, in fact we have all seen this before – many times – throughout our history. Some of it we should know because we supposedly were taught it in school. Some of it we don’t know because we were not taught it. As we approached the mid-point of the last century we had a world conflagration and we had a good President that rightly knew he could not get our great nation united to fight yet another war unless we all recognized the exceptional nature of America and its people. So with the best, temporary, intention we rewrote our history – American Exceptional-ism was born and our nation’s youth gained the will to enter World War II. Like most of FDR’s temporary government measures, this one too became permanent and we still experience both its consequence and benefit today. One thing we should regret is an accurate view of our great history has been lost – along with the many lessons we should have learned.
If you would like to read some of the historical views of America’s history that were prevalent prior to 1935, Google Books has some reproduced on line. They are a very interesting read with a significantly different and in come cases contemporaneous perspective as to who we believed our selves to be, what we were aspiring to become and where we honestly were at key points in our own evolution. Here are some sources I recommend, with links on Google Books:
- The History of the United States of America by Henry William Elson: 1904
- The History of the United States of America by Henry Adams: 1889
- The History of the United States of America by Rev Charles Goodrich: 1823
- The History of the United States of America (an 8 volume set) by James Ford Rhodes completed in 1920
Having spent a lot of time reading this history as I was preparing to write, “The History and Evolution of Health Care in America,” I came quickly to realize that people back in the day really did know the key to prosperity and happiness! Although long under siege by both President Roosevelt – who initially stimulated the growth of Unions to foster job creation and later reconsidered his actions – and then President Truman in an attempt to reign in the Unions growing power, even the venerable Unions understood on which side their bread was buttered.
“When anybody preaches dis-unity – tries to pit one of us against the other through class warfare – race hatred or religious intolerance – you know that person seeks to rob us of our freedom and destroy our very lives!
— And We Know What to do About Him! —
The previous quote takes on a whole new relevance when you realize it was stated in a propaganda cartoon in 1948. Forwarded to me by Pam M., one of my oldest friends, the following cartoon is not only entertaining, it is quite prescient. I hope you enjoy, “Make Mine Freedom”
Thanks Pam for this entertaining reminder of George Santayana’s very important life lesson! I think it reinforces our collective need to be Mugwumps!
As always I look forward to your comments below.