Setting the Record Straight

June 17, 2008

Ignorant America Goes to the Polls

Is Our Past To Be Our Prologue Again?

          An increasingly ignorant America (well, maybe half of Americans if we’re lucky, or unlucky) will go to the polls Nov. 8 to choose its next presi-dent. As we are learning with the current gas crisis and as we appear to be learning too late from the foolish Iraq invasion, history and its mistakes are repeated because we are ignorant.
          Our ignorance keeps getting us into trouble that easily could have been avoided. As a small example, although this year’s floods in the Mid-west are unusually extreme, they have occurred every year for decades and we have heard or read the same heart-rending stories every year right on schedule. No one seems to learn that rivers do flood.
         The mantra of this site is the quote from the American philosopher of 100 years ago, George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” That is particularly a problem when you have an electorate that is ignorant of the past, much less unable to remember it.
          With all of the information at our fingertips these days, with access to minute-by-minute news from around the world, why do we fail to pay at-tention to what happened in the past and end up repeating its mistakes?
          The current gas crisis, which is driving up inflation and deepening a recession, twin ills afflicting millions, could easily have been avoided by paying attention to what happened in the 1970s. Up until that decade, ex-cept for interruptions by a couple of world wars, the price of fuel had re-mained constant since the stuff was first pulled from the ground.
          The crisis drove prices skyward, led to a shortage of gas and prompted our first serious consideration of alternative fuel sources. Pro-grams were put in place to conserve fuel. Congress imposed a 55-mile-per-hour national speed limit still in place today (although in a somewhat loosened form. The limit was imposed because 50 mph was determined to be the most fuel-efficient speed for a car to travel (It was set at 55 to satisfy the pleas of truckers).
          As Santayana had warned, in this instanceAmericans began to forget about the oil crisis of the 70s and began buying bigger and bigger cars, with pickup trucks becoming the first fad and then sports utility vehicles, all of them gas-guzzlers with a design and designation that freed automakers from fleet-average mileage requirements. The automakers fought against increased mileage requirements as they changed small-car production lines over to producing more-profitable pickups and SUVs. Foreign automakers also produced the gas guzzler, but never abandoned their fuel-efficient lines.
          As the American time machine groaned on through the 90s and the turn of the century, we became complacent and all the concerns about conserving fuel, finding alternative sources, etc., became lost in the minds of the public.
          Look as us now—right back where we were in the 1970. Auto- makers, American ones almost on their mismanagement death bed, are scrambling to get back to small cars and we are looking once again at the long-forgotten issue of alternative fuel sources. Luckily, we got a bit of a head start on those alternatives, not because of high fuel prices, but be-cause environmental concerns.
          In Vietnam, we learned our military’s reliance on superior weapons, particularly those that can be fired at an unseen enemy, were not be useful in a ground war against an enemy using guerrilla tactics. Ten years later we remembered that lesson and limited our brief war to drive Iraq out of Kuwait to air strikes. Taking over the country would have involved us in a ground war we learned from Vietnam we could not win.
          Then along came George W. Bush, playing the ever-faithful Mortimer Snerd to Dick Cheney’s Edgar Bergen, apparently deciding his father’s ad-ministration was wrong and he would correct it. We are now repeating the Vietnam mistake and are mired in a conflict that likely will have the same ignominious end.
          Who knows what a still-ignorant American public will allow our next president to blunder into. Fortunately, although the primaries may not have given us the best people for the job, they have given us two candidates who will return intelligence to the White House. The question remains, will either of them remember the past and avoid repeating American mistakes?





  1. I agree. I am perplexed. It reminds me of the colloquialism, “dont cut off your nose to spite your face”. Crazy sad.

    Comment by Paulette — June 17, 2008 @ 2:14 pm | Reply

  2. Ignorance can be cured. I would only say that the “teachers” are also guilty of much ignorance and hopefully have learned something too.

    Comment by Alfie — June 20, 2008 @ 10:39 am | Reply

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