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Archive for Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ignorance of history alarming

February 16, 2012

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There are only two possible explanations for that photo.

One is intentional malice. That is the explanation favored by Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. That picture, he told The Associated Press, is “beyond the pale.”

The second explanation is ignorance, i.e., that when a troupe of U.S. Marines posed in Afghanistan with a flag bearing the logo — a double “s” in the shape of lightning bolts — of the Schutzstaffel, or SS, the military and police arm of the Nazi party, they had no idea what it was. Indeed, a spokeswoman at Camp Pendleton in California where the Marines are based says the men in the photo, which surfaced on the website of a Florida weapons company, thought the double “s” stood for “sniper scouts.” The spokeswoman says the Marines were unaware the flag symbolized the thugs and bully boys who, under Adolf Hitler’s command, burned down much of Jewish Europe during the Holocaust.

While Rabbi Hier may be right that this photo represents a knowing act of anti-Semitism, it seems more likely the second explanation is true and that what it actually represents is the fact most Americans don’t know their past from a hole in the ground. This is a perception quantified by research, including a 2000 study that found that most seniors at America’s top colleges — our best and brightest — could not answer basic questions about American history. The reason? In many schools, history is no longer a required course.

So for the second time in as many months, the Marines find themselves embroiled in controversy over embarrassing imagery. The first, of course, was that video of Marines urinating on the corpses of dead Taliban. It spoke to the dehumanizing nature of war.

This new image, however, speaks to the degradation of American memory.

As many as 60 million people worldwide died in the war to rid the world of that flag and all it represents. Over 400,000 of them were Americans. It is a pungent obscenity to see men who wear the same uniform and salute the same colors posing before a flag symbolizing those who slaughtered their countrymen.

In a sense, it would be easier if those Marines were indeed motivated by hatred because that, at least, you can get your arms around. You know what to do with it: cull the ranks, require sensitivity training, increase vigilance against extremism.

But what do we do if the culprit is simply the ignorance of the undereducated? That, after all, is larger than the Marines, indicts not just a few men posing in a hostile place far from home, but also the nation that sent them there. It indicts the facts-optional “truthiness” that often informs — that word is used advisedly — political debate. And it indicts the short-sightedness that led us to believe we could diminish our own history and pay no price for doing so.

Now the price stares out at us: American Marines posing with a Nazi flag.

In the photo they look young, these Marines, part of that coming generation that will write the next chapter of the American story. That should give us pause. That should worry us some. To truly comprehend tomorrow, you must first comprehend yesterday.

So how can you write the next chapter of a story you don’t even know?

Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald.

Comments

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 6 months ago

The original: "Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana

Variations:

"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

"Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes."

"Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it.

"Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors are destined to repeat them."

"Those who do not know history's mistakes are doomed to repeat them."

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beatrice 2 years, 6 months ago

I thought the variant was: "Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat the 7th grade."

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 6 months ago

Ignorance of history is very common on this forum, but ignorance of current events is also.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 6 months ago

Here is an example:

How many rockets were fired into Israel yesterday?

The correct answer is four.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 6 months ago

I should have researched before posting! That's not correct, there were five rockets.

List of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel, February 15, 2012

Palestinians fired five rockets at Israel. Two rockets exploded in the Sdot Negev Regional Council, two more fell in the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council, and a fifth fell in the Eshkol Regional Council. No injuries or damage were reported. In response, Israeli Air Force struck targets in the Gaza Strip.[18]

[18] IDF strikes targets in Gaza after rocket attacks, Jerusalem Post 16-02-2012 By JPOST.COM STAFF AND YAAKOV LAPPIN 02/16/2012 03:11 IAF locates targets in north, central Gaza Strip; IDF identifies direct hits, holds Hamas responsible for rocket attacks. By Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

The IDF struck targets in the Gaza Strip Wednesday night, after five rockets fired from the Strip pounded farming regions in southern Israel.

The Israel Air Force attacked "centers of terror activity in the northern and central Gaza Strip," the IDF Spokesman's Office announced in a statement, identifying direct hits.

"The IDF will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli citizens or IDF soldiers, and will continue to act against any terrorist activity against the State of Israel," the IDF said. "Hamas is a terrorist organization, and bears all responsibility."

Palestinian reports of the attack did not mention any casualties.

The IDF said Wednesday night's strikes were a response to rocket fire targeting southern communities in Israel bordering the Strip.

Two rockets exploded in the Sdot Negev Regional Council, two more fell in the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council, and a fifth fell in the Eshkol Regional Council.

No injuries or damage were reported in the attacks.

"We can't accept this drizzle of rockets," Yair Farjun, head of the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council said following the attacks. "We live in a bizarre reality" Farjun told The Jerusalem Post. "We switch from emergency and then back to routine. We've lived like this for many years."

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Getaroom 2 years, 6 months ago

“Sin is sweet in the beginning, but bitter in the end.” from the Talmud. And Ron, looking deeper into the history of the formation of the Jewish State is that the original "terrorists" of that region were the Israelis themselves and brought that brand of violence against the Palestinians, perhaps they were not all Jews, but perhaps they were? So is this not then that old "eye for an eye" rendition of Biblical times being played out over all these years? God told the jews that they were the chosen ones(leaving out all others), via the scriptures of yore. That is a darn handy scriptural one-upper to hang ones assumed superiority on and no one can prove it one way or the other. But you tell someone(or group) that is what GOD deemed to be true, now that is a regular shoe-in for those who chose blind faith scriptural reasoning over rational thought. So with God on their side, the previously oppressed become the great oppressors. Barbed wire, starvation, theft of personal property and land, suppression of religious beliefs. Sounds all too familiar eh? And on top of it all, add the warmongering beast of the USA and it's unquenchable thirst for oil and there you go and wondering why we are hated so much. Talk about ignorance of the highest order. It is all a nasty business to be sure, but obviously you have a vested interest to choose sides in the matter, given your heritage. I say get the fundamentalist Jews/Israelis out of the expanded occupied territories and stop building further settlements into Palestine. This battle over territory is a chosen reality that is found to be lived out, switching from emergency to routine. Ignorance is to be found wherever you look.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 6 months ago

I think the settlements were a bad idea in 1967 and the situation has not changed.

It is unfortunate that Jordan was cut of of 77% of Palestine. I wonder why that is almost always forgotten.

And the refugee camps? I wonder why no one seems to remember that not a single one is in Israel. They are all in the surrounding nations.

I really don't care who governs the Middle East, as long as freedom of religion is respected and visitors and/or pilgrims can visit the sites that they consider holy. But, that will be a long time in coming, it appears.

And by the way, my heritage is not Jewish.

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Bob Harvey 2 years, 6 months ago

How very true this story has become. For years we see and laugh at comedians on the street asking folks basic questions about the history of the United States. The ignorance is tragic. For those in the education field can you confirm that history in schools is now treated as an elective, as this article states?

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Linda Endicott 2 years, 6 months ago

This is pretty much the same argument some people in the south have been giving for keeping the Confederate flag around...

Do you agree with them, also?

Wouldn't you think that a bunch of Marines would be smart enough to know that some people might be offended by the symbol, whether that was what they intended or not?

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Kendall Simmons 2 years, 6 months ago

Not if they didn't know that particular symbol had any negative connotation to it. And that lack of awareness has absolutely nothing to do with being "smart".

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BorderRat 2 years, 6 months ago

In WWII didn't a US military unit from New Mexico have an insignia that was almost identical to the Swastika? Although the symbol had been utilized in Southwestern Native American culture for as long as they could recall, they changed the unit patch to a Phoenix or a Thunderbird. Just because the symbols were similar doesn't mean they stand for the same thing.

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kernal 2 years, 6 months ago

The Navajo and Hopi indian cultures used this symbol long before Hitler as have many other cultures throughout the ages. Hitler bastardized it.

I learned this from a child survivor of Dachau.

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jhawkinsf 2 years, 6 months ago

Perhaps they were unaware that the symbol of the double S was associated with the Nazis. Perhaps these young men should be given a pass. Perhaps we should just assume they didn't know their history. The question I have is this, the next time there is some anti-Black activity, something that can be explained by either ignorance of history or by downright racism, will Mr. Pitts be so quick to give them a pass? Will he also assume that racism played no part and that it is merely a case of ignorance of history?

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Mike Ford 2 years, 6 months ago

the king of twist misses again.....just like rightwngr omitting the part where dixiecrats left the Democrats in droves after civil rights legislation in the 1940's and 1960's and became born again gop advocates of bigotry just like the klansman I saw trolling on yahoo news last night from jasper, texas, where that poor man was dragged behind a truck in the mixed race article on yahoo news. math doesn't add up does it?

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Scaevola 2 years, 6 months ago

Hello there, we're totally alike! I love math too. Here's some math that I did today:

Member Name: its_just_math Member Since Sept. 21, 2011 Days as member = 148 Total posts = 1277 1277 total posts/ 148 days = 8.62 average posts per day! Super! Relevant posts = 0 0 Relevant posts out of 1277 total posts = 0% Relevancy

According to my formula, your posts are totally irrelevant. That means 100% of the time you post something, it is not helpful at all. Its tough to not even be relevant accidentally. Keep up the good work buddy.

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Scaevola 2 years, 6 months ago

Whoops! you responded with the wrong avatar its_just_math/FalseHopeNoChange, that was silly! you gotta keep'em straight, otherwise people will figure out that you're all the same Troll.

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Scaevola 2 years, 6 months ago

Whoops! You used the wrong avatar its_just_math/FalseHopeNoChange, that was silly! You gotta keep'em straight brother, otherwise people will start to think that you're all the same Troll.

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seriouscat 2 years, 6 months ago

I don't think "fuzzy math" means what you think it means.

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Flap Doodle 2 years, 6 months ago

The total failure of communism in Europe seems to have been forgotten by those that advocate a similar system for America.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 6 months ago

It's working just fine in North Korea, isn't it?

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beatrice 2 years, 6 months ago

Snap, you would have a point if people in positions of power in America were actually advocating for communism.

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jafs 2 years, 6 months ago

And/or if communism were actually practiced in Europe.

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Flap Doodle 2 years, 6 months ago

Ah, there's the standard apologist line. "We're bound to get communism right if we just keep trying. What' s the problem if a few tens of millions of people die in the process again?"

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Scaevola 2 years, 6 months ago

You must have been looking for an excuse to use the word "apologist". I'm glad you found a way to fit it in even though it doesn't fit in the context of this discussion.

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jafs 2 years, 6 months ago

Not at all what I said.

Europe's experiments are much more socialist than communist.

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Kendall Simmons 2 years, 6 months ago

I agree...in part :-)

I definitely agree with your "rational ignorance" because there is sooooooo much history...and so little relevance of almost all of it to our own lives...that we obviously can't remember everything...and why on earth should we remember it all?

However, I disagree with your "People like Pitts want to substitute what HE values for what others value because he disdains what they value" stuff.

Why? Because I think that, in this case, you impugn a motive to him that I don't believe exists.

And why do I believe that? Because, being an old fart myself, I'm convinced that 55-year-old Leonard Pitts simply "didn't do the math" :-)

It's like the old "when I was your age, I walked through snow up to my waist" routine where the adult spouting it simply has forgotten that he was 3 feet shorter back then!

The fact is that these Marines are not only 35 years give-or-take further from WWII than Pitts is but that there has also been an additional 30 years of important history since he was the age of these Marines. After all...when we're talking the SS, we're talking about 70 years ago!!

To be honest, I believe that, if Leonard Pitts had actually thought about it, he'd have realized that it was these Marines' GREAT-grandparents who were alive and aware during WWI. And realized that his expectation that today's young Marines would remember stuff from their great-grandparents' day? Realized that it was a silly expectation. And we are all full of silly expectations :-)

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rockchalker52 2 years, 6 months ago

"Could care less if..." Is that on the IQ test?

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George Lippencott 2 years, 6 months ago

Well I went out and looked at it. The flag has a symbol closely related to the insignia used by the German SS used 55 plus years ago – the insignia that millions of people died to discredit. That said just who gets to judge the Marines intent?? Clearly they are not part of the SS and I doubt deeply they would agree with what the SS stood for. In fact does it now mean that any insignia ever used by anybody we now consider evil can never be used again for any purpose??

What is the real here??

  1. Make money for media?
  2. Further denigrate those fighting for their country
  3. Improve religious and racial harmony?
  4. Other??

Now I do agree with the author that we are very ignorant of our history and worse revisionist history is crowding out true historians. But I am not sure that is what a foot here is.

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jafs 2 years, 6 months ago

He probably got tired of being told he wasn't "moderate".

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