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Watchmen on the walls

By Dr. Robert Owens
web posted July 19, 2010

As a professor of history I can understand why most people dismiss history as boring.  It is usually presented as a static jumble of dates, names and events that must be memorized, regurgitated and with luck forgotten.  I have often marveled at the ability of students who can tell me how many points their favorite athlete scored in a mid-season game ten years ago or how many horsepower their favorite driver had under the hood five seasons back can't seem to remember the relationship or the difference between the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution.

Instead of this rigid collection of repetitious minutia, history is a dynamic flow of reality that changes every day.  Not only is there more of it every day, thus changed by addition, it is also open to new interpretation and comprehension every day, thus changing by multiplication and division.

In Patrick J. Buchanan's Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War the author presents the case that the Second World War was not precipitated by Germany's attack upon Poland it was instead precipitated by the worthless guarantee given by Britain and France to an authoritarian Poland, which prevented it from avoiding war by returning the German city of Danzig to Germany.  A move even Neville Chamberlain thought would be fair.  Then when what would have been the fourth partition of Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union did occur it is forgotten by all that it was France and Britain that declared war on Germany not the reverse.  No matter whether you agree or disagree with this presentation of the same facts presented in opposite order as in American History classes or not, anyone would admit at least it made you think.

Rush Limbaugh catapulted from being a self-admitted multiple failure to being the greatest broadcaster in the history of radio by doing nothing more than as he often repeats, "What comes naturally."  He says what so many others think. He aptly sums up the collective observations of millions and acts as a prism for the sensibilities of the here-to-for silent majority.  Performing his host duties 99.8% perfectly, Rush gives voice to the common sense and inherent belief that if you work hard and play by the rules you should prosper.  He points out the hypocrisy of leaders leading people where they don't want to go and the frustration of followers who know they've been had but don't know how to out organize the organizers.

Glenn Beck, after decades in the trenches, shot like a meteor to the top by realizing his position wasn't just to have fun it could instead really mean something at a pivotal time in history.  The morning zoo became the people's think tank as we watched Glenn learn the difference between Socialism, Communism and National Socialism.  We cheered as he kept his sense of humor while holding aloft the torch of individual freedom in a world swirling down the collectivist drain.  His television show has transformed the afternoon blah hour into the University of Beck as he and his chalk boards do what all of the teachers and professors have failed to do: make the average American interested in History.  Glenn's greatest service may turn out to be his impartation of the knowledge that "You are not alone," which sparked the 9-12 movement and launched the tea parties.  Or it might yet be that an informed electorate will not go quietly into that dark night.

History is often the chosen discipline of those who seek order in a world they find confusing.  A system or frame upon which to place the events of time avoiding the yawning maw of random oblivion.  A way to bring meaning and importance not only to the Battle of Waterloo but to our own personal Waterloos, which may be a symbol of defeat but is also the symbol of victory still celebrated as a holiday marking liberation by everyone but the French.

As a Professor of history I've studied, taught and written for years hoping to make some contribution to the historical literacy of my generation.  I've long believed it's the lack of a historical perspective that's doomed our generation to walk through the looking-glass into a wonderland where none dare call it treason to subvert individual liberty in the name of collective security.  Now I have found the lens which brings the fog of current events into the focus of historical understanding.  The key which unlocks the meaning of seemingly random events uncovering a pattern discernable and comprehensible to all who will follow the chain of events to their logical conclusion.

Our overly centralized nationalist government, though limited at its inception, has grown through the accretion of time and tradition ultimately becoming that which it was never meant to be: a colossus standing with its steel boot upon the throat of freedom. ESR

Dr. Robert Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College and History for the American Public University System. © 2010 Robert R. Owens dr.owens@comcast.net






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