As a society, we don’t much like to cry, but we love to rage and so we’re drawn away from tragedy and into conspiracy.
Tragedy is messy and uncomfortable. The only brief moment when we gave a damn about the thousand immigrants who drowned in the Mediterranean every month was when a child washed up on a beach. We looked away. You did and I did.
But conspiracy is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Elvis, John Kennedy, and Bigfoot are cryogenically frozen in an underground bunker. Princess Diana was assassinated and our government blew up the World Trade Center. You get my drift. We can come close to blows in a saloon over such stuff, but no harm done.
That was then and now is now
Then was before Zuckerberg was even born and now is since he saddled and bridled close to three billion active monthly users. Facebook is not all sharing kitten and puppy pictures with grandma. The gossip we used to indulge in over the back fence now has more eyes and ears than entire continents. It fascinates me that Zuck claims not to be a publisher (with all the responsibilities that might entail) while he hangs fake news and alternative facts around the necks of The New York Times and Washington Post. He simply does not give a shit and there is no one to oppose him.
In 2016 and 2018 Facebook was a major foreign weapon working against our elections and the Zuck doesn’t give jack-fuck about the November presidential contest. But he’s 36 years-old and has no knowledge of history—a child in the electoral woodshed, playing with matches.
How is it possible to keep facts and alternative facts in your head at the same time? A fact is a concept whose truth can be proven. The Holocaust and the American landing on the moon are facts. They can (and have) each been proven and yet the denial of both is on the rise.
It’s not facts that are in question, it’s our knowledge of history
Now I’ve lived in all or parts of ten decades. That makes me old, but not necessarily smart—the two are not always linked. But I was alive when FDR was president, Hitler was ranting in Germany, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan were killing our kids and the World Trade Center came down. I know the Holocaust happened because I watched Warner Brothers Pathe News films of the liberation of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen at the Teatro del Lago movie theater in Wilmette, Illinois with my family. We left the theater in stunned silence. I recall exactly where I was when Pearl Harbor was attacked, Kennedy was Killed and in whose home I watched the moon landing.
History is full of joy and tears, but we prefer Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
We have a president who tweets international diplomacy, hires and fires cabinet members by social media and shapes world events by watching right-wing news sources. He’s lied to us close to 20,000 times in three years and may well be re-elected. I’ve lived under fourteen presidents, from FDR to Trump and never have I known one to revel in his lies and enflame the worst racial tendencies of America as has Trump.
So I make the case that history is not some boring list of dates and statistics as too often taught in our schools, but a fascinating tool with which to judge our times. Without it we are defenseless in the face of false accusation. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda made the interesting comment that "Whoever can conquer the street will one day conquer the state, for every form of power politics and any dictatorship-run state has its roots in the street."
Our current president is working on that racist theme, calling upon thugs with guns to confront thugs with guns. His Proud Boys are not unlike Hitler’s Brownshirts. He speaks of being ‘owed’ a third term and armed conflict should he lose the upcoming election. I’m tired of those who say the extremes of this president cannot be compared to Germany in 1933. They are comparable on many points of intersection. We Americans do not hate one another and yet we are being encouraged to hate with every Trump Rally. But you cannot know that if you do not know history.
Even now, as the living witnesses die off, there are those who deny the Holocaust and increasing numbers who believe the denial.
Don’t cry now, you precious little souls. Here’s a cookie, now wipe away those tears.