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Absence of Historical Sense in America

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Essay title: Absence of Historical Sense in America

Absence of Historical Sense in America

American culture focuses on the future and ignores the past. We ask our youths, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The technology of today attempts to advance towards the future. The popular phrase “the future is now” embodies the future-centric attitude of America. George Santayana stated, “Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” While his words ring true, most Americans lack the basic knowledge of the past in order to be positive citizens of the world and good stewards of the earth.

Some argue that America has a strong historical awareness and this adds to America’s greatness in the world community. While American students study history as part of the curriculum of their public schooling, most citizens are unwilling or unable to think past the set of facts, as they are spoon-fed to them. Although America’s official history only extends a little more than 200 years into the past, as citizens of the world, Americans’ scope of history should extend much further than the year 1776. Often, the history that Americans do manage to glean from their education is misconstrued. Linda Hogan observes, “ For white Americans…Indians have come to represent spirit, heart, an earth-based way of living” (827). Americans fail to recognize the plight of the American Indians and the fact that they inhabited this land long before Europeans came to the New World.

Television talk show hosts often produce sketches in which the host quizzes common citizens on the street on facts of American history. The point of these sketches is the humor in the fact that most Americans do not know the simplest of historical facts. This lack of American historical knowledge is damaging when citizens are not knowledgeable in the civics of the country. Wallace Stegner states, ”I believe…one of our most damaging American traits is our contempt for all history (696). Many citizens do not posses the knowledge of how the American founding fathers formed the governing rules of the United States. When they are called on to serve in a civic capacity, they are unable to do so.

The lack of historical sense in American starts in the average home. While many cultures of the world have a strong grasp on their genealogical past, most Americans do not know the names of their great-grandparents. Many more citizens do not know the origins of their ancestors, nor do they know the derivation of their family name. Without the baseline of a family chronicle, it is impossible to have a grasp on one’s history.

America’s non-existent sense of history also has an effect on world occurrences. During 2003, the United States continued on its open-ended war on terrorism. The next target was the Iraqi regime led by Saddam Hussein. The United States attempted to build a world coalition through diplomacy to lend legitimacy and legality to its claims that leadership of Iraq required change through force. Many nations refused to join the American led coalition. The most notable of these countries was France. The American citizens lashed out at the French for their unwillingness to go to war. Reflective of the ignorance of the American public, jokes circulated on the Internet and on the airwaves of radio and television proclaiming the French to be poor militants. People boycotted all things French. Another piece of evidence of America’s short-term memory loss was the claim that the French were ungrateful for the freedom, which was replaced when the German Nazi occupiers were driven out by the Allied forces of World War II. If the American public had studied their history, they would recall the invaluable help of the French, in the form of Marquis de LaFayette, during the American Revolution. Further study would show the Americans’ denial of a French

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