(By CP Cartoonist Rod Anderson)
“Most people,” opined Secretary of State John Kerry recently, prefer to chunk the heritage of the past enshrined in 2,000-year old documents (like the Bible).
In a speech to the American embassy staff in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Kerry seemed to be fretting about the “different crosscurrents of modernity” stirring across Africa. In his defense, there are many spiritual and cultural “crosscurrents” that do indeed create a deadly tempest. But Kerry’s remarks can too easily be generalized to encompass the age-old legacies that make freedom possible everywhere.
A characteristic of our age is disregard or even disdain for history. Deconstructionist academics, infused with nihilism at worst and existentialism at best have trained generations to see history as either meaningless or unimportant. For others, it is a past easily rewritten and squeezed into the profile of modern times.
“Life must be lived forward, but can only be understood backwards,” said Danish theologian-philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. Thus we need leaders with long-range focus who can link the future with the past and present. These must be exceptional men and women who can distinguish the historically trivial and harmful from the principles that are the very foundations of civilization.
Winston Churchill was an exceptional leader partly because he understood the link between the past and the present for the sake of the future.
A century before Churchill’s generation, Voltaire, in France declared that “the history of the great events of the world is little more than the history of crime.” “Crimes, follies, and misfortunes,” is the way Oliver Goldsmith saw it. Carlyle saw history as a mere “distillation of rumor. None, however, was as blunt as Henry Ford, when he said, “History is bunk.”
Churchill, though, was a historian. He was not content with history as nothing more than an assemblage of dates, places, and names.
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