M. Scott Eiland (eilandesq) wrote,
M. Scott Eiland

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Historical Illiteracy

Ford has a commercial out that uses historical tax cuts as background for talking about their deals on car financing. Unfortunately, the first line of the commercial hit me like the sound of fingernails scratching down a blackboard, amplified to the volume of an air raid siren: "In 1921, Calvin Coolidge signed a tax cut--"


Two different men served as President of the United States during 1921. Woodrow Wilson finished off his second term in 1921: he was an invalid due to a stroke he suffered in late 1919. On March 4th, Warren Harding was sworn into office, where he remained until dying suddenly on August 2, 1923 from a stroke--his Vice President, Calvin Coolidge, assumed the Presidency at that time and was re-elected in 1924 in his own right.

Now, I know it would be nice to pretend Warren Harding never existed: he was probably the worst president in history, with only a few other candidates for the position (Grant, Nixon, and one or two others depending on your political sensibilities). Republicans would certainly like to forget he ever existed, and Democrats probably would just as soon downplay the fact that their 1920 ticket (James Cox/FDR) got trounced by such a non-entity. However, facts are facts. Harding was President in 1921, Coolidge was Vice-President and didn't sign a damned thing except maybe an occasional check at lunch. Someone had to approve this commercial--dozens of people must have heard the text of it before it went on the air. Didn't *one* of them learn enough in U.S. History in high school to pause and go "Hmmm. That doesn't sound quite right." Doesn't Ford employ people to, you know, make sure the facts they use in putting a commercial together are actually. . .FACTS?

This may seem like a silly, trivial thing to go on a rant about, but I see it as a symptom. Listening to the rhetoric of those from the antiwar movement has led me to believe that most of them used their history textbooks to even out the weight distribution for the controlled substances they were carrying around in their backpacks and smoking during recess. If people don't know or understand history, of course they're not going to have a clue about what's going on in the world. Most of the people living in South Korea now weren't alive when the North Korean Army came pouring over the 38th Parallel like an evil tide, and the youngsters are thinking maybe that goofy looking guy in the military uniform really doesn't want to loot their nation and drag them into the hellish existence that is life north of the DMZ. It would be really nice if some of them would bother to listen to their parents and grandparents about just how bad things were fifty years ago, and why their very lives depend on treating those crazy bastards to the north with the appropriate levels of attention and righteous anger.

Santayana warned us that those of us who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it. From what I'm seeing, that's a big problem in the world today, and I sure as hell don't want a repeat performance of the history that people seem to be most blissfully ignorant of lately.

Oh well, back to writing.
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