Thursday, April 26th, 2018

You are wrong: History’s not history, yet

Posted on March 10, 2014 in Perspectives
By Thaddeus Moriarty

Ellen Spahn | THE FREE PRESS

I’m Thaddeus Moriarty, and you are wrong. Why?

Because you’re not studying history. You’re here at USM studying business, or physical therapy, or nutrition, or underwater basket-weaving — but you’re not studying history. And why not? It’s common knowledge that history majors and professors are the most clever, interesting and beautiful people in academia. Seriously, just go ask any history professor. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Everyone knows the adage: “those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it.” Well, it’s not untrue, but it is a little misleading. History is always repeating itself, like a record, baby. It has nothing to do with learning it or not (although, you’re wrong because you don’t), but rather because the world simply goes through cycles that can be easily observed. The recorded centuries can be studied and boiled down to an interconnected series of events that shape the future so they happen all over again. Think The Butterfly Effect, only less Ashton Kutcher-y and more Allan Whitmore-y.

Alright, alright. I know what you’re thinking. This study of history doesn’t sound very glamorous, does it? It’s a lot of dates and names and memorization of things that are very, very dead, right? Wrong again. History is very much alive, and it gives us insight into the present and the future in ways that are easily taken for granted. Just think about how far we’ve come to get to where we are today! If you went back to the earliest days of the United States and, stepping out of your Thaddecorp© Time-o-Matic, showed George Washington a picture of Barack Obama on your iPhone, he would be astounded that his fledgling America had progressed to such a point where an African American could be president. And then burn you at the stake for witchcraft. (No refunds, sorry.)

I bring all this up not only to glorify the bastion of knowledge that is the USM History Department or the sexnuggets that are its students, but also to bring attention to something that is less whimsical than my usual topics — the current violence in the Ukraine. What began in November 2013 as a series of political protests against a pro-Moscow leader has exploded into a staring contest between Russia and the United States and — guess what? We’ve done all this before.

Boom: history.

Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, was a member of the KGB (the Russian Secret Service), during the days of the USSR and, in politics, has always been a hard-liner for both restoring and protecting the power, glory and independent sovereignty of his country. He has a proud history of criticizing countries like the United States for trying to force “Western” policy on Russia. Thus, when President Obama released a (rather patronizing) statement condemning Russia’s foreseeable involvement in the half-Russian, once-Soviet-state Ukraine, Putin was understandably miffed. It was kind of similar to telling your girlfriend or boyfriend “Don’t you dare argue with me!” and no dessert for a month if they do. Let me know how that goes.

Now we have Putin sending troops into Ukraine to place the ousted pro-Russia leader back in office under the guise of national security (Operation Ukraini Freedom, perhaps?) while ignoring further American allowance-taking threats, and countries from Europe and elsewhere taking one side or the other. It’s managing to condense into a whole lot of glaring across-the-table over a country that is as divided as everyone else. Sound familiar? Your daddy called it “the Cold War.” Look it up.

That’s my point about history. Things that are happening right now in the Ukraine can be traced back to things that Putin said in his Munich speech in 2007, and before that to the Western world’s involvement in the Soviet collapse of 1991, and before that to the Berlin Wall in 1961, and before even that to the fall of the Third Reich in 1945, and so on and so forth. Whether or not this conflict in Europe will lead to World War III is yet to be seen, but the dots of how we got to this point are there. They just have to be connected. That’s why you should study history: to connect those dots. Once you do, you’ll find yourself learning more than just where we came from, or where we might be going. You’ll also learn about yourself, and your today.

Still convinced you shouldn’t take a history course?

Well, you are wrong.

Thaddeus Moriarty is senior history major and he is right.

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