Can you also today observe the tendency to eradicate the past? What effect do you think has it?Can you also today observe the tendency to eradicate the past? What effect do you think has it?

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hi1954 | Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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I'm not sure about "eradicating the past," but there are people who ignore it (at their own peril) and those who attempt to change the past, at least in the minds of those in the present.  It seems as if rewriting history is almost a competitive sport these days.  Some of this is actually good-  we look for the truth that might have been hidden in the annals of the victorious side in wars, military and cultural.  But there is definitely a tendency to spin things the way we want, and this can be dangerous.  I can't tell how many times I've heard about how the WW II concentration/work/death camps weren't "real," or were "exaggerated," despite all the evidence, including technical engineering reports on the camps detailing how many square inches per prisoner, how many calories per day, how the "hospitals" worked, capacity of the crematoria and how many persons per day died, etc. The SS kept exact records through the years 1933-1945, including the approximately five million dollars they made off the camps, and their own evidence proves the truth.  Eradicating this knowledge completely would only make it easier to do again.

This sort of thing is not limited to Nazis.  The neo-conservative movement constantly tries to rewrite history, as do some "authorities" on the extreme left.  I have a textbook used today by the Naval Academy at Annapolis in which the author claims that the Clinton administration did nothing about terrorism, and that the Reagan and Bush (senior) administrations committed immense resources to combating terrorism, and certainly never sold Hamas or any such organizations weapons in return for hostages.  Both statements are provably false from numerous sources inside the government itself, but there you go.  The author of that book may have actually believed what he wrote, but the idea that a textbook in one of our military academies is so incorrect is frightening.  The US government has in Montgomery, Alabama a museum of the Civil War in which many facts including the causes of the war and the aftermath are terribly distorted (such as the idea that the majority of what were called "carpetbaggers" were actually a type of proto-Peace Corps, sent to rebuild the South).  This isn't new, and those who can have always tried to distort history for their own ends.  Luckily for us today, usually there are multiple accounts which can be balanced against one another to discover the probable truth.  But governments will continue to distort facts for their own purposes, as will politicians, all large power groups and academics out to make a name for themselves.

Looking carefully at accounts of the past and searching for the truth is a fine idea, but there are things to watch out for.  One is that people do sometimes lie, or at least twist things to make themselves or their "heroes" look good.  Complicating this is the fact that people have done that all through history, not just in the last 30 years or so.  The Wright brothers were not the first to successfully fly a heavier-than-air craft, Marconi did not invent the radio, and Rome did not fall just because the people liked to fool around.  But we need to be sure that "corrected" history is actually corrected, not just re-spun.

This could have a positive impact on society, by enshrining the truth as central to our lives.  Unfortunately, the opposite can easily occur, and we can be fooled yet again.

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