Williamson urges humility about history

Kevin Williamson of National Review Online explores our collective ignorance about important pieces of history.

We keep wanting history to be over. That is especially true of racial history in the United States, which is sometimes treated as though it ended in 1964. But history is never really over, never really through with us. Not that history, and maybe not any history. …

… I do not believe that only those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it. Plenty of people who study history are entirely capable of making the same mistakes as their ancestors, and worse ones, too. Practical application is not the first, best, or only reason to study history and try to learn something from it — which is not exactly the same as learning something about it — but give that fair consideration, too. Thanksgiving may put us in a historical mood, and different people tell different stories about the founding of this country and what came next. They do not always have the best or most honest reasons for preferring one version of that story to another. But each of us, possessed of the knowledge of his own nearly boundless ignorance (how many things do you really know about?), ought to have a little modesty and a little humility, enough to hope that we might see a little light in some of those other versions of the story, and that we might expand the circle of light outward a little, pushing back the darkness as best we can.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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