Don't Know Much About History

04/13/2017 11:30 am ET

On April 14, 1960 singer-songwriter Sam Cooke released “Don’t Know Much About History” and it is probably more appropriate now than it was then. Donald Trump was 13 at that point and it is probably likely that he not only listened to that song on his transistor radio(tuned into 77 AM, WABC) but that he took it literally.

Donald Trump was an unconventional candidate and is an unconventional President. Read into that what you may, but unconventionality does not have to be a negative thing, assuming that you have the wherewithal to employ a knowledge base that allows you to bolster and compliment your rejection of conventionality. But there is a HUGE disconnect when being unconventional is accompanied by a lack of knowledge and in the case of being leader of the free world possessed of an astounding incomprehension of historical perspective.

The philosopher George Santanyana is famous for warning that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Well what about those who never even knew the past? Are they automatically drawn to create it? It seems as though Trump has been sleepwalking through his first 70 years. His lack of perspective or comprehension of basic history is an astounding indictment of his academic accomplishments, including a degree from the University of Pennsylvania. I am not one who snobbishly adheres to the notion that academic credentials are necessary to have a grasp of worldy events. However, it is astonishing to me that one who has been afforded the luxury of an Ivy League education would forego the opportunity to avail themselves of the learning opportunities that come along with the privilege.

That Trump is just now being forced to take a crash course on world events while he simultaneously wrestles with potentially devastating decisions that impact the world and its inhabitants is scary enough. That he is doing so while purging the institutional perspectives and knowledge base that resides in the governmental superstructure is suicidal. But maybe there is still hope in the swamp.

During this past week it now appears as though he is bowing to the inevitable pull of an existing governmental establishment that actually can counteract his penchant for gut instincts and irrational compulsion. That such a course of action will continue to pull him 180 degrees from the populist pandering that substituted for a policy platform in his campaign is to some degree slim consolation to those who have watched his ascendancy with horror. That at least a portion of the electorate who voted for him will one day wake up to the horror of a candidate who has been coopted by the very power structure he railed against will only be mildly satisfying to those of us who actually believe that the system can do positive things.

We have a President who is seeing basic things for the first time, and the most basic thing he is seeing is that the world is a complex organism with complicated moving parts that require delicate fine tuning and seemingly counterintuitive logic at times. Who would have thought health care could be so complicated? Who would have thought that International affairs and diplomacy could be so difficult? Who would have thought that economic policy is about something more than just adding and subtracting?

It is reported that Chinese President Xi lectured Trump on Chinese history and it was likely the most intense lecture he has ever attended. One can only imagine if the Donald were asked to give a lecture on American history, as brief as it is, what he would have offered. I shutter to think but find it such an intriguing exercise that I simply cannot at least attempt to take a stab at what he might say.

Well, you see, America was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492. When he landed he encountered Indians, savages who had somehow arrived here before he did, but he still discovered America because after all they were savages. White people came to the country to build a capitalist utopia. They started chasing the Indians off the continent because they did not see the value of work, or even wearing clothes and would rather hunt with bows and arrows rather than guns. Like I said they were savages and not very smart, they didn’t get it.

As we built the country after we broke away from England because they had a king who was very nasty to the people who actually built the country and wanted to impose taxes on the hardworking citizens, we developed a strong military and built a world class economy. We introduced the Blacks to this wonderful country by allowing them to work on the plantations in the South. We fought a civil war because we needed a strong union to capitalize on the industrial revolution that was taking place in the North, we freed the slaves, by the way it was a Republican, Abraham Lincoln that freed the slaves. So the Blacks always had opportunities to work, first in the fields and then in the factories.

We built a transcontinental railroad with the great foresight of industrialists and cheap labor from China and Ireland and finally eradicated the Indians who simply did not wish to join in our great quest to be a powerful country. We built great cities, fought two World Wars, and now we have a great country with a powerful military and we are the beacon for capitalism and democracy envied throughout the world.

It was the great industrialists that built the economy, provided jobs for the middle class, and also offered great opportunities to the uneducated by providing good paying jobs for miners and automobile workers, and the service economy. We built great buildings that employed millions of workers in the construction industry. We built great casinos that allowed people the opportunity to spend their hard earned money on the chance to win millions of dollars.

America is the greatest country in the world, despite Barack Obama who I contend to this day was a Muslim plant and worked to destroy the country by offering the opportunity for people to get benefits they did not earn, like health care and welfare and government funded abortions.

The task is to Make America Great again, like when I was growing up in the 50’s when everybody had a job, we had cars with fins and 8 cylinder engines, cheap gasoline, a booming economy, interstate highways, and suburbs to escape the crime in urban areas populated by people who simply did not want to work and had lousy schools. Free choice baby, those were the days. We can get there again, and we will.

I sincerely doubt that the Donald ever read Howard Zinn’s A Peoples’ History of the United States or Charles Beard’s An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. I am sure he was spoon fed the version many of us learned in schools who are in his general age category. They say that curiosity killed the cat, well curiosity is most likely never a concern in the Trumpian zeitgeist. Now if I could only get that song out of my head.

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