Our vacation is over, from school – and history
Note: This appeared as an op-ed in the VC Times-Record.
“The strong do what they will, and the weak suffer what they must.”
We were watching the news the other night, when they reported that the Russians appeared to be ignoring the cease fire with Georgia brokered by France.
My wife laughed heartily, “Gee, ya think?”
As in, do you think the Russians are acting like… well, Russians?
I thought I heard a bitter edge in her laughter though. My wife grew up in Poland, during the last years of the Soviet occupation.
Western Europe is wringing its hands and doing nothing. The NATO Alliance, minus the United States is a military pygmy, and too much of Europe’s natural gas and oil comes from Russia.
The U.S. is blustering, but in the end will probably do nothing that matters. American power is overextended, and who among us is willing to go to war with a really formidable power over a county that is, “far away, of which we know little,” as Neville Chamberlain said about Czechoslovakia?
The blame the victim game is starting already. The Rose Revolution that brought a hopeful degree of democracy to Georgia is only five years old.
The argument will run like this: Georgia has an imperfect democracy. Imperfect means not worthy to survive. Therefor they should not survive. Now go back to sleep.
The strongest protests are coming from Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic states: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. They are of course, motivated by the thought, “We’re next.”
But in this fat, happy, lucky country, we forgot the lessons of history.
We forgot the world is a dangerous place.
We forgot new dangers always arise, even as old ones subside.
We forgot that, “The strong do what they will, and the weak suffer what they must.”
And so, as young Americans prepare to go back to school, I wonder how many realize that the most important history lesson is taking place outside their classrooms.
The lesson is, history is not over. We should hold off on beating our swords into plowshares, our spears into pruning hooks, and the lion is not ready to lie down with the lamb just yet.
What we should do about Russia and Georgia, I really don’t know.
Another thing we’ve forgotten is that sometimes there are no good choices, only a choice between terrible alternatives with no guarantees of a happy outcome.
I would offer this piece of advice though: when your kids go back to school, tell them to pay attention in history class.