As I was getting ready to round up items for “Quick Takes” today, a friend sent me a link to something Charles Pierce wrote today. In a sense, he ruined my search. After reading the Pierce article, I found that everything else I might have considered sounded like noise. And so for today, I’ll simply share one “Quick Take.” Because I hope that everyone will go read: When We Forget.
Pierce begins with a quote from Czech author Milan Kundera: “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”
The 2016 presidential campaign—and the success of Donald Trump on the Republican side—has been a triumph of how easily memory can lose the struggle against forgetting and, therefore, how easily society can lose the struggle against power. There is so much that we have forgotten in this country. We’ve forgotten, over and over again, how easily we can be stampeded into action that is contrary to the national interest and to our own individual self-interest. We have forgotten McCarthy and Nixon. We have forgotten how easily we can be lied to. We have forgotten the U-2 incident and the Bay of Pigs and the sale of missiles to the mullahs. And along comes someone like Trump, and he tells us that forgetting is our actual power and that memory is the enemy…
I watch the presidential campaign this year, and I watch how the country has abandoned self-government and the idea of a political commonwealth, and I see a country that is voluntarily taking upon itself my father’s disease [Alzheimers]. A vagabond country, making itself a stranger to itself, a permanent refugee country, unmoored from its history.
A country that remembers, a country with an empowered memory that acts as a check on the dangerous excesses of power itself, does not produce a Donald Trump.
What’s Going On?