Two or three years ago, Vince Dooley and I made a trip to Poland to study some of the history of that nation during World War II. I don’t like to drop names, but I will drop that one, because he is one of the best people I have ever known and an astute scholar.
We visited the Warsaw Ghetto and Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair, from which he directed the invasion of Russia — and we visited Auschwitz. Nobody should see Auschwitz, but EVERYBODY should see Auschwitz. It is horrible and already, only 75 years after its liberation, certain people are claiming that it never existed and that the Holocaust never happened. While we were there people were stationed every hundred feet or so to answer questions, and they all begged us to “take pictures. Take lots and lots of pictures. Tell everyone you meet about this place. Don’t ever let anyone forget.”
We can’t afford to forget our history. If we do, we are doomed to repeat it. That is often attributed to Winston Churchill, but the thought goes back way further than that. Winston Churchill did famously say, “A nation that forgets its past has no future.”
He also said, “I think history will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.”
I love Winston Churchill. He saved the world.
Here’s another quote I like about history. “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
Maya Angelou said that.
Here’s one more quote, by Golda Meir. She was the first woman prime minister of Israel, in case you, yourself, slept through history.
“One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present.”
Winston Churchill. Maya Angelou. Golda Meir. These are some smart and accomplished people — a very diverse cast of characters. And they all realize the same thing. A nation’s history is vitally important to its present and its future and, yet, in this country, we are witnessing an effort to erase, destroy and rewrite it every day.
As a person who earned his living for many decades teaching history, it saddens, angers and worries me each time a statue is toppled or removed. In the past week we have seen the national desecration of our flag and our monuments. Lee, Jackson, Jefferson Davis — yes, but also Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant, Frances Scott Key — the list goes on and on.
We do not need to erase history. We need to learn it and learn from it. We cannot let it be erased. I made an off-hand comment to a friend the other day: “I wish I could just sit the whole country down and teach them the fundamentals of our nation’s history, so that we could better understand one another.”
My friend replied, “Well, you can.”
That set me to thinking. I suppose I can. After all, since the first of March the whole world has been meeting online, through the magic of the internet. I’ve attended church and Bible studies and board meetings online. My son has taught calculus online. My son-in-law has taught photography online. My wife has taught nursing and midwifery online. I have preached online. I can surely teach history online.
Not to beat my own horn or blow my own drum — I got that backwards on purpose to make sure you are paying attention — but if there is one thing I know; it is American history. And if I do say so myself, I can explain it so that it interesting to follow and easy to understand. My A.P. students did as well as anyone in the country on their exams every year, and I was even named History Teacher of the Year for the whole state of Georgia once.
So, yeah. I can teach history online — if there is anyone left out there who wants to really understand it.
So, I am going to. I have formulated a course outline and am getting ready to launch History with Huck, with a sample session premiering on the Fourth of July. How do you like them apples? I hope you like them enough to join me as we go back to just before Columbus arrived and try to figure out how we got to where we are today.
There will be no text and no homework and no exam. Just the opportunity to learn and understand — and laugh a little bit. What fun is learning without laughter?
If you want the details, my e-mail is at the end of this column. Shoot me a request and I will tell you how to register.
And God bless America — guts, warts, feathers and all.