Lest we forget

18

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
George Santayana, philosopher, poet and novelist

It should be fun to write about present times, but because our nation – and world for that matter – are going to hell in a handbasket it probably won’t be. I don’t care where one wants to put the blame, because there certainly are a whole lot of places to accomplish that.

Perhaps the worst thing happening as far as I am concerned is the effort to either replace or eliminate our American history, or at least parts of it that some groups don’t like. One of the places I used to bring soldiers to see in Germany was the concentration camp at Dachau. Not much of that site is left but there’s enough to easily conclude what happened there and at other concentration camps as well.

I can understand why some would be offended by statues, especially those of Southern generals and other leaders during the Civil War, but it would be a shame to erase history and those responsible for causing the pain of ripping our nation apart. There are discussions about removing statues of Presidents Washington and Jefferson, and someone defaced the Lincoln Memorial in our nation’s capital. Most of this has happened because of mob rule, not intelligent discussion by all sides. An acquaintance of mine keeps repeating that he believes some Americans today want to rewrite American history and have it begin in 1964. I often wonder if history is really being taught successfully in our public classrooms. I enjoyed both of my tours of duty in Germany and seeing the places where so much history occurred.

What might be worse is the media coverage that we suffer through on a daily basis, especially on the national and world levels. I used to watch a lot of news because whatever happened around the world could have had serious consequences as I made the military a career. Well, it’s sad for me to state that I am now disgusted with national news, especially television. I have no doubts at all that most of it is no longer news, but someone’s political beliefs. For me there is no fair and balanced news to be found at the national level. I can say I have a lot of faith with local news media, but that just might be because the public has easier access to it than at the national level.

Even though our country is in rough waters at the present time, Americans have always had the ability to heal our divisions. When I first entered the military I would never have thought that I would make it a career that I would enjoy. One of my more interesting assignments in the Army was when I was stationed at the Headquarters, United States Army Europe which was located in Heidelberg, Germany. Although the office I worked in changed its name as the Army changed after the Vietnam War, it finally became the Modern Volunteer Army and Equal Opportunity Division. As I was originally drafted into the Army I was more than glad to assist in making our military into a professional all-volunteer army.

Then there’s Pastor Martin Neimoller, a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent seven years in Nazi concentration camps despite his fierce nationalism. His words still bear truth today. “First they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.” That’s a lesson all must remember in order to make a better future for all.

Lane Hiltunen of Windham is happy to see that leaders in Bridgton are doing something to succeed in getting grants for a sewer project.