The second post from an SDSHS Press author using the statement “Why I Love History” as its inspiration comes from Jerry Wilson. Jerry wrote Waiting for Coyote’s Call: An Eco-memoir from the Missouri River Bluff. He has actually twisted the original “Why I Love History” to “Why We Need History,” but it fits perfectly, so read on!
“A people without history is like the wind on buffalo grass,” a wise Lakota said. Yet “history never embraces more than a small part of reality,” observed La Rochefoucauld. Even in high school I suspected that between the United States’ endless wars, something important must have happened; yet it didn’t occur to me that I was living history the night a black friend and I went to the skating rink and he couldn’t get in, or that the Supreme Court had thrown us together in school instead of keeping us apart. I shed tears with an army buddy when Martin Luther King was assassinated, but I am inspired by his dream. I was saddened when I learned how Lakota people were gunned down at Wounded Knee, but I’m glad they kept truth alive. History must be more than the propaganda of the victors. If we are to learn and grow, we must have honest history, a wide-open window on our present and our past.
In the United States, historical amnesia is a national disease. How soon we forgot the lessons of Vietnam, so another generation was thrown into an equally absurd war in Iraq. We set aside the memories of grandparents who survived the Great Depression, so we deregulated Wall Street and greed dragged the nation down once more. In two decades we have forgotten that foreign companies strip-mined the Black Hills and walked away, so leaders embrace a new round of mountain destruction for a momentary boom. As George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” History is the story of who we have been, but if our eyes are open, it also lights the path to what we might become.