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My Way


Those who fail to learn from history . . .



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October 30, 2013 - It's a shame so many folks think history is just a bunch of boring stuff that happened in the past and has no bearing on the future.

I prefer to view the past as a guide for navigating the uncharted and uncertain waters of the future.

There's so much we can learn from the past, especially when it comes to mistakes and misguided views.

Take the ancient Trojans, for example.

They were overconfident that their city's walls could protect them from any foe. Troy was invincible – or so it seemed.

According to a story that straddles the line between history and mythology, the ancient Greeks laid siege to the city for 10 years and had nothing to show for it.

Legend has it that after building a giant, hollow wooden horse as an offering to the Goddess Athena, the Greeks pretended to give up their fight and sail for home.

Blinded by hubris, the Trojans ignored a prudent warning, threw open their gates and brought the horse into the city as a trophy of their hard-fought victory.

Unbeknownst to the Trojans, there was a band of 30 Greek warriors hiding inside the horse. They slipped out under the cover of darkness and opened the city's gates so the rest of the Greek army could rush in for the kill.

Troy was sacked. Wealth was looted. Men, women and children were slaughtered. The great city was no more.

Now, many would attribute the victory to the Greeks' craftiness, which is undeniable. That's where we get the expression, "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts."

But in the end, the Trojans had no one to blame but themselves for their tragic fate. They opened their gates and let their enemy in. Frankly, they were foolish and deserved what they got.

The Trojans weren't the first people to be fooled by an enemy and they certainly won't be the last.

Even people who seem to have the best of intentions can be blind to reality. Take 20th century American aviator Charles A. Lindbergh, for example.

During the 1930s, the famous flyer worked diligently to keep the United States out of a war with Nazi Germany, which he believed the West could not win.

During his visits to Germany, Lindbergh became extremely impressed with the nation's military and people.

So much so that by 1938, he and his wife were actually making plans to move to Berlin (Kristallnacht changed their minds). That same year Field Marshal Hermann Goring presented him with a medal, the Service Cross of the German Eagle, for his contributions to aviation.

In his autobiography, published posthumously in 1978, Lindbergh wrote, "The organized vitality of Germany was what most impressed me: the unceasing activity of the people, and the convinced dictatorial direction to create the new factories, airfields, and research laboratories."

Some say Lindbergh was just naive. Some say he was an outright Nazi sympathizer. Some say he was a dupe.

I think he was most likely a dangerous mix of all three.

Whatever Lindbergh was, his words and actions were harmful to America in the face of a grave threat.

Historian William O'Neill summed it up nicely – "In promoting appeasement and military unpreparedness, Lindbergh damaged his country to a greater degree than any other private citizen in modern times. That he meant well makes no difference."

I can only hope that hubris and naivete will not be America's undoing. I hope we do not go the way of the Trojans, who now only exist in the pages of history.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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