It seems to me that the old cliche, "Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it" applies much more to ordinary citizens than to politicians.
In fact, politicians COUNT on that truism. How many people actually know how Vietnam started? How many people further know how our involvement in Vietnam accelerated? How about when the draft was implemented?
THIS IS HOW VIETNAMS GET STARTED.
THIS is what Ted Kennedy was saying, what so many of us have been saying all along. And the fact that we are, collectively, so very uneducated about our own recent history, is what the right wing is counting on when they send out the attack dogs to decry any comparison between Iraq and Vietnam.
And we wonder why the right wing devalues public education. It is in the interest of the powerful, who wish to retain their power, to churn out generations of badly educated citizens. It is in their interests to churn out giant segments of the citizenry fit for little more than manual, menial labour. Else where will we get our waitresses, our janitors, our grocery store clerks? Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue in a country this size if the majority of the population were actually college educated? Why, we'd have to open the borders and... Oh. Never mind.
No doubt the advances in public education of the past 40 years, inadequate though they may be, drive the neo-fascists mad; there are so many of us who do remember history. Not just Vietnam, but the protests against it, the gradual awakening of an entire generation to the lamentable fact that our beloved paternalistic government was a lying, manipulative, amoral gathering of rich, old, white men who decidedly did not have our interests at heart or in mind. The question is, are we strong enough, in great enough number, to derail this disaster? Will we be able to convince the older version of that heroic Vietnam Veteran that his true heroism lay not in his laudable actions in battle, but in his even more courageous actions at home? Or will we find ourselves pleading with a decent but calcified member of the newest older generation, using some version of his own words, hoping to pierce through 20 years of Senatorial stultification: "Who's going to be the last one to die for this mistake, President Kerry?"
I diluted my primary argument by veering off into the OTHER reasons why bad public education is considered, in the collective unconscious of the power structure, essential to the status quo. But it's all of a piece.
The cliche to which I referred might best be worded thusly:
"Those who are not taught history are doomed to repeat it."