History Matters


Most Americans know that the Marquis de Lafayette and thousands of other Frenchmen helped us secure our independence. (Library of Congress)

Earlier this week, Jared Kushner’s father-in-law was in Paris to take part in France’s annual celebration of Bastille Day as a guest of President Emmanuel Macron. While holding a joint press conference with Macron, the prolific tweeter who lost the popular vote last November proved that he does not need to be in the United States to embarrass the United States. He remarked that “France is America’s first and oldest ally. A lot of people don’t know that.” He went on to add that “France helped us secure our independence, a lot of people forget.”

One can’t help but suspect that You-Know-Who was unaware of this fact until quite recently, and that, consumed as he is by his own solipsism, he naturally assumed that others must be unaware of the fact as well. In fact, the vital role played by France in securing America’s independence from Great Britain is well known. (Whether that will still be the case after Betsy DeVos takes a chainsaw to America’s education system is another matter entirely…)

Unfortunately (but not surprisingly) this is hardly the first time You-Know-Who has demonstrated a staggering lack of basic historic awareness. Here are a few other examples.

An alleged billionaire on Frederick Douglass:

“Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.”

Frederick Douglass is dead. He has been dead for well over a century. And he was already famous when he was alive. 

A man with small hands on Abraham Lincoln:

“Great President. Most people don’t even know he was a Republican, right? Does anyone know? Lot of people don’t know that.”

Most people know that…

A man who makes George W. Bush seem articulate on John Lewis:

All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!

John Lewis

John Lewis is all action. He is basically a non-violent action hero.

[I’m running out of these…] on Andrew Jackson and the Civil War:

“I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said ‘There’s no reason for this.’ People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

Dear God. That is a masterpiece of wrong. It sounds like the inane ramblings of a stoned undergraduate who forgot to do the reading.

I could keep going. However, as easy (and enjoyable) as it is to mock You-Know-Who’s profound ignorance, this is actually deeply troubling. For a person cannot possibly understand the world in which we live without making the effort to understand how that world came to be. 

More than two thousand years ago Cicero said that “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain forever a child.” 

The president of the United States of America is a child.

– P. Sicher


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