Those Who Fail to Learn from History

I am sitting in my hotel room in Valetta, the capital of Malta, watching the news of the US elections on CNN.  There’s not much to know yet, they show the same reel over and over.

Before it’s all over and just in case I choose to throw myself off a cliff here if the result doesn’t go the way I want it to, I wanted to write one post about this election.

There was an Afro Caribbean college kid in London being interviewed about something on TV, and he complained, “Why do we got to learn about stuff that happened hundreds of years ago, like how many wives Henry the eighth had, but we don’t learn nuffink about our own history?”  Well, fair enough.  He should learn all sorts of history—not just that of the white men.

But as it happens I’ve been thinking a lot about Henry VIII, because this summer I picked up a novel by Philippa Gregory at a little free library and got hooked—I’ve read five or six of her historical “bodice rippers” since.  She writes about the medieval period, including the Tudors which Henry VIII was one.  These books aren’t Great Literature and Gregory gets knocked for not being historically accurate, but she does have a PhD in history from the University of Edinburg and she tells these true-ish stories with so much tension you can’t put the book down.

What’s relevant to the US elections is the striking similarities between Henry VIII and Donald Trump.  Both were born into wealth and power.  Both had an older brother who was supposed to be the heir but who died young.  Both were told from a young age that they could do anything and no one ever said no to them.  Both used and discarded people at a whim, and both had thin skin and a mean streak.  Of course, this is just my opinion. We’ll find out in a matter of hours how many Americans think Donald Trump is a really great guy.

My point is that they are both types that recur throughout history and if we don’t know history, we may not be on guard against electing another one to public office. Also, over and over, people think “he couldn’t be that bad” and “it couldn’t happen here.”  We tend to believe horrific things only happened in the past or go on in “backward” countries.  I’m sure that’s what the Germans—the people who gave us Goethe and Beethoven—thought, right before they started making lamp shades out of human skin.

Am I being overly dramatic?  I hope so.  But better that than being “surprised” when Trump starts shipping planeloads of Muslim Americans “back to where they came from,” which is actually probably Silicon Valley, not the Swat Valley.

It feels funny, that every non-American I’ve met has said something like, “We’re all watching your elections.” Americans never follow anyone else’s elections like others follow ours, and it’s a reminder of our place in the world.  And they have also all said something like, “Don’t Americans remember what happened with Hitler/Mussolini/Franco?

We don’t.  Actually it’s worse than that—most Americans probably don’t even know who Mussolini or Franco were.

I will get back to writing about this trip, but I was probably overly optimistic to think I’d post a live post every night.  I spent the weekend in Sorrento, the Amalfi coast, and Capri.  It rained and rained and rained.  I made the best of it, I guess.  Rainy days have a beauty of their own. Here are a couple snaps:

amalfi-tower amalfi-view arm-waver rainy-view

I’ve been on Malta for only a couple hours and it was love at first sight. If the election doesn’t go the way I am hoping, I may claim political asylum!

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