Collage Essay: On History

Historybooks

By Dave Hood

What is history? History is little more than the register of the crimes, follies, misfortunes of mankind.—Edward Gibbons.

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History is who we are and why we are the way we are.—David McCullough

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History is the analysis and interpretation of events, people, and leaders of the past. Historians dust off history artifacts, read historical documents and textbooks, visit historical places and museums, peruse diaries and journals of learned men, fill their minds with images and facts of the past, and then instruct the student of history.

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History repeats itself.

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The philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote that man in his natural state is “nasty and brutish.”

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In the twentieth century, dictatorship wielded its brass knuckles many parts of the world. There was Stalin in Russia, Hitler in Germany, Mao in China, Pol Pot in Cambodia, committing ruthless and nefarious acts against millions of innocent souls.

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Throughout history, wicked men have implemented their reign of terror, executing tens of millions of innocent men, women, and children.

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I read the William Shirer’s “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” It is a portrait of evil, of men engaged in heinous behavior and unspeakable crimes. Yet, Shirer documents them in this book.

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The Nazi’s experimented on civilians….I read about how they constructed lamp shades out of human skin…I read about how doctors would tie a naked man to a chair, place him outside, pour water on him in the frigid cold of winter, to see how long it would take him to freeze to death.

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The Buddhists believe that everyone has the “Buddhist Heart” within them. They tell us that our true nature is to be kind and compassionate, and that we seek love, satisfaction, and peace.

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I am a distant observer of history. I recall the Viet Nam War, the assassination of President Kennedy, 9/11, and the “War on Terror.”

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History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time. It illuminates reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life, and brings tidings of antiquity.—Cicaro

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Historians reconstruct the past to understand it.

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The past is eventually forgotten, like a gravestone constructed in a cemetery to memorialize someone a century ago.

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There is a clash of civilization between the East and West–a clash of religions, economies, values, customs, traditions, popular cultures.

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Evil exists in the world. It resides in dark places, appearing when we least expect. Bin Laden was evil incarnate.

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The philosopher Machiavelli said, “It is better to be feared than loved. ”

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Carl Jung said that every person has a “dark side.”

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“One lives in the hope of becoming a memory.” ―Antonio Porchia

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For decades, the enemy of the west was “communism.” Now it is Islamic extremism, which embodies terrorism.

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After 9/11, President Bush made the decision to engage in the “War on Terrorism.”

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President Reagan once referred to the Soviet Union as “the evil empire.”

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As a boy, I owned a toy cap gun and played war games with friends.

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The Soviet Union has crumbled into dust, and replaced by steel and concrete of authoritarianism.

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In an effort to combat terrorism and protect citizens, the American government has taken extreme steps to improve security, scouring countless Facebook pages, reading millions of text messages, listening to telephone conversations of ordinary people.

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Those who lost a loved one in the terrorist attacks of 9/ll are victims of history.

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Hollywood films usually distort history. I recall the “Dirty Dozen.”

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Why study history?

History provides the means to understand the past and present. History teaches us to be more civilized than our ancestors. History illuminates the psyche of the human race. History preaches “learn from your mistakes of the past.”

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I’ve the read the history books, studied American history, Soviet history, Canadian history, Chinese history, medieval history, and Renaissance history, concluding that history is forgotten, that evil men will always exist and wreck havoc, that humanity learns but continues to commit the same ruthless and uncivilized acts as the hunter gathers did in the stone age.

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Hegel was right when he said that we learn from history that man can never learn anything from history.—George Bernard Shaw.

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Studying history is pointless. Humanity never learns from its follies because it always forgets.

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Man by nature is a beast, like the primitive in the jungle.

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We are socialized to live by the rule of law and the morality of religion.

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“History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books-books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?”—Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code

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About Dave Hood

Lover of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction. Professional photographer and writer. Without the arts, life would be rather mundane, like a walk down the same old path on a dull day.
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