Back in my high school days, I had the option to take more than your average amount of history classes: Ancient Civilizations, Western Civilizations, American Experience. St. Paul Central’s Quest program was an early precursor to AP and IB type coursework and Mr. Demers, the history teacher, was one of my all-time favorites. I also was a fan of geography, so when you mixed in the opportunity to travel that my mom’s work allowed, history literally came alive for me.
This past week I’ve been watching the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick ten-part documentary on the Vietnam War. It amazes me how much I didn’t know about this historical event that played out during my lifetime – especially since my father participated in it directly (and it’s the reason I’m not a native Minnesotan). Now I’m looking forward to lunch with him and having an opportunity to ask questions about a topic we’ve never really discussed much (something I wish I’d done with my grandfather and World War II).
I found it interesting to see so many similarities between then and now politically. We like to think that our current environment is the most divisive ever, but this has really been America for a long time. As Thomas Polgar, the Saigon station chief for the C.I.A. wrote in his last cable from the embassy: “Those who fail to learn from history are forced to repeat it. Let us hope that we will not have another Vietnam experience and that we have learned our lesson.”
Note to self: research how so many Midwest politicians rose to play such prominent roles during this period of history (Humphrey and McCarthy in Minnesota, McGovern in South Dakota).
Originally published by DK on July 11, 2018 at 12:09 am