"As Americans, amnesia is in our cultural DNA. Emerson himself, the luminous sage of unfettered positivity, wrote, “No facts are to me sacred; none are profane; I simply experiment, an endless seeker, with no past at my back.”
It could be our national motto. Nothing really seems to stick to us or stand in the way of what Justice Anthony Kennedy called our right to “define our own conception of existence.” And according to this twisted logic, we should forget the ongoing war (and our experiences in Iraq) if it serves our unbounded appetite for self-creation.
We’re too busy trying to transcend the hard lessons of history, either using it as a convenient and simplified political prop or forgetting it altogether, to actually learn from it. As Vox founder and journalist Ezra Klein recently demonstrated, even those who define themselves as sensible moderate voices in a howling wilderness of ideology can’t be bothered to remember the facts of our shared biography.
But for those of us who were there, who actually served and continue to serve, these memories still bleed. We’re forced to learn the hard lessons on everyone else’s behalf. I consider it both a responsibility and gift."