Watched Charlie Wilson’s War last night.
Got furious, again, over the state of history education in this country.
Maybe somewhere in the U.S., there are schools that do a decent job teaching history. God knows I didn’t go to one of them, and neither did anybody I’ve ever talked to about this. We never seemed to make it past the Civil War; even in junior high, when U.S. history was split over two years, the first one ending with the Civil War and Reconstruction, we still didn’t get through the twentieth century. Why? Because we started the second year by recapping . . . the Civil War and Reconstruction. And then got bogged down reading All Quiet on the Western Front. I know nothing about the Korean War. (Except that I think technically I’m supposed to call it the Korean Conflict.) What I know about Vietnam, I got from movies. Ditto WWII, mostly. And when it comes to things like Afghanistan (the subject of Charlie Wilson’s War) or our involvement in Iran, there are whole oceans of historical incident I’m ignorant of.
Historical incident that is very goddamned relevant right now. How many people in the U.S. — especially those under the age of 30 — understand the ways in which our problems in Afghanistan are of our own creation? We wanted to stop the Soviets, so we poured weapons and support into the hands of the Afghans, and then wandered off as soon as the commies went away. What’s worse than rampant interventionism? Half-assed interventionism. But thank God we’ve learned our les — oh, wait.
You can’t learn from history if you never learned it in the first place, people.
I want the history textbook I never got. I want a single-volume overview of United States history, 1900-1999, that will tell me the basics about the Korean
War Conflict and Vietnam, about Afghanistan and Iran and Iran-Contra and the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, about all those things that were kind of important to U.S. policy and foreign relations that might be tripping us up today, and most especially about the ones I’ve never even heard of and so can’t list here. Bonus points if it has colorful pictures and informative sidebars and maybe a brief quiz at the end of each chapter, because when it comes to this stuff, I’m about at a junior-high level of comprehension.
I don’t even know if that book exists. If it does, I don’t have time to read it anyway, because the downside of writing the Onyx Court series is that most of my nonfiction reading is about Britain. But I can always buy it and hold onto it until the next time I hear about some war I never even knew we fought, and then maybe I’ll drop everything for a few days and learn about my own country.