8.17.2021 – experiences teach

experiences teach
appalling reluctant lack
imagination

In the book, Potsdam : the end of World War II and the remaking of Europe by Michael Neiberg, the author writes, “As the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz wrote at the end of the war, “The man of the East cannot take the Americans seriously,” because “they have never undergone the experiences that teach men how relative their judgments and thinking habits are.” Because neither the Americans nor the British had suffered as Eastern Europe had, Milosz concluded, “their reluctant lack of imagination is appalling.”

To underline what the Russian’s suffered in World War 2, Mr. Neiberg presents data on relative civilian deaths.

As Mr. Neiberg writes, “The difference in the numbers of civilian deaths puts the case even more starkly.”

Mr. Neiberg cites:

An estimated 14.6 million Soviet civilians died in World War 2.

The British lost 67,100 civilians.

The Americans lost 1,700 civilians.

Mr. Nieberg then states, “Sometimes smaller numbers tell the story better. To cite one poignant example, the city of Stalingrad, which had a prewar population of 850,000, had just nine children with both parents still alive at the end of the war.”

I am not in a position to confirm or dispute these numbers.

I do not doubt the statement, “Because neither the Americans nor the British had suffered as Eastern Europe had, their reluctant lack of imagination is appalling.”

A lack of imagination.

I feel you have to excuse people who have lack of imagination.

My problem is an over abundant imagination.

My family is full of anecdotes about “Mike telling stories again.”

BUT a reluctant lack of imagination.

An active choice to choose to not have or use imagination.

That is an indictment.

I cannot imagine is one thing.

I will not imagine is another.

The latter in many cases, is appalling.

I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

If you visit there, you can tour the Gerald R. Ford Museum.

When it was built in its distinctive triangle shape, political satirist Mark Russell said it was because there wasn’t enough stuff to hang on four walls.

Ever since, locals have been working to come up with more stuff to prove Mr. Russell wrong.

One historical artifact you can see is the ‘Saigon Staircase.”

While it is NOT the stairway that reaches to the very top of the US Embassy that you see in all the photographs it IS a stairway you had to take to get to that stairway.

It still WAS part of the only way out of Saigon when the US pulled out.

Maybe its me but not really a highlight of the Ford Administration.

But they try to make it fit.

When the exhibit was opened back in 1999, former President GR Ford, said, “No doubt each visitor will interpret this staircase and its historical significance for himself. For many, it was both a way out of a nightmare – and a doorway into something incomparably better. To some it will always be seen as an emblem of military defeat.”

President Ford said, “… it symbolizes man’s undying desire to be free.”

I do not know how anyone could look at that stairway and the photographs of the US exit from Vietnam and not have the imagination to apply those images to the present time.

How can you look at those photographs with the idea of man’s undying desire to be free and not have the imagination that this could, would happen all over again?

Should not the experience have taught something?

Leaving Afghanistan was a way out of a nightmare.

The reluctant lack of imagination of what would happen once the US pulled out, is appalling.

Neither here nor there but I also came across a another speech the other day.

The speaker said:

Every gun that is made,

every warship launched,

every rocket fired signifies … a theft from those who hunger and are not fed,

those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms is not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers,

the genius of its scientists,

the hopes of its children.

The year was 1953.

The speaker was then President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Also known as Supreme Allied Commander, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces, General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Ike doesn’t get a lot of credit today.

I was taught that one of the criticisms of Ike as President is that he never had to handle a major crisis.

I was also taught that Ike never had to handle with a major crisis because he was the type of President that kept major crises from happening.

As Supreme Allied Commander, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces, I think Ike had a pretty good idea of what war was and what war did.

I think he most likely had the imagination to understand what the Russians went through.

I think when Ike said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies … a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed,” he knew what he meant and and he meant every word.

His grandson David (husband of Julie Nixon which allowed Richard Nixon to introduce himself as General Eisenhower’s Grandson’s Father-in-Law) was asked if he thought his Granddad would be best remembered for being a General or being a President?

David replied along the lines of, “This country has had 40 plus Presidents. The world has had one Supreme Commander.”

Experiences teach.

If there is the imagination to learn.

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