Omar Bonilla" />
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Friday, September 29, 2023

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U.S. must learn from its history


In more than two millennium of human civilization, we should have learned something from our history. Instead, humans prove repeatedly we will make the same mistakes and trip over the same rocks. History has a knack for repeating itself and we have a knack for amnesia.

To the new generations, the issue of the housing crisis, economic recession, war in Iraq and even the electoral craze may seem unprecedented and certainly historic. But every generation has had to face their own ghosts and purge their own demons. Social injustice has been present well before slavery and economic troubles affected and shaped the Roman empire. War, no matter how much we try to oppose it, is inseparable from history and the development of everything we now hold most dear: from civil liberties to cell phones.

The extreme power gained by the church during the crusades drove the church to the corruption denounced and opposed by the Protestant movement, which inspired our forefathers to take their lives and dreams to the new world. Once here, they fought the French as a sideshow of the Napoleonic campaigns that were essentially a sparring for trade and navigation rights.

The war of independence followed, triggered by disputes over tariffs and taxation. The Civil War was an effort from the North to check the South and its economic boom fueled by the free labor of slaves.

Westward expansion was the answer to the new nation’s hunger for land at the expense of Native Americans and Mexicans. We then entered World War I only after our sales to one side were affected by German’s U-boats (our infant international trade schemes back then would not allow us to sell to both sides).

World War II came for us as the direct result of an oil embargo over Japan. Korea, Vietnam and the current involvement with Israel and the Middle East started as an indirect sparring for global hegemony with Russia. That resulted in the terrorism and religious extremism that led us to the two-act drama of the Gulf War for the control of the greatest oil supply in the world.

The current economic crisis is as much the direct result of our dependence of oil as of our undisciplined spending practices. But most importantly, it is the logical consequence of our incapacity to learn from our mistakes. The Civil War’s surplus of guns and soldiers led to the aggressive conquest of the West with all the destruction that drove us to the years of isolationism. The victory of World War I gave birth to an overconfident nation that, for wanting too much too fast during the roaring twenties, spent itself to the Great Depression.

World War II rescued us and the reconstruction of Europe was the final push that took us to the zenith of our economic power that has once again taken our feet from the ground in the form of overconfidence, overspending and overdependence in foreign oil and labor, which conspired with the no longer indispensable education to drive us to the edge.

We can only hope this time that our leaders have finally grasped the teachings of history and another war will not be needed to get back on track. Let’s carry the one we already have to its successful end, and start a real revolution in the way we live and see our priorities. We need to go from consumers and impulsive spenders, to producers and investors of our future.

Our ego and act for making a vital need out of the most superficial things is more than a statement of power and wealth, it is fast becoming our greatest weakness. And our enemies know that. We cannot hope to survive extremism when they would go shoeless into battle when we cannot even start our day without Starbucks. Bonilla, a computer-engineering technology senior, can be reached via [email protected].


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