Considerable uproar ensued in Britain when Prime Minister David Cameron described his country as a World War II “junior partner” to America in 1940. The problem is that this country did not even enter World War II until a year later.
Labor immediately jumped into the fray with shadow FM Miliband responding with equally historically ignorant comments:
1940 was our finest hour. Millions of Britons stood up and gave their lives to defeat fascism. "We were not a junior partner. We stood alone against the Nazis. How can a British prime minister who bangs on about British history get that so wrong? It is a slight, not a slip.
What is it with neocons and leftists and the word “fascism”? Last time I checked, the Allies primary enemy was the Nazi Hitler, not the Fascist Mussolini. And Britain openly allied with Salazar, a clerical quasi-fascist. No, Mr. Miliband, millions of Britons did not die to defeat Benito Mussolini and Oswald Mosley.
This is not to say that that Cameron’s ignorance of his country’s history is excusable. However, most young Westerners not only practice this ignorance, but almost flaunt it. When one of my professors asked a female classmate who were the most powerful nations after the conclusion of World War II, she hemmed and hawed until venturing “Germany…. and Russia? I don’t know.” This mind you was not some rural community college but a fairly prestigious postgraduate institution in New York City.
The primary reason for this epidemic of historical ignorance is that Western history is barely taught in the West anymore. The only part of Western history that is taught is a discussion of its “oppression,” “intolerance,” and “xenophobia.” Postgraduate students don’t know Robert Fulton and Samuel Morse but know Cesar Chavez, Malcolm X, and other marginal figures whose contributions to Western history were either marginal or negative. As the Russians say, “a fish rots from its head” -- when Western leaders don’t know the history of the countries they lead, what is to be expected of those countries’ people? And a nation that’s ignorant of its history is really no nation at all.