Here's a great column by Mark Gelernter on the importance of knowing one's history.
Ignorance of history destroys our judgment. Consider Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill), who just compared the Guantanamo Bay detention center to Stalin's gulag and to the death camps of Hitler and Pol Pot — an astonishing, obscene piece of ignorance. Between 15 million and 30 million people died from 1918 through 1956 in the prisons and labor camps of the Soviet gulag. Historian Robert Conquest gives some facts. A prisoner at the Kholodnaya Gora prison had to stuff his ears with bread before sleeping on account of the shrieks of women being interrogated. At the Kolyma in Siberia, inmates labored through 12-hour days in cheap canvas shoes, on almost no food, in temperatures that could go to minus-58. At one camp, 1,300 of 3,000 inmates died in one year.And how many of these rats who commit mass murder in the name of Allah have died at Gitmo?
There is an ongoing culture war between Americans who are ashamed of this nation's history and those who acknowledge with sorrow its many sins and are fiercely proud of it anyway. Proud of the 17th century settlers who threw their entire lives overboard and set sail for religious freedom in their rickety little ships. Proud of the new nation that taught democracy to the world. Proud of its ferocious fight to free the slaves, save the Union and drag (lug, shove, sweat, bleed) America a few inches closer to its own sublime ideals. Proud of its victories in two world wars and the Cold War, proud of the fight it is waging this very day for freedom in Iraq and the whole Middle East.And it is this historical amnesia or ---maybe at least as bad--- this historical perversion among the Left today that is so difficult to counter. These people literally do not know what they're talking about when they insist that we aren't being true to our Founding Fathers and our highest principles when we wage war for Iraq. Nonsense. We have sacrificed mightily for the advancement of democratic values all over the world. And our own Civil War? It consisted of one half of the nation destroying the other half so that the whole union might be preserved for the sake of all its inhabitants.
If you are proud of this country and don't want its identity to vanish, you must teach U.S. history to your children. They won't learn it in school. This nation's memory will go blank unless you act.
We've been here before, people. I'm writing to you from the heart of "occupied territory." I'm writing to you in the wake of generations of slaveholders, sharecroppers, immigrants, and lawbreakers. If we stand on the shoulders of giants, we also stand on the shoulders of monsters. I won't deny it. I won't bury it and walk away from it. Grow up and recognize what's been lost and won on your behalf, whether you appreciate it or want it or know what to do with it but piss and moan.