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Everyone knows that "history repeats itself."
That must explain why we keep making the same mistakes. After all, since we all know that you can't change history, why even bother?
Unless you're Newt Gingrich. In that case revisionism seems to work, as long as he remains the victor and in charge of re-writing history.
For example, Newt's current position, which seemed to make hostess candy Crowley's eyebrows rise about 5 inches, is that his congressional reprimand for ethics violations occured only because he convinced Republican members to vote for the reprimand so that they could get back to the business of working on a balanced budget.
He credits himself with getting the Congress back to work and selflessly sacrificing his reputation.
After all, is there any politician that wouldn't put nation before self?
History tells us that the victor writes history until the next victor comes along.
Once you call yourself an "historian," you get a free pass and can alter immutable laws of time and place and make the details of the past fit nicely into the current version of the past. Again, being ascendant helps.
But we're also said to be able to learn from history and especially to learn from our mistakes. In fact, "fool me once...." speaks to the expectation that we won't make the same mistake a second time.
Sometimes, though, the past may lead us down the wrong path.
My guess is that it would be a grave mistake, perhaps literally, were Newt Gingrich to ask Callista to accept an "open marriage." The fact that she reportedly supported the concept before their marriage probably has little predictive capability in 2012.
There's no greater indicator of our pre-occupation with the concept of changing the past and our mistakes than the fact that the single most aired movie on broadcast television and cable is "Groundhog Day."
I may have made that statistic up, but right now, I'm the one re-writing history.
Had we really been able to learn from the past there would have been Stephen Tobolowsky film festivals competing with Sundance and Cannes.
So clearly, we are all idiots, but at least Tobolowsky is front and center on Twitter and forms the basis for a more hopeful view of the future.
Not so long ago, only the spoken word was available to document our history and experiences. Life spans were short and there were people whose sole reason for existence was to maintain a culture's hold onto its past and pass it on to the next generation.
During those days mistakes were often fatal. That's a strong motivator to not repeat some dead guy's mis-step.