Monday, December 05, 2005

Good Use of History

In "Father Knew Best", Paul C. Nagel offers what I think is a good example of a commentary piece that effectively and properly uses history to make a points. He starts:
IN a recent article in The New Yorker, Brent Scowcroft, a close friend of and former national security adviser to President George H. W. Bush, sharply criticized the current administration and, in all but name, its leader, President George W. Bush. That set tongues wagging anew about filial relations in the Bush family, which had earlier been brought into sharp relief in the book "Plan of Attack," by Bob Woodward. Asked by Mr. Woodward if he had discussed Iraq with his father, the younger Bush said: "You know, he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to."

How does that compare with the relationship between John Adams and John Quincy Adams, the only other father and son to occupy the White House?
He then summarizes and details the Adamses relationship, with no overt comparison to the Bushes within his narrative. He leaves such comparison that can be drawn about the similarities of the two father/son relationships to the reader. It is only in his concluding sentence that he hints at his actual opinion.
[John Adam's] death reminded [John Quincy Adams] of the admonition from Roman times that sons should "think of their fathers and of their children." Why was it, John Quincy Adams wondered, "that from the days of Pericles, the sons of eminent men have almost universally been mindless of both?"
And that's it. The question is asked, the history presented, and an anecdote is used to illustrate the author's opinion. Maybe it's not fiery or polemical enough for some. To me it exhibits a responsible use of History.

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