Haunted America, the Value of History Essay

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In the essay Haunted America, Patricia Nelson Limerick ponders whether or not there is any benefit for society to have historical knowledge. Limerick contradicts herself numerous times in her opinion on the usefulness of history. She implies that there are many lessons that can be learned from history. However, Limerick is disappointed in the human race because it fails to learn from the mistakes of others. She therefore wonders, "What do we gain besides a revival and restoration of the misery?" (Limerick, 473). Based on Limerick's examination of people and history, one can conclude that objectively history is useless, however, theoretically, people would be much better off if they learned from the lessons that the past presents.

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Torture, maiming, rape, mutilation, murder - all of the worst injuries that human being inflict on each other serve as the capstones to these stories" (472). Therefore, history is somewhat detrimental to society because people start viewing each other as cruel, egotistical enemies. When analyzing the Battle of Bad Axe, Limerick wonders what good the memory of such a dreadful event can do. She asks, "What good can knowledge of this miserable story do? [...] What exactly does knowledge of this event add to American self-understanding and well-being?" (473).

To answer Limerick's question, one might state that objectively, the knowledge of appalling occurrences is futile because people do not learn from the past mistakes. This is evident when comparing the Indian-white and the Vietnam wars. The two wars are very similar in that they are both guerrilla war, in which the insider has a greater advantage over the intruder. Limerick writes, "The lessons of the Indian-white wars and the lessons of the Vietnam war were strikingly similar because they were both the lessons of guerrilla war, the kind of war in which the local, insider knowledge held by natives gave them a great advantage. The invaders, by contrast, were decidedly out of their place" (488). Intruders are at a greater disadvantage

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