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Your Opinion: Research advances understanding

Dear Editor:

Phillip Todd’s letter of Aug. 21 with its reference to “obscure” Greek author, Plutarch, and Todd’s subsequent reduction of the deterioration of Greece and Rome to one sentence struck me as representative of the reluctance we have to actually understand issues that face us more comprehensively than can be derived from a blog, a factually baseless assertion from Hannity, Limbaugh or Beck, or an Internet search for an explanation that may be quick and short but remarkably imprecise.

Todd’s deprecation of Plutarch fails to recognize that ancient Greek philosophers, thinkers and artists such as Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euclid, Pythagoras, Euripides and Aeschylus are only representative of the great minds that served as foundational thinkers for society today. This is symptomatic of a reluctance to seek broad perspectives and historical context that can teach us much. It’s easier to demand quick fixes, short explanations and immediate gratification of narcissistic needs.

I will probably be labeled an elitist with no appreciation of that often cited principle of common sense as a cure-all. I suggest that perhaps it would benefit us and our society to actually try to comprehend more fully the circumstances in which we find ourselves and the solutions and failures demonstrated by history.

The debate regarding the role of government might be more comprehensible by reading “The Great Hunger” by Cecil Woodham-Smith, a case-study in central government inaction during the Irish potato famine of the 1840s in which a million Irish starved.

We repeatedly are cautioned to heed the generals in the field. Read Joseph E. Persico’s “11th Month, 11th Day, 11th Hour” and cringe at American commanders who sent troops over the top to die by the thousands just hours and minutes before the armistice would have given our troops complete control of the battlefield. Or read Rick Atkinson’s “The Day of Battle” and pay heed to the folly at the crossing of the Rapido in Italy.

To understand corporate thought, read “Conspiracy of Fools” by Kurt Eichenwald, “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis or “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair. Sinclair’s work, though a novel, is a seminal piece in describing why the labor movement was necessary.

To taste the reality of our progress and our failures at addressing the issue of race, read “Freedom Summer” by Bruce Watson or “Sons of Mississippi” by Paul Hendrickson.

Understanding an issue is the first step to true resolution.

Issue-oriented letters to the editor in response to this or about other local topics are welcome. All letters should be limited to 400 words. The author's name must appear with the letter, and the name, address and phone number provided for verification. Letters that cannot be verified by telephone will not be published. Send letters for publication to editor@newstribune.com

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