There was an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times today (Saturday, 2/9/2013) on the fact that soldiers on both sides of the Civil War read Victor Hugo's Les Miserables in the trenches. What follows is my comment.
The fact that Le Miz was popular in the camps and trenches of the Civil War is an ironic comment on the status of popular literacy today. The same comment ran through the "The Civil War" presentation by Ken Burns.
Today Congress is full of babbling idiots who dispute the elemental facts of science and deny both global warming and evolution which for all his tragic administrative failures is accepted by even Pope Benedict. There are repetitive stories of books being banned and textbooks being censored by Red state education authorities. In one state, there is a proposal to mandate the reading of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged which is the bible of a philosophy which is totally dismissive of the great ideals of equality which have governed this country since the Declaration of Independence and for which we fought the bloodiest war in our history – the Civil War.
This country is facing as great a divide as that of the Civil War. Not between free state and slave state, not even among classes of wealth, but among those who accept and understand that ideas progress as well as people and those who cling to an idealized vision the past, but do not learn from it.
The knowledge gap between Red states and Blue is the most invidious gap we face to day. The fact that soldiers on the line could read and relate to Le Miz during the Civil War is a witness to the fact that progress is not guaranteed.