No, that’s not a picture of John McCain‘s long-form birth certificate. It’s a swatch of a clay tablet inscribed about 3200 B.C. somewhere around what’s now the southwestern corner of Iran.

And nobody knows what it says.

Scholars have been puzzled by this and about 1,000 other pre-elamite tablets that stubbornly refuse to reveal their secrets – none of the tablets is written bilingually, like the Rosetta Stone, so there’s no way to compare texts and crack the code by using known or surviving languages. The people who wrote it had no interest in or budget for art, so there are no pictures or doodles for scientists to use to figure out if the adjacent text is discussing cows, kings or corn. Scholars have figured out from a few numbers they deciphered that this society was comprised of a few wealthy leaders and that most everyone else was a worker kept on starvation level rations.

And recently, scholars realized what might be a key reason they can’t decode these tablets: the society had no scholarly tradition, no interest in education, and the writing is littered with typos that undermine efforts to translate the words.

So, this civilization’s memory and accomplishments, if they had any, are relegated to a room full of dusty tablets that no one can make heads or tails of.

Let’s recap. A nation that eschewed bilingualism, had no place for art and didn’t like education eventually died out, doomed to the quiet room of history.

Maybe conservatives in Louisiana should be reminded of this as they cut education budgets, teach kids “Bible Math” and tell our next generation that Jesus ran with dinosaurs; maybe Ryan should keep this in mind when he says that supporting the arts is a bad investment for the country; maybe Jan Brewer should stop having panic attacks when she sees a bilingual sign; and maybe we shouldn’t let Romney shoot Big Bird, try to make the lower classes pay off the debt and stop feeding the 47% of the country that he thinks are moochers.

Or, we can dare to let history repeat.

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