"Society is an open-ended partnership between generations. The dead and the unborn are as much members of society as the living. To dishonor the dead is to reject the relation on which society is built - a relation of obligation between generations. Those who have lost respect for the dead have ceased to be trustees of their inheritance. Inevitably, therefore, they lose the sense of obligation to future generations. The web of obligation shrinks to the present tense."
- Edmund Burke
Of course we should not always emulate those who have gone before us. Rather we need to understand them as best we can and learn from their experiences. We also have an obligation to those who follow us that they be able to honor us when we are gone and not be ashamed of what we did in our short space in time.
Americans in general have forgotten what those before us did and we have no thought for those who are to come after. We live for the day by a set of ethics and standards that have no root or stability.