By David Glenn Cox
Critical history, history. Ideas of things that happened, as told by people who weren’t there. But who went to school to learn about it from someone else who wasn’t there but went to school. In history George Washington cutting down a cherry tree is somehow a noble act. In fact, it’s vandalism. What kind of irresponsible kid cuts down a fruit tree because daddy gave him a new ax? God forbid daddy ever gives him a gun or a Playboy Magazine. History is little clay figures with God breathing life into them doing strange things for curious reasons. In History there is rarely any situational awareness. Our founding fathers weren’t at all aware after the French & Indian Wars that the British had just cleared the continent for them of any foreign threat.
They were just slow-witted slugs. Living on plantations and dreaming of lofty ideals of democracy. “Sally, would you still sleep with me…if I didn’t own you?” Dreamers with telescopes and sundials reading the classics all day. Why it never even occurred to them with the right push they could get rid of those red coated fellows and have all this for themselves. And for his service in the late war, Colonel Washington requests a land grant beyond the Appalachians because everyone was doing it. “Ahh, can I have an area the roughly size of the state of Ohio all for myself?” This was just a clever opening bargaining ploy. But the King gently explained under the terms of the recent peace treaty. We had agreed to stay on our side of the mountains. “Oh yeah? Well Fuck you! I don’t feel so British anymore.”
Ben Franklin had his colonial clothes mocked in Britain. (Jethro visits the big city.) And he got his ass on his shoulders about it famously saying, “I came here as a British subject, I return home and American.” Get a hold of yourself man. You’re supposed to be a diplomat. You’re gonna leave because of a few cracks about your shoes? You come to a European fashion center dressed as a Colonial from the edge of the known universe and surprise, surprise you’re out of fashion step. The choice of sending Franklin wasn’t an accident. Franklin had more street cred than the rest of them combined. Scientist, inventor, writer, partier, man about town and playboy. He was Nick Tesla and Hugh Hefner all rolled into one.
If he had returned to The North American shores with a successful peace agreement, they would have renounced him. “Ben who? I sort of remember him. I think he used to get coffee for me.” Franklin’s job was to make look like we wanted a peaceful resolution. We sent the best guy in the whole country. And look how he was treated. “Our Faux News Headlines, Diplomat insulted in London streets!” What about the issue’s fellas? “Insulted him and made hurtful remarks about his shoes.”
This isn’t to say they didn’t have lofty goals and high ideals, but inside lofty goals and high ideals is looking out for number one. And it was high stakes gambling at its best. Up to this point, the King and his Army had a perfect record putting down rebellions. Sun Tsu warned of long wars, wearing out your army at great cost for an objective too expensive to keep. That’s how we won the American Revolution and lost the Vietnam War. George Washington didn’t have to win any battles he just had to stay in the field. They may whoop us on the battlefield, but we’ll break them at the bank with our secret weapon, someone else’s money!
Washington fought a brilliant campaign, a textbook insurgent campaign. There is no need to pour syrup on it. It is enough that this little rag tag force of Americans fought the greatest military force in the world to a draw to win our Independence. History’s little surprise, sometimes an idea can grow beyond it makers. When Tom Jefferson said, “All men are created equal,” he meant White men, property owners from Canada to the gates of Florida.” But the idea took root and has grown beyond the framer’s intent. Today we take that as it is written, without any caveats.
Robert E. Lee was fighting the same George W. stick and move campaign until Gettysburg. He stuck when he should have moved. And history was expanded, and America was expanded. Lincoln expanded freedom, Teddy Roosevelt, JFK, Harry Truman, Barack Obama. It is a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll and this freedom thing is a lot harder than it looks. Technical difficulties please stand by.
Dorie Miller was a mess attendant second class in the Navy. In case of battle his job was to wash dishes and put all the trays away. As an African American he couldn’t vote and had to live in a segregated world. Riding on the back of the bus and saying sir a lot to people who didn’t deserve it. On December7, 1941 Miller won the Navy Cross rescuing White sailors and shooting down two Japanese planes with a machine gun he was technically not allowed to operate. Miller was a hero and a hero in the Black press. You know, with a guy like that we could bring in a lot money at the war bond drive. Miller said “no” and went back to sea where he died in 1943, when his ship was sunk by the Japanese.
This country is far from perfect but most of us at least are willing to change. Grown ups who can accept the fact that Mom and Dad weren’t perfect. That dad had a bad temper and mom drank on the side but were still good people despite their flaws. They didn’t always do right sometimes and sometimes they didn’t even try, but other times they did. I’m sure to the rest of the world we look like drunken waiter on a rolling deck. But we live by the word potential. A cowboy slaps his hat on his knee, “Right here I’m gonna build a big city and I’m gonna call it Flea Hop, Texas. It’ll be so big Forth Worth won’t know what hit em.”
“I have a higher and grander standard of principle than George Washington. He could not lie; I can, but I won’t.”― Mark Twain
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