Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Cult of Persons Fallacies

Here's a little story I've got to tell about historical figures you know so well. It started way back in history with Edgar Burroughs, George W., and an English King.

I was just thinking about Paul Revere and I wonder why he gets such recognition for his Midnight Ride. Sure, it was important to the colonists who wanted to revolt against English rule but is it a better tale than other events like those people on Flight 93 who prevented a plane from crashing into our monuments in Washington D.C.? I say it isn't. But when I went to read about Paul Revere Wikipedia says that nobody made a big deal about his ride until 40 years after it happened (and for the record, there were two other people involved in alerting the revolutionary forces who did not gain the notoriety that Revere did).

It was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who wrote a poem called "Paul Revere's Ride" that glamourized the event with historical inaccurracies. I would say, primarily the one where Revere rides through town yelling "The British are coming!" as if English people had glowing red eyes and dripping fangs. He actually rode through towns telling key people, not shouting for British troops and loyalists to hear. But that poem was taught in schools for a long time so people think of the event differently.

I've talked about Columbus being a jackass before and his story was glamourized by the writer Washington Irving. Get that ray of sunshine into the schools! The same thing happened for George Washington. He was glamourized by a writer named Parson Weems who fabricated such stories as the cutting down of the cherry tree and being much too honest to lie about it. But we teach those stories in school, too (at least when I was a kid). It's a little difficult to imagine that someone could be involved in a revolution without pulling deceptions on your fellow man:

"Are you loyal to the British Crown, sir?"
"You bet! I'm a Tory to the very tips of my powdered wig!"
"Very well, sir. Carry on."

Sounds much more likely than something like:

"Are you loyal to the British Crown, sir?"
"I cannot tell a lie. I plan to kneel down in prayer next to my horse and cross the Delaware in a way most inspiring so as people will overthrow the rule of you English bed-wetting types."
"Just for that, King Arthur is going to come here personally and kick you in the knickers."

So it seems strange to me that we have taken it upon ourselves to teach our children Inaccurate Ideas rather than History. The pilgrims teach us that we Americans are patriots of Heaven, not religious kooks trying to hide out in the woods, even though most of the people in the early colonies were not actually Puritans. Washington teaches that Americans are infallibly honest and couragous in our leadership.

But I assert again that this country was not built by brave cowboys. It is more accurate to say that it was built on murder, theft, slavery, tobacco and such. But we don't teach are kids that until its been all polished up in a forgettable way.

And if we are going to teach Ideas instead of History then why not do away completely with wars and focus on more romantic things like Tarzan: The story of an English baby (the name meaning, "white skin") left orphaned and alone in the wild jungles of Africa, who grows up more intelligent and more adept to jungle life than anyone who has ever lived on that great continent. Because if you leave a white baby out in the woods, he still grows up completely "civilized" and creates his own language and becomes King of the Jungle and Lord of the Apes.

Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote about an English Jungle Man but he actually grew up American in a Sundown Town in Illinois. Click it to see Americas bare midriff.


Native Minnow said...

I heard that George Washington once held an opponent's wife's hand . . . in a jar of acid . . . at a party.

I'd give you the link for the video (hilarious!!!), but I don't remember it. I'll see what I can do in the next day or so.

Native Minnow said...

Ok, here's the link:


You can thank my friend Lauren.