Adams, Revere and…Trump?

May 18th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 19 comments

One of my lovely daughters just treated me to three glorious days in Boston. Tamara and I immersed ourselves in 18th and 19th century history, wending our way along Boston’s Freedom Trail. I left my computer at home, didn’t access email, and our eyes and ears were tuned to the past rather than the present.

We respectfully stood at the graves of Sam Adams, Paul Revere and Increase Mather. We visualized life aboard the USS Constitution, the battleship nicknamed Old Ironsides, as it faced the British Navy in the War of 1812 and we saw too many names on too many memorials for boys who died fighting America’s wars.

We peered up at murals in the Boston Public Library by artist John Singer Sargent and at the same location smiled at Robert McCloskey’s sketches for his charming book, Make Way for Ducklings.

As we stood at the site of the Boston Massacre and at the location where thousands gathered before the Boston Tea Party, we discussed whether we would have sided with the Loyalists and King George or the rebellious Patriots had we been alive in those tumultuous times. We never came to a conclusion. Would we have wanted to be associated with aristocratic snobs who looked down at us or conversely with those who looted and tarred and feathered their adversaries?

Waiting for my flight home, after three days immersed in the noble, and sometimes ignoble, founding of our country, it was initially somewhat jarring to be surrounded by hysterical and shrill voices projecting from the airport TV screen. Although I wasn’t looking at the monitor, for the hour I sat there waiting for my delayed flight I couldn’t avoid hearing the President’s name repeatedly linked to the words impeachment and obstruction. Partisan people with predetermined conclusions were passionately pontificating about uncertain events.

Generations after a Boston silversmith named Paul Revere copied a propaganda drawing misrepresenting the shooting of colonists at the hands of British soldiers, personalities continue to inflame emotion and incite fervor by bending the truth. Generations after average citizens rose up in anger at an elitist, taxing, ruling class, their descendants continue to demand a more representative government. Generations after families, including that of Ben Franklin, were split apart as members supported different factions, people are finding politics imperiling their most intimate relationships. We can only pray that generations after a group of men with uncommon abilities, principles and courage gathered to form a nation, we don’t seek in vain for their worthy successors.

If you haven’t heard this 2 audio CD set and shared it with everyone of voting age, you should. The promises being made today aren’t new, nor are the dangers facing us. Look to Genesis to reveal the past, present and future.

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19 comments

Heidi Christensen says:

Dear Mrs. Lapin:

I am so glad you’re home after a nice visit with your daughter. I love to read your thoughts. Beyond politics is simply politeness. We don’t have to agree to be civil.

Thank you.

Susan Lapin says:

We don’t have to agree to be civil, but politeness doesn’t change society. It is a dilemma, and one of the reasons that history is fascinating.

Larry Kelley says:

Susan, you’re right to conjecture that it would have been a huge decision to side with the revolutionaries and leave the known life of a loyalist. I’m writing a novel about a boy who grew up the son of successful Boston magnate who fought and survived the revolutionary war. As a young and privileged student at Harvard, he gains a summer job on a commercial frigate leaving Boston for Europe and is captured by Muslim pirates and spends 16 years as a prisoner in Algiers. The title is “Going Native – The Confessions of Tyler Prescott Jones, an American Slave in Barbary.” What do you think of my project? I’d love to know your reaction.

Susan Lapin says:

Well, you have my interest piqued, Larry. I both love and am wary of historical fiction and historical movies. On one hand, the times come alive. On the other, the fiction tends to get remembered as truth. Some books and movies are almost completely accurate even when based around a fictional character while others use history as a bendable peg on which to hang their story. My guess is that you are of the more accurate bent. The events you are writing about are fascinating and I’m sure your research will uncover amazing things.

James says:

Never have I been to Boston. But the revelations of this Musing I find disquieting, for the reason of your assertion: “a Boston silversmith named Paul Revere copied a propaganda drawing misrepresenting the shooting of colonists at the hands of British soldiers, personalities continue to inflame emotion and incite fervor by bending the truth.” Indeed. Was it the Rabbi’s hero Sir Winston Churchill who said: “In time of war the first casualty is the truth?” (Or words to that effect)

Among my ancestors are three generations of Americans named after ‘dead presidents,’ not to honor currency, but to espouse fervent dedication to the American cause, on which all the ideological descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob can and should agree: dedication to the sovereignty of God and his goodness in granting us unalienable rights as human beings touched by the finger of God.

If what you say about our Revolution is true, then the lies the Democratic Socialists are consistently spreading to advance their agenda seem “as American as apple pie.” I fervently hope this is not true. In this column several times before I have expressed dismay at how the New Left, apparently descended from the Students for Democratic Society of the 1960’s, have stooped to BEND the truth, to tell any lie, to besmirch any good person, to destroy any opponent by fair means or foul by arousing emotion, like their fanatical Communist fathers. The Rabbi has pointed out how Israel was in effect contaminated into the far distant future by the worshippers of the golden calf. Historically speaking, I hope the seeds of our own destruction were not sowed likewise during our Revolution. A lie to further ANY cause is despicable, and will sow seeds of destructive karma down the road. Hey, just a thought…

Susan Lapin says:

James, I don’t think there’s a question that Paul Revere’s depiction of the shooting was meant to inflame. Even calling it the ‘Boston Massacre'(I’m not sure when that name was popularized) vs. the “Incident on King Street” as the British called it gets people’s emotions up. On the other hand, the soldiers were given fair representation by John Adams and Josiah Quincy II, both of whom had Patriot credentials. That showed greatness. Real people, real strengths and weaknesses.

Anne Snyder says:

I love History and Boston has more then ther share. Glad you had a nice trip.

Susan Lapin says:

Not only did I get to spend wonderful one on one time with my daughter, but we both loved steeping ourselves in the history. It was my first trip to Boston and there really is so much to see.

Mark Lampe says:

“We can only pray that generations after a group of men with uncommon abilities, principles and courage gathered to form a nation, we don’t seek in vain for their worthy successors.”

I wish I could be optimistic, however the facts alone leave me in doubt. We have an entire generation of coddled citizens who have never served in this nation’s military, most give scant lip service to the horrible wounds and crushing sacrifice of the young men and women who have volunteered in their stead, so that the rest can pursue their hedonistic interests. In short, they have no skin on the game unlike the Israelis who have mandatory service for the majority of their citizens. Service to the nation suffuses a sense of pride and even ownership in an individual. Given this fact alone coupled with all the other negative aspects we discuss here about the X generation, I find it difficult to muster any real optimism.

Susan Lapin says:

You are making a great point, Mark. I agree that owing your country years of service propels you into a completely different adulthood than focusing on what you should be getting. Still, there are wonderful young people all over this country, some of them doing amazing things, and I do pray that enough of them get together to become a real force for good.

James says:

Mark, you are so right. I recall my parents’ generation, children of the Great Depression, who were quick to volunteer in the great cause of our nation’s defense. Perhaps they made it all too easy for us, and as a result the next generation exhibits self-indulgence squared. It is hard to imagine the upcoming generation volunteering for any such crisis. For this reason I would favor universal conscription such as one sees in Israel or in Switzerland, where every male (at least) must perform national military service for (say) 18 months. If any young male tries to exempt himself by underhanded political influence, let him serve a double term.

Joyce Redos says:

What a wonderful trip. What a wonderful experience to share with your daughter.

Wouldn’t it be lovely to take all the children of America on a trip to see and learn the truths, good and bad, about our founding. So few today learn any of the virtues, but only the sins. In my generation, we learned the virtues of the founders but not the humanity of the British and the Tory Americans, who resisted the American Revolution. Somewhere in the middle is the truth.

Thanks to Ancestry.com, I have been blessed to learn much about my ancestors on my mother’s side. (My dad’s family came from Hungary and Slovakia and the records there either don’t exist or are inaccessible as yet.). A number of my ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War, mostly as enlisted men. One presumes that they fought not just for no taxation without representation, but for the greater dream of simple freedom to live their lives without too much interference from a central government an ocean away.

One of my Revolutionary era ancestors in particular stands out for me. He did not enlist in the army. He was a Mennonite preacher. He helped supply George Washington’s troops in Pennsylvania. He is listed in D.A.R. Records as a friend of George Washington and as a Revolutionary Patriot. Yet he was a pacifist. Despite his pacifism he saw value in the ideals our founders fought for and though his faith prevented him from carrying arms, he did what he could to support the men who did. His name in English was John Miller.

By the way, the Mennonites originated in Switzerland where they were persecuted for their faith. John Miller’s family migrated to the Netherlands in the early 17th Century and then to America around 1690. Though they maintained their pacifism, I am sure they cheered when the Continental Congress adopted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion.

Susan Lapin says:

Joyce, how wonderful that you are able to trace some of your family back in such detail. And you found a very special ancestor! I agree wholeheartedly that it is terribly wrong to teach children only the bad, which is sadly done in many places today, though there is, as you point out, a problem with not exposing people to the nuances and two sides of a story as they mature.

Claire Bradley-Johnston says:

Susan,
I love your musings and the way you think. Politically and spiritually, you and I are kindred spirits. I am a Christian but I have a deep reverence for the Jewish faith. In my mind, Judaism is the “father” of my faith. I look upon my Jewish brethren the same way America feels about its first cousin, England. We are bound to each other despite whatever has occurred in the past. I thank your husband, too, for all that I have learned through him. I never thought about your comparison between the loyalists and the Americans, who tarred and feathered the loyalists. I am not sure when you phrase it that way which side I would have been on. Emotionally and morally, I would have sided with the Americans that “enough is enough”. (I only wish Americans felt that way today. I suppose if no one received freebies, as was the case in the 1700’s, the rest of the country would also be fed up with our government today, regardless of what party you sided with!) However, I don’t believe in violence unless provoked physically. I suppose I would have favored the war itself for my freedom, but not those torturing people at that time who were largely doing their jobs. Just the same, your trip sounds like a wonderful place to take the family this summer. I absolutely LOVE American history and this sounds like a fun place to sight-see. Thank you for your common sense musings. It so refreshing to read someone who believes and understands the America I grew up in…

Susan Lapin says:

I do hope you can take a family trip to Boston. With more time, we would have seen more there as well as the outlying areas like Lexington and Concord. Then, of course, there’s Philadelphia and other cities as well that are chock full of history. Like with Bible study, it is a shame when history learning stops as a child. You are left with an immature view. (Today, a lot of kids don’t even get that baseline learning.) History is messy and often murky. I think it helps put current events in perspective.

Scott says:

A good read. However I must mention that the USS Constitution is not a battleship by naval definition. A battleship historically goes back to the term of being a “Ship of the Line”. Essentially, Ships of the Line were created to be in the middle of the fight, double gun decked at the least and carry a minimum of 50 guns. While her specifications stated she had 44 guns, she often was noted to carry the required 50, however her construction was noted to be a Heavy Frigate and not a heavier and slower Ship of the Line. Her designer knew the US could not hope to beat the larger British Navy and other superpowers like France at that time with a respectably sizable navy so he designed her to be a Heavy Frigate and carry enough firepower to overpower any other naval vessel except a Ship of the Line and should she encounter one, be light enough to still outrun one.

Susan Lapin says:

Scott, I am delighted to stand corrected by someone who clearly knows much more than I do about military maritime matters.

Paul R says:

Enjoyed reading about your account of a thoughtful journey to Boston and the cradle of American Independence. While stationed in Quantico, Va in 1968 with the United States Marine Corps, I had opportunity visit the nation’s capital on many weekends. Those experiences seeing the Declaration of Independence, Capital Building, Monuments, and every weekend liberty several members of my platoon would walk through Arlington National Cemetery, go to the Tomb of the Unknowns, and always finish with a visit to the Marine Corps Monument. Nearly 50 years later I’m still moved with emotion when pondering the price paid to deliver to me the privilege to have been born in this nation. My roots run deep in America. My maternal Grandfather was related to the Martin’s who came to Plymouth in 1620. My father was part of a Cherokee family that left Oklahoma during the dust bowl in 1938. My maternal Grandparents both had family who participated in the American Revolution. Because of my military background, having purposely joined the Marine Corps during Vietnam not waiting to be drafted, and because of my family roots, I would have surely participated in the rebellion; but I can understand the difficulty in trying to decide where you and your daughter might have found yourselves in that period of time.
I too, find myself cringing at the noise coming from many parts of my country. The America I grow up in seems to have disappeared. The spiritual condition of America is deplorable and frightening. When Israel wondered from the Lord they were warned of the consequences of their unfaithfulness. I believe we are being warned of ours. I believe that those of us who believe need to take 2 Chron. 14:7 seriously. We who are called by His name need to humble ourselves, repent of our wicked ways and desire that the Lord would heal our land. The Word doesn’t place this on those who have taken no knowledge of our Great G_d but on those called by His name. We must take that responsibility on ourselves. The Revolutionary generation took responsibility on themselves to fight for freedom to worship G_d. Hundreds of thousands have willingly paid an awful price to deliver that great gift to this generation. I personally know some of the men who’s names appear on the Wall of the Vietnam War Memorial. I served with them, was friends with them and visited Arlington National Cemetery with some of them. What price do I really pay for a few hours on my face before my G_d seeking His merciful forgiveness and unending grace. Thanks for letting ramble. I enjoy very much you and the Rabbi’s ministry. Your teaching has given me more insight and ability to teach in my church.

Eldred says:

Paul R – thank you for your service!

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