Well you would think Ted’s Head got a rest last week but not really. I have been working as a very junior editor on a new book about Swift Boats. I also had a chance to catch up on a variety of Charlie Rose, Bill Moyers and Nature shows. More interesting and exciting than they sound.
The most scintillating part of my mental gyrations was watching a series of interviews by Charlie with David McCullough, historian and story teller extraordinaire. He honed in on the Fourth of July without the beer and brats. We can all imagine the scene in beautiful downtown Philadelphia as august members of the aristocracy planned out their their future. Kind of like a Union League smoking room. Au contraire mes amis.
Most were in their 30’s and 40’s with Ben Franklin as the only senior citizen of sorts.They were firebrands and statesmen alike. They had to keep the windows closed so subversives would not overhear their conversations. A little seedy in July. They literally risked being hanged as traitors and the populace was not exactly 100% behind them. But they had a vision and nothing was going to dissuade them .
As war came to be, our wild colonial boys were outnumbered and in many cases outflanked. These were farm hands who came with no shoes, which was not unusual and the shirts on their backs. Ill equipped but they had a fire in their belly that provided an extra lift when the insurmountable hit. And they had a secret weapon in the person of George Washington.
They were a motley group and had to pick up tactics and leadership on the run. They probably had formal education of about 5 or 6 years of grammar school. GW shepherded and all the while stumbled making some serious mistakes along the way. Yet he was there to the end when most of us would have crumbled.
Incredible luck prevailed. Retreating from the Battle of Brooklyn there was an eerie fog that blanketed some 7,000 men who crossed the East River only to find the shores of Manhattan Island clear as a bell. The Brits could have wiped them out and wanted to do so but an ill wind on that same East River prevented a naval attack…and the rest as they say is history. Imagine if that fog and wind had not miraculously appeared? What would our world look like now?
Point being is that we always look back at our early days and see liberty wrapped up in a tidy package. Eat drink and be merry. The hell with the king. Let’s shoot off some fireworks. It was anything but. Eight long years bore on. How many of us would have walked barefoot in the dead of winter at Morristown or Trenton? Hungry, freezing, suffering from dissentary. We speak of our love of country and the Bill of Rights. Are you really ready to die for assault weapons and same sex marriage?
Washington was phenomenal. He didn’t want the job of General but he took it. He didn’t want to be President but he assumed the mantel. The original members of Congress did not want to hang around Washington. K Street and PACS hadn’t been invented yet. You paid for own food and transport. The gym and Capitol barbershop weren’t even on the drawing boards. These gents served out of a sense of duty and not self promotion.
There was a simplicity and yet subtleness to our constitution that worked. There was a collegiality that said we are all in this together. Let’s not step on each other’s toes but be able to do our own thing. Sequestration, lavish expenses, junkets, lobbyists, assault weapons, immigration stagnation, humongous staffs. Is this how it was supposed to be?
Pan over to a place called Rome. The Vatican to be exact. I think about the Catholic Church. It started off with a guy named Jesus who had a very simple concept. Forget about doctrine and religiosity for a minute. He wanted people to be free and care for one another. His disciples didn’t have expense accounts but travelled on their own nickel. Peter wanted to hang around Rome. Paul wanted to go far and wide. Somehow there was room for both.
A lot of water has gone over the dam. We started building huge edifices and the papacy took on a life of its own. Pomp and circumstance and basilicas overtook common sense and purpose of mission. We called them princes instead of disciples and boy did they act like royalty. You can kiss my ring and kiss my…, well you know what I mean. Any similarities to the US of A?
Then this guy who would come to be known as Francis shows up. He didn’t want the job of Pope. It wasn’t in his genes. He was a Jesuit. When elected he didn’t bolt for the limo but took the bus back to his hotel. He is not served in residence but hangs out with everybody else for dinner. He drives security crazy by reaching out to people of all sorts after saying mass in a local church.
He is shaking things up. Like his namesake he wants to place more emphasis on the poor and forgotten. At Easter he washed the feet of criminals instead of the Curia. Actually there may be a message there. He is throwing the bums out. But he is also going to make two former popes saints. One liberal. One conservative. A compromise. Imagine that. A smart man. Very smart.
Some people call him a radical. I think he is just going back to basics. Back to where there was a purity of purpose. Not a gazillion interpretations by the cognoscenti or Machiavellian intrigue at every stage of governance. He likes fellow Christians, Muslims, Jews and even Atheists. I don’t know about you but I think we could use a guy like this on our side of the pond. Let’s be Frank. I think we could do worse.
Ted The Great
Historians have estimated that approximately 40 to 45 percent of the colonists supported the rebellion, while 15 to 20 percent remained loyal to the Crown.
The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, and Great Britain acknowledged America’s independence. The treaty established a northern boundary with Canada and set the Mississippi River as the western boundary.
Pope Francis shunned the red Gucci slippers in favor of the black Brogans he had brought from home. When he addresses the throngs he speaks to his “brothers” not my “children”. At least he is halfway there. Not a factoid but I think he looks like a cross between Yogi Berra and Rudy Guilliani.
An estimated 25,000 American Revolutionaries died during active military service. About 8,000 of these deaths were in battle; the other 17,000 deaths were from disease, including about 8,000 – 12,000 who died while prisoners of war, most in rotting prison ships in New York
Although as many as 250,000 men may have served as regulars or as militiamen for the Revolutionary cause in the eight years of the war, there were never more than 90,000 total men under arms for the Americans in any given year.