The founding fathers know best: the TV Land version of American history

"Listen to this, kids. We can now live free or die. It's our choice."

Sarah Palin summed things up best. When her history teacher, Mr. Beck,  asked who her favorite Founder was, she replied: “Well as for me ummmm….thats a hard one, cuz all of them have a special place in my heart.”.  Which is like being asked who your favorite candidate for president is and you saying you couldn’t make up your mind, they all were that good.  (But I guess when you are busy reading everything from the Nation to National Geographic to Penthouse it can be hard to make up your mind about a lot of things.)

It’s like people really believe that the ‘founding fathers’ were of the same mind, with the same goals and ambitions.  That almost overnight they became angry at the British and, looking around and seeing ALL the other angry Americans, got together, wrote the Declaration of Independence, formed the Continental Congress and ratified the Constitution.  Somewhere around 1776.

A lot of people on the right claim to be  modern day patriots,  who (incorrectly) see themselves fighting for the same things as did colonial Americans 240 years ago.  They are not alone there:  ill-informed politically minded people have claimed the divine right of Minutemen before, both on the right and on the left.  And of course, none of them were anywhere near the truth, either

The issues facing the colonial rebels at that time were nothing like those we face today, no matter how we may like to stretch the truth.  Like our current tax policies or not,  in this country every citizen, no matter their gender, race, religion, educational background or financial status, is represented by their vote.  Something that the colonists did not enjoy and something that they did not grant most Americans when they took power from the British. And they never said much of anything negative about government health care (though there were some positive words spoken about similar ideas).

"Martha, I've told you that Dan'l Boone handles problems with the Beaver."

In spite of all their lamentations, I don’t think that Revolutionary-era ideals are what the Tea Party & Co. are pining away for.  They know too little of history to convince me of that.  What they really miss is Parson Weem’s America, as taught in classrooms of the 1950’s and early 1960’s, when so many of them grew up. It was a rosy and glorious history,  full of anecdotes and myths about their country’s heroes that gave (almost) everyone a warm feeling inside.  It was the fifties, the big war was over, victorious America was super powerful and the times were prosperous, while the somewhat distant Soviet threat united many of them in common cause.  Life was good.

Unless you were black,  Jewish, an ambitious woman or a homosexual.  In that case you probably didn’t rate a pool-side martini with Doris or a corner office on Madison Avenue.  (OK, maybe some Jewish guys did alright there. And Rock was gay…) But non-WASPs,  many of whom played major roles in our nation’s early history, were almost never mentioned in Baby-Boomer text books  (as some non-experts would like to do with our text books today).  Instead they were told that it was the noble, virtuous  and Christian men of the colonies,  who would quickly shed their white wigs and frock coats whenever another musket was needed, who led a nation of united Americans (including their slaves) in the common cause of freedom and liberty for all (except for the slaves, of course. And women).  Anti-historical rubbish.

I know there are a few minorities swimming in conservative Republican waters right now, even some gays. But I think it’s pretty obvious that the bulk of the angry people are angry because they are the descendants of what were once the entitled and privileged class of America.  Not the super wealthy, but those who never feared that hard work and good morals would be insufficient to make it in America. Those that never had to worry about being denied a job or a place of residence because of what they looked like.  Those that never had to stand outside in the dark, looking wistfully into the living rooms and kitchens of suburbia, wondering what that would be like, if only things could be different.

And now they are. And that pisses a lot of people off because nobody wants to share their toys, especially the white Christian right who have spiritually possessed the Republican party.  And as we all know, it is an American Christian mantra that “he who dies with the most toys goes to heaven”.  Toys like health care and pensions. And cheap gas for their SUVs. And really good schools that keep the property values up (Or at least they did for a while. Rats!)

And that’s the point of the anti-history lesson being taught by the Tea Party and Glenn Beck:  life used to be so much better. For the heirs of the Founders.


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  1. #1 by philosopoet on January 5, 2011 - 5:10 am

    …as ever awesome…

  2. #3 by logiopsychopath on January 5, 2011 - 8:33 pm

    Gee, Chris, you sure have some axes to grind, don’t you?

    On the other hand, you are correct, the 50s “Father Knows Best” world just did not exist–yeah, guys like Archie Bunker “had it made” with their union jobs (working for defense contractors, BTW) and Levitown homes (on government backed mortgages, double BTW) making 6% on
    U. S. Savings bonds (hmm, almost sounds like socialism). However, for the most part, people were not “better off” than in earlier times.

    People like Jerry Falwell and others looked back fondly on those times, but they are looking back on a non-existing utopia, looking to escape the present realities of the over-indulgence of that era, which WE are all paying for now. Programs like TARP are the tax payers paying the piper for the mortgage-go-round of the post WWII years, which came to roost in 2007, as the deals ran out of blind alleys in which to be swapped.

    Yeah, I know I mixed my metaphors, but you have to give the brother a break.

    • #4 by Christian Beyer on January 5, 2011 - 9:18 pm

      Oh let America be America again – the land that never has been yet.

      Langston Hughes

      Sent from my iPod

    • #5 by Christian Beyer on January 5, 2011 - 9:26 pm

      Archie Bunker is an excellent example! He is the patron saint of the neocons, libertarians and the Tea Baggers. Those were the days indeed.

      Sent from my iPod

  3. #6 by logiopsychopath on January 6, 2011 - 7:01 am

    BTW, how could an average family afford a La Salle? I thought that was a Cadillac.

    Double BTW–read Hughes’ essay “Salvation,” an eye opening experience, indeed (the only Hughes I have ever read).

    • #7 by Christian Beyer on January 6, 2011 - 11:02 am

      Close – GM introduced the La Salle brand to fill the price gap between Buick and Cadillac, since the Caddies had gotten so expensive. But you’re right, it wasn’t cheap. Since they ended production in 1940 it probably wasn’t Archie’s car they were singing about but one of their parent’s.

      Automobile history used to be a hobby of mine.

  4. #8 by logiopsychopath on January 6, 2011 - 6:50 pm

    Ah–wow–besides, Archie doesn’t have a car in the series canon, except when he fills in as a cab driver, so why would his parents during the Great Depression (I’m just saying).

  5. #10 by logiopsychopath on January 6, 2011 - 8:28 pm

    Yeah–I had a bad period 7 with my psychotic “co-teacher.” I’m pretty upset right now.
    I agreed to teach the class tomorrow, which is okay–but the woman is nutz. We have a spec.ed. type student in the class (actually 2) and she sends these guys out every day.

    I told her she needs to take a more positive approach, and that she makes herself an adversary to these kids–needless to say she didn’t like what I said.

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