Wednesday, June 29, 2005

1776

Recently, I’ve found myself wondering what our country would be like had our current media existed in earlier times. What would Tom Brokaw have had to say about Adolf Hitler? Would Dan Rather have examined Harry Truman’s past so unscrupulously? Would Peter Jennings have wondered what we’d done to deserve the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor? Would Katie Couric have questioned James Monroe’s IQ and school records when he stated his Monroe Doctrine? Let’s take a moment and revisit the American Revolution CBS-style.

Dateline: March 5, 1770, Boston, Massachusetts: Today a group of right-wing conservative extremists prompted a mob attack on British soldiers guaranteeing the peace of Boston. In a shameless display of recklessness and without regard to the safety of the women and children among them, the rabble-rousers pelted the British with rocks, chunks of ice, and snowballs until the soldiers were forced to fire into the crowd. Most of the British platoon were bloodied while only four the rabble were injured or killed.

Dateline: December 17, 1773, Boston, Massachusetts: Last night the radical terrorist group known as the Sons of Liberty led a midnight raid on the Boston Harbor. In a racist and cowardly display these insurgents disguised themselves as Mohawk Indians. Under the cover of darkness they slipped aboard a ship loaded with tea and committed acts of vandalism. With a glaring disregard for the environmental damage, the right-wing liberation-fundamentalists spilled crates of tea into the harbor! The British Navy has been mobilized to take control of the harbor and set up a protective screen of ships at the harbor entrance. Furthermore, British troop numbers have been increased in Boston to the point of overflowing their barracks. Excess troops have been invited to bunk in colonial homes.

Dateline: April 18, 1775, Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts: In a startling dawn assault, misguided and misinformed locals fire on British soldiers in Lexington. Hoodwinked by those right-wing subversives, the Sons of Liberty, many simple farmers and townsfolk, calling themselves Minutemen, took up arms against our rightful sovereign in the body of his representatives, the British army. In an unprecedented display of treachery these Minutemen opened fire on a force of British regulars marching through town on a reconnaissance mission. When the British returned the volley the cowardly Minutemen broke and ran for cover. The British continued on their march to Concord. On their return to Boston, the British regulars were harried by growing numbers of insurgents shooting from behind trees and stone walls.

Dateline: May 10, 1775, Fort Ticonderoga, New York: Insurgents Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen led an uneducated and disaffected force in an undeclared attack on Fort Ticonderoga. Taken unawares by an attack in an undeclared war, the British were forced to surrender the fort.

Dateline: June 17, 1775, Boston, Massachusetts: A force of extremist insurgents again threaten Boston by attempting to fortify Breed’s Hill. Courageous General William Howe, in defense of the loyal Bostonians, sent a force of 2000 British regulars to evict the insurgents. After three pitched battles the extremists were forced to retreat, but only after visiting horrible losses and wounds on the British troops.

Dateline: July, 1775, Boston, Massachusetts: In a move to escalate the impending conflict, right-wing extremist John Adams calls for a “Grand American Army” and recommends George Washington as its general, “a gentleman whose skills as an officer...would command the respect of America.” Contrary to Adams’ glowing praise, readers might recall Washington as the quiet, gentleman-farmer from Virginia. Far from an experienced officer, Washington is a lack-luster leader who’s military career is one of failure. He commanded a force in the recent French and Indian War and was given the simple task to protect a section of the Ohio River Valley from French encroachment. Not only did the French build a fort on Washington’s plot, Washington’s own fort, Fort Necessity, was repeatedly attacked and ultimately destroyed by the French. George Washington’s defeat at Fort Necessity caused most of the local indian tribes to go over to the French. As an aid to General Edward Braddock in an attack on the French fort he had previously been tasked to prevent from being built, Washington escaped with holes in his coat while his general died! With Washington for a general any insurgent army is not likely to be “Grand” much less successful.

Dateline: August, 1776, New York, New York: In a pitched battle of nearly equal forces, General George Washington is again defeated and routed by the British army. Washington and his band of insurgents were rescued at the last minute by the weather. Had it not been for a thick fog, Washington might well be a guest of His Majesty’s Gaoler this very day.

Dateline: July 4, 1776, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: In a daring move, the right-wing extremist upstart Continental Congress released their Declaration of Independence. Outlining their objections to the rule of our Sovereign, His Majesty King George III, this cabal of insurgent leaders seeks to legitimize their rebellious movement. What is lacking in their claims is the support of the people of these thirteen colonies. Recent polling reveals that only about 40% of the population are in favor of separation from England, while an equal number are undecided or neutral. In fact, one fifth of all people surveyed considered themselves loyalists! Clearly support for the insurgency is waning and this “declaration” is an obvious attempt to stir up more moral outrage and cloud the issues that really matter to the people: civil defense from French and Indian incursions, better living conditions in over-crowded cities, and modern European health care instead of colonial frontier remedies.

If you think I’m going over the top, consider the words of David McCullough, an author and historian of some note, from an interview with CNBC’s Tim Russert: “[If the American Revolution] had been covered by the media, and the country had seen now horrible the conditions were, how badly things were being run by the officers, and what a very serious soup we were in, I think that would have been it." Keep this in mind when reading their reports today. It should be widely recognized now that the Dan Rather National Guard documents were forgeries and the charges were false. The Newsweek Gitmo claims have been largely discredited as being massively overstated. Likewise, these new Downing Street memo charges are on the shakiest of grounds since Associated Press Writer, Thomas Wagner, reported that the British reporter, Michael Smith, not only retyped the memos but then destroyed the originals! This key fact has been scantily reported and may actually come as news to you. In another time the statements of Amnesty International would have cost them most of their American contributions and the ravings of Dick Durbin would have cost him his Senatorship. With the right to free speech and the freedom of the press comes a responsibility to speak and report honestly. A free press, free of government control AND political bias, is crucial to the exercise of democracy and where the press is not free or is biased democracy is usurped by oligarchy - the elites hold the power, shape the opinions, and disseminate the views they want the masses to have.

The study of history, specifically OUR history, is critical to understanding where we are, how we got here, and why we are here, not to mention where we will go from here. We don’t teach history any more, we teach Social Studies. In fact, we don’t actually teach any more, we simply provide students with points of view, much like modern news reporting. Could Dick Durbin escape ridicule from a constituency educated enough to understand his comments? Anyone remotely familiar with concentration camps, gulags, and “the killing fields” will have nothing but disgust for the man. However, in our culture where only the “now” is relevant and reporters have the carte blanche of readership ignorance to frame events as they please rather than as they are in context, he skates by unscathed. As Ben Stein observed so eloquently in 1968, “A human being who has not been taught to think clearly is a danger in a free society.”

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