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w July 06, 2008

Post Holiday Weekend Thoughts

I'm not going to be overtly political, but a couple of things got me thinking this morning, and while I know on first blush none of them seem particularly well connected, bear with me.

So number one, we started watching the DVD of "John Adams", the HBO miniseries based on David McCullough's biography of said. It is so.good. So Good. We're only 3 episodes into 7, but it reminded me anew of why I love miniseries of a dorkish historical nature. It also does an excellent job of pointing out that the American Revolution is not, as Gene said, a historical amusement park. We spend a lot of time waving flags and eating hot dogs and trying to burn things up with fireworks, and tend to ignore the fact that this was a hell of a choice for a lot of people, to basically just jump off the cliff and cut the familial apron strings knowing full well the penalty for treason. It also reminds us that many people did NOT choose to go the rebellion route, and it's important to remember that they were acting according to their consciences, just as much as the American side was. The underlying common denominator though is that sense of duty - of doing things 'against human inclination' to paraphrase a line from "John Adams".

It's well against human inclination to go INTO a fire but that's exactly what firefighters from far and yon are doing in Big Sur, and spent their holiday weekend doing. The pictures are just heartbreaking, but they do a good job of illustrating this principle of duty in a way I think John Adams would understand - you don't do it for yourself, necessarily, but often you do it on the behalf of people you'll never even meet. Then there is Jesse Helms dying. I have a hard time believing that anything he did that he felt was his 'duty' was on behalf of anything but his own twisted sense of righteousness, and yet, there have been plenty of accolades heaped on him for being a 'true American' or a 'true patriot'. I would have liked to see Abigail Adams take him on, I have to admit.

So what is being truly American? I dunno really - I think it's mutable and individual for the most part, and that's a good chunk of why this is a country still with appeal for a lot of people, regardless of how many editorials and opinion essays are written to the contrary. On the other hand, I might argue that some of it, at least some of the best part of it, is quiet ordinary people doing their jobs, their 'duty', knowing they may not really get any particular reward for it, and may in fact get quite the opposite, but doing it anyway, on behalf of people you will likely never meet.

And now I need more coffee, as my mommy brain has been taxed with the cerebral.

by at July 06, 2008 9:52 AM | TrackBack Comments
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