American Elephants


Now They’re Going After George Washington! by The Elephant's Child

Activists are demanding of the Mayor of Washington DC, Muriel Bowser, that she change anything in her city that is related to George Washington, (Father of our Country) be removed, torn down, re-named etc. because George Washington, our acclaimed first president, once owned slaves. Whether this demand includes changing the name of the city is unknown, but it does include the Washington monument. The demands to tear it down were a little confused when the size and location were pointed out, but there you go. The fact that destroying it would not change history in any way, apparently was not part of the discussion. This is so dumb. According to the records, heĀ  actually opposed slavery. He sold off part of the Mt. Vernon estate to other farmers, because he didn’t want to be a plantation owner.

It’s becoming fairly clear that those out demanding major changes are usually completely unfamiliar with the people they are denigrating, and with their history. We have gone into the false teeth thing, with several posts attempting to discover what George Washington really looked like, as the most familiar image is the one on the one dollar bill. That engraving was based on the portrait by Gilbert Stuart which emphasized the distortions caused by his false and poorly fitting teeth. Washington did not take to Gilbert Stuart and Stuart was offended. The life mask by Jean Antoine Houdon suggests that Washington was fairly good looking. He was tall, about 6’2″, and most verbal descriptions from the time suggest a “roman” or more prominent nose. He spent most of his life in the saddle, so would have been tanned and weathered.

With all the George Washington statues under attack, perhaps it’s a good time to recommend another book. Richard Brookheiser has written biographies of many of our founding fathers, and his highly praised biography of Washington is only 168 pages. There’s some useful supplementary material as well. He has also written biographies of James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Lincoln, John Marshall, and Governuer Morris. and the Adams family. John Adams, not the TV Adams Family



Books to Enrich Your Life: Not Always the Newest Ones by The Elephant's Child

less-cov

I don’t know if you are familiar with the works of Richard Mitchell, the Underground Grammarian. He was a professor at Glassboro State College and wrote broadsides on the problems of our public schools under the title The Underground Grammarian. His four books are: Less Than Words Can Say, The Graves of Academe, The Leaning Tower of Babel, and the Gift of Fire. I recommend them all highly. Here’s a brief sample:

We are people who imagine that we are weighing important issues when we exchange generalizations and well=known opinions. We decide how to vote or what to buy according to whim or fancied self-interest, either of which is easily engendered in us by the manipulation of language, which we have neither the will nor the ability to analyze. We believe that we can reach conclusions without having the faintest idea of the difference between inferences and statements of fact, often without any suspicions that there are such things and that they are different. We are easily persuaded and repersuaded by what seems authoritative, without any notion of those attitudes and abilities that characterize authority. We do not notice elementary fallacies in logic; it doesn’t even occur to us to look for them; few of us are even aware that such things exist. We make no regular distinctions between those kinds of things that can be known and objectively verified and those that can only be believed or not. Nor are we likely to examine, when we believe or not, the induced predispositions that may make us do the one or the other. We are easy prey.

He also remarks that:

In fact, the destiny of this land, of any land, is exactly and inevitably determined by the nature and abilities of the children now in school. The future simply has no other resources. And, an even more dismaying fact, because it tells of us, not them, this land as it is today is the exact and inevitable result of the nature and abilities of the schoolchildren thatĀ we were. And the things that you think important, everything from the politics to the rapes and murders and fires, are what they are and have for us the meanings that they have precisely because of what we were.

Your Public Library should have them, and Amazon does, or your local bookstore may. Mitchell died in 2010.




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