An editorial rant from a disgruntled historian...
Somebody once said that imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. My guess is that individual was probably lazy or just plain dumb.
Imitation is simply defined as “the act of making a counterfeit.” Any examination of creative history whether it be in the genres of literature, music, cinema or art, reveal that it is the originators, not the imitators, who we celebrate today. I’m not talking about those who are influenced by their predecessors. I’m talking about those who flat out copy and regurgitate.
Now imagine that it’s a subject far more sacred than the performing arts. Imagine it is the very essence of your culture that is being hijacked, skewed and used as propaganda. Imagine that it's your country's history, forged on the blood, sweat and tears of your forefathers and originally perpetrated for something that really mattered. I’m talking about those epic milestones that are woven into the fabric of American culture and can only be done once because that is what made them truly great in the first place. We are a nation that was built on these moments, forged by pioneers and executed by rebels.
Our patriots were the original progressives and the things that they were able to accomplish in their lifetime should make us ashamed of our own. Unfortunately our generation has taken our ancestor’s legacy and manipulated it into an advertising campaign with a catchy slogan and this is what brings me to my point today.
This past election cycle witnessed some of the most ignorant and blatant imitation ever perpetrated on the public and far too many of us fell for it. Perhaps we were distracted by the red-state-blue-state / liberal-vs.-conservative diversion that was at the forefront of every debate while the spin-doctors unleashed a tsunami worth of historical vomit. Or maybe we are just as lazy and dumb as the one who coined the phrase in my opening. Honestly, I think its both.
The result is that we are now riding a tidal-wave of ignorance that has enveloped both sides of the political spectrum. Not only are we committing the simpleton’s crime of imitation, we are also spreading misinformation that has everyone from CNN to the President of the United States issuing weekly retractions after misquoting some historic figure.
A perfect example of this mega-gaff took place on The Glenn Beck Show when the host said that: “Progressives coddle kids. They’re destroying the fabric of what Thomas Jefferson called the meritocracy.” Someone should have informed Mr. Beck that the word “meritocracy” was originally coined in 1958. In his November 11th intro Beck said: “George Washington used to call it the battlefield of ideas.” George Washington never said that and the closest thing they have found to it is Newt Gingrich who said “On the battlefield of ideas, winning requires moving toward the sound of the guns.”
There are just as many misquotes coming out from Mr. Beck’s competitors, but he tends to quote historical figures more than any other as part of his schtick. Making matters worse, we still consider Beck and people like him to be credible sources when referencing history. I would like to remind these professional speakers that if we made as many gaffs as they did, we would probably be looking for a new job.
As a non-partisan citizen I would like to preface this portion of my rant by saying that I dislike both sides of the isle equally. That said, my biggest source of outrage rests with those damn Tea Partiers. No one has hijacked more sacred imagery or misrepresented history more than these far-right spinsters. As one who spends all of his time studying and writing about 18th and 19th century America, I am infuriated by the calculated misuse of our heritage by these morons.
At my home I fly the “Join, or Die.” flag, based on a well-known political cartoon, created by Benjamin Franklin and first published in his Pennsylvania Gazette on May 9, 1754. I do this because I can never fly the much cooler “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden Flag because it has become the retro-bumper sticker for an entire political-movement whose branding was built reusing words and images from America’s true fight for independence.
I for one can’t believe the audacity of these folks. I would love to meet Sarah Palin face-to-face and remind her that she is not Patrick Henry, nor are there British soldiers occupying our land and enforcing the King’s taxes on us. People are not fighting and dying in the streets and to compare the mission of what is essentially another addition to the list of disgruntled parties (including the Libertarian, Green and Constitution) to the most important conflict in our nation’s history is ludicrous.
Proving that bad ideas have never prevented politicians from reusing them, the rebounding Republicans are also jumping on the patriotic-bandwagon. Just today I received an email-blast from the Attorney General of Virginia (on behalf of the GOP), asking for my support in their legal case against the Obama Health Care Plan. The entire text of the email read like a Revolutionary War recruiting poster and they even paralleled themselves to the Continental Army of volunteers. Yes the same patriots who suffered tremendous hardships and died by the thousands while toppling the greatest military force on the planet.
Here’s a quote: “It’s the 21st Century version of the “shot heard ‘round the world.” Like those shots in Lexington and Concord that kicked off the American Revolution, we’re in for a long fight against those who want to suppress freedom and liberty today.…But this victory will be a call to action to those who oppose our efforts to stand for the Constitution and liberty.” Are you kidding me?
This B.S. is becoming the norm folks. Even worse, it’s being accepted and eaten up by those lost souls looking for something pure in the political arena. It’s not just an imitation, it’s a terrible and twisted version of itself. What scares me the most is that I sincerely think they believe it. The Tea Party folks really and truly think that they are this century’s Minutemen.
I cannot think of anyone, anywhere, doing anything equal to those who participated in America’s fight for independence, yet the Tea Party folks constantly remind us that they are. They want us to believe that they are the modern militia, manning the front lines to save our country's soul. I simply want to ask these people, not as a historian, but as a citizen, how dare you liken yourselves to them? Those people fought and died for liberty.
As a Libertarian I theoretically agree with the Tea Party's stance against BIG government, but I refuse to credit them with "fighting the second American Revolution." They are simply voicing their disagreement with the current administration. Their entire credibility is sullied IMO when they play dress up in tri-corner hats and hold up signs that say "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death."
Some call this practice the "Chicken-Little Syndrome." It's an alarmist-mentality that is used to spread fear - and fear appears to be the cornerstone of the Tea Party's campaign. They also use American history as a recruiting mechanism and now offer the Tea Party Patriots' Coloring and Activity Book for children. Now instead of simply teaching our kids about our nation's origin and allowing them to grow into free thinkers, we can spin them into the conservatives of tomorrow using crayons and propaganda.
The Tea Party needs to start over. Get your own name, your own flag, and forge your own heritage. The Republican Party needs to stop copying the Tea Party. They and their Democratic friends did just fine offending people the old fashioned way. Finally we as voters need to stop buying into all of this history-turned-pop-culture crap. If you really love America, let her history stay intact and present it in the proper context. By allowing the abuse (and reuse) of our historical memory, we are not only disrespecting it, we are diluting it for future generations.
That is perhaps the biggest irony in all of this - and the focus of my message to them. Instead of the Tea Party making your forefathers proud, you're probably pissing them off. And in answer to the poster above which asks "What would the Founding Fathers Do?" My guess is make all TP members take an 'Introduction to American History' course in order to get some humility and perspective.