Posts Tagged ‘John Adams’

The 4th of July

129 years ago today, on July 4th, 1886 my paternal grandmother, Gertrude (Smith) Brindle was born in England in Accrington, England. That’s her sitting In the chair.

Brindle Family circa 1959-60

As you can tell, she was the product of the Victorian Era. I don’t recall her as a particular warm person and she was a lousy cook but I do recall her cozy, old-fashioned kitchen with a big, black iron coal-fired stove and her attempts to make me happy.

However, I didn’t start writing this today to reminisce about my grandmother. Instead, what struck me was that only 60 years prior to her birth, on July 4th, 1826 both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the 50th anniversary of July 4th, 1776. (You’ve probably heard the “Jefferson Lives” story when Adams didn’t realize that his friend had already died).

To the kid in this picture, sixty years would have seemed like an eternity. To the man who he’s become, it doesn’t seem so long ago. Top put that in perspective, sixty years ago today was July 4th, 1955 when Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” and Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” were playing on the radio.

Understanding that my grandmother’s life wasn’t that far removed from those two Founding Fathers helps me feel a little bit less out of touch with American history.

Thanks, Grandma. Rest in peace.

Time For A 21st Century Bull Moose?

Debt ceilingThere’s a scene in the HBO John Adams miniseries where the Tea Partiers tar & feather a British cargo ship agent in protest over taxes being imposed by the King. It’s a brutal and deeply disturbing scene which makes vividly clear how painful, demeaning and barbaric tar & feathering really was. As the naked, suffering man is carried away after being tied to a pole, John Adams is shown to be dismayed and concerned about the mob’s actions.

I’m reminded of that scene today as I watch the chaos in Washington as we read about the rift in the Republican party between the majority of Republicans and the Tea Partiers. Even the business leaders who originally supported the Tea Partiers are starting to realize that the group is getting out of control.

As the news media have been analyzing what’s brought us to this latest tipping point in the nation’s history, we’ve heard about how Americans have been self-selecting and are choosing to live in areas where they and their neighbors tend to agree politically. We’ve also been educated about the gerrymandering which has created partisan voting districts, both extremely liberal and extremely conservative.  And, since most Americans don’t vote in the mid-term elections or in the primaries, those hardcore ideologues that do get to control the show.

In New York State, where I live,  I’m not allowed to participate in a primary because I refuse to declare a political party affiliation. I’m an independent (not a member of the Independence Party) who prefers to vote for the person and the ideas rather than along party lines. I understand that this rule was adopted as part of some political gamesmanship in order to give one party an advantage over the other. But, it seems to me that we’d be much better off if all registered voters were allowed to participate in the primaries so that the extremists could be tempered by more moderate voices.

If I correctly recall my American history, there’s a certain similarity between our current political situation and that which existed 100 years ago back in the pre-World War I early 20th century.  There was inequality in the distribution of wealth and the existing political parties represented ideas which were inconsistent with those of most Americans. So former president, Teddy Roosevelt ran as a third party candidate for the Bull Moose Party. His platform was geared toward diminishing the influence of the wealthy and powerful in order to provide more overall balance to the system during an era which, as the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has pointed out, seems quite reminiscent of our own.

Perhaps, we need a 21st century version of the Bull Moose Party to challenge the Democrats and the Republicans and to represent the majority of Americans whose values are fiscally conservative (sensible)  and  social liberal (open-minded).

We’ve had third party presidential candidates in the recent past but Ross Perot  was a libertarian who hurt the Republican candidate (George H. W. Bush) and Ralph Nader was an extremist liberal who hurt the Democrat’s candidate (Al Gore).  Instead, we would need to have a candidate with the charm, charisma, and political savvy of Bill Clinton combined with the integrity of Warren Buffett.

Prior to his most recent nanny-state rules, I would have leaned towards Michael Bloomberg. Now, I’m not sure who’d fit the bill.

Any suggestions?

Thoughts On Thomas Jefferson And Making History Come Alive

I’ve just finished Jon Meachan’s biography, “Thomas Jefferson-The Art of Power”. It reminds me of the inadequate job that our education does in making history interesting and engaging for the teens in our school systems.

Did you know that there were people who wanted to impeach George Washington? That Jefferson received letters with death threats while he was President? That Meriwether Lewis of the famed Lewis & Clark originally was an aide for President Jefferson prior to being sent on the famous expedition and many years later reportedly went insane and committed suicide (or was murdered)? I didn’t.Thomas Jefferson The Art Of Power

As I listened to the audiobook version of Meacham’s book, I kept thinking how much more I would have taken away from my history courses in high school and college had my instructors explained the stories in context with events that were going on in the world at the time rather than on the this was the date/ this was the event/ this was the result approach.

I was also thinking about how great it would be if HBO reunited members of the cast from its John Adams series to recreate the same roles in a mini-series version of “Thomas Jefferson-The Art of Power”.