Thursday, June 4, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
When you like American military history as much as I do, every day is Memorial Day, people. The American war du jour? The Revolutionary War. It all started with the John Adams HBO mini-series (pure awesome-ness). The family watched it over Christmas, pausing to discuss all the early politicking that got the upstart colonialists in a tussle with the most powerful army and navy of the world at the time. That’s when I realized how moderate I am. I found Bostonians to be a blood-thirsty mob of terrorists, and had I a vote in the Continental Congress in June 1775, I would’ve condemned the radical war-mongers from New England and urged more peacemaking with King George.
And my inner Tory goes further: I just might’ve shirked from allegiance to the patriots. When in 1776, the Brits decided it was business time and rolled into the New York Harbor with over 400 ships outfitted with tens of thousands of canons and carrying over 60,000 troops, I’m not sure I would’ve been brave enough to stand with George Washington and his band of 16,000 farmers and shop keepers.
And if the largest Armada ever assembled hadn’t done the trick, the New York battles would’ve broken my support. Washington lost – definitively – the first four out of five battles and the only reason the Continental Army wasn’t completely decimated is because fate stepped in and weather covered every retreat. Mother Nature was the MVP in Washington’s first five battles because Washington himself, as heretical as it is to say, made rookie mistakes. Big, awful mistakes. I guess that’s what happens when someone who had heretofore only managed a regiment takes on (it’s worth saying again) the most powerful army and navy in the world. Washington didn’t have one boat, for crying out loud. His soldiers didn’t have shoes!
Of course, history tells me my blood saving, peacemaking view is wrong. 1775 was the right time to jump into the great unknown -- armed with the right ideas and the right people if not all the correct battle accoutrements. Moderation isn’t always the safest, best course. Sometimes the times call for our indignation + action.This new, aggressive thought draws my attention to the current front page. What would Adams have said about the GM bailout? Would Alexander Hamilton have gone apoplectic at the descent into national-security-threatening debt to China or is the bail-out, with all its risks, exactly the right solution? Would Benjamin Franklin have silently allowed our national press to founder, leaving us without a watchdog of government and human nature - a role so vital in a democracy that it rated a mention in the Constitution? It might be ok to be moderate with all the easy questions but for these hard ones... well... I'm thinking it's time to get radical.