My kids tell me that nobody's interested in history. You come here to read about football, so I'll keep this short.
On President's Day, it's about time we see Abe Lincoln and George Washington for the super heroes they are.
George Washington wasn't great because he was the first president. He was great because he set...and broke...the mold of what a successful revolutionary leader should be. Washington was the only man in America trusted by his countrymen to lead the military force of the rebellion and later to lead the national government, an institution no one trusted.
The grip of power corrupted virtually every other revolutionary leader who gathered power to themselves as they to enriched their families. They betrayed the movements they led.
Without Washington's example, American presidents would have been dictators. That has never happened, despite the rants of presidential opponents from then until now.
Hollywood portrays Washington as stiff and wooden, like Jesus, as if he was always the elderly man seen in the famous portrait of him. That is a reverent treatment that is far from truthful. Fighting men and the blue collar types that they attracted would not follow such paragons. General and President Washington always contended with those who either sought to undermine him or put their self-interest above the cause. Yet men either loved him or learned not to cross him. If Hollywood wants to make a movie about Washington, they'd have to cast someone like John Wayne for the role.
In Washington's day, Americans did not see themselves as a unified people. "Countrymen" described those from your State and the States saw themselves as sovereign countries, like France or Belgium.
Lincoln stood firm on two values. First, The United states was just that, "THE" and not "these" United States as you still see sometimes in Readers Digest. Second, slavery should not expand beyond where it already existed. The slave states sought to expand the atrocity from the Atlantic to the Pacific so that there would never be enough votes to ban it under the U.S. Constitution.
(When the Republicans regained control of the U.S. House in 2010 and opened the session with a reading of the Constitution, they omitted the parts that recognized slavery.)
The South did not secede from the union because Lincoln wanted to abolish slavery. They seceded because they could foresee a time after the 1860 elections when they would be outvoted on the issue. They had a right to keep slaves and no Yankee outsider was going to tell them what to do.
Anyone but Lincoln would have caved on the issue. The United States of America would have devolved to several countries, the Confederate States and one or two others in the unsettled West. Slavery would have existed in North America until well into the 20th Century.
Yes, Virginia, without Lincoln there would have been a These (not very) United States. It is neither accident nor coincidence that both of these larger than life men were larger than most of the men of their time.
Things are the way they are because of what happened in the past. Blame the education system if you have not heard these things before. Schools don't teach the story in history. They go for the safe, non-controversial retelling of names of imperfect people who matter and dates that something or another happened.
And that's sad because so many of the issues in modern elections are the same as in Washington and Lincoln's day. The questions have been asked and answered.
Washington and Lincoln—super heroes! I like it.
Today, it's Hail to the Chief. Tomorrow: Back to Hail to the Redskins.