By Peter Galuszka
Since it is President’s Day and Virginia is the “Mother of Presidents,” I thought it might be interesting to put some things in perspective.
One of the more curious blog postings of late on the site was Jim Bacon’s gushy advocacy of a move to private, religious-oriented schools because of what he sees as the massive educational and moral failure of the public school system.
Naturally, this is not a new idea. There have been church schools galore for decades. But what really interested me was Bacon’s canonization of Ann McLean, a “blonde banker’s wife” and “devout Christian” who wants to develop what she imagines to be a “classical education” that would help develop the moral “character” of students. Jim somehow sees this as passing some made-up “entrepreneurship” test, making it all A-OK.
As Bacon puts it: “The founding fathers, says McLean, understood that humans were by nature selfish and fallen, the only antidote for which was the cultivation of personal virtue. ‘The American experiment depends upon an educated populace founded on Christian values,’ says McLean, who makes no secret of her political and cultural conservatism.
It seems that we are getting a big of romanticizing here – in this case about the so-called “Founding Fathers” who are now imagined by many conservatives to have actually been early-form fundamentalist Protestant preachers. I’ve seen a lot of myth-making in my life, especially here in the South where I partly grew up and now work and in the present and former Soviet Union where a lot of 80 and 90-somethings like to gather together, wear their 59 medals from The Great Patriotic War and glorify Stalin.
But before we get too far afield, let’s take a quick look at who our “Founding Fathers” actually were and what their moral standards actually might have been:
- The brilliant Ben Franklin was such a serial womanizer, his mastery of swordsmanship helped the fledging United States impress the sex-loving French, who saved our Bacon (forgive the pun) time and again, notably at Yorktown.
- Money guy Alexander Hamilton had an infamous sex scandal with a married woman.
- James Buchanan had a close, same sex relationship with a slave owner.
- If the Founding Fathers were alive today, they would probably despise large corporations that make some of the biggest politician donations today. They especially hated the British East India Trading Company because it roamed the world doing business with other people’s money and brutalized many.
- Thomas Jefferson had his own idea about the Bible. In fact, he took a razor to it. He rearranged Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in chronological order and dumped the Resurrection. Jefferson ended things with the big boulder being rolled up against Jesus’s tomb.
- Plus, TJ apparently fathered six children with child-slave Sally Hemming. This little taboo has had put the Old Guard of Things Virginian on their heads for years.
It’s always fun to look at what the myths are and what the truth is. Unfortunately, Virginia has been hit with branding issues for decades. One always sees everything from strip malls to old aged homes with “Patriot” monikers. Ditto the Tea Party. They are masters of mythology by stealing the “Don’t Tread on Me” rattlesnake flag (which has nothing historically to do with their views” and, of course, the usual “Patriot” nonsense, in which they imply they love their country more than you do.