Thursday, February 22, 2007

Washington's Birthday

Happy Birthday to America's first and greatest President, George Washington. At a time when our sensibilities are daily drenched in the noxious effluent of popular culture; when our political leaders appear hopelessly common, venal or just plain stupid; when all seems to conspire, deliberately or not, to belittle and cheapen the whole concept of nationality and patriotism, it is pleasing to recall the legacy of this most uncommon, most upright of men, who placed all he had and was at the service of his country.
The fact that there is a United States at all is due largely to George Washington, and in particular to his military leadership that terrible fall and winter of 1776-77, when he kept the War for American Independence alive on sheer determination. Of course, while fighting the finest army on the planet with raw troops and militiamen who did not even have shoes, Washington had to keep one hand free to keep the politicians in Philadelphia off his back – these worthies all certain that they were qualified to do his job. Had good sense not finally prevailed with the politicos, the British, in spite of everything, no doubt would have prevailed.

No Napoléon or Julius Caesar as a general, George Washington did the United States a significant service following the war by being no Napoléon or Julius Caesar as a politician, by quietly and competently performing his functions as President, and duly making way for his successor when his legal term expired.

Today, George Washington is somewhat politically incorrect, on several counts: (Dead White Male; Southerner; Slave owner; Rich Landowner). The history-vandals to whom political correctness is important have tried to diminish President Washington’s legacy in the hearts and imaginations of recent generations of his countrymen. Within living memory, almost every American classroom had its picture of George Washington; today, odds are, you will seek his portrait in vain.

But the joke is on the vandals. If you seek his legacy, look around. This country, and all in it, are the fruits of his labors. The pageant that is the American story did not began with Washington, but that great man gave it its tone and direction; and, the tale will endure long after the book-hiders, picture-stealers and speech-scolds and their false gods are dust.

Happy Birthday Mr. President.

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