EYEWITNESS TO HISTORY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

The time I was in college combined with the place where I went to college made my college experience truly unique. The time was 1967-1971, a dramatic period in national history. The place was Barnard College, the all-female school affiliated with Columbia University in New York City. I was at the epicenter of a major student movement that swept the country and ultimately affected university structure as well as government policy.

If you Goggle “Columbia University Riots of 1968, 1970 and 1971”, you’ll find tons of material documenting the world-famous, world-changing events that I experienced first hand – sort of. I was away on the sidelines of this epic battle between the campus Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the university administration.

I was a commuter student – I lived at home in New York City with my parents, a subway ride away, not in the dorms on campus. So the minute the SDS took over the Administration Building in April of 1968, I stopped going to the campus and stayed at home. I learned what was happening from the news and from my friends who lived on campus.

This protest had two major goals. One was to end the university’s academic support for the Vietnam War. The other was to stop the construction of a segregated gymnasium and swimming pool on university-owned property near the campus. As the protests continued, the protesters took over other buildings on campus and the Acting College Dean was taken hostage for twenty-four hours. The protest grew in numbers and intensity and attracted the attention and support of the national radical movement of the time, led by Tom Hayden, who was then married to Jane Fonda.

After a week of lead stories on every national newscast and in every newspaper, the police were called in to quash the protests once and for all. Which they did with a vengeance. I got a call from a friend saying that police on horseback were riding around campus clubbing students. They also used teargas and stormed the occupied buildings. 132 students, four faculty and twelve police were injured and 700 protesters were arrested after a day-long battle with the police. More protests occurred in May with more arrests and more students beaten.

I was incensed when I heard that the protesters had occupied a history professor’s office and burned years of his research in the days before we had computers and backups to everything. I was strongly against the Vietnam War but I hated the protestor’s methods and extreme ideology. I felt that the movement was intent on tearing down everything without any ideas for what to put in its place. And I’d seen the leader of the SDS, Mark Rudd, around campus and thought he was an arrogant asshole.

Mark Rudd on campus (far right)

My grandmother was a socialist who had fought against the Tzar in Russia in the early 1900s and she was mad at me for not joining the protesters on the barricades. She felt that if I didn’t try to change things for the better when I was young, when would I? I saw her point but didn’t feel that this was the right way to effect meaningful change or the right people to do it.

Police on campus

The protests of 1968 paralyzed the university and were considered the most powerful and effective student protests in American history to date. What was my personal takeaway from this iconic experience?

Classes were canceled for more than a week and final exams were also canceled. We got whatever grade we had earned up to that point in each class. So I didn’t have to take finals in my first year at college. I considered that a win!

A newly famous and influential SDS mounted strikes against the university again in 1970 and 1971 to protest the Vietnam War and the presence of ROTC and military recruiters on campus. I still objected to their radical rhetoric and violent tactics and took no part in their activities. However I did benefit, yet again, from another university-wide shut down around final exam time.

Another year without finals! I’m probably part of the only class in American College history that only had to take two sets of final exams out of four years in college. And, oh yes, had a front seat to history in the making.

AMERICAN MYTHOLOGY – Marilyn Armstrong

Every nation revises history. They leave out the bad bits  — slaughters of the innocent, unjust wars against minorities and civilians. They invent heroes, turn defeats into victories.

Landing of Negroes at Jamestown from a Dutch Man-of-war, 1619. In this image, the Dutch sailors, who have captured slaves from a Spanish ship, are negotiating a trade with the Jamestown settlers for food. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

American history is no different. It’s relatively easy to make our history match our myths when such a large percentage of U.S. citizens haven’t learned any history since third grade. There’s some question about how well third-grade lessons were absorbed. Recent studies show a troubling pattern of ignorance in which even the basics of history are unknown to most of our natural-born citizens. Ironically, naturalized citizens are far better educated. They had to pass a test to become citizens. The rest of us got a free pass.

Battle of Lexington & Concord

College students don’t know when we fought the Revolution, much less why. They can’t name our first president (George Washington, just in case you aren’t sure). Many aren’t clear about what happened on 9/11.  I’ve been asked which came first, World Wars I or II — indicating more than ignorance. More like deep stupidity.

All over Facebook, morons gather to impress each other with the vigor of their uninformed opinions. They proclaim we fought the Revolution to not pay taxes and keep our guns. Saying that’s not how it happened is insufficient. I lack the words to say how untrue that is.

Why did we have a Revolution? How come we rebelled against England rather than peaceably settling our differences? Wouldn’t it have been easier to make a deal?

The Tea Party wharf

Yes, it would have been easier to make a deal and we tried. Unfortunately, it turned out to be impossible. We fought a revolution when we exhausted every peaceful option. Petitions and negotiations failed, but we kept trying, even after shots had been fired and independence declared.

We didn’t want a war with England. There were lots of excellent reasons:

      • Our economy was entirely dependent on trade with England. Through English merchants, we could trade with the rest of the world. Without them, we were stuck with no trading partners or ships
      • We were ill-equipped to fight a war
      • We had no navy, no commanders. No trained army. We barely had guns
      • Our population was too small to sustain an army
      • We had no factories, mills or shipyards
      • We relied on England for finished goods other than those we could make in our own homes, including furniture, guns, clothing, cutlery, dishes, porcelain
      • We needed Britain to supply us with anything we ate or drank (think tea) unless we could grow it in North America.

All luxury goods and many necessities came from or through England. We had some nascent industries, but they were not ready for prime time. It wasn’t until 1789 we built our first cotton-spinning mill — made possible by an Englishman named Slater who immigrated from England and showed us how to do it.

Our American colonies didn’t want to be Americans. First of all, there was no America to be part of … and secondly, we wanted to be British. We wanted the right to vote in parliamentary elections as equals with other British citizens. The cry “no taxation without representation” (remember that?) didn’t mean we weren’t willing to pay taxes. It meant we wanted the right to vote on which taxes we paid. And how much.

We wanted to be heard, to participate in government. Whether or not we would or would not pay a particular tax was not at issue. Everyone pays taxes. We wanted seats in Parliament and British citizenship.

King George was a Royal asshole. His counselors strongly recommended he make a deal with the colonists. Most Americans considered themselves Englishmen. If the British king had been a more flexible, savvy or intelligent monarch, war could have been averted. We would be, as the Canadians are, part of the British Commonwealth. There would have been no war. A bone-headed monarch thought a war was better than compromise. He was a fool, but it worked out okay.

British surrender at Yorktown

We declared war which many folks here and abroad thought was folly. We almost lost it. We would have lost were it not for two critical things:

      • British unwillingness to pursue the war aggressively
      • French ships and European mercenaries.

Without French assistance and hired mercenaries from central Europe, we would have been squashed by the British who were better armed, better trained. They had battleships with guns and trained seamen to man them.

We didn’t.

Just as we considered ourselves English, albeit living abroad in a colony rather than in England, British soldiers and commanders were not overly eager to slaughter people they considered fellow Englishmen. They didn’t pursue the war with the deadly determination they could have … and if they had? Who knows how it would have worked out?

Did we really win because the British were inept and couldn’t beat an untrained ragtag rabble army? That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

I side with those who think that the British found it distasteful to shoot people with whom a short time before they had been friends and with whom they hoped to be friends again. Many British soldiers had family in “the colonies” and vice-versa. It was a painful fight, not unlike a civil war.

Many British citizens sympathized with the colonists including a goodly percentage of troops. Sympathy ran high even in the upper echelons of the British government. Many important people in England were none too happy with King George. So they did as they were ordered but without enthusiasm.

Getting the people excited enough to take up arms is hard work.

Then there was a huge miscalculation. The British did not expect the French to show up. As soon as the French fleet arrived, a few more battles were fought and the British went home. Had they pursued the war with vigor from the start, we wouldn’t have lasted long enough for the French to get here, much less save our butts.

The mythology surrounding the American Revolution is natural. Every nation needs heroes and myths and we are no exception. But as grown-ups, we can apply a bit of healthy skepticism, read a couple of books. Learn there’s more to the story than the stuff we learned when we were eight. Like, the second part of the Revolutionary war known as “The War of 1812.” Part two of the Revolution which we lost fair and square when the British burned Washington D.C.

We did not win the Revolution. We survived it. Barely.

Revolutionary tea party crate-dumping

This is why our current government is more than a mere miscalculation, a bad election. It’s not something we’ll “pull out of” after which everything will go back to normal. I’m not sure we have a normal to go back to.

It’s not only how the evil underbelly of America has been exposed for all to see. It’s also that the planet is under attack. Americans — and everyone else — need to fix it if we want to continue to live here.

We need to be very careful about how we move “forward.” We have to tread carefully. We have to work with our allies and our non-allies because everyone needs to put their shoulders to the wheel to keep our world livable.

World War 2 tank

We used to have the good fortune to live in a nation of laws but I’m not sure this is a nation of laws anymore. I’m not sure what we are. I’m not sure what the world is or whether there will be a world in another 100 years. Or for that matter, in another thirty.

Ignorance is the enemy of freedom. And our current government is the enemy of education, learning, and truth.

LONG, RAMBLING POLITICAL & ECOLOGICAL POST – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango —Anyone (Technically) Can Win

These last 2-1/2 years with El Trumpo Magnifico as our Fearless Leader has made politics a lot less fun than they used to be. I’ve always been a bit of a political junkie. I love watching elections, reading about who won which debate. I even love the long debates with silly rules and far too many people. Following elections, I am constantly charmed by how quickly every candidate will break each promise made on the campaign trail.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have pulled away from the pack in most national and early-state polls over the last month.

It should not be surprising that those three candidates have risen to the top of the field of more than 20: Biden, Sanders, and Warren are the three contenders who came to the race with a national political brand, and they have used their campaigns to hone their messages with a clarity that none of their competitors have. — Los Angeles Times

This time, it’s not nearly as much fun. There so much at stake. Literally, our life and death in this world — culturally, politically, and ecologically — is dizzily spinning on the edge of nothingness. If we get it wrong this time, I’m not sure there will be time to turn back.

I don’t mean only picking a candidate who can pulverize hizzoner at the polls, but a candidate who isn’t going to abandon every promise as soon as he or she is in office based on who has the swing vote or the big money. Or both.

It’s going to come down to Bernie, Biden, or Warren. It’s obviously going to be a three-candidate race. Even though I find the ideas from other candidates interesting, they should seriously be considering running for another office. How about SENATOR?

BERNARD SANDERS

I think Bernie, great ideas notwithstanding, looks like his heart is going to explode. If I was his mate, I’d be dragging him to a hospital for a serious physical. Garry thinks his head is going to blow up. I think he’s about ready for a massive heart attack.

I don’t think he can run this country, at least not long enough to accomplish much. Maybe if he picked the right (young and healthy) running mate? But we don’t vote for vice president. Overall, I think Bernie’s time came and went. He has grown old fighting the good fight, but he needs to let others take over. As a retiree, I can assure him that once he gets over his passion to fix the world, he’ll enjoy it. He can do what Garry does: sit in front of the television and yell at the guys now doing the job he used to do.

JOE BIDEN

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., aka “Joe Biden,” certainly has the credentials. One of the reasons everyone picks on him is how long he has served and how many decisions he has had to make. Some of them may not have worked out the way he thought they would, but he has done surprisingly well for a long time.

Photo via Newscom

He has a record to attack, which is something most of the nominees don’t have. For good or ill, he has come through some pretty rough patches in life and he’s managed to come out of it a decent, thoughtful, intelligent human being. While he isn’t my personal pick for President, I would not be unhappy if he did become president. He’s a lot smarter than people think he is. He’s forgotten more about our political system than most of the erstwhile candidates ever learned.

He can do it well, especially if he picks a high-quality cabinet composed of capable people who he then allows to do the job for which they were hired. He has a lot of dedicated years as a man who cares. I don’t think he owes a lot to the big corporate groups. I hope not, anyway. This is information which is hard to unearth.


FACTOID TO REMEMBER: Yesterday, I got a call from what I assumed was our local cop shop looking for donations. At the end of the call after I explained we were too poor to be giving anything to anybody, he said he was part of a PAC and donations are NOT tax-deductible.

Watch out. They suddenly talk very fast when they get to this
part of the shpiel.


ELIZABETH WARREN

Finally, we get to my pick: Elizabeth Ann Warren. She has been our senator for some years now. I like her.

She’s a thinker and a planner. The reason she has answers for everything is that she has thought about the questions and found some answers.

Is everything on her agenda going to go exactly as planned? Of course not. No one’s “plans” are going to go exactly as stated. Because once you get into office, there are all these other people you need to work with to get the job done. No one gets it done alone — not counting our current moron-in-chief. He’s not getting anything done either, but he’s giving everyone high blood pressure while not getting it done.

I believe that within the realities of Washington D.C., Elizabeth Warren will get as much done as anybody could. It won’t be easy. It won’t be a quick fix. She will do the best she can with the people in Congress, the Senate, and lord help us, the Supreme Court. She’s got wonderful credentials including the ability to teach. I think that’s one of the reasons she makes such a good impression as a nominee. She explains information in a way that everybody can understand. She doesn’t make it simplistic or stupid. She doesn’t act like we are stupid. She simply cuts out the technobabble and uses words that anyone who isn’t stupid will understand.

Is she going to reach “Trump’s Base?” No one will reach them. They are not reachable. Personally, I thought Hillary Clinton’s “deplorable” was a pretty good description of those morons. But Fandango had a point. She should have just called them assholes. Fewer syllables are better — and wouldn’t it be great to see all those people walking around in T-shirts that say “I’M A REPUBLICAN ASSHOLE!” It would go well with their MAGA hats.


Make no mistake. This is not going to be an easy fight.

China and Russia are still working their butts off trying to skew our elections and I’m pretty sure our current administration is giving them all the help they need. Everyone — and I do mean EVERYONE — has to get out and vote. We need to show the world and prove to ourselves we care about this world and our place in it.

The problems we face are national, but also universal. Many of them we caused ourselves. We have never properly dealt with immigration and never taken our environment seriously. The information about what’s happening to our climate is not new. I was working on it when I lived in Israel and working at The University of Jerusalem’s Environmental Health Laboratory. Even in a little country like Israel, we couldn’t convince the kibbutzniks and other farmers to stop using nitrogen-based fertilizer.

It’s not that nitrogen per se is bad, but in an arid zone (Israel’s climate is very similar to Arizona), without heavy rain to “wash” the soil, nitrogen collects and seeps into the aquifer and ultimately poisons it.

Israel poisoned its aquifer while I lived there. It wasn’t a powerful aquifer. Most aquifers are fragile and you have to be careful what goes into it if you want to drink it — or even use it for watering crops.

I am told, though I have not seen them, that Israel is finally, building big desalinization plants, something David Ben Gurion had on his list of top 10 most important “issues to be dealt with” in Israel in 1948. It only took 50+ years to get to it.

Here, in Massachusetts, all our water come from an aquifer. The Blackstone watershed is a major player in our water supply. We’ve got a pretty healthy aquifer, but it’s one aquifer. When someone says (I have heard this too many times to count): “I can do what I like with my water because the well is on MY land,” he or she doesn’t get it.


The aquifer belongs to everyone. If you use too much water or weed killer or chemical fertilizer, you endanger the water we all need. Your water is my water. My neighbor’s water is your water and his neighbor’s water belongs to you, me and everyone else. 


We live and die together on this planet. Whether or not we personally hate each other, we still absolutely positively MUST cooperate in keeping our water drinkable, our air breathable, and our land free of poison.

Aquifer in action

Did you catch Trump explaining that we had to get rid of low-usage light bulbs because they make him look orange? Really. He said that. They don’t make me look orange, but he says they make everyone look orange. He really is a jackass.

ANOTHER VOICE HEARD FROM – GUEST AUTHOR – BEN TAYLOR

WTF! Not Another Dime

We elect representatives to … uh … represent us.

They are paid healthy salaries, enjoy the best health care in the country and draw a salary after retirement, even when voted out of office. What a great job to have. I’ll take it!

Then, you ask for more money from us who have little more than an opinion to give.

So, here’s an idea: How about doing the job you were elected to do, without requiring us having to cough up contributions, for which there seems to be an endless number?

And what gives corporations the right to make huge donations and project opinions that are as likely as not unshared by employees? Employees who, for fear of losing their jobs, are hesitant to express any political opinion which is not in line with the handful of upper management rich people who have the funds to make those big donations?

Wouldn’t that donation money be better spent by passing it on to the employee’s salaries, not to mention, sharing those the giant bonuses given to executives they don’t need it since their already huge salaries are more than sufficient to cover any living expenses they might incur?

So, why do the wealthy need tax breaks? We don’t ask you to contribute to our lives, donate to our household budgets or help us pay our mortgage or car loans. All we ask is to be allowed to take care of ourselves with dignity. That you as our representatives, prevent the rich — who can pay for anything out of pocket — from taking away what little we depend on to scrape out an existence.

Just think of what kind of country we’d have if everyone was poor. Is this what is meant by making “America Great Again?”

Impoverishing everyone? Ignoring science? Destroying the planet to the advantage of the few who might profit? Maybe even returning slavery to create a cheap workforce? Employing social media to carry on petty quibbling while allowing foreign governments to meddle in our elections. Not to mention racial, religious, ethnic and other cultural injustices while great, and potentially greater natural disasters occur all around us, all over the world?

What small people Americans have become. We were great when we fought injustice, however briefly it lasted. Whatever happened to justice? Who ARE we?

And meanwhile, you want me to give you money?  Who are you? What makes you think you deserve my money? Or anybody’s money?

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!!!
​ ​
NOT ANOTHER DIME!

WE KNEW WHO WE’D BE – Marilyn Armstrong

It has been pointed out to me that there’s a lot we don’t know about the people who came before us.

How — why — they dressed and spoke and related to each other as people in their society. We are fuzzy about a lot of cultural material and mostly, we take our best guess as to what they were thinking as they lived from one day to the next in whatever capacity they lived it.

We have no clue about how our great-grandfather confessed his love for great-grandma. We don’t know what words he used, or his tone of voice. We don’t know if they had a moment of passion because they left no evidence for us. They spoke differently, yet surely they held the same emotions we do.  We base our fiction on that assumption.

We could be entirely wrong. It’s guesswork based on some facts.

The United States Slave Trade

On the other hand, we know precisely — anyone could know this because it’s easy information to find. The people who drew up our Constitution understood how deeply wrong slavery was. They knew failing to remove this horror would cause a war. A big war.

Many expressed gratitude they would not live to see it.


They knew right from wrong.

They spent agonizing hours, weeks, months and years writing about it. Discussing it. Keeping notes about what they said and what others said. They didn’t for a minute think building a nation on slavery was “okay.” Abigail Adams, for one, didn’t want to live in the White House — not merely because it wasn’t finished, but because slaves built it. Yet without the compromise of making slaves three-fifths of a person – a person who would never vote or have anything to say about his or her own life – there would not have been a Constitution or a country.

I used to think it was the right decision, but I’ve changed my mind. We should have fought to do the right thing.


When you start doing what you know is evil, righteousness
does not follow.

Getting the country to be a country was, ultimately, what mattered. Under this devil’s decision lay the future in which we are now living.


We didn’t get here by accident. It wasn’t a bad election or even a few. It was not a couple of unfortunate choices. The path on which we are walking was being laid out for us before our nation existed. The issues we now face have always been there. Waiting. 

The northerner’s objections to slavery didn’t mean there were no slaves in New England or New York. Southern plantations bought slaves, but New England sea captains brought them here.

The first port of call for southern slave owners were the slave markets of New York and New England. Until the Constitution when northern slavery was formally abolished, there were plenty of slaves up north, too.

About those Native Americans from whom we grabbed this land and who we slaughtered to keep it? We knew it was wrong.

Maybe not every unread slob understood it, but anyone with a trace of education got it. We still know it, even if we have tried our best to tuck the information as far from “common knowledge” as we can. We don’t want to think about what we did to get this place — and what we are still doing.

Did our ancestors understand this? Yes.

But they wanted this country. They wanted it beyond any moral compunctions. If that meant slaughtering entire tribes — see Andrew Jackson for more on that — so be it. Why should “those savages” get this rich and beautiful country?

They didn’t deserve it. It should be ours. To make this officially righteous, we made up a bunch of crap about white being better than not white, but we didn’t get that from anyone’s religion. We quite simply made it up because we needed to believe it.

So, as has happened throughout history, we did what we wanted. We took everything, killed anyone who got in our way.

We have pretty much continued to do that ever since. Was it the first or last time an invading group of foreigners stole a nation from its native inhabitants? Obviously not.


I do not buy any concept which says “we didn’t understand what we were doing.” We knew. Our ancestors might not have talked the way we do, but they were better at acknowledging good and evil. 

Again: How do we know this? Let me reiterate.

They wrote about it. At great length. In documents, diaries, letters, newspapers, and books. We don’t have to guess: they told us.

What a great job we’ve done with the place!

The reason the Trump White House can do what it is doing is that there’s so much hatred in this country. All he needed to do was play to the haters and leave the windows open.

We don’t know what our so-called “leaders” believe, but we know who and what they hate. I don’t care how many other countries are pursuing the same ugly scene. That doesn’t justify it happening here. If the whole world needs to clean up its act? So be it.


The majority is not necessarily right.

For my entire life, I believed my country was improving and becoming more of what it said it wanted to be. We were struggling but trying to become a moral light in the world.

I’m not seeing that today.

Are there many individuals still fighting the good fight? Yes. But as a nation, that isn’t what I see. I cannot begin to tell you how deeply disturbing I find this. How is your conscience doing these days? Having a bit of a rough patch?

HOLLIDAY, EARP, AND MASTERSON – Marilyn Armstrong

Everyone knows the story of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the OK Corral. It’s possibly the most iconic story out of the “wild west.” But there are many more stories yet untold. I’ve been following the trail of this one for a while. Doc Holliday. Wyatt Earp. Bat Masterson.

Afternoon walk - Tombstone

Where did they meet? How did Doc Holliday — legitimately a D.D.S. (Doctor of Dental Surgery) and apparently a good one — wound up best friends with Wyatt Earp and his brothers? How did this polite, educated gentleman become a gunfighter and a gambler? When did Bat Masterson get into the mix?

The "Dodge City Peace Commission", June 1888. (L to R) standing: W.H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, W.F. Petillon. Seated: Charlie Bassett, Wyatt Earp, Frank McLain and Neal Brown.
The “Dodge City Peace Commission”, June 1888. (L to R) standing: W.H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, W.F. Petillon. Seated: Charlie Bassett, Wyatt Earp, Frank McLain and Neal Brown.

John Henry “Doc” Holliday (August 14, 1851 – November 8, 1887) became a gambler and gunman out of necessity.

Not quite the killer his reputation made him out to be, Doc’s reputation was part truth, mixed with a lot of rumor and publicity. Often credited with killing people he never met, the rumors were fueled by Holliday’s own publicity.

He wasn’t fond of killing people. Being a notorious gunman made it less likely he’d be challenged. He was famous for shooting opponents in the hand or foot, thus ending a duel without killing anyone.

Stagecoach in Tombstone

Doc Holliday was otherwise known as a mild-mannered, well-bred southerner who would have rather been a dentist. Except for being tubercular. Tuberculosis is a career-ender for a dentist.

Exactly how he met the Earp brothers and with which of the many Earps did he connect first? Lots of speculation, but no evidence that can stand up to scrutiny. When and where did Bat Masterson come into the mix?

Bat Masterson is a great character. He pops in and out of the story, shows up in the nick of time to pull someone’s iron out of the fire, then disappears back to his own story. Sounds like a supporting actor Oscar to me.

copy-75-vintage-tombstonenk-005.jpg

The OK Corral has been done to death. Can I convince someone to write this story? No zombies, no werewolves, no vampires. Let’s keep it all human, in the just-before-the-turn-of-the-century west.


Interesting Factoid: Doc Holliday was a cousin by marriage to Margaret Mitchell, author of “Gone With the Wind.”

There is a history for which the facts are known, but we don’t know who said what or when, What we know are the players, dates, and locations. Documentation exists about that, but not about what they really did. Or how they behaved together. Whether they were really friends, or lovers … or casual friends when they happened to meet.

You might as well print the legend.

On the other hand, once you realize the facts don’t form a solid story, you can pick your favorite version of the tale. Or write your own. At some point, when you get into Western mythology, your version might be as good (and as true) as any other.

THE MYTHOLOGY OF AMERICA FOR AMERICANS – Marilyn Armstrong

Every nation revises history. They leave out the bad bits  — slaughters of the innocent, unjust wars against minorities and civilians. They invent heroes, turn defeats into victories.

This (attributed to ) originally appeared duri...

American history is no different. It’s relatively easy to make our history match our myths when such a large percentage of U.S. citizens haven’t learned any history since third grade. There’s some question about how well third grade lessons were absorbed. Recent studies show a troubling pattern of ignorance in which even the basics of history are unknown to most of our natural-born citizens. Ironically, naturalized citizens are far better educated. They had to pass a test to become citizens. The rest of us got a free pass.

College students don’t know when we fought the Revolution, much less why. They can’t name our first president (George Washington, just in case you aren’t sure). Many aren’t clear what happened on 9/11.  I’ve been asked which came first, World Wars I or II — indicating more than ignorance. More like deep stupidity.

Getting the people excited enough to take up arms is hard work.

All over Facebook, morons gather to impress each other with the vigor of their uninformed opinions. They proclaim we fought the Revolution to not pay taxes and keep our guns. Saying that’s not how it happened is insufficient. I lack the words to say how untrue that is.

Why did we have a Revolution? How come we rebelled against England rather than peaceably settling our differences? Wouldn’t it have been easier to make a deal?

Yes, it would have been easier to make a deal and we tried. Unfortunately, it turned out to be impossible. We fought a revolution when we exhausted every peaceful option. Petitions and negotiations failed, but we kept trying, even after shots had been fired and independence declared.

We didn’t want a war with England. There were lots of excellent reasons:

      • Our economy was entirely dependent on trade with England. Through English merchants, we could trade with the rest of the world. Without them, we were stuck with no trading partners or ships
      • We were ill-equipped to fight a war
      • We had no navy, no commanders. No trained army. We barely had guns
      • Our population was too small to sustain an army
      • We had no factories, mills or shipyards
      • We relied on England for finished goods other than those we could make in our own homes, including furniture, guns, clothing, cutlery, dishes, porcelain
      • We needed Britain to supply us with anything we ate or drank (think tea) unless we could grow it in North America.

All luxury goods and many necessities came from or through England. We had some nascent industries, but they were not ready for prime time. It wasn’t until 1789 we built our first cotton-spinning mill — made possible by an Englishman named Slater who immigrated from England and showed us how to do it.

Our American colonies didn’t want to be Americans. First of all, there was no America to be part of … and secondly, we wanted to be British. We wanted the right to vote in parliamentary elections as equals with other British citizens. The cry “no taxation without representation” (remember that?) didn’t mean we weren’t willing to pay taxes. It meant we wanted the right to vote on which taxes we paid. And how much.

We wanted to be heard, to participate in government. Whether or not we would or would not pay a particular tax was not at issue. Everyone pays taxes. We wanted seats in Parliament and British citizenship.

King George was a Royal asshole. His counselors strongly recommended he make a deal with the colonists. Most Americans considered themselves Englishmen. If the British king had been a more flexible, savvy or intelligent monarch, war could have been averted. We would be, as the Canadians are, part of the British Commonwealth. There would have been no war. A bone-headed monarch thought a war was better than compromise. He was a fool, but it worked out okay.

We declared war which many folks here and abroad thought was folly. We almost lost it. We would have lost were it not for two critical things:

      • British unwillingness to pursue the war aggressively
      • French ships and European mercenaries.

Without French assistance and hired mercenaries from central Europe, we would have been squashed by the British who were better armed, better trained. They had battleships with guns and trained seamen to man them.

We didn’t.

Near home, in a ritzy Boston suburb.

Just as we considered ourselves English, albeit living abroad in a colony rather than in England, British soldiers and commanders were not overly eager to slaughter people they considered fellow Englishmen. They didn’t pursue the war with the deadly determination they could have … and if they had? Who knows how it would have worked out?

Did we really win because the British were inept and couldn’t beat an untrained ragtag rabble army? That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

I side with those who think that the British found it distasteful to shoot people with whom a short time before they had been friends and with whom they hoped to be friends again. Many British soldiers had family in “the colonies” and vice-versa. It was a painful fight, not unlike a civil war.

Many British citizens sympathized with the colonists including a goodly percentage of troops. Sympathy ran high even in the upper echelons of the British government. Many important people in England were none too happy with King George. So they did as they were ordered but without enthusiasm.

Then there was a huge miscalculation. The British did not expect the French to show up. As soon as the French fleet arrived, a few more battles were fought and the British went home. Had they pursued the war with vigor from the start, we wouldn’t have lasted long enough for the French to get here, much less save our butts.

The mythology surrounding the American Revolution is natural. Every nation needs heroes and myths and we are no exception. But as grown-ups, we can apply a bit of healthy skepticism, read a couple of books. Learn there’s more to the story than the stuff we learned when we were eight. Like, the second part of the Revolutionary war known as “The War of 1812.” Part two of the Revolution which we lost fair and square when the British burned Washington D.C.

We did not win the Revolution. We survived it. Barely.

This is why our current government is more than a mere miscalculation, a bad election. It’s not something we’ll “pull out of” after which everything will go back to normal. I’m not sure we have a normal to go back to.

It’s not only how the evil underbelly of America has been exposed for all to see. It’s also that the planet is under attack. Americans — and everyone else — need to fix it if we want to continue to live here.

We need to be very careful about how we move “forward.” We have to tread carefully. We have to work with our allies and our non-allies because everyone needs to put their shoulders to the wheel to keep our world livable.

We used to have the good fortune to live in a nation of laws but I’m not sure this is a nation of laws anymore. I’m not sure what we are. I’m not sure what the world is or whether there will be a world in another 100 years. Or for that matter, in another thirty.

Ignorance is the enemy of freedom. And our current government is the enemy of education, learning, and truth.