Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Born on the Fourth of July

It really is a great country we live in.

And because of that, I've decided that my next big cross-country trip (next spring, maybe?) may be a drive through New England for a bit of history sight-seeing.

I've been thinking about it for a long time now, and had almost decided to drive through the northeast states this fall, to see the colors. But I want more time to explore, and see the places that made America what it is today.

While reading David McCullough's "1776," I found myself picturing the old agrarian towns of New England - Trenton, Brooklyn, Princeton - and wondering what they look like now, and how much has changed.

Of course it's been a lot. Two hundred plus years a lot. But I want to see it.

I want to see the spot where Washington crossed the Delaware River at McConkey's Ferry, and see the spot where the Continental Army marched into Boston as the British retreated into the Atlantic. I want to taste the water and feel the breeze that inspired Connecticut militiamen to join in what was almost a lost cause.

The Revolutionary War bug has bitten me, you could say, and I've got an itch to scratch.

The Founding Fathers, those legendary few men who, in the span of only a decade or so, changed the entire world, have always been a keen interest of mine. I remember driving through Virginia for the first time with Jenn and wondering what it was like for a young Jefferson or Washington to get their start in such a beautiful state. School books could never teach me enough about the plight of the Sons of Liberty, nor could they translate the passion that Thomas Paine had when he wrote "Common Sense."

Born out of the Enlightenment, raised as near-English gentlemen, and smart enough to notice when their government oversteps its bounds (can we say the same today?), Franklin, Adams, and the rest of the crew deserve a lot of respect for the overwhelming odds against them; they started an experiment that's still being run today, everyday, by all of us.

So I'm going to visit them: where they lived, where they fought, where they died, and where their lasting legacy lives on.

I may throw in a few literary hot spots, like Walden Pond and Emerson House, because the American Renaissance is a thing worth knowing well, too.

And really, every American should make a similar trip, if even to their local library to learn more - to discover the tales that school passed over. If "these are the times that try men's souls," we ought to know why keeping the spirit of those Dead Presidents (and ol' Ben Franklin) alive is so damn important.

The spirit of a nation lies in its history, and because we have such a very short history - in the scheme of things - there's no excuse for ignorance on all things American.

Let Jay Leno be damned. Ask us on the street who died in the duel between Hamilton and Burr, and we'll answer correctly.

No comments: