PINEY FLATS, Tenn. – Dennis McAvoy never learned in school about the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War or the U.S. Constitution.Yes, erm, educational.
In western New York, where he moved from with his family in October, history lessons simply gloss over that period, he said. And the vast majority of people there don’t know where America came from.
“We’ve learned more about this country being in the South than they teach you up there,” he said. “It’s very educational here.”
Perhaps because of our proximity to the actual Liberty Tree, we Rhode Island grade school kids actually learned a lot about the Revolution. (I'll always remember that Rhode Island declared its own independence from Britain on May 4, 1776.) The school that I attended, Fort Barton, stands within a snowball's toss of the Revolutionary War Redoubt of the same name. Every Summer, folks dressed in stinky wool would run around shooting powder at each other "re-enacting the Battle of Tiverton."
We created our own historical fictions in the woods near the ominously-monickered Sin and Flesh Brook. We didn't play at "Cowboys and Indians" on the weekend; we impersonated Nathanael Greene and other characters from the social studies handouts that we were given every Friday to read aloud.
I doubt that all school systems are so intent on passing along local Eighteenth Century trivia, but I do know that schoolbooks don't "gloss over" the American Revolution. Teachers may, but usually students are the ones who are "glossing" over. So when I hear someone -- who probably just wasn't paying attention -- assert that he wasn't taught something, I wonder what he can possibly learn now.
Will he only believe the anachronism of Southern gentility that is "tying a ribbon on a Liberty/Victory Tree," rather than hoisting an effigy upon it? Will he remember that Tennessee was a member of the Confederacy? No representative from Tennesse was one of the fifty-six delegates in the Continental Congress who signed the Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America.
Maybe he can accept that history is far more complex and far less complete. Not everyone in 1776 cared for the fight; some remained loyal to the crown and sold livestock and crops to the highest bidder. Others were Quakers whose beliefs were certainly too sophisticated to fit on a misspelled sign. Would our Tea Party patriot be a ruffian in an angry mob? Would he have the stomach to beat and tar and feather his neighbors who had declared neutrality? Would he have forced them to leave their homes?
Co-opting, plundering, and defiling America's history and holidays, smugly misquoting or twisting Eighteenth Century political thought out of context in order to drive a misbegotten point home is tiresome, as is the meaningless repetition of "Forgotten history soon repeats."
It is no longer 1773. Americans were not, and are not as stupid as the lowest common denominator loudly and boorishly contends.
And the Fourth of July belongs to us all. Even these: