Monday, June 6, 2011

Paul Revere's Ride

"Every man is my superior in that I may learn from him."

Thomas Carlyle

I have long admired Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish writer and teacher from the 19th century.

And I believe he was earnest when he wrote that "[e]very man is my superior in that I may learn from him."

To me, that's kind of like Will Rogers' line that "I never met a man I didn't like."

Both statements are unconditional and noble in their intent ... but they do have their logical limits. You have to remember that Will Rogers never met Sarah Palin, and Carlyle never listened to Palin give a history lecture.

As you're almost bound to have heard by now, Palin asserted that Revere "warned the British" with his famous midnight ride.

When I was a child, everybody knew that Revere warned the colonists that the "British are coming." That was something I knew before I heard about it in school, too. I don't know how old I was when I first heard Longfellow's famous poem that begins "Listen, my children, and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere ..." but I'm just about certain that I heard it before I started studying history in school.

How can I be so sure? Well, when my brother and I were small, our family traveled to Boston one summer to visit some old friends of the family. I was probably about 7 or 8 years old at the time, and we visited all the historic sites we could — including the Old North Church from which the signal could be seen.

I'm almost positive that someone read that poem aloud to my brother and me during that trip. I don't remember if it was the first time I heard it, but we were always discussing historical events on that trip, visiting all kinds of historic sites and talking — generally, for anything more in–depth would have been way over our heads — about the events that were commemorated at each.

Anyway, when Palin tried to backtrack in the face of a hugely negative response, she insisted that she had not been wrong.

I must confess, I really have trouble swallowing that one.

But, in fairness to Palin, I have to say that I am often baffled by the behavior of her critics. Most of her critics came to the conclusion a long time ago that she is an airhead, a conclusion with which I am inclined to agree.

But many of those critics were also suggesting in January — after the shootings in Arizona — that Palin was smart enough to know the history of a somewhat obscure phrase like "blood libel."

You can't have it both ways.

Either she is as dumb as a post — or she is a conniving manipulator. It simply isn't possible for her to be both.

No comments: