Notes from Napa

Monday, February 21, 2011



Monday is President’s day.  In the wake of November’s election, the nation’s Capitol bustles as both parties search for  “bipartisan” issues to agree upon. Each party wants to show that it is relevant—that it matters. That it heard the will of the people.
            If Congress wants to do something really important, it could do and bring back Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthdays as national holidays.

              I feel so sad for today’s kids. Nowadays, The 12th and 22nd of February are just two more days in a quirky month known mostly for valentines and Leap Year .
Once, each president’s birthday was filled with magic. Poems and essays were written, pictures were drawn and plays were performed acting out the childhood deeds committed of these two giants.
              By the time we were six, we knew what every school child in America knew: That the Father of our country had once been just like us--a little boy who got caught. What did little George do when his father asked him if he had chopped down the cherry tree? How many of America’s school children know that frightened little George looked his father in the eye, and replied, “I cannot tell a lie. It was I who cut down the cherry tree”.
                 Dad’s response? The rod was spared, and so was Georgie’s backside. Though it met with varying degrees of success, there wasn’t a one of us who didn’t try that tactic on our own fathers.

            The ritual surrounding Honest Abe’s birthday sounded a similar theme.
Why was he “Honest Abe?”  We all knew it revolved around him working in a store as a teenager.  Inadvertently, he overcharged a woman three pennies. Had they not heard it at home, my kids wouldn’t know that Abe walked 5 miles (usually, it was mentioned that he was barefoot), just to return three pennies to that lady.
         The message was clear. There were a couple of things in it for you if you were honest.
One: people would like you so much that you could be elected pressident.       
          Second: If you battle tyrants and fight for freedom, or if you go to war to fight evils like slavery, your reward will be the greatest reward any six year old can fathom—a Birthday Party! And everybody in the country will come.
        Unfortunately, a few accademics from the sixties, got wind of the fact that there was no “scientific proof” that cherry trees  even grew at Mt. Vernon--let alone that Washington had a confrontation with his father.
        Then there was the messy issue of the fact that George Washington actually owned slaves. That he eventually freed them never got him much credit.
        Lincoln proved to be just as complicated. Maybe he didn’t grow up in a three sided log cabin, read by firelight or ever walk five miles to return three pennies.
Additionally,  there were the “facts” that he suspended habeas corpus, and ordered the arrest of Kentucky legislators who were going vote for succession. Perhaps he suffered from melancholia, and may have gone to war as much for economic as well as moral reasons.
          Today,  neither Abe nor George is too politically correct. There are countless “experts” who never tire of reminding us that they have the “historical facts”, to prove that myths surround these men are false. “Facts” miss the point.
             These men were Giants.
            Since the dawn of creation man has depended upon the power of myths.  Myths provide the mechanism which  allows us mortals to comprehend the uncompressible.
            Truth can actually be obfuscated by “facts”. The truth is that these men were giants.
So, members of Congress, let’s once again give our kids something to shoot for.
Let’s reinstitute two of the finest birthday parties ever. Let’s put a premium on honesty and character.

            Let’s teach them a higher truth--that we honor greatness, virtue and character far more than we honor mediocrity, apathy, self-gain—to say nothing of drug abuse, promiscuity, rap lyrics etc.
              With a couple of ideals to shoot for, who knows what affect it may have. If the antics of Lady Gaga and Snoop Dog can influence a generation, think what the actions of real giants could accomplish?