Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Problems of Hero Worship

Surprisingly, there was a really good piece in the Washington Post yesterday about why Americans (wrongly) so revere the military (short version: because so very few of us have ever experienced it, we see it as a magical force for good, not just another bureaucracy with its good and bad sides).

It's a pretty succinct explanation of the problem so many Americans have with lionizing people/institutions. Another great example is the current right-wing worship of the Founding Fathers™. Not only is it blasphemy to ever say anything bad about the Founding Fathers™, but it's insane to ever imply any of them may have ever not been perfect.

Of course, what's lost in this is the fact that the Founding Fathers™ didn't even like each other, and constantly bickered, spread lies about each other, and shot each other in duels. I'm not exactly sure how one is to reverently worship a bunch of people who mostly hated each other, but I suppose thought is not really to enter into one's reverence of the Founding Fathers™.

However, an even bigger irony of all this hero worship is that the Founding Fathers™ themselves didn't want this and even specifically warned against it. For example, here's John Adams on the subject (quoted from an excellent article about how incredibly ignorant Michelle Bachmann is):

"The History of our Revolution will be one continued Lye [sic] from one end to the other. The essence of the whole will be that Dr. Franklin's electrical rod smote the Earth and out sprung General Washington. That Franklin electrified him with his rod—and thence forward these two conducted all the Policy, Negotiations, Legislatures and War." Vice President Adams, as a critic of the man under whom he served, was acutely aware that celebrating mythic reputations only diverted citizens’ attention from the duty to judge candidates based on their qualifications. And, Adams added, "the question should not be who has done or suffered the most, or who has been the most essential and indispensable cause of the Revolution, but how is he best qualified to govern us?"

But then again, what do I know? I haven't even said my prayers to the Founding Fathers™ yet today

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