Jerry is a retired high-school Government teacher residing in San Diego County, California.
Of Cherry Trees & Other Myths
Parson Weems was a part-time historian, travelling book-seller and full-time fabricator during the early years of the American republic. His work is known today throughout the land by every school child that has grown up in America during the past couple of hundred years. Ask any kid in the fourth grade if George Washington was capable of telling a lie and you will hear the story about “the hatchet and the cherry tree.”
We all learned it as children. It is one of the many fables American children grow up with, along with Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Most of us manage to transcend these early myths, appreciate them for what they are, and repeat them to our children. Weems included the story in an 1808 revision of his biography of George Washington first published in 1800. Ever since, it has just been too charming to dismiss. Plus, parents use the story to instruct their kinder with the moral significance of truth.
The ‘Donald’ may, or may not, have heard the story as a youth; he certainly did not accord it primacy in his value system. According to the accounting of the Washington Post, he told 6,420 lies in his first 649 days in the Presidency.
He tells us that historically America has never been as good, that our economy is the greatest it’s ever been. How would he know? He doesn’t read. And, by all accounts, he has the listening span of a four-year old.
Whether it is whim, hunch, notion, impression, whimsy, megrim or caprice he discovers his realities from within. And, curiously, all favor in some form or other, Donald Trump! His claim that his inauguration was huge and much larger than that of Barack Obama was a clear signal of what the country might expect from its new President.
Donald Trump will go down in history as having raised mendacity to new heights as a significant aspect of statecraft. To most Americans he is a self-aggrandizing narcissist—crude, rude and boorish, untutored and foolhardy. Were he a wine he would be unpalatable, with overtones of sodden earth, sour grapes and a lingering aftertaste of regret. The descendants of James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, Millard Fillmore, U.S. Grant and Warren Harding are all looking forward to their forebears moving up in the annual voting of best and worst U.S. Presidents.
Here’s hoping that we will truly have 2020 vision next year.