Sunday, July 11, 2004


It was Benjamin Franklin who published the first American political cartoon. It was that "Join or Die" picture... eight pieces of cut up snake, each with the abbreviation of the state. Join or Die.

I always have liked Ben. He was a cheerful guy, something of a whoredog, a man not above taking the main chance, patriot, peddler, inventer, writer, hustler, agent provocateur. My kind of guy. But mostly what made him special was that he was a cheerful and optimistic guy in a world filled with dangers and risks and unopposable forces that were set on his destruction who did not flinch from what he knew needed to be done. Then did it.

Heck, he actually put on that ugly marten fur cap to prove his provincialism and still had the Parisian portrait artist Rosalie Filleul once say that she would look forward to kissing him (she was later guillotined for that indiscretion).

I'm rambling through this foolishness because Alice has teamed up with Wretchard to make me anxious for our future.

Wretchard is absolutely right to quote Churchill at this juncture. We are at another Munich crossroad. What happens now will echo down through the future. We can not afford to appease our enemies. They are too bent on our destruction, our utter annihilation, the cessation our little experiment in freedom.

And Alice has written with that frightening clarity that she is known for. This IS a struggle that we must win, even if we must travel the road alone.

But is this cause of grim despair? Hopefully not. I still naively cling to the kind of cheerful courage of the men who created this culture that was best characterized by Franklin. I really don't care if the rest of the world helps us or not. I don't care if the rest of the herd wants to play out another Munich.

There is a clear choice, but it is not really one of choosing among failures and fear of the future. The American ethos best characterized by Benjamin Franklin still prevails: a morality built on a sincere belief in leading a virtuous life, serving the country that we all love, and hoping to serve by doing good works.

Walter Isaacson says about Franklin's connection to the present: "Some who see the reflection of Franklin in the world today fret about a shallowless of soul and a spiritual complacency that seem to permeate a culture of materialism. They say that he teaches us how to live a practical and pecuniary life, but not an exalted existence. Others see the same reflection and admire the basic middle-class values and democratic sentiments that now seem under assault from elitists, radicals, reactionaries, and other bashers of the bourgeoisie. They regard Franklin as an exemplar of the personal character and civic virtues that are too often missing in modern America."

Yes, we are hedged in by enemies. So was Churchill, so was Franklin. But we will take up the sword and move towards the light, as did they. It really does not matter what the others do. Scroom.