Monday, March 15, 2021

The Patriots

 



Patriotism seems currently out of fashion.  For many, pride itself seems to be associated with right wing extremism and violence (Proud Boys, etc.).  Why should we care about the lives of long dead white males?  To many of the "Woke," the Founding Fathers were an over-rated pack of slave-holding racists, right?  How are these stuffed shirts of the 18th Century relevant to our technology-obsessed 21st Century culture?

Winston Groom 1943 - 2020: RIP


The late Winston Groom, author of Forrest Gump (novel 1986, film 1994), turned his attention from Fiction to History in later life.  Groom's final book, The Patriots (www.amzn.com/1426221495) published in 2020, asks us to focus on the lives of three Founding Fathers who helped to make America Great from its beginning.  Groom was a US Army officer during the Vietnam War and a Southern voice (born in Alabama) who was not afraid of cutting against the grain of contemporary thought.

The Patriots presents us with biographies of three key figures in the Founding of America...Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.  None of these men were saints and Groom's work is no mere hagiography.  Hamilton threw his promising life away in a pointless duel with Aaron Burr.  Jefferson was a slave owner who seems to have fathered six children with his slave Sally Hemings.  Adams could be brusque and unpleasant.  Adams was a one term President who did not attend the inauguration of his successor Jefferson -- remind of anyone?  But these were men who shaped the United States of America in the critical early days of the Republic.  Moreover, these founding fathers affirmed principles that are today recognized as the bedrock of Conservatism...the Rule of Law, Gun Rights, Business Values and Financial Probity.  Having witnessed the tyranny of George III, all three of these men were advocates of limited government with Jefferson suggesting that government ought to be "rigorously frugal and simple".

Adams made his historical mark long before becoming the second US president.  The Boston Massacre occurred in March 1770 when British soldiers fired on and killed several members of a Boston mob that were hurling icy snowballs at them.  Adams was a rising lawyer who took on the extremely unpopular task of defending eight British soldiers.  He argued successfully that they were acting in self-defense.  Six were acquitted and two were convicted of manslaughter.  The rule of law applies to ALL -- no matter how unpopular the alleged transgressor may be.  Adams would have understood the civic necessity of a proper legal defense for the cop who killed George Floyd.

Thomas Jefferson tombstone:
Author of the Declaration of American Independence / of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom / & Father of the University of Virginia

Jefferson was the greatest writer among the Founding fathers penning the immortal words of the Declaration of Independence.  Jefferson was a thorough Revolutionary who insisted that "the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."  What exactly would Jefferson have made of those who stormed the Capital on January 6, 2021?

We know for certain that Jefferson was an avid hunter and a gun collector who owned eleven pistols and a shotgun declaring, "I am a great friend to the manly and healthy exercises of the gun."  President Jefferson demonstrated a strong acumen for business purchasing the 828,000 square miles of the Louisiana Territory from Emperor Napoleon for the sum of $15 million or three cents an acre, effectively doubling the size of the United States.  Two centuries before Trump, Jefferson knew all about the Art of the Deal.  Insatiably curious, Jefferson dispatched Lewis and Clark to explore the West all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Bitter partisan feelings did NOT begin with the 2020 Presidential elections.  Feelings ran high and editorial could be scorching in the early days of our Republic.  Thomas Jeffersons' words at his first inauguration speak eloquently to those of us in the 21st century on social media who may be inclined to block out or excoriate those with whom we disagree.  Jefferson said, "We are all republicans, we are all federalists...Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle...Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty, and even life itself is a dreary thing." 

Alexander Hamilton never became president.  An illegitimate immigrant from Nevis, young Hamilton studied law at King's College in New York (later Columbia University). He served as a loyal aide-de-camp to General Washington during the American Revolution.  He amply demonstrated his ardor for his country on the field of battle leading the Continentals who stormed a British redoubt with fixed bayonets at the battle of Yorktown in 1781.  As the nation's first Treasury Secretary he established sound credit for the United States and, though accused by political opponents of many transgressions, was scrupulously free of corruption and self-dealing.  Hamilton did more than any man to make the United States as Groom writes, "one of the safest nations in which to invest".  His untimely death at the hands of Aaron Burr was a tragic loss for our country. Musical theater has brought his life back into deserved prominence in the 21st century.

The Patriots concludes with the summation that Adams, Jefferson and Hamilton were men "driven by their own passions and particular genius" who "chanced their fortunes on creating a more just and promising world." Groom's literary recalling of their lives is a deeply Conservative act that pays proper respect to our founding fathers and gives us a measure of inspiration for the future.  Winston Groom, who died of a heart attack in September 2020, was an American Patriot who will be sorely missed.


Travel Notes, etc:

If you are near Philadelphia be sure to check out the excellent Museum of the American Revolution which features George Washington's tent (https://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2017/09/museum-of-american-revolution.html)

My own forebear, William Lee Davidson, served alongside Alexander Hamilton during the Yorktown campaign...https://www.blogger.com/blog/post/edit/4122629330054677829/6481761839499153267

I reviewed Winston Groom's The Allies earlier...https://www.blogger.com/blog/post/edit/4122629330054677829/6089705246017757121





You can find signed copies of our books at these web sites...

!



Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Foyle's War

 



Those of us who enjoy History and are stuck at home during this wretched pandemic would do well to check out the British miniseries Foyle's War (www.amzn.com/B011T0C7DW).  This detective series ran for nine seasons from 2002 until 2015 on ITV.  The series was created by the husband and wife team of Anthony Horowitz (Writer) and Jill Green (Executive Producer).  It features outstanding performances from Michael Kitchen (DCS Foyle), Honeysuckle Weeks (Samantha Stewart) and Anthony Howell (Sgt. Paul Milner).  Another highlight are the series' excellent cameo appearances from Charles Dance (GOT) to John Mahoney's (Fraser's Dad) final television role.

The mystery elements are cleverly plotted in the finest British tradition.  The 90 minute length of each episode allows for added complexity and density.  These are essentially 28 mini-movies on crime in Southeastern England.   Most are set with the ferocious backdrop of World War II.  Millions are being killed around the globe but someone still needs to worry about Colonel Mustard dead in his library in Hastings.  Enter DCS Foyle.  The final two seasons feature plots drawn from the Cold War.

But it is the unfailing respect for the past that I find so attractive about this series.  The visual attention to accurate detail is evident in the brilliantly arranged locations, costuming, grooming, cars, planes and sets.  This is a stylish and rewarding WW2 series.


Anthony Horowitz is a prolific author who wrote most of the screenplays for Foyle's War.  His plots are all drawn from real historic events that took place from 1940 to 1947.  Like Patrick O'Brian, he relied upon sound research rather than imagination.  The series begins in 1940 with the imminent prospect of a cross channel German invasion codenamed "Seelöwe" ("Sealion").  Fear and even paranoia have gripped seaside communities such as Hastings.  The Home Guard is not sitcom fodder (Dad's Army) but rather the first line of defense against Hitler's planned blitzkrieg against Britain.  Foyle's son, Andrew (played by Julian Ovenden) is a dashing RAF Spitfire pilot. -- one of "the Few" to whom so much is owed.


Other plots involve actual historic incidents such as the debacle at Slapton Sands in Devon where on April 27, 1944, American soldiers from the 4th Division were rehearsing D-Day landing plans.  They were interrupted by torpedoes launched by German E-boats.  Hundreds were killed and the incident was hushed up the tragedy due to intelligence concerns regarding the upcoming Normandy plans.

The grim reality and tawdriness of wartime Britain is unflinchingly depicted in the series.  Ration coupons and the trade in black market goods are a constant presence right into the Cold War era.  World War II was clearly a catalyst for the birth of Feminism and Civil Rights.  These themes are explored in episodes featuring British versions of "Rosie the Riveter" and racial tensions in a segregated US Army base in England.

An episode loosely based on the SS massacre of American prisoners at Malmedy is featured in a later episode.  This incident, which took place during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, is moved for dramatic purposes into the earlier Normandy campaign.

Horowitz gets high marks for clichĂ© avoidance.  Christopher Foyle does NOT have an affair with his lovely driver played by the charming Honeysuckle Weeks.  Though, of course, Eisenhower did have a wartime  affair with Kay Summersby his beautiful Anglo-Irish chauffeur.  Everyone with a German accent is NOT guilty.  And so on.

Commander K at IWM, London


Foyle's War
is an extended History lesson about WW2 and Cold War that draws on meticulous research.  Terry Charman, a curator for the Imperial War Museum, served as an advisor throughout the series.   But this is no dry dessicated History lesson!  Each episode is a neatly plotted mystery which Foyle solves with coolness and sangfroid.  Foyle's War brings History to life.

From a British perspective, Americans were late to join both World Wars.  Personally, I have been late to appreciate Foyle's War which began in 2002.  Commander Kelly gives Foyle's War 5 stars and recommends it as the perfect pandemic binge option.







You can find signed copies of our books at these web sites...

!



Monday, January 18, 2021

Xi Fallin'




Xi Jinping



Xi Fallin'



Xi’s a good man,
Loves his Mao
Loves Confucius 
And China too
Xi’s a good man
Crazy ‘bout the navy
Loves Apples 
And Karl Marx too

Chinese Aircraft Carrier Liaoning



It's a long day
Livin’ in Wuhan
There’s a disease 
Runnin’ right through
And I’m a bad virus
Infecting the world
I’m a bad virus
For killin’ so many





Now I’m Xi
Xi fallin'
Yeah I'm Xi
Xi Fallin' 
Though China ain’t free





Now all the vaccines
Walkin’ through the valley
Move west down
The Great Wall
And all the bad viruses
Are standing in the shadows
And all the Covid widows
Are home with broken hearts




Now I’m Xi
Xi fallin'
But China ain’t free
Yeah I'm Xi
Xi fallin’
Xi fallin’
China ain’t free
Now I’m Xi fallin'
Now I'm 
Yeah I'm Xi 
Xi fallin' 
Xi fallin'
Xi fallin'
And I'm Xi
Xi fallin'
Commie China ain’t free
Xi fallin'
Xi fallin 
Now I'm 
Xi fallin'

I wanna glide down 
Over Beijing and DC
I wanna spread Covid 
Across the sky
I'm gonna Xi fall
Out into nothin'
Gonna lie to this
World for awhile




Now I'm Xi
Xi fallin'
Yeah I'm Xi
Xi fallin'
Xi fallin'
Yeah I'm Xi
Xi fallin'
Xi fallin'
Yeah I'm Xi
Xi fallin'
Commie China
Ain't Free!