Sunday, October 31, 2010
It makes me think about the founding fathers a lot and if fathering a nation is similar to fathering a child. If so, where are we as a nation? Infancy? The toddler stage? Childhood? Adolescence? Young adulthood?
There are some founding fathers I actually like for some reason. I think of people like Washington who slowly underwent lead poisoning as he was given, in those days, false lead teeth to wear. And he would stand before the troops giving an order and then leave and walk behind a tree and struggle in pain.
He actually had very clean language and didn’t allow bad language from his men around him. I always wonder what his life would have been without the necessity for war. I’ve looked at some of the maps he made as a land surveyor/cartographer.
I also think about finally being done with the war and going back home to his very tough wife and trying to live the life they were supposed to. And how one day while in his house, probably still suffering, James Madison, small man that he was, rode up to the house and came in the door with that look which I’m sure George immediately understood to mean “I’m needed.” And the question would arise how would he explain this to Martha who had missed so much of his husband on the farm already and could have been wondering if this was the life she had signed up for. But James Madison was insistent. I suppose George took a few days and then decided to go to the future capital to be the country’s first president. It’s always funny, isn’t it, how most countries are initially led by the leaders who brought them independence and fought for liberty. This transition would be a different one, though, in this new democratic experiment. He would not just hold on to rule; he would voluntarily give it up after two terms. Imagine that.
I’m not a fan of Thomas Jefferson though. True George had slaves; I know he released them all upon his death. Thomas Jefferson actually wrote quite nasty things about the inferiority of black people. Moreover, at the same time, he had relations with at least one of his slaves and had a child with her. It’s interesting to look at some of the letters that went back and forth between Jefferson and John Adams (The nation’s second president) as Jefferson revealed this and looked for advice on what to do or maybe was just confessing his predicament. I like John Adams a lot. It seems like he had no slaves and ran his land with his wife quite industriously and independently. I often wonder about many of these men and what they would have done and been without the independence and nation-begetting business.
What I’ve learned is that people have many sides to them. I have a cousin who loves to tell me how she doesn’t understand this and that about America and American people. Generally, I hear this a lot from friends. I don’t understand drivers. I don’t understand Black people. I don’t understand Republicans. I don’t understand the Tea Party. I don’t understand poor people. I don’t understand road rage. I don’t understand Hitler.
Hitler is interesting because I bet he never imagined that he would be used, so often, as the baseline for a bad person or for evil. I mean what a crazy life and resulting legacy. Legacy is so important and his is ruined. In acting, though, we’re not allowed to say “I don’t understand Hitler.” In Huxley’s book “After Many a Summer Dies the Swan” one character says that the stupidest verse in the Bible is “They hated him without a cause.“ There’s always a cause or a reason. You may not know what motivated someone to do something, but we’re all human, and everyone has motivations, weaknesses, foibles, pressure points, lusts, and cravings. I know very clearly that the same thing that was in Hitler is in me. I’m so glad it has never controlled me or propelled me to such audacities. [in context of the Biblical verse from the Old Testament requited in the New Testament, “without a cause” probably means without justification though the reasons are clear]
So I’ve decided to get over my issue with Thomas Jefferson because I know he has many good points in him. I know he’s motivated by certain things. I know a man can find black people inferior and yet be sexually attracted to Black females. I think you can play the violin well and still be a racist (and it’s easier to be one when it’s acceptable or the vogue thing to do or be) and help craft the Declaration of Independence which ironically says all men are created equal. So I’m going to watch a documentary on him to learn a little more. In theatre, we have to find personal motivations and make EVERY character human. We have to show that someone COULD do certain things and they are motivated by passions, cravings, the past, history, environment, the will, weaknesses, and greatnesses. It’s all there. You have to find it and make it human. I’m going to make Jefferson more human. Besides it’s not in me to judge, but rather to learn.