The nugget. (Sisters, Or.) 1994-current, March 10, 2021, Page 27, Image 27

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    Wednesday, March 10, 2021 The Nugget Newspaper, Sisters, Oregon
Commentary...
Treason and the cold
comforts of history
By Jim Cornelius
Editor in Chief
The tumult and turmoil
of the past year have sent
me back to the 18th century,
to the roots of our battered
Republic. It9s been a com-
forting sojourn 4 but not in
the ways one might expect.
There9s not much to be
gained from revisiting hoary
myths of the Founding; the
real flesh-and-blood history
is much more challenging,
engaging 4 and ultimately
reassuring. For the Republic
was born in tumult and tur-
moil, and its lasting founda-
tions were laid down amid a
welter of nasty partisanship,
self-interested wrangling,
and venal behavior.
The civic saints of the
founding generation were
not unreachable paragons.
Nor were they merely a
patriarchal cabal of hypo-
crites, as hostile revisionists
would have it. They were
complex and flawed indi-
viduals much like we are.
And there is comfort to be
taken in that.
We can be forgiven for
seeing the founding gen-
eration as something more
4 or less 4 than merely
human; they were enshrined
in myth almost from the end
of the American Revolu-
tion. Charles Thomson, who
served as the secretary of the
Continental Congress from
1774 to 1789, wrote a mas-
sive insider9s account titled
<Notes of the Intrigues and
Severe Altercations or Quar-
rels in the Congress.= This
potential bombshell tell-
all, Thomson said, <would
contradict all the histories
of the great events of the
Revolution.=
The congressional sec-
retary thought better of it,
deciding that he should
not <tear away the veil that
hides our weaknesses= and
that it was best to <let the
world admire the supposed
wisdom and valor of our
great men.=
He threw his manuscript
on the fire.
That vignette comes
from Nathaniel Philbrick9s
wonderful book <Valiant
Ambition: George Wash-
ington, Benedict Arnold and
the Fate of the American
Revolution.=
Philbrick notes that,
<The real Revolution was
so troubling and strange
that once the struggle was
over, a generation did its
best to remove all traces of
the truth. No one wanted to
remember how after boldly
declaring their indepen-
dence they had so quickly
lost their way; how patriotic
zeal had lapsed into cyni-
cism and self-interest; and
how, just when all seemed
lost, a traitor had saved them
from themselves.=
That traitor was, of
course, Benedict Arnold
4 one of the greatest par-
adoxes of American his-
tory. Arnold was, without
a doubt, the boldest, most
valiant, and most successful
of Washington9s field com-
manders. He was the man
most responsible for the
American victory at Sara-
toga, New York, in 1777,
a victory that led to a criti-
cal, ultimately war-winning,
alliance with France. His
leg was gruesomely shat-
tered by a musket ball in the
fighting.
Arnold, for all his mani-
fest virtues, was fatally thin-
skinned 4 hypersensitive to
any perceived slight. Feel-
ing underappreciated 4 and
woefully under-compen-
sated 4 by the Americans,
he turned his coat and nearly
got away with handing the
British the key installation
at West Point on the Hudson
River. He betrayed his coun-
try partly out of wounded
pride 4 but mostly for the
prospect of a massive finan-
cial reward.
He was a brave man and
a fine soldier 4 but also a
narcissistic self-dealer and,
no matter how he tried to
justify himself, a scoundrel.
Even his new comrades
in arms disdained him.
Nobody likes a turncoat 4
especially a failed one.
The American Revolu-
tion was, in large part, a
destructive and predatory
civil war, where neighbors
turned on neighbors, in
the southern backcountry,
the frontier territory of the
Mohawk Valley, and the
lawless <Neutral Ground=
around New York City.
Congress swiftly
devolved into a welter of
personal animosities and
petty venality. In the spring
of 1780, Congress and the
individual states failed so
utterly in their duty to sup-
ply Washington9s Conti-
nental Army that the army
nearly mutinied and dis-
solved, which would have
been game over for the
American Revolution.
Somehow, out of all this
sorry mess, was constructed
something real and valuable
and lasting. And therein lies
the comfort of historical
perspective. Our nation is in
a terrible mess right now 4
but certainly nowhere near
the utter failure we faced in
1780. We9re no worse than
our forefathers, no more
or less prone than they to
knavish acts or foolish, self-
destructive contretemps.
We9ll muddle through these
current <times that try men9s
souls,= just as our forefa-
thers did before us. And,
like them, we9ll probably try
to make subsequent genera-
tions think we9re better than
we are.
Have a story
idea for
The
Nugget?
We9d love to
hear it!
editor@nuggetnews.com
27
Bald Eagle
Music
Piano, guitar, ukulele,
percussion, composition and
music theory instruction
101 E. Main Ave., Ste. B (The Place), Sisters • 541-410-9064
Come Find the Magic of Music
Youth Artist Spotlight
“Where I am From”
2021 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Silver Key Award
Lizzie McCrystal
I love the outdoors and animals. My favorite forms of art to create
are drawings and watercolor paintings. For the Scholastic contest
I entered a drawing that was originally for my Drawing I class this
year. The assignment was titled ¨Where I am From.¨ My drawing
includes a swim cap, because swimming is one of my passions, and
a few pencils, because I love to draw.
Youth artist spotlight courtesy of The
Nugget Newspaper. Read your Nugget
weekly for more student highlights.