May 20, 2007
Vast shameful coverup unearthed!
Funny thing that I just mentioned George Washington's famous slave Hercules in a recent post, because his fame just grows and grows.
Unfortunately (because of past historical coverups) many Americans still fail to understand the pivotal role played by Hercules in the American founding.
But the good news is that a taxpayer-financed reeducation campaign is underway. Hercules and the reeducation effort are featured prominently in a story on the front page of today's Inquirer's local news section. In a shocking exposé titled "Slavery laid bare: A historic platform for dialogue on race," it is reported that not only did Hercules and other slaves work in the first President's House, but that there was actually an underground passage between the slave area and the main house:
What really energized archaeologists and the public was the discovery a few days later of the foundation and basement of the house's kitchen building, about 20 feet south of the main house. There had been no documentary evidence that the kitchen even had a basement, archaeologists said.Hmmm... I immediately wondered whether there might be similar passages at the White House itself -- where the today's servants of another powerful man whose first name is "George" are also able to "move back and forth unseen." Will future historians ever be able to know?
The first President's House was torn down in 1832 (ostensibly to erect commercial buildings) but that's now being seen as a coverup of historic proportions. Now that archaeologists have unearthed the truth, there is no longer any way to conceal the slavery -- the contrast between the powerful and the powerless!
The excavation now starkly shows the world of Washington and his grand window and, six feet away, the world of Hercules and the other slaves."Identity"? Who "we" "were"? Yeah, I'd have to agree that such logic is something that can't be explained. If the word "we" has come to mean that black Philadelphians in 2007 share an "identity" with 18th century slaves brought from Virginia to Philadelphia during the first presidency, then by the same logic, why can't white Philadelphians claim the identity of George Washington?
Actually, my grandfather lived in a sod house in the Dakotas, so I probably can't claim a "we" relationship with Washington, but the problem is, I'm having a hell of a difficult time feeling a "we" identity with my grandfather even though I met him as a child. It's just too distant in time and place. I have to use too much of my imagination thinking about daily life without electricity or plumbing or doctors. Plus, he was born in a Norwegian family, and I don't speak the language and really can't identify all that much with the culture. So if I can't even share a bona fide identity with my own grandfather, how on earth can anyone claim it with people who lived hundreds of years ago without a shred of evidence they're even related?
I think I have a pretty vivid imagination, but this just strikes me as pure fantasy. (All at taxpayers' expense, of course.....)
But some people have a more vivid imagination than I do. And in what seems like an outtake from the movie "Carrie," they're seeing their identity kinship as reaching up out of the soil.
Looking at the site, she said, evoked "those people reaching up out of the soil, telling their story. It's a monument of what happened."What a monster this awful George Washington must have been. To sit there imagining that he was working out understandings of democracy while his slaves had to come up from underground to serve him.
Shame on him, and shame on America!
Not so fast, there. For, we the readers are quickly reassured (by archaeologist Cheryl LaRoche) that white guilt and black shame have been impediments to discussions of race, but that the unearthed foundations of the President's House provide a way around them:
People, black and white, craned their necks to get a better look.Profound? I learned that George Washington owned slaves when I was a small boy. I also visted Mount Vernon, where he kept slaves. Not only is it no secret, but the guides there talk about it quite frankly.
The house involved here belonged to Robert Morris, who lent it to the fledgling government of the United States, and both George Washington (who owned slaves) and John Adams (who did not) lived in it. I just can't see the fact that it was torn down in 1832 as a coverup or as part of a plot to "malign, hide, bury, or wall away" slavery.
I'm frankly skeptical that any of this will provide "a way around emotional blockage" -- whether impeded by a guilt component in whites or a shame component in blacks. As I've argued before, it's a question of perspective. What is so important about a kitchen cellar in the context of the American founding? Why are George Washington and his slave Hercules the central figures in an increasingly morbid President's House guiltfest which minimizes the owner Robert Morris and subsequent occupant John Adams?
You'd almost think the goal was to smear the founding of the country. I understand that there is a well organized group of people who want to do that, and I believe in their free speech rights. I just don't see why their efforts have to be taxpayer-supported.
posted by Eric on 05.20.07 at 09:35 AM
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