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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Don't Tread on Me

Like Rick, I have watched the first episodes of HBO's John Adams with interest and enjoyment. Two thoughts came to mind while watching Part 2.

First, in a belated and indirect response to Jessie's post about In God We Trust, maybe we simply should agree that, ceremonial deism aside, it stinks as a national motto. So I propose that we go back to the beginning: "Don't Tread on Me". That is a motto with some kick.

Second, there a great scene in Part 2, just after the unanimous vote on the independence resolution (Oh: Spoiler Alert: We did declare independence from the Crown). The Chair announces that the motion carried--that the Congress just voted to secede from Great Britain. There follows a period of 25-30 seconds of silence, as the camera pans across the delegates sitting there, looking at one another with looks expressing some combination of "what the hell have we done?" and "what the hell do we do now?"

It is a great moment because it captures--in a way that even the best-written histories or classroom discussions and even the soaring words of the Declaration of Independence cannot--the precipitousness of what the colonies did, the monumental risk that they might not have fully comprehended until the reality of that moment. Of course, as one of the commenters to Rick's post noted, the series has taken some dramatic license, so likely the scene of silence did not happen (I have not read McCullough's book). But it captured the meaning of breaking from England in a way dialogue could not.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 20, 2008 at 10:44 PM | Permalink


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We don't have HBO so I've not seen the series, but as to "the monumental risk that they might not have fully comprehended until the reality of that moment," I'm reminded of the brilliant quote from Benjamin Franklin: "We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Mar 21, 2008 10:17:16 AM

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