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who's revolting?
on reformation, regicide and revolution
by candy green gustavson

Most evenings we watch the news on PBS. On Fridays, especially, I like to hear Shields and Brooks when Judy Woodruff is asking the questions. This week seemed to expose even more shocking news than the oil spill, two wars, spies in the land or how we are doing on attempting to deify or demonize our President.

Here's a bit of the dialogue:

JUDY WOODRUFF: Speaking of the Fourth of July, a poll I noticed today -- Marist College in New York did a poll which showed that a fourth of Americans, when you ask them from what country did the United States win its independence, one-fourth of Americans said they weren't sure or they didn't know. And 40 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds in this country said they didn't know or weren't sure.

What does that say?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I think it is an insult to Abraham Lincoln's leadership of the Revolutionary War...(David Brooks is making a joke.) No. To me, the substance of it is that we have traded history for social studies in schools, that we don't do the ABC, here is what happened when.

And I notice this when I talk to kids, including sometimes my own kids. They just don't get the dates. They don't get the dates. They don't have the scaffolding of history. And they do a lot more social structure. They do cultures. They do this. They do that.

But they don't have the basic -- the facts and lineage of what happened when. And, so, those basic facts if, you don't have the scaffolding, you are not going to remember. You're not going to know how to organize it and put it all together into some sort of theory.

MARK SHIELDS: We're a lot more sensitive, but we're a lot less informed.

What is rather terrifying is the figure you cited about 40 percent of the people under the age of 29. And 80 percent, close to, over -- those over 45 do know. There was something going on in schools. The people, the older people are less likely to have gone to college than are the younger ones.

And the idea that somebody is going through college and graduating and not knowing a fundamental fact like that is terrifying and it's depressing. And...

JUDY WOODRUFF: I mean, when I saw the poll, I looked at it and looked at it again, and checked the validity, checked it with another pollster, and they said, these are real numbers.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. It's not good news.

The above "news" is not only shocking but appropriate to talk about on the 4th of July. It is also interesting to me because I've been reading Oliver Cromwell, an over 800-page biography by Antonia Fraser. I chose to read it because I've been searching for information to help me understand how American politics has gotten so full of rancor. I've been particularly unsettled by the way we seem to be manipulating our religious beliefs--or allowing others to manipulate them--to suit the presentation of politics.

By studying this time of Reformation, Regicide, and Restoration in England, and its links to the American Revolution, I've come to understand more fully why Thomas Jefferson could write about the birth of our nation having been "conceived in liberty." I can understand the desire our Founders had to separate our choice of government from our diverse religions, then and for the future. These are the very ideas Cromwell and others were struggling with but they didn't know how to get themselves away from the paradigm of a monarch, someone ruling from a throne by divine right. Yes, the American Revolution was a huge paradigm shift, one that continues to resonate today.

My concern--and, perhaps, those of Brooks and Shields--is without knowledge of the historical links to England, democracy lacks the proper materials for a solid foundation to build upon. How do we now wage these wars for Democracy in far off lands, shed blood, build buildings and create consulates if there is no knowledge or understanding of its progress?

It's a "curly one," as they say.

Up until now I've been one of those people who learned everything they know about the American Revolution from the musical 1776--actually not a bad way to learn our history. At least a person would know it was England we were revolting against!

It really amazes me that it took about 130 years from the Regicide, the time of the killing of Charles I in 1649, followed by Cromwell ruling as the Lord Protector for 11 years, during which time he became a dictator--this Cromwell who at one time had wanted to find a way to acommodate all the faiths in England. This time was followed by the Restoration of a king in Charles II. Meanwhile in the colonies across the sea, enterprising and brave souls were arriving in a new land--Cromwell seriously considered it--and developing into the generation that produced our Founding Fathers.

By 1776, this amazing generation was able to look back and have a rational view of their English history with all of its struggles and mistakes. This time they wouldn't kill the king, they would simply declare the independence of the people in a new land. On these shores they figured out a way for human beings to have a balanced form of government which could endure without a king, an emperor, or a dictator and allow for freedom of worship.

On one of the buildings in Philadelphia--certainly a place where one could learn that England is the country we were revolting against--there is a sweet inscription by Elizabeth II, the present Queen of England. I'm paraphrasing, but she basically says, upon her visit to America in 1976 on the 200th anniversary of our Declaration of Independence from her country, that her country and the whole British Commenweatlth is better because of the American Revolution.

None of us know what will be happening in our land in 130 years; I would assume anyone reading this will not be around then. But, I would hope whoever is around would know it was England we revolted against, why it happened, and that England and America will still be the best of friends because both of our countries are and always have been about insuring those endowed-by-our-Creator liberties for all.


late bloomer, fontanelle of the baby boomers...full of hope, believing in life-long learning, mentoring, doors opening...mother of four, grandma of one: I cultivate gardens in both hemispheres of earth and brain...

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