Trump, Wyatt Earp and Thomas Jefferson

                                   

 I didn’t vote for Donald Trump, and yet I understand why many people did:

They were punishing our intellectual elites.

Since the election, pundits have said this very thing. That media, politicians and the highest paid professionals don’t understand or respect Middle America.

Maybe true, but one important aspect has been forgotten–how many elite “historians” and writers have undermined America’s heroes, like Wyatt Earp, and founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson.  

I don’t believe this has been a conscious assault, but it has been, nonetheless, an assault, and it has taken a huge toll on American confidence and optimism. 

Wyatt Earp
Wyatt Earp

No wonder so many Americans felt the need to strike back.

Their heroes, the bedrock of their country, have been devalued, so their country has been devalued, and therefore they have been devalued.

(Unfortunately, in my opinion, voters struck back the wrong way).

But let me give you two examples.

University of Virginia rotunda.
University of Virginia rotunda, designed by Thomas Jefferson.

 This past week, students and professors at the University of Virginia criticized their president for quoting Thomas Jefferson, who founded their school.

Protestors said Thomas Jefferson shouldn’t be used as a “moral compass” because he was a slave owner.

This is the usual. For years, academics and writers have insisted Thomas Jefferson was repugnant and a hypocrite, not only because he was a slave owner but because he had (maybe? probably? nobody knows for sure) a slave mistress (Sally Hemings). 

Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson~ The Original American Scandal
Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson~ from An American Scandal (2000)

First, if Thomas Jefferson and Miss Hemings did have a relationship (and DNA proves someone in Mr. Jefferson’s family fathered her children), we don’t know the nature of their relationship and it is deluded to believe we do.

Could they have loved each other? 

We don’t know.

Montecello, Jefferson's home, designed by Jefferson
Montecello, Jefferson’s home, designed by Jefferson

 Does possibly having a slave mistress mean Thomas Jefferson should be denounced; that brilliant architect, statesman, president, inventor, writer of The Declaration of Independence, that rebel who helped ignite and lead our revolution?  

Here’s what I say.

It’s easy to feel morally superior in hindsight, and that must make a lot of folks feel good.

Never mind that our founding fathers knew slavery was a moral evil, but one they couldn’t erase without destroying the new country. By 1776, the colonies were already invested in slavery. 

So would these pompous highbrows prefer Jefferson and his ilk not have created the United States because it could not be created perfectly? 

brigade-of-the-american-revolution-tactical-regiment

If you’re reading this blog and feel like attacking me: Don’t.

I’m not defending slavery, which was a great evil.

I’m attacking an odious moral superiority which has a pernicious effect on The United States.

Second example, Wyatt Earp. 51hmdztc0yl-2

Earp has admirers and detractors, but his detractors usually make the same charges.

They say Earp was not a hero because he and various partners owned saloons and Earp was a professional gambler while working in law enforcement.

Earp was a scoundrel because his brother James owned brothels.

Earp was a bad man because one or more of the men killed at the gunfight might have been unarmed.

And gasp, because Earp and his brothers were ambitious and wanted to make money.

I’m not kidding. These are the things writers and “historians” say about Earp. He wanted to make money and become successful in his society.

The Gunfight at the OK Corral, by Thom Ross
The Gunfight at the OK Corral, by Thom Ross

 Wyatt made some mistakes, especially when he was much older and broke (he was accused of running a crooked card game, among others).

We are all a combination of light and shadow and Wyatt was not an exception.

But on Oct. 26, 1881, the day the Earps faced the “cowboys,” nobody condemned lawmen who owned saloons or gambled, James Earp was not a lawman, I don’t know if all three men killed at the OK Corral (actually, in the vicinity of) were armed and nobody knows to this day.

Down Front Street, by Thom Ross
Down Front Street, by Thom Ross

 And it’s the height of hypocrisy to claim Wyatt Earp was not a hero because he was ambitious. That’s the human occupation. It’s the American way and has been from the beginning.

And now it’s bad?

The Earps certainly believed they were facing fully-armed opponents.

Wyatt Earp, Morgan Earp, Virgil Earp and Doc Holliday were brave men who faced outlaws who had repeatedly threatened to kill them, including that very morning.

They took their lives in their hands when they walked down Fremont Street toward the gunfight and they knew it, and they did it anyway.

I respect that.

What does it matter that Jefferson and Earp were not perfect people?

Doc Holliday
Doc Holliday 

Criticizing ones country for genuine and recent sins is a must in a democracy.

But undermining its heroes and the people who created the Republic in the first place, by judging them by our light rather than theirs, has been highly destructive.

If they were no good, is America any good?

What is our bedrock?

Destroy a society’s belief in itself and you destroy that society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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