Bring Back the Cherry Tree

 

Today is President’s Day. In the wake of November’s election, the nation’s capital is busting apart at the seams as both parties strive for dominance and relevance. Each party wants to show that it has heard the will of the people.

If Congress wants to do something really important, it could do worse than bring back Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthdays as national holidays.

I feel so sad for today’s kids. Nowadays, The 12th and 22nd of February are just two more days in a quirky month known mostly for Valentine’s and Leap Year.

Once, each president’s birthday was filled with magic. Poems and essays were written, pictures were drawn and plays were performed acting out the childhood deeds committed by these two giants.

By the time we were six years old, each of us knew what every school child in America knew: That the father of our country had once been just like us — a little boy who got caught. What did little Georgie do when his father asked him if he had chopped down the cherry tree? How many of America’s school children today know that frightened little Georgie looked his father in the eye, and replied, “I cannot tell a lie. It was I who cut down the cherry tree.”

Dad’s response? The rod was spared, and so was Georgie’s backside. Though it met with varying degrees of success, there wasn’t a one of us who didn’t try that tactic on our own fathers.

The ritual surrounding Honest Abe’s birthday sounded a similar theme.

Why was he “Honest Abe?” We all knew it revolved around him working in a store as a youngster. Inadvertently, he overcharged a woman three pennies. Had they not heard it at home, my kids wouldn’t know that Abe walked five miles (usually, it was mentioned that he was barefoot), just to return three pennies to that lady — or was it three miles to return five pennies?

The message was clear. There were a couple of things in it for you if you were honest.

One: People would like you so much that you could be elected President.

Second: If you battle tyrants and fight for freedom, or if you go to war to fight evils like slavery, your reward will be the greatest reward any six-year-old can fathom — a birthday party! And everybody in the country will come.

Unfortunately, a few academics from the ’60s got wind of the fact that there was no “scientific proof” that cherry trees even grew at Mt. Vernon — let alone that Washington had a confrontation with his father.

Then there was the messy issue that George Washington actually owned slaves. The fact that he eventually freed them never got him much credit.

Lincoln proved to be just as complicated. Maybe he didn’t grow up in a three-sided log cabin, read by firelight, or ever walked five miles to return three pennies.

Additionally, there were the facts that he suspended habeas corpus and ordered the arrest of Kentucky legislators who were going to vote for secession. Perhaps he suffered from melancholia, and may have gone to war as much for economic as well as moral reasons.

Today, neither Abe nor George is too politically correct. There are countless “experts” who never tire of reminding us that they have the “historical facts” to prove that myths surround these men are false. “Facts” miss the point.

These men were Giants.

Since the dawn of creation, man has depended on the power of myths. Myths provide the mechanism which allows us mortals to comprehend the incomprehensible.

Truth can actually be obfuscated by “facts.” The truth is that these men were titans.

So, members of Congress, let’s once again give our kids something to shoot for.

Let’s reinstitute two of the finest birthday parties ever. Let’s put a premium on honesty and character.

Let’s teach them a higher truth — that we honor greatness, virtue and character far more than we honor mediocrity, apathy, and self-gain — to say nothing of drug abuse, promiscuity, profane lyrics, etc.

With a couple of ideals to shoot for, who knows what affect it may have. If the antics of Lady Gaga and Snoop Dogg can influence a generation, think what the actions of real giants could accomplish?

There are 20 comments.

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  1. JLocked Inactive
    JLocked
    @CrazyHorse

    Hear, Hear!

    • #1
  2. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    You’ve been gone too long Jeffrey, I’ve missed you. I agree with your post, we do indeed need giants again. Most people don’t realize it but the first few chapters of Genesis are myths as well yet we swear the truth on the Bible.

    • #2
  3. Jeffrey Earl Warren Contributor
    Jeffrey Earl Warren
    @JeffreyEarlWarren

    Thanks, JLocked.  Glad it resonated.

    • #3
  4. Quake Voter Inactive
    Quake Voter
    @QuakeVoter

    Today is still Washington’s Birthday officially in the Federal Register.  “President’s Day” is a commercialized, popularized, lazy verbal habit.

    We can choose to accurately call today’s holiday “Washington’s Birthday” just as we can choose to call a human with a Y chromosome in each cell a man whatever his peculiar clothing and sit-to-pee preferences.

    • #4
  5. Jeffrey Earl Warren Contributor
    Jeffrey Earl Warren
    @JeffreyEarlWarren

    @Quakevoter, That’s a bit esoteric, but true none the less.  Not sure it would communicate to the “Forgotten man,” however.  Thanks for the input.

    • #5
  6. Jeffrey Earl Warren Contributor
    Jeffrey Earl Warren
    @JeffreyEarlWarren

    @Quakevoter, That’s a bit esoteric, but true none the less.  Not sure it would communicate to the “Forgotten man,” however.  Thanks for the input.

     

     

     

     

    • #6
  7. Postmodern Hoplite Coolidge
    Postmodern Hoplite
    @PostmodernHoplite

    Jeffrey Earl Warren: Let’s reinstitute two of the finest birthday parties ever. Let’s put a premium on honesty and character.

    Well said, Jeffrey – I agree 100%. Although I have no hope of it making a difference, I will write both my senators and my representative and ask Feb 12 and 20 be restored, regardless of what day of the week they fall upon.

    • #7
  8. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    It came back to me recently when it snowed how much I loved the 4th grade in February in a Connecticut factory town with Valentines and G. W. and A.L. silhouettes, and with poems, skits and stories about these Presidents on two separate days. Abe, George, St Valentine and sledding made February a vivid month.

    Giving each President his own day and much honor didn’t lead to any permanent idealization of either of them. Instead it made it more likely, in the later grades, that there would be a keener interest in their actual lives—warts and all—and in the circumstances each faced.

    Blobbing their days together minimizes the importance of the history of their different times. It wastes an opportunity to teach students about our two greatest Presidents while also exposing them to important American poems, songs and paintings.

    Calling the Holiday “President’s Day” makes it less clear who we’re talking about. So, it encourages a kind of amnesia. It makes February in school more dreary, indistinct, grey.

    The actual effect of progressivism is always kind of grey.

     

    • #8
  9. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I would support a return to commemorating the two specific presidents.  I dislike these all-encompassing generalities such as “President’s Day.” It’s part of the same behavioral tendency that is used to make history boring and politically correct for young people. Or the tendency to call a college Library the “Learning Resource Center,” which was the term used at a college where I did graduate work in the 70s. We should instead be specific and vivid, even if the term doesn’t cover everything under the sun.

    It would be good for schools to use these days to learn not just about Lincoln and Washington, but about other presidents, too. Otherwise, how would they know that Lincoln and Washington were the greatest?  But call these days by their right names. There’s a reason we celebrate them in February rather than June, and it’s not because Ronald Reagan was born in February.

    • #9
  10. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):

    Jeffrey Earl Warren: Let’s reinstitute two of the finest birthday parties ever. Let’s put a premium on honesty and character.

    Well said, Jeffrey – I agree 100%. Although I have no hope of it making a difference, I will write both my senators and my representative and ask Feb 12 and 20 be restored, regardless of what day of the week they fall upon.

    Um, Washington was born on the 22nd (New Style) which would have been the 11th (Old Style).  Would the 20th be Postmodern Hoplite Style?

    • #10
  11. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    Re # 9 Lincoln and the Civil War on one day ; Washington and the American Revolution on the other. Too many landmarks can be as confusing as none.

     

    • #11
  12. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    Quake Voter (View Comment):
    Today is still Washington’s Birthday officially in the Federal Register. “President’s Day” is a commercialized, popularized, lazy verbal habit.

    Hear hear!  Everyone knows about the War on Christmas, but few acknowledge this lesser-known skirmish in the ongoing culture wars that I call the War on Washington’s Birthday.

    • #12
  13. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    I stumbled across a nifty book published in 1926 called Washington’s Birthday: It’s History, Observance, Sprit, and Significance as Related in Prose and Verse, with a Selection From Washington’s Speeches and Writings.  Seems like it could be a great resource for teaching today’s kids about Washington, and best of all, it’s available on Kindle for free!

    • #13
  14. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl
    @CowGirl

    I vividly recall being an elementary student and learning about the two greatest presidents and how one enabled America to happen, and the other saved it from falling apart. So…now that I’m the old lady school teacher—we learn all about them too! I have learning standards, yes, but no one dictates to me what the subject matter has to be. So, on the week before the Monday holiday, we learn about A.Lincoln. On the week following the Monday holiday, we learn about G. Washington. I’m a huge fan of both of them. Everyday, we read and write some information, and I read them story books that talk about their lives. I’m determined that NONE of my 4th graders leave my class without understanding WHICH presidents the murky weird holiday is celebrating. Just those two–no one else.

    But I really like the idea of eliminating the mushy combo day, and going back to honoring each of them on their own day.

    • #14
  15. I. M. Fine Coolidge
    I. M. Fine
    @IMFine

    I also lend my “hear, hear” to the chorus. My introduction to the Revolutionary War and Civil War in elementary school (Abraham Lincoln Elementary School!) came by way of celebrating these two historic birthdays. Since I went to Lincoln School, we usually dedicated an entire day to all things Lincoln. I vividly remember looking forward to February when I was a kid. (And believe me, it wasn’t because of Valentine’s Day!) Celebrating great presidents’ lives and legacy is a great way to help restore future generations’ (eroding) respect for this office.

    • #15
  16. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Ansonia (View Comment):
    Re # 9 Lincoln and the Civil War on one day ; Washington and the American Revolution on the other. Too many landmarks can be as confusing as none.

    I wasn’t confused when I was in 5th grade learning the difference between the two.

    • #16
  17. Tim H. Member
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    Amen!  As a Tennesseean, I have no love for Lincoln, but my admiration for Washington more than makes up for the difference, and I’d be much happier returning to the observance—and celebration—of the two, separately.

    The modern approach of teaching American history through movements and trends and the analysis of social changes makes it a dull, lifeless subject.  I think we are instinctively drawn to stories about men and events.  The stories of Washington (grumble, grumble…and Lincoln…) and his life are worth knowing and repeating.  Each generation enters the world ignorant.  It is our duty as Americans to pass on this knowledge and the ideals built on it.  Even the apocryphal stories should be known, even if we acknowledge that they’re made-up legends.  Legends have a purpose.

    • #17
  18. Lily Bart Inactive
    Lily Bart
    @LilyBart

    I still call it Washington’s Birthday.    People just chuckle, but I hate the ‘blanding’ out of our former tribute to our first president, who was a thoroughly awesome individual.

    • #18
  19. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    Re comment # 16

    Kay of MT, I meant there shouldn’t be a lot said in the elementary school classroom about the other Presidents on G.Washington’s day or on A. Lincoln’s day. (comment 9)

    • #19
  20. Postmodern Hoplite Coolidge
    Postmodern Hoplite
    @PostmodernHoplite

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    Washington was born on the 22nd (New Style) which would have been the 11th (Old Style).

    Sorry, my bad…should have double-checked the date!

    • #20

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