MyAmericanFuture

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April 23, 2014: How Would a Patriot Act?: Quock Walker

[To follow up Monday’s Patriot’s Day post, I’m going to steal my title from Glenn Greenwald’s great book and briefly highlight five genuinely and impressively patriotic past Americans, one per post-contact century. Please nominate your own choices to contribute to a collectively patriotic weekend post!]
Today’s genuinely patriotic American is Quock Walker.
I wrote a lot about the Revolutionary period’s African American slave petitions for freedom, of which Quock Walker’s is one of the most famous, in the blog post linked at his name above, and won’t repeat those specifics, or my sense of why those petitions embody the best of what the Revolution and its ideas and ideals meant, here.
But I will take things one step further, and ask this: what if we thought of Walker, and his fellow petitioners, as the Founding Fathers (and Mothers)? After all, the Declaration and Constitution were (as we’ve long acknowledged) based on existing ideas and writings, given new American form; and that’s exactly what Walker et al did with their petitions, taking the Declaration’s language and ideas and bringing them to powerful, eloquent, vitally American life.
Walker’s case is credited with helping end slavery in Massachusetts (a complicated question as they always are, but it contributed for sure). Using the Declaration to end part of the national tragedy with which it was intertwined? That’d be plenty patriotic enough on its own terms. But if we go bigger, if we see Walker and his peers as the true Founders, the most genuinely and impressively Revolutionary Americans, then our whole legacy of patriotism has a different, and even more inspiring, point of origin. Works for me.
Next nominee tomorrow,
Ben
PS. What do you think?

2 comments:

  1. Dear Ben,

    I'm reading today's entry in your blog, and I'm trying to figure out a couple things: (1) this book you're referring to by Glenn Greenwald (which I have never heard of, before) it sounds good, but I want to know: Have you read it yourself? and (2) are you recommending it for people? Why... or why not?
    Sincerely,
    Roland A. Gibson, Jr.
    FSU IDIS Major

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  2. Thanks for the questions, Roland. I have read Greenwald's book and do recommend it, but it's also much more focused on contemporary political debates than most of my posts here. So a very different animal, but if you're interested in contemporary politics, it's a very strong analysis of those debates, I'd say.

    Ben

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