My New Book!

My New Book!
My New Book!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April 18, 2012: How Would a Patriot Act? Part Two

[Still spending much of my blog-time working on a new writing project, about which I promise to say more when it’s possible to do so (as I know you’re on the edge of your e-seats). So 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 century. Nominations very welcome as always!]

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,


PS. What do you think?

4/18 Memory Day nominees: Two Americans ahead of their time, James McCune Smith (the first African American doctor but equally a pioneer in his activism, writings, and community leadership) and Clarence Darrow (the titanic legal mind whose arguments and voice advanced American society just as much as they did its legal debates).

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