Sunday, April 15, 2007

Happy Belated Jefferson Day!


Friday, 13 April was Thomas Jefferson's birthday, in the year 1743. I wanted to honour him with a post but didn't get a chance to, so here's to Mr. Jefferson, my favourite president.

From childhood through my early 20s, Abraham Lincoln was always my favourite, with Jefferson in second place. What moved him to the top spot was when I lived in Virginia in 1995 and finally made my pilgrimage to Monticello. I also read a lot about him at the time and saw parallels between his feud with the evangelicals of his day with the conflicts between evangelicals of the present day and President Clinton. Like Jefferson, Clinton was also reviled by the right wing zealots, and also like the third president, Clinton had a time with the ladies. Of course, back in the early 1800s, what really got the evangelical's knickers in a twist was the rumours of Jefferson's affair with a mulatto slave named Sally Hemmings. Granted, Jefferson was only married a mere 10 years and swore an oath to his wife on her deathbed that he'd never marry again. So, what's a robust president to do? Sally was available and she was a slave. I'm not saying it's right, but it is cool that Jefferson didn't seem to think that interracial sexual relationships were off limits. Interestingly enough, Clinton's middle name is Jefferson. So, with the strange parallels between the two presidents and their being slammed by the evangelical types, it only reinforced in my mind that I would most definitely be in the Jefferson camp.

Like Jefferson, I consider myself a man of the enlightenment. Since adolescence, I've always found the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods of human history to be the most fascinating and the times I'd prefer to live in, rather than the Dark Ages when the Church had it's grip on power over everyone and kept people ignorant, especially in spiritual matters. In the present day, evangelicals often wax nostalgic over the past (particularly the 1950s) and seem to view the Age of Enlightenment as an evil era in which men turned away from God and the Church. Not so...it was that questioning long held assumptions made by corrupt church officials that mankind had broken from. So, Jefferson, like Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, represented that ideal form of mankind in which ideas were powerful, and self-education and enlightenment were better than following the dictates of the clergy.

In honour of the great president, I watched "Jefferson in Paris" last night, one of my favourite historical bio-pics. Though it does have a few flaws, particularly the lame ending, it's still a film I love to watch on a regular basis. Even the recent "Marie Antoinette" paled in comparison, simply because I love the woman who played Marie Antoinette in "Jefferson in Paris". All the acting is good and we get to see Jefferson interact with historical notables as King Louis XVI, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Marie Antoinette. We also get to see a more romantic and playful side of him in his flirtations with the married British/Italian artist Maria Cosway. And, true to form, we also get to see him freak out during a seance session, which his rational mind rejects as trickery of the worst form. What most endeared me to this film was the actress who played Sally Hemmings, the beautiful Thandie Newton. It the first role I remember seeing her in and she followed that film up with a few more in which she played slaves. But the sweetness in which she played Sally Hemmings was right on target. I loved how she interracted with Thomas Jefferson, and how she said things like "My head riz up til I couldn't get my hat back on." I can see how Jefferson would fall for a young lady like her.

Another scene in the film that I like is when he withdraws his daughter Patsy from the convent school after she had made indications of wanting to accept the vows to become a nun. We see Jefferson as he was in regards to religion and liberty. What he tells the nun in charge is pure Jefferson and made me cheer him on. Essentially, he said that liberty is not a toy for children to play with, but the decision of a fully rational and engaged adult.

So, what would Jefferson think of our current government? From all that I've read about him and the things that he has written, I think it's safe to say that he would be rallying against our current government. After all, in the Declaration of Independence, he wrote that when the government no longer represents the wishes of the people, it is the divine right of the people to reject that government and form a new one. That is truly a revolutionary idea. However, the irony is that the government they formed, while it has morphed into something so obscene to the point of becoming virtually unrecognizeable to most Americans, for any American citizen to advocate the overthrow of our government would be considered treasonous and probably guarantee a one-way ticket to Guantanamo Bay to be waterboarded by Dick Cheney until one confesses to every terrorist act against the U.S. government in the last decade. What a shame that our government can't seem to realize how far they've fallen from the principles and ideals that our Founding Fathers had debated about. They had wisdom and foresight, but apparently not enough foresight. For they could not imagine that one day, multinational corporations with huge sums of money can basically take control of the government away from the people, and turn political servants into capitalistic whores chasing after every last buck.

In honour of Jefferson, we should do a revolutionary act. One of my favourite quotes by him is "Disobedience to tyrants is duty to God." Since I consider George W. Bush to be a petty tyrant, it is our religious duty to disobey Bush and not support anything he wishes to accomplish in his final two years in office. Let's make him the most irrelevant lame duck president ever, before he passes into the history books as the worst president to ever disgrace the office. Long live Jefferson!

2 comments:

Mandalynn said...

Nice post. Plus, I like the new lay-out.

Sansego said...

Thanks! I played around with several templates this past weekend to spiff up my blog into something more appealing to the eye. The old one was okay for a beginner. Now, I'm too much into blogging! I'm addicted!