“He who warned the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms by ringing those bells makin’ sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed.” – Sarah Palin talking about Paul Revere in Boston on June 2, 2011
Bill Maher heard that comment and quipped: “She shouldn’t be on vacation, she should be in summer school!”
But that was what she said, and The Newburyport Current joined those piling on in their June 10th edition via cartoon and article (“Don’t tread on us” – Dan Mac Alpine).
I did a Google search on “Dan Mac Alpine,” and came across an interview he did for a blog called, “Becoming Lois Lane,” given on November 3, 2009. In the interview he says, “For the average citizen it is too vital and too much work to find out what the real story is when it comes to news. That’s where a journalist comes in. A journalist provides that information to the public so that they don’t have to go out and find it on their own.”
Is Mr. Mac Alpine saying that there are experts in our midst ready to supply us with the important information we need because we’re too lazy and incapable of getting it accurately on our own? How arrogant is that!
These days the internet and its numerous search engines make information gathering easy. We can hear people making the actual statements we judge them on. A journalist just interprets what they gather and so can we.
In my opinion, many folks mocking Sarah Palin, made the mistake of relying on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride,” for their history of what happened. Longfellow was not an eyewitness to the 1775 event, in fact, he wasn’t born until 1807. He also didn’t write the poem until 1860. His point of writing it was to rally Americans to take action against slavery as they had against the British.
Longfellow was a widely recognized poet in the United States and his works were read by people such as Abraham Lincoln and Queen Victoria. In our area, the hardly-known Paul Revere became well-known because of “Paul Revere’s Ride,” and the town of North Chelsea changed its name to “Revere,” in 1871.
“Paul Revere’s Ride,” is not accurate. Two of the better know lines in the poem aren’t true.
“One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be.”
The water option was the Charles River, not a sea, but river wouldn’t rhyme. Also, Revere was in Boston not on the opposite shore when the signal was given.
In another part of his article, Mr. Mac Alpine rejected Sarah’s reference to Revere trying to warn folks so that the British wouldn’t take away their weapons. The facts are that Revere and several others went to Lexington to tell John Hancock and Samuel Adams to take off. Going on to Concord was to get stored military supplies moved elsewhere. The locals had gunpowder stored in common places. The British realized if they controlled the gunpowder then they could limit the amount of resistance they would face. In this way, the British troops would be taking away the guns of those they would confront.
Another point of contention was the many instances where people in the Boston area warned each other of British soldiers being nearby. They did ring bells and sometimes they fired warning shots.
It is interesting that in Paul Revere’s obituary in 1818, there is no mention of any ride he took. Credit Longfellow for elevating Revere to legend status as he had done to others in poems he wrote.
One “fact” I did agree with was when Mr. Mac Alpine wrote, “Nor was Revere a currier.” Paul Revere was definitely not someone who prepared tanned hides for use. He was, however, according to sources beyond Longfellow, a “courier.”
One of the great songs of the past was called “Wonderful World.” It came out in 1959 and was sung by Sam Cooke. The first line went:
“Don’t know much about history.”
Then it went on to:
“Don’t know much biology.”
Let’s change “biology,” to “geography,” and revisit a quote by candidate Barack Obama on May 9, 2008 in Beaverton, Oregon.
“It is wonderful to be back in Oregon. Over the last 15 months, we’ve traveled to every corner of the United States. I’ve now been in 57 states. I think one left to go. Alaska and Hawaii, I was not allowed to go to even though I really wanted to visit, but my staff would not justify it.”
My granddaughter learned the states and their capitals in fourth grade! Is this where I can use Mr. Mac Alpine’s, “at least get a children’s-coloring-book grasp of,” in this case, geography, in reference to the President? He made a similar mocking reference to Sarah Palin and US history.
Based on candidate Obama’s comment about states he had visited, I doubt that we’d want to hear him talk, away from a teleprompter, about Paul Revere unless we were looking for a cartoon idea or wanted to ridicule him.
( This article appeared in a June issue of The Newburyport Current. )