What would George Washington do ...?



The thought came to me today, after listening to a week or more of discussion about what should be done about this or that problem in our world and how to get the nation back on the right course. After listening to endless debates about the view of one party or another, one political candidate or another ... the thought, the question really, just popped into my mind ... "What would George Washington do ...?"  He was after all the first American President, and one of the most important of our founding fathers, at least as far as North America and the United States of America is concerned.

I also happened to watch an old Audie Murphy movie this morning called 40 Guns to Apache Pass.  I couldn't help thinking what a strange world we live in where values get turned around, depending on what your point of view might be, either upside down or  right side up.  This was your typical American Western set back in the old west. The story represented some location in the south western US sometime after the Civil War, where tensions still remained high between settlers, Apache Indians, and Southern Confederate soldiers who had joined the blue coats after the war was over.

The Cavalry soldiers were there to protect a small community of settlers including women and children from marauding Indians, and other more unscrupulous bad guys, notably greedy white gun runners who in this case were considered the traitors, and turncoats against the US Cavalry.  The Traitors in this instance intended to sell 40 rifles to the Indians in order to obtain about 30,000 to 40,000 dollars worth of Gold that the Indians possessed.

After the turncoat profiteering traitors had deserted the Cavalry leaving the character played by Audie Murphy to die in the dusty desert, it appears all is lost for the films hero. But in the end, through his craftiness, skill, and some daring help from another young but confused soldier, he once again gets the upper hand, almost single handedly defeats the Apache warriors, and tracks down the greedy deserters and kills them and then returns what's left of the 40 rifles to his commanding officer. The small community of settlers are once again safe. Having saved the day, he is welcomed back as a hero, gets the girl and lives happily ever after.

I've watched and enjoyed many films just like this one. These conventional Westerns were standard entertainment for those of us growing up in the early 1960s.  This film produced in 1967 was just one of hundreds and hundreds of films in that genre, and from that era.  But it got me thinking, which is often a dangerous past-time of mine. I was thinking that in today's world there is certainly a different way to view this story and these characters, than how they were originally conceived and intended to be understood at the time the film was made.

By todays standards and attitudes, it could be seen that the Indians were simply trying to obtain weapons to protect their families and homelands. The unscrupulous profiteers, hoping to obtain gold for the sale of the weapons could be seen as good guys helping the Indians, and the hero could be seen as an anti-hero, in that while he kept the weapons out of the hands of the Indians he wasn't doing them any favors. While protecting the settlers, he had to kill a sizeable number of Indians, who may or may not have been completely innocent depending on un-established facts that we will likely never know with full certainty.

But it is clear in the film that the profiteers really were the bad guys and had no real intention of helping either the Indians, or the settlers, and were only in it for the money. They had plans to escape with the gold acquired by theft of Cavalry property. Had their plan succeeded they would have simply escaped across the border into Mexico where neither to soldiers or the long arm of the Law could catch them.

My point in all this, and with the review of the film is that today we live in a very complicated world where often up is down, and down is up. It is all quite confusing in a world where what is fair and what is right are no longer seen as absolutes, but exist on a sliding scale that breeds more and more uncertainty day after day. Culturally we are changing, technologically we are changing, many human values are changing for many people, long held beliefs are often understood differently today than they were even just a few short years ago.

I'm reminded of the book by Alvin Toffler, entitled "Future Shock" where he takes a long look at changes coming in the future, or at least the future as it was envisioned some forty years ago or so.

Which all brings me back to the perilous state of the world, and the body politic, with wars and rumors of war, and terrorist threats from within and without.  I think we are all suffering a bit of Future Shock as we try to figure out which way is up, and where it is we really stand on the important issue of the day as we try our best to adapt to a world in flux. And that is what brought me to the question, "What would George Washington do ...?  The question has little to do with the morality of mankind as portrayed in the film, but rather the question of what should be done in terms of the larger issues facing our world today, and the urgency pushed forward by strident voices from both the right and from the left. Can't we find a better way, "What would George Washington do ...?


Addendum: What would George Washington do ...?  We have an answer. He would issue a Proclamation, something like the one he actually did back on October 3rd, 1789.

“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor -- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be -- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks -- for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation -- for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war -- for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed -- for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted -- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

“And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions -- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually -- to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed -- to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord -- To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us -- and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.”

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