Tuesday, January 24, 2006

An American Love Story

Last night I watched one of the best history shows I've ever seen, and to show just what a sap I am I'll admit that I cried at the end. It was on the PBS series, American Experience. John & Abigail Adams: The Original Power Couple covers the lives of John and Abigail in the context of the formation of our country. The PBS website has some of their amazing correspondence which covers everything from love, politics, colonial life, and the revolution. Abigail endured very long absences while John traveled on his political business. For years at a time the only contact they had was through their letters. As I watched I wondered how many couples today would be able to endure that and keep their love and marriages alive. We just don't appreciate or understand the hardships and sacrifices that our Founding Fathers and their families bore to ensure the emergence and survival of our new nation.

The show also revealed the strong influence that Adams had on our beginnings and how he wasn't given due credit for all he did. Others of the time such as Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson garnered all the fame and adulation instead. However, Adams persevered in his efforts, and perhaps only now are historians giving him his due. It was kind of odd that a few hours before watching this show (and I didn't know it was coming on at this time) I was telling David that I believe that in a hundred year's time a certain one of today's leaders will be looked upon with much kinder and appreciative eyes. There are parallels between the tumultuous times of the pre-revolution and Revolutionary War and what our country is experiencing now. We forget that back then only a few men were the driving force of our progress and that it wasn't usually unanimously supported. The times were hateful and contentious, just as much as today. Some of the same things that were said of Adams have been said of our current president. If it hadn't been for such strong, and largely unpopular yet persistent, men as Adams our country might never have emerged. Adams was the primary architect of our Constitution. Likewise, I believe that without strong-willed and even strong-handed leadership now our future might suffer in ways that we can't now imagine. Leadership and power and hard times are cyclical. We have a such a short history to look to, but we can still see those patterns.

The show also covered the long relationship between Adams and Jefferson. They were at times adversaries, but in their later years they returned to a true friendship. For those who didn't know or had forgotten some of the magical aspects of our nation's formation the show pointed out instances that sound like purely mythical creations. One was the stormy day in which Adams convinced colonial leaders to declare independence. It was as if he drew the power of nature or God into his speech. He then asked Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence. And the most amazing is that both Adams and Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, to the sounds of cannons and Independence Day celebrations. Does that not give you chills?

Of course, my puny description of this show does not do it justice. If you ever get a chance to watch it, do it! It makes history interesting and memorable. It was every bit as good as any theatrical movie, and it made me cry because I was overwhelmed by the love story of the Adams and the incredible strength of our foundation.


mr_g said...

Sounds like cool show. I wish I had time to watch something like that. I sometimes feel so out of touch with history, it's nice to see something like that to bring it all back.

DHammett said...

The many stories about the men who helped found this nation and the hardships they and their loved ones endured are incredible. And near as I can tell, those stories aren't being taught in our schools.

I agree with your assessment of our current leadership as well. There's so much left to unfold, yet many rush to judgement. The story of our times won't be completely written for decades.