Flame & Feather

of the Phoenix

John Adams

I’m not much of a television watcher. I was only peripherally aware of the series, “The West Wing”, while it was on. I purchased the full seven-season set of DVDs a couple of years ago, and my husband & I watched from beginning to end four times over. I love the world of politics, having had a godmother who was dressmaker to the wife of a White House senior adviser, many years ago. I’ve actually set foot in the real West Wing, albeit as a young teen with little sense of the world that surrounded me on that occasion.

I was never sorry for the outlay of cash that was necessary to purchase those West Wing DVDs; we enjoyed it all so very much, that we would just pop in the pilot show right after Josiah Bartlet left office in the last show. We wanted another series that could captivate us like that. We had been given the first season of “24” DVDs, and watched that. The plot twists were so predictable that we would laugh at them. “Sports Night” was a charming series, but we were satisfied with the first viewing.

While I’m still looking for that magical series, I’ve bought the HBO mini-series, “John Adams”. I thought it would be interesting and educational, and since my husband and I both love early American history, it was a safe bet.

Adams was never my favorite Founding Father. I’m more of a Jefferson admirer (warts and all), but “John Adams” was a fascinating series. It showed colonial America in all its squalor, and made clear that the men we tend to lionize today were, above all, just flesh and blood. Like me, like you, like everyone else. It was interesting to watch Adams’ development from lawyer to delegate to diplomat to statesman to politician (yes, that order), and the emotional evolution as well. He always seemed pompous to me, whenever I read history, but I saw him in the series as a distinctly principled citizen. He had Reason, and tenacity, and standards, to which he always held true, even when he couldn’t understand why they would be detrimental to him and his cause. He was never a publicly affectionate man, but that was part of the times and culture he lived in. His wife was his partner, his equal, and her voice often helped temper his reactions with loving sensibility. I was moved by the series, and have a better understanding, and fuller respect, for those people who founded the United States of America.

A couple of weeks ago, I overheard a discussion on the TV, perhaps it was about the Superman stories (I don’t know, I wasn’t paying a lot of attention), when I heard a statement that grabbed my interest. It was to the effect that in order to display the full heroism of a fictional character, a really dastardly antagonist had to be created. When I think about the tangle that modern politics has become, enmeshed in the web of corporations and military superiority, I do see serious antagonists, but I see no heroes. I used to read (Leonard?) Skolnick’s blog and become distressed as the full import of controlling factions struck me. The web is greatly tangled, but there is no hero with an Alexandrian solution to cut through the unlosable knots.

Obama is being painted as that hero, but it’s wishful thinking on our parts. He is probably as much in the control of corporations as Bush or Clinton or Reagan ever was. I realized that when, while waiting to see him at a local rally, people were passing out leaflets and baseball caps advertising “Clean Coal”. There’s no such thing. <scoff>

I adore Dennis Kucinich. He had an upbringing in incredibly difficult circumstances, so he knows the value of government in everyday people’s lives. I miss Molly Ivins, who was taught that it was of utmost importance to understand how any policy would impact everyday citizens, and delineated that ideal with good humor and humanity. And in case you haven’t cringed at my politics so far, here’s the biggie: I love Michael Moore. He is truthful (even if your politics may not want you to think so), detailed and practical. He knows his power, and uses it for the public’s welfare. He is the modern Ralph Nader, whom I used to admire, but he’s like the baseball player who loves the sport so much that he continues to play well beyond his useful years, and ends up hurting the team that he once sent to the World Series. If only there were more like Ralph as he was in his golden years. If only Eliot Spitzer hadn’t been such a frail human being. If only John Edwards weren’t so, so… <sigh>

All those Founding Fathers were frail, too. Franklin was a nasty old man. Jefferson didn’t use the best judgment when it came to his relations with women. Washington married for money, and Hamilton forgot where he came from while worshiping  the Almighty Dollar he helped create. Adams didn’t write his beloved wife when he was away from home for years on end, and when he finally had her come stay with him, they left the kids behind to suffer.

These guys all had a common goal of Independence and nation-building. The corporations with their vast amounts of money know that we, too, have common goals, but work hard at making us think our differences are more important than our similarities. If we could only rise above our differences, as the Founding Fathers were able to do, we could accomplish much.

Categorized as Miscellany


  1. Back when Reagan was in office, my best friend’s husband was with ATF and a close friend was Secret Service. Thus, when we visited their VA home, he arranged a private tour of the White House. Just me, Joe, and baby Jessie.

    Thinking back, I’m honestly surprised at how little I remember of it. It wasn’t all that long ago, was it? I remember, mostly, ornate furnishings, astounding works of art, and feeling I was wandering through a palace … which, I suppose, it is, though it rather makes us squirm to think of it that way.

    The details, though, escape me, and that fact troubles me greatly.

    I remember that, as lovely as the gardens were, the air still smelled like Washington DC.

    I do remember that Ron and Nancy weren’t at home.

    More vividly, I remember autumn of 1978, and spending several weeks with the same dear friend (before she began dating her future husband). She worked for the Treasury Department at the time, and I would ride in to D.C. with her in the mornings, and spend the days wandering the city. I’d eat lunch on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, spend entire afternoons meandering the Smithsonian (and never did see it all). After a week I was giving tourists directions and taking their pictures for them to bring home to Germany or Japan or Peoria.

    Did you know there’s an Aquarium in Washington DC? Very cool.