[Credit to A.B. Funkhauser for the above banner. First appearing on her own website along with her companion piece to this one.]
Sounds funny, I guess, to say I write historical novels partly in order to create a window into the present, and that reading fiction set in the past will do the same for you. I haven’t yet written about presidential politics (though my The Second Vendetta covers a hot campaign for the 1912 California State Assembly), but politics is in everyone’s face now, so if you doubt my word, how about this?
The pundits say no one has ever before seen the scurrilous likes of the insulting, name-calling, barrage that’s been loosed upon us lately. We hold our founding fathers in reverence and imagine that they, unlike our current political crew, engaged in mature and intellectual deliberation as they went about fleshing out the institutions they created in the constitution. Well, uh, no. Check out the slings and arrows that flew during the contest between our second and third presidents.
Jefferson’s camp accused President Adams of having a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” In return, Adams’ men called Vice President Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” As the slurs piled on, Adams was labeled a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal, and a tyrant, while Jefferson was branded a weakling, an atheist, a libertine, and a coward. Even Martha Washington succumbed to the propaganda, telling a clergyman that Jefferson was “one of the most detestable of mankind.” [Kerwin Swint, professor of political science at Kennesaw State University and the author of Mudslingers: The 25 Dirtiest Political Campaigns of All Time]
With apologies for the racism–that’s been part of the culture since before the 4/5-of-a-man clause which the originators used to bequeath the solution to the slavery question to future (Civil War and beyond) generations. It’s important to understand that savage rhetoric has been around from the beginning, so why are we surprised about today’s hoopla? We have no sense of the past. As if the world started yesterday. Or this morning.
Cure for that? Read some history. No, not that bare-bones eleventh grade textbook. Take a peek at http://amzn.to/1ROFyzG for my take on the juicy past-as-present California and Texas. And there’s plenty beside my (excellent) works. The Shaara novels about the civil war. Max Byrd’s novelized biographies of Grant, Jefferson, and Jackson. Plus the vast sweep of historical fiction full of characters and cultures which provide insight into who we are, were, and where we’re going even though it may seem like you’re reading about people in weird costumes and funny accents. It’s all about you and me, really. Don’t think it’s not.