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Posts from Scipio, Lakeland, FL

Scipio, Lakeland, FLScipio, Lakeland, FL
Scipio, Lakeland, FL

Americans are natural “cherry pickers”, pulling from their Bibles and their Bill of Rights only those fragments which are convenient to their personal beliefs and omitting the rest. These half phrases, mostly taken out of context, end up on bumper stickers and get quoted over and over until they achieve the status of truisms. A character in a 1996 action flick quotes Thomas Jefferson: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Shortly after the movie came out, I began hearing U.S. military officers repeating the phrase. The problem is that they embraced the quote as a motto without bothering to verify the context in which Jefferson had written. Jefferson did indeed make that statement in a private letter in 1787, but he was talking about Shay’s Rebellion in Massachusetts earlier that year and how the Government of England and the English press had purposely misinterpreted the incident as proof that post-Revolutionary America had descended into a state of Anarchy. In his letter to an acquaintance, Jefferson was putting Shay’s Rebellion into the context of a localized misunderstanding, as opposed to a state of Anarchy.

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