Friday, September 25, 2009

Traveling Wheelchairs

We got to Boston twice this week. Monday we had an unplanned lunch at Quincy Market with a friend we met through The rest of that day was frustrating and disappointing, but it was good seeing Mike. Wednesday we took what must have equaled a three mile walk (okay, roll) from South Station, through the Theater District, through Boston Common and the Public Garden and finally to the Esplanade. At the Esplanade there's a stream that runs parallel to the Charles River, and we saw a swan! I'd never seen a swan before, so it was exciting! Wouldn't you know it?--we forgot our camera! Then we went back through the Public Garden and the Common to Downtown Crossing and down Summer Street to eat at Al Capone's. Then to South Station to get our train home.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Facts Are Stubborn Things

As predicted in my last blog entry, John and I took a Freedom Trail Walking Tour with the historian from Lessons On Liberty who usually dresses in a British uniform. Yesterday, however, he wore his 18th Century French uniform, partly with the purpose of reminding us that the Americans did not (and never could have) defeated the British Army without assistance from France.

It was intellectually uncomfortable, as he challenged a few of my patriotic beliefs. Most notably, he told us that the Colonists really didn't want representation in Parliament, knowing that they would be in the minority anyway, and thus be overruled. According to him, the American Revolution wasn't about unfair taxation without representation (as most American history books tell us), but rather about British intrusion on the colonies. The Americans weren't revolutionaries at all, he said; they were the conservatives, fighting to keep their way of life.

The point about the colonists not being interested in seats in Parliament particularly bothered me, however, as I thought about James Otis' famous declaration: "Taxation without representation is tyranny!" Yes, I was bold enough to ask! The answer startled me. Our guide, who happens to teach college history courses, said bluntly that Otis made that statement as a propaganda technique to bolster anti-loyalist sentiments, thus inflaming colonial protest.

To me, that part of the tour was pivotal. I could write about other, less disturbing, points he made. After all, I heard several things that I'd never heard before, and if I could type with ten fingers rather than one headstick, I most likely would share more of his ideas. (But then, you wouldn't come to Boston to take his tour, now would you?) Because John and I are becoming friends with the actor/historian who conducts the Boston Town Crier walking tour by portraying James Otis, it's hard to see "Taxation without representation is tyranny" as nothing more than an 18th Century sound-byte designed to galvanize colonists against the Crown.

At the grave marker of the five men killed in The Boston Massacre, our guide quoted John Adams' remark, "Facts are stubborn things." Adams uttered those politically incorrect words when he served as the defense attorney for the British soldiers and their commander as they stood trial for the so-called massacre. Taking my cue from Adams, then, I want to investigate the idea that Americans didn't really desire representation. If my bubble about Otis must be burst, so be it!

Lessons on Liberty is not a comfortable tour, but I'll probably do it again. Truth is never comfortable, but always vital!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Conversation With A Redcoat

For quite some time, we've seen the 1:30 Freedom Trail Walking Tour leave Boston Common, led by an 18th Century British Officer. John and I have often wondered what perspective that tour leader might give.

Yesterday, we saw the historian who leads that tour finishing his lunch, so John suggested talking to him. When we asked if he led the tour from a British point of view, he explained that doing so might offend people, but that he tries to be as objective as possible. Although we couldn't take his tour yesterday, we felt very encouraged by his welcoming attitude toward us. He gave us his card, which included the URL of the company he represents. Please read about Lessons on Liberty to see why I'm looking forward to his tour!


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