Friday, January 05, 2007

John and I

John Adams has been a hero of mine since my sophomore year of high school when I took US History. To be completely honest, I was more of an Alexander Hamilton fan while we were actually studying the founding of our country and the people who made it happen, but at some point soon after, I saw the film version of 1776 (the musical about the Continental Congress in Philadelphia) and, as a result, John Adams became my favorite Founding Father.

While the writers of the musical say that they combined the real life efforts of both John Adams (the second president of the US) and Samuel Adams (Brewer, Patriot) into their lead character and while both men were very vocal for independence, it was John who was called the "Colossus of Independence" by Thomas Jefferson and it was John whose influence emerged not from his charm and popularity, but through his work as a lawyer and his analysis of history. This is the man who is at the center of the musical and this is the man I admired.

It concerned me that the John Adams in the musical, a man who was direct, honest, and moral, was constantly referred to by everyone (including himself) as obnoxious and disliked while the genteel men of the delegations from the Southern colonies were supposedly the men with manners. Because John Adams was viewed as the coarse Northerner, he had to be especially careful as to how he presented anything and everything, and even his own friends were quick to accuse him of rudeness. Meanwhile, the gentlemen from the South, because it was understood that they were most refined and mannered of people, could get away with the all manner of insults and slights without censure. Of course, it wasn't just the men from the South who hated John Adams, pretty much everyone found him hard to take.

John Adams did some amazing things for our country, but at great personal cost. There is a moment in the musical where he is writing a letter to his wife (which ends in a duet between them) where he speaks of being lonely and misunderstood. For us, the people in the audience and those who read the history books, John Adams is clearly the sympathetic character and the rightness of his arguments are obvious to all, however, in real life in modern times, who do you think people would vote for, the obnoxious and disliked or the saccharine sweet?

Obviously, this is something which has bothered me for years, since I, like John Adams, won't be winning any popularity contests anytime soon and often get accused of being rude when I am simply defending my point of view. And, because I am the obnoxious one, it is usually considered totally okay for the self-professed polite person to be rude to me because, well, obviously they can't actually be disrespectful or impolite, they have already told me and other people that they are known for their fabulous manners.

It hurts to be misunderstood, especially by people who you thought knew you, especially when the people who choose to vilify you choose to ignore the facts in order to paint the ugly picture that best suits their own purposes. Being right and honorable is cold comfort when one's so called friends call you a monster. Having history view you positively doesn't entirely take away the pain. The problem with being a passionate advocate for one's beliefs, for the cause of truth, and to expect others to support their statements with facts and thought (as opposed to feelings and manipulations) is that it is impossible to be otherwise. One cannot change one's nature, one cannot become suddenly easygoing and blind to hypocrisy just because it would make things easier for everyone. I am positive John Adams sometimes wished he could be someone else, someone who cared less, someone who got along, someone who could keep his mouth shut every now and then. Lucky for all of us, he couldn't.

At least that is what I tell myself. It is cold comfort though and it isn't like I am doing anything so important as founding a country. But hey, maybe great things will come from my own inability to keep my mouth shut, too.



Blogger kim said...

To me this is such a hard one. If you are not of popular opinion anything you do or say is deemed rude. On the other hand I've had to way the cost and pay off of voicing opposing arguments.

I've learned to not only choose my battles, but I've stopped associating with people only interested in their own viewpoints.

Oh-tagged you for a 6 weird thing about you meme.

11:58 AM, January 08, 2007  

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