Keller @ Large: The Real Meaning Of Patriots Day

BOSTON (CBS) – It looks like a pretty nice day for everything that goes along with Patriots Day, fine for the runners and spectators at the big race, for the red-hot Red Sox game at Fenway, and for the re-enactment of the Battle of Lexington. They always get a good crowd to watch the re-enactment, quite the spectacle for folks who only see war on TV and in video games.

But by the time this day is over, how many of us will give any thought at all to what the Battle of Lexington really means to us, and the timeless lessons it taught?

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

The bloodshed at Lexington and Concord on this day in 1775 was the political trigger that militarized the mounting friction between the colonists and the British, but its importance as a spark outstripped the magnitude of what actually happened. This was not a major military battle in any way, and there were few casualties. The whole thing was really an unfunny comedy of errors, with neither side setting out to bring on war.

Colonial leadership’s reaction to the violence seems a bit overheated and opportunistic – George Washington framed the choice as strictly between bloody warfare or enslavement, much as Glenn Beck frames the debate today.

It’s worth noting that the story of the Battle of Lexington was immediately distorted for propaganda purposes by both sides. Even though it’s unclear who actually started the shooting at both Lexington and Concord, a stark picture of British aggression was promoted; depositions from participants reporting aggression by the colonists – including one from Paul Revere – were kept from the public. And the basic questions about what happened – were the colonial militias eager or reluctant for war, and were the colonists ready for escalation and revolution or prodded into reactionary mode – have been debated ever since.

It was one of our earliest lessons in the Fog of War, and how even the most participatory democracy can be led to momentous decisions by the actions of a few. Food for thought today between the last pitch and the last runner.

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