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.

Comments (8)
  1. DrStrangelove says:

    Revere’s engraving of the Boston Massacre contains subtle political slants, as well. This was a war sparked by political rhetoric and engineered by brilliant men who used the American citizenry as pawns in a dangerous but necessary military action. Sam Adams and his contemporaries were propogandists of genius status. It doesn’t matter who fired the first shot – It was the single most important sound of liberty our country (and quite possibly the world) has ever heard. Last April I visited the Battlefield but waited until the day after Patriots Day so most of the tourists were gone. Go because it means something to you not because it’s something to check off a to-do list. Patriots Day is the one day in the entire year that I am reminded why I don’t flee this tax-riddled, politically corrupt state — It was once the proudest most important place in America’s history, and my family has been here for almost 400 years. I think Massachusetts is so engrained in my blood, I wouldn’t fit in anywhere else. Happy Patriots Day, Jon and all. I’m off to rouse the rubble.

  2. BostonIrish says:

    Jon, you’ve finally jumped the shark for me. Writing the names of Washington and Beck in the same sentence. I’m stunned. I’ve read it at least 5 times, and the words are still there. Washington and Beck don’t even resemble each other, and your attempt at comparing the life and governance during Washington’s time and the rhetoric and actions resulting, and the chaotic stupidity that is the current situation in government today, and the histrionics of a right-wing extremist and his egomaniacal self-absorbed agenda in Beck as similar in viewpoint, or spin, if you will, is very disappointing, and I completely disagree with your comparison.

    1. DrStrangelove says:

      Hadn’t even noticed that one, Irish. I guess I had better drink more coffee and put my spectacles on. Good catch. (By the way, I would be raising the rabble, not raising the rubble. See what happens without spectacles? )

    2. Stephen Stein says:

      BostonIrish – I think Jon has a point here. Consider the enormity of what Washington and other colonial “Patriots” were undertaking – the violent overthrow of the government of the colonies. And with it, the overthrow of centuries of monarchical rule in favor of rule by the governed. It was indeed a “revolutionary” idea. I’m not sure Beck is an altogether fair comparison, but it’s not too far a stretch.

  3. Stephen Stein says:

    Courtesy of Charlie on the MTA at BlueMassGroup, the true meaning of Patriots’ Day:

    By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
    Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
    Here once the embattled farmers stood,
    And fired the shot heard round the world,

    The foe long since in silence slept,
    Alike the Conqueror silent sleeps,
    And Time the ruined bridge has swept
    Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

    On this green bank, by this soft stream,
    We set to-day a votive stone,
    That memory may their deed redeem,
    When like our sires our sons are gone.

    Spirit! who made those freemen dare
    To die, or leave their children free,
    Bid time and nature gently spare
    The shaft we raise to them and Thee.

    – R.W.Emerson

  4. DrStrangelove says:

    Poor Ralph. He wanted to pull the Walden routine but couldn’t due to his position in the community. Conviced Henry David to do it, even though HDT didn’t really want to. And the rest, as we say, is history. Sounds a lot like Lexington — Let’s fire a round and see what happens, even though we really can’t participate ourselves. Badda-booooom.

  5. taxedout says:

    I think this was a wonderful thing the Original Patriots did so that 200 years later the Mass Hacks could have a holiday!!!!!

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