Ellis’s Op-ed on the Founders & us; Buckley vs Vidal and the current state of political discourse; Stonewall movie is a mess; give Thad Stevens some love!; six creepy unsolved mysteries

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I consider myself a fan of Joseph J. Ellis’s writings, and he has a recent Op-ed in the LA Times that is a perfect example of why. Were our founders demigods or scoundrels? The fact we often depict them as one or the other, he argues, “tells us more about us than them.” Further, their human failings, if we accept them without condemnation, can shed light on our own failures and vice versa. For example, “Does our own failure to arrest the catastrophic consequences of climate change help us understand why the most gifted political leaders in American history could not put slavery on the road to extinction? (I can’t help but also love this comment about Trump: his “self-absorption, megalomania and contempt for human civility make him the poster child for the sad state of our dysfunctional political culture.”)

And speaking of the state of our political discourse, here’s an interesting piece from The Federalist discussing our rigid and inflexibly polarized political views that are in many ways shaped by our reluctance to read or expose ourselves to news and opinion pieces that challenge rather than reinforce our own beliefs. I think this dynamic probably reaches back further than the Buckley vs Vidal debates that this essay focuses on (looks like there is a good documentary coming out about those debates) but this is a thoughtful piece for which I am largely sympathetic. (If you dismiss it out-of-hand because it is from the Federalist, I understand your skepticism, but you’ll only prove its point).

It looks like the new movie, Stonewall, is a mess, both historically and cinematically.

A Virginia community is about to place a monument up to all the people that were displaced when the Shenandoah National Park was created. Not a bad gesture, and they could use some contributions if you’re inclined to help.

And while we are on Virginia: you may have noticed before now that I am a big fan of Colonial Williamsburg (by the way, the Fall issue of the Civil War Monitor magazine has a little travel piece in it that I did with Drew Gruber of the Williamsburg Battlefield Association, in which we give some great tips on how to visit the area’s Civil War sites. Shameless plug, but please look for it on your newsstand now!). So I really enjoyed this photo essay on the 1930 excavations that led to the restoration of the royal governor’s palace. Very interesting pics.

Nice piece here calling for some appreciation for the abolitionist congressman Thaddeus Stevens. I agree! And in this age when so many are attacking Confederate iconography, I wholeheartedly support doing more to memorialize people like him that “fought hardest in Congress for African American emancipation and equality.”

And for some Friday fun: how about a list of “six creepy unsolved crimes from history?” Good list, and I had never heard of a couple of these. But should Roanoke be on here, especially given the recent news? I say they should replace it with Lizzie Borden. Now that’s a creepy unsolved mystery.

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