The Intolerable Woke-Washing of George Washington

When I was a child, one of my favorite movies was 1989’s Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  For those who may have missed this Gen-Xer nostalgic gem, it’s a buddy comedy about two good-hearted teenaged slackers (played by Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves) who are more interested in making terrible music than in schoolwork, and in order to prevent their imminent failure in a high school history report, a fixer from the future (played by the late George Carlin) goes back in time to offer them a time machine which can help them gain the knowledge needed to pass.

The duo is comically ignorant of history, even by my then ten-year-old standards.  Caesar, in their limited knowledge, was “a salad dressing dude,” and Napoleon was a “short, dead dude.”  But what recently entered my memory while encountering items in the new cycle was what they say of George Washington while studying for the report. 

Bill, quizzing Ted about George Washington, asks Ted for facts about the man:

Ted [confidently]:  Had wooden teeth, chased Moby Dick.

Bill [puzzlingly]: That’s Captain Ahab, dude. 

As a child, I certainly understood the humor in that scene.  I already knew that Washington was purported to have had wooden teeth, and much else -- like that he’d supposedly chopped down a cherry tree and refused to lie about it, and that he was a general in the Revolutionary War, and that he was our first president, and that he was so important that his face was on Mount Rushmore.  And I definitely knew how ridiculous it was to confuse George Washington with Captain Ahab (who I knew well from Gregory Peck’s portrayal in the movie). 

In other words, there was no need to provide a cipher for the audience to understand the action or comedy taking place on screen, as it was generally understood that even the youngest of viewers would understand the joke in 1989 America, and that the movie was speaking to an audience that was far more enlightened than the main characters. 

Fast forward to an article in Screen Rant that I encountered when the long-awaited (and unfortunately disappointing) third installment to the series, Bill and Ted Face the Music, came out in 2020.  The article seeks to inform readers of all the historical figures referenced in the movie, and there is a scene which very obviously recreates the famous painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851).

“As fans of Hamilton will know,” writes Quinn Hough, “George Washington was the first president of the United States.”

Is that supposed to be a joke?  Is it a forced and desperate attempt to connect with readers by invoking the pop-culture phenomenon that was the Hamilton musical?  Or have we truly reached a point where younger movie fans are more likely to know that George Washington was the first president from having watched a fictional reimagining of the Founders as bi-racial characters (so as to make the Founders more palatable to modern woke viewers) than to have learned that fact in school or as a matter of their national inheritance?  

Kids certainly aren’t learning this in public schools, or in any general sense, given that history and civics scores among eighth-graders have recently fallen to the lowest levels on record last year.  But, as Elon Musk enlightened viewers on Real Time with Bill Maher, it is still possible that some students in very well-funded schools, where affluent children are taught, still learn George Washington was the first president.

Speaking of how children are infected by the “woke mind-virus,” Musk tells Maher:

Let me give you an example that a friend of mine told me.  His daughters go to high school in the Bay Area and he was asking them, ‘So who are the first few presidents of the United States?’  They could name Washington.  So he said, ‘What do you know about him?’ ‘Well, he was a slave owner.’  ‘What else?’  ‘Nothing.’  Like, okay, maybe you should know more than that.

While it’s heartening that Maher’s audience gives that last comment applause, we should be clear in recognizing that Elon’s friend is largely to blame for his daughters’ ignorance.  He obviously feels that his daughters should know things that he was too busy to teach them as a counterpoint to the woke nonsense that he failed to foresee they would be taught in their ultra-left-wing public (presumably) schools.  His children are ignorant both because he neglected to teach them about history and their national inheritance, and because he paid public officials and saboteurs handsomely to poison their minds with a woke reimagining of our country’s ideological roots.  

Make no mistake, if the woke intellectual arsonists are able to successfully raze the legacy of George Washington, they will have destroyed nearly everything that was once meant to make America unique and special.

Washington is a political figure who stands without parallel in all of known human history.  However, he is not known to history, as Elon Musk’s friend’s daughters are taught in school, solely because he was our first president, and it is certainly not because he owned slaves. 

In fact, Washington’s uniqueness in regard to his disposition on this matter is due to his rarity as an opponent of slavery in a time in history when only a scant few powerful men on the entire planet would have joined him in morally opposing the practice, which had been unquestioned among humanity for millennia.   As testament to this fact, Washington signed what might be called the first anti-slavery law in the United States, which allowed for federal enforcement of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 that outlawed slavery in the Midwest territories which would later become the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

But to best understand what makes George Washington the legendarily admirable figure that he is, one might look to what his enemies had to say about him.

Shortly after the Revolutionary War, American painter Benjamin West went to England to paint a portrait of King George III, writes historian H.W. Crocker III.  “What will he do, now that the war is won?” asked the king about General Washington. 

“They say he will return to his farm,” West replied.

“If he does that,” said George, “he will be the greatest man in the world.”

Other accounts refer to George III calling Washington “the most distinguished man living” or referring to him as “the greatest character of his age,” but the King’s respect for such a decision by Washington is unmistakable. 

And return to his farm Washington did, until he reluctantly answered the call of duty to serve his countrymen, for the good of our nation.  Most importantly, though he recognized that the American people may have desired that he become a king, he refused to become one.

In his farewell speech of 1796, he told the American people:

I had constantly hoped that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with my motives which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement from which I had been reluctantly drawn.  The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence, impelled me to abandon the idea.

I rejoice that the state of your concerns, external as well as internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible with the sentiment of duty or propriety, and am persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that, in the present circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove of my determination to retire.

We are not a young nation, despite the insistence by some silly folk to characterize us as such relative to our European counterparts.  The United States Constitution is the first permanent constitution of its kind, and the oldest in the world that is still in effect.  George Washington’s selflessness and commitment to civil servitude, rather than succumbing to the allure of power, did more to achieve that outcome than any other act in American history, and his example rightfully remains the measure by which all presidents are weighed.

Though few presidents have measured up to that example, there is value in the unprecedented standard that George Washington has set forth.  And it’s not hard to understand why woke authoritarian politicians, academics, media, and corporatists are working in unison to replace that standard with something else entirely are propping up a barely-functional career politician like Joe Biden as a puppet-substitute for that standard.

Graphic credit: public domain

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