Monday, 20 June 2011

Paul... revered?

"How do you view Paul Revere?" we were asked by an American over breakfast at one of our B&B stops. "Is he considered as much of a traitor in England, as he's considered a big hero here?" I answered, "quite honestly, I'd never heard of him until two weeks ago". I've heard of him now though, in fact I seem to have heard of little else.

Paul Revere, wondering how he'll be remembered by uneducated Englishmen

As we arrived in the USA, potential Republican presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, caused a storm by (depending on who you believe) misquoting, mis-remembering, re-spinning or knowing nothing whatsoever about the events that made Paul Revere a national hero.

As we've driven round the US we've learned more and more about the American Revolutionary War in which the cheeky colonists decided that they no longer wished to be ruled by The King Of England and pay taxes to the Great British Parliament (or Awesome British Parliament, as I'm tempted to call it). No, they wanted "liberty" and "freedom" and all that other stuff that the Americans deem to be so important.

Amongst the incidents which led up to the big scrap was the Boston Tea Party in which the colonists, upset with the taxes which parliament had imposed on tea imports, decided to seize a large shipment which had arrived in Boston Harbour and tip it into the water. Its not clear whether they remembered to warm the pot first - personally I doubt that they appreciated the importance of this small but vital step in tea brewing.

The colonists had built up an arsenal of arms just in case things got a bit tasty. The British decided it was time to nip that sort of thing in the bud and on April the 18th 1775, planned a secret mission from their HQ in Boston, to Concord to seize this arms cache. However, the rebellious chaps in Boston got wind of this plan and sent local bell-maker, patriot, tea party participant and all-round cool dude Paul Revere on an overnight ride to warn the colonists along the route that the British soldiers were coming.

Paul Revere on his "midnight ride"
Now this is where Sara Palin gets herself in to trouble because when asked about this event by a TV reporter she behaved a little like I used to when asked by a teacher about some homework I was supposed to have done (but hadn't) and instead of holding my hand up in admission of guilt, tried to waffle my way out of the situation. So she said something like "Paul Revere rang all his bells and set off the air raid sirens to warn the British that the National Rifle Association were about to kick their butts" - I've paraphrased a little but then if Palin's supporters can attempt to change the wikipedia page on Paul Revere then I reckon I'm entitled to rewrite history in my own blog.

The bottom line is that Sara Palin managed to look and sound like she didn't really know about this crucial event in American history and became the target of mockery and ridicule (although to be honest I think that her statement declaring her support for "our North Korean allies" was far more worrying).

Anyway we were passing Concord so we came to see where we (the British) started to lose our grip on them (the no-longer-want-to-be British). There's a National Park trail between Concord and Lexington and we drove along it stopping at various important locations. We saw the statue honouring the "Minute Men", so called because they were available to fight at very short notice, not because they were incredibly tiny!

The Minute Man statue
We watched a multimedia thing which told the story of Mr Revere's journey as he rowed across the Charles River before jumping on a horse and riding through Lexington and on towards Concord, waking households as he went and passing on the warning that the British were coming. He was captured before he completed his journey but he'd achieved what he set out to do, and the colonists were forewarned and forearmed, ready to repel the British troops.

So now we're experts on the American hero Paul Revere. We've seen the place he was captured, the house where he lived, the church where he plotted, the plot where he's buried, paintings of him, bells made by him, the bottom of a warship clad by him and an original pressing of his first US Billboard top 10 hit single!

Everywhere we've turned he's been there and now, like Sarah Palin, I've "had it up to here" with Paul Revere!

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