I finished watching HBO’s John Adams miniseries this past week, having read the David McCullough best-seller on which it’s based. The miniseries was very well done, although it stuck with Adams and his story rather than portraying the events America was experiencing at the time. Paul Giamatti’s performance as Adams made the patriot very human, and the film showed that Abigail Adams (Laura Linney) was her husband’s best friend and counsel.
Characters so well known to history students wander in and out of the tale: Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Sam Adams, and John Quincy Adams among them. At first, David Morse’s Washington made me laugh, but only because it was like seeing a painting come to life.
What strikes the viewer (and reader of McCullough’s book) is the devotion these citizens have to the idea of a better government, a better country, to a higher notion of freedom than they’ve experienced under the British king, and the personal risk they will face in attaining it. Adams begins the miniseries by defending vilified British soldiers because the government for which he is willing to die would not offer less than a blind justice system. And his fellow rebels, in the end, respect the soldiers’ acquittal and Adams’ role because it is the kind of bravery and moral bearing that will sustain the government they seek to create.
Revisiting the story of how our country was born, with the ideals of Jefferson and Adams, the leadership of Washington, the passion of those who dumped tea into the Boston harbor, the dedication and sacrifice of so many lesser-known citizens who fought and defended those ideals and moral standards, makes me horrendously sad. I can only image those patriots, seeing what we have accepted from the Bush Administration criminals who have sullied the reputation and damaged the future of this great country over the past eight years, feeling that we’ve rejected their dream and their work. Let’s begin earning that hard-won freedom we’ve enjoyed, and sooner than later.
Happy Fourth of July!