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Assault on America, Day 516: How Colonial Williamsburg could (again) free us from tyranny

Colonial Williamsburg Nation Builders
What our grandparents -- and Colonial Williamsburg -- could teach us today


This coming Wednesday would’ve been my grandfather’s 109th birthday. Born in 1911 (for perspective, Ronald Reagan was about four months older than my grandpa) in a little town in southern Minnesota, Floyd Earl Klatt lived a great life of consequence in the Gopher State, residing within a short drive of his birthplace for all of his 72 years.

Don’t worry if you don’t recognize the name -- Grandpa wasn’t famous and unless you resided within shouting distance of Blue Earth (in Faribault County), you’ve probably never heard of him. Needless to say, having passed away nearly thirty-seven years ago, not many folks even remember him now. Yet he lives on in some of our hearts, because he embodied the American Dream.

No doubt Grandpa would’ve found it strange -- and unacceptable -- for government authorities to order people to cease working or to keep our distance from each other because of something like a health scare brought on by a Chinese virus. A self-made man with little formal education by today’s standards, Grandpa worked jobs that most would consider beneath them now. Mom told (and retold) the story of how my grandfather wouldn’t eat hot dogs because “he once worked for a butcher and he knows what goes into ‘em.” Eventually Floyd took the money he’d saved and started his own modest business, a gas station that eventually flourished over the course of time into a thriving auto dealership and repair shop.

Despite not having spent much time in a traditional school setting, Grandpa had the smarts to manage his operation, including hiring several townspeople to help handle the workload. He was a job creator before the term was in vogue, someone who saw it as his civic duty to allow his neighbors and friends to earn an honest wage and pay for their own existence without depending on government.

Floyd was a lifelong Republican and in my mind, I can still hear him railing against FDR’s New Deal at the Christmas dinner table as though it wasn’t necessary and led to government being too big, powerful and dominant. He also said professional athletes didn’t deserve to be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a season (referring to slugger Reggie Jackson’s new free agent contract with the New York Yankees in the late 70’s).

It turns out many of Grandpa’s ideas and predictions were prescient, though I’m not sure he’d even understand the word. As the son of German farmers, Floyd spoke fluent German in his youth (I never heard him speak it -- he was a proud American). Conservative and old-fashioned to the core, Grandpa would be shocked to see what’s happening today, with much of the country -- including his native Minnesota -- rioting and still trapped to some degree under draconian “public safety” orders imposed mostly by liberal nanny-state governors who know better but keep their citizens suppressed for what appears to be purely political reasons.

The mobs of thugs looting and burning in big cities -- and local authorities all-but allowing them to do it -- would be utterly foreign to my grandpa’s way of thinking. Where did the freedom and order go? He would’ve been equally shocked by the conduct of the police in George Floyd’s death. Bad apples do spoil the whole bunch. But it’s no excuse to hate America and wreck things. Most policemen are great people, the best of the best.

This isn’t an obituary. It’s a commentary on how we in the present could -- and should -- learn from those who went before and built our culture brick by brick. Our elders weren’t backwards, and they weren’t ignorant. They perhaps understood what it meant to be free a lot better than we do now. Grab your mask and head to the store and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Open appeal to Colonial Williamsburg to lead a demand for liberty -- again

It's safe to say most if not all businesses have felt an impact from the events and crisis-driven overreactions of the past couple months. The national unemployment rate is way up, retail activity is way down and Americans are waiting to see how the country -- and world -- emerges from heretofore unseen closure orders and far too slow “phases” for reopening.

Here in Williamsburg, Virginia, a tourist destination that also doubles (or triples?) as a college town (William & Mary) and, for many, a retirement community, life has largely slowed, if not stopped. Schools (including the college, of course) are closed. Restaurants have started the process of reopening, but are “permitted” only outdoor seating and at much reduced capacity. Retail stores are beginning to open too, but Governor Ralph Northam’s mandatory mask order is in place -- that’s right, the state Health Department is tasked with ensuring people wear “protective” face coverings when mingling together within walls and under a roof.

With none of the tourist draws “open” to business, area hotels and resorts are barely functional. Restaurants along the town’s main drag are hurting badly. Most are open for curbside pickup and limited outdoor seating, but there just aren’t many people/tourists in town to give them patronage.

The location’s primary enticement, of course, is Colonial Williamsburg, which serves as the centerpiece for other local attractions such as Busch Gardens (theme park with wild roller coasters as well as more adult-like offerings), Water Country and a gluttonous basket of salient American history sites such as Jamestown (the first permanent English settlement, established in 1607) to the south and Yorktown (scene of the Revolutionary War’s famous ending siege and battle as well as Lord Cornwallis’s surrender) to the north.

People from all over the world come here to have fun, relax, revisit and learn -- about the concept of liberty. It’s not a stretch to say Williamsburg was the intellectual center of the American Revolution, having spawned more than its share of noteworthy minds. Boston’s patriots might’ve supplied the spark for the powder keg that exploded into war with the most powerful nation on earth, but Virginia took the great philosophers’ (John Locke, Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, etc.) theories and turned them into practical and delineated reality.

Planter and soldier George Washington served in the Virginia House of Burgesses as did firebrand and “voice” of the Revolution, Patrick Henry, genius and teacher George Wythe, George Mason (Washington’s neighbor and main mover of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which not only supplied concepts for the Declaration of Independence, but also the Constitution’s Bill of Rights), Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, among others.

Colonial Williamsburg features extremely talented interpreters playing the roles of all of them (and also the Marquis de Lafayette and black Baptist preacher Gowan Pamphlet). Women aren’t left out of the fold either. Here, Martha Washington discusses hers and other leading ladies’ vital contributions to the building of the nation. And there are lesser known female figures such as printer Clementina Rind (of the critically important Virginia Gazette), educator Ann Wager (who ran a Christian school for enslaved children) and free African-American woman Edith Cumbo.

Williamsburg’s enslaved (about 50 percent of the population back then) are represented by Aggy of Turkey Island (fascinating illustration of black and white relationships) and James Armistead Lafayette (legendary but little-known spy who helped foster the Continental army’s victory at Yorktown) in addition to a host of talented actors and interpreters portraying other aspects of life in slavery.

This isn’t a pitch to visit Colonial Williamsburg, though multiple pilgrimages should be part of every citizen’s education and understanding of what it means to be an American and to discover and absorb the timeless principles that still hold true today. The greatest lesson garnered from the restored town and its people is sacrifice and courage, attributes that are in short supply in the twenty-first century United States.

Maybe the most salient example is the Founding Generation wouldn’t accept being ruled -- not by the royal governor and not by King George III himself. Starting with the Stamp Act in 1765, the audacious Virginians petitioned the king for redress of their grievances time and again. They viewed themselves as Englishmen with all the rights guaranteed under British law, including the freedom to tax themselves. It wasn’t just about money, and it wasn’t about gaining representation in the British parliament, either.

Theirs was what “protest” looked like. They didn’t loot and they didn’t riot. They won, because they were right.

They demanded -- and then fought for -- liberty. If only the spirit reigned as strongly today. They did so without any guarantees of safety and security, either, and the British crown didn’t just stand by while they behaved badly. Everything these people did was scrutinized by the authorities and could’ve led to arrest and trial and death if found guilty. The movement for independence from the Mother Country didn’t happen overnight. It was a series of events that led to Patrick Henry’s famous call (on March 23, 1775, before Lexington and Concord) to “Give me liberty or give me death!

Put it this way, I doubt if Henry were alive today he would alter his famous challenge to fit the modern sensibilities: “Give me a mask or I can’t go into your store!

Contemporary citizens risk being cited by the authorities for exercising the freedoms won all those years ago by the trailblazing Founding Fathers. They could’ve never imagined elected governors ordering the people to self-imprison themselves (purportedly for their own benefit) or wear personal protective equipment (i.e. masks) without their consent.

Back then, common sense was the guide. Wasn’t there a famous pamphlet of the same name? (Thomas Paine’s Common Sense.)

We could use leaders like Washington and Jefferson and Madison and Patrick Henry today. And since Colonial Williamsburg was the epicenter of their struggles and accomplishments, the modern-day town should unbolt its buildings and welcome visitors and knowledge seekers without any ill-explained and unjustified preconditions dictated by the Commonwealth’s weak-kneed “leaders” who wouldn’t know liberty from a hole-in-the-outdoor-privy.

What would Ralph Northam do if Colonial Williamsburg unlocked its doors and enticed folks to come and live life again while being entertained, fed and taught about real sacrifice and courage? Would the governor and other state officials send in the national guard to strap a mask on the men (an older and younger version) who portray George Washington and compel them at gunpoint to comply or be arrested? Or tell Martha Washington during a program that she’s under suspicion of violating the social distancing mandates?

Those who don’t feel safe to visit could stay away, as is their right. That’s what freedom-of-choice is all about. Accommodations could even be made to try and ease their fears. It’s not one-size-fits-all in the wrong direction.

It’s about time someone stood up for those who value freedom and autonomy over nanny-state protective nonsense that guards no one and scares the stuffing out of decent people for no reason. Colonial Williamsburg is the perfect forum for such a message-packed demonstration. What do they have to lose? Visitation would skyrocket from all those grateful for the “open for business” gesture, local establishments would beckon visitors and, if the worst happened (and the state shut them down), the positive publicity would put the place on everyone’s must-get-there map for years to come.

The lessons of liberty would be preserved. And my grandpa would definitely be proud.

Masks requirements only intended to encourage submission by the Sheeple

Plenty of recent studies have found that the danger of contracting and getting ill from COVID-19 are either grossly exaggerated or flat-out wrong. Yet still the inexplicable mandates keep coming. Why? There’s a reason for it. Molly McCann wrote at The Federalist, “To those looking to benefit politically from emergencies, COVID presents an opportunity to advance plans targeted to transform American freedom and the American way of life. Mandatory-masking policies provide a valuable foundation to weaponize the virus against American liberty—now and in the future.

“Implementing mandatory mask policies across a society of 300 million because it makes some people feel better is absurd on its face. But the policy makes a lot of sense if you understand its purpose and usefulness to shift the American mindset.

“Mandatory masks are a critical predicate conditioning us to accept abuses of our liberty. Mandatory masking provides the foundation on which governments continue to justify emergency measures and rule by executive fiat, and it creates a national mood of consent that America will accept indefinite government expansion because we face a ‘new normal.’”

In other words, governors and mayors want to keep scaring people into giving up their freedoms in hopes of guarding against an invisible, ill-defined enemy. There’s no way of getting around it -- they’re opportunists and they’re not shy about using their power. And people are willfully complying.

We can’t let them get away with it, or they’ll never relent.

The answers to present day challenges and dilemmas aren’t always garnered from contemporary proposals and solutions, and they’re definitely not found among today’s nanny-state governing authorities. In dealing with the coronavirus, perhaps we should look back to a time and place where liberty was honored and valued. What do you think?

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