So illustrator and children’s book author Maira Kalman is doing this monthly blog about American democracy for the Times called “And the Pursuit of Happiness.” This month’s installment is about Thomas Jefferson, and it’s a treat. It’s simple and singsongy, but by the end you find you’ve been reading about incredibly weighty and grown-up issues.
Like many people (probably like you too, precious reader) I’ve always had an ambivalence toward our third president, and Ms. Kalman addresses that ambivalence (although not quite enough, for my tastes). After all, Thomas Jefferson, like many wealthy Virginians of his time, was a slave-owner; the arrogance involved with penning the words “all men are created equal” while simultaneously presuming that one human can be owned by another makes Jefferson an all-time hypocrite. There are plenty of people I respect as thinkers who find him to be irredeemable as a result. I have a hard time writing him off completely, though (and Ms. Kalman tells you why). If we’ve ever had anything coming close to a polymath in America, it’s Jefferson. Anyway, he’s a lot more complex and formidable of a man, for good and for ill, than we were taught about in grammar school.
I pass this along for two reasons: firstly, because I thought the Tristam Shandy bit at the end was positively heartbreaking. Secondly, because there’s a dynamite fact about, and fun lil portrait of, every pollock’s boy, Tadeusz Kościuszko. (Homework assignment, dear reader: read his Wikipedia page, and then, in the comments, convince me that TK didn’t eat nails for breakfast and tacks for snacks.)
Also, HT 2 EK on this.
This entry was posted on Monday, June 29th, 2009 at 10:04 pm and is filed under Reading and Writing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.