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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "George Washington"

Mount Vernon to host Fourth of July fireworks show early this year

Westlake Legal Group mount-vernon-fourth Mount Vernon to host Fourth of July fireworks show early this year Things to Do Features Things to Do mount vernon june events independence day George Washington's Mount Vernon George Washington Fourth of July Fireworks Events
Fourth of July celebrations at Mount Vernon, pre-pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Mount Vernon)

Annual Fourth of July festivals are canceled. Barbecue cookouts with friends and family are out of the question (unless you want to social distance the whole time). And many fireworks shows aren’t happening around town this year. It can seem like there’s not much to look forward to when it comes to celebrating Independence Day, but not all hope is lost.

For those who just can’t go without a dosage of red, white and blue fireworks in the night sky, George Washington’s Mount Vernon will host an early Fourth of July event on Saturday, June 27, for an evening of fireworks and patriotic music by the National Concert Band.

The special event is limited in capacity to allow for social distancing to take place, and the fireworks show will last for about five minutes over the Potomac River.

Guests will also have the chance to visit Washington’s Tomb at night, a rarity as that area is usually closed during evening events.

Food and drinks will be available from the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant, including two picnic options for preorder. The $28 box for two guests includes fruit and cheese, a half baguette, hummus, cookies and Route 11 chips. The premium picnic basket for four guests ($130) includes a picnic basket, blanket, fruit, cheese, a charcuterie box, a baguette with hummus, Route 11 chips, pasta salad, an Italian sub and a chicken salad sandwich. Concessions will also be open for day-of purchases. Outside food is not permitted.

For those who want to enjoy the fireworks show from the safety of their home, it will be livestreamed from 9 to 9:15 p.m. via YouTube.

Gates to Mount Vernon will open at 6 p.m. that evening and parking is available on-site for free. All guests must  maintain a distance of at least 6 feet apart and face coverings are required. For more details and to purchase tickets, click here. // $30-$40 for members; $35-$45 for nonmembers

For more events in Northern Virginia, as well as at-home entertainment, subscribe to our Things to Do newsletters.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Writing brief lives of America’s Presidents taught me that Trump is far from being the first outlandish one

The more one hears about the American presidential race, the less comprehensible it can seem. For one is presented with an excessively detailed account of what has happened in the last few hours, and nothing at all about what happened in the last few centuries.

It is easy in these circumstances to suppose that Donald Trump is an unprecedented figure.

The correspondents covering the race are for the most part too busy to read much history, let alone to make use of it if they do, condemned as they are to show, say, their mastery of Super Tuesday.

And when they do turn to history, they tend to fall in love with the works of Robert Caro, who in the fourth volume of his magisterial life of Lyndon B. Johnson, President from 1963-69, has reached 1964.

It was partly in an attempt to gain some faint sense of the whole sweep of the history of the United States that I wrote Gimson’s Presidents: Brief Lives from Washington to Trump, published this week.

It emerged from this exercise that most of the Presidents (there have been 44 so far, though Trump is described as the 45th, because Grover Cleveland, President from 1885-89 and 1893-97, is counted twice, as both the 22nd and the 24th President) are unknown even to most people versed in American history.

Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, the current President and perhaps half a dozen others, most of them within living memory, take almost all the light going, leaving at least 30 holders of the office, if not in darkness, at least in deep shadow.

The greatest Presidents are world-historical figures, who repay any amount of study.

But who can name the eight presidents before Lincoln, or – except for Grant, famous as a soldier rather than a politician – the eight presidents after him?

As Professor Richard White of Stanford University, author of the volume in The Oxford History of the United States covering the period 1865-1896, remarks in his introduction, this for a long time was “historical flyover country”, with writers, scholars and readers taking off at the end of the Civil War, after the assassination of Lincoln, and only touching down again at the start of the 20th century, when thanks to the assassination of President Andrew McKinley, the inspiring figure of Theodore Roosevelt enters the White House.

One result of this amnesia is that Trump came as a greater surprise to educated Americans than he should have done. Although he is the first reality TV star to have entered the White House, he has many of the characteristics of Andrew Jackson, President from 1829-37.

Jackson was touchy, quarrelsome, ignorant, vindictive and a born killer, though also a born leader of men, and much braver than Trump. He beat the British at New Orleans in 1815, and as a commander of Tennessee’s militia, in which capacity he massacred hundreds of Creek Indians whose lands were taken by white settlers, was nicknamed Old Hickory in tribute to his toughness.

Trump said he could not go to Vietnam because he had bone spurs in his heels. It would have taken a lot more than bone spurs to keep Jackson out of a fight.

In 1806, Charles Dickinson, a brilliant shot, referred while drunk to the Jackson “adultery” – a reference to the fact that when Jackson got married, his wife’s first husband had failed to complete the formalities needed to get divorced from her: an oversight unknown to her or to Jackson.

Jackson proceeded to pick a quarrel with Dickinson about the payment of a forfeit in a horse race. In the resulting duel, fought at eight paces, Jackson decided to let Dickinson fire first, hoping speed would be the enemy of accuracy, but was hit in the chest.

The bullet, though partially checked by his coat, broke two of his ribs and was so close to his heart that it could never be removed, and in years to come caused him much pain.

Jackson then took aim at Dickinson, but the hammer of his pistol stuck at half-cock. The seconds conferred and decided Jackson could have another go if he insisted. He did insist, and hit Dickinson, who bled to death.

In the presidential election of 1824, Jackson topped the poll with 41 per cent of the vote – not a winning margin, but clearly ahead of John Quincy Adams, on 31 per cent.

Henry Clay, who came third with 13 per cent, described Jackson as “ignorant, passionate, hypocritical, corrupt and easily swayed by the basest men who surround him”. This view was shared by many members of the political class, and when the election went to the House of Representatives for its decision, Clay ensured that Adams won on the first ballot.

Adams proceeded to give the office of Secretary of State to Clay, of whom Jackson wrote:

“So you see the Judas of the West has closed the contract and will receive the 30 pieces of silver. His end will be the same. Was there ever witnessed such bare-faced corruption?”

The return match, in 1828, was described in a piece of doggerel as “Between J. Q. Adams, who can write/ And Andy Jackson, who can fight.” It was the dirtiest in American history, though there is, admittedly, quite a bit of competition for that title.

Jackson’s opponents circulated a pamphlet accusing him of getting into 14 fights in which he “killed, slashed, and clawed various American citizens”.

Jackson’s supporters spread calumnies about Adams, including the absurd claim that while serving as American Minister in St Petersburg, he had procured a beautiful American girl for the Tsar and kept a harem of concubines for himself.

On the day of Jackson’s inauguration in 1829, the mob which came to Washington to celebrate his victory invaded the White House, smashed the furnishings and could only be induced to leave by the provision of free punch on the lawn.

Jackson had a genius for appealing to the resentment of frontiersmen who felt themselves looked down upon by the folks in Washington. He understood that resentment because he felt it himself. Like Trump, he was dismissed by educated Americans as a barbarian.

As President, Jackson instituted the spoils system, sacking more office holders, most of them perfectly competent, than had been sacked in the whole 40 years since Washington, and replacing them with his own supporters.

From then onwards, politics was made to pay by rewarding the hacks who ran the party machine, and the main incentive of each side was to find some mediocrity (not a term that could be applied to Jackson himself) who looked and sounded sufficiently presidential to win the election, and could then be relied on to distribute to his followers the spoils of office, however little idea he might have of how to govern the country.

Hence the high incidence of mediocrities in the White House. On the whole, unknown candidates did better than distinguished men who had made enemies by taking a stand on the great questions of the day.

One of the most mediocre of the mediocrities was Warren G. Harding, President from 1921-23, who had been chosen by the Republicans in a “smoke-filled room”, an expression dating from their convention in 1920. Here is a specimen of his oratory, when he was chosen in 1912 to propose President William Howard Taft for the Republican nomination:

“Progression is not proclamation nor palaver. It is not pretence nor play on prejudice. It is not of personal pronouns, nor of perennial pronouncement. It is not the perturbation of a people passion-wrought, nor a promise proposed.”

Harding found alliteration worked like a charm on his audiences, and also on himself. He said “I like to go out into the country and bloviate”, which he defined as “the art of speaking as long as the occasion demands and saying nothing”.

Politics today is full of bloviators, but I can think of no one who does it quite so preposterously well as Harding. Shortly before he was adopted as the presidential candidate, he set out his approach in a speech in Boston:

“America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality.”

The New York Times was appalled when Harding was adopted:

“The nomination of Harding, for whose counterpart we must go back to Franklin Pierce [in office 1853-57] if we would seek a President who measures down to his political stature, is the fine and perfect flower of the Senatorial cabal that charged itself with the management of the Republican convention.”

Denunciation by The New York Times is not always fatal. Harding won a landslide victory. The voters felt comfortable with him, as did the crooks he appointed to various key posts in Washington.

The Teapot Dome scandal, in which the navy’s oil reserves in Wyoming were transferred to the Interior Department and then sold off at knock-down prices, was only the most notorious example of the grotesque corruption which flourished under Harding, who died in office of a heart attack in 1923, though malicious people claimed his wife, Florence, had poisoned him.

After Harding’s death, his mistress, Nan Britton, a gormless young woman, 31 years his junior, from his home town of Marion, Ohio, applied to his family for support for her daughter by him.

When no funds were forthcoming, she wrote the first kiss-and-tell book about a President, entitled The President’s Daughter, which described her happiness “when I received my first forty-page love letter from Mr Harding”, and how in due course they found a closet in the White House, where “in the darkness of a space not more than five feet square the President of the United States and his adoring sweetheart made love”.

When I was in New York with my family, and we were taking photographs of Trump Tower, an elegant old lady implored us to desist.

Trump is a most dreadful embarrassment to elegant New Yorkers, and to many other Americans too.

But he is by no means the first President of whom that could be said.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

George Washington slept here, and now you can too

Westlake Legal Group living-room George Washington slept here, and now you can too vacation travel the george of old town staycation interior design interior decorating home and design Home George Washington airbnb
George Washington slept here, and you can too. A new townhome-turned-vacation rental is worth the stay just for the modern take on presidential style. (Photo courtesy of The George of Old Town)

Martha Peterson has been flipping homes for more than 20 years, but when she came upon this century-old home in Old Town, she knew she wanted to keep it in the family. Once owned by George Washington (a pied -a-terre to his Mount Vernon estate 10 miles away, if you will), the house had been converted into apartments and fallen into disrepair over the years. Peterson and her son, Chase Whitley (a recent college grad who officially joined his mom’s business with this project), worked closely with historians at Mount Vernon to return it to its former glory. But, don’t look for stuffy interpretations of the founding father here. “We had a lot of fun with the history of the house, but we wanted to make it approachable,” says Peterson. “I would say it’s the cleanest, newest version of itself from what it was 100 years ago.” For more information, or to book a stay, visit thegeorgeofoldtown.com.

Westlake Legal Group entryway George Washington slept here, and now you can too vacation travel the george of old town staycation interior design interior decorating home and design Home George Washington airbnb
The wallpaper, from Mural Sources, in the foyer depicts pastoral scenes from notable Virginia landmarks, such as Mount Vernon and Monticello. Dental molding (pictured) was added throughout the house and is the same style as the molding in the foyer at Mount Vernon. (Photo courtesy of The George of Old Town)

 

Westlake Legal Group teal-walls George Washington slept here, and now you can too vacation travel the george of old town staycation interior design interior decorating home and design Home George Washington airbnb
The bright paint color (Porcelain Edge from Fine Paints of Europe’s Mount Vernon Colour Collection) was inspired by a similar color in the dining room at Mount Vernon. (Photo courtesy of The George of Old Town)

 

Westlake Legal Group patio George Washington slept here, and now you can too vacation travel the george of old town staycation interior design interior decorating home and design Home George Washington airbnb
An outdoor patio, with furniture and rug from CB2, adds another pop of color. (Photo courtesy of The George of Old Town)

 

Westlake Legal Group bedroom George Washington slept here, and now you can too vacation travel the george of old town staycation interior design interior decorating home and design Home George Washington airbnb
The house includes Federal-period design nods throughout, including a classic gold convex mirror with an American eagle above the bed. It was purchased at a local antique store. (Photo courtesy of The George of Old Town)

This post originally appeared in our February 2020 print issue. For more articles like this, subscribe to our newsletters.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Wag your tails for these upcoming dog-friendly events at Mount Vernon

This isn’t your average dog walk.

It’s time to celebrate the fall season by grabbing your pup’s leash and heading to Mount Vernon, where every Saturday in October, visitors can take a one-hour, 1.25-mile walk through historical grounds to discover how dogs influenced George Washington.

The All the President’s Pups tour teaches guests about Washington’s love for dogs, his dogs’ unusual names and his efforts to breed his very own hunting dogs, all while seeing five historic locations around Mount Vernon.

Looking for even more fun for your four-legged friend? The Howl-o-Ween celebration (yes, it includes doggie trick-or-treating) is set for Sunday, Oct. 27, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., where guests can bring their pups to the grounds for a photo op in front of the mansion, meet friends from Washington’s world and enjoy puppy-friendly treats throughout the day (while supplies last).

Find all of the fall events coming to Mount Vernon this fall here. // Mount Vernon: 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon; October (dates vary); begins at $10

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

5 fall events coming to George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Westlake Legal Group geprge-washingtons-mount-vernon-whiskey-and-events-feature 5 fall events coming to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Washington Things to Do Features Things to Do mount vernon events mount vernon George Washington Festivals fall events Events DC events DC alexandria
Photo courtesy of George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon has no shortage of events to attend at any time of the year.

If you’re looking for more ways than one to celebrate fall, these five events are for you. Be sure to grab your tickets before they’re gone, or tour the grounds on a day that the event is included in your general admission price.

Slave Memorial Commemoration
Oct. 5, 11 a.m.
Join Black Women United and members of George Washington’s Mount Vernon to honor the enslaved individuals who lived at Mount Vernon. The event will feature live entertainment through music and performances, the presence of 18th-century characters and a wreath-laying ceremony at the Slave Memorial. // included in general admission

Fall Wine Festival & Sunset Tour
Oct. 11-13, 6 to 9 p.m.
October is Virginia Wine Month and Mount Vernon is celebrating accordingly. Guests can taste samples from up to 20 participating Virginia wineries and enjoy a relaxing day (or weekend) at Mount Vernon, with views of the Potomac River and the fall season in full swing. (If you want to learn more about Virginia Wine Month and Virginia wines, find everything you need to know in our October issue). // $42-$52 

Fall Harvest Family Days
Oct. 19-20, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Have you truly kicked off the fall season without spending a day at a local farm? Whether it’s pumpkin carving, apple picking, grabbing some apple cider doughnuts or something else, find some of your favorite fall activities at Mount Vernon’s Pioneer Farm and get the most out of your fall weekends this October. // included in general admission

Trick-or-Treating at Mount Vernon
Oct. 26, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Let your kids wear their Halloween costumes more than once this year and be sure to take them trick-or-treating on the grounds of Mount Vernon. Kids can enjoy a night of filling their candy baskets and other spook-tacular, kid-friendly activities around the property. The estate is giving a heads up to non-members: Get your tickets early, because the event will sell out. // $16 adults, $8 youth

George Washington Whiskey Festival
Nov. 9, 6 to 9 p.m.
For the first time, Mount Vernon will host a whiskey-inspired event that features 12 spirits from Virginia craft distilleries and other whiskey producers throughout the country. VIP guests can tour George Washington’s Distillery prior to the event, and learn about the team that produces Mount Vernon whiskies and brandies based on George Washington’s recipes. Also, meet with experts and local distillers, and enjoy a tasting of a recent batch of the four-year-old George Washington Rye Whiskey. // $85 general admission, $225 VIP Experience

For more events to fill your calendar with, subscribe to our Things to Do newsletter.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Grab your masks: MVunderground Masquerade set for Sept. 21 at Mount Vernon

Westlake Legal Group Untitled-152 Grab your masks: MVunderground Masquerade set for Sept. 21 at Mount Vernon young professionals Things to Do Features Things to Do party organization nonprofit MVunderground mount vernon membership George Washington gala Events
Photo courtesy of MVunderground

On Sept. 21, the home of Founding Father George Washington will be transformed from a beloved relic to a gala venue for the third annual MVunderground Masquerade, attracting over 300 guests from the DMV, all donned in black-tie attire and masks. 

From the outfits to the setting of the estate, this fundraiser is unlike any other celebration in 2019, as it pays tribute to the lifestyle that once existed on the grounds in the 18th century.

While the event is a party to remember, the concept stemmed from a desire to connect with young professionals—a self-defining term for those 45 and younger—and create interest in the legacy of George Washington for a different market.

Westlake Legal Group Untitled-133 Grab your masks: MVunderground Masquerade set for Sept. 21 at Mount Vernon young professionals Things to Do Features Things to Do party organization nonprofit MVunderground mount vernon membership George Washington gala Events
Photo courtesy of MVunderground

“In 2017, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association decided they wanted to launch an initiative for young professionals, which we did through the membership program,” says Membership Manager Kara Hershorin. “The Mount Vernon Underground consists of special programming hosted on a regular basis, which all started with this signature event.”

According to Hershorin, the majority of Mount Vernon Underground members are not in their 20s, but rather are more established in their careers, have an interest in history and want to be part of something unique and different. 

This year’s event will consist of a variety of activities, all dedicated to the life George Washington might have lived during his time, including tours of the estate, a Colonial magician and some 18th century gambling games. The few modern aspects of the affair will stem from the DJ playing music of this decade, a fireworks show on the Potomac and bites and cocktails served from local restaurants. 

Westlake Legal Group Untitled-115 Grab your masks: MVunderground Masquerade set for Sept. 21 at Mount Vernon young professionals Things to Do Features Things to Do party organization nonprofit MVunderground mount vernon membership George Washington gala Events
Photo courtesy of MVunderground

The masquerade serves as the annual renewal opportunity for Mount Vernon Underground members, as the price of the event and membership are rolled together. 

While tickets are selling fast, there is still time left to purchase a single ticket to the event, a ticket with membership or even a sponsorship package, giving you a number of benefits depending on the level you choose.

Want to know about all the greatest events coming to the Northern Virginia region? Subscribe to our Things to Do e-newsletter today. 

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Colonial Market & Fair returns to Mount Vernon this September

Westlake Legal Group Mount-Vernon-Feature Colonial Market & Fair returns to Mount Vernon this September Things to Do Features Things to Do shopping mount vernon History George Washington Events
Photo courtesy of George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Hand-woven baskets and goat’s milk soap are probably not on the top of your weekly shopping list.

But as the gift-giving season starts to inch closer, you might be on the hunt for one-of-a-kind items for family and friends (or little things to treat yourself with), and Mount Vernon is offering a great place to get a head start: George Washington’s Mount Vernon Colonial Market & Fair.

The experience could not be more different than a trip to the mall. Instead, find local artisans, bakers and creators selling goods such as hand-woven rugs, silver kettles and custom embroidery, as well as demonstrators who will explore the traditional techniques of wood working, sewing and pottery.

Live music and traditional demonstrations will take place throughout the day, with a chance for attendees to meet General Washington and interact with various entertainers (including fire breathers!).

The more than 35 vendors for the event include Knightingales + Gilson Glassblowers, Perrin Cottage Perfumery, Sycamore Spring Clothier and more. Don’t forget to grab a Colonial-style dessert from one of the pop-up bakeries, too.

The entry fee is included in general admission ticket to Mount Vernon. // George Washington’s Mount Vernon:  3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon; Sept. 14-15, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; $20 adults, $12 children

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A new whiskey festival is coming to Mount Vernon

Westlake Legal Group whiskey1 A new whiskey festival is coming to Mount Vernon Things to Do Features Things to Do The George Washington Whiskey Festival mount vernon George Washington fall events Events Drinks
Photo by Dylan de Jonge

It’s not a secret among locals or with history buffs that George Washington (and the rest of the Founding Fathers) enjoyed imbibing. So, it’s fitting that Mount Vernon will soon be home to a new whiskey festival, launching this fall.

The George Washington Whiskey Festival, set for Nov. 9 from 6 to 9 p.m., will feature spirits from more than 11 Virginia distilleries. Guests will also be able to vote for their favorite beverage, and curated food will be available for purchase.

Expect Mount Vernon’s Director of Historic Trades, Steve Bashore, to discuss distilled products; 18th-century coopering demonstrations; samples of 18th-century baking, using flour ground at the gristmill; and music and live entertainment throughout the evening.

The festival will also celebrate the debut of a new batch of George Washington Straight Rye Whiskey ($225), already available at Mount Vernon for purchase. The whiskey was distilled on location at Mount Vernon’s’ reconstructed distillery, using George Washington’s original recipe. It was then aged in charred oak barrels for four years.

Tickets for the festival’s general admission are $85 per person, and can be bought at mountvernon.org/whiskeyfest.

A small amount of tickets are also available for an exclusive experience at George Washington’s Distillery prior to the event, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Participants will get the chance to set barrels with mash along the Mount Vernon historic trades team, and will witness distilling in action during a private tour of the site. The VIP experience ($225 per person) also includes chefs preparing food and tastings of Mount Vernon’s whiskey. // 3200 Mount Vernon Highway, Mount Vernon; $125-$225

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Nothing says 4th of July like painting over a mural of George Washington

Westlake Legal Group WashingtonMural Nothing says 4th of July like painting over a mural of George Washington The Blog San Francisco mural George Washington american history

Here’s a heartwarming story that will surely inspire patriots across the nation right around the country’s birthday. Out in San Francisco (where else?), there’s a school that has a massive mural depicting the life and times of George Washington. That seems rather appropriate since the school in question is George Washington High School. The mural consists of multiple panels and has been in place for more than eighty years. But it’s 2019, so what are we going to do? Paint it over, of course, because Washington is “problematic.” (Associated Press)

San Francisco will spend up to $600,000 to paint over historical artwork at a public school depicting the life of George Washington, a mural once seen as educational and innovative but now criticized as racist and degrading for its depiction of black and Native American people.

The “Life of Washington” was painted by Victor Arnautoff, one of the foremost muralists in the San Francisco area during the Depression. The San Francisco School Board’s decision to paint over the 83-year-old mural is prompting some to worry that other artwork from the so-called New Deal era could face a similar fate because of changing sensitivities.

Apparently, there is one panel that depicts a dead Native American and another scene showing slaves working in the fields at Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. Since the artist, Victor Arnautoff, painted the murals directly onto the walls, the mural can’t simply be removed and relocated. So they’ve decided to cover it up in what will literally be a case of whitewashing away the nation’s history.

Yes, Washington was a slave owner for at least part of his life. And it’s true that the newly arrived Europeans engaged in warfare and skirmishes with the indigenous tribes of North America. Those things actually happened. They are part of our history, not all of which is really glorious when viewed through the lens of 21st-century sensibilities. But much like statues and other artwork paying homage to the civil war era, are we to simply pretend that it never happened?

Another aspect of the story that makes this as San Francisco as possible is that they’re spending $600,000 on the project. Yes, you read that correctly. They’re putting up more than half a million dollars to paint a wall. Of course, a lot of that money is slated for the expected legal challenges to the decision, as well as conducting an environmental impact study. (I’m guessing they might have used lead-based paint on the mural?)

Putting a big wall around San Francisco and treating it like Escape from New York simply isn’t a practical idea. But we should still allow them to secede from the union and put a massive wall around the entire state.

The post Nothing says 4th of July like painting over a mural of George Washington appeared first on Hot Air.

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Daniel Hannan: The Johnson tape, the Field incident. So much was said about both. But why the silence about the Kirklees arrests?

Daniel Hannan is an MEP for South-East England, and a journalist, author and broadcaster. His most recent book is What Next: How to Get the Best from Brexit.

We learned at the end of last week that West Yorkshire Police had arrested 44 people as part of a probe into organised sexual abuse. Not that you’ll have seen much about it on TV or in the weekend newspapers, which were instead obsessed first with the eco-protesters who had invaded the Lord Mayor’s banquet, and then with fact that Boris Johnson’s girlfriend had reportedly shouted at him.

Some columnists worked themselves into a lather about how shocking it was for an MP to manhandle a female protester. Others – and this was trickier since, in the Johnson case, the police confirmed that nothing untoward had happened – sounded off about domestic abuse in general, and how public-spirited the snooping neighbours had been. Almost no-one thought it worth talking about grooming.

It’s true, of course, that we don’t know the details of what happened in Kirklees. The presumption of innocence must apply in this as in any other case. Still, given what we know about similar cases in Yorkshire, and given the gravity of the accusations, isn’t there a pretty strong public interest in the arrests? The investigation, after all, concerns the systematic rape of underage girls. I know there is a growing list of Subjects On Which Male Columnists Are Not Allowed An Opinion, but I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that all of us, men and women, can recognise that prolonged exploitation and sexual abuse is worse than being frogmarched out of a room or having wine spilled on your sofa.

Why, then, the imbalance in column inches? Google “West Yorkshire grooming” and you’ll mainly find advertisements for dog and cat parlours. The arrests were reported in local newspapers and on regional television, but made barely a dent in the national media.

Is it, as some will allege, a liberal conspiracy to cover up crimes committed by Muslims? Hardly. Yes, there are journalists who are squeamish about cases of this kind, and hyper-sensitivity about imagined racism was an exacerbating factor in the Rotherham abominations. But that doesn’t explain why there was so little coverage in conservative, as well as Leftist, media.

Something else – and something every bit as ugly – is going on. The reason that there was such a disproportionate focus on the Field and Johnson stories is that they could be dragged into the horrible culture war which defines our politics. In both cases, people could (and did) take sides according to their existing affiliations. In both cases, people began with their conclusions and fitted the facts to their prejudices. Depending on their politics, they saw either an MP reacting instinctively to someone who had barged in and might be armed, or a nasty Tory bullying a woman. Depending on their politics, they saw either some vaguely wrong behaviour from Johnson (no one could quite put their finger on what) or a snooping Leftie neighbour fabricating a story.

The point is, in either version, there are villains. That is what makes the culture war at once so arresting and so revolting. People can enjoy fulminating against (delete as appropriate) evil Tory MPs or awful Leftist protesters and sneaks. They can revel in their righteous indignation. In the Kirklees case, by contrast, there is no alternative interpretation. No one, however uncomfortable they might feel about stories like this coming out, is seriously going to defend rapists and abusers.

Culture wars are primarily defined by what and whom we dislike. For example, I am broadly pro-immigration, but I don’t think of people who oppose immigration as morally flawed, so fellow supporters of immigration tend to see me as being ranged against them. Similarly, I was a supporter of equality for gay people long before most Cameroons. But, again, I refuse to dismiss people who disagree with me as numbskulls and homophobes. This puts me on the other side from those for whom the rights of gay people are secondary to the delight in inveighing against imagined bigots.

The tendency to misunderstand, caricature and define yourself against others is encoded deep in our DNA. Studies show that misrepresentation of political opponents is more common among educated people, and especially among the politically active. This might seem counter-intuitive: you’d think that those who followed politics would have a clearer sense of what the other party stood for.

But no, those of us who are politicos (and that includes you, reader) tend to define “our” tribe in ideological terms rather than through, say, sports teams. We are then prompted by our Palaeolithic genes to dislike and disbelieve representatives from rival tribes. It affects, not just how we would like to see the world, but how we actually see it. Conservatives genuinely saw an MP public-spiritedly dealing with a potential terrorist; Leftists genuinely saw a man bullying a woman. (Had it been, say, a female Brexit campaigner being manhandled after shouting at Chuka Umunna, the line-up would have been different.)

This tendency is not new. But it is getting worse, here as in most developed democracies. “Yeah, because of Brexit”, some readers will say, inadvertently revealing their own confirmation bias. Actually – and you might think this a confirmation bias of mine – the polarisation came after the campaign, and has deepened with every passing day as the issue of Brexit has dominated the news. Look at how many people who, before 2016, were not especially fussed one way or the other, are now prepared to go to any lengths to hurt the other side. Witness, for example, the way the Guardian, which campaigned high-mindedly for years against tabloid intrusion, thought nothing of publishing remarks recorded from inside a private house.

What changed? In a word, the division became tribal. Brexit is no longer about trade, budgets or sovereignty. It is now about whom we dislike, caricatured respectively as elderly bigots who fell for lying demagogues or as sneering snobs who despise their own country.

“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend,” said Thomas Jefferson in 1800. Neither did I. But plenty of people have withdrawn friendships since the referendum – one of many reasons that stirring it all up again with a second poll would be catastrophic.

Settling the Brexit issue – ideally by leaving the EU and becoming its closest friend and partner – will not, in itself, end this ghastly partisanship. The tribalism will transfer to something else unless we rediscover our sense of common purpose, our understanding that fellow citizens with whom we disagree are opponents rather than enemies.

“Let me now warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally,” said George Washington in his farewell address. “This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.”

Amen, General. Amen.

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