de Vos: The towering infernal
The Friday Report
You simply can’t be a legend in your own time. Legends take a while to develop because they’re tales passed father to son, mother to daughter, morphing over generations into epics larger than life.
Here’s an example of what I mean: George Washington comes home after a hard day at the flintlock and says, “Martha! How many times must I ask thee to fix the hole in my waistcoat pocket? A dollar slipped out while I was battling the British on the Potomac today. A whole dollar is gone now, simply due to thy laziness.”
Martha, overworked and in a snit, tells Prudence, her neighbor, “I don’t know why I bother. George foolishly lost a dollar playing soldier in the river today.”
Prudence tells her spinster friend, Chastity, “I told you she was too good for him. First he’s raising marijuana and fooling around with the slaves, and now he’s throwing her money away in the river. I’m just sure he ‘lost’ that dollar, he probably spent it on that floozy, Betsy Ross.”
Fox News tells it straight up, “STEELY-EYED PRESIDENT THROWS DOLLAR ACROSS POTOMAC AT SNIVELLING ENEMY. RICOCHET KILLS 3 BRITISH GENERALS AND MOWS DOWN A CHERRY GROVE. BRING ‘EM ON, HE DECLARES!”
So today, schoolkids know two things about our first president: a) he threw a silver dollar across the Potomac which is 1,300 feet wide, and b) he didn’t lie when confronted with the smoking hatchet he used in a brutal assault upon his father’s cherry tree.
This minutia has survived for twenty-five decades despite never being true at all. That’s what legends are about.
To qualify, the story must be of an earlier time, unverified and unverifiable, and popularly believed to be historical. Greek mythology was handed down orally for five hundred years before Homer wrote the Iliad in BC 720.
The storytellers knew they were creating myth. With each telling, they would embellish some heroic action until a twenty-foot logger is riding around the north woods on a Giant Blue Ox named Babe.
Probably at the root of every myth lies an unusual but still human action, emboldened by the retelling of the story. Who will be the legends a thousand years from now?
It could be Donald Trump who is already a legend in that tiny nutcase beneath his lacquered pompadour. That cartoon characters such as he rise to such prominence is a vivid comment upon American intelligence and one that certainly sows the seeds that sprout legend.
Maybe next millennium it’ll go like this: three days after the Great Putin Catastrophe, GOD, (Giant Over-inflated Donald), rolled away the door to the Casino Vault of Luxury where he had been partying with blonde non-Hispanics. He called together his Twelve Apprentices and fired them all, replacing them with conservative Anglo-Saxon moneylenders. He video-surveyed the post-apocalyptic scene outside the Vault and He was in awe at the endless sea of potential hotel sites. Then, with a flamboyant toss of his mane and a sneer, he set out to make America great again.
Hey! I said maybe.
Incidentally, George Washington died in 1799 and it wasn’t until the fifth edition of his biography in 1807 that the tale of the cherry tree was added to bolster lagging book sales.
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