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American_Lion: Andrew Jackson It has been my absolute pleasure to have had the opportunity to read American Lion. The author, Jon Meacham, has been on a blog tour of his own discussing his Pulitzer prize winning biography of Andrew Jackson, and I am grateful to Mr. Meacham and the folks at Random House to giving me the chance to read and review it.


“The darker the night the bolder the lion.”
~Theodore Roosevelt

It’s the smallest of quotes on a page which many readers might very well skip, but for the reader about to undertake American Lion—Andrew Jackson in the White House it is the most prescient of literary foreshadowing. Within their grasp the reader will have the masterful account of perhaps the last president since George Washington to not only retool the highest office in his image of the people, but leave a legacy of vastly expanded executive power and governmental access to those it served.

Personal and political are presented in such style and illuminating narrative as to present us with an entirely human imposition of a man who was only too often underestimated by his detractors and dearly loved by those he represented, in his words, with “the feelings of a father.” Meacham has taken the arduous task of collating such a vast volume of information and turned it into a biography which in many, many respects reads as a novel.

The major difference is that it all happened, and needed to do so in the hands of Jackson—and skillfully rendered by the pen of Mr. Meacham.

Furthest from dry recitation of matters politic and strict adherence to historical timelines, American Lion is about Jackson himself and the defining role family played within his political sphere of influence. It showcases both the mercurial and pastoral Jackson; one moment lovingly paternal and the next blood-chillingly cold. It draws seamless parallels with his affectations to his adopted family of Andrew and Emily Donelson and the war of invective wedged amongst them by the Washington social elite. Politics are presented as a backdrop to Jackson’s life and presidency, not the nucleus. Meacham gives us a genuinely engaging, intimate, and balanced account of Jackson’s personal gravitas and how nimbly he used it to perpetuate his steadfast belief in the will of the people. Indeed it is a entertaining and educational biography of the man, not of a cog in the governmental machine.

Natural comparisons are made to David McCullough’s John Adams, yet while Adams is almost elegant in its prose and historical presentation Lion is drawn from the essence of the Jackson Era, finding its delivery in wonderfully readable and realistic voice. Adams, by some turns, is more about the times surrounding John Adams, while Lion sets us upon a firm foundation of Jackson’s rise and then becomes more about how he affected the times around him. Not merely an account of birth-to-grave, but more precisely a human study of how Jackson handled events surrounding him within the scope of his very humanity and his own stubborn definition of presidential rectitude.

Andrew Jackson certainly didn’t suffer from any lack of will or implementing it. Roosevelt’s quote is nothing if not sage within the context of Jackson, for the tougher the battles around him the more resolute he would become, even confounding his enemies and allies alike; truly a lion set upon the most public of stages. If you have the faintest of red, white, and blue in your blood then this book should be on your must-read list—not your I’d-like-to-read-it-someday list . . . your must read list.

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Upon occasion I have paid my attentions to couples whom I admire from history, notably John and Abigail Adams and Andrew and Rachel Jackson. Both strong, intelligent women whose husbands relied upon for their astute and valuable counsel. Sadly, Andrew Jackson lost his wife just as his first term in office was to begin. President Jackson was also quite fond of Rachel’s neice,Emily, and her husband, Andrew Donelson. The couple served as Jackson’s erstwhile family while in office, with Emily doing a remarkable job of handling all social matters for the Jackson White House. She, too, was slef-assured and equal to her husband in many ways, providing Jackson with an unerring familial compass in lieu of his much grieved wife.

But it has occured to me that there is another couple, of similar mettle and constitution. A couple much closer to the people, in some regards. He of worldwide reknown as a lovable prankster, and she as the long sought after partner-in-crime. He’d come close a couple of times, only to be foiled by some kind of trickery, susceptible to the whims and caprices of his heart like any other male.

I refer to Bugs and Lola Bunny.

bugs_and_lola_bunny
She being equal to the task of handling Bugs, always clever and quietly supportive of her man. Bugs saw past her pulse-racing facade and fell for her inner character. Lola even bals him out when things look to be at their worst. We are not surprised, then, to see Bugs’s heart pound with pride against his chest.

It seemed a miscarriage of cultural romanticism to not have Bugs and Lola somehow remembered in the electronic annals of our society. They may be celluloid and ink, or today more pixellated than they’d ever dreamed of becoming, but I respectfully submit to you that they’re really not all that far removed from us.

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Caution – Epic rant ahead

Advanced Warning: In the spirit of sportsmanship and in the name of choice, I issue the following warning in regards to this post:
Do not read further if you are the least bit inflamed by someone who simply doesn’t see things your way
Do not read further if you are not willing to accept the precept and principles of the First Amendment of the Constitution of these United States
Do not read further if your religious views are such that you will not tolerate any view other than your own
Do not read further if you consider yourself an ultra right-wing conservative . . .
Do not read further if you find my use of occasional profanity shocking (sorry, kids, I’m human, and good and lit at this moment).

The following post is not likely to make you happy, and frankly, may engender feelings of anger and/or outrage. If you’re willing to accept that one concept, then I invite you to join the f*****g club.


I received an invitation from a friend of mine to read an article regarding what is politely known in Washington as the C Street Family, or simply “the Family.” I will not use her name (not that anyone who reads this would know her) because it’s irrelevant to the topic at hand. She is, if memory serves, a professed atheist, and I’m absolutely okay with that. Her lack of belief affects my belief not the least bit. Matter of fact, I have the utmost respect for her—she is remarkably intelligent, well read, a great sense of humor, and a writer who has my genuine admiration.

Why do I tell you this? Because there will be those who, despite my warning will read this and then rationalize my rant based on a belief system she might have . . . noticed served, folks: She doesn’t believe.

I repeat one last time: If you’re already itching to declare judgement upon me or anyone else, without at least the option of reading with an open mind, then save your judgement for someone else. Personally, I’m only letting one entity do my judging for me, and He’s far more powerful than you. So, beat it.

If you’re still reading then I can only surmise that you’re intrigued, or at least want to know what has me so riled up.

I have a huge problem with Fundamentalist Aristocracy in this government, or any for that matter. You know the type, standing on their platform of profound religous virtue, extolling the wages of sin and demanding every citizen bow to their every whim (of course they euphemistically use God’s name)—for it is God’s Will that we should run our country like a church!

Strike one: God lays out his will pretty good from what we can read in the Bible. and while I’m the furthest thing from a biblical scholar, I don’t recall God ever stating that he wanted to rule anything. The God of the Old Testament surely laid down the law with the Jews, and eventually became very fed up with them when they continued to pine for an earthly king—another ruler, someone they could put their faith and trust in besides God. That pretty much upset the OTG (Old Testament God). And rightly so.

He understands we’re human. He gets it, folks. He doesn’t ask for near as much as many mortal beings do, but he asks for the things he does in an effort to help bring us closer to Him. C’mon, that’s not such a bad deal. So why declare that you or your ‘party’ are trying to bring His work to the people? I think he’s already done that.

I’ll get to my beliefs in a moment. First let me introduce you to a real peach of a man: David Coe. a “leader” in the Family. I’d like to point out that the Family is not registered as a lobbying entity, yet they clandestinely wield tremendous pressure and insidious power inside Washington. The article states “Family leaders consider their political network to be Christ’s avant garde, an elite that transcends not just conventional morality but also earthly laws regulating lobbying.” This view is blatantly espoused by the Family in total disregard for those laws requiring lobbyists to identify themselves as such. David Coe, and his father (and current head of the Family) Doug Coe are indeed cut from the same cloth. Now let’s dig in, shall we?

David Coe once had a conversation with a man who had resided under the Family authority for a while. Again, from the article:

“Let’s say I hear you raped three little girls. What would I think of you?” The man guessed that Coe would probably think that he was a monster. “No,” answered Coe, “I wouldn’t.” Why? Because, as a member of the Family, he’s among what Family leaders refer to as the “new chosen.” If you’re chosen, the normal rules don’t apply.

How about that! Rules don’t apply to you, because according to them you’re one of God’s Chosen few. Seems we’ve heard that song played before. If you don’t believe and act as we do, you’re gonna burn. What the f*** is wrong with people? You don’t think that God is going to frown upon something like that when the time comes? Friggin’ A right, He is.

I could go on and on, but here’s something else for the cauldron: Doug Coe thinks Pol Pot and Osama Bin Laden are men who’s committment to their respective causes should be emulated. While I grant you that doesn’t say that he said the men themselves should be emulated, it’s not too far a stones throw to get there. Let that simmer for a while.

I’ll throw one more juicy bit from the article at you, and then unleash the hounds.

They’re followers [the Family] of a political religion that embraces elitism, disdains democracy, and pursues power for its members the better to “advance the Kingdom.” They say they’re working for Jesus, but their Christ is a power-hungry, inside-the-Beltway savior not many churchgoers would recognize.

And get a load of this quote from Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas:

“Jesus didn’t come to take sides. He came to take over.”

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, because Lord knows I’ve been so before, but I do believe Jesus is on one side and one side only. He’s not choosing anything . . . he knows which team he’s playing for. Nationality or political party doesn’t come into play. Period.

Having fun yet? Yee Haw! I am!

As for me: I’m a baptized Catholic. According to the Coe Coven I’m going to have a lot of company in Hell. Much to mom and dad’s chagrin I’m not an outstandingly good Catholic, but I don’t consider myself inches from excommunication, either. I respect organized religion—doesn’t mean I kowtow to it. I have deep faith, which only the trinity and I truly know. I’m not a perfect human being. But I love my country, my son, my mom and dad, and the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And a good pizza, on occasion; easy on the basil, it doesn’t agree with me.

Into the fold I bring a one Ezra Stiles Ely—pastor for Philadelphia’s Third Presbyterian Church in the era of Andrew Jackson. His axe to grind was in attempting to have only Christian men in positions of power—all others were to be shunned, although he claimed they “should be friends of Christianity.” In one of his published sermons he states “Our civil rules ought to act a religious part in all the relations which they sustain.” Sounds insidiously like a more-than-cozy mixture of church and state to me.

For those of you who willingly turn a blind eye to the Constitution because it doesn’t suit your beliefs, let me tell you what the First Amendment does: Besides providing for the ever-popular “freedom of speech,” it says, and I quote directly:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .

That doesn’t say Congress, or the U.S., doesn’t observe religion, or doesn’t care about religion, or that its citizenry is almost wholly Godless. Quite the contrary—it allows for multiple religious expressions within the framework of law. Worship as you like, so long as you don’t hassle others. This is where Andrew Jackson stood. The same guaranteed freedom that gave believers the right to worship as they saw fit also gives non-believers the right to carry on with their business without the fear of being scrutinized or otherwise made pariahs. This is as close as the Constitution comes to saying anything about the separation of church and state. Good luck finding those words anywhere in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence.

But that just won’t do for the Über Conservatives, will it? They won’t settle for constitutional freedoms. They must have it all. Liberties and freedoms be damned! I am so f*****g sick and tired of hearing these banshees cry and howl about how they’re so misunderstood and are only trying to inject a little morality into the mix.

Really?

Let’s return to our newfound ‘friends’, the Family. Interesting that morality should come up. See, there have been two recent instances where members of this elitist, Liberty-hating, eccliastically fascist group have face planted into their own steaming pile of dogmatic filth. I give you:

Gov. Mark Sanford — you might remember he’s the one who flew to Argentina to have an affair, later claiming he was on a hike. Get this, now he’s spinning it as a good, because it’s put him “more firmly in God’s control.” In his defense, there was once a sect who believed that the orgasm was the only way in which man or woman could ever begin to come close to God, because in that intense moment all earthly concerns cease to exist. So, Gov. Sanford, I guess you get by on a technicality.

Mississippi Representative Chip Pickering — outed for his affair with a mistress within the C Street House (the home of the Family). After the scandal he became a lobbyist for her industry. I don’t believe it was prostitution, but I can’t claim that it wasn’t!

Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone. Jimmy Swaggart included. Hugh Grant, too . . . although, he never claimed to be holier-than-thou, but he still goes down as a deeply special kind of moron.

I have ZERO problem with you being in office if you’re guided by your faith. I think that’s a good thing. But once you put yourself above the very people you serve, and then claim that you’re above reproach because you’re “chosen,” well, when you f*** up I’m going to label you a hypocrite. Know why? Because YOU ARE.

Look, I am truly not riding atop some moral high horse here. I’m just as human as you are. But I don’t claim to be anything other than human, unlike certain other public figures. I live in the greatest nation on earth. We have people of all races and beliefs here. We are, collectively, “the People,” you know, in case you forgot while being pompous and power hungry.

Oh, and guess what . . . when Christ returns, and he is returning at some future date, he might just look you in the eye and say “You’re damned lucky I died for your sins.” If he doesn’t then I will.

I don’t want hypocrites representing me or taking over my country. I don’t believe church and state should be intertwined. It’s dangerous.

I want to say that again: It’s DANGEROUS. It results in aristocracy, rule-mongering, and a decidely unpatriotic shredding of the Constitution; not that you Fundamentalists don’t have wet dreams about that. Only God Himself can say who is better than whom. I imagine God holds each man or woman to the same measurement of judgement.

The Family is an absolute abomination of all things truly religious. It has secretly suckled upon the teat of elitist power in the name of Providence, and pathetically protected its own members when they fall back to earth, as they inevitably do. I publicly admit that I am not a deeply religious man, but I know I have faith in the hand that guided our founders. Yes, they too struggled with hypocrisy over the issue of slavery, Thomas Jefferson especially. But ultimately they worked for the good of the people and the fledgling nation. They despised tyranny, while the Ezra’s Coe look to bring it back, presumptively with God’s own thunder.

Sex scandals are not new, nor is political hypocrisy. But you can’t parade yourself in front of your employers as being above the very laws you expect them to live by and break them with impunity. There is no shame great enough for you scumbags. I can only hope that God Himself will deem me a better human being than you . . . and I’m far from perfect.


If you’re interested, here’s the article itself

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