Sunday, July 23, 2006

Born Fighting

I've been reading "Born Fighting" by James Webb. I know that does not make me an unusual Virginian in the year 2006. It's a very good history of the Scots-Irish, an ethnicity which Jim and I share, along with many millions of other Americans. Jim, If our paths should cross during this campaign, allow me to pour you a short glass of Bushmills (or Jameson, if the Catholic/Protestant thing has any relevance to you).

As history texts go, it's good. I've read better phrased prose in factual history texts, and I've read much worse, but the passion shown by Mr. Webb toward his subject is seldom found in non-fiction. He spends most of the book focusing on and documenting the fiercely independent nature of the Scots-Irish, not only in America, but back to the beginnings of their history under a failed Roman rule in northern Briton.

I know firsthand of the individualism he writes so passionately about. I also know that that stubborn individualism has not always served my (or my ancestors) best interest in the short term. But it has certainly helped more Foleys than me get through the morning ritual of staring at a well known face as we shaved, as I'm sure it has for the Smiths and Massengills before me, and the Webbs and Millers before him . As my grandfather always said, regarding family and ethnic pride, "It's a damn poor dog that won't wag it's own tail". Jim Webb does an excellent job of wagging our Scots-Irish tail.

Anyone from Southwest Virginia after reading this book would have to be proud of it's early settlers, whether they share our ethnicity or not. As he points out often, family names notwithstanding, chances are very good that if they are from Southwest Virginia, Eastern Tennessee, or Northwestern Carolina they most likely do share that ethnicity. For example, my paternal grandmother from Dublin, VA, was a LaPrade, a mixture of French Huguenot, Cherokee, and Scots-Irish.

Another theme running throughout Born Fighting is his admiration for Andrew Jackson, America's first (but not her last) Scots-Irish President. Historians have not been very kind to President Jackson, primarily focusing on his tendency to not defer to Congress, instead using the veto power and party leadership to lead the Executive branch. Not unlike the charges Jim Webb levels at the current occupant of the White House.

Another Scots-Irish he expresses admiration for is General George Patton, as much an individualist as the Army ever produced . And during the recent debate at Hot Springs he admitted to an admiration for Ronald Reagan, yet another Scots-Irish politician who seldom deferred to Congress.

While reading this book, one thought kept coming to mind. Jim Webb has stated on several occasions that he came to realize his affinity for the Democratic party while writing this book. That makes me wonder, just how this epiphany occurred? The subject of his book is a people that hold great store in the individual, and the importance of independence from a central government. That is the complete antithesis of the current Democratic Party. I am sure that Jim Webb is aware of the conflict between his book and his recent statements. I am not so sure that Jim Webb is not aware that he is being used by the Democrats of Virginia for their own ends.

No comments: