Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


Cherry tree, Washington

Cherry tree, Washington

Stateside with Rosalea

By Rosalea Barker

One of my daily rituals is to look at DIP on - the San Francisco Chronicle's on-line site. Day In Pictures is a little slide show, chosen by the Chron's photo-editors, of the pix from around the world and the nation that are on the news wires. Three pictures caught my eye last Friday: the first was of a young girl bent over in grief at the funeral of her uncle, who'd died in Iraq. I don't recall which branch of the US military he was with, and wouldn't want to do his memory a disservice by guessing it. The main point is that it was a very simple picture of very ordinary people here in the US coping with the reality of war.

The very next picture was of an Iraqi man bent over in grief at the bedside of his niece in a hospital. The right side of her face and neck were covered in bloody lacerations as the result of being caught up in the reality of war. Both photos were shown with no comment other than the place and time and the family relationships involved. The slide show then went on to its usual fare of cute pets and pretty sunsets interspersed with other hard news photos.

The third photo that caught my eye was of a couple sitting under a cherry tree in full blossom in Washington DC. The stunning ferocity with which those trees are blooming at this moment also made them the camera's subject on the Sunday morning magazine programme on CBS. Of course, "cherry tree" and "Washington" go together like "apple" and "pie" here in the States, so I was prompted to look up 'Our Country's Founders: A Book of Advice for Young People' to better aquaint myself with why that should be so.

This book of advice for young people was published in paperback in 2001, and is edited by William J. Bennett, who says in his introduction that it is, "in large part, a book of advice for how to be a good citizen and a worthy member of civil society. The advice comes not from me but from the men and women who founded this nation, our Founders." One of whom was George Washington, whose most famous utterance was "I cannot tell a lie."

Turns out, according to Bennett, that we don't know if Washington ever did actually say that, but his biographer, Parson Weems, made it part of the story. You see, six-year-old George was given a hatchet, and having exhausted the possibilities afforded by the pea-sticks in his mother's garden, he decided to try it out on his father's beloved cherry-tree "which he barked so terribly, that I don't believe the tree ever got the better of it," according to Parson Weems.

When his father asked who killed the cherry tree in the garden - again according to Weems' fanciful telling of the story - George looked at his father "with the sweet face of youth brightened with the inexpressible charm of all-conquering truth, and bravely cried out, 'I can't tell a lie, Pa; you know I can't tell a lie. I did cut it with my hatchet.' " To which his father replies that he's glad George cut the tree because he's paid his father for it a thousand fold, by showing he is brave enough to tell the truth.

"Such an act of heroism in my son, is more worth than a thousand trees, though blossomed with silver, and their fruits of purest gold."

I'd like to leave this little story at that, but I've missed out one of the vital elements in Weems' tale: at the time of his confession, George Washington had the hatchet in his hand.

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news