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Source: Blog
Date: June 7, 2007
Byline: David Weir

The secrets beneath our feet

If I could be reborn, one of the careers I would choose would be archaeologist. Who else is as engaged in rediscovering what we might otherwise forget than those who dig up the earth that represents the last few centuries of life on earth?

So, it is no secret that our very first president, George Washington, kept slaves — some 300 of them, nor that he decreed they be freed upon his death. But this particular find, in the house where President Washington lived (before there was a White House), show how the nation's leader maintained a secret passageway for his nine house slaves to come and go, outside of the view of his many esteemed guests.

This, indeed, should be converted into a national museum, to counter the ultra-phallic Washington Monument that dominates the Mall. Washington relied on his slaves to maintain his lifestyle in his presidential palace, yet he did so hypocritically. After all, even in the late 1700's, it would have offended many foreign dignitaries to witness the leader of what eventually would be come to be known as the "free world" living in a luxury based on exploiting slaves.

Every time another artifact of that era comes to light, I am struck by the ugliness that made the privilege of our "Founding Fathers" possible.

And these are the guys the strict constructionists among us worship?

Not me. The most useful thing we could do as a society is to revise history and bring honesty to our collective story. Maybe then, our ugliest problem, racism, could finally find its only possible resolution: apology, forgiveness, integration, reconciliation, and the recognition that all people, regardless of race, religion, or national origin, are truly created equal under the eyes of "God," which in this country, is the Constitution.


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