Take this new mini-series, “Sons of Liberty,” on the History Channel, for example. Much as I would like to say that this “History” establishment is totally above reproach, and is merely attempting to portray historical fact, rather than fiction, I regret to inform you that this may not be the case. I would have to ask, “Is this show ‘Sons of Liberty’ taking some liberties with history, as we Founding Fathers knew it?”
This is not across-the-board, mind you. I am pleased to see that they have attempted to give credit where it is due, and set the record straight concerning Paul Revere’s midnight ride. Paul was not the only rider that night warning people that the British were coming; his two associates in this venture were William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott, who somehow escaped mention in Longfellow’s memorable poem. In fact, Revere never actually finished his ride to Concord; it was Prescott who completed the mission and arrived in Concord to sound the alarm.
Now about Dean Norris…
One of the topics I would like to take issue with, of course, is the depiction of yours truly in this televised revision of history. Actor Dean Norris, most recently famous for his role in the crime drama “Breaking Bad,” has been cast as myself, Benjamin Franklin.
In a story recently published on the internet, Mr. Norris made some comments about the character he was purporting to portray. While I am somewhat pleased with the compliments he paid me, expressing his appreciation of the bold, courageous, even crazy stance I took during the days of the Revolutionary War, there is one item which I feel a strong need to correct….and that is his description of me as an “exhibitionist.”
It is not entirely Norris’s fault, however, for this misinterpretation of myself that seems to be making the rounds these days. Perhaps it may have started when broadcast personality Glenn Beck hosted a program discussing a new book about myself, in which he labeled me an “exhibitionist,” almost as a joking matter.
The basis of this slander comes from the true historical fact that I did like to take “air baths” sans clothes each morning as a way of raising my pulse rate. While in London, I practiced my morning routine in a second-story room that was across the street from, and in close proximity to, another building, just like in any major city.
In those days, I should add, the only way to get proper ventilation was to throw open the windows, which I did, in order to receive the benefits of the fresh air that I so greatly desired. Preoccupied as I was with this routine, no doubt I was unaware that my neighbors across the street had a clear view of my room, and therefore, of my “air bath.” Hence, what may seem to many in today’s world as an example of “exhibitionism” was simply a practice of hygiene that I had been following somewhat religiously without any intent to shock others.
It might be helpful to note, as a matter of fact, that in those days people usually did not wear any clothing to engage in the sport of swimming, either. They swam au naturel, as was the custom.
So, to put things in perspective – how much would you trust the so-called historical knowledge of a Glenn Beck (whose supporters praise him as a constitutional stalwart defending traditional values, and whose critics say he promotes conspiracy theories and uses incendiary rhetoric just to increase his audiences) … or an actor like Dean Norris, who needs to do a bit more background research, I fear … compared to the more rational, accurate, complete, factual, and contextual descriptions and analyses that are the hallmark of true historians?
Your humble servant,