- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Listen, my children, and you shall hear

About a political dustup over Paul Revere,

On the second of June in Twenty-eleven;

Hardly a liberal now alive, by heaven,

Won’t stop saying “Sarah Palin” with a sneer.

Sarah Palin’s impromptu, slightly rambling statement about Paul Revere last week set off volleys of verbal musket fire from her many left-wing critics in the media. Touring Boston on Thursday, she gave a folksy account of Revere’s ride, saying he was one of the men who “warned the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms, by ringin’ those bells and by makin’ sure that as he’s ridin’ his horse through town to send those warnin’ shots and bells that we were gonna be secure and we were gonna be free.”

Revere warned the British? The tut-tutting was immediate. Reporters and commentators, having griped for days about being given insufficient courtesies on Mrs. Palin’s East Coast bus tour, had a field day. One if by land, two thousand by tweet.

It soon turned out, however, that Mrs. Palin’s version of history was correct. While Revere warned the Americans that the British were coming, he also warned the British - not for their benefit - that the Americans were coming. When Revere was detained by British soldiers during his ride, he told them, in his own words, “that their troops had catched aground in passing the River, and that There would be 500 Americans there in a short time, for I had alarmed the Country all the way up.” As for the bells and gunshots, David Hackett Fischer - in the 1994 book “Paul Revere’s Ride” - quotes a townsman saying that on that night, “repeated gunshots, the beating of drums and the ringing of bells filled the air.”

This was not the first time that Mrs. Palin was mistakenly taken to task by self-appointed history police. At an October 2010 Tea Party Express event in Reno, Nev., Mrs. Palin urged attendees to “party like it’s 1773.” PBS commentator Gwen Ifill and leftist busybody Markos Moulitsas launched tweets mocking the former GOP vice presidential nominee for her supposed “gaffe.” “She’s so smart,” Mr. Moulitsas wrote sarcastically. Well, smarter than him, since the Boston Tea Party occurred in December 1773.

Mrs. Palin is in good company. Ronald Reagan faced the same sniggering comments whenever he invoked inspirational examples from history. Of course, what the left is really snarking at is the notion that history even matters. Starting in the 1960s, the New Left movement rejected the past as having any relevance to the revolution they wanted to bring to this country. In their view, American history was simply a compendium of crimes committed by dead white males. When then-candidate Barack Obama promised to “fundamentally transform America,” he meant that to be taken literally. When Michelle Obama said in February 2008 that “for the first time in my adult lifetime I’m really proud of my country,” it was a genuine expression of the basic liberal attitude toward America and its history.

Tea Partyers and others who look to America’s past for inspiration are appealing to the great national narrative that the left has rejected. In essence, we have become two peoples: one with a vision of America as an exceptional country with a heroic history, and another believing the country and its people are burdened by a multitude of original sins and populated by groups who are owed continuing and endless debts because of that corrupt past.

If a nation doesn’t revere its history, doesn’t exalt its national story, doesn’t look with pride on its accomplishments and honor its heroes, it will not long survive. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous 1861 poem about Paul Revere sought to inculcate belief in America’s destiny. It closes with the lines, “In the hour of darkness and peril and need, The people will waken and listen to hear, The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed, And the midnight message of Paul Revere.” Longfellow got several facts wrong in his epic poem, but like Mrs. Palin, he got the message right.