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In Defense of the Dead -- Writer's Poke #276

Who was Thomas Jefferson? No simple answer for that question, but he continues to be appropriated and recreated for the purposes of the living. In his dirtnap state, he cannot defend himself. He cannot say, "That is not it at all. That is not what I meant at all" if someone attributes their own pet idea or philosophy to him.

Was he a man of Faith, as people like Glenn Beck claim? Faith in what sense?

Should he be seen as a symbol for freedom? As a symbol of any kind?

And why do the living arrange the biographical details of the dead to fit their individual ideals? Do we even care what Jefferson stood for? Do we care what kind of man he was? Or, rather, do we simply wish to use the dead to fit our model of how others should live?

What is the truth that the dead know?

"They refuse / to be blessed throat, eye, and knucklebone." -- Anne Sexton


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