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www.zidao.com Apprentice harmonizer, for sheer fun. Journeywoman writer, for work and pleasure. Starting point was Iowa, current stopping point on this journey is Switzerland, with frequent pauses around the world to watch and listen to the crowd, and occasionally make comments.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Paul Revere taught me to revere history, kind of

In a few short hours the clocks will chime midnight in Massachusetts and it will be the on-the-minute anniversary of The Ride of Paul Revere. This may or may not be one of the great moments of history, but it has always been a great moment for me because thanks to Paul and his ride, I suddenly saw history as interesting.

Here, in brief, is what I learned from Paul Revere: men had once worn costumes instead of clothes, including three-cornered hats (surely not a practical design?) and white stockings to their knees. Their coats had tails and when they rode horses at great speed to warn fellow Americans of danger, the tails flew in the wind, the hats stayed on and the stockings stayed clean. Now there were real men for you! He had something to do with tea and taxes, neither of which I could get excited about when my teacher first read those thrilling lines about the Midnight Ride, but the party where everyone threw chests of tea over the edge of a ship sounded like fun.

Strangely enough, after this bumpy start with history, where I was a bit weak on fact, I went on to study history. Some facts seemed more true than others, the world began to look more complex, and costumes, I continued to believe, are a key element in making history interesting.

On that basis, I don't think Saddam Husseim or Milosevic will ride out the centuries as well as say, Paul Revere. I wonder who will. Any candidates? Ghandi, maybe. Madonna (of the 20th century), undoubtedly.

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five . . .

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (compliments of Iowa State University)

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