Friday, February 15, 2013

We can all be George Washington

Book Review: Glenn Beck's Being George Washington: The Indispensable Man, as You’ve Never Seen Him
I confess I have mixed feelings about Glenn Beck. Sometimes when I listen to him – for example during his recent interview with Penn Jillette – I say, “Yes! This is what rational discourse sounds like.” Other times, I have absolutely no idea what he’s talking about.

My mixed feelings extend to his written work. I thought Common Sensewas rambling and dull: it failed to deliver the inspiration from Thomas Paine that it promised. In contrast, The Overton Windowwas a hugely entertaining novel with a serious message about how the liberals keep managing to win.

Being George Washingtonfalls into the second category. The book occupies the boundary between fiction and non-fiction. Beck braids history, legend, and imagination into dramatized accounts of incidents from Washington’s life: the French and Indian Wars, Valley Forge, the Constitutional Convention, and so on. These narratives contain lush descriptions of the settings and even tell us Washington's innermost thoughts: the accounts read like a novel. They appear in alternating chapters with short essays that separate the history from the legend – apparently Betsy Ross probably didn’t use her feminine wiles to distract the Hessian Colonel Carl Emilius von Donop on the eve of Washington crossing the Delaware.

The other function of the essay chapters is to draw lessons from the life of the Indispensable Man. The bottom line: We can’t all be indispensable. We can’t all lead an army or start a new nation. But we can all be virtuous, brave, civil, and persistent. We can all defend freedom when it’s under attack – and it is under attack. And if we do that, we will make a difference. In that sense, we can all be George Washington.

Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about a young engineer who defends freedom when it's under attack. Check it out on

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