My partner and I have been watching this excellent mini-series from 1978 on DVD. Taken on it’s own, it is great entertainment. From what I have seen so far, it is also a little disturbing….
As I watch this, I’m reminded more and more of the fact that I was raised to be a good Southern Gentlemen, educated at Washington and Lee University in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, when it was an all boy’s school, and how similar that education was to being raised to be a good British Gentleman in the early 1900’s.
I’ll never forget my first day in my first Political Science course my Freshman year at W&L. My professor started the class by saying: “Gentlemen, you are all anachronism and the product of white privilege. Your day has passed and you don’t even know it. But we must soldier on….”
That may have been the first clue that my education at Washington and Lee, conservative as it may have been, was going to challenge so many beliefs I was raised to accept. Intellectually, it was eye opening, but socially it took more time…..
Well, we were still taught noblesse oblige and that even if, financially, we might not be in the upper middle class. We were taught that we were still intellectually exceptional. And we were taught to honor what that under-rated Australian writer Colleen McCullough called, that “most indecent of obsessions” duty.
More than once in my 56 years I have done my duty and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s not always easy, but it does feel good when it’s over. It means something to know you have done the right thing even though it cost you financially, emotionally and psychically.
We may be the last generation to ever understand that it is worthwhile to do it the hard way. To put others first….
To do one’s duty….
To be challenged and think things through….
To embrace change after an intellectual struggle….
To appreciate order, but be willing to change….
To ultimately do the right thing for the most people….
To wear Brooks Brothers at the barricades…
I wouldn’t change a thing.
I am who I am….
And I don’t think the British or Southern Gentleman who came before me would do so either….
Ultimately, we do this best we can with who we are….