• Daniel Ethan Finneran

On The “1776 Report”

January 2021

It was with boyish trepidation, intellectual unease, and an insatiable curiosity from which—despite the nobler pastimes and deeper cogitations by which I might’ve been more happily busied, or fruitfully distracted—I could find no relief, that I cast my eyes upon President Trump’s notorious “1776 Report”. In so doing, I was reminded of a somewhat shameful experience from the distant years of my youth, a time upon which, to the exclusion of this one dark event with which you’ll soon be acquainted, I’m pleased to say that I can look back quite fondly.

My age couldn’t have exceeded eighteen years when I found myself working at a small, humble municipal golf course located in my hometown of New Jersey. It was a chronically under-funded yet stubbornly verdant nine-hole par-three of which—as if attracting to its inexpensive links a certain kindred type—small, humble local residents were the primary patrons. It was there I spent the majority of my summers, a stretch of hot, languorous months away from the university at which I was so inauspicious a student, during which I toiled in my best imitation of a manual laborer.

Often, the days were interrupted by paroxysms of rain, abundant but unpredictable deluges by which my sweaty outside work was either temporarily delayed, or mercifully stopped. At the opening of the stormy, pregnant clouds, and the discharge of the refreshing fluids with which they were so heavily filled, all golfers in the midst of their play were hastened from the course, and two-thirds of all the employees (of which, including myself, there was a total of three) followed them in fleeing the premises. The two older men with whom I worked, by whom, in their combined judgement, I was deemed a rather insignificant minor, made a habit of abandoning the tiny clubhouse and me for the larger shelter of their homes, and the warmer embrace of their wives.

Encumbered by my youth and, thus, reliant on a weatherworn bicycle for the means of my transportation, it was agreed in advance that, should it rain (and, invariably, it did) I would be the one to remain at the clubhouse and endure the tempest’s assault. That small, concrete cottage would become, if only until the renewed brightening of the day, or, failing that, the arrival of night, an important and sanctified place over which, as if a president pro tempore of an ancient Senate, I’d have the great honor to superintend. This paltry palace of which, by the effect of a precipitous line of succession, I’d suddenly become the uncontested lord, would be mine until the evening urged me to “clock-out”.

The majority of these hours I passed in reading. I was, at the time, delighted to have so solitary a moment and uninterrupted an opportunity to devote myself to what had become my life’s great passion—the consumption of books. Outside the confines of a school year’s curriculum, by whose iron fencing, a naturally free, whimsical mind such as mine is uncomfortably bound, I found fantastic works—some fun and trifling, others grave and weighty—with which I passed my stormy days, and colored the dreariness of the world around me.

Upon transitioning from one book to another, I arose to stretch my legs and examine the building of which, as I occasionally had to remind myself, I was the default, if not highly-esteemed, guardian. It was in the process of doing so that I brought myself to an obscure and unvisited closet, a dusty little alcove in which a sundry assortment of broken flagpoles, forgotten nine-irons, and threadbare Titleist hats were haphazardly stowed. Among this grass-stained congeries of golf paraphernalia and neglected sporting attire, I found tucked in the corner, almost wholly concealed from view, a rather suspicious box.

I hadn’t the faintest idea of what lay within. My guess, based on the environment by which I was surrounded, was that there might’ve been more golfing items still, but who could be sure? The mysterious contents of which so quiet and unostentatious a box might be possessed enticed me to no end. My natural curiosity, that deeply-rooted inquisitiveness to which, despite my every effort, I find myself helplessly enslaved, had no difficulty in overwhelming me. It soon became ungovernable, and, now sovereign to my reason, it brought me into a state of complete submission. I was led by its dictate to lift the lid, endure the dust, and peer into that unavoidable box.

The next part of this story is ill-suited for innocent ears, much as it was—in my case at that tender moment of my life—injurious to innocent eyes. Stacked with solicitude within that extraordinary box, organized with the care of a librarian’s touch, were mountains of pornographic magazines. It was a jackpot of smut, a treasure trove of tawdry material at which any other lonesome lad of my age would positively erupt. Much better than the mystic discovery of a fountain of youth, a well of immortality for which so many lives were risked, and fortunes lost, I had before me a fountain of flesh, a puddle of promiscuity in which, if I’m honest, I had very little desire to bathe myself.

Yet there I stood; arrested with those same feelings of boyish trepidation, intellectual unease, and a curiosity that, thankfully, didn’t quite ascend to the level of insatiability. For a moment, I stood paralyzed by the toxin of indecision, an unfamiliar state beyond which I had a complete inability to move. Should I risk my unsullied character and impeccable chastity by gazing upon so bestial and undignified a sight? Should I submit to the prurient whisperings of a nude siren’s call, an enchanting vixen’s song by which all other sounds of virtue were quickly drowned out? Most pressingly of all, should I be doing something so private and detestable while “on the clock” at my place of work?

Exhale, dear reader, and suffer through the stress of my predicament no more. To each of the three questions listed above, upon which my subsequent dignity hinged, I answered then, as I would again, in the negative. I was reminded of the moral precepts by which, since my youth, I was unerringly guided, and the high standards of conduct to which I’d accustomed myself. I heeded the words not only of my loving parents, but of the prudish teachers and religious elders by whom, depending on the occasion, I was either gently steered or sternly warned.

I was told of how offensive, degrading, self-serving, terrible, indecent, distorted, artificial, un-real, nefarious, and foul these magazines are and, acting in accordance with this damning consensus, an opinion on which everyone I respected seemed to concur, I refrained from looking at them any further.

I was startled, then, when I heard the President’s short-lived “1776 Project” being similarly described. Indeed, none of the epithets listed above was thought too vehement or abusive for the commentariat’s review of so well-intentioned a work. By the current President, Mr. Joseph Biden, it was dismissed as being “offensive” and “counter-factual”, and in urgent need of an enlightened replacement. By various media outlets, it was called, among other things, a “sheer absurdity”; a shameless “hack job”; a bundle of “outright lies”; a “misrepresentation of fact”; and an ugly “distortion of truth” with which we, as a nation of readers, ought not debase ourselves.

As I held in my hand the forty-five-page packet, that incendiary booklet into which I was now so anxious to dive, my mind leapt back to the contents of that mysterious, porn-filled box. Having been warned of the dark themes and deranged morals of the “1776 Report” as I had, some time ago, of the lascivious filth with which those adult magazines abounded, I thought it wise to ignore the former, as I’d once rejected the latter.

Decisively, I tossed it on my desk, banished it from my attention, and determined to divert myself in healthier ways. I instead raised my eyes to the television screen, on which a candid, well-dressed MSNBC anchor spoke of “de-programming” seventy-million people and the blessed age of “unity” to which this national cleansing would doubtless yield. Later, I picked up a copy of the New York Times, that most eminent of papers by which my antipathy for this cruel land was properly reinforced.I congratulated myself on having twice avoided a curious reader’s fate, a literary destiny to which so many miserable bibliophiles are prone to succumb. Rather, I filled my time with more agreeable forms of media, and more veracious depictions of the truth.

For a while, at least, I succeeded in this way. With the passage of time, however, and after every left-leaning libation had been drunk, and every drop of Democrat opinion imbibed, my curiosity revisited me. Curse my desires! I was thirsty still. Heedless of the lessons of the past by which, having shielded me from the error of looking at naughty magazines, my innocence was preserved, I grabbed the “1776 Report”. Voraciously, I consumed its contents, as if, at any moment—like the fleet but powerless cheetah from whom fresh prey is rudely stolen—I’d be stripped of them and left hungry for intellectual satisfaction.

What I discovered was a work quite undeserving of those mean epithets with which it was so abundantly showered. Indeed, so great was the incongruity between the noble, unexceptionable words of the “1776 Commission” authors, and the vitriolic insults with which they were so relentlessly treated, that I was compelled to read the work yet again. It was though I were visiting the “mysterious box” twice. Perhaps, with the forgivable carelessness of a first glance, I’d failed to see the Commission’s blatant revisions of history, unacceptable manipulations of fact, ugly promulgations of white supremacy, and total abandonment of truth in favor of a prejudiced political agenda.

I was assured, by every decent outlet to which, owing to their fidelity to the truth, my confidence is wed, that these were the sins, among others, of which this odious report was guilty. I’m happy to inform you, the charge is misapplied. I was told that it was on these grounds, so strong and unyielding, that the report should be rejected. That soil, upon the acceptance of an inquisitive mind’s weight, and the heavy force of scrutiny by which it makes itself felt, immediately crumbles under foot.

In a word, I say, indulge your curiosity and read the “1776 Report”. Fear not the insalubrious effects about which you’ve been warned. Treat it not as a dirty and offensive work into which your unblemished eyes ought not to probe. Don’t accept the strange contention that it’s “counter-factual” and, therefore, undeserving of academic merit and popular attention. It is not, if you’ll excuse the term, a type of political pornography or campaign smut by which only rigid Republicans and stiff conservatives will be aroused.

Unlike my box of old, it’s a trove of patriotic wisdom and honest learning into which every curious eye should probe. You’ll be gratified for having done so.

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