“I’m optimistic in the long run, principally because of what I see in the generation of my own children and grandchildren and the students that I meet when I’m lecturing at colleges and universities. I’m distressed, I’m sometimes stunned by how much they don’t know about the history of our country, but I know how bright they are, how well meaning they are, that they want to do the right thing.”
Pulitzer-Prize winning Historian David McCulluough, Dec. 25, 2011, appearing on Fareed Zakaria GPS

So I’m sitting around watching Robin Hood on TV, the newer movie starring Russell Crowe. (Any movie with Russell Crowe will do, btw). I’m munching on popcorn, downing some iced tea, and I hear this line from Cate Blanchett, something about seed corn. I frown, then hit replay on my dvd-thingy. This is just a few minutes into the movie, and, yes, I heard it right, Cate Blanchett as Marion bemoaning the fact that their seed corn has been stolen or destroyed. Seed corn.

Seed corn? Robin Hood is set in the latter years of the Dark Ages, just as the Crusades are kicking in…something’s wrong with this picture, eh, movie. Can’t put my finger on it yet, as I grab another handful of pop…corn.

I’m watching TV again a few months later and here’s this former vice-presidential candidate on the news, rambling on something about Paul Revere, riding his trusty steed to tell the British that “they weren’t going to be taking away our arms.” Funny, I thought he was warning his fellow colonists that, oh, let me try to remember, gosh what was it…oh, yeah: “The British are coming.” That was it! So what was she talking about, anyway?

Then I am told about a friend’s experience up in the High Country here in Colorado, concerning a loud conversation from some young(er) types, proclaiming their dislike for President Obama, using some scatalogical phrases, and boasting that “they didn’t need no government telling then what to do, no sir, they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps just like their daddys and granddaddys did.”

Bootstraps…no government help … things that make you go hmmmm (fist bump to C+C Music Factory).


Twenty years ago or so I read an article that said the majority of New Yorkers had never visited the Statue of Liberty. Wow, I thought, that’s really pathetic. The greatest symbol of our country, and the folks who live within its shadow has never taken the ferry to see it up close and personal?

I had been to California, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming and Montana – several times – including some of the most out-of-the-way places you could imagine like the Dirty Devil River in Utah and Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming. There used to be a museum dedicated to barbed wire in Montana, not sure if it’s still there.

In the early 90s, a combination of a few serendipitous events – a job that made me to travel a great deal, a son who joined the Navy, and a new husband who had traveled even less than me and was game to rectify that –  increased my intimacy with airport terminals.

Son in San Diego, then Chicago, then Florida, then Washington, D.C.? Hello, Delta Airlines!

Job takes me to Atlanta, GA for a week. How about a tour of Atlanta Underground and a primer on the Civil War. Another job opp to Tennessee – twist my arm!

Husband’s never been to Yellowstone? Off we go!

I have been privileged to get private tours of the Library of Congress, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kentucky Knob (down the road from Falling Water – saw that, too), and got to feed elephants at the San Diego Zoo. My husband and I have trekked over beautiful back-country trails in Yellowstone, climbed a ridiculously high ladder to see ruins in Bandelier (that’s in New Mexico), and got lost trying to find Quinault Lake in Washington (it’s a big lake, don’t know how we missed it).

History tours in Vermont and 30+ trips to the D.C./Virginia/Maryland/West Virginia/North Carolina areas, not to mention Florida, New Mexico, Chicago and a bunch of other places. Countless museums, monuments and libraries. Each time I return home, curious, and begin to read whatever books I can find on whatever snippet of history I have encountered. Subconsciously, things started to soak in.

What I’ve discovered is that you don’t have have a PhD in American History to find out stuff about our country. There are hundreds of thousands of books, thousands of magazine articles, bunches of newspapers, lots of libraries and museums. Use DaGoogle – it’s all there, and a lot of this stuff is free. It’s Open Source material.

Some of our fellow Americans, the famous political kind, seem to think they can make stuff up about American history, or even lie about it. OnTV, cable, in newspapers, on radio. Why do they do that? And why do we let them get away with it? *

American More or Less is neither a whitewash of our government, our society, our country, nor a complete defense of it. How can you defend Dred Scott, or the forced imprisonment of millions of Japanese-Americans during WWII? Roy Cohn, Sandcreek, Abscam, we have lots of warts. But we have sooo many good things, from the land-grant college system (what? Haven’t heard of that? Stick with AML, you will) to 50 nifty states each with their own peculiarities and great food.

We are a nation of Mores and Lesses**. Sometimes we’ve had more of _____ (fill in the blank) than we could use. Sometimes we have so much less of something, it hurts. Some Americans want more of ____ (fill in the blank), some Americans want less of ______ (fill in the blank). We are not a nation of any particular consistency. For example, American say they want less government but do not want to give up their various pieces of various pies, and some are eager to pass laws prohibiting marriage of one kind or another.

Sometimes more is bad, sometimes less is bad, sometimes less=more. Sometimes it doesn’t. You get the idea.

It’s time we stop beating ourselves up about this, our National Schizophrenia isn’t a recent malfunction, it’s been developing for about 400 years.

Let’s try to establish, just for the Hell of it, a baseline of sorts for you, the visitor. Raise your hand if you:

  • Agree that bringing MORE Africans (depending on the source, anywhere from 700,000 in North America alone, to 12 million in Central and South America), for the slave trade was wrong;
  • Agree that Americans were wrong to feel that the LESS our government had to do with Europe’s problems in the 1930s while Hitler ran amok;
  • Agree that one of the most treasured freedoms we have as Americans is the freedom to move anywhere we want in our United 50 States without having to fill out forms, wait for a committee’s approval, then present said forms at each border crossing to well-armed and testosterone-filled guards before we get to our destination is a result of LESS government – and that is a good thing;
  • Agree that the 1950s version of our government’s flirtation with a dictatorship under the guise of the House Un-American Activities Commission was a very bad case of MORE government.
  • Agree that just deciding for whatever reason you want to have a meeting of friends, neighbors, countrymen, to promote an issue, fight an issue or just bitch about an issue is not only OK-fine, but is really encouraged, then this is a case of both LESS and MORE government. (In too many countries, you’d be arrested, tortured, executed by some awful ways just for even trying to do this; but it’s this kind of thing that is really the beating, pulsating heart of our country).

But if you don’t agree with any of the above, America More or Less isn’t for you, so you shold probably click out of this web site now.  If you don’t, you’ll only get angry, then flame me with an anonymous email, but no email is really anonymous since I can track down your ISP in a heartbeat, get your IP address in less than a heartbeat and Facebook your sorry ass all over the Internets. It’s what I do for a living, because I can. And if I need help, I know this guy Sergei in Bosnia…

But if you find yourself in some kind of agreement, forge on! You might learn something, might laugh a bit, maybe  forward AML to a friend. Please do. I would hate to think these last few years of writing, researching, talking to lots of people, and looking for 20-year-old pictures weren’t a complete waste of time.

*How outraged can I get about lies and misinformation? Six years ago, in September of 2006, an NBC reporter did a segment about Pandas in China. It was an “AWWWW, how cuddly and cute report, but then he ended it with the “fact” that Pandas had shared the earth with…dinosaurs. Seriously, I mean, seriously???? I fired off a comment to NBC. It’s still here, can’t believe they haven’t taken it down. How embarrassing – for NBC.

**Spellcheck Mama says this isn’t a word. Don’t care, I’m using it.