Saturday, May 28, 2016

Bitter or Better

Since it's nearly memorial day, I have been reading up on and considering the sacrifices that were made during our first war, the Revolutionary War. I also considered the disparate end of two of, who were considered at the time, our greatest generals.

You have heard of them both, George Washington and Benedict Arnold, and they were similar in many ways. Both men were fiercely patriotic at the beginning of the the war. Both were considered great leaders with fiercely loyal troops under them. Both were victorious in battle. Both were known for being volatile in their temperaments and prone to fits of rage and anger.

And yet, they had very different endings.

In battle, Arnold was considered one of the best tacticians we had. His leadership lead to several victories, including a major role in the battle of Saratoga. But, a series of disappointments in the people he had thought were on his side devastated him. Not small among them were a series of unethical actions by groups of "patriots", his being unfairly overlooked for a promotion he well deserved, his victory at Saratoga being accredited to another and a grievous injury that left him plenty of time to brood and blame.

Washington had major disappointments too. People he should have been able to rely on, including Arnold ultimately, abandoned him, betrayed him and plotted against him. Washington's deep emotions and ready anger nearly bested him on several occasions because of this.

But, while Benedict brooded, Washington understood that the cause was greater than his emotions and he learned and tried and worked and struggled to temper his temper. Perhaps he never overcame this propensity completely, but he learned that the bitterness that comes from replaying past hurts does not make you better.

Arnold, on the other hand, let his anger burn and turn into an ashy bitterness that led him to betray the cause he had loved. Now, when we think of a traitor, we think of him.

Have you learned to control your anger, or does it control you?

 Do you let it make you bitter, or do you let it make you better?

And for a couple of great works on the war:

The story of Washington and Arnold and the events that displayed their greatness and that led to their fates. On top of that, this guy is a really compelling writer.

I'm just starting this one, but its the largely untold telling of a largely forgotten unit that turned the tide time and again for Washington.