A couple of years ago we found out that our apartment complex was requiring us to have cable, at a cool $45 a month. We weren’t pleased. (Well, I was a little pleased not to have to go to sports bars during football season.) As a result, we have HBO. Which normally we’re not thrilled about, and on the rare occasion we channel-surf, we’ve always got the thumb on the button when we hit channel 7.
A couple of weeks ago, though, we got a nice surprise. I had been hearing about the miniseries John Adams, based on David McCullough’s bestselling biography of one of the least-known Founding Fathers. It occurred to me on one of those rare channel-surfing occasions that this was on HBO, and we have HBO. For a history dork like me, this was very good news. We began watching the miniseries (I think we picked up in the middle of episode 3), and I got the book from the library.
I can’t say enough good things about the book, which I haven’t finished yet, or the miniseries, which ended last night. McCullough’s writing is great, and the movie does a great job of getting you into the world of the American Revolution. It’s very cool to see George Washington and Thomas Jefferson come alive, and Paul Giamatti (as Adams) and Laura Linney (as Abigail) are fantastic.
I think one of the reasons I’m really liking learning about Adams is that I identify with him– in good ways and bad. He was fiercely opinionated, which can make you passionate and convicted (Adams’ resolve was probably the only reason the Declaration of Independence happened when it did), but also vain and controlling. He talked and thought and wrote a lot, and he always envied men like Washington who had more self-control.
But one of my biggest takeaways from the series was just to be thankful for men like Adams. It sounds very cliché to talk about the sacrifices they made, but seriously, Adams was away from Abigail and their children for months at a time during the Revolution. He took assignments he didn’t want, like brokering a treaty with the French. As president, he threw away his popularity (and chances for reelection) by steering a neutral course in the conflict between France and Great Britain, knowing the young republic couldn’t survive another war. He did all this because he was convinced of the rightness of the American cause, and because he loved his country. And of course, all American citizens (and many others) are reaping the benefits of his resolve today.
So if you have HBO, by choice or otherwise, check out these reruns (you know how HBO is). The DVD’s are preselling on Amazon too, and the book is definitely worth the time.