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William C. Altreuter
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Friday, March 02, 2018

In heavy rotation, to say the least. I assign Hamilton to my Constitutional Law students because its vision of the Constitution myth is more inclusive. Notwithstanding the efforts of any number of judges and law professors the Constitution has evolved, and I believe that it remains a functioning framework.
There are a lot of theories about what constitutes the American Character, but I'm mostly of the view that we are above all a nation of optimists.By some measures we are one of the oldest nations on the globe, but when we are at our best I think we are still a nation characterized by youth, even if we are no longer a young nation. This song gets that, I think. Franklin says:
Electricity
Yeah, you can all thank me
Took some lightning, a kite, and a fat brass key
And they're putting up streetlights in Gay Paris
You're welcome from our young nation
I'm the only American the French wanna see
They call me a genius, I can't disagree
They have guns, they have funds
They can set us free
Invest in my reputation
And do you know who the fuck I am?
Yeah, do you know who the fuck I am?
Do you know who the fuck I am?
I am Poor-Richard's-Almanack-writing Benjamin Fuckin' Franklin
I said, early to bed, bitches, early to rise
They make a man healthy, wealthy, and wise
Soldiers are fighting for freedom, they have no supplies
So diplomacy happens at night
John's debates at the gates of Versailles
He whines and berates and awaits a reply
As I stay up late with a succulent breast or a thigh
Alright, diplomacy happens at night
And do you know who the fuck I am?
Yeah, do you know who the fuck I am?
Do you know who the fuck I am?
I am seventy-six-and-I'll-Still-Kick-Your-Ass Fuckin' Franklin
One pain that lingers, the hitch in my stride
Is my son back at home who I could not guide
Who sits all alone in a prison cell on the wrong side
Stands against our young nation
So I play my ambassador part with pride
I am known in the world, and the world is wide
To my children, my sins may be magnified, but I'd
Do it all again, no hesitation
And do you know who the fuck I am?
Yeah, do you know who the fuck I am?
Do you know who the fuck I am?
I am Poor-Richard's-Almanack-writing Benjamin Fuckin' Franklin
who the fuck I am?
(Do you know who the fuck I am?) who the fuck I am?
(Do you know who the fuck I am?)
I am Poor-Richard's-Almanack-writing
Polymath, bifocal-wearing
Harp and glass-armonica-playing
Benjamin Fuckin' Franklin
First of all, Colin Meloy nails it. His Benjamin Franklin comes on like a badass for four lines, but then comes the crusher: "You're welcome from our young nation." The private Franklin becomes more visible as the song progresses, but even the verse about his son is really about his love for the nation he was central in inventing.

And that last word is the most important. When I talk about national identity with lawyers from other places this is a point I try to get out: The US could be better, but it really was the first to try this kind of thing, and it has taken some refining, but we are working on it. When I see how aggressively we can turn on ourselves I question why I am standing in front of a class full of persons of color explaining Article I Section 9:

The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.
This year I just threw the slide up and asked, "We all clear on what this was about?" They were.

Even so, I believe in this stuff. God help me, I'm a patriot. I don't think you can be a lawyer and not be a patriot. So this song is reassuring to me.
 

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