George Washington and the Greek Example
And why we treat animals better than humans.
George Washington allowed at least two majestic steeds that he had ridden during the war to graze and do whatever they wanted. This followed the Greek example of retiring beasts that served their masters well. Their names were Nelson and Blueskin.
However, there is no evidence that Washington treated his elderly slaves with such magnanimity. This, too, followed the Greek example. We are much like Washington, where we decide to place our affections and show our morality.
Like Washington, we often find it easier to treat animals with more respect and kindness than we do our fellow humans. It is culturally appropriate for a mother to kill her own child, but woe to the one who harms a kitten. Taking care of humans always requires more personal effort and opens us up to more personal risk.
Deep down, we know that owning a puppy is not really practice for taking on the responsibility of a human child. The dog will always wag its tail. The child may grow up to hate you. The dog will never demand too much of your soul. The child may require you to lay down your life…and then ask for more.
It was easy for Washington to grant his animals rest. Those animals would never ask for anything more. But granting his slaves rest would have been a truly revolutionary act, and once the image of God was again recognized in those ensnared in the “peculiar institution,” it would have demanded so much more.
I single out Washington only because he was admirable in so many ways yet had large blind spots. And to point out that we are no better than him. We have some of those same blind spots. We would do well to attend to them.
M.A. Franklin's Bluster and Brine is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.