By John Carlson
November 16, 2013
A horrified political commentator was yelling on the radio the other day about the horror of talk radio’s horrifying Rush Limbaugh writing a horrifying book — aimed, horrifyingly, at kids.
I turned to Google and discovered that Limbaugh, who sometimes talks loudly but rarely yells, has written a book entitled “Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims.” And the warning is correct. Kids are the audience.
The first report on the book I located stated, “Rush Limbaugh is Coming for Your Kids.” The headline said the vicious, right-wing, intolerant Limbaugh has no business writing anything related to history. A cable news anchor wrote that it made her sick.
Neither had read the book, but what difference does that make? The general analysis is that Limbaugh is a hateful gasbag and the book almost certainly is a distortion and any kids who are forced by their abusive parents to read it will have their little brains damaged to the point they might end up starting a business or voting Republican.
The warnings come with everything but an air-raid siren, yet “Rush Revere” is the best-selling book in America now and was at the top of Amazon.com’s bestseller list several weeks before its late October release.
This I had to see, so I stopped by my local Barnes and Noble for a look. A clerk, after two computer searches and much wandering, located the publication in the deepest corner of the store. He had never heard of the book, which is Barnes and Noble’s second-biggest seller. I told him they should offer GPS coordinates to find the thing. The clerk was a nice young man, but has no sense of humor.
He agreed to sell it to me and I read it in an afternoon. I write about it a few days before Thanksgiving because it is a fine book for kids that uses a fun gimmick to describe the earliest days of our nation.
The central character is a present-day middle school history teacher who comes to class with a talking horse. The horse, “Liberty,” has the ability to propel them back in time. In this book, the teacher takes Tommy, the class smart aleck and a thoughtful Native American girl named Freedom on a journey to the earliest days of what would become America.
Does the book have a political message? Yes — from the journal of Plymouth Plantation Gov. William Bradford. Limbaugh uses Bradford’s writings as his source of information on the Mayflower’s 65-day trip across the Atlantic, the signing of the Mayflower Compact, the establishment of the colony, the Pilgrims’ interaction with Indians and the awful conditions faced by them all.
The book’s political message is clear, but not overwhelming. The Pilgrims originally shared everything in their first months. They built a village, cleared and worked fields, and the benefits were equally distributed. Bradford and the plantation council discovered some among them worked hard while others, who had little incentive to work, did nothing. There was resentment and a collapse of the new society seemed inevitable. Eventually, each family was issued a parcel of land, which they worked on their own. Goods were bought and sold by individuals, who kept the profits and the community prospered.
There are references to clashes between Indians and Pilgrims. Starvation, disease and the deaths of half the original colonists, including Bradford’s wife, are described, as is the decimation by disease of the Wampanoag Indians.
The Wampanoag shared furs, food and their knowledge of planting and fertilizing crops. The book concludes with a description of the “Plimoth Plantation Harvest Festival,” a feast and celebration for settlers and Indians. It is generally considered the birth of what became known as Thanksgiving.
Rush Revere, the teacher who has a striking resemblance to the author, uses a smart phone with a video app to transmit events from 1620 and 1621 back to the classroom at Manchester Middle School. The students, for the first time, discover history can be exciting. Ridiculous? Not sophisticated enough? Kids are deciding otherwise.
Critics are offended the Pilgrims are portrayed as heroic and courageous, not as murdering, evil invaders. Limbaugh believes kids are getting such a distorted and negative view of the nation’s founders and that’s why he wrote the book.
Turns out it is a darned good story, remarkably popular, and more Rush Revere adventures from American history seem sure to come. Horrifying, eh?
Carlson is a retired Register columnist and writes twice a month for the Sunday Register.