On Founding Fathers; Some Thoughts

By Avedis Kevorkian, Philadelphia, PA, 27 March 2009

It’s strange how the mind works–or, at least, mine!

Sometimes, it will take much longer to read a book than I think it should, because something I have read will set off what passes for my mind to wander, and I will think all around what I have read.

By Avedis Kevorkian, Philadelphia, PA, 27 March 2009

It’s strange how the mind works–or, at least, mine!

Sometimes, it will take much longer to read a book than I think it should, because something I have read will set off what passes for my mind to wander, and I will think all around what I have read.

Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated by history and I even toyed with the idea of becoming a history teacher.  But, journalism won out–especially because I was working on my father’s newspaper and knew that I would become a journalist.

It was a wise move because, while journalism (it’s now called "communications") was work, history could still be fun.. Except, that is, when the mind goes to work.

Most of the books that I buy have history, in one form or other, as the theme, and I enjoy, especially, reading about the founding of America and the (now growing larger) giants who created the country.  Recently, I finished a book whose theme was what the Founding Fathers learned from Ancient Greece’s Democracy and Ancient Rome’s Republic.

They learned that while Democracy can be a great thing, too much democracy can be a bad thing and that it was the latter that ultimately led to the fall of Ancient Greece.

They learned that while a Republic can be a great thing, too much trust in the leader can be a bad thing and that’s what led to the Fall of Rome.

Thus, with these lessons, coupled with the teachings of the French and English philosophers, the Founding Fathers set out on a New Experiment–they would combine what they saw as the best of Greece and of Rome, and would try to avoid the worst and the excesses of each.  The result was the greatest country that has ever existed.  Before anyone jumps on me, I will say that the recent history of the United States doesn’t prove the Experiment wrong, but it may be the first stages in the decline of the country.  Enough about the current mental midgets; let us get back to the Founders who knew Greek and Latin (and, with more than a few, Hebrew), and for the majority of whom their favorite writer was Cicero. (I wonder how many of those mental midgets in Washington have read Cicero.  Dammit, there goes that mind again.)

What got my mind working along these lines was that reading through a mailing piece from a history-oriented book club, I read the descriptions of some of the books about some of the Founding Fathers, and I realized how highly they are regarded, these 200 years later, and how we Americans, as children, were taught to respect and revere them–as most of us still do. I thought that if there were a Pantheon of Gods, America’s Founders would be there.   And then, as often happens to me, I stopped reading and stared into space as the mind played with those thoughts.

Eventually, it went from the sublime to the ridiculous; it went from Philadelphia to Yerevan.  (Ah, you may have been wondering, when is he going to get there?  I have arrived.)

I began to think of Armenia in the year 2209 and wondered, first, if there would be an Armenia in 2209.  I reached no conclusion, because I was thinking that what all of Armenia’s oppressors from the ancient Persians through to the Ottoman Turks could not do, the leaders of an Independent Armenia seem intent on doing.  So, I quickly abandoned that thought.

I went back to what had started it all.  I wondered if the children in that Armenia would be taught about the Founding Fathers of today’s Armenia, and I wondered what they would be taught about them.  I wondered if they would be taught to revere and respect their memory and I wondered if they would be lauded for creating a country as are the American Founding Fathers.

I compared presidents–America’s first three and Armenia’s first three.  I compared how they got there–the elections of America and the elections of Armenia.   Well, you get the point.

With Benjamin Franklin–the greatest of all Americans–dead (after seeing the American Republic born), George Washington, the Sword of the Revolution, was the most famous American.  Patrick Henry, the Voice of the Revolution, was in a sulk, having decided that he didn’t like what was going on.  Tom Paine, the Pen of the Revolution, was in France supporting the French Revolution, having failed to foment one in Britain. (Speaking of Franklin.  When the debates over the Constitution were getting nowhere, he rose to speak and, among other things, said, passionately, "Please, doubt your own infallibility."  How those words should have been uttered during the last American administration!)

A unanimous choice for president, would Washington relinquish the post just because there was an election in 1796–during which he chose not to run, there being no law against a third term?  In my view, the most important date in American history is March 4, 1797.  On that day, President Washington walked into Congress Hall in Philadelphia, and President John Adams walked out.  The first time in history where the office of chief of state was peaceably handed over–no death, no murder, no violence, no revolution, no conquest–by election.  It proved the Constitution would work. The transfer complete, Washington was still the most famous American and, as the Congress was leaving the Hall, everyone stepped aside for him.  He, in turned, stepped aside and said to Adams, "After you, Mister President."

And the country accepted its new president.  There were no riots and demonstrations, no charges of corruption.

Oh, Yes, they made mistakes; they stumbled; they took risks–but all in their attempts to better the fledgling Republic.  They were, after all, men–"Plain, Honest Men" as a distinguished professor has labeled them in his book of that title–not the Gods they have now become.  Admittedly, many of them were more than "plain," but "honest" all of them were.

But, with the Armenian leaders. . . .

What is it about the Armenians–or should I limit it to the Yerevantsis?–that they are incapable of learning from history and taking the best from it, incapable of holding honest elections, incapable of creating an honest government not run by crooks and thieves and thugs, indifferent to the needs of the vast majority of its citizens, indifferent to criticism by its vast Diaspora who wish the country well and wish to be proud of what some consider their "homeland" regardless of where they were born and where they live?

What would Armenia’s children of 2209 be taught about their country’s founders?  Would these founders be installed in an Armenian Hall of Fame?  Would they be elevated to the level of Gods and heroes, and installed in an Armenian Pantheon of Gods to be emulated and worshiped?  Would the parents point to today’s leaders and tell their children to work hard and become like the Founding Fathers?  My shuddering at the those thoughts brought me back to the real world.

I went back to my reading.  Then, a delicious thought occurred.  Just as America has declined in recent years with the mental midgets now, apparently, destined to run things, suppose Armenia is doing the process in reverse.  Suppose Armenia is starting with mental midgets and crooks and thieves and thugs now, and will produce its giants in 200 years!

Yes, I consoled myself.  That’s what is destined for Armenia.

Now, if only I can live that long to see it.  I hope I won’t run out of the snake-oil live-forever pills I bought from that strange-looking man, a while ago.


  1. Gods are not people

    Dear Avedis.

    Thanks for keeping our minds on the edge.  Very thought provoking, as usual.  So here goes.

    I am sure that you are aware that the Founding Fathers of your country have been mythologized as much as any other "founding father", Gregory the Illuminator as Founding Father  of the Armenian Church comes to mind, who literally destroyed and erased off the face of history the millenial Pre-Christian Armenian civilization, or how about Mesrob Mashtots, arguably the greatest Founding Father of the Armenian nation, who, prior  to inventing our eternal alphabet was actually an Inquisitor for Etchmyadzin?

    This in no way diminishes what Mesrob Mashtots has done and what he achieved, a lasting civilization for over 1600 years despite our political and historical trials and tribulations, including a genocide.  It is yet to be seen whether the Founding Fathers of your country can trump that.

    Of course, neither does this diminish the greatness of Franklin, Washington or Paine, or Adams, or Jefferson, or their deeds and how they saw democracy.

    I am sure that if you had the chance to meet them, they would have said: "Never ever worship us as Gods!!!!".  They would plea not to be mythologized.  Because they would rather advocate for critical thought. 

    Otherwise, how could they be part of "We, The People"?

    Viken L. Attarian

    Mount Royal, Quebec


    1. Viken’s comments

      As the title of my essay indicates, I was comparing the “founding fathers” of the Republic of the United States of America and of the Republic of Armenia, and I was thinking about whether history would treat the latter group as it has treated the former group of men.

      It would have been folly to have compared the founders of the Armenian Church with the founding of the political entity of the America.

      I am aware that if one looks in detail, most Gods have clay feet, and I am sure that those who read yesterday’s history with today’s glasses will find not only clay feet but also clay bodies.  I, therefore, measure people by the accomplishment for which people remember them.  It is for that reason people rightly honor Saint Gregory and Saint Mesrob for what they left us and not for trying to destroy the thoughts of Paganism, in the one case, and the punishing of the waverers from the “true faith,” in the other.

      (I knew someone who, when she was a child, used to play “horsey” with Adolph Hitler–he the horse on hands and knees in their living room and she the rider on his back–and "who was very loving and fun."  But, he will be remembered, rightly, for another reason.)

      I am sure the American Founders would not appreciate today’s Americans treating them as “gods.”

      What made my mind do the wandering it did was reading a brief description of a new book about Thomas Jefferson, and I thought, first, if anyone in 200 years would be writing a book about any of Armenia’s first three presidents.  When I laughed at the idiocy of even such a thought, I went on from there, and the rest you have read.

      As to whether or not the creation of America’s founders will survive as long as the Armenian people, is something about which I would not want to speculate, not if the examples of the past fifty years is an example.  However, if we start from 2009 as ground zero, it would have to be a competition between America’s mental midgets and Armenia’s mental midgets.  I am glad I am not a betting man.

      After the Constitution was approved, Franklin said: “You have a republic, if you can keep it.”  America will have a long life if “We, the People” can wrest it from those who seemed to have made it their life’s work to destroy it.  As to that, I am glad I am nearer the end of my life and not its beginning.

      4 april 09

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