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In which John discusses slavery, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, George Washington, and the evil baby orphanage from Venice.


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A Bunny
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Good morning Hank, it's Wednesday. I'm in Venice and I'm really sick, but I don't want to talk about either of those things. I want to talk about the Evil Baby Orphanage and our first president, George Washington. Right, so, Hank, as I'm sure you recall, a few years ago Nerdfighters came up with the idea that instead of, like, going back in a time machine and KILLING evil people when they're babies, we could go back and kidnap them and take them to the Evil Baby Orphanage where, you know, we could rehabilitate them. Hank, it's obviously a fantastic idea, aside from the small problem of, you know, time travel being... quite challenging. But here's my question, Hank: how do you decide who is a good candidate for the Evil Baby Orphanage? Take, for example, George Washington. Terrible Evil Baby Orphanage candidate, right? Like, he fought the British in the War for Independence, he was a huge part of the American constitution, represented democracy, wooden teeth, six-foot-eight, weight a frickin' ton, all that stuff. He was also inarguably REALLY good at being the American president. But, Hank, what if our nearly universal assumption that the American Revolution was a good thing is wrong? Like, let's say we kidnap George Washington as a baby and take him to the Evil Baby Orphanage, "how, if at all, does that change history?" turns out to be a pretty interesting question. Let's assume - although I think this is a bit dubious - that somehow removing George Washington from history causes us to lose and/or not fight the Revolutionary War. It probably takes the United States at least 70 more years to achieve its independence, like, let's assume that we're following the "Canada Model", but we still eventually end up with a representative democracy, and if we're following the "Canada Model", some excellent beer. Furthermore, as pointed out in M.T. Anderson's brilliant novel The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, the revolutionary war was decidedly a bad thing for the people who most needed the protection of a government: the slaves. And Hank, it's almost certain that slavery would have ended earlier in America if we had just remained a British colony. Furthermore, Hank, it's not totally unreasonable to assume that, with slavery ending in the early 19th century at some point, we might have avoided the Civil War, which was the bloodiest conflict in United States history, resulting in 600,000 dead people. But it doesn't stop there, Hank, because we know that one of the key factors in the French Revolution was that France bankrupted itself helping us fight our revolution. Now, Hank, I'm not saying that George Washington - who, by the way, was a slave-owner - is responsible for a century of slavery or 600,000 dead people. I'm just saying that, as usual, the truth resists simplicity. So, Hank, here's my non-rhetorical question for the day: how do we know who's a good candidate for the Evil Baby Orphanage, given the complexity of history? And more importantly, how do we know that we ourselves are not living lives that could result in us going to the Evil Baby Orphanage? Let's continue the conversation in comments and in Your Pants. Hank, I'll see you on Friday.