I used to do a music video each year to commemorate the 4th. I skipped last year because the holiday crept up on me, but this year I decided to go for it. Few films touch me in the way The Patriot does. I cry at least four times watching that film — at the deaths of two of his children, that touching scene on the beach that starts out “Daddy, don’t go!”, and at the end, when he refuses to let the flag fall down.
Christian critics in the past have made the mistake of assuming that all that drives Benjamin Martin is revenge. I have to disagree with them. He joins the militia to protect his family, and look after his son, Gabriel. Yes, ultimately he kills the man responsible for killing his children — but Benjamin chooses between patriotism and revenge at the moment it is most important. He could have gone after his adversary on the battlefield, but instead he chose to fight for and uphold the cause that his son believed in so passionately. He runs up the hill carrying the flag, and turns the tide on that particular battle.
Historians dismiss this film as inaccurate. It is, in its particulars… the broader scope is absolutely right. People really were that religious in those days. Many were reluctant to fight. The Revolution was won with only a third of the Colonies for Independence. Pastors did preach against King George in the pulpit, and often went to war right alongside their congregations. Children were armed and did go out to shoot enemy soldiers — often with muskets longer than they were tall. This was an era in which children were not children at thirteen. John Quincy Adams was doing his devotionals in multiple languages and traveling across Europe as an ambassador at thirteen. No people might have been burned inside a church, but churches were burned. Even Tavington is based on a British officer named Tarleton, who was vicious, cruel, and highly feared. He also missed capturing Governor Thomas Jefferson in Virginia by ten minutes, which is a miraculous escape for Jefferson. (Wouldn’t that have been horrible?)
Enjoy your hot dogs, corn chips, and sparklers today. But remember that our freedom came at a terrible price, by men who put the future of this nation above themselves.