March 6, 2016, will mark the 180th anniversary of the fall of the Alamo, a crumbling former Spanish mission in the heart of San Antonio, Texas.
It’s one of those battles like Thermopylae that have passed from history into legend.
It’s been the subject of novels, movies, biographies, histories and TV dramas (most notably Walt Disney’s 1955 “Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier”).
Perhaps the most extraordinary scene in any Alamo movie or book occurs in the 1993 novel, Crockett of Tennessee, by Cameron Judd.
And it is no less affecting for its being–-so far as we know–-entirely fictional.
It’s March 5, 1836–the last night of life for the Alamo garrison. The night before the 2,000 men of the Mexican Army hurl themselves at the former mission and slaughter its 200 “Texian” defenders.
The fort’s commander, William Barret Travis, has drawn his “line in the sand” and invited the garrison to choose: To surrender, to try to escape, or to stay and fight to the death.
And the garrison–except for one man–chooses to stay and fight.
For the garrison, immortality lies only hours away. Or does it?
An hour after deciding to stand and die in the Alamo, wrapped in the gloom of night, Crockett is seized with paralyzing fear.
“We’re going to die here,” he chokes out to his longtime friend, Persius Tarr. “You understand that, Persius? We’re going to die!”
“I know, Davy. But there ain’t no news in that,” says Tarr. “We’re born to die. Every one of us. Only difference between us and most everybody else is we know when and where it’s going to be.”
“But I can’t be afraid–not me. I’m Crockett. I’m Canebrake Davy. I’m half-horse, half-alligator.”
“I know you are, Davy,” says Tarr. “So do all these men here. That’s why you’re going to get past this.
“You’re going to put that fear behind you and walk back out there and fight like the man you are. The fear’s come and now it’s gone. This is our time, Davy.”
“The glory-time,” says Crockett.
“That’s right, David. The glory-time.”
And then Tarr delivers a sentiment wholly alien to money-obsessed men like Mitt Romney and Donald Trump–who comprise the richest and most privileged 1% of today’s Americans.
“There’s men out there with their eyes on you. You’re the only thing keeping the fear away from them. You’re joking and grinning and fiddling-–it gives them courage they wouldn’t have had without you.
“Maybe that’s why you’re here, Davy–to make the little men and the scared men into big and brave men. You’ve always cared about the little men, Davy. Remember who you are.
“You’re Crockett of Tennessee, and your glory-time has come. Don’t you miss a bit of it.”
The next morning, the Mexicans assault the Alamo. Crockett embraces his glory-time-–and becomes a legend for all-time.
David Crockett (center) at the fall of the Alamo
David Crockett (1786-1836) lived–and died–a poor man. But this did not prevent him from trying to better the lives of his family and fellow citizens–and even his former enemies.
During the war of 1812, he served as a scout under Andrew Jackson. His foes were the Creek Indians, who had massacred 500 settlers at Fort Mims, Alabama–and threatened to do the same to Crockett’s family and neighbors in Tennessee.
As a Congressman from Tennessee, he championed the rights of poor whites. And he opposed then-President Jackson’s efforts to force the same defeated Indians to depart the lands guaranteed them by treaty.
To Crockett, a promise was sacred–whether given by a single man or the United States Government.
And his presence during the 13-day siege of the Alamo did cheer the spirits of the vastly outnumbered defenders. It’s a matter of historical record that he and a Scotsman named MacGregor often staged musical “duels” to see who could make the most noise.
It was MacGregor with his bagpipes against Crockett and his fiddle.
Contrast this devotion of Crockett to the rights of “the little men,” as Persius Tarr called them, with the attitude of Donald Trump, the front runner for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination.
On June 16, while announcing his candidacy, Trump said:
- “…I don’t need anybody’s money. It’s nice. I don’t need anybody’s money. I’m using my own money. I’m not using lobbyists, I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.”
- “I did a lot of great deals and I did them early and young, and now I’m building all over the world….”
- “So I have a total net worth, and now with the increase, it’ll be well-over $10 billion.”
- “But here, a total net worth of–net worth, not assets, not–a net worth, after all debt, after all expenses, the greatest assets–Trump Tower, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, Bank of America building in San Francisco, 40 Wall Street, sometimes referred to as the Trump building right opposite the New York–many other places all over the world. So the total is $8,737,540,000.”
Those who give their lives for others are rightly loved and remembered as heroes. Those who dedicate their lives solely to their wallets and egos are rightly soon forgotten.