watching TV with Thomas Jefferson

February 21, 2018

I run this thought experiment every now and then:  what would it be like to watch TV with Thomas Jefferson? First off it’s a fun image. But it’s also a way to think on what the Founding Fathers might have thought about what the future looks like, especially the future of the U.S., when some of them weren’t sure their new country would even outlast them.

This week, because I’m very studiously avoiding politics, I’ve been watching the Olympics with Thomas Jefferson.

I think he’d be delighted with the entire concept of the Olympics — athletes around the world competing in the name of achievement and sportsmanship. (Yes, I know all the arguments about the Olympics being corrupt and a huge money sink. Let’s talk ideals here.)  For an Enlightenment-era thinker, a peaceful international sporting competition inspired by the ancient Greek games is pretty much the pinnacle of human accomplishment. He’d love it.

I think he’d be nonplussed at the sheer number of countries. Dozens and dozens of them. So many countries.

I think he’d also be nonplussed by the image of women competing in skintight outfits.  But I think he’d slowly come around when it’s explained to him how hard women had to fight to be able to compete at any sports at all. And I’d remind him that Abigail Adams would love it and be so proud of them.

Winter sports, however, would be kind of baffling in general. How many different ways can we find to go very fast on ice? Lots. Lots of ways.

And I think he’d be absolutely fascinated by electronic timekeeping. The ability to measure and compare speeds out to a hundredth of a second, instantaneously. He was a scientist on top of everything else he did, and in some ways that’s the most astonishing part of modern sports.


3 Responses to “watching TV with Thomas Jefferson”

  1. David Hack Says:

    I would most defiantly avoid watching anything news or political with Thomas. I think I’d die of embarrassment.
    First thing that comes to mind for me would be to watch a good documentary on Apollo, or HBOs “From the Earth to the Moon”.
    Query: Have you watched any of “Drunk History”?

  2. Toni W. Says:

    Just after the debates with the final presidential candidates in 2016, I heard a very interesting broadcast on PBS Radio, where the announcer was interviewing Thomas Jefferson after he watched the debates. It was really fascinating on his take, especially having a woman participating. It had some wonderful insight as to how our founding fathers envisioned our election process. And the role of women in society in general, and in politics specifically. Quite enjoyable and educational. I still hear his take that really, the President role was not that significant. Why were we spending so much time on an insignificant position? That the true power rested with our Senators and Representatives.

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