In the course of human events, few men are remembered for their deeds, good or ill, but some men are reduced to single actions so heinous, so hard, so evil, they become a stain on humanity. Men like Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Pol Pot, and other mass murderers deserve such scorn.
Yet we also remember men like Benedict Arnold, that traitorous scoundrel who became entangled with the affairs of spies and lost his country, despite having once served as a patriot for the Revolutionary Cause.
Arnold’s crime was one born in anger and resentment. After feeling slighted and underappreciated by the Continental Congress, he offered West Point to the British for money. His plot was foiled, causing his defection to the Red Coats. With his family, he eventually left American soil on December 8, 1781, and sailed straight into the collective consciousness as a Yankee Doodle Judas.
While none of us wish to die in anonymity, I ask who would want Arnold’s fate of being remembered solely for his worst decision? His contributions to the American cause have been virtually wiped from historical memory as if there were no reason to have ever admired one of George Washington’s most beloved generals. In death, his torment continues through perpetuity. His reputation remains a hollow shell of his true self as the worms gnaw on his rotting bones. His name has become little more than an idiom for treason.
Oh, the horror of this fate! The lashes of infamy!
As for me, I’d prefer to lie forgotten in a quiet meadow, my soul in tact, my name chiseled whole above me on a modest piece of marble, a marker that exists only a while before fading away with dignity.