Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Betsy Ross - The Map is Not the Territory


General Semantics involves thinking about thinking—a self-awareness and realization that most of the time we mis-take the map—our words, for the territory—the thing itself. It’s about moments of conscious awareness during which I am aware that my words and language involve selective perception—taking things out of context, isolating them and acting as if, if I could just do this one thing, everything would be OK.  General Semantics helps me take responsibility for this kind of abstracting and enables me, and you, to see the interdependence, interrelatedness and complexity that is really there. It enables us to take responsibility for our over simplifying stinkin’ thinkin’ and change it.



Here is an example General Semantics debunking a cherished American myth written by Martin H. Levinson: The Map: Betsy Ross Sewed the First American Flag. A review of the territory: The legend of Betsy Ross as the first embroiderer of the American flag was originally brought to light in 1870, when one of her grandson, William J. Canby, reported a story his grandmother had told him. According to Canby, George Washington and several others visited Betsy’s upholstery shop in Philadelphia and showed her a crude drawing of the flag, which she then produced. After Canby’s death, a book called The Evolution of the American Flag, published in 1909, presented the claims for Betsy Ross made by Canby in 1870.


While Betsy Ross did make some flags in the late eighteenth century, it is known that she made ‘ship’s colors’ for which she was paid, no one has been able to verify that the Canby story is true. Furthermore, some evidence exist that a Philadelphia poet named Francis Hopkinson designed the Stars and Stripes in 1780. However, Betsy Ross is still thought of by most as the sewer of the first American flag, and her house in Philadelphia has become a historical site. There is even doubt among historians that she even lived in that house.




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