Photo by Jennifer Lim-Tamkican Unsplash
During my research for the historical fantasy book XNOR, I came across several colourful eighteen-century characters and unusual events. One item that certainly made me go hmmm, was George Washington’s three-seated outhouse. Today’s trend is to vilify leaders from the past for actions or words they made in a setting completely different than ours. It might help if people predisposed to such ranker could stop and imagine living the life of their target or, ‘walking a mile in their shoes’ as the saying goes, before spewing their indignation.
Washington’s outhouse tweaked my imagination. It seemed there might be some cosmic joke hidden in its history. In my reverie, Washington sat in his outhouse and later in the White House. A cosmic play on words? I imagined him holding a cabinet meeting in his three-seat privy, Jefferson on one side and Adams on the other. Adams especially, was known to often create a stink and engaged Jefferson repeatedly in noisy debate. Gaseous emissions from both ends.
Three powerful men doing their morning constitutional while a Constitution with three seats of power was forming. Adams raising a stink with Jefferson and Washington between them trying desperately to ‘clear the air’. Three extraordinary men engaged in ordinary biological relief.
It helps to realize some of our great leaders from the past had to sit in a stinky outhouse while they contemplated the finer points of decisions before them. How might the use of a corn cob or a bunch of leaves after completion impact the choices they made later in the day? Tender behinds are not just a modern phenomena. A rough encounter with ‘nature’ would surely lead to a more irascible encounter with fellow leaders after much needed relief had been achieved.
As we watch statues being torn down, universities and streets being renamed and flawed leaders from the past pilloried for their ‘sins’, might it not make sense to also raise the idea they spent a portion of each day in a stinky outhouse?