James Giago Davies. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today

James Giago Davies: Sometimes it pays off to be mediocre instead of perfect

Sometimes the mediocre is superior to the perfect

A scraggly beard proves better than a stylish mustache
By James Giago Davies
Native Sun News Today Columnist

George McClellan, a failed Civil War general, finished at the top of his class at West Point. Ulysses S. Grant, the most successful Civil War general, finished at the bottom of his West Point class.

That is what I have read. Neither is true. McClellan finished second because of “poor drawing skills.” Grant finished 21st in a class of 39. Hardly stellar, but not dead last.

Still, the poetic symbolism of that reality tempted people to stretch the truth. That stretch does not invalidate the poetry or the symbolism.

In each of the failures and successes of these men we see a telltale microcosm about everything we get wrong about propriety and professionalism.

McClellan was the scion of a wealthy Pennsylvania family. His mother was a woman of “considerable grace and refinement,” and you can picture her telling young George how special and intelligent he was, and that one day he would be a great man.

McClellan was smart as a whip, and he was a handsome devil, and when he came back from Europe in 1855, he did invent the McClellan saddle, which was used by the military clear up to WWII. He had a brilliant mind for methodical organization, for planning grand, decisive strategy. He could draw up such wonderfully elegant, comprehensively perfect plans—what chance did sloppy old knuckleheads like us stand against such preparation?

Reality provided McClellan with a stage, the Civil War, and with an Army he lovingly crafted from scratch into the most formidable fighting force the continent had ever known, the Army of the Potomac. And then there was this president, Abe Lincoln, who put him in charge of the whole shebang. What a golden opportunity to prove his sainted mother prophetic.

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James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He can be reached at skindiesel@msn.com

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