Friday, 5 April 2013

Defection, politics, turncoats and Benedict Arnold

Benedict Arnold is one of the most maligned figures in History.

Having been a very able commander within the American Colonial army, performing heroically during the campaign in Canada and then again in combatting General John Burgoyne at the battle of Saratoga you would have thought him a celebrated hero.

However he will always be linked to the act of treason at Westpoint and the death of Major John Andre in 1780.

Vexed with the way that the Colonial cause was being conducted, a growing fear and concern with how the country was to run after England had been repulsed. As the war went on he felt he had been maligned and forgotten by the Commander in chief, so Arnold began to look to the British cause and it all became clear.

British victory was in everyone's best interest. By surrendering Westpoint to General Clinton or providing them with the means to take it easily meant the British could gain the upper hand in the New York sector of the war.

Of course his cunning scheme went astray and following the capture of Major Andre, the British officer who'd been Arnold's go between, he was forced to flee to the British fleet and was eventually carried back to London, never to set foot in the US again.

He was viewed with disdain by the Americans and British who saw him as a turn coat who had offered his services for money and rank. Traitor, turncoat and dishonoured.

In there lies a lesson for defectors.

Every cause can faulter, everyone loses faith at one time or another, it is only natural.

Then again some causes are just plain lost and nothing you do or any amount of hard work you put in will come to fruition. It is then that you need to ask yourself some searching questions about the course you are set on.

Take for example, a hypothetical defection from the Libdems to Labour and dear reader, please don't read too much into this.

Nationally you could never agree with Ed, you still believe in liberal ideals and the hard work that Nick have put in (well most of it!) BUT locally they are the only opposition to a Conservative council that you think is mismanaging things.

Can you do what you said you would never do?

Of course it depends on your motivations. If election and power are your sole aim then, like Arnold, you will be seen for who you really are and treated accordingly.

If, at your heart, you do it to represent your community, to fight the perceived injustices, then surely that is a good thing?

Of course as long as you can swallow your principles for the local good, is it not just abandoning a sinking ship to try and achieve the same goals under a different banner?

Or is it better to stand on the deck as the water creeps up your ankle?

It is a decision that no one should take lightly, a decision that should be thought through thoroughly and not rushed. After all the second example should be respected more than the first though like Arnold, once you've left you can never go back and some bridges can never be unburnt, for you will always be a turncoat.

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