Jan 272009

As I have been learning in a wine certification seminar, Madeira wine, called the “Wine of the Patriots,” played an important part in American colonial rebellion against the British.

For years during the American colonial period, Madeira wine was uniquely exempted from taxation because of the British Navigation laws, and became a symbol of American rebellion against the British. When John Hancock’s sloop, Liberty, was seized in Boston harbor, the stage was set for the Boston Tea Party. George Washington toasted the signing of the Declaration of Independence with Madeira, and it was used in the christening of the warship Constitution. It was also favored by the likes of Benjamin Franklin and John Adams.

When the ordinary American colonist walked into a pub and boldly ordered a Madeira rather than a British beverage, the symbolic rebellious gesture was nothing less than piquant.

Madeira is a fortified wine made on the Portuguese island of Madeira. It is a rich-tasting mélange of the flavors of roasted fruit, burnt oranges, espresso coffee and sugar-coated nuts, as described in the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wine Basics by Tara Q. Thomas. (I can attest to that description, having tasted some delicious Madeiras recently.)

Sadly, there are only nine producers of Madeira left in the world, questioning its sustainability as an enduring legacy in wine making. But it’s obsolescence as a symbol also raises the question of what could be our contemporary symbol of rebellion in our fight against the anti-egoism state of our culture. America is morphing every day into ever-greater states of dependency, paternalism, socialism, irrationalism and even nihilism. As Objectivists, we want to create a new American Renaissance through the power of ideas.

The symbol of rebellion that I display in public is the mysterious and foreboding question, “Who Is John Galt?” I display that bumper sticker on my car and wear tee-shirts with that quote. One day, when someone at the gym read my tee-shirt, he looked me straight in the eye and gave me a knowing thumbs up. I felt a camaraderie with that stranger. I wonder if in some small way what I felt was the same kind of pride a colonist felt when he ordered Madeira in a bar full of British soldiers.

I challenge other readers to suggest a new “Madeira” for today. I look forward to your suggestions! Cheers to all!

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