The HBO miniseries "John Adams" is really excellent! I've been watching it via Netflix, and have been loving every moment (well, except maybe the gory leg-amputation scene and the tar-and-feather scene, although I appreciate that the show is honest about what life was like in war-torn 18th-century America). Last night I watched part 3, which shows Adams being sent to France as a diplomat. After a horrific ocean crossing, Adams arrives at Benjamin Franklin's residence and discovers that he isn't necessarily needed or wanted there. Having grown up on a modest Massachusetts farm, he is shocked by the French people in their thick makeup, fancy clothes, and promiscuous lifestyles. But he presses forward in his mission towards a naval treaty with France, and doesn't let the lotus-fruit of France cloud his resolve.
The series does a really wonderful job of depicting the most human emotions of each character: the loneliness of Abigail Adams while her husband is gone for years in a foreign land, the fear and bravery of John Adams as he faces the unknown in Europe, the admiration that Benjamin Franklin has for Adams though they are nothing alike, the courage of John Quincy Adams as he is sent to Russia at age 14 to "begin his duty to his nation" as the ambassador's secretary.
Of course, watching this series reminds me of the enormous sacrifice that leaders such as John Adams made for our nation. Because of him, the new nation was able to establish credit in the Netherlands and borrow money to build the country up, for example. He had to endure long periods of separation from his family, chart his way through the webs of foreign nations where he didn't understand the languages, and be a good representative of America to all people that he came in contact with. He did these things in a time when a fever could be deadly, and mail took months to cross the ocean. And I think trying to sign up for cable is frustrating!
Perhaps my favorite scene in this episode was when Adams met with King George of England, a horrific figure to most Americans of the time. Paul Giamatti's acting is incredible here, as every emotion is visible on his face: nervousness, fear, humility and pride simultaneously. He boldly yet quietly addresses the monarch and is visibly touched when the king calls him an honest man. You would think it the greatest compliment he had ever received. But it was only the truth.