A Tale of Assassination and Blood Sports - The Story of the Teddy Bear

Story Posted by Jonty Stern on 11 May 2020 17:38.

As some of you may know I live with a collection of teddy bears.

Luckily I don't have to worry about social distancing with them as COVID-19 probably only lasts on fabric for a few hours, besides which the only way my bears could have caught it is if I already had it myself.

When I look at those wonderful, comforting, innocent creatures it's strange to think how violent their beginnings were.

Where does a story begin? And where does it end? That is up to each story-teller.

This story-teller is choosing to begin the tale in the September of 1901 with a man so aggressive that even his fellow anarchists shunned him. That man was called Leon Czołgosz and he had murder in his heart. He saw William McKinley, President of the United States, giving a speech and decided to become the third man in American history to assassinate a sitting President.
It was the death of President McKinley in 1901 that meant that his Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt, was President in 1902 when the following incident occurred.

Roosevelt, keen to be remembered by history as a conservationist, was out indulging his favourite passion - hunting and killing wild animals. On this occasion they were looking to kill bears. The President was disappointed that he hadn't found one so a former slave and ex-Confederate scout called Holt Collier found a bear, tied him up and showed him to the President, who refused to shoot him as he was tied up - that'd be unsportsmanlike, he felt.

After the President had left, Holt and another man stabbed the poor creature to death but history is the things we choose to remember and that part of the tale isn't one of them. What we remember is that the benevolent Theodore Roosevelt, or Teddy as he was often known, had spared the bear. What a kind man!

Shops went wild creating little stuffed versions of what they thought Teddy's Bear might have looked like. Children swarmed into the shops, dragging their parents with them…the teddy bear had come among us!

Maybe we're all a bit like the teddy bear. Decent, innocent creatures who wouldn't exist were it not for the horrors of the past. I'm thinking of my Huguenot ancestors who were so persecuted that they kept leaving France and of my Jewish ancestors who were so persecuted that they kept running from everywhere until they reached the safety of these shores and of my English ancestor George Marten who was a slave-owner and of his brother, Henry Marten, who was a signatory of the death warrant of King Charles I and I'm thinking about my German fourth cousin four times removed - Count von Zeppelin.

Where would we be without all our horrific history? I love history but the more I look at it the more I'm convinced that, on balance, whatever we may think of 2020 with its cancelled St. Patrick's Day and its self-isolation and its lack of a proper Easter or Passover and its fines for chatting to two or more people in public it's so much better then where we or our cuddly ursine friends have come from.

Just my jumbled thoughts for the day :)

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