Cultural ideals are the ideals that a cultural group strives to attain, and cultural realities are the cultural realities that the group practice.

Members of a cultural group tend to view individuals who have largely, if not completely, adhered to a cultural group’s cultural ideal as heroes who are worthy of emulation by individuals who make up a cultural group.

John Brown is still a relevant internationally known historic figure, not because he was morally perfect, for he was far from morally perfect, for he embodies the cultural ideal that on some level, every individual in every culture around the world ascribes to, which is taking action to confront and reform what that individual’s culture considers to be a grievous violation of their cultural ideals.

Even John Brown’s detractors admitted, and still admit, that he had the courage of his convictions to stand up for his abolitionist beliefs, which is why John Brown is still relevant in not only American but international cultures.

New articles, documentaries, or books are constantly being written or produced about John Brown, worldwide on an annual basis because of Brown’s stature as a cultural example of a person who chooses to go beyond talking about solving a cultural problem and has the courage and conviction to take action to eliminate or solve the problem in American and international cultural groups.

John Brown, in reality, is a philosophical archetype that prompts multiple philosophical and cultural questions that are getting to the core cultural ideals of every individual, regardless of which cultural group that they belong to, and thus translates well to every cultural group in the world.

John Brown, as a philosophical archetype, prompts individuals to examine their set of cultural ideals and realities, which is part of the reason that John Brown provokes debate and discussion at the mere mention of his name. He sparks discussion and debate amongst individuals, whether they be interested in history or not.

Brown’s abolitionist crusade creates moral questions such as “at what point is it moral for an individual or cultural group to employ violence to eradicate a perceived moral evil?” or “Is it moral for the members of a subculture to actively oppose and seek to change cultural ideal and reality considered culturally acceptable by most members of a dominant culture?” and a host of other philosophical questions that John Brown’s abolitionist crusade creates.

John Brown’s status as a philosophical archetype is the primary reason that he still matters today, 161 years after he was executed in Charlestown, Virginia (now West Virginia), on December 2, 1859. His willingness to risk and give his life for the freedom of enslaved African-Americans prompts an examination of each individuals set of cultural ideals and what cultural realities that they are willing to tolerate or oppose.

And if they choose to oppose a cultural ideal or reality, what actions they are willing to take to effect change in the cultural ideals and realities, which is why John Brown still matters in today’s culture.

Grady Atwater is site administrator of the John Brown Museum and State Historic Site.

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