Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The American Revolution Wasn't

A number of House lawmakers and misguided ordinary American citizens argue that their "Tea Party" represents a contemporary effort to re-awaken the spirit of the so-called American Revolution. It is, but not the way they think.

As during the American Revolution, ordinary people are being led by their noses to stage a false revolt for the benefit of the very few and the continued and even increased burdens of the many — especially the majority of the well-intended folks who have fallen for the public relations snow job.

Back then, the few were a handful of slave owners such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, bankers such as Alexander Hamilton and wealthy businessmen such as Benjamin Franklin. Today, most people don't even know the names of the wealthiest people, save for celebrities such as monopolist marketer Bill Gates, but there is a 1 percent getting richer as the rest of the country gets poorer and there are giant corporations that pay nothing in taxes.

Back then, the revolution did not change anything in American society. Slavery remained intact, as did indentured servitude for whites. In 1794, ordinary farmer took up arms to protest taxes being levied on their backs to pay off Hamilton and his friends who held the government hostage to loans they had made during the war of independence.

But here comes the lesson of this post: Hamilton had them put down harshly and there was never another rebellion like it ever again. Scour the history of the United States of America and you will not find any widespread challenge of the social order.

Americans have never revolted and they are way too busy watching television to be bothered to be awakened by anything any Tea, Coffee, or Pretty Please Sugar Party may bring about.

Americans went through more than twice today's level of unemployment during the Great Depression without a whimper. Wages have been dropping — and I do mean actually dropping — since 1973 without the slightest public awareness.

Indeed, Americans have repeatedly elected those who are most obviously at the service of those few who profit off their progressively more poorly paid work — Reagan, the two Bushes (admittedly these two came from among the rich few).

And, I hate to say this, those of us who voted for Barack Obama were misled to believe that his campaign could be banked by Wall Street without selling out the candidates' principles. Obama serves the rich and the few, let's not fool ourselves.

Let us remember today — the 150th anniversary of the first shots fired in the Civil War — that Americans were led like lambs to the slaughter to defend slaveholders against industrialists. Did anything change for the common man after the Civil War?

Even emancipation was quicky turned into a merely symbolic legal fiction as the descendants of slaves were blocked from every path to enjoying "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Almost 50 years from the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., prisons and jails are filled to the brim with the flower of African American youth.

What was King doing the day he was murdered? He was linking the struggle for civil rights to the struggle for economic democracy, supporting sanitation workers on strike.

The wealthy elite didn't care who sat at the Woolworth lunch counters they would never visit — except maybe to slum around in as college students. They cared about and feared the activism of civil rights spreading to the bread and butter issues. That's why King was killed.

The American Revolution was not revolutionary in that it didn't change anything but the names of the masters. Americans have never revolted in any significant way against their masters and I don't see any evidence they ever will.

Indeed, last week the rank and file supporters of the Tea Party begged their leaders to demolish anything that might one day save them from poverty. That day that is not too distant for most of us, as economic inequality widens in America.
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