The American Revolution was started by about one third of the population of the thirteen colonies. This one third encompassed the landed wealthy, the educated, the middle class, the yeoman farmers, and the illiterate. Basically every strata of society in terms of money, education, prestige, personal or political power. But it was ONLY one third of the population. And the reasons theses thirteen colonies eventually revolted against England were what exactly? Come on class, I know you know. Yes, the young lady in the back. Correct. They rebelled because they were sick and damn tired of not being represented by their government, weary of abuses by that government, and convinced upon logical, moral, philosophical, legal, and spiritual reasons that their government no longer cared about the well being of it’s subjects. After the war was over, the Loyalists were allowed to keep their homes, farms, businesses, and lives. The loyalists went on to become citizens in a new country; free to engage in commerce, free to hold public office, worship how they wished, and be an integral part of their local and state communities.
The French Revolution was another animal altogether. The French rebelled not just against their king, but their entire wealthy class. The revolutionaries at this point were the poor and the scant middle classes. They were essentially used as pawns by figureheads. Figureheads who, after the revolution, engaged in bloody purges, expropriation of property, and let us not forget the systematic redistribution of wealth and lands. The idea of Liberté, égalité, fraternité, took a while to really catch up when pitted against the public spectacle of watching your particularly boorish former landlord get his head whacked off.
And then there was the American Civil War. To say that the Civil War was fought to end slavery in the southern states is to say that pushing the gas pedal makes the car go. The complex myriad issues of that time cannot be recounted by anything less than a thorough study of American history and law since the founding of freaking Jamestown up through the actual night Fort Sumter was taken by the Confederates. Over a deuce and a half centuries of uniquely American jurisprudence, legislation, taxation, bank failures, bitter fights in the new Congress, personal injustices and rivalries, philosophical antipodes of thought, and what exactly our own law (as embodied by our Constitution and Bill of Rights) stood for and exactly how much power our federal government had over local and sovereign rule of the individual states came to a head. The argument over states’ rights verses federal power grabbing was lost in the emotional impact of the Emancipation Proclamation. During that little revolution, innocent and apolitical people in the South were murdered and had their homes burned to the ground during Sherman’s march to the sea. Outnumbered, outgunned, under financed, and with the moral low ground, the Confederacy still managed to stave off Federal oppression for the four bloodiest years in American history. After losing their revolution, the Confederacy was subjected to punitive taxation, forced labor, direct violation of the Third Amendment for the only time in US history, it’s citizens were locked out of political power for over a generation, its wealth divided by fiat, and property rights trampled. Aside from the question of the injustice of one person being able to own another person, every single OTHER aspect of the Union’s prosecution of the Civil War was illegal, immoral, and contrary to the very things this country was founded upon. On the other hand, our country was still young enough that if it had been torn asunder, foreign powers would have looked at the pieces as just something else to fold into their own empires, which could have just led to the cycle repeating itself as in paragraph one.
So what’s my point?
When I started writing this, I was thinking about how each time a vast revolution has occurred in the last couple centuries, the warfare has been bloodier and the victors more harshly treated the losers. (I obviously left out most of the turmoil the world has witnessed as petty dictators and avowed socialists/fascists fomented revolution for their own ends. I left out the changes that happened as progressions of a political nature as well. I was thinking more about a popular, democratic type of revolution rather than say, a communist one.) As I got to the part about the US Civil War, however, I realized that no fight is more bitter than a fight between brothers. No one fights more fiercely than the man who knows, in his heart, that his enemy should be his friend and their goals should be toward the common good, not the good of one over the other. No man, who has to face his brother, or his neighbor, or his friend, across a line of battle, is more aware of that voice in his head that says, “how could he be so wrong about this?”
So folks, pick your flavor. Choose your fate. Decide NOW if we need to keep heading towards civil unrest, disobedience, and outright rebellion. Then decide what it will look like, based on history, and extrapolate out from there. Decide if what you believe is true and right and good will keep being true and right and good if you have to go a-soldier for it. I think I know my answer. I hope I know what the people who hold public trust would answer. I only fear that both they (and far too many of us) haven’t even thought about the question yet.
cross posted at LibertyGirl.org