Archive | November, 2011

OCCUPY: It’s Time to Take This Country Back…

Posted on 29 November 2011 by John Rippo

from the politicians, fearmongers, warmongers, hustlers, thieves, swindlers and the rest of the monsters who pillaged this nation, stole its wealth, impoverished, threatened and disrespected its people and blighted their futures. It is time to open our eyes and regard the fraud we’ve put up with for so long with the deep revulsion it deserves. For over a decade, we the people have been victimized by rapacious banks and the legal system their dirty money bought; and by venal, craven scum in the highest offices of the nation who sent our friends and families to fight foreign wars for their perpetual enrichment and our everlasting disenfranchisement, degradation and poverty. We are now told that freedom comes second to security; that war is a perpetual state of the American consciousness and to meekly accept the unconstitutional, aggressive and demeaning shows of naked power exhibited more and more by all levels of government against us.

Those in power here thought that the shrill shills of their hired media would be enough to scatter the Americans like so much chaff; inflicting pointless artificial and irrational divides among a people that have far more in common than what divides them. They thought that after a few years of endless propaganda our brains would sop up the drivel that passed for their “analysis” and that their views would become our own. Americans were intended to become mere consumers instead of citizens—pockets to be picked; commodities instead of individuals engaged in meaningful lives of their own making. We were expected to go shopping in response to terror attacks and buy duct tape and plastic and cower from unseen weapons that foriegn enemies intended for us. We were expected to be mere sheep; afraid, confused, trusting and weak.

We aren’t weak. Americans have never been weak. And there are enough of us in this land to counteract the fearful ones and stand up against the powerbrokers and thieves who mistakenly think the world is their private plaything. After a decade of insult, the Americans are finding a voice again, albeit halting and unsure. This voice is enunciated by Occupy.
This movement, first described and urged on by Adbusters Magazine grew from the agitated, frustrated and until now, powerless to make their grievances known. Those grievances are many and it has taken time for a cohesive voice to make itself heard from their efforts. Some say they are fools without a message, but people better read in history recall that the French who took the Bastille in 1789 didn’t have much to say, either—at first. The message came later as it does in all revolutions. Occupy seems to be in sync with similar efforts around the world made up of people who are tired of losing what they believed was theirs by custom and right.

Rights seem to have gone by the wayside, especially since nine-eleven. The Patriot Act, TSA, Obama’s outrageous claims to have a license to kill Americans without trial or even charges filed as was demonstrated in the Awlaki case—these and many other outrages were inflicted on a people who historically fought to uphold civil liberty for themselves and advance human rights around the world. Now, Americans are made to walk regressive steps away from their own heritage. The better ones show themselves unwilling to go backward on command.
Americans still haven’t won the rights Franklin Roosevelt intended to enact as part of the victory of World War II. Known as the Four Freedoms—Freedom of Speech and Expression, Freedom of Worship, Freedom From Want and Freedom From Fear, these have been eroded from our national life with all deliberate speed by government on behalf of the economic powers government serves. Even worse, the other worthy goals sought by Roosevelt at war’s end have been tragically suppressed. Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights never saw the light of day and now more than ever they are needed not only at home but around the world to combat the corporative, fascist states like the ones we defeated in 1945.
Defenders of corporatism like to throw the term “class warfare” against anyone who dares to fight back. It’s an old lowbrow gimmick that corporate media never fails to repeat along with “anti-American”. The beauty of the Occupy movement is that far from being a meaningless outburst (as Fox News described it) it is asymmetric—a protest in all directions; 360 degrees of 3-D angst against the way US society has been rigged against us. They are protesting everything. This very asymmetry makes it difficult for the corporate reactionaries—the real class warriors—to know how to react beyond the usual excessive shows of force. So far, excessive force has only made the movement grow in response to violence, yet the cops and politicians—like all stupid bullies—seem slow to learn this. The protests have so far been non-violent and the videos and pictures of taxpayer-paid anger management cases acting out their perverse impulses against the unarmed and non-combatant will only make them more hated—just as it does in all repressive countries where government relies on force and terror to have its way.

ailure of communication where Occupy is concerned is now happening in 100 American cities. Considering that the economy is getting worse by the day and that the only ones protesting about it are Occupy, it seems reasonable that more and more people will support them over time. “Tax the rich” and “End the wars” may not be as romantic as “ Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” but it’s enough for more and more people.

Occupy protests are a moral and legitimate way to express outrage and demand redress of grievances. They may accomplish some of what they say they want in two ways: One, by standing up to increased government violence against them, Occupy victims will gain sympathy and support the same way the civil rights marchers did fifty years ago. The more Wall Street and their whores in Congress and the White House engage in rage, the worse government will look—especially as the economic crisis deepens. The second way is through traditional organizing and countering the 360-degree corporate media blitz engineered by paid class warriors.

For instance, Occupy operatives could get government sponsored ID’s for poor and minority voters in the GOP-controlled states that have already begun fixing the 2012 elections by enacting repressive voting laws intended to keep Democratically inclined people from voting. If Republicans truly believe, as they say they do, that the quickest way to suppress something is to tax or regulate it, why have they chosen to tax, regulate and suppress voting by the poor or Democratically inclined?

Government and society always feature competition between public and private interests. Republicans claim that private interests have created much of the wealth that Americans have enjoyed, but the job of government is not to cater to private interests. Government is there to protect public interests. To the extent government—federal, state and local— is the unindicted co-conpirator and criminal accomplice for business interests, it’s corrupt. For a generation, the Republican party has waged class warfare against the public interest and the Democratic party has stood idly by and watched it happen—and begged for crumbs. Even when the American people elected a president on whom rested their successful hopes for a milestone achievement in race relations in these United States and the undoing of the Bush nightmare, Barack Obama and his party have shown themselves to be merely part of a rapidly expanding series of problems—and void of solutions.

It’s not just the class war waged by the GOP but the cowardly collapse of the Democrats that set the stage for Occupy. Occupy are the American people—the 99 percent—who are tired of being ripped off, ignored, abused and cheated. A WWII Japanese admiral once referred to our grandparents’ America as “a sleeping giant”. That giant is awakening again to find the fight against fascism at home needing the same defeat it once got abroad.

It’s time to man up and lend our strength to that giant effort.

THE SECOND BILL OF RIGHTS:
1. The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

2. The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

3. The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

4. The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

5. The right of every family to a decent home;

6. The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

7. The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

8. The right to a good education.

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Riding the Revolution: Populism, once old, may be new again

Posted on 29 November 2011 by John Rippo

by James Call

THE INSURGENCY—A sudden army was camped in Cambridge in April of 1775. A large, unrecruited army. An amateur army. An army without a commander. Farmers and mechanics were getting ready to attack trained, battle tested British troops occupying Boston. Why were these men there, ready to lay down their lives on a such a hazardous mission? How did this army come together? As basic as these questions seem to the story of the American Revolution, the surprising answers are not part of the usual narrative. Calling this army “militia,” as is often done, glosses over a much more compelling story of its creation. The cause they were committed to fighting and dying for had very little to do with taxes.
The most familiar history of the Revolution includes a nearly straight line of leadership, starting with James Otis and Samuel Adams orchestrating the American response to the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, and the Townsend Acts; to John Hancock and John Adams and a growing band of revolutionaries organizing resistance and inventing a government to replace British rule; culminating with an American army under Washington in the field fighting for independence. In reality, that line of leadership is not so straight. The most singular event of the Revolution, indeed, the real beginning of the Revolution, months before Lexington, was a spontaneous, leaderless, uprising of Americans in outrage. The Founders didn’t so much drive the Revolution as ride it. This event accomplished its revolutionary goal in a single summer. The nine years of war following was not England fighting to hold on to its colonies. It was England fighting to win them back.

Trouble had been brewing for some time. The French and Indian War ending in 1763 had left England with a huge war debt. The war had been enormously expensive for the British. And it was a continuing expense. A much larger military presence was being maintained in the colonies after the war than before. There were those in Parliament who, fishing around for ideas to reduce the debt, decided that Americans, the war having been conducted for their security and benefit, should pay their fair share. Of course the primary reason for the war was that Great Britain was guarding its own colonial interests by protecting its western American frontier against French encroachment. Little attention was paid to the high cost of the war already born by Americans in money and blood. Local colonial assemblies had raised taxes for the war effort and many Americans had died fighting along side British soldiers. Nonetheless, Parliament passed the Sugar Act of 1764 and then a year later the Stamp Act of 1765. While the Sugar Act was a trade regulatory duty, the Stamp Act was a tax laid directly on British citizens in the colonies—the first time Parliament had ever done so.

The grumbling started immediately over the Sugar Act. However, it mostly affected Americans producing rum. Smuggling and bribes greatly reduced its impact. The hue and cry over the Stamp Act was much broader. The American leadership that was to prosecute the war for independence a decade later did begin to emerge during this period. However, much of the response to these hated laws was grass roots. It may have been left to leaders to articulate opposition in newspapers and pamphlets and letters to Parliament, but much action was taken in communities thru-out the colonies. Committees formed at the local level to discuss these laws and inform the populace. Some of these committees began to loosely style themselves The Sons of Liberty and take greater and more robust political action. As a result, a line in the sand was deeply etched — No Taxation Without Representation! Americans, as they were to prove over and over again, would not allow that line to be crossed.

They reasoned that if a member of Parliament from Yorkshire or Kent supports an unfair law or an unreasonable tax, the people of Yorkshire or Kent may vote him out. But if those same MPs legislate for Bostonians who have no way to inflict a consequence for an unreasonable law, then nothing restrains the legislator but his own sense of fair play. And a politician’s sense of fair play was trusted as little in 1765 as it is now. If a penny tax, why not sixpence? If a tax on documents, why not bread too? The British in England did not have to suffer laws enacted by legislators unbeholden to a local electorate. Did the colonists suddenly no longer have the same rights as people back home? Were Americans, who had suffered privation to tame a wild land for the benefit of Great Britain, no longer to be British citizens?
The Stamp Act required that all newspapers and pamphlets, all legal documents, and for good measure, all playing cards be affixed with the requisite stamp. It is curious that the British would choose for their first vehicle to directly tax Americans, an act that mostly targeted lawyers, newspaper men, and college students. One could hardly coalesce a disparate group more likely to foment opposition and take effective action. It is a special example of the arrogance and ignorance that characterized British policy at every stage of the conflict and which ended with the loss of their American colonies.

Opposition to the Stamp Act was swift and occurred at all levels of society. Various of the colonies individually passed in their assemblies resolves against the acts. Committees of Correspondence were established in the various colonies to keep each other up to date on opposition activities within each colony. With representatives from most of the colonies attending, a “Stamp Act Congress” was formed which also issued a statement against the Act. Thus the law united not only commoners and patricians, but also encouraged an unprecedented level of cooperation between colonies more normally prone to competition with each other. On the ground protests and riots occurred almost spontaneously. The Sons of Liberty took it as their special task to prevent the stamp agents from performing their function. They often did this violently, with beatings, tar and feathers, and house burnings. This level of response from common people not only shocked the British, but it also shocked and frightened American leaders.

In the event, it was not so much the letters sent by colonial leaders to king and Parliament that caused the repeal of the Stamp Act. It wasn’t even the protests both in the colonies and in England. More to the point was the fact that this troublesome law was not fulfilling its goal. The Sons of Liberty and other disorganized mobs had been so effective in intimidating the stamp agents that virtually no tax was being collected. The law had simply been made null and void by The People. Less than a year after its enactment the Stamp Act was repealed by Parliament in February 1766.
Americans were jubilant. They had won their point and preserved British liberty in America. They had made the British Government back down. Many members of Parliament however chafed at this upstart rebuke of their legislative power. Arrogantly insisting on their perceived prerogatives, they hatched their next plan to tax Americans.

When they repealed the Stamp Act, Parliament passed at the same time the Declaratory Act which in essence said that no precedence had been set by the repeal and that Parliament retained the right to legislate for the colonies “in all cases whatsoever.” The very next year with an abundance of hubris and shortsightedness they began to pass a series of laws collectively known as The Townshend Acts to raise revenue from the colonies, strengthen collection methods, and in general tighten control over the Americans. Each of the acts raised various objections. Each act progressively deepened resentment in the colonies. Troop levels were raised in New York and Boston increasing friction between citizen and soldier. This friction eventually erupted in violence in 1770 with the Boston Massacre which heightened anger on both sides.

Two incredible strains of thought seem to have characterize British thinking, at least in Parliament. One was that they thought they could fool Americans into paying a tax. The other was that greater repression was the best way to deal with growing American unrest — not noticing that harsher laws only provoked increased resistence. However much resentment was caused by all of the Townshend Acts, once again the biggest sticking point was taxation. It was felt in Parliament, erroneously, that while Americans objected to a direct tax, they would not object to an indirect tax. So import duties were placed on several essential items that by law Americans could only import from Great Britain. Not fooled, the American response was evasion, boycott, and protest. Not only was tax revenue once again not being raised, merchants and whigs in England were clamoring for repeal…again. Unchastened and angry at being backed into a corner…again, Parliament nonetheless repealed most of the Townshend Acts and lifted the import duties—all but one.
If it had been the plan to drive the colonies to separation from the mother country, it’s hard to imagine a plan more calculated to that end than the course of actions the British took starting in 1764. Yet, like a bull in a china shop, on they charged. As they tried to figure their way out of the Townshend mess a circumstance occurred that offered a way to kill two birds with one stone. The British East India Company, the largest corporation in England, had a problem. They had a glut of tea. They were having a hard time selling it against cheaper Dutch tea. But being the large company that they were, and as large companies often do, they had plenty of say-so over government policy. Many MPs were heavily invested in the Company. Indeed, many had themselves seen India service with the Company. So the plan was this: remove import duties on the tea by allowing the Company to deliver directly to the colonies without importation to England. That would make it cheaper and more competitive against Dutch tea. Then retain from the Townshend Acts the duty on tea going to America and send over a large shipment. Because of the reduced price the tea would still be cheaper with the tax than previous shipments had been without it. How could Americans object to that? The tea would even be cheaper than smuggled Dutch tea. The Company would sell a lot of tea, and a precedence for taxing Americans would be established. Win win. How clever!

Well, far less than clever as it turned out. The plan completely misunderstood the attitude in America. When a large shipment of tea arrived in Boston on 3 ships American leaders discussed schemes to prevent tea brokers, some of whom were loyalists, from purchasing the tea and paying the duty. The general plan was to try to get the shipment sent back to England. However, The Sons of Liberty effectively made the negotiations moot. They rowed out and boarded the ships, smashed the crates and dumped the tea into the harbor. It was a lot of tea. 300 tons. It changed the color of the bay. Tea washed up along the shoreline for several miles. It was the most expensive act of collective lawlessness the Americans had yet committed. When news of the action reached England, British East India Company executives were livid. The loss of the tea hurt. It put a serious crimp in the Company’s bottom line. Boston must pay! It was not difficult for the Company to lobby Parliament to pass a series of punitive measures aimed at Boston and the Massachusetts Bay Colony to punish them for the destruction of the tea and to make them pay for it.

It wasn’t just Company advocates in Parliament who rushed to support a law to make Boston pay for the tea. American sympathizers in England and even many patriot American leaders thought The Sons of Liberty had gone too far. This lack of general support amongst sympathizers in England and the vehemence of the opposition led to a quick passage of the draconian set of laws called The Coercive Acts that Americans came to refer to as “The Intolerable Acts.” These laws went much farther than merely to make Boston pay for the tea. Two acts in particular riled Americans. The Boston Port Act closed the Port of Boston until the tea had been paid for and “order restored.” The Massachusetts Government Act dismantled local government in Massachusetts Bay Colony.

To back up these tough new measures a large force of troops was sent to Boston and a military man, General Thomas Gage, was appointed governor. When he arrived to take his post on May 31, 1774 Gage brought with him the Boston Port Act which took effect June 1st. The Massachusetts Government Act took effect a month later. It was a one, two punch. If many Americans had been angry and determined over taxation without representation, the escalation of feeling in reaction to the news of the Port Act was seismic. It aroused the countryside in outrage. Gage had arrived with 3000 soldiers to enforce the closing of Boston Harbor. In addition to idling Boston shipping, merchants were denied import trade, sailors, warehouse men, mechanics and everyone employed by any aspect of shipping suddenly had no work. A significant percentage of the population in this busy seaport town lost their jobs. Newspapers thru-out the colonies, not only Massachusetts, suddenly exploded with an angry righteousness that did not exist before. Wounded exclamations accused Parliament of “rapine and cruelty,” and of subjecting Americans to “slavery.” Vows to defend liberty with a “glorious death” if need be, suddenly shot thru the colonies with previously unheard vehemence.

It is the hugest irony that the very act that the British thought would bring the colonies to heel, instead infuriated Americans to such a degree that they suddenly became united against British rule in a way unthinkable just a couple of months before. Especially when Parliament dropped the other shoe—delivered the second punch—and dismantled Massachusetts colonial government. The divorce was complete. The Massachusetts Government Act essentially replaced all elective office in the colony with representatives appointed by the crown or the governor. The Colonial Assembly was disbanded and the activities of town counsels severely restricted. In their place was established the office of mandamus councillor. The holders of this appointive office were to rule local districts virtually by decree.

But that’s not the way it went down. Instead, Americans in Massachusetts, turning the tables, dismantled British rule. Completely. None of the mandamus councillors were permitted to be seated for long. They were very quickly run out of their jurisdictions. Tar and feathers once again employed, as were house burnings. Those councillors still in Boston stayed there. They would not have been safe anywhere else. Not only were mandamus councillors denied their mandate, existing judges and sheriffs were also sent packing. American officers in local militias resigned their commissions under British authority. The militias then began to act under their own authority. Locally collected tax monies were also kept from representatives of the government. Except in Boston where the army was, British rule in Massachusetts evaporated like a morning mist. Further, news of the occupation spread quickly thru-out the other colonies in outraged sympathy. Several months before Lexington and fully 2 years before the Declaration of Independence Great Britain lost control of her American colonies.

Examination of American rhetoric before and after the Coercive Acts makes clear that taxation was not the issue that so inflamed the countryside. It was what the British thought of as a “little show of force,” the occupation of Boston. Of course, it is a mistake that super powers frequently make—military might is the deciding factor in every contest. The reality is that in the face of a determined insurgency mere military might often doesn’t count for much in deciding the final outcome. Nonetheless, with unwarranted confidence, the government blundered on. This colossal hubris was not unanimous in Parliament. A prominent member, Edmund Burke, amongst others, argued eloquently against The Coercive Acts. To no avail.

The variety of the American response points to the leaderless spontaneity of the reaction. One newspaper in Massachusetts, The Essex Gazette, published in its pages the vow signed by 100 men “united in the firmest bonds” to oppose, “every civil officer now in commission in this province, and acting in conformity to the late act of Parliament.” It further stated, “If any of said officers shall accept a commission under the present plan of arbitrary government, or in any way or manner whatsoever, assist the governor or administration in the assault now making on our rights and liberties, we will consider them as having forfeited their commissions and yield them no obedience.” The effective date of this vow was July 1, 1774, the same effective date as The Massachusetts Government Act. The Essex Gazette also reported early in July, “The News-Papers from all Quarters, in every British American Colony, so far as we have yet received Intelligence, are chiefly filled with Accounts of Meetings and Resolutions of Towns and Counties, all to the same Purpose—complaining of Oppression, proposing a Congress, a Cessation of Intercourse with Great Britain, and a Contribution for the Relief of the Poor of Boston.” Letters and diaries, and other newspaper accounts from this time confirm the generality of this sentiment not only thru-out Massachusetts, but in all of the colonies. By September the beleaguered Governor Gage acknowledged in a letter to the home government that “Civil Government is near its end, the Courts of Justice expiring one after another.” No central authority had ordered the dismantling of the courts. This action was taken independently by community after community as they had done with the mandamus councillors.

The dismantling of government by loosely organized mobs made local leaders very nervous. The fear of anarchy and chaos was very real in their minds. As noted earlier in the Essex Gazette, among the individual resolves of the towns and counties were calls for the formation of a congress. By September The 1st Continental Congress had been formed and the members meeting in Philadelphia. Delegates were chosen by the colonial legislatures of 12 of the 13 colonies. Whether or not these legislatures had yet been disbanded, calling for this congress was an extralegal act. That this action was taken so quickly and so universally may indicate the nervousness of colonial leaders observing mob action.
While the 1st Continental Congress was meeting in Philadelphia a remarkable occurrence helped push developments. It has come down to us as the “Powder Alarm.” In response to the collapse of British authority in the colony outside Boston, Gage decided that gunpowder, shot, and armaments stored in various spots around the colony should be brought to Boston to be put more firmly under his control. The first such mission was mounted by 260 soldiers on September 1st to a magazine just outside nearby Charles Town. The powder and armaments were successfully removed to Boston. The troop movements however seemed to have sparked a rumor that Boston was being razed by bombardment and its citizens slaughtered. This was entirely untrue but that did not stop the response that followed.

As the rumor of the destruction of Boston spread from town to town, men in these communities instantly flew into action. Whether on their own or with the local militia, armed men from Massachusetts and Connecticut marched converging on Cambridge just outside Boston where they found out that the alarm had been false. Nonetheless, the response from both sides to this gathering was profound. Estimates of the numbers of men on the march ranged between 15,000 to as much as 100,000. Ezra Stiles, an educator soon to be president of Yale College, investigated the alarm and its causes and put the number around 30,000. In any case these numbers vastly outstripped British troop strength in Boston of under 4,000. Greatly alarmed Gage wrote immediately to England asking for reinforcements. “if you think ten thousand men sufficient, send twenty; if one million is thought enough, give two; you save both blood and treasure in the end,” a request which subjected Gage to much ridicule back home. (They sent him 400 marines.) Plans to gather munitions from other locations were cancelled. Another such expedition was not mounted until 7 months later — the fateful one to Concord in April of ’75. Delegates to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, first alarmed at the rumor, then relieved that it was false, were surprised that such a large, leaderless army had so spontaneously gathered in response to it. It presented them with options and responsibilities that they had not had when they originally had arrived in Philadelphia.

The Congress now had some teeth. That so many armed men would be in the field at a moment’s notice, however untrained, was something the British would have to consider in its responses to the extralegal Continental Congress. Congress could make its demands with much more authority. The other side, however, was that the demands of Congress had better have some bite, or a people who had already effectively dismantled British government thru-out the colonies would not recognize the Congress as truly representing their interests. Congress did indeed, however, step up to the plate.

Least significantly, Congress sent a letter to Parliament demanding a repeal of the Coercive Acts. More importantly they planned a boycott of British trade goods unless and until the repeal of the hated acts. But far more importantly, they authorized “The Association” to enforce the boycott. The Articles of Association described in detail what was to be on the non-importation list. More vague, tho, was a description of how the boycott was to be enforced. It was to be loosely based on the committees already in place; committees of correspondence, committees of safety, committees of observation. Congress described that a committee selected by those eligible to vote for the legislature be put in place in each community to watch for any persons who maybe breaking the boycott. The committee was to encourage transgressors to come into compliance by shaming them—publishing their names in the newspaper and by ostracizing them from “fellowship” within the community. Beyond that, what other forms enforcement would take would be left up to each community. It was left up to the Association in each locality to identify the ideologically impure and take corrective measures. A “rough justice” did take place. Members did terrorize perceived loyalists into flight or conversion —the ever present tar and feathers always at the ready. Some communities were rougher than others. What was plain however was who was in political control of the countryside. Overwhelmingly, it was the insurgents. Loyalists were forced to shut up or leave. With very few exceptions, the only safe places for Loyalists were Boston and New York. By legitimizing the committee activities already in place Congress demonstrated its solidarity with The People. And for their part The People were both empowered and to some degree restrained by the mandate provided to them by a central intercolonial authority. A nascent “United States” had been formed in September 1774. The Association represented insurgent law before the Articles of Confederation.

The Congress did one more very important thing. In Suffolk County, Pennsylvania a set of resolves were written up. This document provided “that no obedience is due from this Province to either or any part of the Acts above mentioned, but that they be rejected as the attempts of a wicked Administration to enslave America.” This sentiment, radical then as it would be now, that The People may decide whether or not to obey a law, is one repeated in the Declaration of Independence, and later again, opposing the authority of the US government, in the Kentucky Resolution (both written by Thomas Jefferson). Congress adopted The Suffolk Resolves seemingly as an answer to The Declaratory Act. To paraphrase, Parliament may propose, but The People dispose.

When the Congress adjourned on October 26 they agreed to reconvene in May 1775 if the Coercive Acts had not been repealed. Rule by committee and The Association continued thru this period. The militias and their leaders began to plan for engagement with the British Army. Strategies were discussed and training mounted but even this effort was pretty ad hoc. Nonetheless, on April 19, 1775 when 700 British troops marched out to seize munitions in Concord and arrest John Hancock and John Adams, the Americans now had advance intelligence and were already mobilized before they got there. Before the Powder Alarm the British had been able to accomplish their mission and get back to Boston without incident. The enormous American force that had come together afterwards had done so because of completely erroneous intelligence. Americans were now more coordinated and ready. Munitions in Concord had mostly been moved to safety, as had Hancock and Adams. Even tho the British drew first blood at Lexington, the march back to Boston was a hellish free fire gauntlet that resulted in many more casualties for the British than for the Americans. Nearly every able bodied patriot in the vicinity, whether under command or not, had descended upon the retreating British to join in the turkey shoot. And the Americans still had no central command.

Once again, as they had at the rumored destruction of Boston, a large American body of men rushed to Cambridge as news spread with amazing speed of bloodshed at Lexington. A new level of outrage inflamed the countryside, engaging fence-sitters and former moderates along with newly enraged patriots. Pouring into Cambridge were militias under their local commands, men not part of any militia, and wild, nearly ungovernable frontiersmen. In the meantime, the 2nd Continental Congress came together on May 10 as per their agreement the previous October. They immediately began to function as an American national executive and legislative body. They hadn’t planned and started the war. They inherited it. The populace was literally “up in arms.” Observing the daily growing number of insurgents near Boston with some alarm, the Congress chose Washington to lead them, calling him, somewhat euphemistically, Commander-in-Chief of the “Army.”

Before Washington could get there to take charge, this sprawling mob decided to mount an attack on Boston on their own. Under the loose leadership of a Connecticut militia general, Israel Putnam, and some other militia officers they accomplished a rather remarkable military feat against trained British troops. Stealthily, under cover of darkness, 1200 Americans dug in on Breed’s hill overlooking Boston. The British awoke to Americans looking down on them from fortified positions within firing range. Reacting to this untenable situation the British attacked. They charged up the hill twice and twice fell back against withering American musket and rifle fire, and huge losses. On the third charge they were able to drive the Americans, low on ammo now, off of Breed’s Hill and nearby Bunker Hill. The patriots took most of their casualties in the disorderly and inexpert retreat. The British “won” but it was a win that had General Gage reeling. They had lost nearly a thousand killed and wounded—nearly a third of the entire occupation army. Against farmers. He was stunned. As were officials in England. Discounting American determination, commitment, and resourcefulness, many blamed Gage with incompetence. He was soon replaced.

As Washington took control of the “army” and Congress took control of the war, the Revolution became incrementally less populist. But it was clearly The People that had taken them to that point. It was The People who had dismantled British authority. It was The People who had stood up to British military aggression and started the war. Many founders were shoulder to shoulder with The People. But many were more timid. Reconciliation was a theme that continued even after Lexington. The 2nd Continental Congress sent The Olive Branch petition for peace. It was ignored by the British. It probably would have been ignored by American patriots too. But some founders, like Patrick Henry, stood with The People from the beginning.

In March ’75, several weeks before Lexington, Virginia delegates were meeting to discuss their positions in anticipation of the Congress in May. A major topic was whether or not to declare for independence. Most were leaning against. That’s when Patrick Henry stood up and gave his famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech. He began softly, in a low voice, then gradually rising in pitch and emotion like a fire and brimstone preacher. Near his conclusion he said in exasperation, “Gentlemen may cry, ‘Peace, Peace’—but there is no peace. The war is actually begun!” [Remember, this is weeks before the first shots in Lexington.] “The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field!” [keeping the British bottled up in Boston] “Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet,” [raising his hands over his head, wrists together in mock bondage] “as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?” [raising his voice to a shout] “Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, [dramatically breaking apart his hands but leaving one aloft as if clasping a dagger] “GIVE ME LIBERTY” [then plunging the imaginary dagger down into his heart] “OR GIVE ME DEATH!”

The effect on the delegates in the room and on people outside listening at the windows was electric. The story goes that one old man standing outside cried, “When I die let me be buried on this spot!” The delegates were moved too. They took a vote to declare for independence at the coming Congress. It now passed. This speech so spoke for The People that it became a battle cry of the coming war. The People were not moved to lay down their lives by intellectual arguments over taxation. Americans were incensed over the unfairness of punishing an entire colony for the actions of a few people. They were outraged at the dismantling of representative government. The language and emotionality of Henry’s speech caught the mood of The People pitch perfect.

The fascinating details of this too little told tale, putting The People back at the forefront of their Revolution, may be seen in T. H. Breen’s excellent book, American Insurgents, American Patriots.

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Saying “I’m Sorry” to Iraqi War Victims Can Be Uplifting

Posted on 29 November 2011 by John Rippo

WMD founder Steve Garber with Desmond Tutu.

Steve Garber is, among other things, a San Diego plumber, poet and Zen practitioner who decided to make a difference in the futures of the US and Iraq. This is expressed in a movement to organize Americans willing to offer the Iraqi people—and all others involved in America’s longest war—a personal apology for the trauma, loss and devastation inflicted by American and coalition arms.
Garber was inspired by the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu while listening to an interview with the Archbishop conducted by Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman. Tutu, to say the least, has said much on reconciliation and the need to recognize the transformative power of forgiveness during and after his term as chairman of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Created by Nelson Mandela’s Government of National Unity in 1995 to help South Africans come to terms with the legacy of Apartheid, Tutu’s efforts recognized the need and realized the benefits of reconciliation as a way to reclaim dignity, humanity and personal integrity from the past for both victims and perpetrators of violence to help create a future for both less poisoned by history.
Garber’s response to Tutu’s message led him to create an “Apology Project”— a collection of short videos made by individuals expressing remorse for the invasion of Iraq intended to be made available to all those impacted by the war. This includes American and coalition soldiers as well as the Iraqi people.
Sometimes known as the “I’m Sorry” project, Garber says that his aim is to “encourage healing through dialogue between all those involved in the Iraqi conflict.” After a slow start, the number of videos sent to the project increased to a steady stream of short declarations from people everywhere; mostly the result of word of mouth dissemination. “This is Mike from Austin, Texas. I’d like to say I’m sorry to the American and coalition forces, the Iraqi people and each of their families for the loss and suffering they have experienced because of this conflict.” Another said, “Hi, I’m Ben from Bisbee, Arizona…I feel that war is a travesty and it pains me to think that so many have suffered so much resulting from the violence. I’m sincerely sorry.” Many others are in a similar vein—usually just a few seconds long—as people step up to assert themselves and individual sense of being involved in events not of their choosing. As Garber is quick to point out, the Project is not about politics or even the Iraqi War as much as it is about empathy—to acknowledge human suffering and recognize the pain of  all those who suffered and so to pay them respect as fellow humans. It’s also about circumstance. Perhaps the contributors to the project feel a sense of responsibility as well as sorrow and are willing to own their expressions to those afflicted from what they could not stop. Participants in the project become more than mere spectators to events; they empower themselves to do what Tutu describes as the first step toward a future with more respect between peoples, acknowledgment of suffering, loss and a chance for progress with less ill will between those peoples affected by war.
The project grew into the WMD foundation started by Garber; Wisdom, Mediation and Dialog is dedicated to creating more peaceful communities throughout the world by echoing  Tutu’s message.  Continuing the development of a nonviolent philosophy to resolve conflict that can be used by a wide audience, the WMD Foundation has attracted a core of talent to its board skilled in communications, conflict resolution, negotiation and outreach that seeks to broaden its power by linking up with other like-minded groups. To that end, Garber and WMD associate Alexis Dixon met with Desmond Tutu on May 12 in Tacoma, Washington, to seek support and advice from the man that inspired them. As it turned out, Tutu did not recall the Goodman interview but was moved by Garber and Dixon’s wish to further dialogue toward a better world. The Archbishop listened and approved of the mens’ work and noted that those calling people to their higher selves can expect grave challenges along the way. “We are giants who want to remain dwarves,” Tutu told them. In the end, the Archbishop told them that what they are doing is good work and that he would pray for them. He emphasized that prayer is an action, heavy with meaning, and that dialog takes time.
The WMD Foundation is a noble attempt to bring some change into a world marred by lack of respect, transparency and empathy. Millions of people who had nothing to do with the Iraq War faced violence that overwhelmed them; their posterity will echo their pain for generations to come and their history will carry the stain of these times permanently. Others, mislead by cruel manipulators safe from harm, lost their lives and futures too, and this is the spur that moves a plumber from San Diego to stand up and be counted as a voice of reason and sanity for a growing number of people willing to assert their common humanity to tell those who fought on our behalf—as well as those who were our adversary—“I’m sorry.” The future, Garber asserts, can’t move forward without that acknowledgment.
WMDfoundation.org will offer the interested person information on how to say something that matters.

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