Don’t Let Others Define Your Past
With the Fourth of July just under a month away, it’s time we take back our history from the right-wing Tea Party extremists who have been allowed to commandeer some portion of our past.
The so-called Tea Party wants to use our shared American history in the service of the very un-American ideals of exclusion, and of benefiting the rich over the working man and woman.
One such Tea Party cell here in Texas is called the King Street Patriots. This Houston-based Tea Party outfit takes its name from the street in Boston where the Boston Massacre took place.
King Street is now known as State Street in Boston.
The effort to define our past is about finding justification for political positions in today’s debates. If we can prove that our viewpoints and actions in the present day match the intent of the folks who led the American Revolution, then we can claim that these viewpoints and actions have a special validity and are true to our founding ideals.
The picture above is of the Old Massachusetts State House on the former King Street. I took this picture while visiting Boston in 2008. The Boston Massacre occurred pretty much at the location from where I took the picture. The yellow balcony is the place where the Declaration of Independence was first proclaimed in Boston in 1776.
All people are free to visit this historic location. You can stand at the spot where the Massacre took place. You can tour the Old State House. People of all political beliefs are welcome. People of all nationalities are welcome. There are no immigration checkpoints to see if people have the proper papers. People of all religions are welcomed. Nobody feels compelled to offer a prayer at this great and important site that favors one religion over other religions.
Over the next few weeks I’m going to be writing about some aspects of early American history, and suggesting books and websites for people who would like to learn more.
The first book I’m recommending is Patriots–The Men Who Started the American Revolution by A.J. Langguth. Patriots is an accessible and detailed account of events leading up to the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War.
Good luck in finding a clear ideological lesson for today in the events describes in Patriots or in any serious account of our independence.
Yes–In many ways the American Revolution was a tax revolt. At the same time, the streets of colonial Boston were covered with garbage and animal waste. Women were always pregnant and many died in childbirth. Many children died before reaching adulthood. Folks drank rum and beer all day long in part because clean water could be hard to find.
Would people back in colonial times have paid more taxes for better sanitation, better public health, and for clean water?
Who knows? Those folks are long dead and we live in a very different nation and world.
There is plenty to learn and understand from studying our past. We’ve got to know who we are and where we come from. But nobody can take events from more than 200 years ago, and feel that they now have all the answers to today’s public policy debates.
At least nobody who has any idea what they are talking about has this ability.
Don’t learn your history from this blog. And be certain that you don’t learn your history from far-right fanatics who glorify states rights and who want to return to the injustices of the past.
A clear example of why not to listen to representatives the far-right when they attempt to define our history can be found in this video clip of Sarah Palin talking about Paul Revere’s Ride. She simply has no idea what she is talking about.
Here are some actual facts about Paul Revere’s Ride.
Figure stuff out for yourself.
Don’t let other people define your past, and then seek to shape your future while you stand idly by.