History doesn’t repeat itself, but analogies can be drawn between events in different places and times. [“History is repeating itself in 2015,” Letters to the Editor, July 18] On the other hand, some aspects of human nature don’t seem to change much. For example, many Americans are opposed to paying taxes, even for government services that benefit them. Members of the Tea Party, both in the Revolutionary Era and today, are prime examples of this behavior.
Surely, the taxes imposed by their mother country, Great Britain, were not a significant reason for the colonists to take up arms. Nobody enjoys paying taxes, but the nominal taxes levied in the early 1770s were established to help defray the cost of defending them from a war against France and its Native American allies. Why shouldn’t the America colonists have been required to pay for a least a fraction of the war debts?
Our Founding Fathers did not really seek a voice in the British Parliament (where they would always suffer being a minority). Although claiming “No taxation without representation,” American negotiators were instructed by their provisional Colonial Congress to refuse any settlement based on an offer of seats in Parliament. (This wouldn’t be the only time that American policies were cynically defended to its gullible citizens by catchy phrases!)
George Washington, the man who led the Continental Army and subsequently our first president, was one of the wealthiest (thanks to his marriage to the wealthiest widow) and largest landowner and slave owner in the Colonies. In fact, Washington was opposed to the inclusion of black soldiers in the Continental Army, while the British offered freedom to any black person who ran off to volunteer for its ranks. The clamor against slavery in Britain would lead to the abolition of slavery in Britain within a few years and outlawing of the intercontinental slave trade early in the 19th century. Indeed, the preservation of slavery was a likely (but seldom explored) factor in the declaration of American independence.
Ironically, American independence was finally won after decisive intervention of France, in the form of military supplies, money, highly competent troops, and a mighty navy. Once again, Americans refused to repay the debts which were amassed by its saviors. France’s economy tanked, which was a significant factor in birthing the French Revolution. Strange, isn’t it, that the British monarchy, which lost the American Revolution, is still in existence; while the winning French monarch was decapitated a few years later?!
Subsequent to victory in the Revolution, the former colonial leaders took nearly a decade to adopt a Constitution for their new nation. This included finessing of the slavery issue to allow more than one vote per one Southern white male landowner. Thereafter, the vast majority of American presidents, congressional leaders and chief justices were major slaveholders for nearly fourscore years.
With the expulsion of the French and British from the American continent, the victorious former colonists were able to expand westward. This expansion, our first steps towards the “Manifest Destiny” of dominating and subjugating the entire continent, came at the expense of the Native Americans. Even those tribes who accepted while customs and religion were un-franchised, subject to discrimination, and forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands.
The American cause for independence was unexceptional in being declared and led by a social and economic elite (now legendary as one-of-a-kind geniuses) who sought their own political power and riches. Fortunately, they founded a nation that provided nominal self-governance to the masses that has, with key modifications, survived to our own day.
Due to its huge natural resources and physical isolation from foreign powers (and significant entanglements with them), the United States matured into a beacon for economic wealth and advancement. Many of its citizens, who committed themselves to hard work and obedience to its laws, prospered more than peoples of other countries. At the same time, mainstream America has always been racist and anti-immigrant. Each new wave of refugees and fortune-seekers that arrived on our shores had to confront rampant discrimination based on ethnicity, religion and economic differences from (self-declared) “nativist” elements.
Later, the U.S. behavior in the exploitation its own colonies, Cuba and the Philippines, was certainly less than benign, and our aggressive behavior towards our Latin American neighbors still rankles many of the peoples of those countries. Surely, the wild, insulting (and untrue) characterization of current Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers by a U.S. presidential candidate has a long and defiant history.
I love America. It is the land of my birth to which I pledge allegiance and in which I have lived my entire four score and ten years. Most Americans are good people, and a majority claim to be good Christians (despite resorting to most un-Christian violence to handle domestic and international issues). However, many of us need a more objective, balanced understanding of our past and present. People of all faiths and no faith can make this a more perfect Union by adopting Jesus’ message of love and nonviolence. We should be supportive of efforts to improve social justice … and pay the taxes necessary to do so.