by Terry Plotkin
Independence day is upon us, so it seems right to offer up this essay about the founding of this country.
We have traveled back into history in our 4 part series of wars that America has fought. We now arrive at the seminal moment: The Revolutionary War. (I am skipping the War of 1812. It was a stupid and unnecessary event between the British, who just couldn’t get over losing its colony, and the United States, who wanted to show that it could stand up to England. Please.) As anyone who has read my first 3 installments has noticed, I am not a fan of the wars that America has fought and believe that with right conduct and attitude all of them could have been avoided. However, as I said when I started this series, I am not a pacifist. The Revolutionary War would qualify as a just struggle with no good alternative but standing up to the exploitation that England imposed on its colonies in those years.
Tyrants never let go their grasp on those they control. They seek power and control like a lawn mower seeks long grass. Dictators are the most predictable of leaders; when in doubt repress. England built its wealth from exploiting colonies and its own workers. It used the wealth it acquired the same way empires always use it: to build a big army to keep everyone in line and keep the money flowing to the top. You can’t negotiate with that mind-set. The only thing that kind of Power understands is a stronger kind of Power. The oppressors and subjugators always have the best military, but the strength of the human spirit never lies with them; it lies with those who believe in what they are doing, what they are trying to create, whose backs are against the walls and who have nothing to lose. This is what the colonists had going for them when they pledged “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” to the task of forging a liberated land. The Americans were fortunate to have won, but they did not create a utopia here. That was not possible, since the people who fought it were far from perfect themselves, but they did advance the cause of independence, and freed themselves from the yoke of English tyranny. Very brave people indeed.
There was one way for this war to be avoided, but it had to come from England and King George 3rd. If they could have turned their back on Empire, stopped subjugating others, and honored the principle of self-determination, then the war never would have happened. To do this they would have had to recognize that people have the right to go their own way, that they do not exist to serve a distant foreign power, are not owned by them, and can create their own destiny as they see fit. England, to the shock of no one, did not go that route. It was a thought that, I’m sure, never crossed bad King George’s mind. Same as it ever was.
History has shown that a less-armed foe can defeat a more powerful enemy if they are totally committed to their cause, believe that it is just, and willing to do what it takes to win. This has happened to the United States as it has sought for empire (Vietnam and Afghanistan comes to mind). In 1776 it happened to England.
Enjoy the holiday.