by David Swanson edited by O Society July 4, 2019
Yay! It’s the Fourth of July! Time to blow some fingers off with firecrackers (editor’s note: or hydrogen bombs made of toilet bowl cleaner and tin foil) and laugh at the poor dumb bastards up north who think they got a better deal than the Great American Colonists without having to kill anybody in a War of Independence. Don’t the Canadians know Freedom Isn’t Free?
Being FREE, we all know, is not a question of having healthcare or a decent chance of avoiding being shot with a gun. It’s not a matter of civil rights or economic security. It’s got nothing to do with speaking or organizing or determining the outlines of your life. People who’ve fled slavery and wars to live in Canada haven’t obtained Freedom, only pneumonia and — I suppose — a halfway decent NBA team, and a longer lifespan, and greater security, and better education, and other such worthless muck. The free-est country on earth, on the other hand, has the most people in prison; if this confuses you, you haven’t understood Freedom. Being FREE has a simple definition. Being FREE means being something somebody killed a lot of people for. And, therefore, Canada ain’t FREE — though it’s working on it.
Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis)
Sorry, Canada, until you have a bloody effing revolution against the British you have no right to Independence Day sales or even picnics handing out free Freedom crap for mandatory donations. You aren’t even a Real country yet, you primitive snowflake patsy pseudo-patriots. I say that in a spirit of brotherly condescension.
Now, it’s true a great many nations — Canada just being the nearest by — have gained what looks like independence without wars. In reality, the American Founding Fathers invented independence with a war. We perhaps could have all the same advantages without the war, but it was the killing of tens of thousands of people that created Liberty. That’s why we keep doing it, liberating people all over the globe. In recent years, the U.S. military is liberating the fuck out of all kinds of people, whether they appreciate it or not.
Back in 1986, a book was published by the nonviolent strategist Gene Sharp, now-about-to-retire Virginia State Delegate David Toscano, and others, called Resistance, Politics, and the American Struggle for Independence, 1765-1775.
Those dates are not a typo. During those years, the people of the British colonies that would become the United States used boycotts, rallies, marches, theatrics, noncompliance, bans on imports and exports, parallel extra-legal governments, the lobbying of Parliament, the physical shutting down of courts and offices and ports, the destruction of tax stamps, endless educating and organizing, and the dumping of tea into a harbor—all to successfully achieve a large measure of independence, among other things, prior to the War for Independence. Home-spinning clothes to resist the British empire was practiced in the future United States long before Gandhi tried it. The colonists might have gone on that way, but they never could have achieved FREEDOM unless they started murdering people.
The colonists didn’t talk about their activities in Gandhian terms. They didn’t foreswear violence. They sometimes threatened it and occasionally used it. They also, disturbingly, talked of resisting “slavery” to England even while maintaining actual slavery in the “New World.” And they spoke of their loyalty to the King even while denouncing his laws.
Yet they largely rejected violence as counter-productive. They repealed the Stamp Act after effectively nullifying it. They repealed nearly all of the Townsend Acts. The committees they organized to enforce boycotts of British goods also enforced public safety and developed a new national unity. Prior to the battles of Lexington and Concord, the farmers of Western Massachusetts had nonviolently taken over all the court houses and booted the British out. And then the Bostonians turned decisively to violence, a choice that need not be excused, much less glorified, but without which there could never have been Freedom — or flag bumper stickers.
Michelle Lewin bumper sticker
While we imagine the Iraq War is our only war started with lies, we forget the Boston Massacre was distorted beyond recognition, including in an engraving by Paul Revere that depicted the British as butchers. We erase the fact Benjamin Franklin produced a fake issue of the Boston Independent in which the British boasted of scalp hunting. And we forget the elite nature of the opposition to Britain. We drop down the memory hole the reality of those early days for ordinary nameless people.
“Around 1776, certain important people in the English colonies made a discovery that would prove enormously useful for the next two hundred years. They found that by creating a nation, a symbol, a legal unity called the United States, they could take over land, profits, and political power from favorites of the British Empire. In the process, they could hold back a number of potential rebellions and create a consensus of popular support for the rule of a new, privileged leadership.”
In fact, prior to the violent revolution, there had been 18 uprisings against colonial governments, six black rebellions, and 40 riots. The political elites saw a possibility for redirecting anger toward England. The poor who would not profit from the war or reap its political rewards had to be compelled by force to fight in it. Many, including enslaved people, promised greater liberty by the British, deserted or switched sides, completely failing to grasp the concept of True Freedom. In other words, the War for Independence was as valid and respectable a scam as any recent war — and a real fluster cuck for those involved in it.
Punishment for infractions in the Continental Army was 100 freedom-lashes. When George Washington, the richest man in America, was unable to convince Congress to raise the legal limit to 500 lashes, he considered using hard labor as a punishment instead, but dropped that idea because the hard labor would have been indistinguishable from regular service in the Continental Army. Soldiers also deserted because they needed food, clothing, shelter, medicine, and money.
They signed up for pay, were not paid, and endangered their families’ wellbeing by remaining in the Army unpaid. About two-thirds of them were ambivalent to or against the cause for which they were fighting and suffering. Popular rebellions, like Shays’ Rebellion in Massachusetts would follow the revolutionary victory despite the birth of Liberty. Imagine bringing people who actually fought in the War for Independence back to life, sitting them down, and solemnly declaring “Thank you for your service.” THAT would be bravery.
The American revolutionaries also were able to open up the West to expansion and wars against the Native Americans, something the British forbid. The American Revolution, the very act of birth and liberation for the United States, was also a war of expansion and conquest. King George, according to the Declaration of Independence, had “endeavoured (sic) to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages.” Of course, those were people fighting in defense of their own lands and lives. Victory at Yorktown was bad news for the future of Native American nations. Luckily, they had no Independence or Freedom to lose!
The wars against Native Americans began immediately, as well as wars into Florida and Canada. The War of 1812 was intended to conquer the residents of Canada, who were expected to welcome U.S. invaders as liberators. Their actual response resembled that expectation even less than has the Iraqis’ since 2003. Canadians to this day do not grasp how badly they have things. The saps don’t even have a Star Spangled Banner.
Have you listened carefully to, or read the full lyrics to the U.S. national anthem? The third verse celebrates killing people who had just escaped from slavery. An earlier version celebrated killing Muslims. The lyricist himself, Francis Scott Key, owned people as slaves and supported lawless police killings of African Americans. Strip the song down to its first verse, as most people do, and it remains a celebration of war, of the mass killing of human beings, of a war of conquest failed to take over Canada and instead got the White House burned. And during the course of that valorous piece of blood-soaked stupidity, Key witnessed a battle in which human beings died but a flag survived. And I’m supposed to stand, like an obedient mindless robot, and worship a glorious incident, and it’s supposed to matter what I do with my hand, but not what I do with my brain?
I take that back. I’m expected to switch my brain to low-power mode in order to take seriously claims to the effect that militarism protects my freedom, and that I should therefore give up some of my freedom for it. But that’s what true Freedom requires. So, if you’re allowed any moments off work, head on down to the big celebration, and make your way through the metal detectors (pick up your guns on the other side) and roast some dead animal flesh for the Fossil Fuel Deities. But if you’re near a military base, don’t drink the water. It’s likely to kill you. Even so, you can savor the experience of what FREEDOM tastes like.