Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Who won our freedom, protestors or soldiers? --Yes.

(Note: This hasn't been fact-checked yet; please feel free to contact us with any corrections.)

Before there was Bunker Hill, there was the Boston Tea Party. Before rebel soldiers came rebel pamphlets. Before armies marched on Yorktown, thinkers gathered in New York and Philadelphia.

I should thank the conservative attack mouths for repeating their cleverly disingenuous lines so regularly of late. In the past, they were in and gone before a proper response could truly be thought of. Now, though, they shout more routinely and loudly -- which gives the rest of us time to uncover the truth.

Where did the idea of America begin? Soldiers didn't spring fully outfitted from the ground, nor did resistance to British rule start with gunfire. If it had, we probably never would have had enough support to win in the first place. No, the proto-Americans were iconoclasts, free thinkers, rebels. They were also mostly British or descendants of the British, and they began to speak out in a quest for justice. Ironically, it was the suppression of grievances that eventually led to revolution. Some of these thinkers may have wanted to separate from Britain at the very beginning, but for the most part the colonials just wanted what they saw as their basic rights -- representation, basic liberties, justice.

Not everyone agreed with them, of course -- indeed, the spiritual ancestors of O'Reilly and Limbaugh were probably Tories who loudly proclaimed their patriotism and attacked these rabble-rousers for their "villainy." Meanwhile, our founders were meeting in small groups, getting their message out, and engaging in civil disobedience. Bullets would start flying later. Can there be any doubt that there would have been as much support for violent rebellion if there _hadn't_ been an honest effort to resolve matters peacefully first?

Two things to remember. One is that once people know freedom, they are loath to live without it. This pressure, among others, broke the Soviet Union, freed India (a prime example of winning liberty without war) and has created deep cracks in Iran's and China's totalitarian facades.

The other is that stopping protests does not end the sentiment -- only an outlet. Suppression tends to make people, particularly as ornery a breed as Americans, wonder what the leaders are so afraid of. Think about that the next time you hear a protestor called a traitor or a supporter of terrorism.

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