Two hundred and fifty years ago the people of America were subject to an unrepresentative government controlled by powerful commercial interests. They rebelled and formed their own government, which has now come to be controlled by powerful commercial interests. Once again, “these are the times that try men’s souls.” What lessons can we learn from history to help us through this crisis?
Samuel Adams was the Father of the American Revolution, and it was his formation of Committees of Correspondence that allowed information to be quickly disseminated throughout the colonies. Using handwritten letters and printed pamphlets delivered by fast horses and ships, he was able to solidify the rebellion and sway Tories to the Patriot cause. The committees also enforced the boycott of British goods by publishing the names of local merchants who violated the ban.
The use of violence by the American people was their last resort after years of petitions and nonviolent protests failed to make a difference. The English Parliament did not represent the interests of the colonists, and their own elected legislatures could be dissolved at will by their king-appointed governors. Even so, the level of confidence in the English government by the colonists may have exceeded that of the American people today in our own Congress and other elected officials.
The secret “committees” of the colonial legislatures and “councils of safety” allowed the rebels to unify together in defeating the British Redcoats and their German mercenaries. Much like the inability of U.S. today, with the most powerful military in the world and its “coalitions of the willing,” to crush foreign insurgencies, the English army and navy were unable to stop the colonists’ drive for self governance.
With the Constitutional Convention of 1787 that created our present constitution and government, Congress may have replaced the local committees that once represented the people; however, the independent spirit of the American Revolution lives on in today’s Tea Party and Occupy movements in communities across the country.
Although the Tea Party is dominated by conservatives and libertarians and Occupy is supported by liberals and greens, the two movements have far more in common than they realize. Each movement is subject to propaganda that demonizes the other and prevents them from uniting their efforts. Both sides of the political divide will have to find common ground; however, if an effective campaign against the current unrepresentative government is to be organized.
The unifying battle cry for the colonists was “no taxation without representation.” American voters must come to a similar agreement about what is most important to us, if we are to successfully take control of our own government.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of groups and organizations on the left, right and middle of American politics, each promoting its own agenda, often to the exclusion of all others. While we are fighting among ourselves, the government caters to the interests of a narrow spectrum of wealthy individuals and large corporations to the disadvantage of ordinary voters, of every political persuasion. To become an unstoppable force all of us must push and pull in the same direction, at the same time.
It may be impossible to isolate a single issue all voters can agree upon; however, we should be able to identify the essential elements of good government most of us can demand from those we elect to represent us. To start with, how about fair taxation, protection of freedoms and control of corporate power?
Tax us fairly! Ordinary workers, professionals and small business owners can readily see their personal incomes are substantially reduced by taxes. They can easily figure out that the wealthy and large corporations are able to escape paying their fair share of taxes by controlling elected officials and creating loopholes. What about a simple toll tax on all financial transactions, including stocks, bonds, futures and currency purchases, loans and monetary manipulations? Workers and small businesses would see substantial reductions in their taxes, while corporations would have to pay for the services they use.
Protect our freedoms! By now, every American is surely aware their “government” is recording their phone calls, copying their emails, photographing their mail and conducting secret searches at will, all in the name of the War on Terrorism and the War on Drugs. Our government must protect, rather than destroy our freedoms.
Rights for people! Every citizen knows that, while corporations pour billions of dollars into elections, buy the politicians we elect, and control our governments, corporations are not people. Corporations are not mentioned in our Constitution, and they cannot be allowed to share our rights.
A number of constitutional amendments have been proposed to remedy these issues; however, the process is virtually impossible. Nonetheless, there is much that can be accomplished, if we look beyond our differences and come to agreement on what we have in common.
Our rights, freedoms, and livelihoods are once again in grave danger, as we confront another “American Crisis.” This time, however, revolution is not the solution. Nothing worth having can be achieved at the point of a gun and the overwhelming firepower of our government will crush any uprising, along with any remaining freedoms. We have learned that violence begets violence, and our commonsense tells us to avoid its brutality. Instead, we must use our freedom and the tools on our digital workbench to nonviolently come together and take control of our government before it is too late.
If Samuel Adams were alive today, he would be all over the Internet and social media establishing nonpartisan Committees of Correspondence in every community. These committees could demand that every local political candidate, irrespective of party or office, affirms the essential elements of good government and pledges to support these elements, if elected.
Using the Internet, local committees could link together to form state and national Committees of Correspondence. These could compel affirmations and pledges of the essential elements of good government from all state and federal candidates, including those who want to be president of the United States.
Just as revolutionary committees shamed merchants who violated the boycott, modern committees can monitor elected officials to ensure they keep their pledges and immediately report noncompliance.
Two of my ancestors, Solomon and Samuel Cox, were disowned by their Quaker congregation in North Carolina for “militant activities” during the revolution. They, along with all other patriots who stood up and fought for our freedoms, left us a valuable inheritance. The time has come for us to defend our heritage, but let us do so in a way that sustains our legacy of freedom, while demonstrating to our progeny how we nonviolently defended our freedom and secured good government.