Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day

Because of a significant curriculum change, I will be taking a one-year break from teaching U.S. History this year. I'll miss teaching kids about the Revolution this year, however. Our rebellion from Britain is one of the most unique events in history. When one studies revolutions in other cultures, those revolutions were usually class-based with one socioeconomic stratum of society overthrowing another. Or, people rose up against some sort of sinister, monolithic force. Sometimes revolutions are bloodless (as in the fall of the Berlin Wall) and sometimes they're hideous.

Our revolution, which symbolically happened 234 years ago today, does not fit any of the above categories. The Patriots and Tories don't cleanly fit into any particular socioeconomic category; both sides drew from the elite, the poor, and the middling. The rebels weren't fighting against a sinister, evil force but instead against a relatively democratic government that was guilty of mismanaging its empire and misruling over its subjects. The DNA of British government empowered the rebels to overthrow that country's authority. Though not bloodless, the Revolution's casualties were mostly confined to the battlefield, with only the rarest targeting of civilians.

The nation the Founders set up as sovereign this day 234 years ago was a noble experiment in government (an experiment that has required substantial tinkering): a republic in a world of monarchies. But that conversation can wait for another day.

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