This July 4th: Were We the Baddies?


Would I have been a loyalist in 1776?  Maybe? But you have to admit, Canada has a really good point here.  Maybe our revolution was a dumb idea.  Could we have become the United States without violence?

In the recent book Scars of Independence, historian Holger Hoock dismisses modern depictions of the American Revolution as rooms full of men in powdered wigs discussing liberty. It was actually a “profoundly violent civil war,” he writes. One largely forgotten aspect of the war was how much the Patriot cause was driven by terroristic mobs prepared to torture judges, customs officials, newspaper editors or anyone else seen to be supporting British rule. Pro-government officials had their homes burned, their horses poisoned and many were snatched out of their beds in the middle of the night, stripped naked and subjected to mock drownings or tarring and feathering. Accounts of these outrages help explain why the conflict escalated so quickly. When hotheaded Brits backed George III’s call to swiftly put down colonial rebels, it wasn’t because they were incensed at a lack of tea tax revenue — it was because they feared that their American lands had fallen to mob rule.

A 1774 illustration showing Patriots torturing John Malcolm, a government tax official. Malcolm has been stripped naked, had boiling tar poured on his skin and is now being forced to drink excessive amounts of hot tea. United States Library of Congress

Lookit, of course we weren’t the baddies, for one thing, it turns out many of those Brits were homophobic jerks.  But our national predisposition for violence or bullying is a problem.  From a revelatory piece by one of my favorite authors Rick Perlstein:

“My first book, covering the years 1958 through 1964, was entitled Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus. The “consensus” in my subtitle referred both to historians’ common belief that in the period between World War II and “the sixties” America was a remarkably placid place and to the deluded national self-perception advanced at the time by people like Lippmann, heedlessly projecting the present into the past. In this view of things, America had always been a remarkably placid place. When violence began breaking out on the 1964 campaign trail, the Philadelphia Inquirer editorialized that “presidential elections have been waged without untoward incident until this year”—what??—and the historian Richard Hofstadter preposterously proposed that “our sagacity and our passion for the peaceful enjoyment of our national life” were the essence of American politics. My subtitle, in other words, is tinged ironically—because the supposed “consensus” was but an epiphenomenon, a brief idyll, an illusion, as well as an ideological construct. It papered over the reality of a society that has never been united and at peace with itself.

So what about that?  What if we started taking a different approach to the 4th?  What if we celebrated the violence of explosions (fireworks), say, once every 4 or 10 years and spent the other 3 or 9 years celebrating all that it takes to create a society that can produce those fireworks.  What about celebrating the red, white and blue fireworks in our gardens and parks during the majority of our Fourths hoping our children can catch on to the beauty and preciousness of a time lapse explosion going on around us every day?

Just a thought.  It would save money and help make that Xth year celebration that much more special and spectacular.  But more importantly, I think it would help reinforce the idea that the explosions of war that the fireworks represent are sometimes necessary, but they should not be we depend on to build a sustainable future.



What is up with that weird Yankee Doodle Dandy tune anyhoo?  Turns out the history is fascinating and is another example of how little adolescent taunts have changed over centuries.

Maybe you’ve noticed: Some of the lyrics seem like the work of a prankster on acid. Who else could have conceived a vignette as bizarre as a man riding a pony into town, then sticking a feather in his cap that, for unknown reasons, he insists on calling “macaroni”?

The answer is not George M. Cohan, who wrote the ecstatically patriotic verses of “The Yankee Doodle Boy” for the 1904 musical “Little Johnny Jones.” He lifted the feather-and-cap lines from a song called, simply, “Yankee Doodle,” which was popularized by British troops during the Revolutionary War. And whoever composed these words — history is inconclusive — didn’t intend a jesting, surreal tribute to the colonists. Quite the opposite. The song is an insult.

It’s not just any insult, either. With “Yankee Doodle,” the Redcoats were delivering the most puerile, schoolyard insult in the schoolyard insult book. They were suggesting that American soldiers were gay


9 thoughts on “This July 4th: Were We the Baddies?

  1. MOLA42 says:

    The Truth (whether we are comfortable with it or not) is we have always been a violent and contentious people. That’s why we have the Government structure (three competing branches of government) that we have. The English and Canadian governments (for example) don’t use “Checks and Balances”.

    The 50’s were hardly placid: “Tail Gunner” Joe McCarthy saw to that.

    The key is that amid the fighting and the pushing and the cursing and everything else that has been a hallmark of American Democracy for over 200 years is that we always managed to keep a lid on things (with the notable exception of the Civil War).

    And knowing our nature to take things too far, we all… left, right, center and clueless… must work to contain our violent selves. We must at least take a day off every year to remind ourselves that we are all Americans no matter our differences.

    And then blow stuff up. Happy 4th of July.

    1. Thanks MOLA! But I’d nick pick on this. I don’t think humans should think of ourselves as innately violent, bad or evil. That is a religious conservative notion. It’s human nature (a form of a highly evolutionarily successful risk assessment) to give a high value of importance or significance to a single violent act and to discount all the other acts of grace, humility, kindness that happen daily. I think it’s important to remember that as a whole, humans are good, but are capable of cruel, evil or violent deeds.

      1. Henchman Of Justice says:

        I think it’s important to remember that as a whole, humans are good, but are capable of cruel, evil or violent deeds. ~JY

        Response: I think it’s important to remember that as a whole, humans are everything, but individually and as groups/cliques, some are capable of cruel, evil or violent deeds.

  2. MOLA42 says:

    Allow me to nit pick your nit pick. I said we are a violent and argumentative “people” and we have a government structure that serves that notion. I also noted our neighbors to the north and those across the pond have no need for a competitive government structure.

    So that hardly indicates I believe in a conservative human-wide “inativism”. It is our culture I am talking about. And cultures do change.

    If you look at our own history, as tragic as that history gets, the general trend is toward a less violent and less confrontational America. We someday could indeed become a reasonable people who could be trusted one day to use a head of parliament form of government.

    Not that the day will come any time soon…

    1. Henchman Of Justice says:

      Not to nitpick but the majority says government isn’t serving anyone but themselves……touche’ to the publc employee.

  3. Henchman Of Justice says:

    The English and Canadian governments (for example) don’t use “Checks and Balances”. ~ Mola42

    Response: ya, tell that to the folks who ran an estate sale racket of corruption and fraud from inside the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department.

    Editors Note: Han Solo is now the Deputy Dog, Downey fabric softener is being embarrased by an ex-epd.

    1) County sheriff is Executor of dead people’s Estates when no one in the family steps up or a will does not exist.

    2) former County Sheriff Mike Downey was the sheriff and executor of these Estates on his watch.

    3) at times, he personally sold (under title of appointed sheriff – what were board of supervisors trying to hide through faux retirements that leave terms unfinished??? ) dead people’s items to his own officers or other public officials and their wives…… In some cases only three days after the person died… evidence shows.

    4) then to boot these employees of the Sheriff’s Department and other public officials or public employees we’re given the opportunity to buy these dead peoples items for pennies on the dollar…… Such items like a 1976 Corvette for under$1,600…… Just the shell of a 1976 Corvette that’s rusted-out is worth $2,500……. Of course the deputy sheriff that purchases had to whine and start listing all these alleged problems as a disguise to make up his face pulling for his part in the racketeering and corruption that violated some up to date government code section…… And this isn’t even drugs or firearms that have been going on for years (but not transactions) but through theft of the storage lockers that the sheriff’s department conveniently kept unattended and without security systems.

    5) then of course you’ve got the old family businesses that have been around for a long time and two of which got to buy dead people’s estate belongings for pennies on the dollar without having to be part of an open bid process….. So we got two longtime businesses that are aiding and abeting and are accomplices to racketeering, corruption, fraud…… Is it time to stop shopping at family-run businesses that have been around this area for decades profiting from politics because chances are they’re crooks? Is it time to stop voting for local people for elected positions who are associated with these longtime families or businesses because they’re crooks to?

    Not surprised to see Jaeger involved….

    1. Henchman Of Justice says:

      MOLA42 says: Allow me to nit pick your nit pick. I said we are a violent and argumentative “people” and we have a government structure that serves that notion.

      Response: serves the “insider notion’…..checks and balances is all “faux paper bullshit”…..aka…..LIES…….not LAWS.

  4. Henchman Of Justice says:

    The New York City police commissioner, James P. O’Neill, said in a message to officers that she was “assassinated without warning, without provocation, in a direct attack on police officers assigned to safeguard the people of New York City.”

    Response: Nope, she is dead because “The Commish” was too cheap to have bullwt proof glass installed on the mobile command unit she occupied which sje presumed was safe and secure……she was dead wrong… ya, checks and balances don’t work so well when America is so money grubbing and cheap to create big gubbamint that can’t equitably be financed unless everyone pays their fair share……..bullet proof glass saves lives, but New York is just a fucked up place……Trump, The Post, Clinton……the leach lines are very long and crusty old.

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