Above: Representing Captain John Parker, Henry Hudson Kitson, Sculptor, 1900
To stand on Battle Green in Lexington is to literally stand in the place where this country was born. It was here where a group of the King’s subjects decided that they would rather fight than bow. Though it’s unlikely that on that day in 1775, April 19 to be precise, they believed they were taking the first steps towards independence, they certainly felt they had reached a breaking point. And standing there today, you can still imagine what it must have been like to hear gunshots break out, and realize that it this well-trained, well-equipped army which vastly outnumbered you, was here to kill you.
It’s ironic in some ways, that 235 years later, a new group of citizens, the tea party movement, chooses these patriots as their symbols. Whilst there is some resemblance to the originals, certainly a chasm of belief versus reality comes to mind, the resemblance is purely superficial. For instance, the citizens of New England felt themselves ill-used and over taxed, and yet they paid amongst the lowest taxes in the British empire, and received most of the same benefit of anyone else in the kingdom.
In the same vein, there’s a dichotomy to the teabaggers beliefs. They were against the bailout for banks and corporations, and yet now they support politicians who fight against making those same institutions pay it back. They see insurance companies as one of the causes of runaway health care, and yet they refuse to support any measures that hold those same companies accountable.
Most troubling, they insist that God be left in the pledge of allegiance, though that’s a recent addition, and that the pledge be recited in school. And yet I wonder if they listen to the pledge? You also pledge allegiance to the republic, and in a republic, we choose our leaders by voting. Sometimes your party wins, sometimes it loses. But it’s not to the leaders that you pledge your allegiance, or to the land that this country consists of. But to the people in this country, because after all, they make up the republic. I see no desire to amongst these modern day, self proclaimed patriots to make this republic work, only to make sure their argument wins the day.
And in that they are less like the men who stood in the village common in Lexington, and it’s worth pointing out that there was a black man there as well, and more like that other great upheaval which the country was to go through less than a century later. Once again this seem to be a house divided, and in this atmosphere, civil discourse takes a back seat, and the government doesn’t work. When speaking of the age of empires, kingdoms and dynasties, 235 years is a blip in time. A Russian friend of mine once told me that “America is a cultural adolescent.” Perhaps it’s too soon to say whether that the great experiment was a success, or will some day fall back on itself, as has all other empires of the past.