Some serious sagacity from one of contemporary America’s most perspicacious, sober, and capable writers: Claire Wolf.
Over the years, when people have asked me, “Is it time yet, Claire?” my response has always been something like this: It may be moral to ‘shoot the bastards’ who kill freedom, but this isn’t the time. It doesn’t make tactical or strategic sense. Violence now will only make things much, much worse.
That’s still my strong conviction. To any members of the Deep State trolling the ‘Net desperately searching for those elusive “domestic terrorists” they’re so determined to
locateinvent: I’m a useless target for you. I don’t advocate violence except in self-defense and I dread seeing anybody, especially freedomistas, start a shooting war.
My hope is, as always, that a bloated, overreaching government will ultimately undermine itself and fall non-violently, as the Soviet Union did. It already seems well on its way.
But lately I’ve been asking myself if perhaps I’m in denial about the depth and urgency — and the possibilities — of our situation.
I’ve been reading the book Comrade X sent me, American Insurgents, American Patriots by T.H. Breen. It focuses on the way ordinary citizens drove the colonies toward revolution, ultimately forcing the more famous leaders to step up and lead.
A large part of it so far concerns the Intolerable Acts and public outrage over them.
Many histories of the Revolution, IIRC, trace a steady growth of resistance from the Stamp Act through the Townshend Acts through the Boston Massacre through the Boston Tea Party through the Intolerable Acts to Lexington and Concord and on to the Declaration of Independence. Maybe so, but Breen positions the Intolerable Acts as the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. What Britain accurately but inadequately called the Coercive Acts turned ordinary, respectable farmers, lawyers, craftsmen, and housewives from angry — but loyal! — British colonists into an outraged force of active, uncompromising, and sometimes ruthless American insurgents.
One thing that struck me as I read was that both sides labored under delusions in the months leading up to the passage of the Acts in the spring of 1774. After the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773, American colonists, especially in Massachusetts, held their breath. They knew punishment would come, but not what form it would take. Because most information about British politics arrived in the form of imported and re-posted newspaper articles, colonists believed the British people were sympathetic to their cause and therefore that punishment would be limited and probably focused only on the guilty.
That was their delusion. Or one of them. They also held a long-cherished a belief that they were the legal, intellectual, and moral equal of any Englishmen, and that their fellow Englishmen saw them in the same light as they saw themselves.
They didn’t realize how implacably — if ineptly — British power brokers were against them. They didn’t realize that much of the English public, and especially the elite, looked down on them as being barely steps above the “savages” they lived among. They were, in short, viewed as the “deplorables,” “bitter clingers,” and “neanderthals” of their day.
While colonists waited and held high hopes, the government of King George III and Lord North decided to crush Boston by closing its harbor and place all of proud, self-governing Massachusetts under the direct supervision of agents of the crown. Listening only to their own self-interested contacts, parliament, lords, and king concluded that a) the ignorant rabble of Boston could be easily starved into submission and that b) nobody outside of Boston would step up in defense.
British authorities assumed the citizens of rural Massachusetts would blame Boston troublemakers, not the British government, for any problems that befell them as a result of the Coercive Acts (which the short-sighted British never considered might be intolerable, because subjects would be forced at gunpoint to tolerate them). Furthermore, and fatally, they assumed residents of the other 12 forever-squabbling colonies would regard the whole mess as a local New England matter and wouldn’t defend their neighbors or, heaven forbid, any general principles of liberty.
Those were their delusions.
While the colonists quickly realized how wrongly they’d judged the British government, the British government never did quite get A Clue about how it had misjudged the colonists.
From the moment the Intolerable Acts were brought across the Atlantic, the colonists were roused into such radical action that British authority was virtually demolished outside of cities, at least in New England. From late spring 1774 to April 19, 1775, resistance was fierce, spreading, and increasingly organized. Yet even once the shooting war began on that fateful spring day, some British officials and loyalists were shocked, truly shocked, that mere colonists had the temerity to shoot at British soldiers. (I saw statements in evidence of this stunned cluelessness at Minuteman National Park during my visit.)
British authorities and functionaries had been warned. They had been subjected to years of mostly polite resistance, followed by a year of decidedly impolite resistance. Yet many simply couldn’t believe it when Americans not only stood their ground against the greatest army in the world, but crouched behind stone walls and emerged from boulder-strewn hillsides to wage a new kind of — unsporting! unfair! — warfare against their smug, conventional, and “superior” masters.
Both sides began in denial. One side rapidly shook off denial and acted accordingly. The other — hidebound in its conventionality, its authority, and its certainty of rightness — couldn’t get over its delusions.
Ours is very unlike the situation of our colonial forebears. They knew each other. They were neighbors, fellow parishioners, fellow militiamen, fellow small-town residents, sharers of mutual interests. They hugely outnumbered their would-be rulers, who had to cross an ocean to impose their will. They shared pride in self-government, in self-sufficiency (yet also in their economic contributions to the British homeland), in their historic rights. They aimed to be beholden to nobody. They eschewed debt. They would have found government handouts repellent, if they thought of them at all.
Unlike moderns, the insurgent colonists had more spies operating within British ranks than the British ever managed to insert into their ranks. Before the shooting began, they faced a limited number of British government officials in their midst and were able to intimidate and unseat them with sheer force of numbers that seem incredible to us, looking back on the sizes of the towns and villages of the day. They knew who the ardent loyalists and traitors in their midst were and were able to keep an eye on them as crises heated up.
We have no such advantages. We have the disadvantages of being under an extreme authoritarian — now wannabe totalitarian — government that is not only thick in our midst, but which oppresses with overwhelming numbers, with bevvies of armed agents from random agencies, and with unthinkable surveillance and control capabilities. And this coercive monstrosity is abetted by a populace that it has largely custom-schooled, propagandized, and above all bought off with virtually limitless supplies of funny money. This is a populace highly disinclined to bite the hand that feeds.
Anybody who imagines they can rise up and “shoot the bastards” now and gain the widespread public support any insurgency needs to succeed is delusional.
Yet…sometimes the “wrong” time to rise up turns by fate into the exact right time to rise up. And its hard to tell when the wrong time is truly, disastrously wrong and simply brings more oppression and when the wrong time is ripe to become right.
Out of so many lessons from the history of our Founding that Real Americans would benefit from studying closely, Claire has just spelled out the most vital one of all. We ignore it, and the others, at our mortal peril.