People know the Fourth of July as America’s birthday but it really marks the day our founding fathers started a somewhat ill-conceived war with an uncertain outcome. In hindsight, it all looks wonderful, but in 1776 there was a very big difference between declaring independence and actually achieving it. Compared to the British army, the colonial troops were poorly armed and badly outnumbered but they pushed forward in the face of questionable odds because they believed it was the only way to remedy what they felt were abuses by the British Crown. We all know the American colonists won the war for independence but what we forget is that they paid for that victory with blood and sacrifice.
Two hundred thirty seven years later, I see so much discontent and outright anger towards our government that I can’t help but wonder if it’s time to throw it all out and start over as our founding fathers did. I’m not advocating for an armed conflict, I’m certain that would only produce negative results, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to entertain the idea that the mechanisms of our republic have become too distorted to be repaired.
If you think this idea has merit, as I suspect many people in the left-libertarian leaning tech community will, then I have a challenge for you. What price are you willing to pay in order to make the United States into the nation you believe we should be? Are you willing to risk and sacrifice as our founding fathers did? Revolutions have a cost. The price of this one might not be paid in bullets and blood but I’m sure whatever the costs are, it’s more than the price of social media complaining and showing support by adding a banner to your Twitter avatar.
We’ve become so enamored with the supposedly democratized voices allowed by the internet that many people seem to think that’s all it’s going to take. I can assure you, online bellyaching and tweets of outrage aren’t going to cut it. Look at the Occupy Wall Street movement. Despite broad online support, it accomplished nothing. I am not a Tea Party supporter but I give them credit for organizing and making themselves heard beyond the insular sphere of online conversations. If the people revolted today, I have no doubt the revolution would come from the organized right. It certainly won’t come from indignant, know-it-all internet complainers and the throngs of do-nothing social media pseudo influencers.
Furthermore, let’s imagine the online anti-political parties somehow won the revolution and came to power. How would they lead? People forget that after winning independence from Britain, America didn’t just magically come together wholly formed. The original Articles of Confederation were unworkable and it wasn’t until the ratification of the Constitution in 1788 did we even have a functional form of government.
Leading is always vastly more difficult than pointing out failures. This is why the established parties, both Democrats and Republicans, are always seen as a disappointment. They’ve had the burden of actually governing which is a difficult process that invariably dissatisfies a large segment of the population. The various anti-parties have had the luxury of sitting on the sidelines and criticizing, essentially playing armchair quarterback. Anonymous might be good at exacting “internet justice,” but running a country takes more than hacking the government or some big corporation and exposing corruption. It takes work, compromise, and the ability to see grey even when we want to see the world in black and white, all things the outraged online community consistently fails to do.
On this Fourth of July, remember that today is not a celebration of barbeques and burgers. Properly viewed, it’s not even a celebration of the founding of our nation since the establishment of the United States was far from a certainty on this day 237 years ago. Today marks only the day our founding fathers put a stake in the ground and declared that they would fight by whatever means necessary to create the country they deserved. In actuality, it was only a tiny first step in the process of creating a nation.
For those of you who feel it’s time for a new revolution, ask yourself if you are willing to risk and sacrifice as our founding fathers did. Ask yourself if you’re really willing to fight for the country you want, even in the face of an uncertain outcome. I suspect very few can answer with an honest “Yes.” It’s easier just to post your outrage to Facebook.
NOTE: For the record, I am not personally convinced a revolution is our best option. I believe we’d end up with a dangerous vacuum ripe for greater abuses, much like Egypt, but I felt it was a topic worth discussing.