With the Fourth of July looming, I find myself thinking about the origins of our country, and, once again, I am struck by a thought: The Brits never really got it. Back in the 1700’s they never quite understood why all those unruly Americans were so unhappy with their lot in life.
From the other side of the stormy Atlantic, that’s understandable. The king and his cronies believed they were providing laws, leaders and security that no rubes in the woods could finagle. The British were the reason America was not being routinely plundered by other powerful nations. The Brits were the reason the colonists had status in the world, decent tea and powdered wigs. And yet the ungrateful upstarts dared to get their raccoon underwear in a twist over a few taxes? Harrumph!
But Americans wanted more than fancy snuff boxes and pomp. They wanted their opinions to matter. They wanted true representation. They wanted a government that listened to their concerns and responded as responsible leaders should. Yet their British overlords trudged on, dreaming up new taxes and laying the groundwork for the eventual rise of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals.
You can no doubt see the parallels to our modern times. True, unlike the voteless days of long ago, millions of us actually went to the polls and helped the parties set up the choice we face in this election. But roiling the electorate – left, right and center – is a fundamental sense that Washington doesn’t get it; that big name Dems and Repubs are more intent on fighting each other than helping all of us. We ask for cooperation, and partisans lead us ever deeper into their dark woods of division. We ask for candidates we can believe in; and both parties push people who are deeply polarizing – not the mention the two least trusted contenders in a generation. We ask for a new vision of what American government can be; and they give us the same tired, bitter, caustic infighting that voters despise. Again, millions of us helped make this happen, but the fingerprints of party bosses who want to win at all costs are nonetheless all over the outcome.
The English never fully grasped how unhappy the Americans were, and they thought every crisis would blow over. But they forgot a simple truth: rulers who insist on having things their way with no regard for their subjects, don’t remain rulers very long. And when those subjects decide to overturn the carriage, it doesn’t much matter if the kings inside are sitting on the right or left.