go us/u.s. ?

[Editorial prologue. The below is what happens when computer science majors write about history]

It’s July 4th. Indepedence Day. On this day, people typically whip out their Go American Freedom rhetoric and stick a flag in front of their house. I abhor Go American Freedom rhetoric. Looking back, I am horrified at the stuff my elementary school teachers told me. The colonial situation during the 1700s are usually greatly exaggerated. I just wanted to point out some obvious oversights.

Typical simplified history lessons boil down our declaration of independence to a Tyranny issue. King George is made out to be the enemy. “Look! A tight-fisted monarch! No! We want democracy!” Americans today like to make themselves out to be the starters of the democratic movement. However, the truth is that the democratic thought was already well-settled in Europe. The Parliament in England had already stripped half of King George’s power away and had a significant say in the empire’s decisions. The colonists simply wanted to be represented in the Parliament, so that they have a say on decisions that affect them (like taxes.) However, lack of technology made such representation impractical. It look months to cross the Atlantic; how could a colonial rep stay in contact with his constituents? Rebelling colonists weren’t escaping the King’s tyranny; they were escaping Parliament’s tyranny. Thus “No taxation without representation“?

Anyway, when the Framers started writing the Constitution, most of their politcal theory had come from leading European thinkers at the time. The idea of checks and balances wasn’t new. Neither was having a big building full of popularly-elected officials. What WAS novel, was that the Framers did not have to deal with precedent. America was brand new. They did not have to compromise with historical precedent. They had a clean slate. No traditions, no customs, no existing governing system to compromise with. English peasants had to riot and storm castles before they got the King to sign the Magna Carta, asserting freedoms to citizens. The Framers didn’t have to do stuff like that. They were able to take advantage of hundreds of years of politcal mistakes and blunders.

My basic point is that we’re not that special. Colonists were not exactly treated horrible by the English (certainly not like the Haitians were). So our independence does not seem like that big of a deal. It was not some valiant march for greater freedom for the world. We just broke off from the English. Happy Indepedence Day.

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