A Salon.com article about the Wall Street Protest reminded me of long ago learning moment
1960 -- I was a freshman at Penn State and Jack Kennedy had just been elected.
His grandfather was sitting on the porch when we got there.
Made introductions and then brought up the big news, that after years of a retired general in the oval office, a young man was going to be president.
And I asked his grandfather what he thought about that, about John Kennedy's election.
And his reply:
"The sonsofbitches put a tax on our whiskey and I ain't had no use for them since."
And I thought.. what's he talking about?
The Whiskey Rebellion?
That was, like what? -- 1791?
And he's still pissed off?
That was what I thought at the time, all enthused as us liberals' kids were.
And it fascinated me. And still does.
(We're not talking about the original Tea Party --yeah, I know, we celebrate it as one of the sacred patriotic landmarks of American history, but in actuality the Boston Tea Party was more like one of the Hangover movies -- a bunch of drunken rowdies dressed up in costumes who went out and dumped English tea in the harbor and rolled off laughing about how "We really showed 'em," and disappeared into the night.
Back to my friend’s grandfather’s forefathers:
They did not want to change the country.
They just wanted to continue living as they had.
They "had no use for them sonsofbitches."
But Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, decided that they had to pay off the national debt, that they had the power to tax and that going after the sinful distillers, the country bumpkins out west, would be a good way to start.
There were those, years later, who held that Aaron Burr (who killed Hamilton in 1804, in a duel) was a true patriot and an American hero. Some rural folk still do.
But the point of the article (and the rebellion) was to tell them sonsofbitches – now our own homegrown American sonsofbitches -- to back off.
And the people who were telling them to back off -- the people Hamilton thought it OK to fuck over -- were the ones who had fought alongside him in getting a new government in the first place.
The American principle, held throughout our history from Minutemen to the IWW, is that you don't go whining to some government, you take direct action against those who stole from you.
And the people spending day after day in sight of Wall Street know who the thieves are.
Mr Hoegland is the author of The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged America's Newfound Sovereignty (Scribner, 2006)