I like the thought-exercise of viewing historical events as if one were a disinterested Martian. When stripped of the rhetoric, oratory and emotional appeals to the psychological hooks by which we’re so easily manipulated, what does an event look like?
The resulting narrative–in this case, of the creation of the american revolution and creation of the constitution–looks alot like this post by IOZ.
A gang of propertied tax yahoos who’d read a bit too much Cicero did what any patriotic Roman might’ve done in days of yore. They raised a private army and made civil war on a tyrant. They won! And in the decade the followed, they crafted a Roman-style aristocratic Republic, from slaveholding through general manhood citizenship through a vaguely consular system of government. That’s not some anachronistic metaphor. That was their self-conscious project. How many fasciae, how much cognomenizing of Washington as Cincinnatus does it take, huh? Anyway, after a few hundred years, that Republic, which was a little less glimmering than nostalgia recalls, is now deformed beyond recognition or repair. It has inevitably acquired an imperial identity, as you’d expect given its past economic and military success, and its consular-dictatorial office has acquired the trappings of a monarchy. . .
Alright, so maybe IOZ does express a point of view greater in strength than the Martian description. I may be inclined to forgive a bit of non-objective sarcasm and derision since the next-most-mainstream position already incorporates the honorary, “Founding Fathers.” You’ve got to travel a long way past the last outpost of Serious politics to find the position that the constitution is: “neat historical document, like the Twelve Tables, or Leviticus, or Hammurabi’s code, but it is the law of the United States in the same sense that we are guided by, say, the Ten Commandments.”
In the year before those famous shots were fired, farmers in Western Massachusetts had driven the British government out without firing a single shot. They had assembled by the thousands and thousands around courthouses and colonial offices and they had just taken over and they said goodbye to the British officials. It was a nonviolent revolution that took place. But then came Lexington and Concord, and the revolution became violent, and it was run not by the farmers but by the Founding Fathers. The farmers were rather poor; the Founding Fathers were rather rich.
Zinn sticks more to my ideal of Martian detachment–he’s even generous enough to use “Founding Fathers” instead of “gang of propertied tax yahoos,” though I favor the latter description myself.
What is presented in both pieces are perspectives stripped of the propaganda accepted as truth, or a close approximation thereof, by virtually everyone. It’s no small part of the pain and suffering in the world that these clear-eyed perspectives on the history of nations and peoples is considered “radical” rather than “reality.”