​Ghosts of America’s past: Reflections on Independence Day 2015

Caleb Maupin
Caleb Maupin is a radical journalist and political analyst who lives in New York City. Originally from Ohio, he studied political science at Baldwin-Wallace College. In addition to his journalism, analysis, and commentary, he has engaged in political activism. He is a youth organizer for the International Action Center and was involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement from its planning stages in August 2011. He has worked against police brutality, mass incarceration, and imperialist war. He works to promote revolutionary ideology, and to support all who fight against the global system of monopoly capitalist imperialism.
Activists hold placards as they take part in a vigil in what organizers said was in "remembrance of black women and girls killed by the police," in Union Square, Manhattan, New York (Reuters / Elizabeth Shafiroff)
It’s the Fourth of July in America, and gay marriage has just been legalized by a Supreme Court ruling, the Confederate flag is being displayed on public property and Black churches are being set afire.

“If you could separate causes from results, if you could know that Paine, Marx, Jefferson, Lenin were results, not causes, you might survive,” John Steinbeck wrote in “The Grapes of Wrath” (1939).

Meanwhile, the police continue to kill African Americans without accountability. The government has developed flying killer robots that are able to assassinate people from the sky. The National Security Agency is recording the phone calls, emails, and internet activities of millions of US citizens. Beyond American borders, our leaders are psyching us up for bigger confrontations with Russia and China, as US military forces pour into the Pacific.

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The above paragraphs sound like the opening of an apocalyptic science fiction novel. However, it’s all true. And it gets worse.

The Angry, Poor Millennials Are Getting Political

Underlying it all is an economic crisis. The so-called “recovery” has missed a big section of the country. The good-paying industrial jobs that once defined the US “middle class” have been eliminated. Young people with record amounts of student debt are stuck in a low-wage economy, often living off their parents. US popular discourse bemoans this generation of “millennials” who “just can’t get their lives together.” Young mid-Westerners and Southerners are fleeing to the coastal areas in order to find jobs. Life in much of the Rust Belt has simply become unlivable.

Despite not being as inclined to buy houses and cars or get married at the rate of previous generations, the young millennials seem to be far more interested in politics. In 2011, they slept in tents around the clock at Occupy camps protesting the power of the wealthy “1 percent.” Now, a few years later, young millennials are shutting down highways and bridges in opposition to police brutality, as the new rallying cry is “Black Lives Matter!” The increasingly active new generation of low-paid workers with student debt is much more favorable to once forbidden political ideologies like socialism. ) Libertarianism, anarchism and communism all have a slew of new adherents as well.

READ MORE: Unemployment rate falls in June as nearly 40% of Americans opt out of workforce

In the background, starting just a little more than a week after the July 4 holiday, the US military will begin a series of military exercises in the southwestern states codenamed “Operation Jade Helm,” which has been explained to the public as rehearsal for “unconventional warfare” on US soil. “Unconventional warfare” is military-speak for armed insurrections among the population. The US Army Green Berets, US Marines Special Operation Command, US Navy Seals, and US Air Force Special Operations Command will be in nine different states practicing “counterinsurgency” tactics.

“The Battle Cry of Freedom”

As much as all of the above sounds shocking, I’m not deeply perturbed. History is the most flunked and disliked subject among students in the United States. The reason students in the US don’t like to learn history is because they are taught a very dull and patriotic version of events.

If we actually knew the history of the North American continent, we would all see that the political drama and rising unrest of the last decade fits into a historical pattern of repression, struggle and resistance.

Take the latest controversy: the Confederate flag. This is not the symbol of southerners who think New Englanders look down on their accents. That was the flag chosen to represent a group of states who attempted to withdraw from the country in response to the election of a third-party candidate.

The Republican Party was a stronghold of radicals and rabble-rousers back in the 1860s. It took its name from the radical “Republican” movements of Europe. Its supporters unfurled bright red flags. The Republican Party newspaper of New York City, the New York Tribune, hired Karl Marx as its London correspondent. Radical Christian abolitionists such as John Brown launched armed attacks on the US government. Among the slaves themselves, there were constant uprisings and rebellions.

READ MORE: Brawl breaks out between Confederate flag supporters, opponents

In 1852, Frederick Douglass, who later became a prominent leader of the Republican Party, shamed a crowd of people for inviting him to a Fourth of July celebration. He thundered, “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.”

Abraham Lincoln took office on a platform of refusing to allow slavery to expand into the Western territories. In response, the wealthy slave plantation owners decided to secede from the country. They had the support of Wall Street, which was making lots of money insuring and loaning money to the slave owners and otherwise making profits from human bondage. The Confederates also had the support of the richest people within the British Empire, who saw slave plantations as a source of cheap cotton for the emerging textile industry.

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The Confederate flag was unfurled to defend the practice of owning human beings as property. The secession of the slave owners provoked a mass mobilization of the people. Labor unions mobilized their members to join the fight. Harriet Tubman led a battalion of former slaves and union soldiers through South Carolina, raiding and liberating the plantations along the Combahee River. Also leading the battle against the slave owners was German immigrant August Willich, who commanded the famous Ohio 9th Infantry Regiment. Willich was openly and proudly a Communist who corresponded with Karl Marx throughout the war. The Ohio 9th unfurled the Red Flag as its officials colors, and sang the “La Marseilles” anthem of the French Revolution as they marched into battle.

What we have all been told was a “war between the states” in history classes and dull Ken Burns’ documentaries on PBS was in reality a massive people’s revolution. Wall Street, the British Empire, and the rich slave plantation owners were defeated by a broad coalition of everyday Americans who were sick and tired of them. The coalition that defeated the slavocracy included slave rebels, labor activists, radical Christians and even some communists. The song that rallied this broad coalition of anti-slavery revolutionaries was called “The Battle Cry of Freedom.”

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Revolutions and mass rebellions are not foreign to the United States. The country began with an uprising against the British Empire. The heralded Boston Tea Party was a mass act of property damage and vandalism. The Bill of Rights only ended up in the US Constitution after popular outcry demanded it.

In modern times, the reason we have Social Security, unemployment insurance and paved roads in the suburbs is because of mass rebellions and the unemployed during the 1930s. The Unemployment Councils fought the police to prevent evictions during the Great Depression. Their slogan was: “Don’t Starve, Fight!” The government responded to the wave of street battles by hiring the unemployed into the Works Progress Administration.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who aligned with this mass movement of low-income people, described what they were rebelling against. He said: “We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace - business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob.”

The United States currently has an African American president because of generations of struggle against racism. Martin Luther King, Jr. now has a national holiday in his honor, but once US television declared him to be Soviet agent and a traitor because he actively fought for civil rights and racial equality. This man, now loved and commemorated throughout US society, spent many days sitting inside the country’s jails. The FBI tracked him everywhere he went, and urged him to commit suicide with threatening letters.

In the last years of his life, King himself even declared: “There must be better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism. Call it what you may, call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God's children.”

Mass protests and rebellions against the tyranny of big bankers and government acting as their hired stooges are nothing new. The blood of radicals and revolutionaries who fought against injustice, often using the latest Second Amendment technology, flows through the veins of all who reside on US soil.

READ MORE: ‘Black lives matter’: 70,000 march across ‘Bloody Sunday’ bridge in Selma (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Even slave-owning Thomas Jefferson, who has been eulogized as an iconic “founding father,” was enthusiastic about the perpetuation of massive uprisings in the country he helped establish. He stated bluntly: “What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms… The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

Compared to Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Franklin Roosevelt, many of the newly politicized youth of today seem somewhat conservative. In general, all they have asked for with their wave of peaceful protests and occupations is some accountability from police officers, government officials, and the people who run the economy. In terms of US history, they have shown a great amount of restraint.

What's Next?

The wages and standard of living in the United States is going down. The police are escalating their brutality against African Americans and getting away with it. Our much cherished civil liberties are being stripped away. Cops and prisons are everywhere, but good-paying jobs are vanishing. So, what happens next?

The people of the United States, especially the next generation so decried as “lazy,” is resuming the forgotten traditions of struggle against the rich and powerful. They are filling the streets. They are remembering who “The American People” really are and what they are capable of.

Many have decided to put down their Playstations and take up “The Battle Cry of Freedom.” Wall Street’s blueprint for a low-wage prison is being repudiated, not only with tweets and Facebook “likes,” but with concrete action.

The forces responsible for the currently disastrous state of affairs are not in Caracas, Pyongyang, Moscow, Damascus or Tehran. The tyrants on this Independence Day are much closer to home - on Wall Street and in Washington, DC.

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If the schemes of this ruling elite push the country into some foreign war, this could be their fatal error. Less than 50 years ago during the Vietnam War, soldiers were fragging their officers and refusing to fight. Students were taking over buildings and burning their draft cards. The recent escalation of US military presence in the Pacific, and the campaign of demonization being waged against Russia and China, could backfire on the billionaires and warmongers. If things get out of hand internationally, they are more likely to see great upheaval from the “lazy millennials” than any enthusiasm or willingness to go fight for Wall Street against a major world power.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I don’t think the military drills dubbed “Operation Jade Helm” are about rehearsing for battle against ISIS or Al-Qaeda. I think the boys in Washington and their bosses on Wall Street know US history pretty well.

They know that “We, the People” won’t let them get away with this stuff for very much longer. The United States isn’t frozen in time. The actions of tyrants often have unpredictable consequences. History will keep marching forward, whether or not they choose to get onboard.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.