It would be nice if our transformation from British Colonies to that shining beacon of freedom was as orderly as we make it sound. It was a messy business, and not just in terms of warfare. We couldn’t agree with others back then, and our struggles against government and fellow citizens haven’t changed all that much. Most people can still be united by what they are against more than what they stand for. And minorities still get the short shrift — just modernized versions of the same old discrimination.
Former Village Voice cartoonist Stan Mack lends a snarky studiousness to this tale, which presents his 1994 magnum opus in a present that reflects the strands that reach back to the American Revolution. In Mack’s presentation, the war against England was one of elitists who had to sell the difference between self-rule and a monarchy to regular people in order to build an army — and then rig the system in their own favor after the war was won.
And if it sucked to be a white guy who owned no property, being female or black was even worse. It was hard for them to embrace the rhetoric of the American victory after it had revealed itself as so opportunist in allowing the upper classes to seize their advantages.
From George Washington to Mitt Romney, it took us years to get here. Where, oh, where is the modern Daniel Shays? Somewhere at an Occupy action or sitting behind a computer, hacking into websites and calling himself “Anonymous,” I imagine. It’s certainly not the new iteration of the Tea Party and its strange rebels as political puppets existence.
Mack’s history is a vital and entertaining one. It captures Americans as radicals and wild cards and assures that rebellion is in our blood, even if it must be against each other.