By Patrick Brogan
Are the values of the current Alt-Right movement and those of the Founding Fathers in the US similar? Yes, yes they are. For one, they both love oppression.
America. What does it represent, what does it mean? Firstly, let’s look at the name. The United States of America. The America part of this refers to Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian navigator. He was the first to realise that the land he visited, both Brazil and the West Indies, were, in fact, part of a new fourth continent, not Asia. A German cartographer named Martin Waldseemuler proposed naming this land after him with the Latinised, feminine version of his name, America and a Flemish cartographer called Gerardus Mercator applied this term to both the North and South. He also is the reason Europe looks a lot larger on maps than it is in reality, but that is a story for another time.
He was not referring to the land between Mexico and Canada or the small colonies in its North-East because none of those European constructs existed yet. He never even set foot on the “Land of the Free”. Nor did another famous explorer, Christopher Colombus. Although revered as a hero amongst many in the US, he did not discover their country. He also was arrested and stripped of his titles because of his treatment of the native people of what the Spanish called Hispanola, was involved in the slave trade and some even suggest that he sold children for sex. An all-around top bloke.
When the those living in the colonies rejected British rule and beat them back across the Atlantic, they decided upon the name United States of America. Did they appropriate the name? It certainly hints at a colonial mindset. I bring all this up to highlight the history of the US is dark and brutal and the Founding Fathers themselves bought into this.
The War of Independence
The US is a really strange country in the sense that it was founded as an idea, rather than a group with a shared history coming together, a quirk of geography or colonial powers drawing borders which is the case with most other countries. All Men Created Equally. This was the idea, the sales pitch. However, did they believe that?
It is in the sense that they only considered Men to be white and of European descent. Black and native peoples were sub-human and Men referred to men and not mankind, i.e. women. The freedom they wanted was the freedom to oppress.
Many of the Founding Fathers were racist and the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Clark were slave owners. While Washington later freed his, they created a culture in which it was okay to be racist. Freedom meant freedom to oppress any that were deemed lesser. Thomas Jefferson was deeply conflicted by slavery, as this article highlights, yet, went along with it anyway.
A Racist Country
While other Founding Fathers like John Adams believed that the revolution would not be complete until slavery was abolished, their ideas and dreams didn’t come through. It was the racist slave owners that created the new “America”. Slavery wasn’t abolished until nearly a century later and even then black people were segregated from the rest of society. The pre-European inhabitants were all but destroyed and as a society have not recovered.
The Monroe Doctrine led the US to claim dominion over the rest of the Western Hemisphere and then the world. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan… the list is endless and although the reasons for going to war are always different, the underlining theme isn’t; American hegemony.
This Vox article brings up a lot of important themes regarding the Founding Fathers and the impact a USA free of British rule had, including slavery, indigenous people and the political process. Now, I don’t agree totally with this article. Firstly, the British were on the whole probably the most barbaric colonial power. Secondly, British parliamentary democracy has its own serious flaws and the hypothetical nature of the article, which is a bit of a ridiculous concept to begin with.
The Star-Spangled Banner
However, it focuses on important issues that still impact us today. Colin Kaepernick received massive criticism for “taking the knee” during the US national anthem. However, the third verse of the Star-Spangled Banner has the lines;
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
How could any self-respecting black person stand to attention for this song, especially when those same racial issues are still abound in the country today?
We All Want Freedom
Freedom fighters often become bigger tyrants than the ones they replaced. The US is no different. They had a desire to rule, not spread liberty. Well, enough of them did to leave a big fingerprint on the nation-state that followed.
Indeed, this is similar to the Alt-Right movement we see today. They claim they are victims of unfair censorship and want freedom-of-speech. However, many of these movements would take away this very right they claim they are upholding. For example, Geert Wilders said he wants to restore freedom-of-speech, but at the same time, wants to ban a book, the Koran.
And this is the hypocrisy within this mindset. Many slaves sided the British during the American War of Independence. That’s what those quoted lines from the Star-Spangled Banner refer to. They threatened the lives of people who actually wanted freedom and then refer to this country as the land of the free?
A friend of mine criticised those protesting against a Pegida chapter being set up in Dublin saying they are entitled to free speech in Ireland. However, they don’t want freedom of speech, quite the opposite actually. What they want is freedom to oppress. Just like the Founding Fathers.
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