With the election of billionaire and Republican Donald Trump, many people, especially those who identify as Democrats, are lamenting his ascension. They cite his racism, money, conflicts of interest, Twitter, and a laundry list of other deplorable aspects of his personality as reasons why this election was a somber moment for America. To some degree, they’re correct. I as much as anyone do not want a racist despot ruling the country where I live. But, I’m not too keen on the alternative either. No, not because of her damn emails. Because of what she represents. American politics has long been dominated by two things, the big party that is in power and the big party that isn’t in power. They represent the same things all government has since the signing of the Magna Carta- if you aren’t rich, we don’t care.
Many public school curriculums will have very positive things to say about the United States. Like how our founding fathers fought for the common everyday man against the tyrannical British dogs. They are oppressing us and stepping on us as if we were no more than lowly vermin. Yet, what changed after the Revolutionary War? America went from being ruled over by a British elite to being ruled over by an American one. Our constitution proclaims all men are created equal, but really only the rich white elite were in mind during that passage. The endless tides of women, Native Americans, slaves, and poor whites that existed in the colonies at the time were unaccounted for. Men lay dying on the streets of Boston, yet the planners of the Tea Party could not have cared less. Slaves worked in Jefferson’s fields as he penned the Declaration of Independence. As George crossed the Delaware, Martha was expected to sit home idly.
But wait, didn’t many “middle class” males serve in the Continental Army? Well, about one third of males in America owned property. Despite that being just a small fraction of the population, they were still there. And our founders realized they needed bodies if they were ever going to win a war. So they modified their message, just enough, so they could gather popular support from the “middle class”, most of which only owned a very miniscule amount of land and were nearly impoverished. With the help of Thomas Paine, pamphlets were published throughout the colonies with the purpose to manipulate people to join the armies of the new country. In addition to other various propaganda, a large enough part of the population was convinced they had been wronged and took up the banner of the new country. With enginuity of our founding fathers and a significant amount of French aid, the United States of America was born. Seriously though, everyone forgets about the French. Without their fleet, troops, supplies, and commanders the war would almost certainly have ended in a victory for the British. But, frankly, unless you were an American elite or a British elite the result of the war most likely wouldn’t affect you at all.
The victory of America came at great expense for the elites who began the war. Of course, they believed it was the poor who had to foot the bill. The Shays’ Rebellion is the most notable bit of post independence conflict. Farmers made their livelihoods on the crops they grew and converted to whiskey. The government really didn’t care and just viewed it as a revenue stream. Daniel Shays, a veteran of the “Revolution”, was so upset by this apathy of the new government and their cold harsh treatment of his fellow man. So, he and most of his friends in Western Massachusetts began an armed protest over the economic policy of the new country. The new country didn’t care, and the militia was violently quelled. The results? Not a more compassionate or sympathetic restructure on the finances of the country, but rather a reinforcement of the authority of the Federal Government. A desperate attempt by the poor to save their way of life was met with arms and blood. This would be a recurring theme in America, from the violent quelling of strikers in the Industrial Revolution to the disregard to our foreign policy in the Middle East.
This brief article is in no way meant to be a comprehensive critique on the lives of the non-elite in America. But regardless whether the president has an R or a D next to their name the situation and status quo of America is unlikely to change. In an era where we ask ourselves why such divisions between the middle class and poor, black and white exist we may have to trace that question to our origin to get a satisfactory resolution. Why exactly do we regard those in blatant need with such apathy? Well, America has just always done that from our conception in “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”