“The Regulators” (A People’s History…Ch. 4)


Zinn covers the political atmosphere leading up to the American Revolution in Ch. 4, and one rebellious group of note was “The Regulators,” led by Warren G and Nate Dogg. (God, I wish.) These scoundrels “referred to themselves as ‘poor Industrious peasants,’ as ‘labourers,’ ‘the wretched poor,’ ‘oppressed’ by ‘rich and powerful…designing monsters.'” Ah, America…how little ye hath changed.

Fundamentally, Zinn seeks to magnify the class antagonism that’s existed since before America’s inception, and that our plutocratic ancestors leveraged as fuel for the fire against Britain’s imperialism. If they hadn’t, civil war would’ve ensued instead (across different lines than our imminent, internal, internecine battle). There was no real cohesive spirit in the time of our Revolution; that’s a myth that served the perpetuity of power where it had already been. Political leaders at the time contributed deliberately and desperately to “the myth of the Revolution – that it was on behalf of a united people. The Declaration of Independence brought that myth to its peak of eloquence.” America, like any nation, is a languaged reality; i.e. it’s ultimately an empty signifier that is more mean than meaning.

Let’s pause with some of this reality-creating language in our sacred DoI: “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.” Interesting that the seeds of our destruction are precisely the seeds of our foundation, the American Dream. How much longer before we wake up and truly honor our ancestors. To make America great again would then be to un-make it. Do we dare? Our government has not provided us what it promised, so what are we waiting for? Oh, that’s right, enough of us are content with digestible personal versions of the Dream. No matter that most people are forsaken by our petty privileges. When we say we love democracy, we see only our personal advantage in that gratitude, incapable of – or willfully ignorant to – witnessing the reality of other people’s lives.

[We need not problematize the “all men created equal” bit. That’s one dead-ass horse. But: “Surely, inspirational language to create a secure consensus is still used, in our time, to cover up serious conflicts of interest in that consensus, and to cover up, also, the omission of large parts of the human race.” Yes. See: hegemony, aka reality.]

“And how could people truly have equal rights, with stark differences in wealth?”

“Is it equitable that 99, rather 999, should suffer for the Extravagance or Grandeur of one, especially when it is considered that men frequently owe their Wealth to the impoverishment of their Neighbors?”

These are questions meant to be ushered quietly (well, really, destroyed violently) outside the boundaries of the thinkable, for who would dare question a country that cares so deeply about all its born-equal citizens? How could anyone doubt “self-evident” truths, which are at the core of this great land we are proud to call America?

Woe is he who succumbs to such cynicism, who forsakes gratitude in favor of fruitless skepticism, who favors anger over awe and appreciation, who grasps at truth over our most consoling lies.

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