The Founding Fathers were no strangers to extreme polarization – political violence and intimidation of the press.
Over the past year we have witnessed a major party nominee encourage violence against political opponents.
An election has fractured relations among friends and families.
Painted swastikas have appeared on America’s college campuses – while presidential rhetoric only reluctantly condemns anti-Semitic attacks.
The new regime delegitimizes its critics and calls the press ‘the opposition party’.
These disturbing developments should perhaps not entirely surprise Americans.
After all – extreme polarization – violence as a means of politics and intimidation of the press were an integral part of the nation’s tumultuous birth.
But instead of remembering that fierce rancor we have been holding on to the founders’ powerful fiction of a non-violent unified American Revolution.
Today as the deeply divided United States endeavors to find a way forward from its present perils – it is finally time to look back and reckon with this nation’s divisive violent founding.
Most Americans don’t realize that the Revolution was not just a courageous struggle for noble ideals against an oppressive empire – but also America’s first civil war.
John Adams estimated that one third of the American population supported the Revolution – one third were uncommitted and fully one third opposed the revolution — the American ‘Loyalists’ who cut across every social echelon – religious denomination and geographic region – as well as race.
The Revolution divided communities and split families – most famously the Franklins of Philadelphia — Benjamin – the Founding Father and his son William – a passionate Loyalist leader.