Perhaps one of the unintended consequences of the Discursionists’ birth in the heady days of the early Obama administration is that our posts are skewed toward politics more than we’d normally like. I promise to write a series of posts about music very soon, but the 60 or so “Tea Party” events across the country yesterday, protesting the stimulus and ballooning federal deficit, brings up some interesting thoughts about political ideas and historical reference points.
Not only are conservatives and libertarians opposed to the president’s economic policies trying to appropriate the historical meaning of the Boston Tea Party, but the rallies and internet buzz surrounding them were replete with other American Revolution references– Don’t Tread On Me flags, talk of Intolerable Acts, etc.
I know it may seem obvious–and it’s probably been said many times before, a lot better– but might we be able to tell a lot about a political movement by the kind of revolutions it romanticizes? After all, historical revolutions that persist in societal memory are driven by the kind of ideas that resonate with us today. So, while the Right feels affinity with the classical liberal movements of democracy, liberty, natural rights and limited government, some on the Left lay claim to, as a gross over-simplification, the moral ambiguity of the French Revolution, its deification of the general will, and its attempt at social engineering. Interesting, too, that conservatives like to trumpet the collapse of Soviet Europe by giving credit to Reagan and Thatcher, however misplaced it may or may not be, while a Marxist revolutionary like Che Guevara is among many liberals’ 20th century romantic heroes.
Meanwhile, in a related manner but not having to do with revolutions per se, supporters of Obama in the last election were able to iconicize the now-president in the style of communist propaganda posters with a straight face, to the horror of conservatives.
I’ll make no secret that I tend to view this romanticizing phenomenon as partial affirmation of my particular political views, given the historical realities of each of the examples cited above, although all of them led to mixed consequences (some more than others). And as an amateur historian, I also realize historical realties are much too complex for a 400-word blog post, so each case is too simply summarized. But perhaps my friends from the other side can provide some more flattering examples of historical reference points liberals like to utilize, or dispute what I’ve ascribed to the events and people above? Or maybe the way I’ve characterized these past revolutions are indicative of the people who respectively revere them, and we just disagree on the merits of the ideas these historical events symbolize?