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The Nonviolent History of American Independence: Interview with Rivera Sun

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Published on Rivera Sun on July 30, 2016

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Interview with Rivera Sun on August 14, 2016

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CNV-July-4-MemeIndependence Day is commemorated with fireworks and flag-waving, gun salutes and military parades . . . however, one of our nation’s founding fathers, John Adams, wrote, “A history of military operations . . . is not a history of the American Revolution.”

Often minimized in our history books, the tactics of nonviolent action played a powerful role in achieving American Independence from British rule. Benjamin Naimark-Rowse wrote, “the lesson we learn of a democracy forged in the crucible of revolutionary war tends to ignore how a decade of nonviolent resistance before the shot-heard-round-the-world shaped the founding of the United States, strengthened our sense of political identity, and laid the foundation of our democracy.”

One hundred-fifty years before Gandhi, the American colonists employed many of the same nonviolent actions the Indian Self-Rule Movement would later use to free themselves from the same empire – Great Britain. The boycotting of British goods (tea, cloth, and other imported items) significantly undermined British profits from the colonies. Noncooperation with unjust laws eroded British authority as the colonists refused to comply with laws that restricted assembly and speech, allowed the quartering of soldiers in colonists’ homes, and imposed curfews. Non-payment of taxes would prove to be a landmark issue for the independence movement. The development of parallel governments and legal structures strengthened the self-rule and self-reliance of the colonists and grew local political control that would ultimately prove strong enough to replace British governance of the colonies. Acts of protest and persuasion, petitions, pamphlets, rallies, marches, denouncements, legal and illegal publications of articles, and disruption of British meetings and legal proceedings were also employed.

Some of the most powerful boycotts in nonviolent history occurred in the New England colonies against the British Crown. Though the term boycott would not emerge for another hundred years until the Irish coined it during tenant and land struggles, what the colonists called “nonimportation programs” dropped British revenue in New England by 88 percent between 1774 and 1775. In the Carolinas, colonists deprived the Crown of 98.7 percent of import revenue. Moreover, in Virginia and Maryland, the rate reached an impressive 99.6 percent participation.

Resistance to the Stamp Act of 1764 thru 1775 dropped revenues 95 percent below what was expected. The British could not even pay for the cost of enforcing the Stamp Act throughout the colonies, and it was repealed in 1766. Newspapers published without paying the Stamp Tax used noms de plume to avoid reprisal. Courts closed because lawyers and judges refused to pay the Stamp Act for the printing of court documents. Shipping permits were supposed to be stamped, and, since merchants and shippers refused to pay the tax, ports closed, and even official documents were not delivered! Merchants of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia pledged a nonimportation pact until the Stamp Act was repealed. Six months later (at a time when crossing the Atlantic by sail took at least six weeks, and sometimes as long as three months), the Crown repealed the Stamp Act under pressure from its own panicked merchants.

In a campaign that is strikingly familiar to Gandhi’s spinning campaign, the American boycott of imported British cloth held spin-ins, whereby young women gathered in large groups to spin homespun yarn for weaving cloth. Colonists even stopped wearing the traditional funeral black (which mirrored English style) in protest of Great Britain. Women played significant roles in all the nonimportation programs, especially the resistance to the notorious Tea Act. While everyone remembers the Boston Tea Party’s dumping of tea into the Boston Harbor, few Americans have heard about how Susan Boudinot. She was the nine-year-old daughter of a New Jersey patriot, who, when handed a cup of tea while visiting the governor, curtsied, raised the cup to her lips, and then tossed the tea out the window.

These are just some of the many nonviolent actions engaged in by Americans in their struggle for independence. Some scholars even go so far as to call the Revolutionary War, the “War of Reclamation,” for the revolution had already been won in the hearts, minds, homes, and practices of the people by the time the British Crown sought to reclaim the independent and self-governing colonies. This Independence Day, tell the stories of the role nonviolent action played in establishing the United States. Perhaps by next year, we will be participating in re-enactments of spin-ins, holding mock funerals for Lady Liberty, and engaging in boycotts of imported goods to commemorate how American Independence was actually won.

_____________________

ARivera New Hatuthor/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection, Billionaire Buddha and Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, the cohost of Love (and Revolution) Radio, and the cofounder of the Love-In-Action Network. She is a trainer and social media coordinator for Campaign Nonviolence and Pace e Bene. Sun attended the James Lawson Institute on Strategic Nonviolent Resistance in 2014 and her essays on social justice movements appear in Truthout and Popular Resistance. www.riverasun.com

Who will speak for the voiceless?

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Published on Rivera Sun on July 30, 2016The Rim Fire in California’s Sierra Nevada burned over a quarter million acres in 2013. Seemed amazing then, now it’s just another day in the woods (and on the tundra). (US Forest Service photo)The Rim Fire in California’s Sierra Nevada burned over a quarter million acres in 2013. Seemed amazing then, now it’s just another day in the woods (and on the tundra). (US Forest Service photo)

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Tune in to the Collapse Cafe tomorrow Sunday August 14th @ 4PM EDT for an interview with Rivera Sun

The forest sways in ripples of green. Wind sends the dappled sunlight sparkling through the branches. These are the things we forget in the heat of the political season. There are few politicians who will speak on behalf of all people . . . and even fewer who will speak for the beings that comprise the other 99 percent of the planet and are essential for human existence.

Sitting in the forests of rural Maine last week, I stared for hours at the swaying walls of green. Having lived too long in dry places, in landscapes of dust and drought, on concrete and asphalt flatlands, in the stench of exhaust, I had nearly forgotten the beauty of a forest deep in the verdant sigh of summer. As I sit here in a tucked-away section of woods between small farms and fishing coves, the forests return to prominence in my thoughts, replenishing . . . yet troubling.

More than half of the population of the United States has become urbanized. We live under the canopy of skyscrapers. Asphalt is the new green. Climate change is measured by increased air conditioning bills. For many citizens and public officials, nature is an abstract idea hanging like a wall calendar in our minds.

Even among the rural populace, many live in mono-cropped landscapes amidst thousands of acres of genetically modified soy and corn. How many rural voters believe the misinformation on screens rather than their eyes and lifetimes of experiences? Climate denialism still spouts from the mouths of many. The disconnection is severe and dangerous.

For most Americans, the holocaust of mass species extinction has already occurred within their neighborhood. Within our human-dominated landscapes, most of the native and wild species have long since been crowded out. The death of our fellow species is abstract because they died to our “world” decades ago. Why would an inner-city child mourn the death of a butterfly she’s never seen? Who in the suburbs realizes how sterile and deathly still their yards have already become?

How many more election cycles do we get?

The answer is not many. In November, millions of Americans will go to the polls, line up on concrete, wait in office buildings, and then tap screens of choices for political candidates. They will vote for the lesser evil, to make America great again, to put a woman in the White House, or in vain hopes of ousting corporatocracy, oligarchy, or big government out of power. They will vote on slogans, circuses, email scandals and celebrity hat tricks. They will vote on what the pundits tell them.

And all the while, the clock is ticking. Another day passes. The sun is touching the tips of the green trees across the meadow. The planet is heating. Where I live, the mountains are burning. The twisted pines of the desert forests are yellowing with disease and bug infestations. The rivers are shrinking. We normalize these things, attuning to the increasing heat levels, compensating for the lack of rain and humidity by drawing up more water from underground aquifers. A few years ago, a catastrophic forest fire nearly burned Los Alamos National Laboratory – and tons of radioactive waste and stored plutonium – into ash. That record-breaking fire was turned aside just miles from Los Alamos. It raged so hotly that the earth literally melted. Sections of the burn area still look like black moonscapes, even years later.

Who mourns these forests? Who remembers them? Who invokes these swaying giants of trees as they ride the subway? Who consults these leafy communities of being as they make public policies that affect our world? We have largely forgotten these things and our responsibility to them. Humans gather in windowless rooms illuminated by burning kilowatts of fossil fuels or deadly nuclear fission, amplifying a few voices to crowds of other human beings, declaring why this candidate or that should become the next president.

Outside, the trees outnumber humans. Voiceless, unable to travel to conventions or vote, without any hope of political representation, the forests, the Earth, and our fragile, interdependent existence have been left out of democracy. The forests transform the exhaust of our words, breath, cars, and factories into the oxygen we require for existence. And yet, who speaks for them from the podium? Who honors the gift of life the forests bring? Who acknowledges the heavy burden of responsibility we are faced with now?

I am sitting in Maine, in the forest, remembering the things that we seem to have forgotten as we traverse concrete and drought-cracked landscapes, dusty and grimy. My breath is slow and saddened as I watch the tidal sway of the trees rippling in the wind. The sun sets over the branches, shadows lengthen. No easy answers come. Election Day draws closer.

_____________

ARivera New Hatuthor/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection, Billionaire Buddha and Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, the cohost of Love (and Revolution) Radio, and the cofounder of the Love-In-Action Network. She is a trainer and social media coordinator for Campaign Nonviolence and Pace e Bene. Sun attended the James Lawson Institute on Strategic Nonviolent Resistance in 2014 and her essays on social justice movements appear in Truthout and Popular Resistance. www.riverasun.com

 

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