By David Swanson
Yay! It’s the Fourth of July! Time to blow some fingers off with firecrackers and laugh at the poor dumb bastards up
north who think they got a better deal than the Great American Colonists without having to kill anybody in a War of
Independence. Don’t the Canadians know that Freedom Isn’t Free?
Being FREE, we all know, is not a question of having healthcare or a decent chance of avoiding being shot with a gun.
It’s not a matter of civil rights or economic security. It’s got nothing to do with speaking or organizing or
determining the outlines of your life. People who’ve fled slavery and wars to live in Canada haven’t obtained Freedom,
only pneumonia and — I suppose — a halfway decent NBA team, and a longer lifespan, and greater security, and better
education, and other such worthless muck. The free-est country on earth, on the other hand, has the most people in
prison; if that confuses you, you haven’t understood Freedom. Being FREE has a simple definition. Being FREE means being
something that somebody killed a lot of people for. And, therefore, Canada ain’t FREE — though it’s working on it.
Sorry, Canada, until you have a bloody effing revolution against the British you have no right to Independence Day sales
or even picnics handing out free Freedom crap for mandatory donations. You aren’t even a Real country yet, you primitive
snowflake patsy pseudo-patriots. I say that in a spirit of brotherly condescension.
Now, it’s true that a great many nations — Canada just being the nearest by — have gained what looks like independence
without wars. In reality, the American Founding Fathers invented independence with a war. We could perhaps have had all
the same advantages without the war, but it was the killing of tens of thousands of people that created Liberty. That’s
why we keep doing it, liberating people all over the globe. In recent years, the U.S. military has been liberating the
f— out of all kinds of people, whether they appreciate it or not.
Back in 1986, a book was published by the nonviolent strategist Gene Sharp, now-about-to-retire Virginia State Delegate
David Toscano, and others, called Resistance, Politics, and the American Struggle for Independence, 1765-1775.
Those dates are not a typo. During those years, the people of the British colonies that would become the United States
used boycotts, rallies, marches, theatrics, noncompliance, bans on imports and exports, parallel extra-legal
governments, the lobbying of Parliament, the physical shutting down of courts and offices and ports, the destruction of
tax stamps, endless educating and organizing, and the dumping of tea into a harbor—all to successfully achieve a large
measure of independence, among other things, prior to the War for Independence. Home-spinning clothes to resist the
British empire was practiced in the future United States long before Gandhi tried it. The colonists might have gone on
that way, but they never could have achieved FREEDOM unless they started murdering people.
The colonists didn’t talk about their activities in Gandhian terms. They didn’t foreswear violence. They sometimes
threatened it and occasionally used it. They also, disturbingly, talked of resisting “slavery” to England even while
maintaining actual slavery in the “New World.” And they spoke of their loyalty to the King even while denouncing his
Yet they largely rejected violence as counter-productive. They repealed the Stamp Act after effectively nullifying it.
They repealed nearly all of the Townsend Acts. The committees they organized to enforce boycotts of British goods also
enforced public safety and developed a new national unity. Prior to the battles of Lexington and Concord, the farmers of
Western Massachusetts had nonviolently taken over all the court houses and booted the British out. And then the
Bostonians turned decisively to violence, a choice that need not be excused, much less glorified, but without which
there could never have been Freedom — or flag bumper stickers.
While we imagine that the Iraq War has been our only war started with lies, we forget that the Boston Massacre was
distorted beyond recognition, including in an engraving by Paul Revere that depicted the British as butchers. We erase
the fact that Benjamin Franklin produced a fake issue of the Boston Independent in which the British boasted of scalp hunting. And we forget the elite nature of the opposition to Britain. We drop
down the memory hole the reality of those early days for ordinary nameless people. Howard Zinn explains:
“Around 1776, certain important people in the English colonies made a discovery that would prove enormously useful for
the next two hundred years. They found that by creating a nation, a symbol, a legal unity called the United States, they
could take over land, profits, and political power from favorites of the British Empire. In the process, they could hold
back a number of potential rebellions and create a consensus of popular support for the rule of a new, privileged
In fact, prior to the violent revolution, there had been 18 uprisings against colonial governments, six black
rebellions, and 40 riots. The political elites saw a possibility for redirecting anger toward England. The poor who
would not profit from the war or reap its political rewards had to be compelled by force to fight in it. Many, including
enslaved people, promised greater liberty by the British, deserted or switched sides, completely failing to grasp the
concept of True Freedom. In other words, the War for Independence was as valid and respectable a scam as any recent war
— and a real fluster cuck for those involved in it.
Punishment for infractions in the Continental Army was 100 freedom-lashes. When George Washington, the richest man in
America, was unable to convince Congress to raise the legal limit to 500 lashes, he considered using hard labor as a
punishment instead, but dropped that idea because the hard labor would have been indistinguishable from regular service
in the Continental Army. Soldiers also deserted because they needed food, clothing, shelter, medicine, and money. They
signed up for pay, were not paid, and endangered their families’ wellbeing by remaining in the Army unpaid. About
two-thirds of them were ambivalent to or against the cause for which they were fighting and suffering. Popular
rebellions, like Shays’ Rebellion in Massachusetts would follow the revolutionary victory despite the birth of Liberty.
Imagine bringing people who actually fought in the War for Independence back to life, sitting them down, and solemnly
declaring “Thank you for your service.” THAT would be bravery.
The American revolutionaries were also able to open up the West to expansion and wars against the Native Americans,
something the British had been forbidding. The American Revolution, the very act of birth and liberation for the United
States, was also a war of expansion and conquest. King George, according to the Declaration of Independence, had
“endeavoured (sic) to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages.” Of course, those were
people fighting in defense of their own lands and lives. Victory at Yorktown was bad news for the future of Native
American nations. Luckily, they had no Independence or Freedom to lose!
The wars against Native Americans began immediately, as well as wars into Florida and Canada. The War of 1812 was
intended to conquer the residents of Canada, who were expected to welcome U.S. invaders as liberators. Their actual
response resembled that expectation even less than has the Iraqis’ since 2003. Canadians to this day do not grasp how
badly they have things. The saps don’t even have a Star Spangled Banner.
Have you listened carefully to, or read the full lyrics to the U.S. national anthem? The third verse celebrates killing
people who had just escaped from slavery. An earlier version had celebrated killing Muslims. The lyricist himself,
Francis Scott Key, owned people as slaves and supported lawless police killings of African Americans. Strip the song
down to its first verse, as most people do, and it remains a celebration of war, of the mass killing of human beings, of
a war of conquest that failed to take over Canada and instead got the White House burned. And during the course of that
valorous piece of blood-soaked stupidity, Key witnessed a battle in which human beings died but a flag survived. And I’m
supposed to stand, like an obedient mindless robot, and worship that glorious incident, and it’s supposed to matter what
I do with my hand, but not what I do with my brain?
I take that back. I’m expected to switch my brain to low-power mode in order to take seriously claims to the effect that
militarism protects my freedom, and that I should therefore give up some of my freedom for it. But that’s what true
Freedom requires. So, if you’re allowed any moments off work, head on down to the big celebration, and make your way
through the metal detectors (pick up your guns on the other side) and roast some dead animal flesh for the Fossil Fuel
Deities. But if you’re near a military base, don’t drink the water. It’s likely to kill you. Even so, you can savor the
experience of what FREEDOM tastes like.
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is executive director of WorldBeyondWar.org
and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org
. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie
. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org
. He hosts Talk Nation Radio
. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.
Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson
Help support DavidSwanson.org, WarIsACrime.org, and TalkNationRadio.org by clicking here: http://davidswanson.org/donate