I recently came across an article written by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker purporting that the American Revolution was a mistake. The article is poses as merely food for thought, but this is the same man who has penned gems such as: The Persistence of Trump Derangement Syndrome, Orwell’s “1984” and Trump’s America, and Donald Trump: Narcissist, Creep, Loser. Is it then really so hard to believe that the facile claims presented in, “We Could Have Been Canada–Was the American Revolution such a good idea?“, are anything less than the sincere and perverse Oikophobia of a man who deeply resents his own nation? A response has already been done by Kyle Sammin that zeroes in on the question of the Whigs, but I don’t care to engage in the pedantic debate that Mr. Gopnik puts forth against the Whigs, because it is a false pretense for his very personal attack on the character of the men who made this nation a reality. This article is one long train wreck of nearly unreadable and pretentious Che-Guevara-shirt-wearing dribble, so I am going to focus on what Kyle Sammin skimmed over to tackle other errors in this category-five disaster of an article: the historical facts that Adam Gopnik shamefully misconstrues to push his narrative.
In a Nutshell
It’s always good to begin your polemic with sound rationale. Adam Gopnik doesn’t do that. Instead, he opens by breezily condemning the leaders of the American Revolution as pugnacious racists, the fathers of the Enlightenment as intellectual cons, and monarchies as… good?:
“What if the injustices and madness of American life since then have occurred not in spite of the virtues of the Founding Fathers but because of them? The Revolution, this argument might run, was a needless and brutal bit of slaveholders’ panic mixed with Enlightenment argle-bargle, producing a country that was always marked for violence and disruption and demagogy. Look north to Canada, or south to Australia, and you will see different possibilities of peaceful evolution away from Britain, toward sane and whole, more equitable and less sanguinary countries. No revolution, and slavery might have ended, as it did elsewhere in the British Empire, more peacefully and sooner.”
Perhaps old age has fogged Gopnik’s mind and he has forgotten the punitive restrictions on personal, democratic, and financial freedom imposed by British monarchy on colonists, along with savageries like the Boston Massacre. Perhaps Mr. Gopnik is aware of the truth of the principles that motivated the American Revolution, but would have been content subsisting as a spineless subject to a monarchy (monarchies are bad, remember?) rather than wrestle freedom from the hands of tyrants, like the Founding Fathers did. The painful irony is that it is the Left that should be diametrically opposed to a monarchy, not arguing in favor of it. I guess Trump’s victory has shocked the faint of heart like Mr. Gopnik into derangement–you can almost hear Thomas Paine screaming from beyond the grave.
Gopnik’s claim that the Revolutionary War was driven primarily by “slaverholders’ panic” is categorically false and that he has the nerve to postulate such claims is shameful, that The New Yorker publishes them is ridiculous. Then again, what better way is there to posit such a controversial and easily refutable argument than to begin by painting the intentions of long-dead men as simply racist? Given the weak character of Mr. Gopnik, it should come as no surprise that he considers the works of far superior men such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and the Baron de Montesquieu–the fathers of The Enlightenment–to be “argle-bargle.” It was from these men that the Founding Fathers gleaned the framework of the social contract, limited government, the consent of the governed, and separation of powers–all things that Gopnik deems “argle-bargle.” To think that “Liberal” was once a term applied to bold men–like the leaders of the Enlightenment–and what a shame it is now that this mantel has fallen upon the tremulous, skulking shoulders of little men like Adam Gopnik.
Slavery and Crimes Against Humanity
Mr. Gopnik uses slavery in America as pretense for his attack on the leaders of the Revolution, while omitting glaring historical facts in order to support his narrative. To presume centuries later that slavery would’ve ended sooner under British monarchy is at best hindsight that can only exist within the Ivory Towers of New York, or at worst willful contortion of fact. Mr. Gopnik fails to address that slavery existed within British colonies until 1843 while the North in America abolished slavery in 1804, the Thirteenth Amendment completely abolishing slavery in 1865. If you are going to engage in polemics like Mr. Gopnik has, then it is important to pay attention to detail, something he purposely seems to avoid. Mr. Gopnik uses the term “apartheid” as an indictment directed at America while failing to reflect on the role that the British played in the creation of the Apartheid, having been involved in South African affairs until 1961. In truth, it was Winston Churchill and Cecil Rhodes who laid the framework for the policies that would one day deprive blacks of their democratic rights in South Africa. I am a fan of Churchill and Rhodes, but unlike Mr. Gopnik, I can come to terms with the reality that no person, no country is perfect, but what we have in America–and what we could have here in the future–may very well be as close as a nation will ever come to that lofty ideal.
Mr. Gopnik seems to believe that Canadians and Australians have kept their hands clean, painting them in the light of placid little paupers who obeyed their masters and never raised a hand against their fellow man. Unfortunately for Mr. Gopnik, this is another categorical untruth. Mr. Gopnik is deranged in his claim that Canadians kept their hands clean when they did in fact perform brutal experiments on indigenous children, attempted to eradicate the culture of indigenous peoples, and surprise, Canadians did enslave Pawnees and Africans… and various forms of these crimes against minority groups went on until 1996.
“Caribou was snatched from her parents’ house in 1972 by the state-funded, church-run Indian Residential School system that brutally attempted to assimilate native children for over a century. She was only seven years old. ‘We had to stand like soldiers while singing the national anthem, otherwise, we would be beaten up’, she recalled.” Those damned chauvinist Americans, if only they had remained under the rule of the Brit–oh… this was in Canada.
As for the Australians? Again, only in Gopnik’s derangement are the Australians above transgression. Someone please remind him that for nearly a century (1860s to 1870s), the Aboriginal people of Australia were–by colonial and state governments–taken from their homes and forced to work (on average 16 hours a day) on the ranches of white men all over Australia, without pay. Isn’t forced labor without pay the definition of slavery? “No. Only Americans did slavery”, is what I imagine Adam Gopnik’s retort would be. So yes, the argument could very well be made that the European colonists of Australia did in fact engage in the practice of slavery, and the fact that thousands of Aborigines were killed in frontier wars by colonists is also omitted by Gopnik.
“We were taught that the brave Americans hid behind trees to fight the redcoats—though why this made them brave was left unexplained. In Canada, ninth grade disclosed a history of uneasy compromise duality, and the constant search for temporary nonviolent solutions to intractable divides. The world wars, in which Canadians had played a large part, passed by mostly in solemn sadness. (That the Canadians had marched beyond their beach on D Day with aplomb while the Americans struggled on Omaha was never boasted about.) Patriotic pageantry arose only from actual accomplishments: when Team Canada won its eight-game series against the Russians, in 1972, the entire nation sang ‘O Canada’—but they sang it as a hockey anthem as much as a nationalist hymn.”
Truly, there is not a more detestable creature than the one who slanders the honorably deceased. Mr. Gopnik casually desecrates the sacrifices of men far superior and far more honorable than himself, then irreverently suggests that they did not earn their place in glory. I find it ironic that he speaks so highly of the Canadian history taught in high school, while he himself clearly knowing so very little about the subject. Unfortunately for Mr. Gopnik, history is not so easily inhumed by craven little men. Gopnik claims that he didn’t understand why American rebels were brave to take on the British, then answers himself in this dumpster fire of an article when he quotes Hoock’s “Scars of Independence”:
“The British started to bayonet their defenseless victims, crushing bones and leaving gashing wounds in the men’s stomachs, chests, backs, and limbs. Withdrawing the blade, as much as plunging it in, tore muscles, arteries, and organs. When the British moved out, Julian King had sixteen wounds, including eleven in his breast, side, and belly; George Willis had sustained between nine and twelve wounds, some in his back. At first, it seemed that Thomas Talley would escape this wave of the bloody assault; he was taken prisoner. British soldiers had moved him outside and stripped him of his breeches, when his captors received orders to kill him, too. They took Talley inside the barn and lethally jabbed him half a dozen times.” That is why Americans were brave to take up arms against the British.
Without being so sordid as Mr. Gopnik to take away from the valor of the Canadians who fought in the Normandy landings, it is a known historical fact that Omaha beach was the most heavily fortified of all the German positions, and this was the beach that Americans far superior to Mr. Gopnik wrestled from German control. The 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions faced off against the entrenched German 352nd Infantry Division. Despite facing Germans entrenched in the most formidable fortifications that were unharmed by allied bombing prior to the invasion, awful terrain that exposed Americans to 88 mm gun fire, currents that disrupted the passage of landing craft carrying troops and supplies, ineffective allied bombing runs that failed to clear obstacles on the beaches (Americans had to literally poke at mines with bayonets while under fire), and soldiers having to wade between 50-100 meters in waist deep water while under fire, the Americans took the beach; I would say that we have damn good reason to be proud of that day. While the Canadians had a fierce battle of their own, it is fact that no nation had a more difficult beach on D-Day than the Americans. Mr. Gopnik hides behind the courageous deeds of better men to make slanderous claims against his own countrymen, while having no courage or integrity of his own. As for hockey? I feel like stooping to the point where we are shouting, “My country is better than yours because we are good at a sport, but we don’t brag about it”, is something you’d only find on a high school campus… or in The New Yorker, I guess.
“The Revolution remains the last bulwark of national myth. Academics write on the growth of the Founding Father biographical genre in our time; the rule for any new writer should be that if you want a Pulitzer and a best-seller you must find a Founding Father and fetishize him. While no longer reverential, these accounts are always heroic in the core sense of showing us men, and now, occasionally, women, who transcend their flaws with spirit (though these flaws may include little things like holding other human beings as property, dividing their families, and selling off their children).”
It is shortly after this paragraph that the article descends into near complete derangement where Gopnik seems to be talking to himself, his podium becomes a tennis-ball-capped walker, and the audience must almost certainly be asleep or senile. Gopnik must truly be disconnected from reality after having been shaken so hard by Trump’s victory that he must have forgotten that the overwhelming majority of the most recent Pulitzer Prize winners have come out of The New York Times and my personal favorite, The Washington Post. With trash like this competing for Pulitzer Prices, I cannot see writing well about Founding Fathers getting you too far these days. The rest of this paragraph is more deranged barking that is only possible in an anti-American psychosis that insulates you from reality.
Gopnik goes on to attack the Whigs and the men behind the Revolution, but he does so by accusing the motivation of every leader and thinker that made the American Revolution possible of–you guessed it–racism. Kyle Sammin put it best, “Although he takes shots at them, Gopnik’s real complaint is not with our exact form of government, nor with the history of slavery. His real argument is with the Enlightenment.” I am of the belief that Mr. Gopnik really doesn’t care about the history of slavery, or whether we are presided over by a limited government or an absolute monarchy, I don’t think that Mr. Gopnik lacks the ability to take things holistically, I believe that Mr. Gopnik is simply a coward who is afraid of bold men with bold dreams, the men who founded this country, because men like Adam Gopnik are incapable of even dreaming such lofty ideas. This argument is at its core a reflection of the impotent anger and petty resentment that has compelled him and those like him to slander the names of the men who laid the foundation for what has become the greatest country on earth, with all of its flaws and failures. I have never understood why miserable men like Adam Gopnik choose to continue living within the borders of the United States when they seem to despise it so much.
It has been said that the meek shall inherit the earth. If this is true, then it is only true because of bold men like the Founding Fathers and leaders of the Enlightenment, the men at Omaha and Utah beach, the men who picked up a musket in the face of overwhelming odds while cowards looked on and did nothing, and now look back to pedantically criticize what they could never do. It is only because of these great men and their sacrifices that meek little men like Gopnik may tremulously inherit the earth, and it is our duty to those great men that we do not allow the meek to eradicate the memory of their sacrifices for our freedoms.