Breaking News: This Ain’t The First Time

Ann Coulter brought up an important part of history I had forgotten. The Occupy Wall Street protests are going a month strong now, and the same press that called Tea Partiers names that ought not be repeated in a professional office (and certainly not on TV) are comparing the communist uprising of this generation to the Tea Party. Here and I thought the Tea Party was so evil it could not have a link to the hippies.

They can’t figure out what the hell they want. I’ve heard them answer the “what do you want” question with all manner of responses, including everything from an investigation into 9/11 to an end to greed to “hang[ing] and shoot[ing] the Bush administration”. No joke. We’ve seen protesters defecating on police cars. We’ve seen signs that make no sense. We’ve heard calls for greedy businessmen to go to jail. And we’ve seen the owners of Zucotti Park – a privately-owned park on Wall Street with archaic rules such as “no pitching tents” – tuck their shafts between their cheeks and run away when asked if they’ll ever pitch the occupiers out of the park.

(You’ll pardon the crude humor, but I DO spend a lot of time with cops, firefighters and soldiers. If you thought we were all innocent…)

Major unions have paid people to go protest. Union heads have screamed for the blood of wealthy businessmen. They’re upset about outsourcing, foreclosures, problems with the stock market, having to move back in with mom and dad, not having a degree…they’re just mad as hell, and nobody will ever stop them from using their voice, dammit! There’s just one problem with this whole thing. The bible makes a very good point: “Is there anything of which it may be said, ‘see, is this new?’ It has already been in ancient times before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come by those who will come after.” (Ecclesiastes 1:10-11)

What these anti-capitalist occupiers don’t realize is that this isn’t the first time a movement has risen in America out of anger with lenders and other businessmen, including those who foreclose on mortgages. They would have known that if they’d paid attention in history class when Shays’ Rebellion was taught (of course, that’s assuming that schools still see fit to tell kids that it happened in the first place).

In 1783, America took a leap toward her legitimate revolution becoming the bloody travesty that was the French Revolution. Daniel Shays, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, left the Army without being paid only to get home and find himself on the verge of having his home in Massachusetts foreclosed on by the mortgage holder. He also faced time in debtors’ prison. Over a span of years, Shays recruited friends and relatives – many of them fellow veterans of the war – for a massive protest. First they began by petitioning the state legislature and the courts to stop foreclosures; a large number of veterans were facing the same fate. Part of the problem was that they hadn’t been paid much for their service in the war; a large part, however, was that many of the lenders, most of them French, demanded payment in gold and silver – things that they didn’t have much of in the Republic at the time. It simply wasn’t possible to repay the debts in silver and gold.

In the middle of the protesting, one member of the uprising, Plough Jogger, said, “The great men are going to get all we have and I think it is time for us to rise and put a stop to it, and have no more courts, nor sheriffs, nor collectors nor lawyers.” Replace “the great men” with “the rich” and what have you got?

It was in August 1786 that things turned really violent. The occupations that had been intended to peacefully shut down courthouses in Massachusetts to stop judges from handing down the very rulings that would order foreclosures and evictions became a violent uprising. Shays led his rabble to seize the armory in Springfield only to be met by the state militia; the general of the militia fired directly into the protesters, killing a handful and wounding about two dozen. The rebels scurried away without firing a shot. Daniel Shays himself had been sentenced to death but was pardoned by governor James Bowdoin. After spending more than four years of his life blaming everyone else and screaming for the government to do something about it, Shays died in relative obscurity in New York and was buried in a potter’s field.

Shays actually had a serious grievance. Back in those days, we didn’t have a federal government in place to regulate lenders. He came home from helping to free his country and was told that he no longer had a home. How fair is that? His response, however, was what got him into trouble. It was that very rebellion that pushed our founding fathers to create a centralized federal government with the power to regulate the financial industry, particularly lending. Thomas Jefferson was just about the only one who objected. It was at the height of Shays’ Rebellion that he penned the famous words, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

Nowadays, we have a government big enough to take care of entire swaths of citizens. We don’t have soldiers coming home from war and not getting paid for their service. Banks don’t demand payment in precious metals. We don’t have debtor’s prison anymore. We even have courts that may side with a debtor and order a bank to cease and desist in the midst of foreclosure proceedings. Public opinion has become so fierce in recent years that JP Morgan Chase, one of the three biggest banks in the nation, has backed off of several foreclosures, particularly on mortgages owed by military families. Yet despite there being many ways to find relief, we still have hordes of people occupying Wall Street to decry capitalism as evil. The one thing that I find absolutely hilarious is that celebrities are coming out in their designer clothes and protesters are using the very devices of those evil, greedy corporations to social network their way into the history books as the most ridiculous display in US history.

Ecclesiastes said something else that I believe applies to this movement. “As I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task that God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” (Ecc. 1:13-14)

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