The Troublemakers

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Yesterday we walked the grounds of Mount Vernon, outside Washington, DC. It was home to George Washington, leader of the revolution, founding father, first president, hero…

But, of course, not everybody saw him that way. He was an American hero, but the British crown was not so fond of him and his colleagues. The view of the Revolution from across the sea was very different. With a quick search, I found these bits…

From Foreign Policy magazine: “According to most British writers, though, the biggest uncertainty of all was whether the United States — a nation founded in the “criminal enterprise” of rebellion, as the English historian Edward Gibbon wrote in 1780 — would ever be a worthy treaty partner for Britain and the other nations of Europe.”

Troublemakers. Criminals. Not to be trusted.

From an interview with Prof Stanley Weintraub on NPR: “King George III and Britons in the 1770s felt the colonists were complaining too much about too little…”

“The resentment built on the part of the patriots, patriots who were really extremists, largely in the Northeast, like Massachusetts. And when the Tea Party occurred and the bales of tea were thrown overboard, Benjamin Franklin actually said, `This was an act of piracy and the Americans should repay the British for the tea.’ So it took a long time before people we consider the super patriots of the country to get around to the extreme view of separation.”

George Washington was a troublemaker. The revolutionaries were whiners. Extremists. Lawbreakers. Scoundrels, I suppose.

So was Mahatma Gandhi. His resistance to British rule over India landed him in jail multiple times as he embarrassed the royal crown for their tactics on the subcontinent at a time when Britain was criticizing dictators in Europe.

Galileo was put under house arrest for being a troublemaker. He suggested that the Earth revolved around the sun, rather than the other way around, and it was just too much for the authorities of the day.

According to the National Women’s History Museum: “Just like men and women supported votes for women, men and women organized against suffrage as well. Anti-suffragists argued that most women did not want the vote. Because they took care of the home and children, they said women did not have time to vote or stay updated on politics. Some argued women lacked the expertise or mental capacity to offer a useful opinion about political issues. Others asserted that women’s votes would simply double the electorate; voting would cost more without adding any new value.”

Troublemakers. Change was too hard. It wasn’t needed. The people didn’t deserve it.

From the archives of the King Center, a piece of mail delivered to Dr. King said: “You certainly have a lot of gall to ask the American people to help you incite riot, and to finance it.”

And a letter to the editor: “Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s plan to disrupt the larger Northern cities with massive demonstrations of civil disobedience is the latest in a series of misguided moves that can only provoke greater divisiveness and racial discord…it is almost as though these leaders have joined in a “death wish”…willing destruction for their cause and their country.”

Troublemaker. He wanted to destroy the country. He would make things worse. He was misguided.

Yet yesterday, I walked by a memorial honoring Dr. King in our nation’s capital.

People who work for change are often reviled by the establishment. They are called troublemakers. Malcontents. Rabble rousers. Losers. Sons of bitches. It’s the first tactic in a PR smear. Undermine the opposition. Question their legitimacy. Question their loyalty and integrity. It’s easier than addressing the issues they raise, and it defends the status quo.

So as I see the NFL players take a knee or lock arms…and as I hear them vilified…as I hear them labeled troublemakers by the establishment…I think they must be on to something good.

History is filled with a long list of troublemakers. And many of them are my heroes.

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