Romanticizing the American Revolution to Criticize the Arab Spring? Not so Fast

Live TV gives political pundits all kinds of opportunities to make silly observations about the world.  On Real Time with Bill Maher this past Friday night, conservative writer Charles C. W. Cooke made one of the strangest and silliest I’ve witnessed in quite a while.  When discussing the ongoing battles over new governments in the Arab Spring countries, Cooke made the following point:

You have this revolution in America in which the British fight the British and then they codify classical liberal values into a constitution and it’s great. But that’s not how it goes down normally. Normally there is bloodshed and its horrible and especially in the Middle East what they want to replace their dictatorships with if you look at the polling it’s Sharia law…What the Americans did was a massive step forward. It wasn’t perfect. It was resolved in a Civil War that was bloody and awful. But if we are going to write off the greatest revolution, the greatest constitution in the world because it was imperfect and it was flawed then we should all go home.

The implication being made here is that the immediate aftermath of the American Revolution was mostly “great” until the Civil War and then it was really “great”.  Gutsy claim, particularly when he was sitting right next to an African-American with lady parts who then proceeded to give him a bit of a verbal smacking around for his statement.

The reality about the American Revolution is that we would be appalled by the rights given to people in the immediate aftermath if a new country began that way today.  And let’s not forget that the first government structure the U.S. formed, the Articles of Confederation, failed and was replaced by the Constitution less than a decade after ratification.

That being said, let’s take a look at some of the “great” conditions in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War:

  • If you were a slave, even if one of the Founding Fathers owned you and did naughty stuff with you, you were still a slave.
  • If you were a woman, you would be allowed to get a college degree…just a little over five decades later.  (This to go along with some other equal rights violations noted here.)
  • If you were a homosexual in most of the country, you would not be given equal marriage rights…wait, we still haven’t fixed that one?  Seriously?
  • How about some voting facts.  If you were a white, land-owning, 21+ year old man, you got to vote.  If you did not fit that description, no ballot for you.
  • If you were a woman, you would be granted the right to vote…132 years after the Constitution was ratified.
  • If you were Native American, you would be granted the right to vote…159 years after the Constitution was ratified.
  • Asians-Americans followed five years after Native Americans.
  • We are all aware of the Civil Rights movement needed to grant African-Americans the right to vote without being oppressed in the mid 20th century.
  • 18 year olds would have to wait nearly two centuries to be granted voting rights despite being “allowed” to die for their country.

The list could go on and on.

The point being the American Revolution has worked out pretty well but it has taken quite a while for this to happen and the conditions in the country were downright disgusting, in some cases, for many, many decades.  To expect the countries that were a part of the Arab Spring to magically be anything resembling “ideal democracies” after such a short period of time is lunacy and shows no understanding of history.

With the ease in which information travels now, it should be expected the Arab Spring countries will improve their democracies much quicker than the United States.  But we must recognize it will take quite some time, just as it did (and continues) with America.

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