From the Editor’s Desk: A lesson from the American Revolution

Published 1:00 am Tuesday, July 4, 2023

A British doctor named Richard Schuckburg came up with the idea, decades before the American Revolution. In 1755, he came up with some new lyrics to a familiar folk tune at the time, one that was meant to insult the colonists, who were then still British citizens. A doodle was a country hick, a simpleton or idiot. A dandy was a conceited jerk. Nobody knows exactly where he picked up the word Yankee. But regardless, over the next 20 years, “Yankee Doodle” was played as a joke, a way for English subjects to make fun of those across the sea.

Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Mind the music and the step
And with the girls be handy.

The mocking kept up as the argument over taxation got heated. As British soldiers marched on Lexington and Concord in 1775, the fifers and drummers played “Yankee Doodle” as they made their way down the road, soldiers claimed years later. We all know what happened at Lexington, with the “Shot Heard ‘Round The World’. But then the British troops had to march back to Boston, at which point colonial militia picked them off from the trees. And as the British soldiers broke ranks and ran, it was the colonials now singing “Yankee Doodle”, using attacks and criticism from the other side to their own advantage.

From an American Revolution to…what exactly?

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Now, as we celebrate our independence and the price paid this week, it’s sad to see how we’ve changed. I’m not talking about disagreements. Do you really think Virginia farmers and Massachusetts silversmiths always agreed on everything? But there’s a difference.

We’ve gone from a group who turned an insult into a battle song to a nation divided over everything. No matter where I go, I see people just determined to hurl insults and in some cases bullets, unwilling to listen or even consider another point of view. If someone disagrees with us, we label them evil. People don’t sit down to try and hammer out deals with the opposition (I mean, we still don’t have a state budget here in Virginia, just plenty of pouting and finger pointing). Instead, people try to pull out the most minute and ridiculous parts of an argument, trying to convince people this small issue is going to destroy the republic…unless you give them money and votes, of course. Then it magically goes away until next time.

That’s not exactly what this nation’s founders had in mind.

So what about Independence Day?

Unity. That’s a key part of this holiday, this Independence Day celebration. We take time out this week to recognize when 13 colonies became one united nation, when people who could barely agree on taxes or the right way to plow a field ratified a declaration that they would no longer be part of England.

But more than that, the declaration signed by the founders established specific rights and called on all Americans to observe those.

In building this country, the founders wanted something different than the empire over the sea. They wanted a land of freedom, a united country where everyone was welcome to worship as they chose, to say what they wanted and not be persecuted for it.

Now, we’re not going to agree on everything. That’s as true now as it was in 1776. In fact, the ability to do that, to disagree and not be tossed in jail or killed for it, was a reason many of our ancestors came here. It’s part of what makes this holiday so important, that concept of having the right to live your life, to be free to make choices and pursue what makes you happy. The idea of this country and the freedom it offers was something different than what Europe was used to in the 1700s. To the rest of the world back then, that was a crazy idea.

It almost seems like a crazy idea here and now. While the majority of people just go about our lives, those in power yell at each other, pointing fingers in meetings rather than working together. In most of the controversies raised, you don’t actually hear any plans on how to fix Problem X, just that the way the opposition handles it is bad. The reality is, the majority of things being fought about, most people could care less. They see a barn burning and want it not just put out, but rebuilt. Instead, you have dueling sides screaming at each other while holding buckets of water.

They’re quick to threaten a lawsuit but not as fast to actually sit down and discuss solutions, ways to move forward. We’ll say why our political opponent is bad, but not mention a better idea.

It seems we want to focus on our disagreements, on how much we’re different from each other. After the slightest word or a simple image on Twitter, Facebook or television, we get offended and then let the whole world know how much we hate the person who disagreed with us. We don’t just disagree with the person. We actively hate them. We hate someone we’ve never talked to, never actually seen in person before. Doesn’t that seem a bit bizarre?

Every side in religious, social and political disagreements now brand the opposing view as traitors and call for them to be tossed in jail. And again, that’s not what the founders intended.

Lessons from an American Revolution

The truth is that we’re all not really that different. Sure, I love country and rock music and one of my neighbors is more into r&b, but what does that matter? I’m about as fiscally conservative as they come and other people aren’t. There’s no shame in that for either side. It’s a simple difference of opinion.

Now does that mean we should just ignore something we oppose when we see it happening? Of course not. If you feel strongly about a cause, then it’s your right and, I would argue, your duty to stand up for it. But too often here lately, it seems that people are being demonized for simply being different.

In the beginning, they had no choice. The lawyer from Boston and the farmer from Virginia had to figure out a way to get along. It didn’t matter that one of them was a Christian and the other a deist. It didn’t matter that one was rich and the other was just getting by. If they didn’t get along? It would have ended badly.

And so, these people from different backgrounds, different religions and different races all came together. Filipino sailors found common ground with English expatriates. Pastors stood shoulder to shoulder with atheists. They all loved their newly formed nation and they fought to protect both it and the families existing within.

That was the point. That was the entire point of this American “experiment,” to create a republic free from all the rules and labels other nations had. But to do that, everyone had to be respected.

So as we watch the fireworks or sit down at a family cookout, let’s step back for a second and consider how we treat each other. Sure, we can and will disagree, but there are ways to do it without yelling, screaming or threatening someone’s life. There are ways to move forward, to fix problems and work as a community, without constant finger pointing.

On this Independence Day and every day, we are one nation, made up of millions of unique people. Let’s try to respect each other and see where that goes.

BRIAN CARLTON is the editor for The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia, LLC. He can be reached at