Rip Van Winkle. Everybody has heard of Rip Van Winkle. The story dates from shortly after the American Revolution and examines its effects by looking at change and tradition through the eyes of one man. Washington Irving, born in New York at the end of that war, “sought to express some of his amazement at the transformation that had taken place in America by writing his story ‘Rip Van Winkle.'” People who like to say there really was no revolution, simply a war of independence that maintained the status quo, might wish to consider the viewpoints of those who lived closer in time to the period in question. People who experienced the change.
The facts continue to befuddle Ann Coulter, who is one of those who should reflect deeper and speak less. She appeared on The 700 Club with Gordon Robertson on Friday to further confound thinking people with her complete inability to think. Coulter claimed (among other things which we will get to in a moment) that the American Revolution was a “revolution of Christians.” As Right Wing Watch observes, that would come as news to “nonreligious revolutionaries like Thomas Paine, Ethan Allen, and Thomas Jefferson, among many others.” And even though most of those fighting for their independence were Christians, that’s a far cry from making the revolution a Christian revolution, as Coulter claims.
Watch the Video from Right Wing Watch:
Robertson: Is it your book, you’re targeting liberal behavior but can’t you say that because the National Socialist Party used it too, that it’s a critique of all political movements, and particularly all political movements that are adept at manipulating media.
Coulter: Yes though I consider the National Socialist Party on the left. It comes from…you know, whether it is called communism, or socialism, or anarchy, what happened in the Russian Revolution was copied in Nazi Germany, in Russia, in Cuba, in China, in Vietnam. It is the revolt of a mob and it is a small group of elites basically running the populace’s lives. Our revolution by contrast, the French Revolution with the American Revolution, which occurred at about the same time, and the two revolutions are lied about fairly consistently in the media as if you know, ‘the French Bastille Day it’s much like July 4th.’ No, Bastille Day would be if this country celebrated the Manson Family murders or the L.A. riots. The revolutions could not be more opposite. Our revolution was a revolution of Christians.
Irving told his story about Revolutionary change through the eyes of a character named Rip Van Winkle. This poor fellow sleeps through the entire Revolutionary War in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York. While a beautiful place to rest amid nature, poor Rip was left entirely out of the loop by the vast changes brought about by what was, in all actually, a genuine social revolution.
So Rip falls asleep and wakes up 20 years later to a world he is completely unfamiliar with. He felt lost walking into his own village.
The very village was altered – it was larger and more populous…The very character of the people seemed changed. There was a busy, bustling disputatious tone about it, instead of the accustomed phlegm and drowsy tranquility.
Even the language was changed. People were talking about “rights of citizens-election-members of Congress-liberty-Bunker’s Hill-heroes of ’76-and other words, that were a perfect Babylonish jargon to the bewildered Van Winkle.”
People asked Rip, “on which side he voted” and are you a “Federal” or a “Democrat”. Poor Rip could only give in silent answer a “vacant stupidity.” Ann Coulter offers the same sort of vacant and stupid response but at least Rip Van Winkle had the excuse that he’d been sleeping for the past twenty years.
There’s no religious element whatsoever to this story. None, just as there is none in either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. There is no prominent local pastor, for example, among the characters. Ann Coulter might wish to consider why this might be.
In truth, what made the Revolution what it was, was Thomas Paine’s Common Sense (1776), which woke people up to the possibility of independence from Great Britain rather than reconciliation. George Washington himself wrote to a friend telling him, “by private letters which I have lately received from Virginia, I find that Common Sense is working a powerful change there in the minds of many men.” Thomas Paine, it must be noted, hated Christianity and everything it stood for. Thomas Paine’s revolution was against monarchy, a political revolution, not a religious, as his pamphlet made clear:
A government of our own is our natural right. And when a man seriously reflects on the precariousness of human affairs, he will become convinced, that it is infinitely wiser and safer, to form a constitution of our own in a cool deliberate manner, while we have it in our power, than to trust such an interesting even to time and chance.
The American Revolution was a democratic revolution, as Rip Van Winkle discovered. More Americans could vote now, unsettling some people, frightening others. James Madison wanted the Constitution to protect the average American from the “excesses of democracy” – the tyranny of local legislatures, which he correctly recognized are just as liable to abuses as distant monarchs.
Washington Irving himself said that the United States was, “a country in a singular state of moral and physical development; a country in which one of the greatest Political experiments in the history of the world is now performing.” Notice, again, Irving did not say “religious experiments” and for a very good reason: the American Revolution was not a religious experiment. Nobody at the time pretended it was. As Gordon S. Wood frames it, “nearly all Americans knew”
[t]hat by overthrowing monarchy and adopting republican government in 1776 they had done more than eliminate a king and institute an elective system of government. Republicanism gave a moral, even utopian, significance to their revolution that had made their separation from Great Britain much more than a simple colonial rebellion. They were keenly aware that by becoming members of thirteen republicans they had undertaken a bold, and perhaps world-shattering, experiment in self-government.”
Coulter chose to compound her complete ignorance of the American Revolution by repeating the oft-heard Republican lie that the Nazis were leftists. If she had taken the time to read about the Nazis, or anything written by the Nazis, including Adolf Hitler, she’d have seen that the Nazis looked at leftists as the ultimate enemy. The Nazis hated the left; there was nothing remotely socialist about Nazism, which was in bed with the rich industrialists, rather like our own Republicans.
Ann Coulter would do well to heed the words of my Heathen ancestors, who wrote in the Hávamál (The Words of the High One):
For the unwise man ’tis best to be mute
when he come amid the crowd,
for none is aware of his lack of wit
if he wastes not too many words;
for he who lacks wit shall never learn
though his words flow ne’er so fast.