Gregory Rodriguez: America's Distrust of Government Started with George III





[Gregory Rodriguez is a columnist for the LA Times]

Let me get straight to the point: Americans' profound distrust of government is neurotic -- irrational, defensive and born of emotional trauma....

If Americans were to seek help for their neurosis, any good therapist would try to dig down to the root of the outsized distrust. Maybe he or she would let us beat around the bush for a few sessions. We'd recount incidents of government corruption, overreach. Then there was slavery, Jim Crow, internment camps and poorly planned wars. But eventually, we'd have to discuss our national birth trauma, our violent revolt against our "father," King George III, which gave us our independence in the first place....

...Think back to your grade school lessons about the Boston Tea Party and remember its carnivalesque aspects. The conspirators that night painted their faces and dressed up as Mohawk Indians. As University of Michigan historian Philip J. Deloria points out in his book, "Playing Indian," the dress-up part of the party wasn't only about masking identities; it was about exercising New World liberty, which would become a fundamental part of forging a new collective identity as Americans.

The Tea Party wasn't the only instance in which colonial whites acted out in Indian disguise. To these revolutionaries, Deloria writes, "Indianness lay at the heart of American uniqueness." Donning feathers and darkening their faces, they symbolically proclaimed their separation from the mother country. And what did they think the Indian costume meant to the representatives of King George? Unconstrained, even aboriginal, freedom....

In other words, the American passion for absolute liberty isn't too far removed from heedless adolescent rebellion. The "tea party" faithful might as well be Marlon Brando in his black leather jacket in "The Wild One." "What are you rebelling against," a girl asks the smoldering Brando. "What've you got?" he replies....

It's not a matter of left or right. In my mind the only difference between 1960s leftist radicals and new millennium right-wing refuseniks is the length of their hair. They both have showed a desperate need to work through their issues with old King George.

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