"Listen my children and you shall hear,
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.
'Twas in the spring of seventy-five..."
Just two hundred years ago, the Boston silversmith made his ride along country roads to warn of approaching British troops. Marching under the command of General Thomas Gage, the soldiers had orders to destroy stores of ammunition held by colonists in Concord and Lexington. The local militia, now known as Minutemen, assembled in the villages to resist confiscation of their arms. At Lexington, a skirmish between the two groups of armed men marked the beginning of the American Revolution. In case the high school history lesson has faded from memory, the events were restaged in Massachusetts last week.
"In these two centuries, the United States had become a world power," said President Gerald Ford on the anniversary of that event. "From a militia of raw recruits the American military stands in the front lines of the free world."
But many in the crowd did not agree that the military action of that time was the most memorable part of the Revolution. Twenty thousand demonstrators organized by the People's Bicentennial Commission (PBC) chanted, "No more war," throughout Ford's speech. The PBC is a national group seeking an alternative Bicentennial celebration which reexamines the roots of the American revolution.
Locally, the Ann Arbor People's Bicentennial Committee of Correspondence (AAPBCC) was also celebrating the anniversary of "the shot heard round the world," but in a less traditional manner.
Taking up the spirit of the early "patriots," the A2PBC2 challenged a local corporation which muscled its way into the city over massive objections of residents - the Maynard Street McDonald's. Ronald McDonald hung in effigy on a "Liberty Tree" outside the construction site "to call attention to the corporate control of the American food industry," according to organizers.
With waving American flags, a flute whistling "Yankee Doodle" and a PBC banner with the traditional coiled snake and "Don't tread on me" slogan, fifty patriots pledged support of a statement of food rights and grievances. The statement calls for the right of people to adequate, unpolluted food at fair prices.
"The rapid and exorbitant rise upon the necessaries and conveniences of life...is chiefly occassioned by monopolizers, that great pest of society, who prefer their own private gain to the interest and safety of their country," - Connecticut price-fixing legislation, 1776.
Both actions by the People's Bicentennial are the beginnings of a major campaign to reorient American society by using the celebration to reacquaint Americans with the deeper political goals of the Revolution. The PBC is attempting to prevent the major U.S. corporations from using 1976 to sell plastic Liberty Bells and red-white-and-blue materialism.
The objectives of the PBC include: acquainting people with the Democratic principles fought for during the American Revolution; encouraging people to measure the founding principles of our republic against the authoritarian financial institutions that rule America today; engaging in direct social action to challenge dictatorial power the corporations presently wield over the affairs of the nation; and mobilizing public support for the transition of our economy from corporate rule to citizens' control.
Photo caption: Ronal McDonald swings at PBC demo.