Late last night, my girlfriend and I were sitting in our apartment, chatting about the Occupy movement, and how it really isn't entirely too different from the Tea Party, when you look past the face-value messages of the two groups of course. I made the prediction that this decade would only get louder, with regular citizens taking to the streets to support their causes more fervently as we trod forward, much akin to the turbulent 1960's fifty years ago. That's when it dawned on me: The United States has, thus far anyway, had a very predictable cycle of revolution.
It's so brutally obvious that I'm sort of embarrassed I hadn't realized it earlier. Not only am I not claiming to have made some sort of bizarre discovery here, but I'm actually rather certain that many have figured this out before me. But the evidence can't be argued with: This nation undergoes a major revolution every fifty years, approximately anyway. Every five decades, some major movement has taken place that has brought about significant change. Could the Occupy and Tea Party movements be indications that another major shift is on the cusp of rocking this nation? I'm wholly convinced of it. Then again, I'm a person who fervently believes that history tends to repeat itself.
Let's go way back to before the United States was even a concept... before the Founding Fathers were even born, actually. In the 1660's, the colonies were starting to take recognizable shapes, with King Charles II issuing the Charter of Carolina, which established the Province of Carolina. I know what you're thinking. That doesn't sound very revolution-ish, right? But it does set the stage for the cycle to really begin.
Five decades pass, and we're in the 1710's, a decade in which we see the first real revolution in America. Thomas Cary, one of the Governors of the Carolinas, was ousted from his position by Britain's Lords Proprietors, an act that the Quaker's weren't too happy with. This led to an event known as Cary's Rebellion. The colonies were still taking form, but even that early on, the seeds of future revolution were being planted. Later in that decade, a war between an alliance of Great Britain, France, and Austria against Spain spills over into the Americas, with Pensacola Florida falling to the French in 1719. Maybe that sort of thing had an effect on what would happen fifty years later?
Again, let's skip ahead by approximately 50 years. The decade is the 1760's, and I'm pretty sure you can guess where this one is going. The American Revolution started to generally take form during this decade. In 1765, the British Parliament declares the Stamp Act, the first direct tax issued to the Colonists. Adding insult to injury, they declare the Quartering act the following day, allowing British soldiers to take up residence in any Colonial home they please (this is where we get our 3rd amendment from). It didn't take long for revolution to begin. Later that same year, Colonists in Boston attacked the homes of Andrew Oliver and Thomas Hutchinson, British officials residing in the City. The Stamp Act led to countless protests and direct acts from the Colonists, and played a pivotal role in what would soon become the American revolution. This decade played a key role in what was to come.
Moving onward another fifty-ish years, we find ourselves in the 1810's. What happened in this decade, you ask? The War of 1812, that's what! A history teacher at Binghamton High School once related the War of 1812 to my class as "an aftershock of the American Revolution." The still-forming United States of America waged war against the British, and as a testament to how young our nation was, British forces made their way into Washington DC, destroying our nation's capital. It's one of those forgotten wars that few people today seem to know much about, but it does keep with the revolutionary track we've been reading about thus far.
Another fifty years forward finds us in the 1860's. I don't really need to tell you what happened around then, do I? Well, in case I do, I'll just outright say it: The American Civil War took place during this decade, between 1861 and 1865. Thankfully, the North defeated the South, the slaves were freed, and America was set on a progressive course toward prosperity. That sounds like a pretty positive revolution to me.
Fifty years later, and we're in the 1910's. This decade witnessed a tremendous push towards both the rights of women to vote, and the rights of workers to collectively bargain. The United States was once again experiencing protests and wide-sweeping social changes, as unions formed and Women's Suffrage made its way to the forefront of action. Not only did the rights of Americans across the board vastly improve during this decade, but the stage was set in a number of ways for the next big revolution in the United States.
What's 1910 + 50? 1960, of course! When people think of contemporary revolutions, the decade of the 1960's tends to come directly to mind for many. Some of you reading this article actually witnessed this revolution first hand (and yes, it really was televised). Civil rights and anti-war protests dominated the social stage, from President Kennedy announcing his candidacy for office in January of 1960, to the Kent State massacre in 1970. This was arguably the most turbulent decade witnessed by any American living today, but to the ends of this article's point, it kept America's ritual of the half-century revolution alive and well.
And here we are, 50 years later, in the 2010's. The Occupy movement has taken hold in hundreds of cities, spreading like wildfire as millions of Americans surpass their boiling point in the face of aggressive corporate abuse and monied malfeasance of our political system in the face of lobbying and special interests. The Tea Party wages ideological warfare from the opposite side, hoping to preserve their crumbling Christian-Conservative ideals as they see the nation move further and further from what they perceive to be the best path for the United States. We've barely entered this decade, but again, history repeats itself. Before this decade is out, the United States will be a vastly different place. You might like that new America more than our current one, and feel proud of your participation in the tremendous course-changes we've undergone. Alternatively, You might be packing a U-Haul and heading for Canada. But this nation is changing, and changing rapidly, and this decade will be another era of revolution, whether you appreciate those changes or not.