Nationalism and Martyrdom: Symbolic Deaths Thesis
Excerpt from Thesis :
" (Githens-Mazer, 2007)
2. Use of Figures Labeled Martyrs in the Contemporary Discourse Regarding the Nationalist Movement
The concepts of nationalism and the effects of Nationalism on language are stated to be based on Joshua Fishman's essays entitled: "The Nature of Nationalism" and "the Impact of Nationalism on Language Learning and Language Planning." (Sharon, 1995) Sharon states that Nationalism is defined by Fishman (1972) as "the organizationally heightened and elaborated beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of societies acting on behalf of their avowed ethnocultural self-interest." Nationalism and Nationism were distinguished by Fishman (1972). Nationalism is stated to contain three components:
1) the expansion or generalizing of the perceived ethno cultural characteristics;
2) the stress on the recognition and importance of these characteristics; and 3) an emphasis on the past traditions, values and symbols normally preserved by the lower classes. (Sharon, 1995)
Nationalist movements are stated by Sharon (1995) to generally "originate among the educated sector of a society. This is the group that has the knowledge and power to manipulate the different symbols and is better able to perceive the differences because of its contact with other power sources." (Sharon, 1995)
1. Definition of Martyrdom
Martyrdom is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as follows:
the suffering of death on account of adherence to a cause and especially to one's religious faith." (Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online, 2009)
Therefore, for the purpose of this present study martyrdom or martyrs will be understood to be individuals who died a death related to their commitment to a cause of religious faith and in this case the right to live in a democracy in America for this purpose.
1. Analysis of Martyrs of the American Revolution
The mindset of the martyrs of the American Revolution must necessarily be viewed through a balanced measure if what these individuals stood for and against is fully comprehensible in terms of their willingness to become martyrs for their cause. While not a scholarly source it is stated in one article written by a Southern conservative which states in regards to the Christian view of Muslims that one might believe there is nothing in common between the two until they examine the common thread of martyrdom. It is stated specifically in this article as follows:
I've already said all I can ever say about Southern culture and Southern life here and here. But there seems to be a need to say more about Southern conservativism and why it has spread through the country the way it has. It starts with the fact that we as conservative Christians are taught to see America as our land. I mean, you guys in Europe and the loonies on the East and West Coasts think the Founding Fathers died to bring us religious freedom. They so did not. They died to give new Christianity a place where it could flourish."
From this view the martyrs of the American Revolution are better understood as their intent was focused on a cause that backed by the will to live and die fighting for their beliefs and their liberty and freedom to hold these beliefs as sacred in America.
The martyrdom of Christopher Snyder is related by the first black American poet, Phillip Wheatley in the work entitled: "On the Death of Mr. Snider Murder'd by Richardson" which relates the events of February 22, 1770 as follows:
In heavens eternal court it was decreed
Thou the first martyr for the common good
Long hid before, a vile infernal here
Prevents Achilles in his mid career
Where'er this fury darts his Poisonous breath
All are endanger'd to the shafts of death
The generous Shires beheld the fatal wound
Saw their young champion gasping on the ground
They raise'd him up but to each present ear
What martial glories did his tongue declare
The wretch appal'd no longer can despise
But from the striking Victim turns his eyes
When this young martial genius did appear
The Tory chief no longer could forebear.
Ripe for destruction, see the wretches doom
He waits the curses of the age to come
In vain he flies, by Justice Swiftly...
...The colonists were proud of being descended from British ancestors, and enjoyed sharing the rights of subjects of England. Sure, there were some grievances. The English navigation laws and trade monopolies bore heavily on colonial industry and commerce, but in other respects America may have been satisfied to remain under the governance of England."
However, this all changed and while it is largely and generally believed that the reason for this change was the attempt on the part of England to tax the American Colonies and this is in part true however, this must be examined more deeply according to Anderson (2004) who states: "First, the very origin of the American Colonies pointed to freedom as their birthright, as it was for the sake of liberty that the early colonists had left their homes to come to the New World. They had fled to the forests of America, facing danger and uncertainty rather than to endure oppression. Second, the habits of the early settlers, as well as the circumstances in the history of their descendants, had led them to examine the principles of political liberty. Third, the Colonies had suffered greatly from bad royal governors, the misconduct of which had taught the colonists to be wary of arbitrary power. Thus, the whole of the early history of the American Colonies had been a gradual growing fit for freedom. The Colonies could not long be subject to Britain." (Anderson, 2004)
It was the belief among those in the American Colonies that England did not possess the power to make laws in America but instead that power belonged to the Colonial Assemblies. Anderson (2004) states: "While it was conceded that Parliament might regulate commerce, as it had done in the Navigation Acts, the colonists held that they alone had the right to control their own internal affairs. Early in the colonization of America, the colonists had refused to be taxed by England. A string of colonial legislatures had denied England's claim to the right to tax the Colonies. The French and Indian War had added largely to the already heavy debt of England, and the British government reasoned that, since the war had been made for the benefit of the Colonies, the Colonies should help to pay the debt. The English position was that, while it had not previously taxed the Colonies, it was not because Parliament lacked the right to do so. The Colonists denied that Parliament had the right to impose taxes, and argued that their own losses and expenses in the war had been as heavy as they could bear. The British government began by imposing duties on certain imported articles, and began a strict enforcement of the Navigation Acts, which resulted in an offensive system of prying and spying that irritated the colonists." (Anderson, 2004)
The Parliament passed a law in 1764 which stated that it had the right to impose taxation on the Colonies in America and the 'Stamp Act' was recommended for imposition. The 'Stamp Act' made provisions for all deeds, notes, bills and other legal documents to be written on a 'stamped' paper to be provided by British revenue offices at rates which were fixed which in effect placed the imposition of a heavy tax on practically every type of business transaction. The law was passed in 1765 and was to take effect the first day of November of that same year. As the news spread throughout the American Colonies a great outcry arose first from Virginia and the first to arise to speak against this heavy taxation was Patrick Henry, one of Virginia's youngest legislators. The moving speech of Patrick Henry was one that set forth resolutions which the legislature passed speaking a claim for Virginia citizens in regards to the rights of born British subjects. This spread quickly throughout the Colonies and a convention was proposed by the Massachusetts legislature and the proposition was stated by Samuel Thomas. It was at this time that the 'Sons of Liberty' was formed by members who had committed to fight against the unjust taxation laws of the British government and these 'Sons of Liberty' set for to "harass the stamp officers" for the intent and purpose of forcing resignation of these officers. During…
Sources Used in Documents:
Githens-Mazer, Jonathan (2007) Ethno-Symbolism and the Everyday Resonance of Myths, Memories and Symbols of the Nation. Everyday Life in World Politics and Economics. International Conference - Centre for International Studies, LSE, Penryn, Cornwall, 11 May 2007.
Sharon, (unknown) (1995) Title Not Stated: Chapter 2. Online available at http://ponce.inter.edu/vl/tesis/sharon/chap1.html
Martyrdom (2009) Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online. Accessed March 28, 2009. Online available at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/martyrdom
Views from a Former Christian Conservative (2004) rghojai. Daily Kos 6 Nov 2004. Online available at http://www.dailykos.com/story/2004/11/7/2421/07447
Cite This Thesis: