So, what lessons can we draw from these reflections? One is how difficult it is for one nation to understand what is happening in another. In the years following the revolution, the British press got as much wrong about America as it got right. The same, surely, is true of efforts to predict the outcome of the Arab Spring. Even more important, the American Revolution reminds us that whatever comes of the upheavals sweeping the Middle East, it will be the Arab people, not observers in the West, who ultimately decide their fate. As the American response to the British press makes clear, no nation ever fully controls its own destiny, including a nation founded on the self-evident right of the people to govern themselves. As ought to be equally clear, however, no one else is better placed to shape the course of a nation’s history than the people most directly involved — and who have the most to win or lose from the outcome. If Americans sometimes have a hard time remembering that lesson today, it is one that they knew very well 200 years ago.
Francis Lewis represented New York in the Continental Congress, and shortly after he signed the Declaration of Independence his Long Island estate was raided by the British, possibily as retaliation for his having been a signatory to that document. While Lewis was in Philadelphia attending to congressional matters, his wife was taken prisoner by the British after disregarding an order for citizens to evacuate Long Island. Mrs. Lewis was held for several months before being exchanged for the wives of British officials captured by the Americans. Although her captivity was undoubtedly a hardship, she had already been in poor health for some time and died a few years (not months) later.
But the truth is that while people may dress differently, pray differently and eat different foods (though we all like to share and swap with each other, to be honest), there is much more that unites us than divides us. It is unclear from the article about what is on the verge of disappearing, but I know my life and the lives of really everyone I know are not so different to how they were prior to 2001 other than experiencing the same changes as everyone else with the internet and so on. Our TVs remain swamped with American produce and believe me you can still get plenty of hamburgers in every town in the UK – some of them even produced by immigrants.