Many of you know that I am a history buff. Well, last weekend I was reading a history of the American Revolution and I got to thinking about how history is full of interesting parallels.
On Tories and Rebels
I was thinking of the recent financial crisis and the several conflicts between Main Street and Wall Street over the past two years. And then I thought about these conflicts in the context of the American Revolution. During the American Revolution colonists were branded either Tories (those supportive of staying united with England and the British Crown) or rebels (those who wanted their voice to be heard and to stand on their own). In that context, I think of ICBA as the rebels. The rebels of 1776 had only a fraction of the resources of the mighty British Empire, yet they had the gumption to speak out and say, “Enough is enough” and “We have the equal rights of all Englishmen, and we will fight to enforce and preserve those rights.”
I see Wall Street and their spokespersons in Washington D.C. in the context of the British Empire. They have all the resources, funding, assets and access to power. And like Great Britain, they are horrified that community banks (the rebels) are speaking out and are angry at the unfair treatment they have received during this crisis. Like the political leadership in Great Britain during the American Revolution, today’s Wall Street titans and their lobbyists in Washington are pleading to stay united: “We must all stay together. Preserve the status quo or we can’t be effective.” Well, as I am sure a colonial rebel would have said if asked, “Who is we? Whose status quo are we protecting here?” An interesting question to ponder.
I know one thing. I am sure glad those courageous souls of 1776 did not mute their voices merely to stay safe and united. Because they had the courage to stand up for their rights and speak out, we have all enjoyed living in the greatest nation on earth.
On Opinions: Whose Opinion?
How come when community banks speak as one and take a position on financial reform that disagrees with the Wall Street megafirms and their association allies in Washington, it is the community banks that are branded as “divisive,” but when Wall Street and their allied groups in Washington take a position with which community banks disagree, Wall Street is NOT being divisive; it is speaking with “a united industry voice”? Whose industry? Their industry?
Granted the Wall Street megafirms do control the vast majority of the nation’s financial assets, but does that give them the right to speak for those of us on Main Street? Are community banks not allowed to take positions that differ from Wall Street and express same in public? And if we dare take those positions as a group, then are we the divisive ones? Just a thought.
Facts Are Stubborn Things
Finally, please note the quote below from John Adams. John Adams had the courage to stand up and defend the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre. Even though he knew it would make him the most unpopular man in the Massachusetts colony, he also knew that justice and fairness are always the right course–no matter how unpopular. To the best of our abilities, ICBA will always do our best to do the right thing for community banks no matter how others want to spin the facts. ICBA is never afraid of facts, just as we will never be afraid to do the right thing for community banks no matter how unpopular. (By the way, Adams won acquittal for the British troops–and it was a just verdict.)
“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
–Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials, December 1770, John Adams, US diplomat and politician (1735-1826)
P.S. Like Adams defending the British, ICBA will work with and defend the industry against unjust attacks and unfair characterizations. ICBA will work with all industry parties on issues of common concern, with our eye always on the best interests of the nation’s community banks.