Whether we’ve liked it or not, unity has become the Democratic buzzword of late. The tour with DNC Chair Tom Perez and Sen. Bernie Sanders has created waves on Twitter and in the press; the dismay, disarray, and disgust that have resulted are an unfortunate by-product of tone-deaf politicking. It occurred to me in the midst of my anger of the past week that I wanted to know more about where this emphasis on “unity” originated. I did a deep dive into the background and what I found is both encouraging and cause for concern. I am the first to recognize that this topic is a bit esoteric and wonky when resistance to the Republicans has to be our primary focus. But I also hope that it will provide some helpful information about directions the Democratic Party is considering for itself.
Today’s post is a response to two different, but converging, prompts. First, as I mentioned in a comment yesterday, is my reading of Eric Foner’s Reconstruction Updated Edition: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, a massive history (that I’m less than one-third of the way through) of an era that continues to reverberate today. The second is the continuing criticism by Sen. Sanders of the Democratic Party, and the inevitable response on Twitter by Bros who continue to argue for “economics uber Alles.” The inability to recognize and address white supremacy with any coherence is an issue for more than just white supremacists; it becomes a problem for those of us who understand that the base of the Democratic Party is women and persons of color. In general, the Base (and allies) understand the problems associated with patriarchy and white supremacy, because it is our lived experience. We further understand that systems of prejudice don’t go away with a wave of the economic wand, and our history demonstrates that. The thoroughly ahistorical arguments of BoBers are troubling, but I am convinced that for some, the absence of historically-grounded awareness is a matter of ignorance, rather than malice. Today’s post is a compilation of quotes from Foner’s book (whether his own words or drawn from commenters during Reconstruction) (with a few tweets to add “color.”)
With the ongoing misdirection, distraction, and lies from the R administration, it seemed a good time to remind us all that what we’re seeing is predictable, and even expected, from our attention-deficient Narcissist-in-Chief. 45* has already shown that he has the attention span of a gnat; that he takes on the opinion of the last person in the room; and that shiny things will hold his attention…until the next shiny thing comes along. (This may actually save us from some of the worst, as he clearly doesn’t have the will or ability to focus on ongoing legislative battles.) In the meantime, it is clear that we, as a coalition against Trump, are learning how to wade through the bombardment of words; now, if only our media would show some of the sense that allies like #Indivisible folks have used and taught us.
Once again, I’m continuing with my theme of historical political cartoons and what they can show us about our history, taught and untaught. This week, I’m focusing on unions and made the discovery that during the Gilded Age and beyond, the unions had a more mixed perception than I anticipated. There was still suspicion and distrust, largely because of the associations made between socialism and violent anarchists. Strikes were often portrayed as anti-American. However, the oligarchs of the time were increasingly viewed as a threat, and unions were often represented as a bulwark against them. Additionally, there was a rising independent, alternative (often socialist or union) media with their own political cartoons, which often countered that found in the general circulation media. (Socialist Newspapers by Circulation) Today, union membership is dropping just as their popularity is increasing (Unions More Popular), and how effectively the unions and voters respond to the anti-union efforts will determine their future.
I have to admit that preparing last week’s post on immigration depressed the hell out of me. When I do these posts, my goal is to take an unblinking look at our history, but with the awareness that while the “wars” may not have been won, battles have. While looking at our past attitudes on immigration, I had a hard time seeing our progress. So this week, I wanted something a bit more uplifting. One would think that imperialism would be the last topic I would choose, but this is one area where, as individuals, we’ve become marginally more aware, more sensitive, and occasionally more cautious. Whether or what we’ve learned as a country is an open question.
Continuing my look at our unspoken, unstudied history through historical images, this week’s topic is immigration. For those who are not solely descendents of either First Nations’ people or slaves, immigration is a shared legacy. And yet, our history shows our ongoing uneasiness with the Other, however that is defined at any given period in our history. Reactions were often harsh, mean-spirited, and without compassion, and defined the newest wave with the ugliest of racial, religious, and ethnic stereotypes. Sound familiar?
I’ve decided to continue the exploration of the unspoken history of our country as seen through political cartoons and messaging. I’m not doing this as an exercise in hopelessness. It’s easy to fall into that trap when seeing so many of the same themes over and over. But along with the recurring issues, I see the battles that have been won, even when the “war” is ongoing. For me, remembering the past gives me courage to fight for our future. I hope it will do the same for our Village.
This week, I wanted to focus on the misogyny in our history, but the topic was so broad, it became unmanageable. Since I have no desire to do a dissertation, I chose the suffrage movement as the exemplar of the patriarchy in our midst. The images today are mostly postcards from the early 1900s, as well as political cartoons.
Warning: This post contains offensive, racist images. They are hard to see. They are included not to perpetuate racism, but to challenge the privilege which allows us to ignore our own history.
This post is the result of two intersecting lines of thought. First was the accidental discovery of the political cartoons of Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) last week, which illustrated that everything old is new again. The second is a line of thought that has been percolating since Election Night. If one ascribes to the belief that our country was built on the evil foundations of genocide and slavery (as I do), should the post-Obama whitelash surprise us? And if it does, what does that say about our knowledge of our own past? Most importantly, what will we do for our future?
I won’t be able to be around much today, but I wanted to make sure there was a Saturday space for conversation about the consequential and inconsequential. Chat amongst yourselves…