The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Sunday, November 02, 2003
Dean and The Human Stain - more racial blasts from the past in the Land of the Free
It's an accusation not uncommonly made of Englishmen - especially by Germans caught between Canossa-like self-abasement over their (great-(great-))grandfathers' part in World War 2 and seething resentment at the expectation of others that they should thus demean themselves - that they persist in living in the past: Imperial Echoes is our signature tune, they say .
But, in fact, the British Empire to most people here is watching The Jewel in the Crown on video: history is a far more clear and present danger to the smooth running of the modern American polity.
Ripped from the headlines #1: leading lefty among the Little League, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, decides to broaden his appeal, and goes down among the rednecks (WaPo November 2):
...in an interview with the Des Moines Register, Dean mentioned the Confederate flag. "I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks," he told the Register. "We can't beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross section of Democrats."
Goodbye Bleeding Heart, hallo Boss Hogg! Even amongst its Southern delegation, the rest of the Little League is having forty fits of the vapours, like an ante-bellum Southron matron whom an uppity nigger had had the temerity to look in the eye (a tricky task given the height of those pedestals on which Southron matrons were placed, of course...). Fans being fluttered furiously, maids plying smelling-salts, grizzled butlers uttering soothing words in the lower bass register of Mr Paul Robeson.
It's an election campaign, and voters expect that sort of pantomime. Of course, as any fule kno, the Confederate flag in post-Civil War politics is a modern invention of the Democratic Party: the first to draft it into the segregation forever cause was, it seems, Democratic Governor Ross Barnett of Mississippi, attempting to balk James Meredith's attempt to enter the University of Mississippi . Other Democratic Party paragons - George Wallace, for instance - took their cue and coopted the flag for use in the (Soon to be) Lost Cause.
The Party of Treason in the South, for the second time in a century, had to endure humiliation at the hands of the Yankee for the sake of its Negroes - but at least it could still wave the flag of rebellion - right up to the South Carolina farrago of earlier this year (February 5).
Courtesy of the GOP's Southern Strategy (January 21), a lot of the flag-wavers eventually found a new home. Although Republicans were, in deed, as wedded to the New Racial Order as the Dems, they were at least sympathetic to their bereavement. Trent Lott's Dixiecrat encomium (December 2002 archives passim) was just going a little further than most in providing a comforting shoulder.
The compartmentalisation of the American political class about the Democratic Party's century-plus as the party par excellence of slavery and Jim Crow never ceases to amaze me - that, for example, former Klansman Robert Byrd D-WV still finds a warm welcome in the US Senate Chamber: taking the national love of self-reinvention to something of an extreme.
[Memo to self: how would the ADL have reacted if the NSDAP had been allowed to present itself to the electorate of the new German Federal Republic in 1949, merely shorn of its former personnel and antisemitic policies?]
Meanwhile - Ripped from the Headlines #2 - we have a movie about a Tragic Mulatto. The old fictional trope I mentioned on October 13. But The Human Stain is a brand new 2003 release . And, in this case, if I've got it right, the Negro who turns out to be Anthony Hopkins decides to pass as a Jew - something of a nod to the mid-century liberal alliance between Jews and Negroes that once prospered at the other end of the Democratic Party to Ross Barnett's.
[There is, by the by, an interesting paper (PDF) by Jerald E Podair on The Ocean Hill-Brownsville Crisis: New York's Antigone . The affair was triggered when, in May 1968, a Jewish teacher in Brooklyn, Fred Nauman, was fired by a predominantly Negro school board in the cause of diversity. Apparently, the swankier end of Big Apple Jewry failed to come to the aid of the party - the majority-Jewish United Federation of Teachers, to be exact - and the Jewish teachers found new and unexpected allies amongst the Catholics.]
Fred Nauman survived the Ocean Hill-Brownsville business to retire as a teacher in 2000.
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