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Posts Tagged ‘Republican Party

“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures”*…

 

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Helen Hunt Jackson is best remembered for her novel Ramona, originally published in 1884. The story of a half Irish, half Native American orphan and her lover, Ramona was a blockbuster success. The book remains in print. At least five movie versions have been made. There have been staged Ramona plays in the Ramonabowl in Hemet, California, since 1923, with hundreds of costumed volunteers. Many credit the novel with giving birth to California tourism.

Jackson called Ramona the “sugar-coating of the pill” of her polemical mission to get Americans to reconsider their treatment of Native Americans. Jackson’s goal was policy reform. She wanted to expose genocide and land theft, the outrages that made the modern West. She wanted Ramona to have a sociopolitical effect like Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The pill wasn’t swallowed. “Californians preferred the sugar coating, the vibrant costumes of a multiethnic past,” writes the literary scholar Lisa Mullenneaux in Ploughshares, not the actual colonial past with all its culpable horror…

Jackson [had been] a crusading investigative reporter. In 1881, she published a damning indictment of the U.S. government’s treatment of Native Americans. A Century of Dishonor was the first work published under her name. She sent copies to every member of Congress. It was, as Mullenneaux describes it, “the first serious study of U.S. federal Indian policy.”

Turner calls it “the first pro-Indian book to make a significant impact on the American reading public.” It did cause a stir, but a stir was not nearly enough for Jackson. She said of her newfound social purpose to help the Indians that “a fire has been kindled within me which will never go out.”

She had few allies in this crusade. The 1871 Indian Appropriations Act had made all Native Americans wards of the state. Removals and reservations made way for white settlers and their descendants who were neither introspective nor retrospective. One journalist described Jackson as being without a “genuine sympathizer” among whites in the entire state of Colorado. Teddy Roosevelt included her among the “hysterical sentimentalists.”

What if she tried a more propagandistic approach? Ramona was the result of that tactic, a novel detailing injustice and romance, full of local color and sentiment, as well as the tragic history of the erasure of California’s native populations. The result was a smash hit—but it failed in its mission even as it became a runaway cultural phenomenon. Instead, Ramona birthed a fantasy of Ye Olde Alta California. This was costume drama instead of history. A Century of Dishonor, meanwhile, was long out of print (though not so anymore). As Mullenneaux writes, it continues to inspire those trying to right historic wrongs…

Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona Did What Her Nonfiction Couldn’t“– and vice versa.

See also: “The Story of the Great Japanese-American Novel,” No-No Boy.

* Jessamyn West

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As we muse on methods, we might recall that it was on this date in 1839 that the Liberty Party was announced.  The first anti-slavery political party, it was born from the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS) to advocate the view that the Constitution was an anti-slavery document.  William Lloyd Garrison, leader of the AASS, held the contrary view that the Constitution should be condemned as an evil pro-slavery document.

The party, which ran its first slate the following year, included abolitionists who were willing to work within electoral politics.  (By contrast, the radical Garrison opposed voting and working within the system.)  Many Liberty Party members joined the anti-slavery (but not abolitionist) Free Soil Party in 1848 and eventually helped establish the Republican Party in the 1850s.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 13, 2019 at 1:01 am

Elephants in the Room…

 

There are about 2,286 delegates and 2,125 “alternate” delegates from across the United States gathered in Tampa, Florida, to formalize the nomination of the Republican Party’s candidates for the 2012 presidential election. They’ve been joined by about 15,000 journalists and media operatives from around the globe, each attempting to scrutinise every nuance of the proceedings, from back-room buzz to the dozens of speeches promoting the planks of the Republican platform and demonising those of the Democratic’s.

How to make sense of it all?  Visual.ly helps:

 click image above or here for larger version

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As we brace for the deluge of red, white, and blue balloons, we might recall that it was on this date in 1922 that the first broadcast commercial aired, on AT&T’s radio station WEAF in New York.  (It wasn’t until the 60s that political advertising, on radio but especially television began meaningfully to grow; that d=said, there’s no end to that growth in sight…)

Announcer Helen Hahn in the WEAF studio, New York, 1922.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 28, 2012 at 1:01 am

It was a frame-up…

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As political discourse in the U.S. has devolved into the nastiest kind of spitting match– dramatic thesis, passionate antithesis, no synthesis– antagonists on all sides of every issue invoke the Constitution, its Framers, and their intent… which, it seems, can be understood to justify just about any position.

So The Browser‘s recent “Five Books” interview with Jack Rakove on the U.S. Constitution couldn’t be more timely– nor more helpful.  As he explains his selection of the five books he’d most recommend to anyone wanting to understand the context for, the drafting of, the process of ratification of, and the ultimate role of “the oldest written constitution still in use,” the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Stanford historian sheds light in every direction, e.g., on the role of the Judiciary…

Most historians are very skeptical about the way that the Supreme Court is [interpreting the Constitution]. To reason accurately about the past is much trickier than one might think. The current version of originalism is what’s called “public meaning originalism.” It says we don’t really care about the history of how these provisions got adopted, we’re not going to try to reconstruct the debates to figure out what the framers wanted and what the ratifiers thought. We just want to get at the holistic meaning of the language. To historians this is a terribly flawed enterprise, but that’s the current regime… Language is dynamic. As the work of many historians, including my own work, attests, the 18th century was a period of political experimentation. The framers were rethinking the nature of representative government, they were rethinking the nature of executive power, they were coming up with new rules for judges. All this required a terrific amount of creative political thinking. The idea that language was fixed when all these ideas were being stretched and pressed in different directions, the idea that the meaning of a text is frozen at the moment of its adoption, it just strikes most historians as inane.

You’ve said that historians should call the bluff of people who twist the history of the Constitution for instrumental purposes. Please call someone’s bluff.
I submitted a brief in the District of Columbia vs Heller case, from three years ago. That was the case in which the Court struck down a 32-year-old handgun ban as incompatible with the Second Amendment. I think there are intellectual embarrassments of the first order in Justice Scalia’s opinion. He wholly ignores the history of how the Second Amendment got adopted. He makes things up that did not happen the way he hypothesizes. But I’m a historian and he’s a Justice. I’m a private citizen and he’s a public official. I think I have better footnotes, but he has a vote on the Supreme Court.

Read the entire fascinating interview (and order any/all of the books Rakove recommends) here.

As we muse that things could always be– indeed, once were– even worse, we might recall that it was at dawn on this date in 1804 that Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr met on a rise in Weehawken (NJ) to resolve their differences with a duel.  The rivals fired essentially simultaneously;  Hamilton’s shot was wide, but Burr’s hit its mark.  Hamilton died the following day.  While there was a good bit of personal animus between the enemies, their feud was fueled by deep political divisions. It’s proximate cause: Republican Burr’s feeling maligned by Federalist Hamilton.  But the bloody encounter was just one symptom of the deep animosity loosed by the first emergence of the nation’s political party system.

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Snapped shots…

A collection of… well, strange old photos, from the remarkable Black and WTF.  Consider, for example:

or…

or…

More– much more– at Black and WTF.

As we revisit our family albums, we might recall that it was on this date in 1860 that Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th president of the United States over a deeply divided Democratic Party, becoming the first Republican to win the office.  Lincoln received only 40 percent of the popular vote but handily defeated the three other candidates: Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge, Constitutional Union candidate John Bell, and, famously, Northern Democrat and Illinois senator Stephen Douglas.

Matthew Brady’s 1864 photo of Lincoln reading to his son Tad

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