History News Network - Front Page History News Network - Front Page articles brought to you by History News Network. Thu, 20 Jan 2022 15:40:03 +0000 Thu, 20 Jan 2022 15:40:03 +0000 Zend_Feed_Writer 2 (http://framework.zend.com) https://hnn.us/site/feed New York State's Lessons on Preventing a Crisis of Judicial Legitimacy

New York Court of Appeals, Albany. Architect Henry Rector (1842)

 

 

Public concern about recent Supreme Court decisions on abortion, religious rights and other hot button issues is on the rise. Before the court began its current term last fall, a number of its justices took the highly unusual step of pleading for public understanding. Their court is just following the Constitution, the law, and judicial precedent, they say. Angry critics are so far not mollified, calling for expansion of the court’s membership to counteract its alleged conservative biases.

History suggests that attacks on courts peak in times of stress and social change when the courts wrestle with profound, unsettled issues and their decisions have broad ramifications.  The criticisms usually fizzle as courts cautiously tack toward the center and align more closely with the perceived public consensus on key issues.

Historians’ focus on the Supreme Court has obscured the fact that most regulatory and constitutional issues were thrashed out and decided in state rather than federal courts during much of our history, including the progressive period (ca. 1890-1920).  Studying the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, arguably second in importance only to the U.S. Supreme Court in those days, provides insights into how courts balanced their obligations to the constitution and the need for new laws and regulations. The progressive period was a time of rapid population growth, economic transformation, and unprecedented government policies to regulate business and labor. Courts were panned then for striking down reform laws that judges said violated constitutional guarantees of personal liberty and due process of law.

As my forthcoming book The Crucible of Public Policy: New York Courts in the Progressive Era demonstrates, New York’s high court was more progressive than many of its state counterparts or the U.S. Supreme Court at that time. It was inclined to validate progressive legislation. But it was criticized for what it did not do, i.e., not asserting a common law right to personal privacy in the absence of a specific statutory protection in a 1902 decision,  Roberson v. Rochester Folding Box Company and the Franklin Mills Company. The  high court also took heat for what it did do, e.g., invalidating a law banning night work by women in factories in 1907 (People v. Williams) and a workers’ compensation law in 1911 (Ives v. South Buffalo Railway Company).  

Former president (and New York governor) Theodore Roosevelt, seeking the Republican nomination for another term as president in 1912, criticized several courts for their “foolish and iniquitous decisions.” He called the New York workers’ compensation decision “flagrant in its defiance of right and justice” and “shortsighted in its inability to face the changed needs of our civilization.” TR proposed giving voters the right to recall and override state court decisions that declared laws unconstitutional. Some critics went even further, advocating letting voters recall erring judges as well as their decisions. Some newspapers took up the cry: make the courts more responsive to the public.

Attacks by politicians and the media seemed for a while to threaten the Court of Appeals’ independence and authority.  But the criticism  gradually and quietly subsided through evolution and compromise. Some explanations of why this happened may provide insights for courts today:

  • When the Court of Appeals refused to assert a public right in the absence of a clear authorizing statute, the legislature took the hint and stepped up. In 1903, after the Roberson decision, it passed New York’s first right-to-privacy law. When the new law came up for review, the Court of Appeals cheerfully approved it (Rhodes v. Sperry Hutchinson, 1908).
  • Politicians, sometimes reluctantly, conceded the court’s assertion that the state constitution would not allow desirable new policies and therefore needed to be amended.  Voters approved an amendment to that constitution to authorize a workers’ compensation law in 1913. The legislature then passed a new law which was stronger than the one the court had struck down in 1911. The  Court of Appeals validated it (Matter of Jensen v. Southern Pacific Company, 1915).
  • The Court of Appeals changed its mind when presented with substantial new evidence on actual conditions and needs. In 1915, it validated a new legal ban on women’s factory night work similar to the one it had invalidated in 1907. The court was swayed by extensive new evidence on the baneful effects of night work presented by a state commission investigating factory conditions and an amicus brief prepared mostly by activist attorney (and future Supreme Court Justice) Louis D. Brandeis. The law is “within the power possessed by the legislature,” said the court. It is ”constitutional [and] in the interest of public health and welfare of the people of the state” (People v. Charles Schweinler  Press, 1915).
  • As new, more progressive-minded judges replaced more conservative ones, the Court of Appeals over time quietly backtracked and took a more relaxed, expansive view of some  government responsibilities.  In a 1905 decision, Wright v. Hart, the court struck down a law restricting bulk sale of goods as a violation of constitutional rights. But in 1916, considering a similar law passed latter, the court admitted that “it is our duty to hold that the decision in Wright v. Hart is wrong.” Back in 1905, “such laws were new and strange.” Since then, other states had enacted such regulations and their courts had mostly approved. “The needs of successive generations may make restrictions imperative today which were vain and capricious  [in] times past” (Klein v. Maravelas, 1916).
  • Sometimes, the court approved the substance of regulatory laws but struck them down on technicalities. New York’s Commission of Gas and Electricity, created in 1905, had extensive statutory authority to regulate gas and electricity companies and decide maximum rates for their services and products. The commission was forerunner of what would later be called the administrative state – powerful administrative agencies with the authority to promulgate rules with the force of law, enforce regulatory compliance, and make binding decisions about public rights and services. The Court of Appeals strongly affirmed the legislature’s authority to create such agencies with unprecedented power. But it invalidated the law because it restricted companies’ rights to appeal commission decisions (Saratoga Springs v. Saratoga Gas, Electric Light, Heat and Power Co., 1907). By then, it was moot point. The commission had been superseded by an even more powerful agency, the Public Service Commission, which supervised railroads as well as electric, gas, and other public utility companies. The PSC law, passed in 1907, included the sort of review provision that the court had found wanting in the 1905 law. The court’s strong affirmation of the principle of the administrative state in its Saratoga decision meant that the constitutionality of the PSC was not seriously challenged in court and also helped greenlight other powerful administrative agencies.
  • While judges seldom publicly responded to critics in those days, leading attorneys and the State Bar Association did. The association declared in 1913 that the courts were sound, their decisions well considered and well documented. The real problems were “misstatements and misrepresentations of the decisions and attitudes of the courts,” “fault finding of defeated litigants and their attorneys” and “abuse and misrepresentation” in the press. Recall of court decisions or judges “would destroy the independence of the judiciary and the impartial administration of justice.” It would substitute “for the training, intelligence and conscience of the judiciary, and settled rules of law, public clamor, agitation and constantly varying opinions of voters overruling the judgments of the courts and punishing judges for unpopular decisions.”

The media picked up on the Bar Association’s argument that independent courts protected the public interest. The recall proposal went nowhere in New York, though it did advance in some other states. Politicians’ criticism of the courts abated.  A 1915 state constitutional convention passed on an opportunity to rein in the court.  A 1921 legislative commission concluded that the state’s judicial system had “proved reasonably successful and satisfactory.”

The Court of Appeals’ strategies of compromise, forbearance, openness to change and good judgment combined with public support for judicial independence helped preserve the court’s integrity and role as arbiter of constitutionality.  That may be a good precedent for both the Supreme Court and its critics to consider in the months ahead.

]]>
Thu, 20 Jan 2022 15:40:03 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182195 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182195 0
Can a New Labor Movement Grow and Win with Direct Action Instead of Collective Bargaining?

 

A New American Labor Movement: The Decline of Collective Bargaining and the Rise of Direct Action

by William E. Scheuerman (SUNY Press, 2021)

During 2021, there were signs of growing militancy in America’s beleaguered union movement, as thousands of workers went out on strike at John Deere, Kellogg’s, Nabisco, Frito-Lay, Volvo, Frontier Communications, New York University, and Columbia University, as did thousands more from the ranks of union carpenters, hospital workers, airport workers, and coal miners.

Even so, William Scheuerman argues in this new, groundbreaking book, U.S. unions are in deep trouble and, acting alone, they “cannot deliver a resurgent labor movement.”

Scheuerman is well-qualified to deal with labor issues for, in addition to his academic credentials as professor emeritus of political science at SUNY/Oswego, he served as president of United University Professions (the largest higher education union in the United States) for 14 years and as president of the AFL-CIO’s National Labor College for another two.

The grim picture of U.S. unions painted by Scheuerman in A New American Labor Movement is one that many union activists privately acknowledge.  Union density in the nation has sharply fallen over the years, dropping from 34.8 percent of the workforce in 1954 to 10.8 percent in 2020.  Furthermore, the recent upsurge of strike activity comes as a surprise only because it counters the long-term decline in the number of strikes and strikers in the nation.  Rather than being on a march to power, most U.S. unions are engaged in a struggle for survival.

Why has this occurred?  Scheuerman argues persuasively that “big business and its cronies are waging an all-out war against organized labor as the last bastion of resistance against corporate hegemony.”  In this war, corporations have prevailed by closing U.S. manufacturing plants and investing overseas, fiercely resisting union organizing drives, firing union activists, vastly outspending unions in political campaigns, turning labor law against unions, and creating a gig economy. 

Nor does Scheuerman let unions off the hook.  Frequently, he charges, they have been led by bureaucratic, out of touch leaders, competed with one another for new members, and fallen short of the solidarity that they praise.  Indeed, labor leaders have too often conflated the survival of their own unions "with the survival of the union movement itself.”  But unions’ fundamental problem, he argues, is that, given the corporate-government assault upon them, their “organizational structure no longer serves the mission of the labor movement.”

Even so, Scheuerman contends, all is not lost in the struggle for workers’ rights, for a variety of pro-labor social movements have begun successful operations outside traditional union structures.  And, in this detailed, convincing study, he shows how these movements, frequently working in alliance with unions, are laying the groundwork for a more flexible, dynamic, and effective labor movement.

The new social movements have made particularly impressive gains among the nation’s 2.4 million farmworkers—long plagued by pathetic wages, wage theft, terrible working conditions, miserable housing, and physical and sexual abuse.  Deliberately omitted from coverage by the National Labor Relations Act and labor laws in most states, these workers, often immigrants and migrant laborers, have faced enormous difficulties forming unions.  Although the small United Farmworkers and the tiny Farm Labor Organizing Committee have had some union organizing success and, as a result, have significantly improved the lives of the small numbers of workers they represent, the most recent breakthroughs for farmworkers’ rights, Scheuerman notes, have resulted from campaigns outside the union movement—by the Coalition for Immokalee Workers (CIW) and New York State’s farmworker movement.

The CIW, organized in the 1990s to assist Florida’s horribly exploited tomato pickers (some of whom were kept in actual slavery), is a non-hierarchical organization, with farmworkers involved in all its decisions, staff wages tied to field work, and all staff members working in the fields from May until September.  Recognizing that the growers’ pathetic payments to workers often reflected the low price for tomatoes set by major fast food chains, the CIW launched a very effective boycott campaign against Taco Bell, McDonald’s, and other tomato purchasers.  In this fashion, the CIW eventually secured a Fair Food Program that covered 90 percent of Florida-grown tomatoes and significantly improved farmworkers’ wages and lives.  If the CIW had been a union, Scheuerman points out, this would not have been possible, for unions are prohibited by law from conducting secondary boycotts.  Moreover, not all of CIW’s boycott partners were fans of unions.

In New York State, a Justice for Farmworkers (JFW) campaign began in 1989, drawing together sympathetic religious, community, and labor groups.  Like the CIW, the JFW was not a union.  But, unlike the CIW, it sought legislation that would provide farmworkers with the same labor rights enjoyed by other workers in the state.  Ultimately, after a lengthy struggle, the state legislature passed a farmworkers’ Fair Labor Practices Act in 2019.  It guaranteed the state’s 56,000 farmworkers collective bargaining rights, the state’s hourly minimum wage, overtime pay, a day of rest every week, and eligibility for unemployment insurance, paid family leave, and workers’ compensation benefits.

Scheuerman also emphasizes the importance of the rise of worker centers—community-based, nonprofit organizations that, unlike unions, do not bargain with employers but, instead, serve as support hubs for low wage, unorganized workers.  In the early 1990s, only about five of these centers were in operation.  But their number has now soared past two hundred.  Thanks to the decline of unions and corporate America’s increasing reliance on employing workers lacking a permanent job status, worker centers have become hotbeds of organizing among these new gig workers. 

In California, Uber and Lyft rideshare drivers, angry about low wages, working conditions, and classification as independent contractors, created “virtual” worker centers that facilitated demonstrations, strikes, and protests.  Thanks to their spirited campaign, the California legislature passed a law reclassifying them as employees, and thus eligible for the rights guaranteed to workers, including collective bargaining.  But Uber and Lyft, drawing upon their vast financial resources, pushed through a referendum that scrapped the legislation.  Even so, Scheuerman contends, the strategy and the mobilization demonstrated by the drivers indicate the potential power of new approaches to worker organizing and political action.

One of the largest of the new worker centers is the Freelancers Union.  Although the name is a misnomer—for, in fact, it is not a union—the Freelancers Union has substantial appeal to the growing number of independent workers in the nation’s gig economy, and today claims half a million members.  According to a survey, 70 percent of them engage in professional or semi-professional service work.  Rather than battling to end these workers’ precarious status, the Freelancers Union simply provides them, at a cut rate, with the services that they lack and need, such as health insurance.  Although it won a major legislative victory in New York City, where legislation passed in 2017 gives freelancers the right to written contracts, timely payment, and freedom from retaliation, for the most part the organization has avoided political action.  This apolitical stance, plus the Freelancers Union’s top-down structure and failure to directly confront employers, lead Scheuerman to designate it “an outlier within the developing new labor movement.”

The daring struggles of fast food workers are more in line with traditional norms of workers’ collective action and solidarity, although these workers, too, operate outside the official union structure.  In November 2012, hundreds of underpaid fast food workers from about forty New York City stores walked off their jobs and took to the streets, demanding $15 an hour and union rights.  The Fight for $15, as Scheuerman notes, “soon became a tsunami spreading across the country to more than 300 cities.”  Not only were the wages of these workers abysmally low, but they suffered from unpredictable scheduling, wage theft, arbitrary firings, and sexual harassment.  Although considerable union money went into the campaign (most notably, $70 million from the Service Employees International Union), it continues to be almost impossible to organize significant numbers of fast food workers into unions.  Nevertheless, their one day strikes, civil disobedience actions, and flamboyant public campaigns did lead to substantial wage gains, thanks to state government or corporate action, and also helped convince most Americans to support a $15 an hour minimum wage.

Observing that these labor upsurges have occurred in industries where unions have found it nearly impossible to organize on a workplace-by-workplace basis, Scheuerman suggests that they point to the need for sectoral bargaining.  This industry-wide negotiation of wage and other labor standards for union and non-union workers is common in European democracies, and encourages firms to compete by increasing productivity rather than by cutting wages and benefits in a race to the bottom.  Local “shop floor” concerns, he notes, such as work rules, due process, and steps for promotion, can be handled by worker centers. 

Scheuerman has other recommendations, as well.  Through legislative action, he maintains, the nation should create a strong social safety net and, also, reform American labor laws to “open the door to union membership for the millions who want it.”  Furthermore, the labor movement should turn to “visionary leaders who will put the interests of workers before the interests of their own organizations,” encourage rank-and-file participation in union governance and activities, and work closely—rather than in competition—with other unions.

This is an ambitious agenda, and it is far from clear that it can be realized.  A number of questions spring to mind.  For example, as union support has often been crucial to the success of the new, pro-labor, direct action social movements, can these movements survive if unions continue to decline in membership, resources, and political clout?  Also, what if the federal and state governments, in response to corporate pressure, crack down on the new social movements as effectively as they have done on the unions?  Finally, given the global mobility of capital through banks and multinational corporations, doesn’t the successful defense of workers’ interests necessitate moving beyond a national labor movement to an international one?

Nevertheless, despite these potential pitfalls, this creative, thoughtful, and well-researched study of the U.S. labor movement gets to the heart of its major problems and potential.  In this time of growing corporate domination of the United States and of the world, A New American Labor Movement illuminates a useful path forward in the long and difficult struggle for workers’ rights.

]]>
Thu, 20 Jan 2022 15:40:03 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182194 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182194 0
What Happens When the "End Times" are Now?

Illustration of the Whore of Babylon from Martin Luther's 1534 Translation

 

A rather revealing meeting

In June 2016, I organized a meeting for the local council of churches in an English town to discuss issues relating to the forthcoming European Union (EU) Referendum.  The meeting was intended to provide an opportunity for airing Christian views on the subject. It was well attended and drew in participants from across the wide denominational spectrum of churches.

The evening was lively. Many of my friends (regardless of whether they were ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain’ in the context of the EU Referendum) expressed astonishment afterwards at the way the discussion developed.

They had expected the topics to include debates over things like sovereignty and parliamentary accountability, jobs and economic prosperity, continent-wide cooperation in order to meet global challenges, or peace and security in Europe.

What they got was discussion ranging from the allegation that the seat 666 is kept empty in the European Parliament chamber in both Brussels and Strasbourg (it isn’t), to whether the EU is a political tool of Antichrist in advance of the second coming of Christ.

My friends were astonished at this. I wasn’t. During the previous month I had contributed a guest blog for a Christian news platform, challenging these same accusations. During that month (it went live on May 25, 2016) it had become, from my calculations, one of the most visited blogs on this website.

It can still be read online but, unfortunately, the huge string of comments and conversations under it can no longer be accessed. That is a pity because they would have provided interesting source material for future students of theology and the sociology of religion. Like the meeting I organized later, in June of that year, the online discussion got lively. In fact, it got very lively indeed! Some might say “heated.”

 

Eschatological turbulence on both sides of “the pond”

My experience in the UK was not the only turbulent event of 2016 that had end-times features to it. In November, something even more extraordinary occurred in the USA: the election of Donald Trump.

Somewhere in the region of 33 million white evangelicals voted for Trump and huge numbers of these see contemporary events through the same eschatological lens that had informed the outlook of those with whom I had debated in the UK about the European Union. In the US, this support has had significant effects on foreign policy.

President Trump’s decisions to move the US embassy to Jerusalem (announced in 2018) and to support Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights (announced in 2019) were designed to appeal to American evangelical Christians. Polling in the US in 2017 revealed that 80% of evangelicals believe that the creation of Israel in 1948 was a fulfilment of biblical prophecy that will bring about Christ’s second coming.

In addition, Trump’s decision to leave the Paris climate agreement in 2017 (the decision was implemented in 2020) sat easily with a group which contains many who deny the reality of climate change caused by human action, or do not consider it a threat which can be averted by human agency.

Whatever one feels about these geopolitical and environmental issues, it is undeniable that huge numbers of voters in the USA see these decisions through an end-times lens.

At this point, I should say that as well as being an historian, I attend a church in the UK which would be described as “evangelical.” But, in the UK, “evangelicals” are as likely to be internationalist and in favor of state invention in society as not. The political homogeneity that is so pronounced in the USA is not a feature on this side of the pond.

 

The End Times, Again?

These experiences caused me to write a book which explores the history of end-times beliefs. It is called: The End Times, Again? 2000 Years of the Use and Misuse of Biblical Prophecy. It explores the history of end-times beliefs within the Christian community and their political and cultural impact.

Christianity inherited from Judaism a belief in prophecy and early Christian texts reveal this, both in the belief that the life of Jesus is foretold in Old Testament prophecy and in adding to the prophetic tradition by predicting the future return of Jesus.

Although the New Testament clearly says that the date of the second coming cannot be known, this has not stopped two millennia of speculation. Tenth-century commentators claimed that raids by Magyars and Vikings were fulfilments of prophecy. End-times excitement and anxiety mounted as the Year 1000 approached (despite the fact that an error in calculating the dating system meant it was not actually 1000 years since the birth of Jesus). This accelerated during the crusades, when the armies of Islam were confidently identified as end-times actors. During the Middle Ages, rival popes, kings and emperors quarried prophetic scripture for accusations to throw at each other (usually the accusation of being the Antichrist).

During the Reformation, Protestants overturned the official Catholic view of prophecy as allegorical and were sure they lived in the “last days” – with the pope being the Antichrist. Radical Anabaptist groups established “New Jerusalems” in anticipation of the second coming. As Britain spiraled into civil wars in the 1640s, eschatological excitement was intense, only to be dashed when the monarchy was restored in 1660.

The same ideas were taken to New England and entered the cultural DNA of what became the USA. Eighteenth-century patriots accused George III of being “the great Whore of Babylon,” riding the “great red dragon” upon America (references to Revelation). In the nineteenth century the concept emerged of the Rapture, the idea that the “true church” will be removed from the earth shortly before a time of “Great Tribulation” preceding the return of Christ. The recent Left Behind series of novels embody this interpretation and have sold somewhere in the region of eighty million copies.

In the twentieth century, the establishment of the State of Israel and the Cold War galvanized prophetic study – especially in the USA – with many Christians identifying Israel as a fulfilment of end-times prophecy. For some in the Cold War, this outlook justified opposition to nuclear disarmament, since these weapons were seen as fulfilling predictions concerning widespread destruction, fire and sickness. This is where apocalypse meets foreign policy. Prophecy was interpreted in line with Western, and especially US, perspectives. In this process, end-times beliefs increasingly became associated with the political right. This was by no means inevitable, but it continues to be the case.

    

The continued impact of end-times beliefs today

Since 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to claims that it has eschatological significance. It should be noted that the same thing was said about the fourteenth-century Black Death. Anti-vaxxers and those unhappy with mask-wearing have included some who loudly identify these as aspects of an emerging international order associated with the Antichrist. This has resonated with – and been amplified by – conspiracy-theory-culture and the effects of social-media algorithms.

Some of the most extreme supporters of gun rights in the USA see them as weapons to be used in resisting the forces of the Antichrist in the last days.

In the face of such certainty regarding imminent end-times events, the urgent need to address the existential threat posed by climate change can be presented as irrelevant. After all, if the second coming is imminent, there is little urgency. Indeed, the threat from climate change may actually be viewed as an end-times judgement on humanity.

What is clear from all of this is that these beliefs are highly significant because, in an increasingly polarized political climate, the way they are being deployed in support of right-wing agendas impacts at the ballot box. This is especially so in the USA, where white evangelicals (even through a shrinking fraction of the electorate) punch well above their weight due to the extent of their ideological homogeneity, organization, and turnout. In any analysis of conservative voters’ political outlook and intentions, this end-times ideology needs to be recognized. Recognition does not imply agreement. But it can at least be the basis for dialogue, debate, and challenge.   Ignoring it may prove to be a serious mistake.

]]>
Thu, 20 Jan 2022 15:40:03 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182179 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182179 0
The All-American Fallacies that Threaten Our Survival

Holiday Greetings from U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO)

 

 

The Republican Party is being taken over by an extremist fringe.

Among Republicans, the Party’s extremist fringe is not represented by Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, or Marjorie Taylor Greene. They are Republican heroes. The Republican fringe is Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, the only Republicans willing to investigate the January 6 insurrection. The Republican fringe is the minority of 64 Representatives who voted, just after that mob had been dispersed, to accept the 2020 presidential election results in Pennsylvania, as against the 138 who objected to accepting the November results. Only 2 of the Republican Representatives who had announced that they would object changed their minds after the pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.

 

Conservatives are concerned about a liberal “war on Christmas.”

Traditional American Christmas is well represented by two postwar Hollywood movies, “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) and “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947). These iconic films portray a Christmas of secular generosity, love of neighbors, and belief in the goodness of humanity, redeeming harsh capitalism through love and kindness. Today’s American conservatives reject these virtues as typical liberal weaknesses, which they label socialism. Although they complain about a war on Christmas, the phrase has no meaning for them, because, as the Christmas cards of Reps. Thomas Massie and Lauren Boebert demonstrate, Christmas is politics and politics is war.

 

Race is just one of the issues that motivate conservative unhappiness with American life.

Racial fear is the overriding source of conservative hatred for liberals. Long before Barack Obama embodied the danger of Black power, conservatives chafed at the political correction of racist language. The fight against traditional American white supremacy always required government intervention. When presidential candidate Ronald Reagan said, “I believe in states’ rights,” at the Neshoba County Fair in 1980, and asserted that government was the problem, not the solution, he offered the latent supremacist beliefs of white Americans, especially in southern and rural communities, a political home, where their traditional discriminatory prejudices would be respected and encouraged. Trump rose to political prominence because white racists thrilled at his dishonest attacks on Obama. Now nearly half of Republican voters say that Trump was an even greater President than Reagan. Trump’s open racism is one of his greatest attractions.

 

There is a partisan battle about how to tell American history.

Historians of the American past have never offered a more accurate and truthful historical narrative than they do now. Conservatives do not want to debate history – they want to substitute the discredited myths that made white people feel good for real history. Concern for how white children might feel about themselves, their families, and America is behind the racial focus on critical race theory and the 1619 project. In his final year in office, Trump charged that American education is “left-wing indoctrination” which led to the widespread urban protests against racism. His 1776 Commission was designed to promote teaching about the “miracle of American history,” not the history itself. The Commission is dead, but Republican politicians across America are legislating patriotic stories into public school curricula.

 

America is the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Americans of color were never free and the Americans who violently, often murderously persecuted them were never brave. Now that certain elements of American government are working to realize that anthemic promise, millions of Americans are arming themselves against their elected government. Freedom for many, maybe most white Americans has always meant freedom to dominate and exploit other Americans, and to use force to destroy the brave Americans who opposed them. Conservatives are amassing an unprecedented arsenal to assure the survival of traditional white power.

 

As Joe Biden said in his inaugural address, “We have never, ever failed in America when we have acted together.”

The fallacy there is not in the literal meaning of those words, but in what Biden claimed to be success. Americans acted together to successfully preserve slavery in 1789. Americans acted together after the Civil War to successfully preserve racial disenfranchisement and segregation. Americans acted together to successfully preserve racial discrimination for a half-century after the Civil Rights movement. Now that such success finally appears to be threatened, conservative Americans once again are acting together to preserve white power.

 

Thus far, Americans have failed miserably at the ultimate task of surviving today’s two greatest natural disasters, climate change and COVID. We show no sign of acting together in either case. COVID has both revealed the depth of our national delusions and exacerbated them. The fallacies of American political thinking are killing Americans now and threatening our futures.

]]>
Thu, 20 Jan 2022 15:40:03 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154576 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154576 0
The Roundup Top Ten for January 14, 2022

Nine Decades Later, Critics of DuBois's "Black Reconstruction" Rehash Old Claims

by Martha S. Jones

For a new wave of critics, it's 1935 all over again, proving the ongoing vitality of DuBois's pioneering work. 

 

Teachers’ Unions Are Making Totally Reasonable Pandemic Safety Demands

by Josh Mound

Chicago's teachers, like those elsewhere, have led the way in making demands for students to return to safe classrooms. The media are scapegoating them for the failures of politicians to meet or even consider those demands, while advancing a privatization agenda.

 

 

Abortion is Vulnerable Because it was Never Assimilated into Mainstream Medicine

by Carole Joffe

Because mainstream doctors and their professional organizations stigmatized the providers of illegal abortions before 1973, they were neither willing nor able to provide a strong defense of abortion rights after Roe v. Wade. 

 

 

Online Christian Martyrs

by Peter Manseau

"Imagine if all the energy, resources, and marketing that have been used to inject ideas of martyrdom into issues of public health and safety had instead gone toward making real change."

 

 

Family Capitalism and the Small Business Insurrection

by Melinda Cooper

Trumpism's base includes significant leadership and financial support from a faction of capitalists who own and lead private companies and shun many of the concessions made by publicly-traded corporations toward liberalism. 

 

 

Don’t Make Meat Cheaper. Make It Much More Expensive

by Jan Dutkiewicz and Gabriel N. Rosenberg

The Biden administration hopes to score political points by making the meat industry more competitive and lowering prices. This is ignoring the horrible costs of cheap meat. 

 

 

Will Omicron Break Up America's Unhealthy Cycle of January Gym Resolutions?

by Natalia Mehlman Petrzela

Could one positive effect of the Omicron surge be that people are separating their personal motivations to exercise from the commercial imperatives of the fitness and diet industries?

 

 

We Must Fight the New Lost Cause Myth Trump has Birthed

by David Blight

"Yes, disinformation has to be fought with good information. But it must also be fought with fierce politics, with organization, and if necessary with bodies, non-violently."

 

 

Sidney Poitier Gave More than He was Given

by Samantha N. Sheppard

Sidney Poitier's gift and burden as an actor was to constantly deliver more than his scripts contained, pushing the limits of Black representation in Hollywood films. 

 

 

Secularism: The Essential, Fatally Weak Guardrail of Democracy

by Jacques Berlinerblau

The framers of the US Constitiution failed to build in the protections against religious belief overpowering the rights of others or the security of the state that Locke and other political theorists thought were urgently necessary. This oversight might imperil democracy.

 

]]>
Thu, 20 Jan 2022 15:40:03 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182190 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182190 0
We Almost Lost Our Democracy – and Still Could: A Conversation with Congressman Adam Schiff

Congressman Adam Schiff

 

Freedom is not assured. It is, as ever, something we have to fight for every day. So let us fight. Unlike Trump’s violent insurrectionists, our weapon of choice must be the truth, wielded relentlessly.

Congressman Adam Schiff, Midnight in Washington

           

Over the past five years, California Congressman Adam Schiff has been one of the foremost defenders of the rule of law and American democracy as he has exposed the autocratic presidency of Donald Trump and the evolution of the Republican Party from a home for voters with conservative values to “an antitruth, antidemocratic cult organized around the former president.”

In his powerful and engaging new book Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could (Random House), Congressman Schiff offers an account of the Trump presidency from the perspective of Capitol Hill. He relates how close the Trump regime came to ending our democracy, and he warns about how our system remains imperiled by a Republican party that embraces Trump’s big lie about winning the 2020 election and then uses false claims of voter fraud to adopt a “new generation of Jim Crow laws targeting minority populations and seeking to cut off their access to the polls.”

The revelatory book begins on one of the darkest days in our history: January 6, 2021, when a violent mob of hundreds of Trump supporters attacked the US Capitol in an effort to overturn the 2020 election of President Joe Biden. Congressman Schiff vividly describes the chaos in the US House Chamber as the rioters breached the building. The deadly assault by Trump-inspired insurrectionists left several dead and more than 140 police officers injured. This act of domestic terrorism stunned many members of Congress, including Congressman Schiff, who was well aware of the danger posed by Trump as he and his allies presumed they were above the law.

Midnight in Washington records Congressman Schiff’s own story of how he chose a life of public service and loyalty to the rule of law. Schiff, who has served in Congress since 2001, was famously known for working across party lines for needed legislation. He was seen as a collaborative figure, not a rigid partisan, but his ability to deal with the other side ended with era of Trump.

Congressman Schiff’s fearless efforts to expose the lawlessness of the Trump regime have won admiration of his party as well as scholars and many independents, but he has drawn the ire and juvenile mockery of the ex-president, unrelenting denunciation from many congressional Republicans, and constant threats to himself and his family from rightwing fanatics.

In his cautionary account of recent years, Midnight in Washington, Congressman Schiff proves an engaging and gifted storyteller. In lively prose, he brings the reader inside his experiences with the congressional investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election and his role as lead investigator and House manager in the first impeachment and trial of Trump for threatening to withhold approved military aid to Ukraine unless the embattled nation interfered in the 2020 presidential election by supplying negative information on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.  

Congressman Schiff’s book is certain to become an invaluable resource for scholars of our recent history and has been praised by historians such as Michael Beschloss and Ron Chernow. Acclaimed professor of history Timothy Snyder—an expert on democracy and tyranny—commented on Midnight: “If there is still an American democracy fifty years from now, historians will be very grateful for this highly personal and deeply informed guide to one of its greatest crises. We should be grateful that we can read it now.”

Congressman Schiff has been the United States Representative for California’s 28th Congressional District since 2000. In his role as Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, he led the first impeachment of Donald J. Trump stemming from the Trump–Ukraine scandal. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi then named him the lead House impeachment manager at the helm of a team of seven House members responsible for presenting the impeachment case against Trump during his trial before the United States Senate. Congressman Schiff is also a member of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.

Congressman Schiff graciously talked by telephone about his work and his new book from his office.

 

Robin Lindley: Congratulations Congressman Schiff on your powerful new book on how we almost lost our democracy, Midnight in Washington. And thank you for taking time from your hectic schedule to speak with me.

I have a special appreciation for your work on the Select Committee on the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Full disclosure: I was an attorney with the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the late seventies. I realize that investigative select committees pose special challenges for members of Congress, and I respect your persistence and passion with this investigation now in the face of constant vilification and threats from the right. It must be difficult for you.

Congressman Adam Schiff: It has been an ordeal, but I work with a great group of members and the staff is terrific. And it's very much a team effort.

Robin Lindley: The deadly January 6th assault on the Capitol was heartbreaking for me. I love that marvelous old edifice, the symbolic center of our democracy where I worked and where you now work. As we watched the live-televised, violent attack on the Capitol, I told my wife not to worry because the mob of insurrectionists wouldn’t get into the building. I said the National Guard would intercede and assured her that Guard units were probably on hand in the Capitol basement or in nearby office buildings. But that didn’t happen, and I know the select committee is looking into that now.

Congressman Adam Schiff: Yes, we sure are. And, ironically the January 6th Committee is a really bright spot in an otherwise pretty dark place in that we are working in a completely nonpartisan way with two conservative Democrats and two conservative Republicans among our ranks. There's no division in our purpose. We're all united in wanting to get to the truth and expose the truth to the American people and then legislate in a way that protects our country going forward.

Robin Lindley: What was your experience when the Capitol was attacked? In your book, you recount that you helped people get to safety, but you didn’t realize the danger you were in until Republican members of Congress told you to protect yourself.

Congressman Adam Schiff: Yes. I really hadn't been paying attention to what was going on outside the Capitol. I was speaking that morning and I was preparing my rebuttals for what the Republicans were saying. I knew they would be challenging electors in up to six states, and so I had written a bunch of opening statements and a few rebuttals to take into consideration what was being said very specifically.

And so I wasn't paying attention to events on the Mall. And I only noticed that things were awry when I looked up and saw that the Speaker was not in her chair. And then I watched police come in and quickly usher [Congressman and House Majority Leader] Steny Hoyer out of the chamber.

Then the police made increasingly dire warnings to the members that rioters were in the building, that we needed to get out our gas masks, and finally, that we needed to get out of the chamber.

I did hang back, in part because I felt reasonably calm and I could see how agitated other people were. And there was a bottleneck to get out of the House chamber. I remember thinking to myself that it was surprising because only 40 members were allowed to be present on the floor because of COVID with a number of others permitted in the gallery. But people must have come from other places and suddenly it was very crowded. I also didn’t want to go through the doors shoulder to shoulder with a number of Republicans who refused to wear masks. This was pre- vaccination.  And some of those Republicans came up to me and told me that I needed to make sure that the attackers didn't see me because I was in different category. And of course, I understood exactly what they were saying. And I had that strange reaction that I wrote about in the book, at first feeling touched by their help and then quite angered about the reason I was at risk was because they had been lying about the election lying and about me too but, in particular, about their lies about the election, which caused this attack on the Capitol.

Robin Lindley: Most Congressional Republicans, including those who seemed interested in your safety, continue to embrace Trump’s big lie that he won the election.

Congressman Adam Schiff: And yes, after our session that night, and in the weeks that followed and to the present day, they have persisted in this big lie and in undermining our election system and questioning its integrity. And it's really an inducement to further violence. After seeing where that led, to continue with that lie is an even more willful assault on our democracy.

Robin Lindley: I appreciate your courage at this fraught time and your service on the Select Committee on the January 6th attack on democracy. I don’t know many details, but I understand that the Committee is working intensely to understand every aspect of the attack on the Capitol and its making progress each day.

Congressman Adam Schiff: Thank you. We are moving with great diligence. We have interviewed now over 300 people and those are cooperating witnesses. Of course, there are very high-profile exceptions who are employing many of the same tactics that Trump used while in office by suing to avoid complying with the law in the hope of delay, in the hope that justice delayed can be justice denied. But we're moving quickly to hold them in criminal contempt and we hope and expect that the Justice Department will also move quickly to prosecute these people.

Robin Lindley: Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows are two notable examples of those held in contempt. On another issue, could the Constitution and federal law be used to prevent former President Trump and his insurrectionist allies in Congress from holding public office again? What would trigger section three of the 14th amendment or 18 US Code at section 2383, for example, regarding preclusion of those who commit insurrection from holding office?

Congressman Adam Schiff: Yes, it's a good question. We’ve discussed that internally and I've discussed it with constitutional experts. I'm not sure that I have a clear answer to that question. I think it was last used during Reconstruction and I don't think it's ever been used to prohibit someone from seeking the presidency again. The short answer is, as with many other things that have come to light in the last four years, it’s an open constitutional question.

Robin Lindley: I wanted to go back to your story Congressman Schiff. You are guided by an impressive public service ethic. You graduated from Harvard Law School and you could have worked at a very lucrative job at a prestigious law firm. Instead, you devoted your life to public service, first as an Assistant US Attorney, then as a legislator in California, and now as a member of Congress. Where did your values of selfless service and working for the common good come from?

Congressman Adam Schiff: I really think they come from my parents, and they would tell you that they came from their parents. My folks instilled in me and my brother an ethic of service and an ethic of leaving a world better off for the next generation. We also had the confidence of knowing that, if we could be good at something and we could make our living, we could get by, and that there are more important things than material wealth, and doing a service for others was something of great importance. And so in my case, that came from my folks and from my grandparents as well.

Robin Lindley: You’ve been in Congress for two decades and you were known as a person with a collaborative spirit who worked across the aisle. But it seems that compromise and bipartisanship haven’t been possible with the other party since Trump became president.

Congressman Adam Schiff: That's very true. And that’s something that I have to explain to people who only know me from the last few years. I had a very different reputation from the perception of the Trump years.

Before Trump, I was not viewed as a partisan. Indeed, I don't view myself as a partisan. And I don't think opposition to authoritarianism or corruption of the variety that Donald Trump represents is partisan. I think you can see that in some very conservative Republicans such as Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger who feel the same way. Certainly no one would've described me as a lightning rod of any kind including a liberal lightning rod. But if you stand up to Donald Trump, then you become public enemy number one in MAGA world. And that's certainly made it much more difficult for me to work across the aisle on things having nothing to do with the former president.

That work still goes on. We produced the intelligence authorization goals in my committee that passed in the committee on a bipartisan basis for years now, even with my differences with [Republican Congressman Devin] Nunez. But, as long as Donald Trump is on the scene and as long as the Republican party leadership has given up its devotion to our democracy and made itself a kind of cult of the former president, there's no accommodating that.

And there's no accommodating a Republican party that doesn't believe in our democracy anymore as its priority on a whole set of issues. They're just going to have to be beaten at the polls. There are still areas where we can work together, but not on the big issues that affect our democracy such as voting rights, as [Democratic Senator] Joe Manchin is finding out the hard way. There's no accommodating them because their goals are completely different. Their goal is to tear down our democratic system in the hopes of gaining power and keeping it.

Robin Lindley: One of your legislative efforts to strengthen democracy is the Protecting Our Democracy Act, which recently passed in the House. That Act would address presidential abuse of power, separation of powers, and foreign interference in elections. That seems an important development.

Congressman Adam Schiff: That came from a discussion I had with Speaker Pelosi a couple years ago where I suggested that we fashion our own sort of post-Watergate reform to attack the many abuses of power that weakened the guardrails of democracy and that had been exposed to us for years. And so that's what we put together. Many of the pieces have had Republican support in the past, and they probably enjoy Republican support now, particularly since we have a Democratic president. But so many of the Republicans are just too scared. This too we learned in the last four years that, while courage may be contagious, cowardice is too, and there has been an epidemic of cowardice among the leadership of the GOP.

Robin Lindley: Many people I talk with fear for the future of our democracy. Where do you find hope today?

Congressman Adam Schiff: I entitled the book Midnight in Washington in part because that was the part of one of my closing arguments in the trial, but also because midnight may be the darkest hour of the day everywhere in the world, but it's also a hopeful time because we know that what follows is the prospect of light.

I have every confidence we're going to get through this. I derive that confidence from some of the heroic people that have emerged over the last several years: the [former US ambassador to Yugoslavia] Marie Yovanovitches, the [director for European Affairs for the National Security Council, Lt. Col.] Alexander Vindmans, the [former senior director for Europe and Russia on the NSA] Fiona Hills, even the [former Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coatses, and others, who risked their careers to stand up to this most unethical president as defenders of democracy. There are millions and millions more like them around the country who far outnumber those who are trying to tear down democracy right now.

So, we're getting through it. But I do think what we do in this moment will determine how quickly we get through it and how much damage we're forced to suffer along the way.

Robin Lindley: Thank you for your thoughtful comments Congressman Schiff and congratulations again on your powerful book, a wake-up call for America. And thank you for your work in Congress and your steadfast commitment to our democracy.

Congressman Adam Schiff: Thank you, Robin. And thank you for your interest in the book and for reaching out.

 

Robin Lindley is a Seattle-based attorney, writer and features editor for the History News Network (historynewsnetwork.org). His work also has appeared in Writer’s Chronicle, Bill Moyers.com, Re-Markings, Salon.com, Crosscut, Documentary, ABA Journal, Huffington Post, and more. Most of his legal work has been in public service. He served as a staff attorney with the US House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations and investigated the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His writing often focuses on the history of human rights, conflict, medicine, art, and culture. Robin’s email: robinlindley@gmail.com.  

 

]]>
Thu, 20 Jan 2022 15:40:03 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182096 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182096 0
One if by Land, Two if by Sea, and Three if by the Capitol Steps

Two Lanterns in Old North Church, Boston, January 5. Photo Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.

 

 

On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the insurrection at the Capitol, the vicar of Boston’s Old North Church lit two lanterns in the church’s belfry. 

The Rev. Dr. Matthew Cadwell explained the symbolic gesture in a Facebook post.

"Tonight we lit the lanterns at the Old North Church to stand for our American democracy and in solidarity with election workers across the country.”

William Galvin, who as Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts oversees the state’s elections, and who attended the ceremony, spoke outside the historic church. “[F]rom our beginning, the lights of the lanterns in the steeple of Old North Church have served as both a warning and a call to action.”  Now, he said, the two lanterns “call us to action to defend American democracy by protecting the integrity of our electoral process and those throughout the nation who honestly administer it.”

In an article posted on its website about the decision to light the lanterns, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, of which the Old North Church is a part, had a lot to say about elections but very little to say by way of explaining the choice of the lanterns as the appropriate symbol for honestly administered elections.

 

“Two lanterns famously shone from the steeple of the Old North Church on the night of April 18, 1775. Inspired by those beacons lighting the way for American freedom and democracy, we continue to cherish and hold sacred the hard-fought values and ideals of our nation.”

 

The Diocese’s statement implies that the link between the Old North Church’s lanterns and American democracy reaches back to 1775.

 

In fact, in the decades following the American Revolution, few would have recalled that the Patriots flashed two lanterns from the then peninsular city’s North End as a signal to their allies across the water in Charlestown that British troops were en route to the towns of Concord and Lexington to find and confiscate the Patriots’ secreted military stores.  It was Harvard professor Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who, in his 1860 poem “Paul Revere’s Ride,” turned the story into a legend and the lanterns into the potent symbol mobilized by the Diocese.

 

Longfellow used strong end rhymes and a meter that sounds remarkably like a galloping horse to elevate Revere’s invention of a semaphore system to the status of myth.

 

One if by land, and two if by sea; And I on the opposite shore will be, Ready to ride and spread the alarm Through every Middlesex village and farm, For the country-folk to be up and to arm.

 

By the end of Longfellow’s ten-stanza poem, Revere has not only set up the semaphore system, he has rowed to Charlestown under the cover of darkness, received the message flashed from the Old North Church’s belfry, and delivered it to Concord on horseback.  In Longfellow’s symbolic terms, Revere has used the two lanterns to light a fire.

A hurry of hoofs in a village-street, A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark, And beneath from the pebbles, in passing, a spark Struck out by a steed that flies fearless and fleet: That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light, The fate of a nation was riding that night; And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight, Kindled the land into flame with its heat.

That fire is the new nation.

The Diocese is hardly the first to have been inspired by Longfellow’s assertion that anyone can light this fire. 

At the 1967 Southern Leadership Conference, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “We still need some Paul Revere of conscience to alert every hamlet and every village of America that revolution is still at hand.” 

Four years later, in the spring of 1971, when the New England chapter of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) wanted to warn the country about Nixon’s acceleration of the American air war against Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, its members kicked off a three-day protest march by invoking Revere’s semaphore system in Longfellowian terms. 

“One if by land, two if by sea, and three if by air,” was how the veterans put it in a press release before shooting off six flares near the Old North Church to symbolize that the United States was attacking Southeast Asia from all three directions.

Longfellow’s achievement in crafting such a potent symbol is all the more remarkable when we consider the degree to which he departed from the historical record.  As David Hackett Fischer and Jeff Lantos explain in their respective books, Paul Revere’s Ride (for adults) and Why Longfellow Lied: The Truth About Paul Revere (for middle schoolers), Revere was part of a large and intricate warning system comprised of many kinds of pre-arranged signals.  Of course, those sent by gun fire traveled faster than any of the many warning riders ever could.  Perhaps most surprising for those who have mistaken the poem for fact, British troops were significantly delayed in starting their mission, not having enough long boots to make their water crossing in one trip, such that Revere’s arrival in Lexington did not give the colonists the advantage the poet insists won the Revolutionary War.  (In imagining Revere arriving in Concord, Longfellow conveniently “forgets” that he was captured by British guards in the town of Lincoln.) 

Not everyone was pleased with VVAW’s appropriation of one of America’s most cherished symbols.  On the second day of the march, two hundred antiwar Vietnam veterans and as many civilian supporters were arrested for occupying the Lexington Battle Green in what remains the largest mass arrest in the state’s history.

Nor was everyone pleased by the Diocese’s recent appropriation, as evidenced by the Facebook comments. 

“[S]hame on my fellow Episcopalians.”

“[S]top using historical landmarks for Leftist hyperbole.”

“Instead of remembering the riot of Jan. 6th, the Democratic party used it as a stumping speech for a change in voting rights. They have no shame.”

The problem with these complaints is that national symbols have never been nor will they ever be free of political baggage.

This was true even when Longfellow crafted “Paul Revere’s Ride.”

Historian Jill Lepore has argued in an article for The American Scholar that Longfellow’s poem was an anti-slavery assertion. “The poem was read at the time as a call to arms, rousing northerners to action, against what Charles Sumner called the Slaveocracy.”

If, in the intervening years, “Paul Revere’s Ride” has been mobilized for a variety of purposes, that is because Longfellow emptied Revere’s warning of its specific content.  Recall that he opened the poem quoting Revere’s warning: “For the country-folk to be up and to arm.”  (It’s a line the January 6 insurrectionists might have appropriated, if they had thought of it.)  But, by the end of the poem, Longfellow very cagily removes that assertion of violence, saying only that Revere voiced a “word that shall echo forevermore.” 

By opening up space to imagine whatever cause the reader desires, Longfellow made it possible for Sarah Palin to infamously assert after her 2011 visit to the Old North Church that Paul Revere “warned the British that they weren't going to be taking away our arms.”

Palin aside, Longfellow has helped Americans take a stand against slavery, Jim Crow, the Vietnam War and, now, insurrection.

His is a record any poet would be proud of.

]]>
Thu, 20 Jan 2022 15:40:03 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182136 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182136 0
A Year Later: Our Tattered and Fragile Democracy

 

President Biden said on December 9 that our democracy “can at times be fragile, but it also inherently resilient.” Not everyone, however, is so optimistic as the President. The events of January 6 have sparked a host of fears, coming from responsible quarters, that our “fragile democracy” is in grave danger.

In. recent days, we have seen further legislative steps to suppress the vote, and to delegitimize the vote, in key states dominated by Republicans. There are now 33 laws in 19 states designed to make it harder for persons of color to vote. But even more disturbing from the point of view of democracy are the Republican party’s efforts to purge officials who resisted Trump’s attempt to undermine the 2020 results, and replace them with loyalists who will toe the line. In some states, Republican lawmakers have taken control over the local administration of elections. In Wisconsin, a crucial swing state, Republicans  are seeking to eliminate the state’s bipartisan elections commission altogether and to install themselves as the sole arbiter of election outcomes. And more than a dozen other Republican states have similarly enacted laws to transform the counting and review of ballots cast into a carefully monitored partisan exercise. Fiorello LaGuardia, the legendary Mayor of New York City from 1934 to 1945 famously said “there is no Democratic or Republican way of cleaning the streets.” There is no Republican or Democratic way of counting and reviewing ballots either.

 

And if you can’t win an election with a thumb on the scale, try a coup d’état. Three retired generals are “chilled to our bones at the thought of a coup succeeding next time. The generals are “increasingly concerned about the aftermath of the 2024 presidential election and the potential for lethal chaos inside our military, which would put all Americans at severe risk.” Strong words.

 

The generals read the handwriting on the wall. A shocking  number of veterans and active-duty members of the military joined  in the insurrection. More than 10%  of those charged in the attacks had a service record. A group of 124 retired military officials, traveling under the banner “Flag Officers 4 America,” released a letter, channeling Trump’s bogus claim that the election was stolen.   

Recently, and most troubling, the generals point to Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino, commanding general of the Oklahoma National Guard, who refused an order from President Biden requiring that all National Guard members be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Mancino  made the bizarre claim that while the Oklahoma Guard is not federally mobilized, his commander in chief is the Republican governor of the state, not the president. Mancino should be court-martialed, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Barbara Walter, a political science professor at the University of California, San Diego, and a member of a key CIA advisory panel, the Political Instability Task Force, warns that the US is “closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe.” We have, she says, “entered into dangerous territory.”

Sidney Blumenthal, a long-time adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton, anticipates a virus of violence. He sees us as possibly moving into a period of ‘low-intensity conflict’ with right-wing militia groups committing endless acts of violence. Blumenthal couches his opinion “on the proliferation of guns,” certain to increase if the Supreme Court holds in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. argued November 3, that New York’s gun control law requiring licensing for those who wish to carry a handgun in public that the Constitution guarantees the unfettered right to carry concealed weapons in public places.

 

And if you need any further proof that the apocalypse is coming, Newsweek ran a piece claiming that millions of angry, armed Americans stand ready to seize power if Trump loses in 2024. They think that Biden is destroying the country.

 

In 2000, 60 percent of gun owners cited hunting as the reason they bought guns. The rest largely listed "sport"  But 16 years later, 63 percent were saying they bought guns for self-defense. That shift was brought on by often delusional ideas about street crime, a euphemism for black violence And for the past four years those fears have been stirred into a stew of white supremacist anti-government, adding  a dash of pro-Trump “stop the steal” tropes. "We've seen the flourishing of a different view of gun rights, one that focuses on the necessity of owning guns in order to fight a tyrannical government," says University of California Law Professor Adam Winkler. "The promotion of that idea has made it all the more likely that some people will come to see the government as a tyrannical one that needs to be overthrown." The resulting gun-rights-driven, anti-deep-state radicalism echoes throughout Republican-heavy social media and other communications channels.

 

A reactionary Vietnam war veteran Mike Niezenski thinks that the 2024 election may be the trigger for millions of armed insurrectionists to visit the Capitol and, as Trump put it, “take back our country.” Niezinski’s remarks on social media received 44,000 views in the first two weeks of November and more than 4 million overall. There are a lot of people out there who feel that something has been taken from them. Whether they are impelled to join an armed march on the Capitol is another question.

 

So, as Beckett said in the opening lines of Waiting for Godot, “What is to be done?"

 

Recently, Robert Palmer, one of the principal players on the ground during the January 6 insurrection was sentenced to more five years in jail. Another, Devlyn Thompson, just received a 46 month jail term for his part in the melee —both stiff sentences. Palmer threw a fire extinguisher at a police officer; Thompson struck a police officer with a baton. But where are the conspiracy charges against the major players Trump and his crew who made the insurrection happen?

Diffidence is misplaced in a prosecutor. Much evidence has already come to light as a result of the House Select Committee investigation, and probes by media organizations. We now look to Attorney General Merrick Garland to move against those at the top who made January 6 happen. Only then, will the rule of law be vindicated. As the iconic  Federal Judge Learned Hand observed, “conspiracy is the darling of the prosecutor’s nursery"

 

A modified version of this essay has appeared in the New York Daily News on January 3.

]]>
Thu, 20 Jan 2022 15:40:03 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182097 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182097 0
Debt Jubilees: An Ancient Solution for a Modern Problem  

 

 

 

In many of the most prominent ancient civilizations, including ancient Babylon, Egypt, Sparta, China, and others, excessive household debt was a huge and recurring problem. Debt, which was both a necessary and pervasive element of these economies, did many of the same things then that it does now: it facilitated payment for labor, allowed for the acquisition of supplies, and bridged the time between planting and harvest — the sowing and then the reaping of profit.  

 

Some families in these agricultural societies would find themselves with little option but to amass debt to survive, but this debt could cause them to lose their land, their means of sustenance, and even their liberty. In the tragic form of debt bond servitude, lenders took possession of family members as “repayment” for crippling debts. Interest rates were high and lenders quickly learned the power of compounding. These ancient economies would sometimes reach the brink of collapse under the staggering weight of private indebtedness.   

 

For this reason among others, kings devised debt forgiveness or amnesty as a solution. The ancient Israelites took debt relief an important step further: they removed it from the realm of a king’s whims and encoded it into their laws, making it recur the year after seven cycles of seven years. Debt relief changed from an ad hoc to a structural aspect of the economy.  

 

The Israelites called it Jubilee, after the ram’s horn, or yobel, that was sounded to joyously proclaim this freedom from the burden of debt.  

 

A key Old Testament passage, Deuteronomy 15:2–3, describes clearly the time when these debt amnesties were proclaimed: “Every creditor shall cancel any loan they have made to a fellow Israelite. They shall not require payment from anyone among their own people, because the Lord’s time for cancelling debts has been proclaimed. You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your fellow Israelite owes you.”   

 

Today, we find ourselves with a similar private sector debt accumulation problem, and the idea of strategic debt jubilee is arguably more urgent than ever. We were drowning in debt before the COVID-19 crisis, and now we are deluged by it. Household debt now totals $17.5 trillion, up 320 percent from 1950 in relation to income.  

 

These high debt levels are asphyxiating many households and stifling economic growth. In my investigations of household debt, I’ve talked with families encumbered with all of the following: mortgage debt as great as or greater than the value of their home; student loans still outstanding for the parents, topped by new student loans for the kids; and large debts tied to some unexpected healthcare expense. Families with high debt are far less able to pay for their own children’s college, build additions to their homes, buy appliances, or start new businesses — the very types of things that power an economy.  

 

The high burden of this private sector debt has also been an underlying issue in several of our recent, and worst, social and economic problems. Runaway household mortgage debt growth brought the 2008 global crisis. Some commentators believe that the residual burden of this crisis debt helped kindle the discontent that led to Donald Trump’s election in 2016. This debt has also exacerbated racial injustice, has been a factor in our opioid crisis, and is a key element of rising inequality. 

 

We need to think creatively. For example, we could introduce a program to let those with student loans get debt relief in exchange for volunteer community service. We could introduce regulations that make it easier for banks to provide mortgage loan relief for loans that are underwater or in arrears due to COVID-19. We could introduce healthcare debt relief programs for surprise medical bills or unexpected but critical healthcare needs. We could streamline household bankruptcy laws. 

 

Debt relief initiatives are not quixotic, impractical dreams of the soft-hearted, but a key component of a well-functioning economy. All would benefit from a modern debt jubilee. Households would be financially stronger, and governments, businesses, and financial institutions would be better off because those households would be stronger.  

 

Like our ancient forefathers, we need to reset our economy by offering hard-pressed debtors a jubilee now, not in some utopian future. 

]]>
Thu, 20 Jan 2022 15:40:03 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182134 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182134 0
A Walk Around the "Wood that Built London"

 

 

Working as a conservation volunteer at the London Wildlife Trust’s Local Nature Reserve at Sydenham Hill Wood in southeast London, I was fascinated to learn about the ancient woodland of which it is a surviving remnant. This expanse of oaks once covered a seven-mile stretch of what is now suburbia, cresting a range of hills that formed the Kent-Surrey border. As a large part of it lay in the northern reaches of the manor of Croydon, it was known as the North Wood or Norwood; the latter name has been inherited by a suburb in the area.

 

As the author of three illustrated histories of cartography, I naturally turned to old maps, both printed and manuscript, to see what they showed of the wood and its former extent. But they do not tell the whole story. Before there were maps, there were perambulations: written accounts of journeys around the boundaries of a manor or estate, noting landmarks and the distances between them, and the adjoining fields, farms and woods.

 

The painstaking business of archival research has been considerably eased in recent decades by the development of searchable online catalogues. That of the UK’s National Archives lists not only the vast collections held in its campus at Kew but documents in local, regional and academic libraries throughout the country. It directed me to a number of early modern surveys relating to the North Wood, written in secretary hand on often creased and grubby paper or parchment.

 

The earliest I was able to find is a terrier (from the French registre terrier, or land register) of the manor of Croydon conducted in 1492 on behalf of the then Archbishop of Canterbury, John Morton. The manor had been a possession of the Archbishops since the Norman Conquest, so much of the documentation concerning its affairs is held at Lambeth Palace Library, which proved a rich source of information. This survey, however, along with two updates of 1517 and 1543, had become detached from the main archive. It was most likely kept at the archbishops’ palace at Croydon, and was among the papers thrown out after the bishoprics of England and Wales were abolished during the Civil War and the palace leased to the Parliamentarian general Sir William Brereton. Morton’s survey then disappeared for centuries until it turned up in the catalogue of the antiquarian bookseller Bernard Quaritch in 1923, where it was spotted by a Croydon librarian who persuaded the council to buy it. The document is now in the Museum of Croydon.

 

Since the purpose of the survey was to record the acreage held by each tenant and the rent due, the North Wood, which was directly managed by the archbishopric, did not fall within its scope; but because several of the tenancies bordered the wood, the terrier mentions it several times, giving a fair idea of its extent, and records (often for the first time) place names still in use today.

 

Morton’s surveyors proceeded north from Croydon along the London Road, before turning east into Green Lane. To their north, they recorded an ancient estate of 120 acres “in landes called Biggynge,” and a little further on a farm of 10 acres on “land called Beawley.” Beyond it, one Henry Burton held 60 acres “upward toward the common called Norwood.” Morton’s men continued along what is now Thornton Heath High Street before turning north up Whitehorse Road. On the high ground to their left lay the densely wooded Manor of Whitehorse; the oaks of Grangewood Park, which occupies part of the former estate, still tower over Whitehorse Road today. The surveyors then turned east across Croydon Common to Long Lane, where they recorded 11 acres of “lande & woodgrounde buttinge on Longheath Lane,” leased to a Mr Heron; this may be the earliest reference to Long Lane Wood, another surviving parcel of this ancient woodland. From there, they returned to Croydon via Lower Addiscombe Road.

 

In 1552, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer commissioned a new survey of the “utter boundes of the mannor of Croydon” that contains significant topographical detail about the North Wood. It too was separated from the archiepiscopal records, and eventually came into the possession of the clergyman and church historian Thomas Tanner (1674–1735), who bequeathed his vast collection of manuscripts to the Bodleian Library at Oxford, where the document remains.

 

Cranmer’s surveyors, Leonard Perpointe and Thomas Tailour, “to gether with certayn anceante men as well of the Lordshipp of Croydon and also of divers parrishes adioyning,” made the circuit of the manor on the 3rd and 4th of May 1552. They started west of Croydon town by an elm tree beside the mill at Waddon, and made their way clockwise around the manor boundary, turning southeast into the North Wood. Here, it seems, the surfaced road petered out, for the surveyors advise their readers to follow the “most used way” for three-quarters of a mile to High Cross – presumably a boundary tree.

 

From there, they proceeded another half-mile to the Vicar’s Oak. This important boundary tree marked the point where the parishes of Lambeth, Camberwell, Croydon and Battersea met on Norwood Hill; its site is now marked by a plaque beside the gate of Crystal Palace Park. The immense oak could be seen from ten or twelve miles away and even, according to one observer, from Harrow-on-the-Hill, 17 miles to the northwest on the far side of London. From here, they continued south to Penge Corner and along the ditch that marked the boundary between Kent and Surrey, before bearing southwest to return to their starting point at Waddon Mill.

 

To the north of Croydon lay the hamlet of Penge, a detached portion of the manor of Battersea. Covering just a square mile and shaped like a drawstring bag, it lay seven miles from its parent manor. A 1605 survey of Battersea (now held by Wandsworth Heritage Service) includes a perambulation of “The Mete and Bounde of the hamlett of Penge,” a circuit of just over four miles that the surveyors could have walked comfortably in a day. It too provides valuable topographical detail, including the place names Rock Hill and Low Cross, which are still in use in the area. Where it follows the border with Croydon, it corresponds closely to Cranmer’s survey, recording the Shire Ditch that formed the boundary between Kent and Surrey and the “Greate Oake called Vicars Oake… at the partinge of the parishes of Croydon, Lambeth and Camberwell.”

 

Along with maps, court proceedings and the records of woodland management kept in Lambeth Palace Library and the Dulwich College Archive, these surveys enabled me to establish the former extent of the woods, locate its erstwhile divisions and landmarks, chart its early history, and create the map that illustrates this post.

]]>
Thu, 20 Jan 2022 15:40:03 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182135 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182135 0
The Roundup Top Ten for January 7, 2022

Militias Were Hiding in Plain Sight Before 1/6. They're Still a Threat

by Kathleen Belew

The January 6 attack on the Capitol and the election results was not a one-off coup attempt; it was a recruitment event for the militant far right which increasingly threatens democracy.

 

With Omicron, We Need to Understand the 1918 Flu Pandemic More than Ever

by Christopher McKnight Nichols

"It may be that only now, in the winter of 2022, when Americans are exhausted with these mitigation methods, that a comparison to the 1918 pandemic is most apt."

 

 

The Dangerous “Patriotism” of the January 6 Insurrection

by Ben Railton

The participants in the attack on the Capitol a year ago reflected a "mythic patriotism" founded on the belief in an authentic, white, Christian nation under attack by enemies dangerous enough to justify any measures in opposition. 

 

 

The US Has Long Exploited the Legally Ambiguous Status of Guantanamo Bay

by Jana Lipman

The use of the naval base at Guantanamo bay for the detention of both suspected terrorists and refugees and migrants reflects the place's status as outside both Cuban and U.S. law. Since the end of the Spanish-American war, Cuban workers have understood the threat of abuse this status enables. 

 

 

Homer Plessy's Posthumous Pardon Finally Recognizes His Heroism

by Keisha N. Blain

"The decision to pardon Plessy and finally clear his record are the culmination of efforts by Keith Plessy, the great-great-grandson of Homer Plessy’s cousin, and Phoebe Ferguson, the great-great-granddaughter of John H. Ferguson, the Louisiana judge who upheld the state's Separate Car Act."

 

 

How Twitter Explains the Civil War (and Vice Versa)

by Ariel Ron

Violence in the Capitol a year ago called to mind events like Preston Brooks's brutal caning of Charles Sumner. But a closer look shows that, like today, antebellum politics were disrupted and made volatile by revolutions in communciation technology. 

 

 

New Boston MFA Exhibit Shows Museum's Complex History of Censoring Queer Desire

by Erin L. Thompson

"When I first visited Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, as a young and deeply closeted queer college student, I found myself wondering if the museum possessed ancient Greek vases decorated with anything other than sex scenes."

 

 

Braveheart: President Donald J. Trump

by Kristin Kobes Du Mez

Following the threads of religion and nationalism that form the unlikely comparison between Trump and Mel Gibson's (heavily mythologized) Scottish movie hero. 

 

 

The DC Punk Scene Relied on the Local Latinx Community

by Mike Amezcua

"A big piece is missing from the stories told about punk and hardcore in the 1980s: Primarily, that marginalized spaces and communities in urban America gave a stage to the predominantly white subculture."

 

 

The Truth About Prohibition

by Mark Lawrence Schrad

American historians have often identified Prohibition with a coalition of social reformers, nativists and religious fundamentalists. Looking at the international temperance and prohibition movement tells a different story of a fight against exploitation of workers and minority groups through addiction.

 

]]>
Thu, 20 Jan 2022 15:40:03 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182123 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182123 0
Editor's Choice, 2021: 25 Articles Showing How HNN Covered Another Tumultuous Year

The Cult of the Lost Cause and the Invention of General Pickett (1/13)

by Ann Banks

George Pickett – Major General George E. Pickett – was our family’s marquee Confederate relation, distant cousin though he was. For a long time what I knew about him was pretty much what everyone learned in 8th grade.

 

The Free Press and Democracy in a "Murder the Media" Age (1/17)

by Wendy Melillo

Journalism as a profession needs to embrace its historical role as a guardian of democracy and refuse to let objectivity work as a shield for authoritarianism; authoritarians won't accept a free press anyway.

 

 

The Assault on Congress and the GOP Faustian Trump Bargain: Notes from German History (1/31)

by Jeffrey Herf

It does not seem that even facing the prospect of death at the hands of a Trumpist mob will convince the Republican Party to abandon its bargain with Trump. German conservative elites made a choice to stay the course in the 1930s that led to national ruin and defeat. 

 

 

The 1776 Presidential Commissioners Forgot That Dissent is as American as Hero Worship (1/31)

by David Wippman and Glenn C. Altschuler

After insisting that educators avoid “political agendas,” the 1776 Commission Report authors simply assume that their simplistic hero-worship version of history is “accurate, honest, unifying, inspiring, and ennobling.”

 

 

History (and Historians) Need a New Deal (2/7)

by Shannan Clark

Only a program of direct public employment for historians, along with other academics, can lead to a vibrant future for the discipline in which access to careers is expanded, with greater diversity and equity.  The history of the WPA cultural projects shows us the way.

 

 

With Her Fist Raised: Dorothy Pitman Hughes and Transformative Community Activism (2/28)

by Laura L. Lovett

Recovering the legacy of New York activist and organizer Dorothy Pitman Hughes means writing "a history of the women’s movement with children, race, and welfare rights at its core, a history of women’s politics grounded in community organizing and African American economic development."

 

 

Attacking Critical Race Theory: A Modern Campaign of Conversion? (3/14)

by Guy Lancaster

There is a recurrent idea among political elites that particular ideas are the wellspring of social discord and strife, and that ridding society of the idea will usher in unity. The Talmud and the 1619 Project have filled similar roles in different eras.

 

 

The Women Who Fought Tooth and Nail for the Flint Sit-Down Strikes (3/14)

by Edward McClelland

Genora Johnson and the women of Flint, Michigan were the backbone of the sit-down strike campaigns that secured union recognition at General Motors. 

 

 

What Comes Next? (4/4)

by Stephanie Hinnershitz

In 1979, Asian American leaders testified to Congress about problems of discrimination, opportunity and hostility facing their communities. The official response largely enshrined a "model minority" myth that obscured ongoing problems behind a celebratory narrative of inclusion. Waves of anti-Asian violence in the 1980s belied that story, and warn us not to minimize the climate of hostility Asian Americans face today.

 

 

Hidden Stories of Jewish Resistance in Poland (4/4)

by Judy Batalion

I was fascinated by the widespread resistance efforts of Polish Jews, but equally by their absence from current understandings of the war. Of all the legions of Holocaust tales, what had happened to this one?

 

 

Law, Politics and Public Health: John Fabian Witt on “American Contagions” (4/16)

by Robin Lindley

Legal historian John Fabian Witt studies the evolution of public health regulation in the US, and says recent Supreme Court decisions to empower religious exceptions to COVID precautions are an unprecedented rejection of public health as duty of the state. He discusses this and more with HNN. 

 

 

HNN Turned 20 This Month! Revisit the First Edition (6/13)

by HNN Staff

HNN turned 20 this month! Help us celebrate by checking out our inaugural issue through the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. 

 

 

Experts Beware: Is America Headed for a Scopes Moment over Critical Race Theory? (6/20)

by Charles J. Holden

William Jennings Bryan wasn't trying to win a debate in the Scopes Trial. He tried – successfully – to draw cultural battle lines. The fact that today's opponents of "Critical Race Theory" are often poorly informed is similarly beside the point. 

 

 

Escape as Resistance for Enslaved Women during the American Revolution (6/27)

by Karen Cook Bell

Historians have, for too long, failed to recognize how Black women imagined and pursued freedom by escape from slavery during the American Revolution. 

 

 

The National Bicentennial Erased Antiwar Activism by Vietnam Veterans (7/4)

by Elise Lemire

The United States Semiquincentennial Commission is preparing for July 4, 2026 as an opportunity for educating the public about the nation's history. It should avoid repeating the whitewash of recent history in the 1976 Bicentennial celebration.

 

 

The History of Systemic Racism that CRT Opponents Prefer to Hide (7/18)

by Clyde W. Ford

The importation of African people to Virginia in 1619 spurred the process of establishing racial hierarchy through law, a historical reality the right seeks to deny.

 

 

Time to Revisit the History of School Integration in the North (8/1)

by Zoë Burkholder

The history of school integration in the North shows that Black northerners have viewed quality education and democracy as core goals, while disagreeing about which educational policies serve those goals best.

 

 

Drug Prohibition and the Political Roots of Cartel Violence in Mexico (8/8)

by Benjamin T. Smith

Violence is not so much in the DNA of the drug trade as the DNA of drug prohibition. And until both American and Mexican police forces stop treating it like a war, the violence won’t stop.

 

 

Educating Teen Holocaust Survivors Holds Lessons for Teaching after Trauma (8/15)

by Bernice Lerner

The author's mother survived Bergen-Belsen and was relocated to an experimental school in rural Sweden. Can her experiences and those of other young women students (and their teachers) shed light on the challenges of educating traumatized children?  

 

 

Memo From Irish History: Welcome to Your Future, American Women (9/12)

by Laura Weinstein

After sustained public outcry, the Republic of Ireland looked to its history of horrific treatment and preventable death of girls and women under its draconian abortion laws and said "enough." Will this example change the course American states like Texas are poised to follow? 

 

 

How Evangelical Conversion Narratives Feed "Free Choice" Rhetoric at Your School Board (10/3)

by Rebecca L. Davis

Evangelical Christianity grew in America by emphasizing the power of individual conversion as a "choice for Christ." This frame explains not only the prominence of Evangelicals among anti-mask and anti-vaccine protesters, but also the frequent rhetorical connections they make between COVID policy and LGBTQ tolerance. 

 

 

Recovering Women's Reproductive Lives, One Mutilated Record at a Time (10/10)

by Catherine Prendergast

"Far too often, archives resemble graveyards with marked tombs for men in which a few bones of women are scattered. It’s time to dig up all of the bones and ask them what story they tell."

 

 

Kyle Rittenhouse's Trial Will End in a Verdict. The Nation's Trial By Ordeal Won't (11/14)

by Thomas Lecaque

"A trial by ordeal was not about miracles or superstition. It was, in effect, about the community making a decision on the innocence or guilt of the party, and then bringing it about."

 

 

Fashion and Freedom from Suffrage to AOC (11/14)

by Einav Rabinovitch-Fox

Fashion, freedom, and American independence have been and are still connected to ideas of women’s rights and equality.

 

 

Veracity or Virality? How Social Media are Transforming History (12/19)

by Jason Steinhauer

History is a growing content category on social media, but history content going viral has very little to do with its quality or reliability. The author of a new book on history on social media says historians and readers need to understand how political agendas and content algorithms are shaping history on the web. 

 

]]>
Thu, 20 Jan 2022 15:40:03 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182082 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182082 0
To our Readers: To Keep HNN Publishing Original Stories Like These, Contribute to Our Reader Fund Drive Dear Readers,

As December progresses, we are continuing our annual reader fund drive. I'll get right to the point: HNN needs your support to keep bringing you historical perspective on current events and informed commentary by historians. Without your contributions, there won't be an HNN. 

I hope you agree that HNN is a valuable resource and a unique presence on the web. There isn't another site that does what we do. 

Beginning with the January 6 attack on the Capitol, the news didn't take a break in 2021 and neither did HNN. 

All year, HNN has been working to bring you original opinion essays by historians and other scholars offering historical perspective on the most urgent issues of the day. Just as a reminder, here are some of the top original opinion essays we published in the past year:

 

Memo From Irish History: Welcome to Your Future, American Women (9/12)

by Laura Weinstein

After sustained public outcry, the Republic of Ireland looked to its history of horrific treatment and preventable death of girls and women under its draconian abortion laws and said "enough." Will this example change the course American states like Texas are poised to follow? 

 

The Free Press and Democracy in a "Murder the Media" Age (1/17)

by Wendy Melillo

Journalism as a profession needs to embrace its historical role as a guardian of democracy and refuse to let objectivity work as a shield for authoritarianism; authoritarians won't accept a free press anyway.

 

 

What Comes Next? (4/4)

by Stephanie Hinnershitz

In 1979, Asian American leaders testified to Congress about problems of discrimination, opportunity and hostility facing their communities. The official response largely enshrined a "model minority" myth that obscured ongoing problems behind a celebratory narrative of inclusion. Waves of anti-Asian violence in the 1980s belied that story, and warn us not to minimize the climate of hostility Asian Americans face today.

 

 

A Modern Day Lynch Mob Invaded the Capitol on January 6 (1/10)

by Guy Lancaster

When the Capitol rioters took selfies and posted their exploits on social media, they worked from the same expectation of impunity as drove participants in Jim Crow lynch mobs. 

 

 

Drug Prohibition and the Political Roots of Cartel Violence in Mexico (8/8)

by Benjamin T. Smith

Violence is not so much in the DNA of the drug trade as the DNA of drug prohibition. And until both American and Mexican police forces stop treating it like a war, the violence won’t stop.

 

 

Time to Revisit the History of School Integration in the North (8/1)

by Zoë Burkholder

The history of school integration in the North shows that Black northerners have viewed quality education and democracy as core goals, while disagreeing about which educational policies serve those goals best.

 

 

The Legacies of Un-critical Race Theory at Berkeley (7/25)

by Tony Platt

For most of its history, the University of California has been a bastion of un-critical race theory from Manifest Destiny to The Bell Curve. 

 

 

Escape as Resistance for Enslaved Women during the American Revolution (6/27)

by Karen Cook Bell

Historians have, for too long, failed to recognize how Black women imagined and pursued freedom by escape from slavery during the American Revolution. 

 

 

Has the One World Idea's Time Come Again? (3/21)

by Samuel Zipp

Can remembering the “one world” vision for America’s global role—largely forgotten today ­–­ help us get beyond both America First and the “liberal world order”? 

 

 

Hidden Stories of Jewish Resistance in Poland (4/4)

by Judy Batalion

I was fascinated by the widespread resistance efforts of Polish Jews, but equally by their absence from current understandings of the war. Of all the legions of Holocaust tales, what had happened to this one?

 

 

HNN also gathers stories from around the web in our news sections and our Roundup of opinion writing by historians and other scholars. We cover the web and social media to give our readers a one-stop shop for news about historians, historical discoveries, and the uses and abuses of history in the political arena. 

As the year closes, we need your help to support our work for 2022. 

You can visit our donations page to make a secure contribution to HNN. 

If you value what you read on HNN, and the unique historical perspective we provide on the news, please make a contribution. 

 – Michan Connor, PhD

Editor

]]>
Thu, 20 Jan 2022 15:40:03 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/181908 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/181908 0
The Roundup Top Ten for December 23, 2021 HNN DONATION DRIVE 2021

This is our last Roundup Top Ten of 2021. All year we've been selecting the best opinion, long-form, and "thinkpiece" writing by historians (and some other scholars too) from around the web each week. Our Roundup features the best of established and emerging voices in the profession, and is a vital part of the service we provide our community of readers to offer historical perspective on the news. If you value that service, please support HNN by contributing to our annual reader fund drive.

Do you believe in HNN's mission? Do you agree the news needs more historical context? Did you read HNN this year to see what historians have been writing about current events? If so, now is the time to make a contribution to keep our work going for 2022. HNN NEEDS YOU.

Make your contribution today. You may securely contribute to HNN--now a project of the History Department of the George Washington University--by credit card via internet or telephone or by mailing a check. Click here to donate.

Contributions are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.

 

Roundup Top 10

 

HNN Tip: You can read more about topics in which you’re interested by clicking on the tags featured directly underneath the title of any article you click on.

Out of Context COVID Stats are Misleading

by Jim Downs

The first epidemiologists worked in a narrative mode, without advanced statistical measures. Without discarding quantitative methods, the field needs to refocus on telling evidence-based stories about the pandemic to clarify what's working, what isn't, and what people should do. 

 

The Dangers of Compromise on Voting Rights

by Rachel Shelden

Are moderate Democrats seeking bipartisan support for voting rights legislation repeating the errors of the antebellum legislators who misunderstood the South's commitment to securing slavery at any cost including secession? 

 

 

Grief Is Evidence of Love

by Kellie Carter Jackson

The resurgence of the pandemic is an opportunity to reflect on the late theorist and public intellectual bell hooks, who "gave me... the language to understand grieving and healing as radical, communal acts."

 

 

Learning Lessons from "It's a Wonderful Life"

by Christopher Wilson

"With a panel of experts including the Smithsonian’s Lintelman, historian Jason Higgins, film critic Nell Minow, Leo Landis, curator of the State Historical Society of Iowa (the home state of actor Donna Reed who played Mary Bailey), and Reed’s daughter, Mary Owen, we explored American history as presented in a holiday favorite."

 

 

America as a Tactical Gun Culture

by Chad Kautzer

"Vigilantism is fueled by an individualist notion of sovereignty more dangerous than any military-grade weaponry. It rejects the freedom of others as equal to one’s own and views any attempt to support such equality as tyranny."

 

 

History Can Guide Fixes for America's Abysmal Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes

by Michelle Bezark

The brief history of the U.S. Children's Bureau shows that treating the health of mothers and infants as a national issue can get results. 

 

 

What "Big History" Misses

by Ian Hesketh

"Big History" has become established in the popular media and in some academic quarters, telling global-scale narratives of human and even planetary history. After 30 years, it's time to evaluate its successes and failures. 

 

 

The Danger of Media Consolidation isn't New: Ask Upton Sinclair

by Maia Silber

Upton Sinclair saw the problems of the media in terms of profit and power. Walter Lippmann saw them in terms of psychology and trust. What were the consequences of Lippmann's diagnosis winning out? 

 

 

Puerto Rican History Deserves More than a Mural

by Jacqueline Lazú

Instead of rehashing "West Side Story," Hollywood should tell the story of Chicago's Young Lords Organization. 

 

 

The Magnificent History of the Much-Maligned Fruitcake

by Jeffrey Miller

A quip attributed to former “Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson has it that “There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.”

 

 

 

]]>
Thu, 20 Jan 2022 15:40:03 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182081 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/182081 0