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Joe Wilson, the Know-Nothings and the Great Lost Cause: The South Rises Again

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(LEFT) A 9-12 protester, dressed in camouflage, carries a sign with a picture of an assault rifle pasted to the front. The caption reads: "A PICTURE this time. DON'T make me come back!" (RIGHT) D.C. Protester sporting a shirt that reads, "God & Guns ~ Back by Popular Demand."
(LEFT) A 9-12 protester, dressed in camouflage, carries a sign with a picture of an assault rifle pasted to the front. The caption reads: “A PICTURE this time. DON’T make me come back!” (RIGHT) A man wearing a shirt that reads, “God & Guns ~ Back by Popular Demand,” is flanked by D.C. protesters carrying “Don’t Tread on Me” flags.

 

Doomed to repeat
  
Unless we choose to learn something from this particular chapter in our history, there’s no point in belaboring Joe Wilson’s outburst or gawking over the stream of vigilante protestors who commemorated 9-11 this past weekend by issuing thinly veiled threats to kill the President of the United States, along with certain Democratic members of Congress.  The fact is, until men like Joe Wilson cease being revered as the patron saint of the great Lost Cause, we can make no claim to have learned one of our country’s greatest history lessons.
 
 
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The Lost Cause

Growing up in South Carolina, I developed a mental block toward history, beginning sometime in elementary school. What child of 1960s South Carolina could possibly keep straight which was our state flag (the pretty blue flag, with the palmetto tree? or the scary red flag, with the big blue X in the middle, that flew from the yards and pick-up trucks of certain people?) — much less keep straight all of the Important Wars that our state had fought over slavery: the War Between the States, the Civil War, the War for Southern Independence, the War of Northern Aggression, the War of Secession, the Lost Cause?

Had someone told me then, what I know now, I might not have been a C-student in history and would have understood — long before the Lee Atwater era and the rise of the Southern strategy that has given birth to today’s tea baggers, deathers, birthers and twelvers — that the Lost Cause by any other name is still just a bloody war that has to be conceded. 

Before the Civil War, both the President and Vice-President of the Confederacy of newly seceded states (Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens, respectively) named slavery as the primary cause of the war. After all, until the Civil War, slaves were chattel property — not human beings. What right had the Federal government to stand between a man and his property?

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite [from the U.S. Constitution] idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.  — Alexander Stephens in March 1861, comparing the new Constitution of the Confederacy with the “old” constitution — the U.S. Constitution — which Stephens claimed was built on a “sandy foundation ” as it “rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. “

It [slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God…it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation…it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts. — Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.

After the war, Davis and Stephens backpeddled a bit, trying to divorce slavery from the equation. The emphasis was put entirely on states’ rights and secession, as if slavery had nothing to with either. It was during this period that the “Lost Cause” moniker was born.   

The Lost Cause was a purely Southern term, intended to convey for posterity the nobility of the Southern cause against the overwhelming force of the North. To this end, the Lost Causers made clear that the war was never about slavery. It was about state’s rights. It was not about the Federal government’s increasing encroachment upon the institution and expansion of slavery; it was about the South’s justification for seceding from the Union. According to this revised history, the South seceded from the Union because it was their right to resist Northern aggression toward their independence, their “Southern way of life.”

Understandably, it must have been difficult to continue infusing nobility onto a bloody war that decimated the Southern economy and humiliated its people; even more so to continue justifying the loss of 620,000 lives in a war that sought nothing more noble than the right to continue enslaving 4 million people.

dc obama massaMuch like today’s protesters who carry signs that read, “I want my country back!” — all the while insisting that their cause has nothing to do with racism — Jefferson Davis spent the balance of his life deriding the North for destroying the “Southern way of life,” all the while insisting that the war had nothing to do with slavery. Just like the protesters of today –who see today’s struggle for equal rights in health care as an assault on the Constitution and who decry Obama’s stimulus money and proposals on health care reform as the greatest assaults ever committed on our economy (even as these same protesters were perplexingly silent throughout the 8-years of the Bush-Cheney Administration’s unprecedented assaults on the Constitution and the federal budget) — Jefferson Davis was never quite able to connect the dots, never quite able to see what he was blind to seeing: the real motivation behind his selective memory on history.    

Writing in 1881, Jefferson accused the North of arriving, “like the serpent of Eden” tempting slaves with “the magic words of ‘freedom.'” If not for North, Jefferson said, these slaves — whose “servile instincts rendered them contented with their lot” — would never have succumbed to their “humble but emotional natures” and been incited to take up the cause of the North to “devastate their benefactors [slaveowners].”

And so it has been for 150 years and counting, with the torch of the Lost Cause being passed from generation to generation by various “historical” orders and “benevolent” societies thoughout the South, whose nativist, racist agendas are, at best, thinly veiled — and nearly always laid on the altar of God, Christianity and the Bible: from the Ku Klux Klan, to the  Junior Order of United American Mechanics, to the League of the South, the Association of Confederate Soldiers and the United Confederate Veterans of yore, to today’s Military Order of Stars and Bars, the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the group to which the now-infamous Rep. Joe Wilson (SC) belongs, and which still embraces, today, the charge issued to them in 1906 by Lt. General Stephen Dill Lee, Commander General of the United Confederate Veterans:

To you, Sons of Confederate Veterans, we will commit the vindication of the cause for which we fought. To your strength will be given the defense of the Confederate soldier’s good name, the guardianship of his history, the emulation of his virtues, the perpetuation of those principles which he loved and which you love also, and those ideals which made him glorious and which you also cherish. 

And thus Joe Wilson’s Confederacy took the torch from Jefferson Davis, carrying it into the 21st century, their mantle cloaked in the noble language of abstracts: virtues, principles, ideals. No overt mention of the actual cause for which they fought — a cause which, by their own admission, they are committed to vindicating. You’ll find no overt pro-slavery sentiments among their literature; no overt mention of racism or oppression among the Lost Causers of today, even as their politics seek to institutionalize racism, and even as their politicians — from Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan to the Bush Dynasty — employ men such as Harry Dent, Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, whose job is  to groom the Southern vote by exploiting old hatred. As Lee Atwater explained in his description of the Southern strategy he used in Reagan’s campign:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites….. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

This is the secret language of the great Lost Cause. This is the language being spoken, today, by politicians who seek to romance the racist vote. This is the language of those who have hijacked Christianity, using it to justify their evil deeds, exploiting religion as a tool to claim moral superiority over those whom they seek to commit oppression and violence. This is the language of corporations who exploit old hatreds and fears to incite protest against laws that would counterbalance their corruption and abuse of the American people. This is the language that will be spoken in the upcoming event being hosted by Joe Wilson’s Sons of Confederate Veterans: The American System of Liberty: Nullification, Secession and States’ Rights.  It is the adopted tongue of the common everyday man — birthers, deathers, teabaggers and twelvers alike — who, in the process of doing the dirty work for their politicians and the corporations that line their re-election coffers,  shoot themselves in the foot, under the misguided notion that they are fighting a nobler cause than the oppression to which they, themselves, will be made victim by these same politicians and corporations.  

A riddle: How to say the N-word without saying the N-word?

Here's a riddle for you: How to say the N-word without saying the N-word?

The Lost Cause and the Bogeymen

The Lost Cause, then, is why, when I was a young child — during our night-time drives home from family weekends at the lake — I used to cover my eyes and hide on the floorboard whenever we got mired in slow traffic, as passers-by gawked at the sight of men in white hoods, burning a cross in the middle of a field. The Lost Cause is why my teachers used to turn a blind eye to my classmates, who issued my daily ass beatings to punish me for being friends with a black child. The Lost Cause is why, every year, Civil War re-enactors descend on our town to reserruct the glory of that war.  

As much as this phrase is overused — those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it — it is apropos to Joe Wilson’s outburst, pertinent to his rebel yell, “You lie!” which served as a lightning rod to draw together the forces of fear, power, money and hatred into a single hot lick of flame. This is how the torch is passed — always, always ignited by fear: fear of blacks, fear of immigrants; fear of other religions; fear of things that are different, unknown, unknowable; the fear of the bogeyman that creeps in the shadows, hiding under our bed at night, lurking in our closet, stalking us from the cradle to the grave.

The bogeymen Joe Wilson conjured in those two words were not just the stereotypical black man archetypes that white men have been inventing for the past 350 years: the arrogant Negro, the militant African American, the lazy welfare buck, always trying to pull something over on whitey. No, Joe Wilson also specifically designed to conjure the fear of the immigrant bogeyman: that foreign enemy that relentlessly steals into our borders, into the American dream — OUR American dream — the greedy Polish, German and Irish immigrants intent on stealing our jobs from under us, the gluttonous Hispanics and Latinos content to suck dry the milk of human kindness on the taxpayers’ dime, the conspiratorial Catholics, Muslims and Jews seeking to undermine and, ultimately, overthrow the American democracy and capitalism, replacing these with communism, socialism, Nazism, facism…. Or worse. This is the immigrant Joe Wilson conjured in the lick of flame he passed to his audience during President Obama’s speech — the immigrant of the Know Nothing Party.

Joe Wilson and the Know Nothing Party

Rising to power in the decade preceding the Civil war, the Know Nothing Party was born from a fear of immigration — specifically Irish Catholic immigrants. The Know-Nothings were convinced that the Pope and his Irish Catholic minions were secretly plotting to take over the U.S. government in an effort to kill freedom and democracy, and to subjugate Protestants. The Know-Nothings worked in secrecy, helping to elect leaders sympathetic to their cause. Hence, the origin of their name: Whenever asked about their activities, they answered, “I know nothing.”

On the point of anti-immigration, the Know-Nothings were united, working behind the scenes to elect leaders who promised to deliver the goods. Specifically, to institutionalize their xenophobic agenda by enacting laws to restrict immigration; by barring immigrants from working at certain jobs; by excluding immigrants from voting or holding public office; and by requiring a 21-year residency as a prerequisite to citizenship. By 1855, with their numbers swelled to a million-strong, the Know Nothings jubilantly came out of the closet and formed the American Party. 

Had the only issue been immigration, the American Party would likely have survived intact into the 21st century. However, they were divided on points of prohibition and slavery, with the issue of slavery putting the final nail in the coffin of the Know-Nothings and their American Party. The anti-slavery faction migrated into the newly-formed Republican Party of the North, while the pro-slavery faction moved their numbers to the Democratic Party of the South, joining forces in what was to become the Lost Cause. 

The rest is history:

  • the Pope and his Irish Catholic minions did not overthrow the American government, despite the Know Nothings fears;
  • the emancipated black slaves did not go on a rampage and kill white people, nor overthrow the American government in the wake of the Civil War, despite the predictions of the Southern Democrats, the Red Shirts, and Ku Klux Klan;
  • the influx of immigrants in the early 20th century was not, as the Ku Klux Klan warned, an attempt to bring the Bolshevik Revolution to American soil
  • the labor unions of the early 20th century did not topple capitalism or turn our country into a communist labor camp
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal reforms (e.g. the FDIC, SEC, organized labor and the Social Security Act) did not turn America into a fascist state, as myriad detractors cried would happen
  • President Dwight D. Eisenhower was not a “conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy,” as the suggested by John Birch Society
  •  President Harry Truman and the civil rights activists, artists, intellects, writers, actors and independent-minded politicians of the 1950s were not communists conspiring to infiltrate and overtake our government, as Joseph McCarthy believed to the core of his being.
  • President John F. Kennedy, it turns out, was not the AntiChrist. And history has since shown that, despite the concerted fears of Southerners and Protestants everywhere, Kennedy’s presidency was not a secret plot to incorporate America into the Catholic hierarchy, nor to decimate our First Amendment rights. 
  • the Medicare Act of 1965 did not turn America into a socialist country, as was warned in the early 60s by Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush
  • Martin Luther King was not a communist, as Joseph McCarthy insisted, nor was the civil rights movement part of a larger communist plan to overthrow the American government. 
  • blacks did not overthrow the American government or subjugate white men in the wake of the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts of 1964-65, nor was America transformed into a communist regime, as the John Birchers predicted 
  • the idea of allowing blacks equal access with whites to schools, restaurants, bathrooms, drinking fountains and other public places did not spring from the minds of “communist philophers,” as George Wallace and others had insisted, nor did desegration “forever” kill America’s freedom
  • Hillary Clinton’s book, “It Takes a Village,” was not a Marxist manifesto calling for the destruction of the American family unit, so that our children could be placed under the care of a socialist Big Government. Nor was her health care plan.

Since the history has not yet been recorded, it will be a few years before we can offiicially add what we already know to this list:

  • health care reform is not a secret socialist plot by the Obama Administration to take over the government, subjugate Christians, empower immigrants and minorities to overpower whites, rob us of our rights and freedoms, topple capitalism, institute death panels, install fascist rule or turn American into a communist state
  • the closest America has ever come to being a fascist state was under the rule of Dick Cheney, during which time the birthers, deathers and tea baggers were asleep at the wheel

Still, hope springs eternal. Maybe one day we will no longer be a nation doomed to keep repeating this same sad, pathetic history, marching to the tune of the Know Nothings and the great Lost Causers.

 

A view of the 9-12 protest march in DC: the Confederate flag and the South Carolina state flag frame the dome of the U.S. Capitol.

A view of the 9-12 protest march in DC: the Confederate flag and the South Carolina state flag frame the dome of the U.S. Capitol.

The National Association of Retarded People and Joe Wilson’s flag

Even as the Confederate “bars and stripes” flag was never the official flag of South Carolina, nor the Confederacy, it is the official flag of the Lost Cause and all who have yet to concede the outcomes of the Civil War, the Voting Rights Act , the Civil Rights Act and desegregation.

The Confederate flag was planted on the South Carolina State House in 1961, ostensibly to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Civil War. And there it remained for 38 years, during which time the Confederate flag grew to be symbol of the Ku Klux Klan, serving as the banner under which the white supremacists marched during the Civil Rights era, then later, during the Reagan era, the flag carried by the rising movement of white supremacist skinheads and neo-Nazis. While the Civil War revisionists have long-insisted that the flag is a cherished part of our history and has nothing to do with racism, anyone who lives in the South knows the de facto symbolism. We can argue the point ’til we’re blue in the face, but the fact remains that we all know the sort of people who fly Confederate flags in their yards, or plaster its image onto their pickup truck bumpers, or proudly boast it during their Civil War re-enactments. 

And one needn’t scratch far below the surface to elicit the racial animosity that attends to this adopted symbol of our “cherished” history. In 1999, for example — after the Confederate flag had been flying over the S.C. State House for 38 years in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Civil War, and despite many efforts to have it removed — the  NAACP threatened a boycott of South Carolina tourism if the Confederate flag were not removed from the State House. In response, S.C. Sen. Arthur Ravenel announced that he wouldn’t be pressured by “that organization known as the National Association of Retarded People.” For his part, then-Senator Joe Wilson defended the flag as a “very honourable” part of his Southern heritage: 

That’s offensive to me that they would take my heritage and make it into a Holocaust era type description. I find that very offensive, and it’s not true. The Southern heritage, the Confederate heritage is very honourable.

The fact is, slavery WAS a 200-year holocaust commmitted by Christian white men – not only against blacks, but against Native Americans and any other non-white, non-Christian race that could be kidnapped and sold into slavery. Those Native Americans who were not slaughtered, were sold into slavery to fund the African slave trade, in which millons of blacks were kidnapped from their homes and stacked like common cargo into the bellies of ships for their trip to America, where they were sold  into slavery, forced to work as beasts of burden for white men. This was written into the laws, called Slave Codes, of each and every slaveholding state in our great Christian nation:

All servants imported and brought into the Country…who were not Christians in their native Country…shall be accounted and be slaves. All Negro, mulatto and Indian slaves within this dominion…shall be held to be real estate.” — from the Virginia Slave Code of 1705, defining slaves as those non-Christian people of color — a population that encompassed Africans and Native Americans alike, none of whom were deemed human beings in the eye of the law but were, rather, held as “real estate.” The Virginia Slave Code of 1667 had already established that Christian baptism did not alter the state of bondage.

It would be difficult to make a factual case that any of these slaves were “contented with their lot” as the Jefferson Davis-Joe Wilson school of historical revisionists would have us believe. The punishments for escape, or for stealing food, were prescribed by law and were anything but “honourable”:

For the slave first offense of petty larceny (stealing or destroying goods valued at less than twelve pence) the punishement was to be publicly and severely whipped, not exceeding forty lashes… second offense shall either have one of his ears cut off or be branded on the head with a hot iron that the mark thereof may remain… for his third offense shall have his nose slit… a fourth time shall be adjudged to suffer death or other punishment as the said judge shall think fitting. — from the South Carolina Slave Code of 1712. Similar punishments were meted to runaway slaves, with the letter “R” branded on the right cheek for a second offense. Upon the third attempt to run away, males were castrated. Should a slave die as a result of the castration, the slaveowner was compensated our of the public treasury for the value of the slave! Upon the fifth offense the “cord of the slaves legs” would be cut above the heel or, alternately, the slave would be killed. Slave owners who failed to carry out these punishments were subject to punishments ranging from fines to forfeiture of his slave.

The South Carolina Slave Codes of 1722 and 1735 took a more charitable view toward the “pretence of hunger” that might compel a slave to steal food, changing the law to reduce the number of lashings from 40 to 30 for any slave who stole “fowls, lambs, pigs, hogs, calves or pountry or any other edible matter or other thing under the value of twenty shilings.” Too, the law reflected on whether it was really in the master’s interest to kill his slave for such thefts: 

Negroes and slaves, under pretence of hunger, do frequently break open corn houses and rice houses and steal from them corn and rice…. If these slaves sought food when inadequate amounts were provided, was it in the master’s interest to kill them for burglaries committed to alleviate hunger pangs?”  from the South Carolina Slave Code of 1722

These Slave Codes remained in effect until the Civil War era, when they were replaced by a new system of laws called Black Code, then Jim Crow, then the “racial code” of the Atwater era that is with us today. For 100 years of this time – from the 1860s to the early 1960s, lynchings were the rule of vigilante justice throughout the South. Throughout this century, Southern politicians, such as Joe Wilson’s  old boss, Strom Thurmond,  fought tooth and nail against Federal anti-lynching laws — all the way into the 1950s —  insisting on the preservation of their beloved “states’ rights” for handling lynchers, sans the intrusion of the Federal government. It worked. Despite nearly 200 anti-lynching bills introduced into Congress, not a one passed, due entirely to the power of the filibuster by Southern politicians.  As some compensation, the Senate apologized in 2005 for their failure to pass antil-lynching laws.

And Joe Wilson is offended by those who would take his “heritage” and “make it into a Holocaust era type description”? Untold thousands of blacks were wantonly murdered from the 1600s onward into the earely 1960s, with a near absence of laws to protect them, much less to punish their murderers. During this time, millions of Native Americans were targeted by the U.S. government for extermination. It’s an ugly and shameful history, to be sure — one that no man or flag could, in all honesty, claim as an honorable cause. Yet, they do.  

As Joe Wilson’s own group, Sons of Confederate Veterans puts it: 

The citizen-soldiers who fought for the Confederacy personified the best qualities of America. The preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South’s decision to fight.

This is all fine, so long as we understand what that fight was — and still is — really about. It’s about the cherished belief among some people in this country that the  American ideals of liberty and freedom were never more fully realized than in the days of slavery — when white men held an entire race under bondage.

This is why, when I heard Joe Wilson bellow, “You lie!” in the Senate Chamber, I knew I wasn’t hearing the voice of a principled politician fighting for a noble cause. What I heard — what we all heard — was the collective voice of the slaveowners and Know Nothings echoing their Lost Cause. It was the voices of  Jefferson Davis, Strom Thurmond, Joseph McCarthy and Lee Atwater whispering from the grave. It was the voice of schoolchildren spitting the words “Nigger lover” as they kicked their classmate in the head. It was the voice of the men in the fields, their hands raised to their hearts, singing, “God Bless America,” their dark faces lit by the glow of a burning cross.

 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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McCain’s Bogeyman Politics: The last refuge of a scoundrel

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It’s a bird! It’s a plane! A terrorist plane! An Arab! A Muslim! An Islamic extremist! A scary black man! A rock star! The anti-Christ! A commie! A socialist! A traitor! A treasonist! It’s un-American! It’s… it’s….

It’s election year.

And the McCain campaign, ever-desperate for something to run on besides their shoddily repackaged version of the Bush Administration, is grabbing at straws. As such, they’ve amassed the most reprehensible stump tactics in political history and repackaged them into a plank, of sorts: bogeyman politics. A scary mix of race-baiting, red-baiting and kitchen-sink demagoguery, bogeyman politics can turn a garden-variety politician into a scarecrow. By the same token, it can transform a great man into the very embodiment of terror: the bogeyman. History bears this out. The McCain-Palin bogeyman platform pays great tribute to the architects of fearmongering: Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, Westwood Pegler, Paul Joseph Goebbels, Joseph McCarthy and George Wallace.

And to anyone who would accuse Rep. John Lewis (GA) of going ‘over the line’ by mentioning George Wallace in his recent rebuke of McCain-Palin for “sowing the seeds of hatred and division” I would ask you to tell me: What are McCain, Palin, their surrogates and supporters doing — in both words and foulness of spirit — that is so different from what we saw during George Wallaces’s campaigns?  

Barack Obama is not even worthy to shine the shoes of John McCain. — PAC member, Deborah Johns, speaking from the pro-McCain-Palin “Stop Obama Tour” October 17, 2008

 

I’m a proponent of the “we must remember history, lest we repeat it” school of thought. Apparently, there are many in this country who have either forgotten, or they’re too young to own a visceral perspective of those bleak lessons that history has so painfully taught us over the past 60 years. Else, how could our media so easily disregard the McCain-Palin campaign’s flirtation with McCarthyism? And how could any American, except die-hard racists, embrace a platform that engages in the scary black man/scary Muslim race-baiting rhetoric (an amalgam of 1950s era racism and 21st century Muslim terrorist fearmongering)? How could anyone embrace a campaign that soils the character of a good man, based solely on the color of his skin and the unfortunate coincidence of his middle name?  

The history books will one day record the McCain-Palin campaign as being every bit as flagrantly ridiculous and dangerous as it truly is. The shame is that that we don’t recognize these destructive campaigns in their time. It is only in retrospect, years after the damage has been done. The demagogues of Nazi Germany, the McCarthy era and White Supremacy did not seize power overnight. That power had to be cultivated — word by word, fear by fear — conjuring forth the darkest elements of human nature to do war against imaginary evils. 

History tells the tale: good men and women can be drawn to do dark deeds, given the incentive of fear. While human beings may never lose their fear of the bogeyman — that amorphous being that hides in the shadows, in closets, under the bed at night and flies planes into buildings — we can choose to become more wise. Great leaders, like Obama, shed light into the dark places. Fools, like McCain/Palin, draw us further into the darkness. Wise men know the difference between the two camps. 

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Billboards showing Dr. King and Rosa Parks attending an integrated event at the Highlander Folk School in 1957 are erected across the South. To the white power structure, integration is a "communist plot" against the "Southern way of life." Therefore, anyone attending an integrated event was — by definition — a "communist."

Billboards, such as the one above, showing Dr. King and Rosa Parks attending an integrated event at the Highlander Folk School in 1957 were erected across the South. To the white power structure, integration was a “communist plot” against the “Southern way of life.” Therefore, anyone attending an integrated event was — by definition — a “communist.”

 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers  

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Quotes and other foodstuffs for thought:

George Wallace was fond of red-baiting. In his 1963 inaugural speech, he compared fascist Germany to the Civil Rights movement, and he blamed desegregation and the Civil Rights movement on communism: 

This is the great freedom of our American founding fathers, but if we amalgamate [desegragate] into the one unit as advocated by the communist philosophers, then the enrichment of our lives, the freedom for our development, is gone forever….And may we take note of one other fact…. There are not enough native communists in the South to fill up a telephone booth. — George Wallace

 

They’re building a bridge over the Potomac for all the white liberals fleeing to Virginia. – George Wallace, 1968

I’ve lived here for at least 10 years and before that, about every third duty I was in either Arlington or Alexandria, up in communist country. —  John McCain’s brother, Joe, speaking about two Democratic-leaning areas in Northern Virginia, October 4, 2008

His voting record is more to the left than the announced socialist in the United States Senate, Bernie Sanders of Vermont. — John McCain, when asked if Obama is an extremist, July 17, 2008

I don’t know. All I know is his voting record, and that’s what people usually judge their elected representatives by.– John McCain (same interview) when asked if he thinks Obama is a socialist, July 17, 2008

His answer actually scared me even more… It’s kind of a socialist viewpoint. I don’t want to share my money with other people. That’s not the American dream. — Joe “the plumber” Wurzelbacher, reacting to his discussion on taxes with Barack Obama, October 14, 2008

Then the radical Islamists, the al Qaeda, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on Sept. 11 because they will declare victory in this War on Terror. – Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) describing in March 2008 what would happen if Obama won the presidency

I’m going to tell you something: That boy’s finger does not need to be on the button. — Kentucky Rep. Geoff Davis (R) said of Obama, April 2008

Just from what little I’ve seen of her and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they’re a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they’re uppity. — Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, in comparing Michelle Obama to Sarah Palin, Sept 4, 2008

A few years later, he ran for the U.S. Senate. He won and has spent most of his time as a “celebrity senator.” No leadership or major legislation to speak of. His rise is remarkable in its own right – it’s the kind of thing that could happen only in America. — Rudy Giuliani, in his Sept. 2008 RNC convention speech, makes a subtle nod to Affirmative Action as the conduit to Obama’s rise in politics. 

He worked as a community organizer. — Rudy Giuliani on Barack Obama, Sept. 2008 RNC

This world of threats and dangers is not just a community, and it doesn’t just need an organizer. — Sarah Palin, Sept. 2008

I think God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that.Sarah Palin, June 2008

Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God. — Sarah Palin, June 2008

As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice. — Aldolf Hitler

What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he’s done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer is to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world. Terrorist states are seeking nuclear weapons without delay. He wants to meet them without preconditions. Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America. He’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights? – Sarah Palin on Obama, Sept. 2008

A writer observed: “We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty, sincerity, and dignity.” I know just the kind of people that writer had in mind…. They are the ones who do some of the hardest work in America … They love their country, in good times and bad, and they’re always proud of America.  – Sarah Palin at the Republican convention, Sept. 2008, quoting Westbrook Pegler, the racist, fascist, pro-Nazi, anti-semitic, pseudo-populist journalist/writer who openly wished for the assassinations of Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy.

We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington, D.C. We believe…. We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation. This is where we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans. Those who are running our factories and teaching our kids and growing our food and are fighting our wars for us. Those who are protecting us in uniform. Those who are protecting the virtues of freedom. — Sarah Palin, explaining an early comment regardings areas of the country that are “pro-America” vs. those parts of America that are not. — Oct. 16, 2008

We believe also that there is a reason we all get teared-up when we hear Lee Greenwood sing about America, because we love America and we are always proud of being Americans. And we don’t apologize for being Americans. — Sarah Palin, October 16, 2008

McCarthyism is Americanism with its sleeves rolled. — Joseph McCarthy during the McCarthy era

I think it should be a states issue not a federal government, mandated, mandating yes or no on such an important issue. I’m in that sense a federalist, where I believe that states should have more say in the laws of their lands and individual areas. – Sarah Palin, October 2008

This nation was never meant to be a unit of one… This is the exact reason our freedom loving forefathers established the states, so as to divide the rights and powers among the states, insuring that no central power could gain master government control. — George Wallace, 1963 [EDITOR’S NOTE: The mention of ‘state’s rights’ has long been code for being anti-Civil Rights/white supremacy. This was a prominent component of George Wallace’s rhetoric, as he tried to assert the state’s right to preserve prejudice as in institution. The above is but one example, from one of his more famous speeches, delivered from the schoolhouse steps, as he physically blocked the door to bar black students from entering]

You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.’ — Lee Atwater, explaining the evolution of the GOP’s Southern strategy, 1981

This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America. We see America as the greatest force for good in this world. – Sarah Palin on Obama,  October 2008 

Our opponent is someone who sees America it seems as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.  — Sarah Palin, October 2008

My opponent’s touchiness every time he is questioned about his record should make us only more concerned. For a guy who’s already authored two memoirs, he’s not exactly an open book. It’s as if somehow the usual rules don’t apply, and where other candidates have to explain themselves and their records, Senator Obama seems to think he is above all that…. In short: Who is the real Barack Obama? — John McCain, Oct. 2008 [In short, McCain would like us ask ourselves, “Is Barack Hussein Obama a *real* American? Just who is this dark stranger? And what is this scary, black, Muslim-y terrorist-like guy going to do with our country if we elect him?”] 

I play to win. I do whatever it takes to win. If I have to fuck my opponent to win I’ll do it. If I have to destroy my opponent I won’t give it a second thought. — John McCain, spoken before a gathering of GOP operatives at the National Republican Senatorial Committee where McCain outlined his campaign strategy in his senate race.

 It is not truth that matters, but victory. — Adolf HItler

“Barack Obama’s friend tried to kill my family.” — from a McCain campaign press release, October 2008

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State. — Paul Joseph Goebbels on the power of propaganda

“Sit down, boy.” — Shouted at an African American media soundman by a Sarah Palin supporter during a rally  

“Kill him!” — shouted by a McCain-Palin supporter at a Palin rally, Oct. 2008

“Treason!” — shouted by a McCain-Palin supporter at a Palin rally, Oct. 2008

“Traitor!” — shouted by a McCain-Palin supporter at a Palin rally, Oct. 2008

“Off with his head!” — shouted by a McCain-Palin supporter at a Palin rally, Oct. 2008

“He’s an Arab!” — said by a McCain-Palin supporter at a McCain town hall meeting, Oct. 2008

“Commie faggot!” — shouted by a McCain-Palin supporter at a Palin rally, Oct. 2008

The great strength of the totalitarian state is that it forces those who fear it to imitate it. — Adolf Hitler

In the wake of their ongoing, indendiary rhetoric — along with the unchecked, ugly responses from the McCain-Palin rally audiences — Rep. John Lewis of Georgia issued a statement to the McCain campaign, adding his voice to the many, many others (colleagues, media figures and journalists, etc.) rebuking the campaign’s negative tactics. In Lewis’ statement, he reminded McCain of the historical precedence for violent repurcussions in the wake of such dangerous rhetoric. McCain took umbrage at this and chose to turn Rep. Lewis’ reprimand into an attack on Obama: 

Congressman John Lewis’ comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale. The notion that legitimate criticism of Senator Obama’s record and positions could be compared to Governor George Wallace, his segregationist policies and the violence he provoked is unacceptable and has no place in this campaign. I am saddened that John Lewis, a man I’ve always admired, would make such a brazen and baseless attack on my character and the character of the thousands of hardworking Americans who come to our events to cheer for the kind of reform that will put America on the right track. I call on Senator Obama to immediately and personally repudiate these outrageous and divisive comments that are so clearly designed to shut down debate 24 days before the election. Our country must return to the important debate about the path forward for America. — John McCain, Oct. 2008

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Perhaps, one day, John McCain will experience one of those death-bed conversions, similar to the one experienced by George Wallace, similar to the one Lee Atwater experienced while dying with a brain tumor. I’ve been around this world long enough to know that there are few burdens too heavy to bear. A heavy conscience is one of them 

I don’t know who will lead us through the ’90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul. It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime.

Mostly I am sorry for the way I thought of other people. Like a good general, I had treated everyone who wasn’t with me as against me…..My illness has taught me something about the nature of humanity, love, brotherhood and relationships that I never understood, and probably never would have. So, from that standpoint, there is some truth and good in everything. — Lee Atwater, 1990

The Answer to Sarah Palin’s Rhetorical Question: Book Burning

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This post is part of “The Sarah Chronicles: A straight poop compendium of questions answers on Sarah Palin.” Today’s installment is on CENSORSHIP. 

 

Sarah Palin’s defense for twice asking the Wasilla City Librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, about removing ‘certain’ books’ from the library was simply this: “It was just a rhetorical question,” the implication being, “Sweet Lord, no! I would never ask the librarian to burn books!”

 

A rhetorical question is a figure of speech in the form of a question posed for its persuasive effect, without the expectation of a reply. — Wikipedia

 

The rhetorical question defense (RQD) is a handy one, applicable to all sorts of occasions, such as when a psycho husband asks rhetorical questions of a hit man, or when a pedophile rhetorically asks a little girl if she’d like to take her panties down. I beg the readers’ pardon for such graphic comparisons, but Ms. Palin’s RQD is deserving of a strong and unambiguous rebuke, for her effort to sanitize and render harmless her outright attempt to coerce the librarian into banning certain books. While the RQD defense may not be admissable in a court of law, it has sufficed for some 46% of the American voting public, who say, “Oh, hell yeah! I’d vote for Sarh Palin in a heartbeat!” to become president, should McCain keel over dead. These are the same Americans, of course, who would froth at the mouth, were they posed the rhetorical question: Would you like to see America become more like, say, Marxist Russia, where our government bans books they don’t want us to read?”

Sarah Palin would like us to believe that she was merely engaging in philosophical discourse, even as her rhetorical questions were raised not once, but twice, as Palin approached librarian, Emmons two weeks before and two weeks after Palin assumed the duties as Mayor of Wasilla on October 14, 1996. According to Emmons – -who is also the president of the Alaska Library Association — she responded in the negative on October 1, when asked by Palin if she could live with censorship of ‘certain books.’ When asked, again, on October 28, if Emmons would object to censorship, “even if people were circling the library in protest about a book,“ Emmons again refused, adding that the ACLU would step in at that point. According to Emmons’ statements: 

” I told her (Palin) clearly, I will fight anyone who tries to dictate what books can go on the library shelves…. This is different than a normal book-selection procedure or a book-challenge policy,” Emmons stressed. “She was asking me how I would deal with her saying a book can’t be in the library…. She asked me if I would object to censorship, and I replied ‘Yup’. And I told her it would not be just me. This was a constitutional question, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) would get involved, too.”

Palin, when asked who might picket the library, said that she, “had no one in mind,” and then re-explained the nature of her rhetorical question. “Again, the issue was discussed in the context of a professional question being asked in regards to library policy.”

Palin subsequently attempted to fire Emmons, stating that it had nothing to do with censorship or the fact that Emmons supported Palin’s opponent in the elections, but that she felt Emmons’ hadn’t given her full support to Palin’s administration.  A strong citizen protest erupted — threatening Palin’s position as Mayor — as the group, Concerned Citizens for Wasilla, stormed City Hall to protest Emmons’ firing and demand a recall of Palin’s mayorship. In response, Palin was forced to withdraw her letter of termination against Emmons. Palin saved some face by explaining that she now felt she had Emmons’ support. ”You know in your heart when someone is supportive of you,” she said. 

 

There is much historical precedence for book-burning. One notorious instance was the Nazi book-burning campaign (the above photo shows one such collection burned in Nazi Germany, which included many authors, such as Ernest Hemingway, Helen Keller and Jack London), as Hitler was determined to rid the country of all books he deemed “un-German.” Upon the occasion of one such burning, Goebbels announced, “The soul of the German people can now express itself again. The flames not only illuminate the end of the old era, they also light up the new.” Hitler’s campaign didn’t arrive overnight, just as Democracy doesn’t disappear overnight. It is eroded away, bit by bit, aided & abetted by a willing people.

 

Naturally, many people are now wondering exactly which books Sarah Palin would have proposed banning. Some people have surmised authors and titles such as: Harry Potter, Judy Blume and The Catcher in the Rye. While these are good guesses, they are just that — guesses. In truth, the specific authors/titles are of no importance. The importance lies in the fact that our rights to freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom from government censorship are among the most important and enduring hallmarks of our democracy. This same democracy protects people like Sarah from people like me, were I to abuse some power of authority and demand the burning of each and every copy of her current runaway seller (see below) on the basis that it offends my sensibilities. 

So it’s a bit dismaying to see that 46% of American voters find these rights unimportant. This is nothing new. These are the same voters prone to vociferous flag-waving, yet, who will raise nary a word of protest, should the most fundamental rights represented by that flag fall under threat. Take our books! Wiretap our phones and computers! Spy to your heart’s content! Lie to the American people — take our sons and daughters to an illegal war! We won’t protest, Mr. President, we promise. Just don’t take our flag — it’s everything we stand for!

It is only fitting, then, that this same 46% voting bloc would choose a candidate whose political record is pocked with constitutional assaults. It is only fitting that these voters would vociferously defend Sarah Palin’s political record — even as her good record has turned out to be riddled with lies, and her bad record is proving to be staggeringly factual. It is only fitting, then, that her own party should censor Sarah Palin’s voice, until such a time she can be tutored to deliver the correct script. In a country that has come to respect pomp and circumstance over substance, an icon like Sarah Palin may very well be the perfect candidate.  

 

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by Mantis Katz, for the canarypapers

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For more on this topic:

A Letter From Someone Who Has Known Sarah Palin Since 1992 – Excerpt: “While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected City Librarian because the Librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin’s attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the Librarian are on her enemies list to this day.”

Anchorage Daily News: Wasilla keeps librarian, but police chief is out (a re-print of the Feb. 1, 1997 article)

Librarians Against Palin!

Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman  (Wasilla, AK): Palin: Library censorship inquiries ‘Rhetorical’ (re-print of a Dec. 18, 1996 article)

Atlantic.com: Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Dish: Another Dubious Firing

LA Times: Sarah Palin — aspiring book banner?

Prescott e-News: Fighting the Fires of Hate: America and the Nazi Book Burnings

Wikipedia: Nazi Book Burnings

ushmm.org: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: Book Burning