While I’m old enough to remember other outbreaks of civil unrest in the United States, notably the Los Angeles riots of 1992 and the Seattle WTO protests of 1999, the demonstrations against the death of the detained African-American man George Floyd at the hands of police officers in the Midwestern city of Minneapolis feels noticeably different. No doubt the social and economic disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is playing its part in all this along with the unprecedented partisanship of modern US politics under the divisive presidency of Donald J Trump. However there is a strange air of millenarianism hanging over contemporary events in the American republic, emphasised by the spectacle of a preening Trump posing outside a church near the White House with a bible in his hand like some Medieval potentate, surrounded by his court and armed retainers.
Certainly the images of serried American security forces, as we would describe them if reporting on similar events elsewhere in the world, with their mismatched police and military uniforms and equipment facing off against thousands of protesters reminded one of pictures beamed from some of the more turbulent regions of the planet. As a prominent progressive figure in the US complained, such images made America look like a “Third World country”. Which ironically enough is not so far away from the thinking behind Trump’s dismissal of the developing world as “shithole countries”, reminding us that at a higher level in the politics of Washington conservatism and liberalism are simply different sides of the same ideological coin.
I have no idea what is next for the United States or if the violence of the last week will fizzle out. But the contemporary US has more than a touch of the “Ulsters” about it these days.
Meanwhile Joe Rogan and his guests explore some of this in an interview with Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti who co-host the popular current affairs webshow Rising.
Pres. Trump is very American: he could have jumped out of the pages of Huckleberry Finn or the screen of Deadwood.
Huckleberry Finn? Please. If you honestly think that you either didn’t read the book or certainly didn’t understand it. Maybe you should either try reading that book if you haven’t or if you have try it again with a decent study guide that doesn’t have some bizarro political agenda. Maybe then we can have a sensible talk about how little Trump has in common with Finn.
I am not a political and do not have an agenda, bizarre or otherwise. It has always amused me that many US citizens do not realise the influence that sanctimoneous English puritanism has had on their religions and world outlook. If you engage with the intertubes simply wishing to hear the echo of your own voice you will be sadly disappointed.
Ever notice that nobody else seems to buy into your pet theories?
Let me ask again. Have you ever read the book Huck Finn without getting it filtered through somebody who had their own pet theory-political or not? I’m not talking about movie or cartoon or play versions? Ever actually read that original? Or any other pieces of Twain’s work?
Aside for that you have repeatedly mischaracterized a whole run of things involving Britain, the US, the ROI and more.
Your pet theories-political or not- remind me a bit of The Winchester mansion-with all sort of wings and tangents leading to nowhere.
Because I view life from a different direction to you Grace. I have lived and worked in 16 countries and 4 continents. I have found that many US citizens I have met, although good old boys, are so uncomfortable with the country in which they live that they have to prefix the word American with where they imagine their ancestors came from. Here we are just Irish, English, Welsh or Scots: as to how much Twain I have read – just about all of them. All literary criticism is subjective and I would not waste my time explaining since you are utterly different to me in outlook. All the best, terence
So translation. “I’m going to make various assertions, and make no attempt to back them up. If pressed, I’m just going to say ‘No point in explaining anything.'” If you are going to make even a subjective argument the convention says you should be prepared to give your evidence for why it’s true.
Once again you make several bizarre leaps in your claims. I’m not sure if you are aware how many large logical jumps you make.
Because I would wasting my time: I find your views narrow minded and parochial but I support your right to hold them. I state whatever views I have and really don’t feel the need to justify them to you – this is not an academic dissertation replete with references. If you don’t like it – tough.
Unless you are trawling social media you are only getting about 1% of what is happening, your TV and your news papers are not showing you any of it. What little you do see is mostly copaganda.
The situation is looking like the slow rolling opening of the second US civil war. During the past week the police have murdered more people and acted egregiously everywhere in the country. We have 8pm curfews unilaterally installed by the county sheriffs and police depats in the Bay. Area and the ACLU is involved.
It is going to be a very long, very hot summer and it is only going to get worse.
Sacramento – I believe this is the city council meeting from Monday evening.
Two Federal officers shot in Oakland on Friday night.
Two weeks ago the police in Hayward, CA stomped on the stomach of a pregnant woman, causing her to miscarry in her 26th week. I will let you guess her race.
From top to bottom, from creation to today, policing in the US is a colonial police force, whose primary mission is catching runaway slaves. No reform in the past centuries has ever altered their foundational mission and the racism they display is its evidence. Read the 13th amendment, or watch the documentary of the same title.
Dobzhansky remarked that “Nothing in biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution.” In the US, nothing makes sense, except in the light of institutional racism. Remember, Amy Cooper donated to Pete Buttigieg.
My error the Sacramento video is from 2018. Which does undercut it’s present day “We are at the precipice of destruction” framing. Especially as the city did not burn and the police have only gotten worse in the interim.
In a week when the COVID cases spike from white people partying in Florida and Ozarks, watch the media show you black and brown faces protesting police violence when they cover it.
Below are the numbers of civilians shot to death by police in the US over the past six years (as reported by the New York Times two weeks ago). More than a third of the victims were black – I have no figures for Asian and/or victims from other ethnic minorities.
NOTE: These figures do NOT include civilians killed by US police by means other than shooting:
2013 – 1,111
2014 – 1,059
2015 – 1,103
2016 – 1,071
2017 – 1,095
2018 – 1,143
2019 – 1,099
ASF, there’s nothing “noticeably different” about any of this. Racism in the US is systemic and historical (I’m NOT saying that all white Americans are racist, but far too many are).
And by historical I don’t mean “1992” or even 1892, I mean since the very founding of the US. Remember, black Americans were once counted in the US Constitution as equalling only three-fifths of a person.
[On a personal note: I have a close relative living in California who is married to a black guy. It used to be once or twice a month they would be abused or threatened as they walked on the streets with their children, or called at a store or went to a restaurant. Since Trump came to power, it’s been happening several times a week. The husband served his country with distinction in the military, but still can’t walk its streets without being abused.]
Donald Trump is Ian Paisley with far worse morals.English ethnic bigotry trained on those they stole the land from ,the natives and the Mexicans,who had no law allowing white settlers to bring slaves to Texas.And of course the descendants of the slaves who have forgotten their place.Only a few votes difference in Congress would have prevented the Clearance of the South by the U.S.Army where the natives had their houses burned and the crops torched and the survivors marched to the Western desert.To Hell or Connaught American style.The American election system is built for fraud,run by different states ,many who were opposed to non English people having a vote in the first place.Not often the spectacle of the ballots being counted in front of you and the winner being Bobby Sands. I am not saying that Hillary Clinton would have been better.She would have been worse. Too much power in the hands of the Presidency, ballots not counted in front of witnesses and an imperialist agenda.The natives in the occupied counties have gotten off cheap compared to the natives in the States. Not that I’ll be buying roses for Margaret Thatchers grave anytime soon.
Where racism is concerned, I’m afraid we Irish, of whatever strand, don’t have a great history in the US either. As only one example, Irish-American cops in the NYPD were (and possibly still are) notoriously racist
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Not too good here in Ireland proper either, I may add. Way too many “wash it off” instances here as well.
And Trump lectures the Chinese over Hong Kong
Waving the Bible outside the church reminded of Paisley
Paisley leading the crowds against “republican symbols” in 1966 etc. And we all know where that eventually led.
Paisley for all this fanaticism was an actual preacher. Trump historically wasn’t very religious at all. He was at best a diletante about any faith until “getting the spirit” was a good way to play to a certain base.
Look at the money that’s being poured into US policing, while vital services are cut.
This from a Guardian article:
“Meanwhile, unemployment is surging amid the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, with housing and healthcare crises worsening. Many governments have been making painful cuts to services and expect to see tax revenue fall even further in the coming year. But police budgets have not been affected, and some mayors are even seeking to expand law enforcement funding.
A snapshot of some of city budget debates that have escalated this week:
* Los Angeles: the police budget is $1.8bn, and the mayor has for weeks been pushing for raises and bonuses for officers and an overall 7% increase that would make the budget more than half of the general fund. But on Wednesday, he said he was now looking to make cuts to the police budget.
* New York: The mayor is pushing to leave the NYPD’s nearly $6bn budget intact while slashing education and youth programs and cutting other agencies by as much as 80%.
* Philadelphia: The mayor has proposed spending $977m on police and prisons, which is 20% of the general fund. A $14m increase for police comes as the city is cutting funding for youth violence prevention, arts and culture, workforce development, and laying off staff at recreation centers and libraries.”
Full article here: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/04/defund-the-police-us-george-floyd-budgets
Not to mention the crazy federal program to allow discount purchases of US military surplus by local police departments. Which has contributed to the militarisation of US policing. Sheriff departments with mine-proof APCs etc. And the bizarre mix of equipment and uniforms even in the same or neighbouring police forces. Emphasising the rag-tag militia look.
Another thing. How many federal law or quasi law agencies does the US require? The duplication in services, the waste, is enormous. I might post here just how many federal security services outside of the formal armed forces the US maintains. It’s mind boggling.
Legislation was passed in 2014 to make it harder for State and Local Police. It was significant but far from everything Obama wanted. Nancy Pelosi has been out to fortify those laws for a while, but getting the 2/3 in both Houses to overcome Trump’s likely veto is not easy.
The thing is that even though it has become tougher for local police to buy this stuff, it’s not like what they’ve already purchased magically disappears the minute the loopholes close up (takes a while with such US laws) let alone the minute the law is signed. The police already bought loads and loads of this stuff to use on anti-war protesters during the Bush years. I know because I watched it against anti-war and Occupy people as well. Much of that equipment can be used numerous times over many years. Some things like tear gas and pepper spray run out, but they’ve stockpiled quite a bit in many departments.
Also I’m afraid the resourcefulness encouraged by the pandemic may give the police “ideas” about what to do as it gets harder to buy this stuff. Since the US has an almost late-Soviet like shortage of PPE for medical workers, let alone masks for the public or PPE for other workers, a lot of folks have “gotten creative” about how to improvise PPE against SARS-COV-2. Hobbyists’ sewing machines went into action so members of the general public could wear masks like in Asia when conventional medical masks were short for hospitals and bus drivers. The hobby seamstresses also went to work to make gowns and hair covers for transit workers and people in the lower risk parts of the hospitals. Joann’s (a common sewing supply store) became a surprise addition to the list of “strained supply chains” as the store tried to source more fabric, elastics, and other things for tons of hobby sewing machines frantically trying to mitigate the PPE supply. People also started using old T-shirts, scarves, pillowcases and curtains for the cause. People with glue-guns and staplers rushed to make face shields and similar from office supplies, baseball caps, office supplies, and more. They tried to make “cough curtains” from older shower curtains and dividers from boxes. It’s still happening. Where I am 90% of people outside wear masks. About half are hand or sewing machine made, with the rest divided between some medical masks and bandanas, scarves or T-shirts people tied around their faces. (Scarves are very uncommon in this area by Irish or British standards, but most that exist are thin nylon square types).
This boom in resourcefulness has been seen by many as a bright spot in this crappy pandemic.
However, I’m thinking that when it gets harder the cops might take an example. If they can’t buy second rate military gear, they might try improvising with (American) football, hockey and MMA gear. The thing about a “rag- tag militia” look both now or if they were to resort to sports gear is that they can use to play themselves as The Underdog or even invoke The Dolchstosslegende. “The liberals stabbed the police in the back by denying the equipment they need!! Obama made it so they had to resort to hockey masks!!” This sort of thing tends to play well with Southern military conservatives in particular.
Since public transit is starting to resist being asked to transport protesters arrested by police (hoorraaaay!!!), they might start buying old school buses or old city buses that were retired as more of urban bus fleets “go electric” or “go hybrid”. I certain saw in Seattle lines of up to seven city buses packed like a third-world “chicken bus” full of arrested anti-war protesters. The police were often much worse against anti-war than with the WTO, even though that got more publicity.
I remember some major US police departments in the past using rebranded surplus school buses and what have you for certain crowd control situations or events and it certainly looked odd.
Was it under Clinton the ex-military equipment discounts started?
I think it was in Washington that the pictures of local and federal security people in debadged gear made the whole “Third World” impression so obvious.
Then again, in Europe we are used to police forces having a more or less uniform appearance, even in the bigger federal states. So the culture shock of deliberately decentralized policing in the US always looks a bit odd. And in fairness the US is geographically so big of course there needs to be a variation in locally suitable uniforms and equipment.
I should also mention, I remember when the Gardaí used to take on republican protestors here with mismatched riot gear borrowed from the army or hastily borrowed/purchased from overseas governments or suppliers.
I always thought it a bad sign that now they have their own branded stock on hand. I prefer gardaí on the beat without stab-proof vests and so on.
The US can’t be like Europe for all its wealth-there are a number of reasons for that. Size and history are a big part of it. If people like Fintan O’Toole are saying some of the things he’s been saying that’s partly because the US has a lot of stuff in its history most in Europe or Ireland would not associate with it: Leper colonies (some remained open into the 1990’s), Magdalene Laundries, and arguably a very, very close call with regional Famine in the 1930’s- All things I suspect fairly few Irish citizens with think “USA” when asked what countries they associate with any of those things.
As for the when that sort of police militarization started? That depends on who you ask. Some say it escalated during the 1950’s or even that the true seeds were planted by Woodrow Wilson (Sedition Act of 1918) or go even further back. (Hint: When you look at the actual history it gets way, way more complicated than any simple narrative you see from either the Left or Right.)
The law that really set the stage for ex-military gear to be sold to police was passed in 1981 called the “Military Cooperation with Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies Act”. From the beginning there were plenty of arguments saying the law was Unconstitutional. However what was initially supposed to be a way for SWAT teams to get used MP Safety Gear from the military has steadily gotten worse over time. For various agencies to keep finding and expanding loopholes doesn’t necessarily require the President to do a darned thing…In fact, for the President even with a 100% cooperative Congress and zero opposition from The Court System (including but not limited to SCOTUS) it isn’t easy to exact reform when a patchwork of state and local government are involved-Even after Reconstruction our Constitution makes that pretty difficult.
Even if the MCCLEAA was repealed tomorrow, there would still be some work in reigning in the monster it created.
One thing to remember about human rights in a US Context: Fear One Party State Legislatures!!! To people in progressive states (as Seattle was amid horrible police brutality against anti-war and WTO protesters) if you don’t want to vote for a Republic to serve in your State Legislature, consider Independents or Third Party. (We have many Third Parties some of which have a small but functional presence in at least one state legislature!!).
To some degree Polarization has meant more single party One Party State Houses. Some of the electoral reforms I want could fix the problem. If people in firmly “Red” or “Blue” states feel their vote for President doesn’t count they tend not to vote for State Government or Congress either. Contrary to popular belief the US wouldn’t necessarily even need a Constitutional Amendent at all, to have an electoral system that is to some degree more like the ROI’s or like Mexico’s (Mexico is also a Federal Presidential trias politica, the biggest difference is that Mexican law is based on Napoleonic Code and most US jurisdictions use English Common Law). Any European can be utterly acquitted for believing that we’d need not just one or many Amendments or even a total rewrite for the US Constitution, since too many US citizens ought to know better believe that myth!!!
My belief is that with reform for voting at the Federal level fewer people will be discouraged out of voting because their state is “locked”, so the One Party Legislatures will become way few in number.
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I see some Christians are lecturing Trump on the correct way to hold a bible. Apparently he wasn’t holding it properly for his little photo opportunity.
That’s because it was probably burning his fingers! 😉
The Land of the Free (as long as you’re white).
“Instead of expanding the American political project to embrace black people as free citizens, our institutions made caveats to exclude them from the country’s founding principles. Historically, most black people were not considered human, let alone citizens worthy of police or constitution protections. We were property. Even free blacks were, at best, second-class citizens whose status could be demoted at any white person’s whims and who fundamentally had “no rights which the white man was bound to respect”, as the supreme court affirmed in 1856.”
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Seeing how the police and national guard operate against sections of the community am I alone in seeing them an analogous to the Black and Tans or more latterly the B Specials in NI
I’m thinking the RUC, Specials and latterly the UDR.
My experience having been an anti-war protesters is that 90% of the problems comes down to three things:
1) The US police force is very decentralized, way, way too decentralized. It had different origins in different parts of the country. There really isn’t much in the way of Federal oversight. Local officials call the shots. If they fuck up, they get voted out of office usually. However, without Federal guidelines changing stuff is an inherent uphill battle.
2) Another problem much of the “don’t criticize” mantra that frankly comes back of the American Dolchstosslegende, has been extended to the police rather than just the military. During the 1960’s and 1970’s there was a great deal of opposition to The Vietnam War. The American Dolchstoss was mostly created by factions of society with whom this did not sit well. Compared to The Dochstosslegende of Germany, Britain, or France the US version put very, very little emphasis on blaming outsiders and a lot on blaming relatively mainstream US citizens who opposed the war. Usually the stereotype of the “spitting girl” is portrayed as a WASP woman from the better half of the economy-often as wealthy. She may sometimes be portrayed as Jewish or Irish Catholic but this is fairly uncommon, 95% of the time it’s either WASP or unmarked Caucasian. The “spat on vet” is typically portrayed as a working class guy and in a small but significant minority of cases as black or Hispanic. As an anti-war activists I have had a surprising number of people come to me in private and say they thought the war was wrong but felt protesting was no option as that wouldn’t stop war but would “really, really hurt the guys fighting over there”. This can sound like a lame ass excuse but for some if that was true, they were amazing actors-some were crying their eyes out and obviously conflicted. If it was an act many would have bested Will Smith’s best performances. What has happened however, is that DON’T YOU DARE CRITICIZE, has migrated to the cops. Since the Federal system and history was going to make police reform a tricky game, a population afraid to criticize was a bad thing.
3) A lot of parties simply want to sell the hardware for it to departments. The Mayor who signs off on the purchase often isn’t the one who gets blamed when it goes badly. So this makes it harder to local elections to control the problem. They can vote out the Mayor or Governor who was in charge when things went pear shaped. This may not touch the politicians who actually purchased the goods.
I’ve certainly seem my share of police brutality as an anti-war protester. I believe that whatever forces may support the war or the adminstration that much of the brutality is actually rooted in local politics more than the issue for the protests. Once I actually voted for a Republican (last of the Eisenhower breed) governor because the Democratic one couldn’t control the cops.
As for resemblances to Ulster? That’s nothing new really. People have been compared parts of The South -particularly the areas with Confederate statues to various Generals to Ulster for quite some time.
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One other contributor I forgot, is political polarization. There is a strong case to be made in The US, that a massive predictor of humans rights violations by state and local politicians would be a one-party state legislature. Some researchers are actually looking at US Magdalene Laundries (that’s right this was NOT just an “Irish thing”) so they can prove that single party state Legislatures are a variable independent of the other suspected causes that most people who read this already know. Since Magalene Laundries can be somewhat separated from the “usual suspects” as well as which party dominated the single-party legislature and that particular historical period for said party.
Where this affects police issues. When the US gets more polarized single-party state legislatures become more common. States have a lot of power in the US and their relationship to the Feds can be messy. So a single party state legislature can show shades of a single party country-even if the former was chosen Democratically. Polarization is a double whammy in that you have more single party state legislatures, but Federal intervention would be tougher even with a competent President like Obama, Eisenhower, or Hilary Clinton if she had won.
The good news is that unrest is a big predictor in US politics of the current party NOT being able to stay in power. That and the economy tend to be the top predictors of “one term” versus “two term” President.
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How anyone can list “90% of the problems” without giving even a passing mention to systemic racism is truly beyond me.
In my experience while living in the United States, that is exactly the problem. Unfortunately, that is something no one seems to want to address. This time, it is telling as everyone seems to suddenly want to pass reforms of one form or another, when there was nothing to prevent implementing such changes BEFORE this murder happened. This goes for both, Democrats and Republicans. For example, California is a hotbed for protests, even though like Minneapolis and Minnesota they are governed by (the allegedly ever so progressive) Democrats, and likewise their major cities like Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Police Department has some real problems. Unlike our Gardai, who are basically a national police force, in the United States, city police departments derive their authority from the mayor and the city council. Right now, city councils, city attorneys, and mayors do their best to lay the blame on their police for their behaviour, even though they are ultimately responsible, as they are the ones stipulating police policy and procedure. In many cases, the local governance had 12+ years to fix stuff, in the case of Los Angeles, it’s going on 40+ years without noticeable change specifically for Black Americans. No wonder many see the “outrage” by many public figures somewhat disingenuous. Another thing that in my experience is readily ignored. is that this specific issue of devalued life is almost solely focused on African Americans. Any solution must therefore also be focused in the same way. There is also too much exclusive focus on the interaction of government entities with African Americans, when the disparages in treatment there are built on consistent overall disadvantage. Lack of access to meaningful education and with that, employment opportunities, coupled with the still existing wide spread social segregation and substandard medical care breed isolation, poverty, discontent, a lower quality of life (on average) and with it social stigma or even outright hate (racism), Whites, even when associated with such factors, basically just have to move to a better neighborhood, dress better and that is the end of it. No one is the wiser. However, a Black American will still have store security watch their every move, even if they are a millionaire. It is this stigma that causes this disregard for Black Lives and which needs to be erased. This is hard and complicated in America’s selfish and greedy world and no lip service for self-absolution will really solve the problem. Nor will temporary outreach of sympathy. Only providing consistent and long-term opportunity in education and labour will do that. The funding for projects like that could come from the long overdue reparations. There needs to be a (permanent) Bureau of African American Affairs that among many other duties, tasks a committee led by people like Professor Henry Louis Gates with how to best tackle this disaster. Any long-term investment like that will yield not only a better community, but also a financial return. One thing is for sure, as long as most Black Lives in America start with poor or no medical care and progress to little or no hope, the next “explosion” is just around the corner and rightfully so.
Well said, I agree with every word.
“The good news is that unrest is a big predictor in US politics of the current party NOT being able to stay in power. That and the economy tend to be the top predictors of “one term” versus “two term” President.”
This is wrong! Richard Nixon was re-elected in a landslide in 1972, regardless of the anti-Vietnam protests.
“She may sometimes be portrayed as Jewish or Irish Catholic but this is fairly uncommon, 95% of the time it’s either WASP or unmarked Caucasian.”
This is made-up, self-serving nonsense! There’s absolutely no way of telling a Irish-Catholic or white Jewish person from other whites.
Surnames, appearances features. Alluding to red hair or a large nose. There’s a variety of ways you can imply or guess such a thing. None are 100% reliable, but to say you can’t imply or take educated guesses about such things is nonsense.
You declare: “She may sometimes be portrayed as Jewish or Irish Catholic but this is fairly uncommon, 95% of the time it’s either WASP or unmarked Caucasian.”
And you justify your WASP declaration on the absence of “…red hair or a large nose“.
Crazy stuff. Absolutely crazy.
In case we get too dewy eyed about Irish-Americans, consider the roles these Irish-Americans have played in elevating and sustaining Donald Trump.
Inside the White House:
Among his most rabid supporters and defenders on Fox News:
Bill O’Reilly (now gone from Fox, sacked for gross sexual misconduct)
Nor should we forget the ultra-conservative (to put it kindly) commentator, Pat Buchanan.
Andrew O’Hehir has written quite a bit on this for Salon and other publications… https://www.salon.com/2018/03/17/raise-a-glass-with-mick-mulvaney-dark-hearted-leprechaun-of-st-paddys-day-evil/
Deeply depressing but spot on unfortunately. It’s not all been grim but the role of Irish-Americans in such things both structurally and otherwise has been across the decades nothing to write home about. I experienced it myself working in NY one summer where I was taken out to lunch by an I-A guy who came from that background and was unashamedly racist about other people in the place we both worked with that was just incredible to me.
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Yes, and yet more anecdotal proof (if it were needed) of just how risible is the notion often hinted at on here that racism is largely confined to the “southern states” of the US.
Absolutely agree. No question racist attitudes were and no doubt are to be found in all parts of the US. It doesn’t mean everyone is racist but the manner in which that inflects everything is undeniable.
Just thinking about that lunch what completely got me was the collusive aspect. He simply assumed I was racist. It so happened my manager there was an African-American woman and that was another thing he kind of went on about – but framed in ‘oh, she’s okay I guess.’.
Actually The Southern United States DOES have a unique political culture that is way more complex than just racism. It includes many other “layers” like an onion. This includes much higher levels of opposition to feminism and earlier on women’s suffrage than can be found in the rest of the country (look at the map for which states supported the 19th amendment and ERA and which states had or didn’t have women’s suffrage before the 19th, and the pattern is pretty clear). The South tends to support any foreign war that is proposed regardless of who it’s with, and what it’s about, and have had very, very little of the anti-war protests that have existed in other regions of the country against Vietnam, Iraq, Cuba etc.) The South has a long history going back to colonial times of lower investment in education than the other Northern colonies-and only started to change after The Civil Rights movement. It has a macho code of honor that wasn’t typical in areas where the Puritans, Quakers, Dutch, and other had more influence.
A lot of Southerners have very, very serious grudges over the Civil War that you wouldn’t see in conservative and/or bigot in Michigan. I’ve seen towns in Georgia where as of 2006 every five year old had already learn to hate General Sherman. You also have other factors that shaped the region such as hookworms, The Civil War itself, having more fundamentalists than other parts of the country, and much more.
Just like you can’t argue away the notion that Northern Ireland is different from England simply because sectarian conflicts have been found in England, Scotland, and Wales, you really can’t escape the fact that much of The Southern US is also *different*. There are a lot of reasons people try to play down this reality from not wanting to believe the worst of anybody, “Poor Old Abe’s” dying wish of “malice towards none”, and fear of having their own state or region’s issues trivialized or pooh-poohed as insignificant.
“… but framed in ‘oh, she’s okay I guess.’.”
Ah yes, we’re only too familiar with that sort of line here in Ireland. As in, “He/she is a Protestant/Catholic, but he/she is okay.” The subtext being that the person in question is an exception, as people from his/her religion aren’t usually okay.
Like you, I had the similar assumptions I’m racist. But not in academia, far too well trained to be caught out being direct like that.
I spent a couple of summers in Chicago in the early 90s, scientificating in a lab at UIC. There was a succession battle going on for the next head of the dept. Observing that process, watching how the sole African American professor conducted himself and was treated, you could see the familiar subtle racism at play. The kind we are familiar with from genteel period dramas, the plausibly deniable kind. It was an education watching him have to eat shit, for no reason. Almost as if the world was not correct unless there was a burden of eating shit on each African American’s plate.
Nothing in the US makes sense, except in the light of institutional racism. Those that deny it are fish that do not perceive their water. Ava DuVernay’s documentary the 13th and Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow lay it out. But so did Medger, Malcolm and Martin. Did we not just witness police in every city in the US beat on protestors and instigate violence over the past two weeks?
Remember Chris Patten’s reform of the RUC? Recall the Unionist arguments against and the Nationalist arguments for? US policing is worse again than the RUC. Which side in this debate sounds like the Unionist and which the Nationalist? Which side do you think history will judge correct?
Surely if U.S.A. politics have been “Ulsterised” that would mean a permanent mandatory coalition between the Democrats and Republicans, with a dual-party presidency. Just a facetious way of saying that no possible comparison can be made between the contemporary U.S. political system and the contemporary Ulster one.
I was talking more about the historical sense of it. Not the “Vietnamization” one the UK adopted as a military strategy in the 1970s, copying the US in Vietnam, but more the politics of it. The polarisation of politics, the increased importance of entho-centrism and -nationalism, the importance of communalism, minority community/communities vs majority and so on.
There are some Ulster-like dynamics that have been endemic to The US South since at least the 1870’s. However since about the late 1970’s the thinking on them has gone from “even in Mississippi this IS something we try to mitigate and push back against these tendencies, because it’s in Democracy’s and society’s best interests” (even many relatively conservative older white Southerners agreed with this premise), to the idea of “Well this behavior is only natural everywhere- at least The South is honest about it”.
Of course, some things when deeply woven into the society aren’t all that easy to mitigate or push back against.
One dynamic is the idea that people would “naturally” vote almost 100% along racial and sectarian lines. People who break those ranks are presumed to be somehow dirty, dishonest, suffering from a false consciousness, likely to be secretly working to undermine the party they joined (even if subconsciously). For much-but by no means all!!!- of post-bellum US history white Southerners flocked to one party and African Americans to the other. Of course, that way of thinking would be suicide for The Democrats and Republics alike in a diverse nation!!! Yet it’s still become increasingly normalized and treated as just a “fact of human nature” that you are better off accepting and working with than in any way thinking you could fight against.
In most of the earlier post-Civil Rights days the thinking was that both parties should try to win a lot of people from all backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, regions, and more by mostly talking about policies and plans for the Country’s future- What a concept!!!!!!
What changed? I put the blame on a combination of things. One is the loss of the media’s “Fairness Doctrine” in 1987 where owners of airwaves were no longer obligated to include perspectives “from both sides” and could both be as fiercely partisan as they wanted. Some say this favored the right and to some degree it did. However, another more pervasive implicit implicit message of “The Fairness Doctrine” was “most people did SOME thinking to get that position” since during the Fairness doctrine days you could always hear a rational argument for either side even if one of the arguments struck you as 100% bogus you still heard it. With that influence lost the thinking that anybody’s POV could be seen as simply a consequence of various formulas based on the person’s skin color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, sexual preference, disability status, and more. To even frame your political views as a “rational argument” is seen by many as nothing more than a “modesty sheet” for the fact that the variables above had more or less predetermined your thinking anyhow. If your POV doesn’t seem to match your “assigned role” you are against somehow dirty, suffering from a false consciousness, or bound to eventually betray the politics you claim to support.
For example in the case of both black men and white women party choices and voting is said by some to be a matter of “choosing between your race and your gender identity”. The idea is that for black men the Democrats would be “choosing your race” and the GOP “choosing your gender identity”. For white women it is presumed to be the reverse. I have never met anybody who I believe saw party politics as “race versus gender identity”. (I’m not sure they are even using the term gender identity in the same sense as the advocates for transgender rights. I am sure I don’t understand either concept of gender identity at all, but that’s another topic entirely.) I’ve talked to a lot of people multiple diverse cities for issues like anti-war, public transit, various political candidates, and electoral reform. I haven’t found any demographic to be such simple predictable equations!!!
The Byzantine nature of the US’s Federal System and the strange nature of US party politics make comparisons to any non-trias polticas tricky and and comparing ANYWHERE to Ulster is also tricky due to Ulster’s very, very unique set of historical and political circumstances. However the change from the belief that you should encourage all people to THINK FOR THEMSELVES to the idea that everyone is so predetermined by an accident of birth is extremely unfortunate and in fact sad.
A great piece by Nesrine Malik: “Those clutching their pearls at police brutality think the US’s inherent virtue will prevail. But it was never there to begin with.”
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Intro to a piece in today’s New York Times:
When the police lie
By David Leonhardt
An encounter in Buffalo last Thursday — in which two police officers shoved a 75-year-old man to the ground and left lying him there while blood poured out of his ear — was troubling partly because of the original police account.
The account claimed that the man “was injured when he tripped and fell.” If a video hadn’t existed, the truth might never have come out.
That’s a widespread problem:
In Philadelphia last week, the police said that a man had pushed an officer off his bike; a video instead showed an officer striking the man with a baton.
In a suburb of Sacramento in April, a police officer punched a 14-year-old boy multiple times while arresting him; the officer’s report didn’t mention the punches.
The Minneapolis police’s account of George Floyd’s death initially left out the most important details, like the knee pressed on his neck for almost nine minutes.
Philip Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University, who has analyzed thousands of police reports, told CNN that lies like these were fairly common.
A shocking claim was made in a documentary last night that I felt I had to check for authenticity. So I checked it out, and it is indeed true. (How could I ever doubt it? How did I not already know it?)
Here it is: Despite the USA being home to just 4% of the world’s female population, it is also home to almost 1/3 (33%) of the world’s incarcerated female population. Think about that for a second – the US is responsible for jailing 1/3 of all female prisoners in the world.
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That’s incredible but strangely not at all surprising. There appears to be a militarisation of police, society and a criminalisation of large sections of the working class (which the Venn diagram also overlaps with race) that is arguably unique amongst so-called ‘developed’ states.
There’s quite a furore in the Newry area around whether a statue of John Mitchel should be allowed remain in the city or be removed. Along with being a Presbyterian United Irelander, Mitchel was a supporter of the Confederates during the American Civil War and a determined anti-abolitionist (he was, in fact, very much pro-slavery).
I reprint below a letter carried on newry.ie in support of Mitchel. I do so without comment… except this, “Jesus fucking Christ!”
Letter to the Editor
I’m getting very tired of hearing how it’s indefensible or wrong or “unbelievable” or “confusing” or “shameful” that Mitchel and many other Irishmen sided with the Confederacy. Mitchel did what he thought was right, and indeed he did disagree and quarrel with many of the Young Irelanders and other nationalists, such as O’Connell, but to make it seem as if he was doing so for love of annoying people is rather a low blow and indeed a lazy one. Mitchel quarrelled and disagreed due to his love of Ireland and the suffering and starvation he saw, the injustices and the wrongs, the evictions, the executions, transportations, emigrations and degradation of his countrymen (my ancestors included).
He didn’t believe everyone was working on a direct path to justice for Ireland, and it angered Mitchel to no end. He was a good, kind man, who gave his life for his country. And this is how we repay him? By bandying words and disgracing his memory as if he was a nutter and a lunatic? Pushing him to one side and rebuking him as if he were insane? Arthur Griffith once wisely said, “the day the Irish nation needs an apology for John Mitchel, the Irish nation will need its shroud.
The Civil War was indeed an ugly thing. I say this as a descendant of an Irish Union soldier and as a descendant of a number of Irish Confederate soldiers who left Ireland to escape the famine. My ancestor in the Union army gave his life in August 1864 for the great United States of America with the Stars and Stripes fluttering above him fighting to save the Union, and his sisters and younger brothers back in Massachusetts (and one of his younger brothers, my great- great-grandfather) back in Ireland. Another of my ancestors in the Confederate army gave his life for the noble cause of the South, his brothers also served in the Army but they survived. He died with the Southern cross above him, proudly defying what they saw as a tyranny, his brother also back in Ireland (my great-great-great-grandfather). Both causes were honourable and I’ll stand up for both wherever they’re slighted.
Most Irish in America at the time supported slavery, and it was completely justified, I’m not afraid to say it anymore because I’m sick and tired of beating around it and trying to apologise for it when people bring it up, as if they were in the wrong somehow.
As Irishmen were starving at home, the British were able to fork up the money to free slaves in the West Indies, and prior to that they were able to feed them and clothe them. In contrast the Irish had no clothes, no food and were forcefully evicted from their homes by corrupt landlords and redcoat soldiers. They fled to America, my ancestors included, and found a land where they could be free.
When they met with the abolitionists however (those who wished to abolish slavery and who are today painted in such a heroic and noble light. A light which I believe they do not deserve) they found them rather distasteful. They were vehemently anti-Irish, anti-immigrant, nativist and anti-Catholic, thinking it completely acceptable that us Irish were treated so badly in New York and New Orleans yet thought it was wrong that blacks were working on plantations, being fed and clothed and housed?
How would you have felt if you came from being evicted from your home by soldiers, your family starved half to death due to the forceful removal of food at gunpoint, you arrive in New York and are greeted by a group of people who don’t want you there, who want rid of you, who think you’re worthless and lazy and are quite happy keeping you as a second class citizen and seeing you slowly starve to death as a wage-slave in the slums of New York or on a small farm in upstate New York, where they’d burn your crops and your churches. Yet, they believe that the “poor, badly treated” blacks on plantations should be freed. Blacks whom have food, clothes, a roof, and work? More than us Irish ever had in Ireland during the famine.
It was hypocrisy at the highest level, and those abolitionist Irish back in Ireland hadn’t been to America and didn’t understand in the slightest the conditions.
New Orleans was one of the very few cities in the south with the Nativist Know-Nothings in control, and as such us Irish were treated as the lowest of the low. Blacks weren’t allowed to do dangerous jobs because they were “too valuable”. But the Irish who were arriving in droves escaping the famine were perfect. Because of course, we
weren’t valuable. We were used for fixing boilers of river barges and other volatile things. If one exploded, then they could just hire another Irishman. Much less than $1 a day, perfectly dispensable, yet the blacks were far too valuable because they cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars and had to be looked after. We Irish were also gotten to dig canals, another dangerous job. In Louisiana when slaves were being worked hard by their masters they complained that they were being “worked like Irishmen”.
Yet when Louisiana seceded in 1861, they called upon the Irish to fight, for there was never a braver fighter than an Irishman, and they formed the Louisiana Tigers regiments, nicknamed “The Louisiana Irish Brigade”. The same happened in New York and throughout the northern States. As soon as war broke out, the Irish volunteered to fight for their adopted home despite the Know-Nothings and their abolitionist rhetoric. The famous Irish Brigade led by Thomas Francis Meagher and Michael Corcoran fought bravely throughout the war for the Union. And the 33rd Illinois, known as the “Illinois Irish Brigade”.
It is far, far too easy to slight Mitchel and rebuke him for his views, and it’s also too easy to beat around the bush and try and say he was deranged. Nothing is more insulting, nor is anything more unjust. If we want to talk about people from the 19th century we can’t impose 21st century views on theirs. Mitchel was a man of sound mind, he understood what he was doing. So did Meagher, another honourable Irishman and one of Mitchel’s friends. I also believe that to slight Mitchel in such a way shows a certain laziness to a person, because it shows they really aren’t interested in Mitchel at all and if that’s the best they can come up with then they either don’t know very much about Mitchel, or they want to make controversy and call someone a racist the moment someone steps up to defend him, thus winning the argument in the eyes of this modernist world, where even the slightest implication of the accusation of “racist” will nullify you from any conversation of defence of your point.
In the 21st century, “slavery” has a different connotation, and rightly so, I’m glad that slavery was abolished. But not how the Know- Nothings would have gone about it.
So here I am defending Mitchel, alas, he shouldn’t even need a defence, if one would only look at and be bothered to understand the era he lived in they would understand. I’m also here defending those other maltreated Irishmen and women who fled to America and were greeted with the greatest hypocrisy known to America, the Know- Nothing party, and who are now accused of “racism” and belittled by people in this modern world. I’ll end on a quote from Mitchel himself
“It is altogether a new thing in the history of mankind, this triumphant glorification of a current century…no former age, before Christ or after, ever took pride in itself and sneered at the wisdom of its ancestors; and the new phenomenon indicates, I believe, not higher wisdom but deeper stupidity.”
– John Mitchel
R. J. Kincaid, 2020
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Wow. Just… wow. One line ‘they believe that the “poor, badly treated” blacks on plantations should be freed. Blacks whom have food, clothes, a roof, and work? More than us Irish ever had in Ireland during the famine.’
I nearly fell off my seat when I read that line, WorldByStorm.
It takes a very special sort of narrowness of vision to be able to write that doesn’t it?
It sure does. Narrow to the point of blindness.
Mitchel had grown up well off, hadn’t he? He may have “switched sides” in Ireland, but the fact was still that his social class and position in Ireland gave him a decent chance of joining the slave owning classes of The South. Being Protestant he could be accepted in MOST of the region rather than just in the formerly French controlled parts of it. One should take Mitchel’s views on slavery in that context before assuming he was typical.
The emigrants/immigrant who were REALLY escaping starvation with The Great Famine rarely had the same opportunities to rise in Southern society, that Mitchel did. For most of them options such as “fighting for Mr. Lincoln” or taking over the political machinery of various Northern cities was a much better option for doing well in US society. Most of those who went to The South were either a bit better off economically than the average Famine refugee or otherwise extremely unlucky/unwise to go there. Neither the poverty experienced by the vast majority of people in The South who were neither slaves nor slave owners (regardless of race or ethnic origins), nor life in The Confederacy was much fun!!!!
People who used Ireland’s plight to defend slavery were in the vast majority never terribly concerned about Ireland-they just wanted it for their games.
Yeah, that explains why republicans in Ireland today are publicly defendIng Mitchel’s views. (Nudge,nudge, the letter – written this week – was reprinted not to draw attention to Mitchel’s views but to the fact that some contemporary Irish republicans are defending them.)
The “noble cause” of the South? It takes some mental gymnastics to arrive at that conclusion in 2020. As for the claim that the majority of Irish supported slavery? The overwhelming numbers of Irish and Irish-Americans in Union ranks proves what utter nonsense that was. There may have been many motivations for Irish participation in the US Civil War, and well argued ones at that, but no serious historian would fail to acknowledge that a determination to end slavery was one of them.
As for Mitchell, yes, British colonialism in Ireland undoubtedly radicalized him. But that doesn’t excuse his support of slavery on the grounds of slavery itself and not on some nebulous notion of state’s rights. Which was a fig leaf for racism for the vast majority who argued it in the 19th century US.
I have no problem with him being placed on the naughty step of Irish history. And rightly so.
Absolutely, ASF. Some things can be excused/ignored on the grounds that “values were different then”. But not slavery – never slavery!
Incidentally, I just checked and there are currently 3 comments below the letter. All in wholehearted agreement with the author.
There is a strain of “lost cause” thinking that seeks to portray the Confederacy as more “Celtic” than it was. By all estimates the vast majority of Irishmen and Irish Americans who fought in The Civil War were on The Union Side. The conventional estimate for The Union Army was that 150,000-170,000 thousand Irishmen fought for the Union during the Civil. For the Confederacy estimates typical run from 20,000-40,000. Some people throw out different numbers, but even the highest estimates for the CSA and lowest for the Union still put most Irish Americans on Mr. Lincoln’s side. It’s true that not every Union Soldier was an abolitionist. Motives Irishmen could have for joining The Union Army could include a paycheck, fast track to citizenship, fealty to their new country, “Uncle’s Abe’s” Hibernian Sympathies, and the claims that the CSA was seeking an alliance with The British Empire all played in.
One reason for the ratio is that not many Irishmen could make it to Dixie as it was more expensive to get there (big factor during The Famine!!), and there weren’t many jobs for a poor immigrant anyhow- The English American, Cajun, and Scots-Irish American poor of those areas were scrambling tooth and nail for the few poorly paid jobs in the area.
In my opinion if many on the North had motives other than abolitionism, many in The South were more unlucky (any Irishman who ended up in Alabama was unlucky for a bunch of reasons) more than commitmented to the cause of human bondage.
Contrary to the claims that most people of Scots-Irish heritage fought for Jefferson Davis, most estimates put the numbers pretty close to 50-50%. The terrible burden for Scots-Irish America in The Civil War is that they seemed to be the vast majority of those who ended up facing their own extended family in the other army on the field of battle……If that’s not tragic what is?
Honestly the “states rights” thing wasn’t used very much during The Civil War. They were pretty forthright preserving slavery as a major motive for the Confederacy. The phrase “War Between States” wasn’t used as much during the actual Civil War as it was by revisionists later on.
“Lost Cause Revisionism” didn’t try to portray The South as “more Celtic than the North” until the 1970′. Most Southerners with Scots-Irish origins denied having any Celtic and most of The South as a whole was pretty Hibernophobic and anti-Catholic well into the 20th century.
Most Confederate statues in the area were erected after 1880’s and South Carolina didn’t embrace “The Stars and Bars” until the 1960’s.
There are a few areas where things get a bit complicated. One is that groups like “Daughters of The Confederacy” originally started out as an organization dedicated to properly burying The Confederate dead. Federal money was granted for The Union soldiers, but The Federal government would not sponsor same for The Traitors. Over time it evolved into an organization that was very much about promoting pro-Confederate revisionism.
Another area where it gets complicated is that the balance between Federal and State powers in The US is a complex practical and Constitutional matter in its own right. It is certainly true that The South produces more than its share of bad actors and bad faith arguments when it comes to arguing for both “States Rights” AND “Federal Power” (ei they wanted Federal Power when it came to “Fugitive Slaves Act”, and still do every time California wants to promote energy efficiency or a particular math textbook-Cali’s size means if they adopt these things the economic pressure will be for the whole country to follow suit). However I can tell you having been an anti-war activist and electoral reformist in the US that the issue is States and Federal is VASTLY more complicated than bad faith Southern arguments for States Rights to oppose Jim Crow, Women’s Suffrage, Minimum Wage Laws and more.
US Federalism is messy and complicated by nature. Look into it enough and every time you think you more or less “get it” another layer pops up that messes your thinking like a house of cards.
For anyone interested, I would highly recommend “Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era” by James M McPherson. This book provides comprehensive details on the social, economic, political and constitutional push-and-pull factors that led to war. As well as detailing the course of the war itself, of course.
McPherson doesn’t write quite as well as David McCullough (What historian does?) but he is still highly readable and a wonderful historian.
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From today’s Daily Telegraph: “Meanwhile, a prison guard has been suspended after taking part in a re-enactment mocking the killing of Floyd which was captured on video. A group of white men acted out the killing, one kneeling on another’s neck, in front of a US flag and a Donald Trump banner. The New Jersey Department of Corrections said one of its officers was involved in the ‘hateful and disappointing video’.”
New Jersey’s in the South, right? 😉
Note: There were no ginger-haired people involved (i.e. no-one of Irish extraction) so we can rest easy. 😂
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