Comment # 35 From The Daily Horse:
If you want to read something that anticipates the mindset that could conceive of such a travesty as the original Confederate History Month, read Melissa Harris Lacewell’s recent essay in the Nation.http://www.thenation.com/blogs/notion/544116/is_this_the_birth_of_a_nation.
Considering this essay was written before the Hutaree Militia got nailed and before the slick as syrup Governor of Virginia tripped on his prickly Proclamation, it’s amazing that what MHL said is at the heart of a much bigger movement for which we every week are seeing more and more astoundingly ignorant examples. MHL was talking about the broader implications of what some people on the Radicalized Right were doing after the passage of the health care legislation—the spitting, the racial slurring, the homophobic bigotry.
MHL said: “When protesters spit on and scream at duly elected representatives of the United States government it is more than act of racism. It is an act of sedition.”
But the following two paragraphs, I think, are where MHL really uses her position as a teacher to provide us with an almost prescient insight into the kind of national and localized mindset that is at the root of the kinds of things we are seeing with the Confederate History Month debacle. She wasn’t, when she wrote this, speaking about the Confederacy History Month (at least i don’t think she was!), but listen to what she says and think about it’s relevance to what’s going on in Virginia.
MHL: “As I watch the rising tide of racial anxiety and secessionist sentiment I am not so much reminded of the Bloody Sunday protests as I am reminded of D.W. Griffith’s Birth of Nation. This 1915 film depicts the racist imagination currently at work in our nation as a black president first appoints a Latina Supreme Court Justice and then works with a woman Speaker of the House to pass sweeping national legislation. This bigotry assumes no such government could possibly be legitimate and therefore frames resistance against this government as a patriotic responsibility.
“There are historic lessons to be learned. But they are the lessons of the 19th century not the 20th. We must now guard against the end of our new Reconstruction and the descent of a vicious new Jim Crow terrorism.”
The racist imagination, the bigoted imagination, the misogynist imagination, the Tea-bagger’s imagination, the secessionist imagination, the right to bear arms imagination, the Confederacy movement imagination—all are nothing less than the romanticized re-characterization of ugly times in our history, filtered through myopia, bias and an amazing ignorance of history, repackaged, as MHL said, as a sellable commodity that accurately presupposes a target audience. Of…what? It doesn’t take much to figure it out.
Actually MHL is an example of teaching at its most exalted. I’m not so sure that I would have been able to hold my temper when confronted with the “code speak” inherent in the Governor’s proclamation before he was essentially embarrassed into adding the slavery part. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe it was an accident. And tourism? Why, yes, yes it was! But only in the sense that the Governor was saying to those certain other Americans —come to Virginia where you’ll meet your “own type” of American, the ones who STILL can’t IMAGINE a black president, a Latina Supreme Court Justice or a woman Speaker of the House.
You know, I think it was better when the “Virginia Is For Lovers” tourism ad campaign was running, although…no wait! They probably didn’t mean Gay lovers, Racially Mixed lovers, Democrat lovers, Progressive Lovers, or American freedom lovers. And Virginia can’t get it right because why? In some minds, they DID get it right, the first time. But some of us know how very much they got it wrong.
Rachel Maddow’s show? Just the best.