On this date in 2010, I launched this blog with this post.

I would like to be less polemical on this anniversary, but the times are very much out of joint. It’s all-hands on deck against the multi-pronged radical Republican assault against our liberties.

Back in 2010, the terrible manifestations of racism and nationalism that stain our history were, I assumed, just that, history. Appalling history. You occasionally ran into Madison Grant’s name at the American Museum of Natural History, and then left that institution with a bitter taste in the mouth over its refusal to examine its own legacy as a bastion of  American “race science,” so popular a century ago, and so influential on the Nazis.  But, otherwise, traces of that old monster outside of the political sphere  were much less frequent than they used to be.

Politics, of course, is a nasty business of wrestling for power. The Republican exploitation of the dog-whistle of race since Nixon’s Southern Strategy is fait accompli. To be fair, Clinton Democrats proved themselves subtle exploiters of race, too, but at an even higher pitch (“super-predators” and all). And the Trump-trumpeted “Obama is a Muslim!” line amongst the Ignorant Army was another bit of racial sleaze — a twofer, as it were, attempting to delegitimize the nation’s first black President.

But now: the murder of Indian Americans by someone who seemed to assume that all brown people are Muslims; the rash of bomb scares at Jewish community centers; the vandalizing of Jewish cemeteries; and the continuing governmental assault on legal residents, visa-holding visitors, and of course, the most vulnerable of undocumented populations. This was all unleashed by Trump, who in word and deed — “Mexican rapists”; “Muslim ban”;  “inner city” crime rates skyrocketing — let the hellhounds loose.

The transformation of passport-stamping functionaries at the airport into jack-booted thugs has been terrifying.

For, alas, under the orange aegis of Trump, who turns out to be a long-time spouter of ubermensch garbage, Jeff Sessions, Stephen Miller, and Stephen Bannon have brought back long-discredited racialist notions with a vengeance. (And one uses the word “vengeance” specifically here when referring to the Confederate dwarf Sessions.) An old Nazi would lift his eyebrow at the notion of the Russian and American rights uniting in a kind of pan-white, fundamentalist nationalism (the Nazis thought the Slavs were subhuman, you’ll recall), but fascism shows a powerful ability to be flexible, and only brings out the long knives to handle internal differences later.

Frederick Douglass had a tragically still-relevant take on sickening prejudice. (It literally sickens and warps the hater, a point James Baldwin stressed as well.) Douglass called it “a moral disorder, which creates the conditions necessary for its own existence, and fortifies itself by refusing all contradiction. It paints a hateful picture according to its own diseased imagination, and distorts the features of the fancied original to suit the portrait. As those who believe in the visibility of ghosts can easily see them, so it is always easy to see repulsive qualities in those we despise and hate.”


6 Responses to “Anniversary”

  1. 1 squarepi March 3, 2017 at 7:27 am

    Congrats on 7!

    You need a little more editing in this paragraph though:

    “The transformation of passport-stamping functionary eat the airport nto jack-booted thug has been terrifying.”

  2. 3 Kevin Dann March 3, 2017 at 8:18 am

    Happy Anniversary – and thank you! – Matthew! May Backyard & Beyond flourish and effloresce for many years after all the buffoons and bullies have vanished from the face of the Earth!

    And speaking of the AMNH’s buffoons and bullies, why stop at Madison Grant!? Henry Fairfield Osborn was as virulent and merciless a racist as Grant, who was just a board member; HFO got to run the whole darn AMNH monster show for a quarter century, and was the happy host of two international eugenic congresses. His paleontology and anthropology were both “aristogenic” to the max.

    The weed will win in the end, of course!


    • 4 mthew March 3, 2017 at 9:07 am

      What an exhibit this would make at AMNH! You know they have, or had in the 1990s, when I was given a behind-the-scenes tour, not just a closet of memories but a whole attic of them. There were long shelves of model heads of the dozens of human (and less so and not at all) “races.”

  3. 5 myrahope March 4, 2017 at 10:17 am

    Thank you Matt,
    I don’t tell you enough how much I love what you do…outstanding contribution to the natural/national dialogue… Bannon likes to say the mainstream media is the opposition party and by god it is…Democracy itself is the opposition party to these thieving thugs… and so is our natural world it stands in beauty ever pointing us to the Truth.
    Bless you, your work and many, many happy returns.

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