American Bigotry: 1832, 2018

Just a note, in case you’re interested: On this date in 1832, virulently racist President Andrew Jackson named Elbert Herring the first commissioner of the recently reorganized Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Freshly incorporated into the War Department, this newly emboldened agency soon enacted, at Jackson’s specific request, the forced removal of thousands of Native Americans from their rightful land, leading to the Trail of Tears. This wasn’t the first time Indians would be kicked off their land, nor would it be the last, but it was the largest such event of its kind, and the most brutal: an estimated 2,500-6,000 died as they were shoved west and involuntarily settled on reservations.

On a related note: Donald Trump cites Jackson as an inspiration. Could Jackson’s anti-Indian attitudes be inspiring the current president’s use of ICE to round up and detain Mexican immigrants, even those who are already naturalized citizens?

“Join, or Die:” America’s First Meme

Benjamin Franklin’s 1754 version of the iconic reptile.

The “Join, or Die” snake is one of America’s most recognizable, beloved and replicated icons. Emblazoned on flags and t-shirts, pillow cases and iPhone cases, and even on tv show title cards and in comic books, the image is upheld today as a both specifically as an emblem of American independence, and generally as bid for unity against a common oppression. But the world’s most adored reptile didn’t start this way.

Created by Benjamin Franklin in 1754, the “Join, or Die” snake originally signified loyalty to the English empire. It wasn’t a call to action, but an order to fall into line. It was only later that “Join, or Die” evolved into a revolutionary rallying cry — and when it did, it became America’s first meme, too.

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Found in the LOC: 5 Alcoholism PSAs, 1972-1976

I recently celebrated six years since my last alcoholic beverage. Awesome, right?! I think so, especially since I started drinking at age 12 or 13 and by the end of my journey, at age 31, I was waking at 6am just to take a slug of whiskey, of which I drank at least a liter daily before passing out in a puddle of sweat and filth on my frame-less mattress, as I had done the day before, and the one before that, and before that, too. You get the idea.

By the time I hit bottom I was unemployed, kicked out of my apartment and penniless.  Luckily, I had friends and family willing to help me down the road to recovery. And now here I am: I have a roof over my head, steady work, a boyfriend and a cat, and, most importantly, an incredible sense of accomplishment for having freed myself from a cycle of shame and regret.

With that in mind, and with discussion that alcohol perhaps played a role in Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s suicides, here are five vintage PSAs about alcoholism, all government-issued between 1972 and 1976. Why don’t such things exist today? I haven’t done too much research, but my educated guess is that it has something to do with liquor lobbyists and political persuasion and some agreement that a small “please drink responsibly” print fulfilled the companies’ legal obligations, even though The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found in 2105 that 15.1 million adults suffer from alcoholism in the United States, while 26.9% of adults reported binge drinking that same year.

Meanwhile, alcohol contributes to 88,000 deaths annually, and that’s not counting drunk driving deaths (almost 10,500 in 2017), nor does it consider the contributing role alcohol plays in non-fatal domestic and sexual violence (an estimated 100,000 cases each year). In other words, alcohol has vast destructive potential too often ignored.

If you are struggling with your alcohol usage, please check out Alcoholics Anonymous or another dedicated group. I’m proof that even the most desperate of cases can free themselves from alcohol dependency. It takes hard work and a lot of honesty and you may lose some drinking buddies, but it’s far less than what could be taken from you in the long run: your life.

Anyway, check out these dope alcoholism PSAs, AFTER THE JUMP….

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The Incredible Arthur Ellerman

The Ellerman crew circa 1917. Based on his football background, I think Arthur’s standing second from right.

 

A history book’s minor character becomes the author’s editorial sidepiece, resulting in an essay that includes log cabins, net neutrality, research methods, Twin Peaks, romance, politics and one very good dog.

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Found in the LOC: Telegraph Repair, 1862

On this date in 1844, Samuel Morse typed out the first telegraph, sending a message from DC to Baltimore: “What hath God wrought?” Quite: we all know the technological revolution would accelerate exponentially in decades ahead, ending with, at the moment, smart phones. Who knows what will be next… Something more inescapable, intrusive and indispensable, that’s for sure.

That said, today’s truncated Found in the LOC is an image of a telegraph repairman doing his thing circa 1862. He’s like a high-tech lumberjack!

(And for more Found in the LOC, click here.)

Fun with Words: Trump and Obstruction

This semi-regular feature, Fun with Words (aka Etymological Adventures), has previously explored the linguistic roots of collusion, a word with which we’re all familiar due to – well, you know: Donald Trump and his constellation of cronies’ shady dealings. Today we’ll briefly explore another once-rarish term that Trump’s thrust into our everyday usage, collusion’s cousin by association: obstruction.

Born from the Latin word, obstructionem, itself the offspring of Ob, Latin for “in front of,” and the verb strurer, for “to pile or build,” the term “obstruction” emerged in English around the 1530s, and translated literally into “building up” or “creating a barrier” – a barrier like a wall, which, as we all know, real estate mogul Trump wants to make literal at the Mexican border.

In the meantime, Trump’s busying himself building a rhetorical wall against justice, a barrier built through lies and coercion, through acts like intervening in the Michael Flynn case; firing James Comey over his refusal to intervene in said case; drafting a faux narrative for Donald Trump Jr. to regurgitate vis a vis his meeting with Russians; Trump’s recent politicized demands that the DOJ investigate the FBI; and let’s not forget the barriers created by Trump’s unsubtle attacks on people involved in these investigations, not least of all against Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whom Trump has tried to influence by warning him not to nose around his personal finances…. All of this and more builds up a wall of lies and obfuscation that is the very definition of obstruction.

Perhaps one day truth, justice and karma will tear down that wall, burying Trump in a mess of his own making.

(For more Fun with Words, click here!)

Meghan Markle Tops Donald Trump

An estimated 29 million Americans tuned in early Saturday morning to watch Meghan Markle marry Prince Harry. That’s about 5 million more than in England itself, and about six million more Americans than who watched Will and Kate Middleton marry seven years ago.

Why did so many more viewers tune in to this wedding versus the last? Are there more televisions now than there were then? Is it that we love Harry more than Will; because we’re all fans of Suits, the show on which Markle starred; or is it because Meghan’s biracial and her entry into the British royal family is a watershed historical moment?

Sure, all of that makes sense, but it seems to me that so many Americans are enthusiastic about Meghan Markle becoming the Duchess of Sussex because we like seeing a polished and seemingly empathetic American representing us on the international stage. With the buffoon president’s steady stream of racist, hateful rhetoric, general dishonesty and pungent nastiness sullying our national name, it’s nice to have an American standing with/for dignity and grace —and not just an American, but a biracial woman whose path — and the once-stodgy royal family’s embrace of — is the emotional and sociopolitical opposite of all President Trump represents.

Meghan Markle is the face of America’s future; Donald Trump and his reactionary racism are its past.

(PS: I was going to have a photo of Trump next to fresh-faced Markle for juxtaposition purposes, but it just didn’t feel right having his ugly mug next to such beauty.)