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Half-right, in a bad way: David Brooks and the founders’ ugly racial legacy

In his Feb. 26 column, “The Governing Cancer of Our Time,” New York Times columnist David Brooks praised the founding fathers in contrast to today’s tea partiers and other zealots for favoring politics over brute force, and compromise over intransigence. He’s partly right in that solving social conflict through politics and compromise is one of the founders’ legacies. But he’s also wrong in a dangerous way: violence and intransigence on the issue of white racial power are also central to our founding inheritance, and we would be a healthier society for recognizing that.

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Odd couple: Me on the front page, Hobby Lobby on the back

Front-page Sent-Trib pic of me in my messy office. By J.D. Poole.

Front-page Sent-Trib pic of me in my messy office. By J.D. Poole.

Today the Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune published a nice profile (by David Dupont) of me and FIghting over the Founders, right on the front page.  The Sent-Trib doesn’t publish on Sundays or holidays, so this is its “Independence Day Weekend Edition.”

And, right on cue, just as I point out that people use the founders for their political purposes, there’s a full-page Hobby Lobby ad—printed on the paper’s back page—enlisting the founders in Hobby Lobby’s efforts to proselytize and demonstrate the United States is a “Christian” nation (in quotations because Hobby’s Lobby’s Christianity is not necessarily everyone’s Christianity).

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Next step, Obama in breeches? Organizing for Action uses Gadsden flag

OFA Gadsden-flag-inspired bumper sticker

Organizing for Action, the political organization descended from Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign, is now giving out bumper stickers inspired by the Gadsden flag that tea partiers have loved so much.  What’s interesting to me is how stylized this flag is.  I think the stethoscope is clear, but the graphic and caption on it wouldn’t make much sense unless we assume that the vast majority of the people who see this sticker would be familiar both with the original flag and with tea partiers’ use of it.  Here’s yet another case of how memories can be re-appropriated (perhaps re-reappropriated?).  It will be interesting to see whether there’s the same kind of controversy after this as there was after Kanye West wore a confederate flag last fall.  My guess is not, although there may be some of the same racial dynamics: an African-American male taking a symbol generally used by conservative euro-Americans, and using it to sell something that many of them don’t like (in this case, Obamacare, in West’s case, himself).

Oh, if you’re interested in getting one of these, click here.

Five years on, tea party part of the visual landscape

College students talk to tea partier at CPAC

College students talk to tea partier at CPAC

The picture on the left accompanied an article in today’s New York Times about young Republicans at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.  The article makes a point of profiling a young Republican with a green-and-orange mohawk.  But to me, what’s more interesting is that it does not comment at all on the man on the right, William Temple, except to refer to him as a Tea party supporter.  Incidentally, he’s a regular at this conservative confab, and appears in colonial drag all over the intergoogle.  But still, that a man could walk around in this costume and evince no acknowledgment at all from the gray lady reporter about his get-up indicates that we have become desensitized to the appearance of people wearing Revolutionary-era-inspired clothes in a political context.