All things considered…this may be wishful thinking.
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
A. Lincoln, March 1, 1861
I often show images such as these to my APUSH students when we discuss the racism embedded in Reconstruction Era political discourse. While nearly all white Americans (from both sides of the political spectrum) endorsed what we, from a twenty-first century perspective, would consider racist assumptions and stereotypes, the conservative Democrats (especially in the former Confederacy) did so with a particular zeal. This does not seem to surprise my students at all. It makes sense that the people who had fought to preserve slavery would be racists. What they have trouble with is the notion that white Republicans – those who championed emancipation and eventually equality before the law for all Americans – could just as readily embrace the shared racist proclivities of white America. For example, they might support civil, but not social equality; suffrage, but not political determinism.
One of the greatest challenges for students is to distance historical actors from neat and tidy categories. Though we have have a tendency to compartmentalize things for the sake of simplification and easy explanation – seldom does history unfold with clean edges. I am working on a web-course right now that will address the complexities of this era – tailored specifically for APUSH and college students. Expect the launch this month….just in time for test prep. See how that works out?
I can’t help but wonder what people think they are doing by going on hysterical rants across the various social media platforms. I am not talking about the occasional humorous meme or the not-so-humorous news story that you wish to share with your friends on your own timelines, I am talking about Internet trolls and their endless stream of ideologically motivated shit-smearing on comment threads – especially Facebook.
If you think that you are somehow participating in the body politic you are either delusional or just confused. Here’s a suggestion (and I speak to all political affiliations here). Instead of ranting from the comfort of your favorite Archie Bunker chair, try to get involved – I mean really involved. If you feel so strongly about your political agenda, volunteer for the candidate who best reflects your personal politics, learn and engage the issues like an adult – with data and reasonable discourse. Because here is what you are otherwise accomplishing: 100% of nothing.
My guess is that you won’t do anything beyond anonymously spewing glazed-over fanatical vitriol. Why? Because you probably don’t have the cajones or the knowledge to rationally debate someone face to face in a productive way and you really have nothing meaningful to add to the conversation anyway. Yet you still won’t SHUT THE FUCK UP, which means that you are part of the problem. You breed divisiveness and perpetuate ignorance. I think we have had enough of that.