December 10, 1902:
“You only live once and it is best to live one’s life with one’s conscience rather than to temporize or accept with silence those things one believes to be against the interests of one’s people and one’s nation.”
—Vito Marcantonio in Congress June 27, 1950, the only Congressional voice opposed to U.S. intervention in the Korean War.
Vito Marcantonio was perhaps the most consequential radical politician in the United States in the twentieth century. Elected to Congress from New York’s ethnically Italian and Puerto Rican East Harlem slums, Marcantonio, in his time, held office longer than any other third-party radical, serving seven terms from 1934 to 1950. Colorful and controversial, Marcantonio captured national prominence as a powerful orator and brilliant parliamentarian. Often allied with the U.S. Communist Party (CP), he was an advocate of civil rights, civil liberties, labor unions, and Puerto Rican independence. He supported social security and unemployment legislation for what later was called a “living wage” standard. And he annually introduced anti-lynching and anti–poll tax bills a decade before it became respectable. He also opposed the House Un-American Activities Committee, red-baiting, and antisemitism, and fought for the rights of the foreign-born. He was a bold outspoken opponent of U.S. imperialism. (Adapted from another blog post)
“If it be radicalism to believe that our natural resources should be used for the benefit of all of the American people and not for the purpose of enriching just a few…then, Ladies and Gentlemen of this House I accept the charge. I plead guilty to the charge; I am a radical and I am willing to fight it out…until hell freezes over.”
“I have stood by the fundamental principles which I have always advocated. I have not trimmed. I have not retreated. I do not apologize, and I am not compromising.”
—Vito Marcantonio, in his last speech to Congress
On the morning of August 9, 1954, Vito Marcantonio, only fifty-one-years-old, dropped dead of a heart attack in the rain on lower Broadway near City Hall.
When observing a lion and a giraffe, it is pretty easy to tell that they are separate species, they look different and they behave different. Even when they look somewhat alike for example a lion, cheetah or a leopard one quickly notices enough behavioral differences to conclude that they were different species. Sometimes, however, it takes a long time and a lot of observation before differences between animal species are recognized, especially if they look alike. So it is with the two species of Chimpanzee (Genus: Pan), the Common Chimpanzee (Species: troglodytes) and the Bonobo (Species: paniscus). The Chimps were “discovered” by people living outside of Africa about the beginning of the Eighteenth Century, yet it was not until the middle of the Twentieth Century that those who study this sort of thing realized that troglodytes was not paniscus. It took decades of constant observation thereafter to recognize how different their behaviors really were.
One reason for this difficulty in recognizing the chimp – bonobo difference, is that, among the “Great Apes” (e.g, Gorillas, Chimpanzees, Orangutans, Homo Sapiens Sapiens, us, and the now extinct early Hominids that we met on our travels out of Africa) although we may not look alike, we do spend most of their days pretty much alike. We all sleep, eat, pick our noses and examine what’s hanging from our finger-tip, sit and stare off in the distance, belch and fart, defecate and throw our feces at each other, have sex, scratch, poke sticks into termite nests, examine what comes out attached to the stick for a while then lick it off (like licking an ice cream cone), scratch, sit and stare some more, go about our business getting something to eat, and so on: you know, same old same old.
Working something out
Although, to a significant extent, we can tell the difference between many of the Great Ape species easily by how they look and things like that; arboreal or terrestrial, big or small, hairy or less so and so on, not so with chimps and bonobos. Not only do they look a lot alike but at first it was assumed they behaved the same. Then one day some scientists, who had probably spent a good part of their lives in the bush, noticed that now and then groups of male chimps would go out a kill one or two other chimps for fun or would patrol boundaries of their territory and kill any chimp from another tribe that wandered in. The scientists then tried to determine if this was an aberration or a regular behavior pattern. Finding it to be something that chimps often do, they then decided to see if bonobo’s did the same thing. Armed with the results of their studies on this and other behavioral oddities of the chimps, scientists spent decades with Bonobo’s looking for similar behavior.
They were surprised. Instead of killing those of their own kind they did not like, the bonobos engaged in every conceivable sexual perversion imaginable with just about anyone who came along as a means, the researchers reasoned, to avoid conflict (that it may have been smarter and a lot more fun, never seemed to enter the researchers minds.) Included among the milder examples of the bonobo’s lascivious behavior was the practice of rubbing each others genitals just to say hello. I imagine approaching someone and rubbing his or her genitals, in human society would not be considered a friendly act nor would it reduce aggression. More the worse for us.
So there you have it. Two species of Ape looking a lot alike and most of the time behaving a lot alike but when it came to dealing with others, responding quite differently. One aggressive and territorial and the other not so. One believing in “make love not war,” and the other in “Fuck you, its mine.” One more like us and the other more like we would like to be. Perhaps it is this conflict in self-image that has prompted the dichotomy within humans that has caused them so much pain over the ages.
The forgotten Ape
I suspect that when our ancestors moved into Eurasia, although they more or less physically resembled the Hominids already there, they behaved differently in a lot of ways. Our ancestors may have behaved more chimp-like and those already living there more like bonobos.
This does not mean that the existing hominids were passive and did not engage in violence even savage violence but only that it was, in general, manifested differently. If one were to try to take the food from the mouth a bonobo, I suspect he would fight you just as savagely as a chimp would. Also, it does not mean that chimps and Homo Sap Saps spend their days killing or dreaming about killing members of their own species. It only means that they had predilections in many things, reactions to stimuli one can say, by which they conducted their lives that affected how they behaved toward each other and those they considered not members of their tribe. For example I suspect for the earlier hominids violence was limited primarily to the hunt and at direct threats while Sap Sap, like the chimps, saw territorial issues and group membership as perhaps more significant.
In addition there appeared to be another archeological clue that may demonstrate a fundamental social and behavioral difference between the earlier species and the newer migrating hominids. Archeological, anthropological and genetic evidence, such as found in the Denisova cave seem to show that the pre HSS hominid’s of different species would at times live together and, as indicated above, fewer remains showed intra or inter-species violence among other hominids than they showed inter-species violence among HSS. Also the inhabited caves seems to be a lack of evidence of HSS occupation at the same time as the other Hominids, before or after perhaps but rarely, as far as can be determined, at the same time.
Family life before HSS showed up
Also related to this seeming aversion or clannishness among the new arrivals, it appears that the earlier hominids easily trekked back and forth through each others territory without too much of a problem. There is even evidence that some of them were able to return to Africa now and then. On the other hand, HSS almost never backtracked. It was almost 20,000 years of migration before they began to intrude into territory they had previously passed through. I suspect, one of the reasons for this reticence was that, as they knew they themselves would, their long-lost cousins would, chimp like, view them as enemies and try to drive them away or kill them.
Although analogy is a poor form of proof, it sometime is helpful in making things clearer although alas at other times unfortunately muddling everything up. With that caveat, consider the lion with her kill. Just as she sits down to snack on the gazelle she killed she looks up and sees a pack of jackals or hyena’s inching in. She smacks at one and they scatter. Unlike, her experience with other lions who once she establishes dominance would move off to find something else to eat that did not require a fight, these scavengers stay and stare, saliva dripping from their teeth ready to rush in and grab something if she is distracted for a moment. Often, the lion, instead of enjoying its meal, is so disturbed it abandons its kill and moves off. Scavengers and pack predators behave like that. Even if the lion remembers the event and moves off to hunt somewhere other than where she met the hyenas, she would soon find that implacably they followed her.
Hyenas and lions
At the risk of gross over simplification, I believe our ancestors most likely behaved more like a mix of pack predator and committed scavenger, perhaps resembling a wolf pack of a biker gang as much as anything else. The other hominids, however, although they also most likely scavenged for a significant portion of their diet, more resembled predators like the lions, in their behavior and attitudes.
I imagine, those hominids to be somewhat like the gentle giants we all are familiar with. The football player who while he it doing his job during the game does it with shocking savagery but after the game is gentle as can be, avoids confrontation at all costs but if challenged or cornered reacts at though he were back playing the game. Sort of like Lenny in Of Mice and Men or Frankenstein’s Monster capable of great violence but generally avoiding it unless necessary for his job. And if a mistake occurs and someone is unintentionally killed well it is regrettable. He feels sad perhaps also feels sad for the others who have lost someone, but it has happened and cannot be undone so he is prepared, maybe even with heavy heart, to get on with his life. Imagine his uncomprehending surprise, when he is faced with a mob of weak and puny creatures with pitchforks and torches out to murder him for something that could not be changed.
Next: Creation myth update #3: Maybe we are not in Mr Rogers’ neighborhood anymore Toto, part III: Meet the new Neighbors.
- Bonobos Share Food to Make New Friends (newsy.com)
- Chimps in Uganda: Rising Conflict (blogs.scientificamerican.com)
- Bonobos buy friends with bananas (mnn.com)
- Bonobos Offer Banana Bribes for Friendship (blogs.smithsonianmag.com)
- Focus On: Chimps and Compassion (patcoyle53.wordpress.com)
Before returning to the story about the genetic history of humanity described in some of the recently published books on the subject I have read during the past few months, I thought a slight detour would be appropriate.
While most people who study the subject generally agree that a small group of anatomically modern humans, probably about 20 or so, left Africa sometime between 60,000 to 45,000 years ago and populated the rest of the planet, for many years it was assumed that except for an odd Neanderthal or two, the world outside of Africa was unpopulated allowing Homo Sapiens Sapiens to walk in and take control of the vast open spaces of the earth. After all, the only creatures that walk upright, use tools and talk on earth today are we Homo Sap Saps.
Alas, recent paleontological and genetic discoveries seem to indicate that the huge landmass called Eurasia was chock full of upright walking, tool using, trash talking hominids most of whom were bigger and stronger than the puny creatures that made up that forlorn little band containing the ancestors of most of us that had left Africa about 50,000 years ago.
As far as can be determined by anthropological, paleontological and genetic discoveries so far, our band of Homo Sapiens Sapiens (Very very smart people) faced not only Homo sapiens neanderthalensis and Denisovians who we discussed last chapter, but also Homo Erectus (upright people), Homo floresiensis (sometimes referred to as the “Hobbits”), maybe a few Homo heidelbergensis (people from Heidelberg who auditioned for “The Student Prince” and have scars on their cheeks.) and possibly others we do not know about yet.
That is a lot of people whose neighborhoods H Sap Sap was about to invade. Some of them like the Neanderthals and the Denisovans had larger cranial capacity (bigger heads) than HSS and may very well have been smarter. They all could speak, use fire and appear to have developed languages. Also they all used tools similar to those used by HSS and lived in small hunter-gatherer groups. Finally, except for the Hobbits which were pygmies living in Indonesia, they all were larger and a heck of a lot stronger than Sap Sap. Here is a comparison between a Neanderthal skeleton and a fully modern human one:
Neanderthal skeleton on the left and modern human on the right.
Neanderthals had massive, broad shoulders, about 8% larger than their modern human contemporaries. Their pec muscles were enormous, up to twice the size of today’s average human. Neanderthals had shorter, wider muscular upper arms. The bones in their forearms were actually bowed from muscles that must have powered a grip that could crush stone. Neanderthal fingers and thumbs had upwards of twice the strength of modern humans. All of this upper body musculature was anchored on a solid foundation of massive quads that specialized in explosive power and side-to-side movement. Neanderthals were probably better at throwing than their modern contemporaries (It has been suggested that some Neanderthals escaped extinction and have been recruited by professional football and rugby teams around the world).
So, given that they were bigger, stronger, perhaps even brighter than our ancestors and mothers and possessed comparable technology, how did our ancestors manage to get rid of them all and take over the world?
Some theorized we dazzled them with our technology. The problem with that is we all began with about the same technology – rocks. At some point we made our rocks a little sharper edged than they did with their rocks, which some argue shows that we were really smarter than they were. On the other hand, our ancestors initially lived by combing the beaches where they probably used shells for scraping and cutting things. The edges of shells are pretty sharp. It is just as likely that we were used to sharper tools and formed the edges of appropriate rocks to mimic them. There is no need to postulate an act of genus when most people in fact try to hold on to favored technologies as long as they can. In any event, the neanderthals adopted the new technology pretty quickly anyway. And, certainly simply wielding a sharper edged stone tool was not going to make the difference in a fight with someone who was capable of bringing down a giant mastodon armed only with a rock and who could break your bones with his bare hands.
Some others say we were physically better able to handle the extreme climate changes of the time. Unfortunately for this theory, these various hominids had been dealing successfully with even greater climate shifts for hundreds of thousands of years before they ran into HSS.
Another theory is that we out-competed them for food. This makes no sense to me because if we killed all the game we would die also.
There must have been other reasons why the last few of the Neanderthals ended up reduced to sitting in a cave in Gibraltar chewing on uncooked seal meat waiting patiently to expire as a species.
The guests are gone from the pavilion high,
In the small garden flowers are whirling around.
Along the winding path the petals lie;
To greet the setting sun, they drift up from the ground.
Heartbroken, I cannot bear to sweep them away;
From my eyes, spring soon disappears.
I pine with passing, heart’s desire lost for aye;
Nothing is left but a robe stained with tears.
Li Shang-Yin, ninth century BCE
Consider this, although the remains of the other early hominids often show broken bones and other injuries from their incredibly hard and difficult lives, it is rare that their remains are discovered with their head crushed in with a rock, or with a spear point up its rectum or tied up, beaten with clubs and thrown into a bog like is only too often found among human remains.
I think perhaps at least part of the answer, lies in understanding the difference between our nearest non-hominid cousins the chimpanzees (pan troglodytes) and the bonobos (pan paniscus). The bonobos are a pretty peace-loving, although by even human standards a stunningly over-sexed, species. The chimpanzees, on the other hand, seem to be the only species other than HSS who kill for the hell of it.
Like a rotten log
half buried in the ground -
my life, which
has not flowered, comes
to this sad end.
Minamoto Yorimasa, 1104-1180
(Part 2 of Mister Rogers Neighborhood to be included in next post.)
- More Hobbit Fossils Confirm Existence Of Species (dispatchesfromturtleisland.blogspot.com)
- More Fun with Neanderthals (23andme.com)
- The Irony of the Projectile [Greg Laden's Blog] (scienceblogs.com)
- Neanderthals May Have Sailed to Crete (news.discovery.com)
- Stone me! Spears show early human species was sharper than we thought (guardian.co.uk)
A few days ago, while rooting around in the bowels of the internet, to my surprise I discovered that it is true that science never sleeps. After publication of the five or so books I had read on the subject written in the past three years or while they were still in galley or proof, too late to change the authors self-congratulatory words, a few new discoveries regarding the genetic history of humanity emerged that if not throwing everything into a tizzy and least has left a lot of people bemused.
During the latter portion of 2010 scientists unravelled the genetic code of a finger bone of a female living about 40,000 years ago. Lo and behold they found that some of it also appears in the genetic structure of our merry band making its way along the coast of Asia on its way to Australia.
Several things make this discovery especially surprising. The first of which was that the woman in question was not human. Well, not human human or Homo Sapiens Sapiens (so named by scientist Carl Linnaeus in a fit of fervent racial superiority, and meaning the “really smart one” as opposed to other Homo sapiens whatevers who are just “pretty smart”) but a hitherto little known group named the Denisovans after the cave in which their remains were found. (We do not know what they will be officially called yet. Perhaps, Homo Sapiens Denisovans or “the pretty smart people who lived in the Denisova cave a long time ago and where we much smarter people found their bones and figured all this out.”) Among the remains in this cave were also found those of Neanderthals and Neanderthal-Denisovan hybrids. Eventually, after the others had left, humans found their way there and for the last 20,000 years or so have kept coming back including about 200 years ago when a hermit monk named Denis, for whom the cave was named, took up residence.
This seemingly lusty group had other surprises in store. One of which is that this love cave is in the Altai Mountains in Southeastern Russia, a long way away from the beaches of Southeast Asia where Homo Sap Sap on his way to Australia was lazing his days on the sand eating oysters and drinking Mai-tais. It is a pretty long way to go for recreational sex, if you ask me.
So after a lot of study and thought, they determined that that part of Russia was about as far as the Denisovans would travel for trysting with the Neanderthals and that they in fact spent most of their time in and around, you guessed it – Thailand, where H sap sap dallied for a while and where the Denisovans contributed their genetic material to a long line of Australians and Melanesians (about 8% of their genetic code).
Around about the same time in 2010, it was also discovered that more or less somewhere in the modern state of Israel, Neanderthals interbred with members of our H Sap Sap ancestors too. (Now I will leave for another time discussion of whether the insane Sand-god of the Peoples of the Book was actually a Neanderthal rapist. But, I suggest you consider Michelangelo’s depiction of the Creator on the Sistine Ceiling that appears to look a lot like HSN [Homo sapiens neanderthalensis] with his beetle brow, hirsutism and broad muscled upper body.)
Someone’s idea of what a Neanderthal looked like. Clearly he had many of the physical qualities Michelangelo liked in his men. Equip him with long white hair and beard, dress him in a toga and he could look a lot like God. (Unfortunately he also looks a lot like the photographs of some of my Sicilian relatives.)
All of us, other than Africans and Melanesians, have 1 to 4% Neanderthal genes.
So it seems wherever they went on their beach-side vacation either Mrs. or Miss HSS slipped off into the bushes to spend some quality time with a local. And, after the birth of the somewhat strange-looking offspring, it was all hushed up until it disappeared into family legend only to be eventually revealed by a bunch of nosey scientists.
Now you may think I am being sexist in telling this story. But strangely enough I am not, at least not as much as one would think. According to Professor Dr, Svante Paabo who unraveled the mystery of this ancient interspecies mating:
” So the most reasonable thing is that this was, yes, modern human women with Neanderthal men that were presumably very attractive to them.”
Also, surprisingly, it seems that only HSS females got impregnated. HSS men, if they tried, do not appear to have succeeded.
My sister is coming to me
my heart dances
and I open my arms to her.
My heart is at home
like a fish in its holding tank
O night, be mine forever,
now that my queen has come!
Ancient Egyptian poem (Cairo vase, poem A, #5)
Why did it not work with the men? No one really knows. Perhaps it was merely chance. I believe, however, that the Neanderthals and Denisovans, who were much stronger than the relatively skinny HSS and had larger cranial capacity, simply were more physically or mentally able to resist their approach. Or perhaps, even had HSS males resorted to gang rape, to which I suspect they may have been more accustomed, its sperm may simply have been too puny.
So seize the day! hold holiday!
Be unwearied, unceasing, alive
you and your own true love;
Let not the heart be troubled during your
sojourn on Earth,
but seize the day as it passes!
Ancient Egyptian poem 1160 BC
In any event, many believe that among the benefits of HSS breeding with Neanderthals and Denisovians is that the latter gave to HSS certain genes that made them immune to a number of diseases. As Dr. Jonica Newby another member of the scientific team that unravelled the gene sequences in these early hominids observed:
“What that means is that sex with Neanderthals and Denisovans helped our ancestors colonize the world. So it looks like our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmothers took one for the team.”
Note: these interspecies trysts among our ancestors were not a common experience. Apparently, over a period of about 10,000 years or so, they occurred only once or twice in the Near-east and a few more times than that in Southeast Asia.
(to be continued – Next: Maybe we are not in Mr. Rogers Neighborhood anymore Toto.)
I recently went to see The Impossible, a film about an european family’s experiences while vacationing in Thailand during the 2004 tsunami. The scenes showing the fury of the water and the devastation caused by the inundation were riveting. Even more so were the images of its aftermath – the makeshift hospitals, the body bags, the injured, frightened, lost people and the frenzy of those searching for their missing loved ones. The movie brought back to me some long forgotten memories.
One evening, about four years after the tsunami, a friend and his wife invited me to join them at a reception in a home in Mill Valley, California. The homeowner’s family and another family, like the family in the movie, were vacationing in Thailand when the tsunami struck. The purpose of the reception was to raise funds for the ongoing tsunami relief efforts that the two families were heavily involved in.
The host’s family had been vacationing in Phi-Phi Island in the heart of the Andaman Sea. They had their two children with them, both girls; one about six or seven years old and the other perhaps eleven. They had just walked from their hotel to one of the two main beaches on the island about 200 yards apart on opposite sides of its wasp-waisted middle. They arrived at the beach just as the water suddenly rushed away exposing the sea floor almost to the horizon. Many people were standing around dumbfounded, staring at the curious phenomena. When the wife wondered aloud “What do you suppose that is all about,” an older Thai woman standing next to her responded, “I do not know, but if I were you I would take your beautiful child and run.” And so they did, as soon did almost everyone else when they noticed a ten meter high wall of water surging across the uncovered sea bed toward the shore. They all turned and ran toward the beach on the opposite side of the island where they thought they would be safe.
For some reason the oldest child yelled “no not there, up here,” pointing to the nearest of the two high hills sitting at each end of the tiny island. And so they ran up the mountain with the water literally lapping at their heels. Up they ran until, near the peak, they found a grove of trees in which they took refuge and there they remained along with a few other survivors for the two or so days it took to be rescued.
Those that ran to the opposite beach all died as the second of the two tsunami waves struck that beach from the opposite direction.
The other family was not so lucky. They had been vacationing at Khao Lak (the site depicted in the movie, where over 4500 people died). In addition to the husband and wife, the family included a daughter, 14, and a son about 12 years old. They were all avid scuba divers and had spent much of their vacation happily diving off the dive boats that took them out to the reefs and the nearby islands where the water was clearer for diving than it was closer to the mainland. It was the final day of their vacation and the father wanted to spend one last morning diving before they left. The children did not. They preferred to spend their last day relaxing near the hotel. So early in the morning, the parents took the dive boat with a few other committed divers to a favored spot over a reef out of sight of land.
While diving, they felt a slight but powerful up thrust of the water. When they rose to the surface and looked about, they discovered that they were hundreds of yards from the boat. They also noticed the other divers, who had been close by, now had been dispersed as much as a mile away from each other. After they were all picked up by the boat, they decided to head back to the mainland. As they came in sight of the land, they saw the ocean in front of them thickly covered with debris extending several miles out from shore.
As they slowed and got closer to the debris they noticed what appeared to be hundreds of dead dogs floating amongst the refuse. Closer still they realized that these “dead dogs” were in fact many types of dead animals including dogs and to their horror humans as well. A few were still alive and the boat trolled around a bit picking up those that they could locate.
When they arrived at the shore, they found much of the hotel destroyed and the casitas, in one of which the family had been staying, utterly demolished. The parents desperately spent the next few days searching for their children. The boy was eventually located alive, lying in a field about two miles inland from the hotel with a piece of fencing driven through one of his thighs.
The boy told his parents that he and his sister had been lying on separate beds in their room, he reading and she napping, when they heard a noise like hundreds of freight trains roaring together down the tracks. Water suddenly burst through the walls, picked him up and carried him out the open door at the back of the casita. For some reason, he was borne on the top of the leading edge of the wave as it roared inland through the village and then out into the countryside. He was unable to move until the flood spent its fury and gently deposited him in the field where he was discovered.
The daughter was not found. The father, in much the same way as the father in the film, spent the next month in a lonely search for his daughter through the hospitals and the refugee camps. And, one by one he went through the thousands of body bags opening each one to see if his daughter was inside. They never found her body.
The family that invited me to the reception also experienced the tsunami but in a slightly different way. They too were vacationing in Thailand at the time but decided to fly off to Sri Lanka to spend some time at a recently opened resort on that islands southeastern shore owned by an acquaintance. After they landed, they learned that the Tsunami had just hit. Not knowing the extent of the destruction, they decided to rent a car and drive to the hotel. As they drove along the coastal roads, they were perhaps the first outsiders to view the devastation (33,000 Sri Lankans died). When they realized the full extent of the damage the wife and children returned to the airport and left to go back to the US. He remained behind for several weeks helping to co-ordinate the relief efforts.
I had forgotten about all this until the image on the screen of the desperate father wandering through the ruins in search of his family jogged my memory.
- Tsunami survivor Jake Canuso’s terror at getting back into the water (thetimes.co.uk)
- Miracle mum relives 2004 Tsunami ordeal which inspired new movie The Impossible (dailyrecord.co.uk)
- The Impossible is ‘beautifully accurate’, writes tsunami survivor (guardian.co.uk)
- Strong earthquake jolts Alaska, sparks tsunami warning (foxnews.com)
- Five of the Best Family Beach Vacations (epicatravel.com)
- The Impossible: A movie about a tsunami in Asia…but not about Asians? (sumishanaidu.com)
I am considering starting a new blog focused on commentary about historical events. Of course if it is anything like my current and past attempts I can expect that after a year of effort, I will have received about 35 hits and perhaps a dozen comments. About half of the comments will be from Nigeria or some place like that letting me know that my efforts have changed their lives and inquiring if I would be willing to open up a bank account in their name where they could deposit $20 million they just happened to find lying around in the jungle that, for “technical” reasons they can not move out of the country. The other half will come from people with names like Cindy, Mindy, Sandy, Darla and Isabel telling me how “awesome” (yes that is the word they use) they found my post to be and how awesome (again) it would be to get together sometime where we could exchange blogs in private.
Everyone I assume is familiar with history. History is “His Story,” the songs and stories men tell to themselves, about themselves and for themselves. His Story probably began about 50,000 years or so ago when the biggest dickhead in town turned to the skinny smart guy and says,”Sing a song about me or I will push your face into the bottom of the campfire.” And so it has been ever since.
Of course women have songs and stories too, but men never seem to have gotten around to remembering very many of them or writing them down.
Did you ever wonder why, in the few cases where the His Storians got around to retelling a woman’s story or song, say like Catherine the Great or Boadicea, they sound a little incredulous like, “No shit! She did that? Wow.”
It never ceases to amaze me that we men, who happily can sit around the campfire getting drunk and stoned contemplating raping one or more of the women in the band while recalling with pleasure killing a shitload of humans or other animals earlier in the day, rarely if ever seem to realize that some of the women simply do not get it. That is why we are all so surprised when every hundred years or so some woman gets pissed off when she recognizes what had been done to her and wrecks havoc in retribution.
September 1854: U.S. Senator David R. Atchison (D-MO) letter to U.S. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis:
“[O]ur people are resolved to go in [to Kansas] and take their niggers with them…. [Within six months we will have] the Devil to play in Kansas… We are organizing. We will be compelled to shoot, burn, and hang, but the thing will soon be over: we intend to “Mormonize” the abolitionists…. In a public speech, I advised the squatters in Kansas and the people of Missouri to give a horse thief, robber, or [murderer] a fair trial, but to hang a Negro thief or abolitionist without judge or jury. This sentiment met with almost universal applause…”
1981: Lee Atwater, one-time chair of the Republican National Committee and member of the Reagan administration:
“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger’. By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ – that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing [and] states’ rights. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites … obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘nigger, nigger’.”
It appears as though all that has changed in over the past 120 years in American politics is the name of the political party and nature of the rhetoric.
I believe these two quotes could well begin just about every attempt to describe current conservative political philosophy and the positions taken by the modern Republican Party.
Ideas, like actions have consequences. Atchison and Atwater in these statements demonstrate the unbroken power of fear and hate in the contest for political power.
Those who seek to possess or preserve wealth or power through the political process can never gain it in a democratic society unless it can ally itself with the fears and hates of those in the majority whose economic and social position is tenuous.
Although, we can take just about any issue of current political significance to demonstrate how Atwater’s insight works, let’s take gun control:
Does anyone still really believe the gun control debate is about the Constitution, freedom or liberty?
Forget for a moment the influence of a few large gun manufacturers who in one way or another fund the lobbying and public relations activities of the NRA, does anyone believe that gun control regulations will prevent hunters from hunting?
No one, not even the NRA believes that unlimited access to firearms will protect school children from crazy white guys with assault rifles. Even they propose, highly trained and probably regulated armed guards as a solution.
Would anyone really feel safer if everyone on an airplane carried a gun instead of the occasional trained Air Marshall?
Does anyone believe that our armed forces will suddenly go AWOL so that a squad of Muslim Al Qaeda terrorists will invade and take over the country? Or even a part of it, like say South Dakota?
Is it believable to conceive even the possibility that the nations domestic public safety apparatus will be commandeered by Barak Obama in order to impose his brand of Bolshevism on the country?
As for protecting ones homes and businesses, there has never been a credible proposal that trained and licensed individuals could not have access to guns with which to protect their homes and businesses.
So, if it is not about hunting, foreign invasion and domestic revolution or protecting one’s home and business, what is it that has those who oppose any form of gun control so frightened of that they no longer trust the police to assure public safety. Criminals?
Violent crime, has been decreasing and, outside of the South, localized in most part to a few large cities. The vast majority of crimes of violence are domestic squabbles exacerbated by access to guns (interestingly especially in the South where they seem to kill and maim their spouses and relatives with shockingly more regularity than people in the rest of the country.).
How about, Nigger, nigger, nigger or Spic, spic spic?
Freedom, liberty, anti-terrorism and protection from criminals, are they abstract enough for you?