TalkThese Truths, by Jill Lepore - Part Three - March
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I am not sure spoilers are needed, but it would be nice to start off your comments with a page number or a year, so others can look up what you are talking about.
The Breakdown of Sections...
January--Part One, The Idea, pages 1-149 (1492-1799)
February--Part Two, The People, pages 153-310 (1800-1865)
March--Part Three, The State, pages 311-520 (1866-1945)
April--Part Four, The Machine, pages 521-789 (1946-2016)
Literary Arts' podcast of Jill Lepore's visit can be found on iTunes for free. You can also follow the link from here:
and then click on the green highlighted line in the main paragraph: "Click here to visit The Archive Project on iTunes.
In March, after the House passed the Civil Rights Act, Johnson vetoed it. In April, Congress, wielding its power, overrode Johnson's veto. A landmark in the history of the struggle for power between the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, Congress's stand marked the first time that it had ever overridden a presidential veto.I find it interesting that The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was vetoed by President Andrew Johnson and overridden by Congress and The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law by another President Johnson - Lyndon Baines.
I never knew that the word "citizen" was not originally defined in the Constitution. And that is was eventually broadened to include "blacks," but that only meant men. Even though women campaigned to include all races (and women).
Where the white robes for the Klu Klux Klan came from (ghosts of the Confederate dead) (p. 319) -- ugh.
First time Congress overrode a Presidential veto (p. 320)
I had no idea the Chinese immigrants were so heavily involved in mining on the West coast, nor that they came so quickly and often comprised a fairly high portion of the working people. (p. 324...)
When trying to provide rights for black men, debate about the incoming Chinese occurred. Many were against including them. Douglas speaks of a '"composition nation," one where citizenry is "made better, and stronger, not in spite of its many elements, but because of them." (p. 327) Yes!!!
"For a minor and petty political win over the Democratic Party, Republicans first committed electoral fraud and then, in brokering a compromise, abandoned a century-long fight for civil rights."
The cruelty of the Chinese Exclusionary Acts is still hard to read about these many years later
So far book three is pushing me to consider anew the moral foundations of this country, as well as heightening my awareness of the dangers of unchecked capitalism. Morally and practically, concentrations of wealth are barriers to justice, creativity, productivity - all the values the U.S. would like to be associated with. Add to that the scientific studies that determined that creativity rises with diversity, and we are well on our way to shooting ourselves in the foot - or maybe some more significant place.
American exceptionalism is not the same as saying the United States is "different" from other countries. It doesn't just mean that the U.S. is "unique." Countries, like people, are all different and unique, even if many share some underlying characteristics. Exceptionalism requires something far more: a belief that the U.S. follows a path of history different from the laws or norms that govern other countries. That's the essence of American exceptionalism: The U.S. is not just a bigger and more powerful country — but an exception. It is the bearer of freedom and liberty, and morally superior to something called "Europe." Never mind the differences within Europe, or the fact that "the world" is bigger than the U.S. and Europe. The "Europe" versus "America" dichotomy is the crucible in which American exceptionalist thinking formed.
This mindset permeated my K-12 education, and to varying degrees has been espoused by our modern-day politicians. As the article points out, Ronald Reagan was a strong proponent, but we can talk about him at length next month LOL.
Anyway, even though I'd like to be able to stand proud and say "I don't believe in American Exceptionalism," from time to time that bias still crops up in my thinking and/or my internal response to world events. These Truths shows the country for what it is, which is certainly not "exceptional."
One of my current reads is Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger. I came to a part of the book under the subtitle A Repressed Majority and speaking of female rage, it says:
"It is a loud and livid objection to the kinds of control that have long been in place in a nation built by white men who, when they angrily broke free of imperialist control themselves, promptly encoded projections of liberty and independence only for themselves, building their new nation on slavery and the oppression of women, on the legal and civic subjugation of that nation's majority."
This is so similar to what I have read in Jill Lapore's These Truths.
Plessy v. Ferguson. One of the worst mistakes the judicial system and America made.
"A century had passed since Jefferson had cellared all men equal. Three decades has passed since the Fourteenth Amendment had declared all person born or naturalized in the United States to be citizens. And now the Supreme Court ruled that those who would set aside equality in favor of separation had not violated the nations's founding truths."
"A Chinaman (who were not allowed to be citizens under the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act) can ride in the same passenger coach with a white citizens of the United States, while citizens of the black race in Louisiana...are yet declared to be criminals, liable to imprisonment, of they ride in a public coach occupied but citizens fo the white race."
All these laws were based on race.
Just remember as we approach April 15th, tax day, that Americans really wanted Federal Income Tax and the Sixteenth Amendment was ratified by 42 of 48 states (six more than required) with the wild approval percentages of 89% in the state senates and 95% in the state houses.
The first 1040 was only three pages long. Wouldn't that be easy!
The Machine, 1946-2016
I was really struck by quite a bit in the account of the Scopes evolution trial.
p. 418 "Mencken confessed that he was terrified of the people he'd met on the courthouse lawn in Dayton - their bigotry and fury set him shuddering. 'I set out laughing,' Mencken wrote to a friend, 'and returned shivering.' "
more p 418 " For Lippman, the battle between Bryan and Darrow wasn't about evolution, it was about how people decide what's true - does truth derive from faith or from reason? - and, more deeply, what happens in a democracy when people can't agree about how they decide what's true. Does the majority rule?"
p.420 "If the common people hate reason, Lippmann concluded, there's no way a government of the people can protect the freedom of thought. The person of faith cannot accept reason as the arbiter of truth without giving up on faith; the person of reason cannot accept that truth lies outside the realm of reason. "
Ever had a FB conversation with someone who disputes every fact you produce? I have.
I'm glad I purchased a copy of this book - I have lots of underlining and comments in margins, even if it is a slow read for me.
>38 Berly: I'm still 'chugging along, too', Kim.
I just read the following on page 479 and was struck by the following:
In September of 1940, Churchill refused to surrender to Germany, even after the German blitz took the lives of forty thousand Londoners.I knew the German blitz took lives, but 40,000 just in London alone by 1940? Churchill was definitely the right man for the times.
Edited to add: Finished part 3. My dad served in WWII in the US Army. He never spoke of the war except to tell two funny stories; I did ask him in 1990 whether he had killed anybody in the war and he said "Oh, yes." He did not elaborate. He was glad that Truman dropped the bombs on Japan because he was going to go from winning in Europe straight to the Pacific theater of the war.