Guest Post: Rusty Annis, Belchertown, Massachusetts, Teacher World War II marked a watershed for American identity, equality and opportunity. Advocates called bastions of racism into question and for the first time effectively challenged many aspects of discrimination. The war gave minorities (including women) a chance to contribute in a noticeable way to American society. It was not an easy transition. Horrifying reactions occurred. Axis propagandists used America racism to knock America off its high horse of moral superiority. An excellent book utilizing personal accounts from this time period is Double Victory, by Professor Ronald Takaki (Back Bay Books, Little, Brown and Co. New York). Takaki gives an overview of many ethnic stories of striving for American identity. The phrase double victory refers to a February 7, 1942 letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Courier from James G. Thompson, encouraging equality for people of color in the United States. “The first V for victory over our enemies from without, the second V for victory over our enemies from within.” Link to a wiki on the impact of the Double Victory Campaign. (The "Double V for Victory" button by the page title leads to a unique large photo of a Double V rally.)
"Civility in politics is a contradiction in terms," declared a historian colleague with a chuckle when I suggested the topic for a possible lecture series. Still, like most Americans, I find the current national political discourse worrisome. My history educator's mind makes me wonder, "Has it always been this way?" Well… of course, there were the Revolutionary War, Shays Rebellion, the Whiskey Rebellion, slave insurrections, the Civil War, Homestead and other labor conflicts, lynching, race riots, Stonewall riots… And despite continuing bitter words, it's hard to imagine today the equivalent of Rep. Preston Brooks'es beating of Sen. Charles Sumner on the very floor of the Senate. (See image by Winslow Homer, "Arguments of the Chivalry,"from the collections of the Library of Congress.) In actuality, by most measures, political violence has declined enormously in recent years. The Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995 marked the last large-scale eruption of wholly domestic political violence in the U.S. Deeper questions arise: - To what extent does the American Political system effectively allay violence by offering genuine change through voting and other nonviolent means? Does the system effectively balance the factions that James Madison envisioned in Federalist 10? - Do mass media today only inflame passions? Or do they also provide a vital outlet for unpopular and contrarian views? - What other factors are at play? For one source of rich debate steeped in primary sources and thoughtful analysis, I recommend the ongoing discussion on Civility on the Constitution Daily, blog of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The Center is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to education and debate about citizenship and of course, our own Federal Constitution. Recent articles include "Should the people be able to veto Supreme Court decisions?" and an "opinion lab" for classroom use, asking, "Is divided government good or bad for the country?" Sign in, and speak up.