The disturbing emergency alert sound from my phone (for DC’s 4th curfew night) makes me think of an air raid siren. The blaring is an apt metaphor for this presidency.
Minnesota Governor Walz’s assertion that ongoing riots are no longer about George Floyd ring true in a way. But were they ever about one man? Floyd’s death was certainly no one-off. The protests—and the participation of so many young people—should give pause to those leaders who would gloss over this society’s brutal injustices and disparities.
I watched “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) last night. Despite the many differences to today’s world and the oversimplification of the state political machine, the politics in the film strike me as relevant to our own time. Thing is, though, it would probably resonate with Americans regardless of ideological or party orientation. Anti-Trump people could take its anti-corruption and pro-democracy message to heart. Pro-Trump people could embrace how the Washington outsider triumphs, and credulous pro-Trumpers could go for the anti-corruption, pro-democracy stuff too. Finally, the rough-and-tumble quality of the political game would resonate across the political spectrum.
… [A] great American experiment got underway in a place promising “the luxury of the modern South” with none of the death.
Via JSTOR Daily, which describes an 1840 pamphlet “[advocating] a four-pronged approach to public healthcare that sounds remarkably like our own.”
To stand in Mann’s study today, with editions of Goethe and Schiller on the shelves, is to feel pride in the country that took him in and shame for the country that drove him out—not two Americas but one. In this room, the erstwhile “Greatest Living Man of Letters” fell prey to the clammy fear of the hunted. Was the year 1933 about to repeat itself? Would he be detained, interrogated, even imprisoned? In 1952, Mann took a final walk through his house and made his exit. He died in Zurich, in 1955—no longer an émigré German but an American in exile.
— Alex Ross, “The Haunted California Idyll of German Writers in Exile,” The New Yorker, March 9, 2020 issue.
Leveling hummocks in dust bowl, thirty miles north of Dalhart, Texas. Farmer: “Every dime I got is tied up right here. If I don’t get it out, I’ve got to drive off and leave it. Where would I go and what would I do? I know what the land did once for me, maybe it will do it again.” Son: “It would be better if the sod had never been broke. My father’s broke plenty of it. Could I get a job in California?”
—Dorothea Lange for the Farm Security Administration, June 1938. New York Public Library.
“Naomi [who denounces ‘climate alarmism’] said her political activism was sparked a few years ago when she began asking questions in school about Germany’s liberal immigration policies. She said the backlash from teachers and other students hardened her skepticism about mainstream German thinking.”
— Desmond Butler and Juliet Eilperin, “The Anti-Greta: A Conservative Think Tank Takes on the Global Phenomenon.”
Yes, our cognition is bound up in our social existence, as Ludwik Fleck noted in 1935.
“Migrant worker looking through back window of automobile near Prague, Oklahoma. Lincoln County, Oklahoma,” The New York Public Library.
Poster from 1936/37: “WPA Federal Theatre Presents ‘It Can’t Happen Here’…”
“Trump’s authoritarian style is remaking America” by Ishaan Tharoor at the Washington Post
Here is a 15-panel satire by C.J. Grant, perhaps meant for working-class Britons. In it, British emigrants could get away from taxes, but expect frightning exotic animals, cannibals, isolation, poverty, and homesickness. Read the panels in high definition at the Library of Congress, and check out Matthew Crowther’s blog post about the artist at Yesterday’s Papers for some publishing context.
Saco River in Conway, NH, just upstream from the covered bridges on afternoon of December 25, 2019.
Mt. Washington from Intervale, NH, on January 31, 2020.
Another editorial project is nearing completion. Waiting for the page proofs now for Consumer Engineering, 1920s–1970s: Marketing between Expert Planning and Consumer Responsiveness, ed. Jan Logemann, Gary Cross, and Ingo Köhler (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019).
My latest editorial project: Migrant Knowledge, a blog with Andrea Westermann and Swen Steinberg for the German Historical Institute Washington.
Speaking of imagined walls, here’s one from 1916, courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Female employees of the German munitions factory WASAG in their work clothes, 1916. The one on the right seems to have been “conscripted” (zwangsverpflichtet), though it is unclear on what basis. She was also apparently highly skilled insofar as she was a production manager (Produktionsleiterin) of some kind. Source: Haus der Geschichte Wittenberg, “Arbeiterinnen der WASAG Reinsdorf.”.
Five images from Astoria, Oregon.
Is insidious destruction of our democracy by a bureaucratic samurai with the soothing voice of a boys’ school headmaster even more dangerous than a self-destructive buffoon ripping up our values in plain sight?