Things began to heat up in China in late May, early June. What had been hints and ominous intimations were now transformed into a full-blown crisis. The “Boxers”–in earlier stories surrounded by quotes and explanation–became over the course of the month simply the Boxers, a name every reader should have, by then, known. Thus, on May 25th, the Times wrote “The United States Government has taken a hand in the suppression of the “Boxers,” the famous Chinese secret society which is engaged in the massacre of native Christians in China, and to which is attributed numberless outrages upon the foreign missionaries.” By June 6, the Times wrote “The murder of Mr. Norman, the missionary, was undoubtedly due to the complicity of the Chinese Government in the disturbances caused by the Boxers.” The Boxers had become part of the common parlance of educated readers and no longer required…
I came to political awareness (well, relatively speaking) in the late 1970s, so one of the first foreign “uprisings” I can remember following was the Danzig shipyard strike, culminating Aug. 31, 1980, in the official recognition formation of the trade union Solidarity (Solidarność). It was tremendously stirring to follow from abroad, not least because of good graphic design — in the Polish tradition, starting with the beautiful, “casual” but unmistakable Solidarity logo itself, by Jerzy (Jurek) Janiszewszki. As several have lately commented, the struggle there and elsewhere in the Soviet bloc had a certain polarity with respect to the United States: the regime(s) were broadly anti-American, the popular movements were to some degree philo-American, etc. Yet even then, vicarious participation at the level possible to me in Los Angeles seemed practically pointless.
A loyal reader writes in to say that she’s finding it a bit galling to see a young Kermit the Frog hawking wares at the top of our page while Iranian protesters are being killed. Fair enough. But the truth is that we don’t have much to say about the situation in Iran — at least, in my case, not much to say beyond some guilty musings about accidents of birth and whatnot. Given that, I’d suggest heading over to Andrew Sullivan’s or Juan Cole’s place. I often disagree with Sullivan about a range of issues, but his coverage of this event is pretty extraordinary: a pastiche of live blogging, links to other sites, and some of the best tweets coming out of Iran. It’s really worth a look. Even though I just used the word “pastiche.”* Pomo!
Finally, I’m hoping for the best for the people of Iran.
* Not to mention “tweet”. Dignity: long since gone.
The same conservatives who mere months ago applauded their candidate’s rendition of “Barbara Ann” are now criticizing Obama for refusing to meddle in internal Iranian affairs: “[He] has only a smidgen of a chance left to get on the right side of history—either he starts acting like the leader of the free world, or he’s a quisling of thugocracies everywhere.” To say that Obama risks putting himself on the wrong side of history suggests that you know enough about that history to distinguish between its sides, even though you don’t even know there are always more than two of them. Consider howincoherentlyconservatives have responded to official Iranian propaganda:
Iran accused the United States on Wednesday of “intolerable” meddling in its internal affairs, alleging for the first time that Washington has fueled a bitter post-election dispute . . . The Iranian government summoned …
What attracted me to this image was the glamorous name of this Miss Seattle — Peggins Madieux. But the more I look at it, the more questions it raises. Does the cow over Miss Seattle’s head imply that the cans are of milk (e.g. sweetened condensed, to mellow the harsh of the coffee from that urn)? Would the number over her customer’s head have raised an eyebrow in 1927 (the year of my father’s birth)? But most of all, what value did UW think was added by links, on the descriptive text, to search queries for the likes of “U” and “S” (on the honorific of U.S. Senator Warren Magnuson, to whom she was briefly married)?
The “traditional forms of history are dying” meme is strong within conservative precincts, and, oddly, the New York Times. “Traditional” in this case usually means one of a choice of political, diplomatic, economic or military history. The regular story is that these important kinds of history are being excluded from academia by (unstated but usually implied) less important forms of history that involve politically correct topics like race and gender. The articles are written from the viewpoint of the traditional forms of history, and those quoted represent those forms. Input from those historians practicing the PC forms are largely ignored.
Matthew Yglesias has discovered afresh the massively inequitable US Senate. As longtime readers of this blog know, it’s historically been even worse than Yglesias notes: the party in power has rigged the course of admissions to keep itself in power. In 1889-90, Republicans rolled Democrats and got six new territories admitted as new states—not the most populous territories, but the most Republican-leaning territories, at least in five cases: Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming.
But, as Heather Cox Richardson points out in a recent email, five out of six wasn’t good enough for the enterprising Republicans of the fifty-first Congress. (more…)
Okay, before I get started, let me make absolutely clear that I did not write this post in pursuit of my official duties. You’ll see why.
The other day, faculty members at the University of California, Davis, received a memorandum from the Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility concluding,
In light of the present deep economic recession and dramatic cuts under discussion at UC Davis, faculty participating in shared governance are in a position in which they may voice strong views and concerns that could lead to lawful but punitive reaction by the administration, including denial of merits and even dismissal. Given the legal and policy realities at hand, we highly recommend that you use caution, restraint, and judgment in your speech and actions in all job-related duties.
Where did that come from? you might ask. Well, it seems to have gone like this. (more…)
A former student of mine from Iran heard from his brother for the first time in a couple of days. When my student bemoaned the cautiousness of Obama administration’s statements, his brother confirmed one aspect of Spencer Ackerman’s account of the administration’s behavior, saying that government forces are already accusing protesters of collaborating with the U.S., and that protesters are actually worried that Obama will make an explicit show of support, as that would restore some credibility to what the government has said about the election and, more importantly, could undermine a reform coalition in which some factions are none-too-fond of America.
This past week, the attacks on Sotomayor have turned from what she’s said to how she’s said it. Conservatives began by hammering away at the “weird, unidiomatic constructions and errors of punctuation and grammar [in] her infamous 2001 ‘Wise Latina’ speech.” Now, I advocate writing conference papers that “contain few expensive words and no Faulknerian feats of subordination” on the grounds that no human being—not even the academic ones—can parse grammatically complex arrangements of jargon on the fly, so I’m more attuned than most to the fact that what passes for grammatical in English as she is spoke doesn’t pass muster in English as she is wrote. You can imagine, then, why I chafed at Heather McDonald’s criticism of Sotomayor’s unscripted speeches for containing errors endemic to spoken language. Just because an unscripted speech is transcribed after the fact doesn’t…
The snark about whether erstwhile torture advocates want to torture terrorist Scott Roeder is legitimate snark, of course, but it is sometimes worth drawing out into the open what lies underneath the apparent hypocrisy. Remember this famous passage from Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana, in which James Wormold (who’s British) is chatting with Captain Segura (who’s Cuban)?
“Did you torture him?”
Captain Segura laughed. “No. He doesn’t belong to the torturable class.”…
“The poor in my own country, in any Latin American country. The poor of Central Europe and the Orient. Of course in your welfare states you have no poor, so you are untorturable. In Cuba the police can deal as harshly as they like with émigrés from Latin America and the Baltic States, but not with visitors from your country or Scandinavia. It is an instinctive matter on both sides. Catholics are more…
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This blog is a blog about history, Yiddishkeit, and the Muppets, neither exclusively nor necessarily in that order. And as William Gibson said about this very blog (no, really), “History can save your ass.” Yiddishkeit and the Muppets are just extras.
is the associate director of the Cornell in Washington program and a senior lecturer at Cornell University. He teaches courses on European history, modern military history, guerrilla war, and the role of popular will in waging war.
is a professor of history at UC Davis. He is the author of A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans, which won the Abbott Lowell Cummings Prize in 2004, and his new book, A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek, will be published by Harvard University Press in fall 2012.
is a professor of history at UC Davis. She is the author of Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11 (Oxford, 2009); Red Spy Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth Bentley (North Carolina, 2002); and Challenging the Secret Government: The Post-Watergate Investigations of the CIA and FBI (North Carolina, 1996).