Every semester in my US history course I always go off on a diatribe about how politicians often refer to our Founding Fathers and their vision for America, as if our founders intended for us to be bound by their values and ideas about government power, and as if they all agreed with each other on those things. (In fact, I got on my soapbox about this in my classes just today.) I point out that those dudes didn’t want women to vote, made it legal to own African Americans as slaves, and required white men to own land in order to vote. Where would we be today if we still adhered to their values and political beliefs? So I really like this very timely piece by Alan Taylor (a historian I very much admire) in the New York Times in which he too points out the ridiculousness of how we often use the Founders to make some political point about what our government should and shouldn’t be (of course there is nothing new about using the Founders like this). I love Taylor’s conclusion, but I would add one thing: those guys created a form of government that is meant to always be what We the People want it to be, and that is something we’ve debated and changed from their time to ours.
Speaking of the Founders: Friday night on PBS they are premiering a documentary on both Alexander Hamilton and the making of the Broadway musical (which highlights the political differences between Hamilton and Jefferson). Reviews of the show have been very positive (like this one), so it looks like we all need to set our DVR’s on Friday night.
Did you see that Austria is set to demolish the house that was Hitler’s birthplace? It has never been an official tourist attraction, but has garnered interest from curiosity seekers and Neo-Nazis. So they are going to wipe it out. Hmmm, all kinds of thoughts pop into my head about tourist sites in the US that revere heroes of the Confederacy and the hell that would be raised if they were demolished. But I’ll leave that one alone.
Over on Civil War Pop Christian McWhirter weighs in on The Birth of a Nation (2016). He clearly wrestled with whether or not to endorse the film, but ultimately concludes that the flawed film might (hopefully) turn out to be a needed first step toward films that deal with slave rebellions in more complex and accurate ways. It is a fair assessment, and I feel a much more objective one than the film has been getting in other places.
And for my Halloween season posting today: what is creepier than creepy Halloween costumes? Vintage black and while photos of creepy Halloween costumes in the early 20th and late 19th centuries. There is a new book out with a collection of these photos, but check out the sampling here. Yikes.