It's only January and already the whole world knows what to get Rep. Michele Bachmann for Christmas - a history book, or two.
Bachmann, R-MN, a conservative and tea party favorite, was a featured speaker last Friday at an Iowans for Tax Relief reception in Des Moines. The fact that she was in Iowa is a clear indication that she is considering a run for the Presidency of the United States.
Unfortunately for her, she does not meet one of the Constitutional qualifications. Not only must a candidate be born in the U.S., he or she must also have been a resident in the U.S. for at least 15 years before running. Bachmann, obviously, has been dwelling on another planet for quite some time.
She said, How unique in all of the world, that one nation was the resting point from people groups all across the world. It didn't matter the color of their skin, it didn't matter their language, it didn't matter their economic status.
She said, Once you got here, we were all the same. Isn't that remarkable?
Well, it would be remarkable, if it were true.
Maybe when she gets her Christmas present, she can look up the nativist riots in Philadelphia in the 1840's, when those tolerant, welcoming Americans of the good old days beat, shot, hanged, burned and killed Irish immigrants, as well as burning down their homes and churches, because they were different and because they were Catholic.
Someone could buy the Congresswoman the novel Maggie by Stephen Crane, to give her a glimpse of how the Irish were thought of and treated. Or perhaps a volume of the political cartoons of Thomas Nast, who portrayed Irish Catholic bishops as crocodiles about to devour American babies, and regularly drew the Irish to resemble drunken baboons.
She should read a chapter on the Italian immigrant experience. For example, in New Orleans in 1891, the city's chief of police was shot to death, on the street in the night without witnesses. The mayor blamed Sicilian gangsters and over 100 Sicilian Americans were rounded up. Eventually, 19 were put on trial. They were found not guilty for lack of evidence.
Here was a triumph of American rationalism and jurisprudence. But it was short-lived. When the good old folks of the Crescent City learned of the verdict, about 10,000 of them assaulted the jailhouse before the innocent Italian Americans could be set free and hanged 11 of them.
Isn't that remarkable, Congresswoman?
But don't take my word for it. Check with the historians of the Puerto Rican immigrants, or the Mexicans, or the Chinese, or the Japanese, or the Muslims, or the Hindus, or the Jews.
Perhaps someone can give her Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee to learn how tolerant the leaders and the common people of the United States were to native Americans. Books on the Cherokee Nation may prove instructive, especially the part where that mean old federal government tried to protect the Cherokee, but the good old boys and girls of Georgia just could not be stopped from pillaging and running out the civilized, Christianized tribe, taking their lands and sending them on the Trail of Tears.
And we still have not gotten to the many, many chapters on black Americans. Bachmann said to the Iowans that slavery was an evil and a blot and a scourge.
She got that much right. Then she said, we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.
Let's give the Congresswoman her due. Some of the Founding Fathers did not like slavery. John Jay spoke against it. Thomas Jefferson filled a large part of the Declaration of Independence with a diatribe against the African slave trade as practiced by England.
You will not now find the diatribe in the Declaration, because the slaveholders and white elitists among our Founding Fathers insisted it be taken out.
Jefferson was a great man. He was also a slaveholder and his family sold his slaves after Jefferson's death to try to pay off his mountain of debt.
Washington was a slaveholder. Madison was a slaveholder. Franklin was a slaveholder. Franklin did not speak out against slavery until near the end of his long life, and after all his slaves had passed away, in bondage.
Almost all the Southern Founding Fathers were slaveholders and unapologetic. John Randolph of Roanoke was the exception, freeing his slaves in his lifetime. He was considered a lunatic by his fellow planters.
Legal, accepted slavery is referred to in the Constitution: when calculating representation based on population, other persons - guess who? - were each calculated as three/fifths of a regular person.
By the way, slavery was an accepted institution in the Bible, and only began to disappear from scriptural texts, or get whitewashed, following the Civil War. It's in the Commandment where the Lord tells Moses and the children of Israel You shall not desire your neighbor's house or field, nor his male or female slave...
That's a straight up version from a Catholic Bible. In a sanitized King James Version, it reads his manservant, or his maidservant.
Yes, Congresswoman, John Quincey Adams, from Massachusetts, one of the few states that had outlawed slavery previous to the Constitutional Convention, did work all his life against slavery. He also was an exception, and he wasn't a Founding Father but the son of one.
Far from working tirelessly until slavery was no more, Southern Founding Fathers and their plantation-owning children worked tirelessly to make slavery permanent in the U.S. and came close to succeeding.
Perhaps someone could give the Congresswoman Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James or Frederick Douglass' Narrative for Christmas. Then she could learn that the myth of black inferiority to whites was a consciously conceived and executed strategy of the slave-holding planters of San Domingo and the American South to keep the slaves down and away from any information that might cause them to think otherwise.
Slaves were not allowed to learn to read, as Douglass pointed out, because if they could read, they could read opinions about slavery and that could lead to slave revolt, the great dread of the planters.
Slavery ended in the U.S. after a bloody five-year war that cost 600,000 American lives. Even then, the Republican Party, which under Lincoln had liberated the slaves, sold the blacks out to Southern segregationists to buy the Presidency for Rutherford B. Hayes - you can look it up.
Then came the poll taxes and Jim Crow and Plessy v. Ferguson and the first half of the 20th Century right up to Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, another American era just brimming over with tolerance and understanding.
I'll stop here. The Congresswoman will have plenty of things to read. Lucky for her, and for us, she'll have plenty of time to read them, when her Presidential hopes have evaporated like Mississippi mist.