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Gender: Female
Home country: USA
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 69,159

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How old were you when you "heard this myth"? Also, the "greatest generation" wasn't...

An old journalist wrote a worshipful tribute to his dad and the hard times his dad & mom lived through, and called it The Greatest Generation. Nobody called them that before then, no disrespect intended.

When the young men of my generation were being sent off to war in Southeast Asia we were accustomed to thinking of ourselves (the USA) as the good guys, the guys who won wars, the guys who fought on the right side of history. I was raised to believe that. Ending two World Wars and liberating the concentration camps ought to count for something, one would think.

Instead the politicians in Washington DC (all of them part of the so-called greatest gen) sent our men off to fight an unwinnable war for all the wrong reasons, and because they could not admit it was a god-damned mistake, they kept on drafting and sending soldiers until the revulsion back home tore the country apart.

Excuse me for some of us having had the youthful idealism to believe that we could do better than that. And by gods some of us did -- though power creates its own vortex, and while we rejoiced at unseating Nixon, Newt Gingrich was getting his start.

Also excuse me if we got old. The children we begot are in their 40s and 50s, and those of us who are still alive are trying to eke out a retirement from pensions that vanished while providing at-home elder care for their own parents. Some of those people are DUers.

It wasn't us who "pulled the ladder up" after themselves. Go to the rich and powerful GOPers for that -- only what they did was knock the ladder out from under us and everyone else.

Which brings me to this: STOP DIVIDING US BY GENERATION, AND GET A GRIP ON THE REALITY OF CLASS WARFARE. Class warfare crosses generations and seeks to perpetuate itself at the nexus of money and power.

The Irish in my family came at different times in the 1800s...

There were two sisters that were the sole survivors in their family of a journey on a "coffin ship" during the Famine. There was a tailor who left his apprenticeship in Ireland and stowed away on a ship because of the cruelty of his master. I can't remember the rest just now, and of course never met them.

Before I took a tour of Ireland in my 60s I had only met two people from Ireland in my life. LOL I've mentioned how I was born in California and raised in Hawai'i, and now live in California again. I look like my immediate family, as expected, but really had no idea that there were a whole nation of people who look like they could be my actual cousins.

The history of the Irish in America makes for some interesting reading -- and I learned some startling and even sad things from the PBS series on the Irish in America. (PBS documentaries have just about all the ethnicities covered. Recommended.)

One of the things I learned along the way was the reason the Irish dug the Erie Canal. It seems the original idea was to rent slaves from Southern plantation owners, but as it happened the Southerners were well aware that the job was going to be a man-killer, so they declined. Slaves, after all, were valuable property. Enter the immigrant Irish.

Many of the early Irish immigrants arrived completely illiterate. The British, who had ruled Ireland for centuries, tried to stamp out Roman Catholicism in all of Britain, Scotland, and Ireland, after King Henry VIII broke with the Pope. It was brutal and violent. Religion became an emblem of identity for the Irish that they refused to give up, and since they'd been fighting the British for centuries already, it was just one more grievance. One tool of oppression was to close all the schools run by the Church, and since public secular education was a completely alien concept, this meant no education for anyone who refused to convert. I don't know when education became a thing again.

They farmed potatoes for themselves; the land was fertile, and a diet based on potatoes, buttermilk, and (I think) cabbages was nourishing enough. A pig was wealth. The rest of their energies went to the English landlords who sold their crops away. Then the potatoes failed, and rotted to black goo. The landlords still sold the crops grown for their estates out of the country, even during the Famine.

Half the people either died or left. The population never recovered its original numbers until just about the time I went on tour there. For generations after the Famine their biggest export was people. Even today there are more sheep than people.

Thinking on this is depressing. Their manner of living had been quite primitive, compared to what the US had become by that time. They arrived in a largely Protestant country that was mighty suspicious of their supposed allegiance to Rome. Some spoke no English, and nearly all had an accent that was hard to understand. Their behavior was not polished. They brawled, seemingly for entertainment. They lacked skills. They arrived at the bottom of the social ladder. I think I heard the quote, "They will never assimilate," in that PBS documentary.

I think the stories of some of the single women were inspiring. A fair number went to work in the mills -- and sent money home. Many became cooks and maids, and thought themselves fortunate to be living in a grand house instead of a thatched cottage with a peat fire and no running water -- and they sent money home, too. These women discovered independence.

In any case, your grandparents were of a more fortunate generation -- and even they were part of Ireland's human exports looking for a better life.

I think about the Irish who came in the 1800s not so much because they are exceptional in either achievements or suffering or sheer numbers, but because for me they typify the way immigrants both change America and are changed by it. The Italians, the Irish, the Eastern European Jews, all came in waves and all changed America and made it (us) a richer culture. What do we have to fear from what some call "the browning of America"? In my mind, nothing. The only thing we have to fear is white nationalists losing their freaking minds over the prospect -- and until Trump came along I naively believed we had mostly grown out of that poison.

Sorry this is too long, but your post provoked a thread of thought I had to untangle, and now it's way past midnight.


Noel Ignatiev, scholar who called for abolishing whiteness, dies at 78

I remember the controversy for a couple of reasons. One is my ancestry is Irish, and popular prejudice at one time said the Irish were no better than apes and could never assimilate. (Yet somehow we did.) But mostly I remembered it because it seemed to confirm my personal experience of growing up in Hawai'i: that race and culture are malleable and fluid.

Interesting man, and an interesting obit.


Noel Ignatiev, scholar who called for abolishing whiteness, dies at 78



Ignatiev’s best-known book, “How the Irish Became White,” was immediately influential and controversial upon its publication in 1995. It touched off a firestorm of debate at the time at academic conferences and in the pages of newspapers. In time his view that whiteness is a social and political construction — and not a phenomenon with a biological basis — has become mainstream. The resurgence of white identity politics and white nationalism in recent years made Ignatiev’s arguments relevant to a new generation of readers who argued the notion that race is more about power and privilege rather than about ancestry, or even identity.

The book detailed how the Irish, who had first come to North America as indentured servants and were reviled by the more settled populations of English and Dutch Americans, became, by the mid-19th century, accepted as white. Sadly, Ignatiev argued, the Irish became incorporated into whiteness just before the Civil War, through support for slavery and violence against free African Americans. To become white, Ignatiev wrote, did not mean to be middle class, much less rich, but rather to be accepted as equal citizens and to have access to the same neighborhoods, schools and jobs as others.

“To Irish laborers, to become white meant at first that they could sell themselves piecemeal instead of being sold for life, and later that they could compete for jobs in all spheres instead of being confined to certain work; to Irish entrepreneurs, it meant that they could function outside of a segregated market,” Ignatiev wrote. “To both of these groups it meant that they were citizens of a democratic republic, with the right to elect and be elected, to be tried by a jury of their peers, to live wherever they could afford, and to spend, without racially imposed restrictions, whatever money they managed to acquire. In becoming white, the Irish ceased to be Green.”

Ignatiev’s argument touched off fierce debates; critics argued that he went too far in conflating racial and class privilege. He went on to found and co-edit a journal, known as Race Traitor, whose motto was “Treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.” His ideas seemed extreme for the time; critics called Ignatiev — who was Jewish — divisive, even self-hating.

At a 1997 conference at UC Berkeley, on “The Making and Unmaking of Whiteness,” Ignatiev argued that “whiteness is not a culture but a privilege and exists for no reason other than to defend it.”


"A popular cordless household tool costing as little as $100" This is a phrase meant to live forever

...in the annals of political comedy.
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