Victory in Europe Day, 75 years on

solo pipers and town criers

Victory in Europe DayWhen I thought to write about Victory in Europe Day, I did a Google search and found the Wikipedia and History.com sites.

Soon, I came to the Imperial War Museums, founded in 1917. It prides itself on being a “global authority on conflict and its impact on people’s lives. We collect objects and stories that give an insight into people’s experiences of war, preserve them for future generations, and bring them to today’s audiences in the most powerful way possible.”

The five museums are physically closed because of COVID-19. Yet there is much online about “the causes, course, and consequences of war, from the First World War through to present-day conflict.” About VE Day, it notes that while it was celebrated around the world, it was not the end of the war, which would take place four months later.

I searched within the site for the word “holocaust,” “IWM London [was] to significantly expand and update our Second World War and Holocaust Galleries, and create a learning suite across all three floors of the exhibition.” How that might be affected by a pandemic, I do not know. “Opening in 2021, this £30.5 million project will make us the first museum in the world to physically and intellectually present the Holocaust narrative within the context of the Second World War…

“Research led by University College London’s Centre for Holocaust Education” was conducted with over 9,500 secondary school students aged 11 to 18. [It] revealed that their knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust was often based on inaccuracies and misconceptions.” I can only imagine that lacking is greater among Americans in that age range and older.

All This and World War II

Another page I came across is World War II Database, started by a guy named C. Peter Chen back in 2004. He wanted to share his “notes on WW2 history with others with similar interest and to showcase the technical capabilities” of his software company. The site is massive. Check out the timeline for 1945, for example.

Chen’s caveat: “AlthoughI am proud of this continuously growing site, I do not recommend this site to be used for academic research.” It is nevertheless impressive.

There was to have been a Victory in Europe Day 75 celebration in the United Kingdom this weekend, which has been canceled. “However, we are still encouraging solo pipers and town criers to continue to mark the occasion from a safe and suitable location.” There is also a call to a moment of silence at 11 a.m. Friday, and a toast at 3 p.m. “from the safety of their own home by standing up and raise a glass of refreshment of their choice .”

Wrong side of history and science

“Give Me Liberty or Give Me COVID-19” (actual sign)

side
33 Signs From “Reopen” Protests Across The U.S. That Are 100% Real
I am simultaneously utterly fascinated and incredibly irritated by the protesters of the physical distancing protocols. They see themselves as the heroes in the story. Some high-ranking governmental official has been a provocateur, tweeting “liberate Virginia,” “liberate Minnesota”, “liberate Michigan” et al., and they are listening.

Meanwhile, the guy doing the daily press conferences at the federal level has been saying that he would let the science decide when to open up the country. I really wish those two guys could get on the same page.

Maybe he is, as Truthout noted, gone off the rails — “gaslighting the American people, instigating armed rebellion via tweets, interfering with deliveries of PPE to frontline health care workers, and ultimately making it abundantly clear that they won’t be taking an ounce of responsibility for this disaster.”

The protesters, I gather, believe that they are on the right side of history, demanding “freedom”. They may think they’re disciples of Martin Luther King Jr. But as someone pointed out – somewhere in this blog, I believe – they are not the heroes of the piece. They are the violent uprising as James Meredith tried to enter Ole Miss in 1962. They’re the jeering crowd when the Little Rock Nine integrated Central High in 1957.

Poor physical distancing

And their violence is their very gathering. As health officials warn against anti-social distancing protests, we should note the risk. It’s one thing to risk one’s own well-being. But they are threatening everyone they come in contact with, and everyone THEY in turn meet. It is a slap in the face to every health care worker.

Some of them carry American flags, while others display symbols of hate – Nazi insignia, Confederate flags, anti-Semitic bamnners. A few are armed with guns, to prove…something, I think. The Weekly Sift guy wrote: “They aren’t patriots at all in any real sense. If you ask them to do anything for the common good — stay home, do without a haircut, wear a mask in public, pay taxes — it’s too much.

“Their vision of America is that the government builds us roads, delivers our mail, protects us from criminals, educates our children, and sends helicopters to pluck us off the roof when the flood comes, but in return, we wave flags and otherwise don’t have to do anything we don’t want to do. JFK’s idea that we should ask what we can do for our country — that’s tyranny. All that ‘pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship’ crap — we don’t do that anymore.”

Sidebar

I was going to write about how, 50 years ago, members of the National Guard killed students at Kent State in Ohio. What I wrote five years ago is sufficient. I should note that today’s National Guard has been vital in assisting states in the time of COVID.

Mexican repatriation of the 1930s

A Decade of Betrayal

1500-Mexicans-Loaded-on-TrainsI was catching up with a month of four-minute vlogbrothers videos when I got up to John Green’s piece on Mexican repatriation. He was researching a famous painting when he came across a bit of terrible US history that wasn’t in any of the textbooks that either of us had read.

It’s not a secret – there’s even a decent Wikipedia page about it. The narrative is that in the early stages of the Great Depression, there was, of course, a scarcity of jobs. The Secretary of Labor William N. Doak suggested that if there were fewer people, there would be fewer unemployed, and, as President Herbert Hoover put it, “real jobs for real Americans.” This did not prove to be the case.

From The Atlantic: “According to former California State Senator Joseph Dunn, who in 2004 began an investigation into the Hoover-era deportations, ‘the Republicans decided the way they were going to create jobs was by getting rid of anyone with a Mexican-sounding name.'”

A Decade of Betrayal

Professor Francisco Balderrama has literally written the book on the actions, A Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s. He notes that Mexicans were targeted because of the proximity of the Mexican border and the physical distinctiveness of the people.

“The federal government imposed restrictions for immigrant labor as well, requiring firms that supply the government with goods and services refrain from hiring immigrants and, as a result, most larger corporations followed suit, and as a result, many employers fired their Mexican employees and few hired new Mexican workers causing unemployment to increase among the Mexican population.”

The term “repatriation: was actually inaccurate, since up to 60% of those sent to Mexico were U.S. citizens: American-born children of Mexican-descent who had never been to Mexico and often did not speak Spanish.

It wasn’t a unified plan. “In Los Angeles,” explained Balderrama, “they had orderlies who gathered people [in the hospitals] and put them in stretchers on trucks and left them at the border.” Others would round up people up in parks and scanning public employee rolls for Mexican-sounding names and send them on special trains out of the country.

From Timeline: In downtown LA “during the 1930s, La Placita Catholic church was a social hub for Mexican Americans and immigrants…

“On February 26th, 1931, they sealed off the area around the church before anyone could realize what was happening and began arresting suspected undocumented immigrants en masse. Families watched in horror as their spouses, friends, and colleagues — 400 people in total — were loaded into vans, and eventually shipped back to Mexico. Many of those detained had been in the country so long they didn’t speak Spanish.”

Read more at this NPR or Teen Vogue. I believe that knowing our history makes us better citizens.

Discussion of reparations as history lesson

for three decades, members of Congress have introduced H.R.40

reparationsIn the current conversation about reparations, there is one thing I think we all can agree upon: we see race in America with very different lenses.

I have been skimming the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties’ hearing on H.R. 40 and the Path to Restorative Justice, which was held Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Both the bill number and the date were significant.

H.R. 40 refers to “forty acres and a mule,” a radical post-Civil war redistribution of land “set apart for the settlement of the negroes [sic] now made free by the acts of war and the proclamation of the President of the United States.” After the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. this, of course, never took place.

June 19, or Juneteenth, was the date in 1865 “when the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.” After a period of decline, the celebration “received another strong resurgence through Poor Peoples March to Washington D.C. [in 1968]. Rev. Ralph Abernathy’s call for people of all races, creeds, economic levels and professions to come to Washington to show support for the poor.”

The specific ask in the legislation is to establish “the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans to examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies.” In other words, have a bunch of meetings.

TESTIMONY

“Reparations is not a new idea—and for three decades, members of Congress have introduced H.R.40, a bill to establish a commission that would study reparations. But only once before, in 2007, has Congress even held a hearing on the bill.”

You may have heard the riveting testimony of prominent black author Ta-Nehisi Coates. “It is tempting to divorce this modern campaign of terror, of plunder, from enslavement, but the logic of enslavement, of white supremacy, respects no such borders. And the god of bondage was lustful and begat many heirs: coup d’etats and convict leasing, vagrancy laws and debt peonage, redlining and racist G.I. bills, poll taxes and state-sponsored terrorism.”

However, another author, Burgess Owens, whose great-great-grandfather was a slave, testified: “At the core of the reparation movement is a divisive and demeaning view of both races. It grants to the white race a wicked superiority, treating them as an oppressive people too powerful for black Americans to overcome. It brands blacks as hapless victims devoid of the ability, which every other culture possesses, to assimilate and progress. Neither label is earned.”

So you have some asking to cut the check and others who point out the statistical errors of “the reparations agenda.”

THE BIGGER PROBLEM

Like me, the Weekly Sift is “of two minds about this subject. On the one hand, enslaved Africans and their descendants built a large chunk of America’s wealth and wound up owning none of it. That long-ago injustice (plus Jim Crow plus ongoing racism) still has repercussions, and even those whites whose families never owned slaves have benefited in ways we don’t always appreciate…

“But in addition to the inadequacy of monetary settlement, there’s a bigger problem: For reparations to bring this chapter to a close, our society needs to reach some kind of consensus about what the payment is for and what it means. We’re nowhere close to that.

“If reparations for slavery were paid tomorrow, the white-nationalist types would believe blacks had used their political power to extort something, and they would want to get it back. A lot of other whites would feel like racism was a dead topic now: ‘Don’t ever talk to me about racism again. I paid my bill for that.'”

That appears to be an accurate assessment, based on the comments of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who suggested that electing Barack Obama as President made up for hundreds of years of racism. As if.

The rationale for the Supreme Court gutting the heart of the Voting Rights Act in the 5-4 Shelby County ruling of 2013 was more voter equality. Yet, even before that ruling, states have passed discriminatory laws making it HARDER for people to vote.

My inclination, in this current retrograde period, is to have the conversation about what “reparations” mean go forward. But I need to continue musing on this, with perhaps more personal observations next time. Meanwhile, listen to Let Your Voice Be Heard radio for the episode 40 Acres and Barack Obama.

Lydster: Toussaint Louverture

from the French word for ‘the one who opened the way’

Toussaint LouvertureVirtually all my friends say they never helped their children with homework. My parents certainly never helped me. But there was a disconnect last year between her algebra teacher and most of the class, so I did what I could.

This year, I didn’t help much until my daughter had two sick days in early May. Being ill in high school does not mean you don’t have to do the work. So during the last week of classes, I did assist her for three days in a row.

One of the assignments for AP World History was to talk about a notable historic figure. My daughter decided to draw, then paint, François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture (or L’Ouverture). He could be considered the George Washington of Haiti, although he did not live long enough to see the end of that country’s revolution.

While she worked on English homework, I found some biographical information about Louverture. The early stuff was vague; he was born between 1739 and 1746, with many historians settling on 1743, in May, or maybe November.

He was a leader of the 1791 slave revolt. “His military and political acumen consolidated those gains, and eventually controlled the whole country. He worked to improve the economy and security of Saint-Domingue,” later called Haiti.

“Some time in 1792–93, he adopted the surname Louverture, from the French word for ‘opening’ or ‘the one who opened the way.’ Although some modern writers spell his adopted surname with an apostrophe, he did not.

“The most common explanation for the name is that it refers to his ability to create openings in battle. The name is sometimes attributed to French commissioner Polverel’s exclamation: ‘That man makes an opening everywhere.’ However, some writers think the name referred to a gap between his front teeth.

On 29 August 1793 he made his famous declaration of Camp Turel to the blacks of St Domingue.

In 1800, he created a de facto autonomous colony, and named himself governor for life in the constitution, against Napoleon Bonaparte’s wishes. “In 1802 he was forced to resign by forces sent by Napoleon to restore French authority. He was deported to France, where he died in 1803.

“The French, suffering the loss of two-thirds of their forces from yellow fever, withdrew from Saint-Domingue that year. The Haitian Revolution continued under Louverture’s lieutenant, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who declared independence on 1 January 1804. It was the only slave revolt in the modern era that led to the founding of a state.”

The airport in Haiti is Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Tabarre, near Port-Au-Prince. The number of cultural references to Louverture is enormous, including a 1971 track by Santana from the group’s third album.

Not helping my daughter with the homework would give me more time. (And I DO love summer vacation!) But in helping, I learn stuff, so that’s the trade off.