It goes to show just how overworked I am that I’m only now getting to something I saw a week ago in a post at No More Mister Nice Blog, How Your Right-Wing Uncle Is Going to React to Harriet Tubman on the $20 Bill. The point of the article is that Republicans will use Tubman differently how ever it works for them. So she will either be a terrible communist or a great gun loving Republican. It’s this latter conception of her that I find interesting and incredibly annoying.
The truth is that Harriet Tubman was a gun loving Republican. But the problem with that is that you can’t really compare someone who was born almost 200 years ago to someone today. Let’s start with the most obvious and silly thing. Of course Tubman was a Republican! The Republican Party was the anti-slavery party. I assure you that if chattel slavery were an open issue today, it would be the Republican Party that would be on television reading passages from the Bible to justify it. In the 1960s, the Democrats and Republicans crossed paths on this issue. This is the main reason why the south went from solidly Democratic to solidly Republican.
My message to Republicans: after decades of using racial dog whistles to win elections, it is time to embrace the fact that you are a racist party. The group of people who ended slavery in this country might have called themselves Republicans, but they don’t represent who you are today.
Who’d’ve Thought Harriet Tubman Was Like That?!
The issue of guns is a little more subtle but far more interesting. You see, in the early days of the union, the Constitution really did protect gun rights in a most feeble way. It was only after the Civil War that gun rights started to be expanded because the southern states were trying to disarm former slaves. So of course Harriet Tubman would be pro-gun — both before and after the Civil War.
Compare this to what I’ve found in my life to be the typical gun owner: someone who owns a dozen or more guns and is waiting for the revolution that keeps not coming. You know: Ammon Bundy. These are people who live in a fantasy land where every Democratic president is a despot just waiting to storm their home. Its particularly funny when you consider that our military now has drones. So when Bundy and his fellow idiots occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, it really didn’t matter how many guns they had. The government could have just blown them all up using a drone.
On the other hand, guns actually did provide former slaves some degree of protection against state governments that really were trying to kill them. So it not only makes perfect sense that Harriet Tubman would be a gun loving Republican, it was entirely predictable. Yet we get absolutely fatuous statements from conservatives like this:
That awkward moment when leftist feminists find out that Harriet Tubman — who they voted to replace Andrew Jackson on the twenty-dollar bill — was a gun-toting, Democrat shooting, 2nd Amendment supporting Republican.
So we are supposed to be surprised. Why? Because Republicans think we are as stupid and ignorant as they are.
Probably the best known song from Escape from Noise is “Christianity Is Stupid.” I think I said yesterday that Negativland could do any kind of music they wanted, and we hear that with this song too. It would be compelling, even without the lyrics. But the lyrics are what everyone remembers. And the lyrics are, “Christianity is stupid! Communism is good! Give up!” Over and over. It’s got a very Nineteen Eighty-Four feel to it.
Apparently, the band took a sermon from Baptist minister Estus Pirkle. They grabbed seven words from it and rearranged it. Pirkle was known for his films like The Burning Hell (directed by Ron Ormond). Now, I think these of great bits of idiosyncratic art. But you can also tell that Estus Pirkle was a fire and brimstone preacher — and definitely an anti-communist. So it’s great fun that Negativland managed to take his words and say something that he would find revolting.
Escape From Noise was the first Negativland album on SST Records — you know Greg Ginn’s company created to put out Black Flag albums but also put out all of the Minutemen albums, as well as albums by a number of other great bands. So Negativland had found a home. And Escape From Noise was a surprisingly successful album. So they were expected to go on a tour. But SST had no money for it. What’s more, Negativland wasn’t really a live band. What to do?
Bandmember Richard Lyons came up with an idea to get the band out of having to tour. You will remember that Richard Lyons died last week, and he is the reason that we are listening to Negativland this week. He put out a press release that stated that mass murderer David Brom was inspired by the song “Christianity Is Stupid” to kill his parents and siblings. It stated the FBI had told the band not to leave town. Many news outlets picked up on the hoax press release and ran with it. And why not? Everyone always thinks that pop music creates murderers.
The following recording of “Christianity Is Stupid” goes along with scenes from Metropolis, which I still can’t believe wasn’t a hit when it first came out. And if you haven’t seen it, shame on you. Here is a beautiful print of it for free: Metropolis.
Image of Richard Lyons cropped, rotated, and reduced from one taken from Rolling Stone, licensed under Fair Use.
On this day in 1789, the mutiny on the Bounty occurred. It is one of those sad stories where it is hard not to sympathize and also hate everyone involved. There is also the problem that it seems every historian who has tackled the subject has (understandably) come to different conclusions. So what you think about the event largely depends upon who you have read. Much better to watch the 1962 classic, Mutiny on the Bounty with Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard — ahistorical as it may be.
What I nonetheless love about the whole thing is how very civilized it was. The mutineers did not kill the captain and his supporters. They just set them in a row boat. In fact, four of the supporters couldn’t go in the boat, so they were dropped off in Tahiti. But the boat wasn’t just set adrift. It was sent with (according to Wikipedia) “150 pounds of bread, some pork, 6 quarts of rum, 6 bottles of wine and 28 gallons of drinking water.” And that explains how Bligh and his crew managed to make it to safety.
Unlike in the movie, Bligh returned to England a hero. It would seem that his reputation fell because towards the end of his life, he was appointed Governor of New South Wales. And he was so bad at getting along with people that he sparked the Rum Rebellion. I think that probably made a lot of people think that Fletcher Christian might have had more than just a little reason for his mutiny.
Happy anniversary mutiny on the Bounty!