September 24, 2016


The New Know-Nothings (The Editors, 10/03/16, American)

It was a time of great economic uncertainty and political turmoil. The next election promised to move the nation closer to a terrible precipice, and the native-born were frustrated by their diminished status, one accelerated by an apparently endless flow of newcomers who seemed destined to dislocate and replace them. Cries of "America for Americans" rose across the anxious republic.

Was that 1856 or last week? It appears it has been both. Responding to the "dog whistling"--or worse--of politicians, the xenophobia and neo-nativism of the so-called alt-right, thinly veiled as a political position, has emerged from the murk of the internet. The alt-right's message has found an especially receptive audience among white males frustrated by reduced economic prospects and a perception of a loosening hold of white hegemony in U.S. society.

Voices from within this fringe sometimes bluntly promote hate and a juvenile, pseudo-scientific delusion of the superiority of European culture, denigrating others as polluters or diminishers of its greatness. But the Hispanic presence in the New World is old and deep enough to rival any Anglo claim to cultural legitimacy on these shores. Of course it is not as old as that of the "Americans" regularly ignored by such competing claims of authenticity: the indigenous people whose cruel eradication made room for everyone else in the first place.

The reek of this creed of tribalism and intolerance should be instantly recognizable to modern-day Catholics. To the Know-Nothings, Irish Catholics came to America merely as paupers or felons in service to a Romish plot to undermine American liberty through the ballot box. Recycling 19th-century nativist headlines would require little more than the adjustment of a few words: Replace Irish with Mexican, Catholic with Muslim.

It's easy to forget that it took a hundred and fifty years from that point to Reform the Church so that it accepted democracy, capitalism (John Paul II) and protestantism (Benedict).  We'll Reform the Sunni much more quickly.  

Posted by at September 24, 2016 9:03 AM