This story is a little bit off topic, but it’s the kind of thing that helps to explain why I feel that cable TV shows and book publishers have an obligation to take responsibility for the content they provide to the public, and to recognize that large segments of the audience don’t have the expertise to critically evaluate the difference between fact and “entertainment.”
In Vermont, and eighth grader wrote to her state senator proposing that the state have an official Latin motto in addition to its current English motto. Local TV station WCAX ran a story on the issue, and its Facebook page lit up with rank ignorance from viewers who were not able to tell the difference between Latin, the language of ancient Rome, and Latinos, people of Latin American origin. This resulted in a horrifying display of idiocy, xenophobia, and nationalism.
Here is a sample of what some Facebook users had to say:
I thought Vermont was American not Latin? Does any Latin paces have American mottos?
The pre-1956 de facto motto of the United States, e pluribus unum, which still appears on the Great Seal and is required by law on U.S. coins, is in Latin.
This may seem like a silly story, but it goes to the deep strain of xenophobic nationalism that permeates American debates about history. Recently, the conspiracy site Godlike Productions had a thread devoted to America Unearthed, and it quickly degenerated into a stew of nationalism, racism, and religion. Take this comment for example:
This whole American Indians were here first bullshit is wrong. There's this stone there are the giant red heads that the Indians killed in a cave, and also there is all the Egyptian stuff in the Grand Canyon. Don't go all wounded knee on me.
The rejoinder came from an Afrocentrist who explained that Native Americans were “really” a mixture of America’s primeval African colonizers and a later “Mongoloid” invasion.
These different types of ignorance are not wholly unrelated, nor are they new. In 1893, Thomas Sinclair gave a speech in which he explained that pseudohistoical claims about how the Scottish noble Henry Sinclair discovered America and improved the Natives with his white genes were necessary to combat the scourge of Latin peoples who were threatening to overrun America with their non-Anglo-Saxon cultures:
But to some of the brightest minds of America the burning question has of late been whether the Latin or Saxon race is to have the supremacy of their country; the intense activity of Roman Catholicism contrasted with the apathy of Protestantism giving philosophers and statesmen pause as to the near results, notwithstanding the power of science and reason. The glorification of Columbus in the discovery centenary of 1892 was an aid towards the threatened Spanish or Latin domination; and Scandinavian energy has been in movement, especially at the Chicago Exhibition of 1893, to counteract the southern tide, by ascribing the discovery of America to Norsemen of the Teuton stock, including, as principal factors, the English and the Dutch. Caithnessmen [i.e. the Sinclair bloodline], especially of Canada and the United States, have the strongest personal interest in such a gigantic Armageddon contest of blood and belief, if it is to be early fact. (Caithness Events, p. 178)
Today, similar trends are manifesting in the battle over the content of textbooks and the push against the Advanced Placement U.S. History test for high school students, which many conservatives denounced for increasing the emphasis given to women and minorities and social history over the traditional emphasis on the Founding Fathers and federal politics. The College Board, which administers Advanced Placement, strongly denied the criticism as a “blatant disregard for the facts.”
In short, though, history is a proxy for politics and serves as a way for groups to define themselves and their place in the world. Truth is, by and large, subservient to utility.
2/4/2015 03:17:18 am
I've said it a million times - in a perfect world ignorance would cause cancer.
2/5/2015 03:49:03 am
2/4/2015 03:28:47 am
That's correct. "E Pluribus Unum" is on the Seal, but is not the national motto.
2/4/2015 04:45:50 am
You're right; the U.S. didn't have an official motto until 1956; "E Pluribus Unum" was the de facto motto from the colonial era to 1956 but never formalized by law. I'll amend the above accordingly.
From many... ONE?
2/5/2015 07:44:16 am
The Federalists in New England were the first group
2/4/2015 05:12:11 am
The State name, Vermont, is bastardized from the French Verd Mont (Green Mountain.) Maybe they should change that to something less Latinized while they're at it. But the people blindly complaining would have to know that French is a Romance language, know that means it evolved from Latin and then actually care about that fact. But all they really care about is hating brown people, they may have varying degrees of dislike for the French too, but it sounds like their big problem is brown people, no real reason needed.
2/4/2015 07:03:57 am
You know that's not true, Frank.
The Other J.
2/4/2015 07:51:06 am
I recently saw a documentary about white nationalists in Britain. One of the more telling moments was when there was an anti-Muslim march comprised of these different white nationalist groups; when they ran out of protestors to attack, they started fighting with each other, pretty violently.
The Other J.
2/4/2015 07:31:52 am
Damnant quod non intellegunt.
2/4/2015 08:13:23 am
Not sure whether it's related, but it is a prominent theme in Afrocentrism (at least its the Nuwaubian variety) that at least some Native Americans are Moors who migrated from the Nile Valley to North America a long time ago ("before the continental drift").
The Other J.
2/4/2015 09:23:37 am
I guess DNA evidence is only worth ignoring.
2/5/2015 01:09:09 am
Who did they learn geology from, Robert E Howard?
2/5/2015 02:34:55 am
2/5/2015 07:45:16 am
also biology... too
2/4/2015 09:17:47 am
While reading about the melungeons on wikipedia I learned that there are quite number of multiracial groups in the US.
The Other J.
2/4/2015 09:47:37 am
Redbone -- that's where these guys got their name (they're all indigenous)
2/4/2015 10:14:14 am
Dude, that video is awesome. I had heard the song, but I had no idea the band was Native. My grandpa (also Ojibwe, if you recall) was in a band in the '50s and 60s until his health prevented him from playing out any more, but they mostly played country, so I don't think they ever incorporated traditional song and dance into their routine. =P
2/4/2015 01:01:10 pm
Haven's seen Southpaw yet, but I'm going to have to find it.
2/4/2015 01:19:56 pm
I knew a family of Irish Travelers growing up. They moved around the country doing roofs and driveways - would spray the same stuff on both. Some people they cheated some they didn't. The kids were trained or shoplift from an early age. The girls were pulled out of school at 6th grade. The ones in the older generation were somewhat legit. Most of the ones in mine went really into scamming and turned into nothing but lowlife trash I wouldn't alone anywhere around my stuff and I have known them since childhood.
The Other J.
2/4/2015 01:49:56 pm
What did your grandpa/dad play? There's been a lot of great garage rock in the Upper Midwest over the past 60 years, lots of little local scenes with some spectacular bands. I was going through The Replacements again earlier today -- Minneapolis band.
2/4/2015 02:16:07 pm
The Other J., Redbones are not "indigenous". As far as I know, they are descendents of isolated mixed-race groups (white, African, Native), but they are certainly *not* indigenous.
2/4/2015 05:40:49 pm
"What did your grandpa/dad play?"
The Other J.
2/4/2015 07:15:32 pm
EP: "The Other J., Redbones are not "indigenous". As far as I know, they are descendents of isolated mixed-race groups (white, African, Native), but they are certainly *not* indigenous."
The Other J.
2/4/2015 07:22:18 pm
Shane: Gentle Giant AND Van Halen? The mind reels!
The Other J.
2/4/2015 07:28:14 pm
EP -- Besides, the members of the band are from different native tribes, and they called themselves Redbone. If you have a problem with that, your problem is with them, not me.
2/5/2015 02:02:20 am
The Other J., I didn't read you as referring to the band, as opposed to the Redbone ethnicity as a whole.
2/6/2015 04:13:11 am
there are numerous Irish traveller groups in the US. The largest is in SC outside of Augusta, GA. They aren't gypsies, they are like Irish hillbillies who live a gypsy lifestyle in family groups. Among themselves they speak a slangy combination of Englisg and Irish called cant. Their daughters are given real elaborate weddings. A few years back an IT lady was arrested in a Walmart parking lot (I think it was in Indiana) for smacking her kid. When they frisked her they found she had just shoplifted a ton of clothes. It was a big story at the time. The husband was in Texas scamming old people with a roofing grift. There was a TV show a few years back about a family of ITs called the Riches starring Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard.
2/4/2015 12:43:35 pm
The state of Vermont should deport all of their lawyers for speaking Latin ex post facto.
2/4/2015 01:51:22 pm
quid pro quo
2/4/2015 01:23:09 pm
Something to remember about Vermont is that there is really two Vermonts - Burlington and everyplace else. Burlington is the liberal, tree hugging, educated, Ben & Jerry's Vermont. The rest is conservative, gun loving, borderline redneck. Then there is the Northeast Kingdom area that makes redneck look cultured and family trees don't branch
2/4/2015 01:40:06 pm
"Hi, I'm Larry; this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl." So that is true?
2/4/2015 01:52:47 pm
More like "This is my brother Darryl, you may know him as my father Darryl"
2/4/2015 01:29:13 pm
I'm afraid the media who sell products like 'Ancient Aliens' will only shoot themselves in the foot, if they demand of the makers to abstain from mixing fact with fiction.
2/4/2015 01:53:46 pm
"uses research by mainstream quantum physicists"
2/4/2015 02:04:18 pm
Vermont? The land of socialist ny city types racist? Good point on how most Americans know nothing of history. And I'm not sure it's because those evil conservatives and libertarians want to teach natural rights and John Locke instead of Rachael Carson.
2/4/2015 02:17:08 pm
I'm not sure how many of those Facebook idiots are actually from Vermont, tbh.
2/5/2015 05:20:59 am
I actually went and checked on a few in the original fb post. I too thought they were going to be from elsewhere. Nope, quite a few of the critics were from Vermont. Not all of them were ignorant racists, some just thought the whole concept was a waste of government time.
2/5/2015 05:35:15 am
Vermont is really gun-friendly. Even the liberals. As I recall, Howard Dean was remarked to be quite conservative on gun control by mainstream Dem Presidential candidate standards...
2/4/2015 02:20:01 pm
Potential AU Vermont episodes:
2/4/2015 02:28:32 pm
"The Vermont statehouse has a statue of Ceres on top of it's dome."
2/5/2015 12:22:12 am
That's not very nice language from a defender of the faith and someone who is offended by the thought of drugs being the source of religions,
2/5/2015 02:05:19 am
Nurse! 666's sedative has worn off! Nurse?!
2/5/2015 10:42:10 am
poor Triple Six has a libel case...
2/5/2015 10:45:45 am
Aw, how cute! "." is acting as though anyone cares what he thinks.
2/4/2015 05:17:54 pm
So, I guess it didn't occur to these geniuses that Latin is used in biological taxonomy and the Catholic Church remains the largest organization that retains Latin in official contexts?
2/5/2015 03:51:40 am
I know I'm just a naive and ignorant Canadian, but jesus fuck, why is EVERYTHING about race to some people? "Them mexicans and blacks and mongolians", and "the scandinavians and the saxons and the caithnessmen"... I literally just do not understand why people care so much. I just don't.
2/5/2015 04:39:45 am
Broaden the scope just slightly; it's tribalism. Plain and simple. Some people recognize their tribe by the color of their skin or their country of origin, some by the jersey they wear or the totem animal that represents their political preference.
2/5/2015 04:48:57 am
I don't think it's fair to describe them as "deplorably-undereducated". My sense is that professional athletes are on average somewhat better educated than the average blue-collar working man of comparable social background. That's their proper comparison class when it comes to education, not college graduates.
2/5/2015 05:12:13 am
Well, I might've been on a bit of a tirade-roll there, I'll grant that. At the college level, most athletic programs do require one maintain a specific GPA.
The Other J.
2/5/2015 12:05:12 pm
EP's right here about athletes being "deplorably undereducated." I've worked specifically with athletes in higher education, and like the entire student body there's a range, but it skews a little higher on average than the student body (and of course it depends on the institution). That's mainly because there are extra demands placed on the athletes in order to remain eligible, so they have to be more organized and better prepared than much of the rest of the student body, who can still get hammered and rock up to class late each day.
Duke of URL
2/5/2015 04:42:34 am
Good question - I suggest you sneak into French Canada and ask them... but be ready to run.
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