Archive for United States History

A “War on Christmas?” Context, please!

OReilly WOX

As part of his late-inning effort to capture the attention of cultural conservative voters in Iowa, Rick Perry provided an ad that received both media attention and the response of perturbed progressive opponents, fellow Republicans concerned about the anti-gay strategy, and internet parody producers.

The ad proclaimed his proud Christian identity, asserted that military service by gay persons is a problem, and attacked President Obama’s “war on religion.” Part of this attack was a perennial mainstay of cultural conservative angst during the Yuletide season: “there’s something wrong in this country when . . . kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas.”

This parry by Perry against an allegedly pernicious “War on Christmas” was preceded this holiday season by media cultural warrior Bill O’Reilly, as well as the cast of Fox and Friends, whose annual protestations were met by The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart with a predictably satirical response.

 

The FOX News diatribes have included concerns, for instance, that the National Christmas Tree outside the Capitol isn’t sufficiently Christian, despite the historical context (ironically reported by FOX News) that the Christmas tree tradition isn’t even Christian in the first place.

This year, Perry isn’t the only one leveraging the political value of Christmas, as recent ads from Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul illustrate.  Perry’s ad, however, is the only one in this presidential year to explicitly allege a “war” on religion, and implicitly allege a “war on Christmas.” Since we are once again in a time when our holiday season intersects with a high-profile campaign season, and in what I believe is in the true spirit of a defense of Christmas, I offer an essay co-written a few years back by myself and my friend and colleague Michele Ramsey from Penn State University—Berks Campus, which contextualizes the so-called “War on Christmas” in a way usually absent from the media coverage of this so-called controversy.

Merry Christmas – and Happy Holidays – to you and yours from the Political Denizens.

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Debates: Discourse for Citizenship, or Televisual Tactic?

LD debates

The Denizens took their students to Springfield, Illinois earlier this month to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, as well as selected Lincoln historic sites.It gave us a great opportunity to examine the intersection of institutional politics and public communication in the historic work of perhaps the iconic American president. Among the episodes of Lincoln’s mythic history that are highlighted in Springfield is the rivalry between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, the “Little Giant” who bested the “Big Giant” in the 1858 US Senate race but lost to him in the 1860 presidential campaign. The seven 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates over “popular sovereignty” and the extension of slavery into US territories were an epic political circus at the time, launched Lincoln into the national spotlight, and became the historic archetype for debate as a component of campaign discourse.

Flash-forward fifty-three years, and we observe a pair of provocative phenomena: a candidate for president using debate challenges as a game of political chicken with opponents, and media pundits pondering whether a debate-driven campaign is actually valuable. What’s going on?

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Living With Legacies of the Civil War (Race & Inequality)

As was the case with many American wars, Blacks fought in the Civil War with hopes of equality afterward only to see the nation miss such an opportunity.

As was the case with many American wars, Blacks fought in the Civil War with hopes of equality afterward only to see the nation miss such an opportunity.

As I mentioned in a past post, there are currently missed opportunities to improve our nation. This is nothing new. When it comes to race, wealth and inequality in American politics and society; American history is littered with missed opportunities. The Civil War and it’s aftermath serve a one of many major moments of missed opportunity. After the war, which was fought in great part over the issue of slavery, reconstruction was prematurely halted and Blacks were given no opportunity to work on a level playing field when it came to working towards equality of opportunity in the political arena, economic arena and the social arena.

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