Bill Russell on Ted Kennedy

I’m watching the MSNBC coverage of the funeral and a lot of it is quite nauseating — “Teddy was a regular guy, most liberals aren’t”, etc. etc.

But Bill Russell, the great former Celtics center, described Kennedy perfectly (quote below approximate):

Coming from an Irish-Catholic background, Ted knew what discrimination was. And he decided that the people who had discriminated against him and his family weren’t going to be his role models.

That’s exactly it. The tragedy of American politics is that people who are shat upon too often aspire to get to a position where they can shit shit on others. People whose grandparents were called “micks” and “wops” are all too happy to call today’s immigrants “wetbacks”, people whose grandparents were poor white tenant farmers are all too happy to look down on people whose grandparents were poor black tenant farmers.

Not so with the Kennedies, whatever other flaws they might have.

Update. Here’s the interview with Bill Russell, thanks to commenter jfxgillis:

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy






129 replies
  1. 1
    The Moar You Know says:

    Nothing left to say to that save “amen”.

  2. 2
    wilfred says:

    Get a hold of yourself. His father was the American Ambassador to Great Britain, one of his grandfathers was the fucking mayor of Boston. He knew as much about discrimination as a baboon knows about electron microscopy.

    He was a rich child of the monied classes and like his son, who once admitted it, never worked a day in his fucking life. That he did something with his life instead of being just a trust fund slob is more than commendable. Don’t make him into an Irish navvy who slugged his way to the top – that’s a Warner Brothers script, not his life.

    And you’d better be sure that he never turned his back on any ethnic group before you make that claim.

  3. 3
    freelancer says:

    I thought the plural of Kennedy was “Kennedi”. Whoops.

  4. 4
    DougJ says:

    @wilfred

    You have no idea what you are talking about.

  5. 5
    The Dangerman says:

    I’m fascinated to watch the Right bemoaning using Senator Kennedy’s death for political purposes regarding Health Care…

    …followed by Huckabee using Senator Kennedy’s death for political purposes regarding Health Care.

    Is IOKIYAR in Websters yet?

  6. 6
    Sputnik_Sweetheart says:

    Very well said. He was a deeply flawed individual, but the thing that set him apart was that he realized that he had been given so much in life, and he thus felt it was his duty to give to the rest of us.

  7. 7
    DougJ says:

    I thought the plural of Kennedy was “Kennedi”. Whoops.

    Ha! Did you see “The Wire” episode dealing with this?

  8. 8
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    The tragedy of American politics is that people who are shat upon too often aspire to get to position where they can shit shit on others.

    I don’t know if people necessarily aspire to this ahead of time when they are still on the bottom of the heap. I think it is more a case of that when they get on top, that’s when you find out what kind of moral fibre people have.

  9. 9
    Kryptik says:

    *sigh*

    Yes, Ted Kennedy was different because he was just a nice guy where liberals are usually elitist effete communist blood sucking bastards.

    Better Media Hacks please.

  10. 10
    steve s says:

    I’m not going to lament cable news people acting like dipshits any more than I’m going to lament the monkeys at the zoo flinging feces. Both are just doing what they’re compelled to do. If your ears get splattered with cable-talk, or your clothes get splattered with monkey waste, you shouldn’t have put yourself in that position.

  11. 11
    freelancer says:

    @DougJ:

    “Puss-i!”

    […]

    “You burned your clothes? What were you planning on wearing home?”

  12. 12
    John D. says:

    @wilfred: You’re a moron.

    The minute an Irish-Catholic opens his mouth in Boston, he’s pegged as an Irish-Catholic. 70 years ago, that was enough to get you:

    – denied employment
    – denied entrance into a restaurant/bar
    – beaten the fuck up
    – thrown out of a hotel
    – murdered

    So don’t sit there and fucking tell me how he didn’t know about discrimination. The bigots didn’t CARE that young Ted Kennedy’s dad was a fucking ambassador. All they cared about was him being a mick. So shut your fucking piehole you ignorant turd.

  13. 13
    Mrs. Polly says:

    @Wilfred: John F. Kennedy was running for congress and was somewhat embarrassed to confess to a factory worker that he’d never held a regular job.

    “Don’t worry about it,” said the worker, “You didn’t miss anything.”

    Teddy saw his brother’s loyalty to the country questioned because, you know, the Kennedys (Kennedi) were papists an all. Quite a lot of ugly anti-Irish stuff was thrown at them. So they may have been sheltered by money, but they were also looked down on by the WASP establishment and they knew it.

  14. 14
    Comrade Jake says:

    Ask yourself this: now that Kennedy’s gone, what US Senator is known as a champion for the least fortunate amongst us?

    -crickets-

  15. 15
    Captain Haddock says:

    Listen, I grew up Irish Catholic in Boston – unless Kennedy was somehow around in the 1890’s he didn’t really deal with a whole lot of anti-Irish sentiment.

    He was a great man, and will be missed. But lets not make it seem like he grew up being black in Alabama (or black in Boston!).

    He ran one hell of an operation. I interacted with his office twice, and both times was simply amazed at the level of service.

  16. 16
    DougJ says:

    Listen, I grew up Irish Catholic in Boston – unless Kennedy was somehow around in the 1890’s he didn’t really deal with a whole lot of anti-Irish sentiment.

    That’s not how my grandfather told it. He’d agree there’s none today and not much the last 40 years, but it lasted a lot later than the 1890s.

  17. 17
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @Comrade Jake:

    Ask yourself this: now that Kennedy’s gone, what US Senator is known as a champion for the least fortunate amongst us?

    Shit.
    shit shit shit.
    Thanks for ruining my day.

    OK, let’s turn this into a positive. Everybody should call, mail or email that exact question to the Senators in their own state. With the follow up:

    If your answer is “me”, then prove it. Not by just with words, but with deeds.

  18. 18
    JK says:

    OT

    Stephen Hayes has a thrill running up his leg

    Steverino writes
    “There may soon be more information made public that will demonstrate the effectiveness of EITs. Current and former CIA officials supportive of the program are pushing to have other reports declassified -– including a “rebuttal” document to the IG report written by senior officials in the directorate of operations”
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/.....bvious.asp

  19. 19
    smiley says:

    I was just a little kid when John Kennedy was elected president. Even I remember the anti Catholic talk. And I lived in a state with a large Catholic population. Not so much any anti Irish talk, though.

  20. 20
    wilfred says:

    @Mrs. Polly:

    Who cares about what the wasp establishment said or thought? All struggle is class struggle. Obfuscations about race/class/ethnicity are just mirages thrown up to convince people that once they have reached pseudo-equality by means of ‘tearing down the barriers’ they actually have gotten somewhere. They haven’t.

    By the time Kennedy came of age the Irish controlled the entire civil service apparatus of Boston.

    @John D.:
    You have got to be the stupidest motherfucker that has ever posted on this site. So in 1930, being Irish in Boston got you murdered? By whom – roaming Puritan street gangs? Goddamned fool. Drug addled Quakers?

    His father was a hyper rich, proto-fascist who protected his family from the kind of hard-scrabble Irish he himself detested.

  21. 21
    Common Sense says:

    @Comrade Jake:

    Ask yourself this: now that Kennedy’s gone, what US Senator is known as a champion for the least fortunate amongst us?

    I’m going Franken or Sanders myself.

  22. 22
    Comrade Jake says:

    @Common Sense:

    Franken’s out because he’s so new. He might turn out to be that way (I sincerely hope so), but right now he doesn’t have a track record. Make a case for Sanders if you can: I don’t know enough about him.

  23. 23

    I’ve got to fundamentally disagree with both DougJ and Mr. Russell.

    Ted Kennedy was a hereditary aristocrat, just like GWB. The difference between them is that Kennedy’s family (and his community and his church) impressed upon him that his aristocratic advantages were unearned, an accident of birth, and that the way to pay for them was to always think of those with unearned *dis*advantages. He felt a moral obligation to “pay it forward”, because it was impossible to pay it back.

    It’s not an Irish, Catholic, or Boston thing — Eleanor Roosevelt had pretty much the same ethos, even though she and Joe Kennedy *loathed* each other.

    As the Bushes show, there’s nothing more toxic than hereditary aristocrats who believe in “rugged individualism” and “self-reliance”.

    The Kennedy-Bush contrast also IMHO show the mothers’ characters trumping the fathers’.

  24. 24
    Andy K says:

    @wilfred:

    And you miss the whole point of the OP: It’s not that Ted Kennedy was treated with disdain and bigotry, but that after his grandfathers fought against that attitude and set the stage for the late Senator’s generation to come to positions of power, the later generation did not assume the same attitudes of those who held them towards his grandfathers.

  25. 25
    gwangung says:

    @wilfred:

    Fatuous fool.

    I despise you so-called “progressives” who make these kind of prounouncements.

    You parrot progressive sentiments; you sure as hell haven’t internalized them.

  26. 26
    DougJ says:

    And you miss the whole point of the OP: It’s not that Ted Kennedy was treated with disdain and bigotry, but that after his grandfathers fought against that attitude and set the stage for the late Senator’s generation to come to positions of power, the later generation did not assume the same attitudes of those who held them towards his grandfathers.

    Yes, thank you!

  27. 27
    Mrs. Polly says:

    Wilfred. The point of the piece was not to penetrate the veil of class struggle as you have, but merely to observe that Teddy, in Bill Russell’s words, felt discrimination (of some sort; Russell, the Celtic to end all Celtics, probably knows something of Boston) and did not turn around and apply it to others.

    JFK was obliged to address the issue of his Catholicism in a speech he gave in Houston, in 1961, where he assured the public that although a Catholic, he believed in the separation of church and state. And whether or not YOU care what the WASP establishment thinks, old Joe Kennedy, who was everything you care to label him, cared. The Irish Catholics could rule Boston, but there was a larger world that the Kennedys aspired to, whether you think them deluded or not.

  28. 28
    wilfred says:

    Jaysus, the wonders of research:

    Based in the ghetto network of churches, clubs and bars, the sometimes ruthless and always populist ethnic class politics of Irish party bosses would turn out to be an effective strategy against Anglo-American “brahmins”. By virtue of their sheer number and well oiled (and infamous) “poltical machines” – the boss of the local precinct (like John F. Kennedy’s grandfather, e.g.) acting the role of mediator between the individual and collective interests of his district and the municipal government – they were able to force the leaders of the Protestant Yankee establishment first to share and later to yield political power. With the election of John F. Fitzgerald (Rose F. Kennedy’s father) as mayor of the city in 1905, the Boston Irish would take full control over the city and use their political power to further their own social and economic aspirations.F or nine decades the Irish possessed a political monopoly in Boston unequalled in any other American city. In this unbroken “mayoritarian” reign there would be colorful friends’ friends and ghetto populists like James Curley (recently portrayed by Jack Beatty in The Rascal King: The Life and Times of James Michael Curley, 1992), who dominated the political scene in Boston during the first four decades of this century. After the Second World War more “modern” style politicians like John B. Hynes, John F. Collins and Ray Flynn, however, would take over and build the “new Boston”./blockquote>

    Oh, the injustice of it all.

  29. 29
    DougJ says:

    Wilfred: blockquoting things isn’t the same as doing research. You know that, right?

  30. 30
    wilfred says:

    @gwangung:

    Go fuck yourself you pompous gasbag. The whole exercise was in critical thinking and in not accepting the party line without exercising some of that thinking. This was setting up to be another one of Doug J’s vaporous “OHHHH, the Villains!” threads. I called him on his nonsense -get over it.

    I don’t give a shit about your junior high labels, either, so shove them up your ass, too.

  31. 31
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    People whose grandparents were called “micks” and “wops” are all too happy to call today’s immigrants “wetbacks”

    Tom Tancredo to the white courtesy phone. Tom Tancredo to the white courtesy phone. Pat Buchanan, also.

  32. 32
    wilfred says:

    @DougJ:

    source: http://www.hum.au.dk/engelsk/n.....onnor.html

    It’s not Bill Russel, but hey.

  33. 33
    Andy K says:

    @DougJ:

    You’re welcome, Doug.

    You and I share the Irish-American-grandfather-born-and-raised-in-Boston back-story. Mine died three years before I was born, but he passed the attitude on to my mom and her 15 siblings, and they on to my generation.

    My mom was in Cong, Mayo, visiting her cousins last summer when an Irishman at the local pub voiced his opinion about the n****r running for President. Mom shut the guy down with references to “Irish Need Not Apply” signs and the 1960 whispering campaign concerning JFK’s Catholicism.

  34. 34
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @wilfred:

    whether Joe K was all powerful in Boston is irrelevant to the rest of the country. You might recall that it was HUGELY controversial that JFK was elected, because he was a Catholic.

  35. 35
    Mrs. Polly says:

    @Dr. Science: good points, all! I don’t think they are incompatible with the original post–Joe Kennedy was driven to some extent by what he wasn’t able to achieve by virtue of his ethnicity, and, awful, RW SOB though he was, his grandsons loved him and were influenced by him.

    @Gwangun: I don’t think you should blame Wilfred on the progressives. Though I do believe, more and more, in the concept of some kind of class war as the permanent overclass works to maintain itself, Wilfred was giving us boilerplate Marxism.

    The Kennedys didn’t just swim around in the mirage that they’d gotten somewhere–they really got somewhere. And unlike the Bushes, they aren’t simply about staying there to the detriment of those who weren’t as fortunate.

  36. 36
    Ole says:

    First things first: I’m from Denmark.

    To the point: My maternal grandparents had quite a lot of foreigners staying at their place … working, studying. Some kind of Rotary exchange-like thingy.

    One of these guys, William (and for the love of God, I can’t remember his surname – but he has this absolutely right down to the coast not very modest house in Rockport) kept the connection (and even flew in to Brønderslev from Boston to attend my grandfathers funeral). William is somehow connected to the Kennedies … and when my cousin came to the US of A to work as an au pair she carried a letter signed by one Senator Edward Kennedy vouching for her and directing any queries as to the legality of her stay to him.

    I really do wonder if she still has that letter :-)

  37. 37
    Common Sense says:

    Jeez, what set willie off? Was Ted Kennedy Jewish or something?

  38. 38
    PeorgieTirebiter says:

    “But lets not make it seem like he grew up being black in Alabama (or black in Boston!”

    I think some are missing the point, the slights had nothing to do with money or opportunity. It’s about people who believe in their own superiority by virtue of their lineage.
    The most unaccomplished and undesirable Lodge, or Cabot in Boston would have actually believed he or she was the better of any Kennedy. Probably goes along way toward explaining Joe Sr.’s drive.

    And since a few are intent on letting their Boston Mick flag fly;
    Boston’s blue collar Irish provide a stunning example of how quickly a once oppressed group can embrace putting a boot to the neck of the newcomer. Roxbury, Boston or the New York Race Riots?

  39. 39
    wilfred says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    Of course, but the question at hand, to me anyway, was unhistorical statements about the status of the Irish in Boston, nothing more, nothing less.

    A (devoutly) Catholic candidate would have even worse problems today I should think, regardless of his or her ethnicity. Witness the Pope’s curious lack of comment on Kennedy’s death.

  40. 40
    DougJ says:

    My mom was in Cong, Mayo, visiting her cousins last summer when an Irishman at the local pub voiced his opinion about the n****r running for President. Mom shut the guy down with references to “Irish Need Not Apply” signs and the 1960 whispering campaign concerning JFK’s Catholicism.

    Good for her.

  41. 41
    DougJ says:

    @wilfred

    If I can make a suggestion, tone it down a bit. You’re not dumb and I like having a not-dumb winger in the threads. But when you willfully misunderstand everything everyone says and tell them to fuck off, it’s just not constructive.

  42. 42
    Xenos says:

    Wilfrid’s dialectical materialism does not allow for such subtleties such that Rose, daughter of Honey Fitz could raise her children with values that undermined the fascist influences of Joseph. Or that Joseph, nasty piece of work that he was, understood his own life story to be one rising up within a class that would rather not admit him, and tried to instill some respect for hard work in his sons.

    “All struggle is class struggle”? I am afraid he is not joking.

  43. 43
    burnspbesq says:

    @wilfred:

    Go, and never come back. You add nothing to any discussion you enter except lies and gratuitous insults.

    You really need to grow up.

  44. 44
    AhabTRuler says:

    @DougJ:

    it’s just not constructive.

    WTF is constructive about a blogpost any way?

    @Xenos: While I agree that Wilfred is being a bit breathless about the scope of class struggle (really, there are other important issues that divide humanity), anyone who denies that it isn’t at the root of many of the problems of today, then you haven’t been paying attention.

  45. 45
    AhabTRuler says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Go, and never come back.

    Fortunately that is not for you to say, but by all means discount the fact that Wilfred does actually provide links and information along with gratuitous insults (which are, I must say, somewhat the norm at this blog). While many people may not like what or how Wilfred makes points, to dismiss what is offered as “lies” is more shallow and foolish than I usually credit you with being.

  46. 46
    wilfred says:

    Go, and never come back

    You know what, I think I’ll do exactly that. It’s neither interesting nor much fun anymore, to tell the truth.

    Cole, thanks for all the pixels.

  47. 47
    Xenos says:

    @AhabTRuler: I don’t disagree about class conflict being at the root of many, if not most, problems of today. But while analyzing competing class interests may be the key to figuring out, eg., a failing political system, medical system, banking system, persistent colonialism, and so on, it does not tell us much about any particular person’s character, even that of a plutocrat.

    Wilfred was condemning Teddy for being Joseph’s son. Rather, the last 30 years of Teddy’s life have been a lovely ‘fuck you’ to the old man, and vindication that Rose’s personal sacrifices were worthy, and worth it.

    I am confident that last sentence will unleash some more spittle-flecked rage from Commissar Wilfred.

  48. 48
    amk says:

    to all the wing-nuts here

    For those who despise Kennedy, who revile him as a “drunken murderer” and a Stalinist and whatever other random nouns your minds are capable of retaining, let me point out that this horrible man wanted you to have a good job, in a safe workplace, at a decent wage. He wanted your children to attend a good school. He wanted your daughters to have the same opportunities as your sons. And he wanted you to be able to keep yourself and your family healthy and well. He did not care how fervently you villified him – he wanted you to have those things.

    Let us consider now those you profess to admire – Reagan, Bush, Palin and their ilk. No matter how fervently you deify them, they have worked to take away your job, reduce your wages, diminish opportunity for you and your children. They do not care if the air you breathe chokes you, or if the food you eat sickens you.

    Kennedy offered you infinitely more for your hatred than your idols will ever offer you for your faith. Take from that what you will.

    h/t to kossack Roddy McCorley

  49. 49
    ~Chris says:

    I hope Ted found what he did not find much of here on earth. Peace. In the end, only God can know the heart of a man. We should all leave it for Him to decide the worth of this man, and may that same grace be ours someday.

  50. 50
    burnspbesq says:

    @AhabTRuler:

    “Wilfred does actually provide links and information …”

    Well, that’s half right.

    In fairness to someone who has rarely extended it to others, I am a bit touchy on the topic of discrimination against the Irish. My parents and grandparents lived it, long after someone erroneously believes it had died out. Ask my mother about looking for a job as a legal secretary in establishment law firms in Albany in 1951 with an Irish name, despite having graduated second in her class from the best Catholic high school in the city. And I did mean “1951,” not “1915.”

  51. 51

    Xenos:

    No, Ted Kennedy’s life was in no way a “fuck you” to Joe.

    Joe wanted his children to be *nobles*. He knew they were going to be upper-class, but he wanted them to get to the very very top, where aristocrats like the Roosevelts wouldn’t dare look down on them, where *no-one* would dare look down on them.

    And he succeeded. If Joe is out there on some astral plane, he is incredibly proud and pleased right now, because his children became *heroes*. Yeah, he would have disagreed with a lot of Ted’s policies — but what Joe wanted most was *position*. And he got it.

    Wilfred is right in that class warfare is absolutely involved, but it’s within the ruling class — and the ruling class is by definition always too small to do anything on its own, it has to have allies lower down the totem pole.

  52. 52
    Andy K says:

    @PeorgieTirebiter:

    And since a few are intent on letting their Boston Mick flag fly;
    Boston’s blue collar Irish provide a stunning example of how quickly a once oppressed group can embrace putting a boot to the neck of the newcomer. Roxbury, Boston or the New York Race Riots?

    And which Kennedy was in the vanguard during those riots?

    I don’t think Bill Russell, Doug or I were trying to pass our experiences- or those of the Kennedys- as being the definitive examples of the Irish-Catholic experience in America. I won’t deny that there are Irish-Americans who have become as vile as those who once oppressed them. either- but I sure as hell don’t condone it, and I don’t think Ted Kennedy did, either.

  53. 53
    Xenos says:

    @amk: Nicely put. But it fails to account for the uncomfortable fact that politics is less often about pragmatics than racial identity politics and the cultural and psychological acting out of gender roles. You can’t get a man to vote for a social policy that he considers welfare for losers and pussies, and telling him he needs the policy just insults him by accusing him of being a loser and a pussy.

    Where is Aimai when you need her? This place is getting overrun by materialists and economists.

  54. 54
    AhabTRuler says:

    Wilfred was condemning Teddy

    Actually, if you look at the post, wilfred wasn’t condemning Teddy for anything, but was instead pointing out that viewing his as anything other than a son of wealth, privilege, and power is somewhat disingenuous…which is absolutely true. However, I also understand the distinction that DougJ is making.

    To me, it is a micro/macro distinction: the Kennedy family is noble for its emphasis on public service and its recognition of its position in our society, but at the same time I think we often overlook quite how divisive class is in this country, and all the good acts in the world can’t change that fundamental truth.

  55. 55
    Skullduggery says:

    A lot of people born into wealthy families just don’t understand how or why others are poor or what it’s like to struggle in poverty. It’s easy to not think about the less well-off except for bemoaning how, the one time they went to McDonald’s, the cashier wasn’t cheery enough and was a little rude.

    Growing up in privilege gives a lot of people a fearlessness in asking for and demanding things. You don’t get intimidated.

    To use that for good is a good thing.

  56. 56
    Demo Woman says:

    @amk: Wow! Patrick was right, “It brings out the best in them”

  57. 57
    HRA says:

    amk: Exactly my own thoughts. Thank you

    I lived the beginning of the brothers appearance on the national scene and have just seen the end of it. It’s a sad day and yet one full of hope that the work done by them will go on. I refer to not only the laws for those who need them to make their life easier and more productive. I refer to the hope of seeing any kind of discrimination of ethnicity, race, religion and social standing to be taken from our daily lives.

  58. 58
  59. 59
    DougJ says:

    Getting back on topic, the Russell video:

    Thanks.

  60. 60
    amk says:

    @HRA: The credit goes to the kossack, Roddy McCorley. It’s high time the wing-nuts’ bull shit is called out.

  61. 61
    Demo Woman says:

    Kennedy should arrive at the Capitol shortly. MSNBC is carrying it online.

  62. 62
    Midnight Marauder says:

    @wilfred:

    All struggle is class struggle.

    What the fuck does that shit even mean, son?

  63. 63
    jfxgillis says:

    Ooops. Wrong link. God I hate that MSNBC proprietary player

    Here’s the real link:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21.....1#32608832

    And congrats to Doug on a virtually verbatim quote from memory.

  64. 64
    Sanka says:

    Ted knew what discrimination was

    Ted Kennedy knew discrimination? This is a joke right?

  65. 65
    KG says:

    well, since this is tangentially a post about the media, I’m going to share my new idea for a cable news channel. I am calling it the Fictional News Network. Basically, fictional characters hosting cable news shows. I figure we basically have that already (Glen Beck, Lou Dobbs, Anderson Cooper, the Morning Joe crew), so why not just go full bore and have the Miracle Max hour where Miracle Max and Valerie have guests on. You could have the Mad Hatter host the 2012 GOP presidential debate.

    The possibilities are really endless.

  66. 66
    Indylib says:

    @Comrade Jake:
    Feingold isn’t a bad bet.

  67. 67
    Midnight Marauder says:

    @Sanka:

    Ted Kennedy knew discrimination? This is a joke right?

    No. It isn’t.

  68. 68
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @ThatLeftTurninABQ/2:25 pm

    Laughing my ass off at the idea of asking either of my Senators the question

    “Er, ‘scuse me, Seantor Chambliss? Senator Isakson?”

  69. 69
    kay says:

    @Sanka:

    It’s Bill Russell’s impression, and Doug agrees.

    I don’t really get the point of your crusade. If you hector those remembering this person with admiration they will join you in recognizing the awful “truth” about what the dead man knew or didn’t know?

    Do you do this at funerals? Why? What’s the point?

  70. 70
    aimai says:

    I’m as materialist as the next person and I loves me some marxist analysis but to see the the Bill Russel statement as contradicted, in some sense, by Kennedy’s class position is like saying there’s no such thing as Jewish experience of alienation and dispossession because there are Rothschilds.

    There is such a thing as “the Irish” cultural and historical experience–and a version of that which is very specific to the Irish American experience which is profoundly alienated, political, populist, combative, poetic, and populist. The fact that thanks to the rise of machine politics and Joe Kennedy’s own brilliance young Teddy came into the world “hosed and shod” and able to have his freight paid for him at Harvard doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t also have experienced himself as significantly Irish in ways that were utterly different from his wasp buddies at Harvard or, eventually, in the Senate.

    Read “the Rascal King” sometime–Jack Beatty’s absolutely brilliant study of the first great Irish Mayor of Boston–Curley. Do you want to know what Curley is remembered for? He ordered that the scrub women of city hall be given *handles for their scrub brushes.* Prior to the first Irish Mayor, whose mother had been a scrub woman, all the cleaners in City Hall had to scrub the floors on hands and knees. Because no one gave a damn how uncomfortable that would be.

    People are complex things–I have no doubt that the situation of Irish Americans generally would have formed a very important backdrop to Teddy Kennedy’s life. It was the greatness of his soul that enabled him to transcend that parochial, ethnic identity as well as his father’s class identity and devote his life to creating a more equitable society for all regardless of their race, creed, or political affiliation. Instead of reducing his life to some pathetic cartoon of “class struggle within the ruling class” lets just stop a moment and be grateful that sometimes a man is more than the sum of his class position.

    aimai

  71. 71
    Midnight Marauder says:

    @aimai:

    Incredibly well said. That was a beautiful post.

  72. 72
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    I was just watching the MSNBC video site, and Maria Shriver Schwarzenegger was on talking about her mother and TK, and they flashed a view of David Gregory’s smirking mug. I just wanted to slap the man. It seems like he could work on his “sympathetic listening” look in the mirror or something.

  73. 73
    Demo Woman says:

    In honor of our discussion, someone on the Capitol steps waved the flag of Ireland. The lady standing behind her did not appreciate the gesture.

  74. 74
    DougJ says:

    Incredibly well said.

    I concur.

  75. 75
    LoveMonkey says:

    @Sanka:

    Yes, but the joke is on you.

  76. 76
    HRA says:

    aimai: a wonder written piece

  77. 77
    kay says:

    @Demo Woman:

    It’s more than just the Irish Catholic experience in America. There’s a history there.
    Irish Catholics starved to death, under colonial rule. A million people died. A quarter of the population emigrated. I don’t know if a sense of duty towards those who are less powerful comes from that particular experience, but it might.

  78. 78
    Indylib says:

    @aimai:

    Incredibly well said.

  79. 79
    GregB says:

    It’s great to know that Dick Cheney is leading a shadow government now.

    I wonder when his acolytes and flunkies at the pro-torture wing at the CIA will start wearing their own handmade uniforms.

    -G

  80. 80
    Morbo says:

    Food for thought, your juxtaposition of the day: Compare the crowds lined up for Kennedy’s funeral and burial to those protesting against health care reform. Both size and behavior.

  81. 81
    amk says:

    @Morbo:
    Amen. That says it all.

  82. 82
    burnspbesq says:

    @kay:

    Exactly. Although it was a long time ago, some of us whose ancestors got out in 1847-49 haven’t forgotten.

  83. 83
    burnspbesq says:

    And we force ourselves to listen to God-awful shit like The Wolfe Tones so that we never forget.

  84. 84
    geg6 says:

    Bravo, Aimai. Bravo.

  85. 85

    Russell could probably still school most of today’s NBA centers.

  86. 86
    burnspbesq says:

    @aimai:

    So well said.

    In addition to “The Rascal King,” I would strongly recommend William Kennedy’s Albany trilogy – “Legs,” “Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game,” and “Ironweed” – as a fictional way into the Irish experience in America.

  87. 87
    kay says:

    @burnspbesq:

    I read a long piece, a long time ago, on an Irish woman who has worked her whole life on famine relief. In Africa, but that wasn’t the point. Famine relief was the point, and she learned that from hearing her own history.
    I still think of the piece when I see famine relief efforts, because Irish are always there. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

  88. 88
    Villy says:

    I don’t think Russell was saying that Ted Kennedy had to “slug his way to the top” – everyone knows he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His learned about anti-Irish bigotry from those before him, and decided he wasn’t going to fall into that time-honored American tradition of “well, now that my group is one rung up the ladder from the bottom, fuck those on the bottom rung.”

    Those who’ve slugged their way to the top and remember those they passed on the way, and those who’ve started at the top (or whose parents and grandparents…. have) and remember those below them, both deserve credit.

    Those from both groups who don’t, deserve condemnation.

  89. 89
    MikeJ says:

    His learned about anti-Irish bigotry from those before him, and decided he wasn’t going to fall into that time-honored American tradition of “well, now that my group is one rung up the ladder from the bottom, fuck those on the bottom rung.”

    Yes, he did learn about discrimination from his elders, but I’m willing to bet there were plenty of people at Harvard who’s parents were a lot richer who still looked down on the grandson of a tavern owner. Not that it wound up hurting him, but I’d not be surprised to learn those attitudes existed.

  90. 90
    Manamongst Hussein says:

    @Xenos:

    “Wilfred was condemning Teddy for being Joseph’s son. Rather, the last 30 years of Teddy’s life have been a lovely ‘fuck you’ to the old man, and vindication that Rose’s personal sacrifices were worthy, and worth it.”

    I did not gather that from his comments…

  91. 91
    Deschanel says:

    Aimai, great comment, – you’re on a roll this week! I appreciate reading your comments, here and elsewhere.

    Ted may not have experienced direct discrimination, but one can be damned sure that the history and lore of Irish oppression and misery-in Ireland as well as Boston- was something drummed into him from an early age. A crucial family and ethnic memory, the Irish never forget- and nor should they. Arriving half-dead in coffin ships fleeing famine, the Brahmins treated the Irish as less than human, and with maximum cruelty. This is not something to be forgotten.

    Joe Sr. was a ruthless man, but part of what fueled him was a relentless desire for revenge against the Wasp culture that snubbed him. Through his sons, he was going to show them, and by God he did.

  92. 92
    aimai says:

    Why, thank you all for the kind words. Sorry for the redundant “populist…populist…” in the post.

    aimai

  93. 93
    geg6 says:

    As the granddaughter and daughter of an Irish Catholic, I can attest that the Irish never forget all the suffering and mistreatment they have faced, from the British occupation to the famine to the way my great-grandfather was treated like an animal as one of the Irish coal miners here in PA in the mid-1800s to my grandfather not being allowed to be a foreman of his bricklaying gang at the Jones and Laughlin steel mill in Aliquippa, PA because he was a mick. That would have been in the 1920s and 30s. Irish Americans my age were brought up with this lore of misery spanning at least 500 years (and arguably much longer if you go back to to the Tuatha da Danaan (sp?) and it is always a fresh wound; it never heals. The Irish love wallowing in the miseries of their history, as replete in it as it is.

  94. 94
    Mike in NC says:

    What Chesterson wrote of us Irish: “all their wars are merry and all their songs are sad”.

  95. 95
    Linkmeister says:

    Will no one remember The Molly Maguires? (Go back and read The Valley of Fear, the Sherlock Holmes story.)

    Kroll and Associates (the security outfit) reminds me of the Pinkertons in their early days: enthralled by their corporate overlords from the git-go.

  96. 96
    Ruckus says:

    amk@ 48
    aimai@ 70

    Both are great comments about real people and how they see the world around them.
    One can try to be a better person for everyone’s benefit or selfish and live just for themselves. It doesn’t matter where or who we come from, it only matters what we do with our lives. A rising tide and all that. It’s not the size of the mark we leave, it’s the substance of the mark that counts.

  97. 97
    Xenos says:

    @Manamongst Hussein: Maybe I read too much into Wilfred’s comment – I was reacting to the tone of it, not the content, which was a lazy thing to do.

    If Wilfred is still here, what is the ethnic group betrayed by Teddy? I think I know what you meant, but I need you to spell it out, please.

  98. 98
    Jager says:

    After Curley was elected mayor of Boston, a stunned Bramin asked him how it happened…his reply, “The Irish fuck more and vote more than you do!”

  99. 99
    Anne Laurie says:

    @kay:

    It’s more than just the Irish Catholic experience in America. There’s a history there.
    Irish Catholics starved to death, under colonial rule. A million people died. A quarter of the population emigrated. I don’t know if a sense of duty towards those who are less powerful comes from that particular experience, but it might.

    Bingo. A good portion of those million-and-a-half famine refugees ended up in Boston, because the “coffin ship” fare was a lifeline fragment’s lower than to NYC. Few of the offspring of those refugees have been permitted to forget, and the steady back-and-forth trickle between the old sod and Boston keeps it fresh in all our memories. There’s a memorial to the Famine refugees near the State House that was erected only a few years ago.

  100. 100
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    If Wilfred is still here,

    Just say wilfred 3 times real fast and he’ll be around.

  101. 101
    Dave_Violence says:

    What the F?

    Wilfred speaks the objective truth and dig the shit storm he gets from the ignoramuses who’d defend this “saint” for whatever reason.

    While the Irish were discriminated against, Ted K never knew it and when he made a statement about seeing the “NINA” signs (http://tigger.uic.edu/~rjensen/no-irish.htm)… Well, since he couldn’t have seen the signs without the aid of a time machine, oh, well, Ted Kennedy fought hard for what he believed in and that’s plenty, right? But by the time he was born, his dad was one of the most important people in the US.

    It’s puzzling why Ted just didn’t go ahead and accept is place as a rich elite with a mission to lift up everyone else.

  102. 102
    gwangung says:

    What the F?
    Wilfred speaks the objective truth and dig the shit storm he gets from the ignoramuses who’d defend this “saint” for whatever reason.

    What the F, yourself.

    The only ignoramus I see here are the nitwits who point to Kennedy’s status. They forget (or more likely, never bothered to learn) that those only a generation or two from racism will never forget it. Ask most Sansei or Yonsei (third or fourth generation Japanese Americans) if they’ll ever forget about “the camps.” Any Japanese American who don’t have an emotional reaction to the World War II relocation camps are those whose parents deliberately buried the knowledge.

    I don’t think this happened here. Nor do I think that Kennedy’s birth as an upper class scion erases the purpose that he gave to his life.

  103. 103
    kay says:

    The best part of the retrospective on Ted Kennedy is listening to tapes of Richard Nixon order his criminal co-conspirators to infiltrate Ted Kennedy’s Secret Service detail, from the Oval Office.
    Nixon goes on to promise the criminal co conspirators gathered in the Oval Office that he will pull the Secret Service detail after the election, because after the election a Kennedy assassination won’t harm Nixon politically.

    Now there was an honorable public servant, and great American.

  104. 104

    aimia:

    It was the greatness of his soul that enabled him to transcend that parochial, ethnic identity as well as his father’s class identity and devote his life to creating a more equitable society for all regardless of their race, creed, or political affiliation. Instead of reducing his life to some pathetic cartoon of “class struggle within the ruling class” lets just stop a moment and be grateful that sometimes a man is more than the sum of his class position.

    I’m still disagreeing, here. I think you’re falling into the (very American) fallacy of individualism. Ted Kennedy did not become a hard-working champion of the disadvantaged solely due to his own endeavors: he was raised that way. His siblings were raised that way, on purpose. It was not mere luck that made him turn out to be a person who could do good with his position and abilities, his parents and the community around them worked to make it so.

    What I’m trying to drag into the conversation is a class issue Americans are very uncomfortable even thinking about. To a substantial degree, our society is an aristocracy in which people gain enormous advantages by inheritance. As Plato realized, the weak link in aristocracy is child-rearing: how do you bring up children who you *know* are going to inherit positions of power?

    The worst thing you can do IMHO is pretend your children live in a meritocracy, so they attribute their successes to their own desserts. But that kind of thing is inevitable if we all keep dodging the word “aristocrat”.

  105. 105
    Brachiator says:

    @Dave_Violence:

    Wilfred speaks the objective truth and dig the shit storm he gets from the ignoramuses who’d defend this “saint” for whatever reason.

    I went back and read Wilfred’s comments, and I couldn’t find anything that was the objective truth, especially his rigid insistence of holding onto the outdated mythology of Marxism with his claim that “All struggle is class struggle.” Hell, there is no intellectual difference between Marxism and creationism.

    While the Irish were discriminated against, Ted K never knew it…

    Which I guess is supposed to make both Kennedy and Bill Russell to be liars.

    It’s too bad that some people missed the point of Russell’s statement. But it seems to spring from the complex mix of hatred and envy that some people have toward the wealthy. There is this strange, infantile assumption that there is some level of wealth that insulates you from any possible problem, as well as the equally infantile assumption that there is some level of wealth and power that automatically grants you membership in the Elitist Oppressor Club, where you are assigned a perch from which you can look down on ordinary people.

    @aimai:

    Thanks very much for the great post and insightful anecdote at 70.

  106. 106
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    @Brachiator:

    There is this strange, infantile assumption that there is some level of wealth that insulates you from any possible problem, as well as the equally infantile assumption that there is some level of wealth and power that automatically grants you membership in the Elitist Oppressor Club, where you are assigned a perch from which you can look down on ordinary people.

    One from the extreme left, the other from the right. A person doesn’t get to choose the family they are born into, but they can choose what they do with wealth and position toward the betterment of their fellow man. Teddy chose well for his public life, and his shortcomings in his private life should be that for everyone, private.

    Sometimes this dissonance in debate I think comes from being on different wavelengths of meta points made, and micro ones. Russel was making a meta argument of discrimination and some took it as personal to Teddy. Though he could have worded it better, it was obvious to me what he was saying.

    It is also the result of people coming here with pre-conceived notions based on rigid ideology and latching onto any phrase or word to apply it to their viewpoint. We are all guilty of that sometimes, but with some people it is more a feature than a bug.

    My wankadoo for the night.

  107. 107
    Joey Giraud says:

    It’s not the degree of repression, it’s the awareness of how it feels, and the remedial actions that matter.

    Ted did fine. Not a lion, more a long haul plodder. As much a liberal as we can realistically expect, I suppose.

    He could really piss of the wingers. Gotta love that.

  108. 108
    Comrade Kevin says:

    @gwangung:

    I despise you so-called “progressives” who make these kind of prounouncements. You parrot progressive sentiments; you sure as hell haven’t internalized them.

    That is something that I came to realize from my years working in retail in a supposed bastion of “progressive” politics, Palo Alto, California. Self-styled “Progressives” are some of the biggest fucking assholes, as customers, to ever walk into a store. They squawk about oppressed coffee pickers in Colombia but treat the retail workers in their own town like slaves.

  109. 109
    Paula says:

    Well, hate to give some credence to the wilfred angle, but we can’t rule out consideration of Ted Kennedy’s considerable privilege in the way he was able to only live his life and do his work.

    On the one hand, he probably spent most of his life being able to access a lot of the things he wanted and therefore felt a sense of entitlement. This doesn’t rule out experience of discrimination, but let’s not argue that Ted’s problems with being an Irish Catholic resembled, say, those Irish Catholics who were poor and working class and fresh off the boat, particularly in the turn of the century.

    On the other, that sense of entitlement, family legacy and pride probably led him to be the kind of deeply ambitious and effective legislator and political symbol that his causes needed him to be. He used his wealth to cajole colleagues and dignitaries, he used the Kennedy name and the memories of his brothers to lend a moral dimension to his arguments, he felt no pressure to raise money for re-election given his/family’s position in Massachusetts (unlike other Senators). There’s nothing wrong about this; in work as well as life, I’m sure Teddy tried hard to get everything he wanted because that’s what he was used to.

    The diff here, of course, as ya’ll have pointed out, that his ambition was directed towards what he saw was his duty to the common good. I’ve thought of the difference between him and W many times this week and I feel a little conflicted. On the one hand, aristocracies are fundamentally opposed to a democracy; the idea that Ted (and his brothers) got where they did and did what they did because their papa had $$ chafes. What if Ted had resigned because of his personal scandals? Would Mass have gotten someone more “deserving”, and closer to the experiences of the middle and working class? If that had happened, would they have been as effective w/o Ted’s particular set of advantages?

  110. 110
    Blue Raven says:

    Anyone who doesn’t think that a rich Irish-American wouldn’t have taken shit for the Irish part in the 1940s and 50s in Boston has no fucking clue what they’re talking about. To this DAY, there are Brahmin families who will not suffer an Irish Catholic’s company as an equal unless they can see no other choice in the matter.

    As for the Irish struggle, it’s about 800 years back to the original invasion by England, which followed the predations of the Vikings and a bunch of interclan squabbles. But the Viking invasions aren’t exactly something I’ve seen the Irish get fretty about, with good reason. Say what you will about stealing from monasteries, it beats hell out of denying someone land, language, and liberty.

  111. 111
    Sui Generis says:

    @wilfred: He was a rich child of the monied classes and like his son, who once admitted it, never worked a day in his fucking life.

    Aside from the other crap, this bit of bullshit pisses me off. This is the ‘lazy liberal elites who look down on you and I (they always say I” not “me”) and don’t know the meaning of a day’s hard work” meme.

    Being a good legislator is a lot of hard work, really hard work to be really effective, and Kennedy did it, day after day after day.

    And any one who served two years in the Army, as a private, has done hard work.

    I have a friend, now in the US Senate, who came from poverty, and he told me: You were right; it doesn’t matter what I’ve done and how I’ve voted, They still don’t accept me, and they won’t ever, will they.

    The aristocracy is the same all over. I doesn’t matter what out group you were in or how successful you have become, you will not be let in. Where do you think the term noveau riche (how the hell do you spell that) came from and why it’s so handy.

  112. 112
    bellatrys says:

    I’ve heard the phenom of people from oppressed immigrant backgrounds turning around and doing it to more recent immigrant groups termed “kicking the ladder down behind them” – it came up a long time back in the blogosphere re Pat Buchanan iirc – and I abridge this to “ladder-kickers” for convenience. I know way too many of them IRL, alas.

    Something I just dowsed up recently explains this pyschology in detail – 1968’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Brazilian liberation theologian Paolo Freire, who lays out the problem of the false dichotomy in which serfs long to become masters and masters fear being made serfs, with no change in the overarching status quo – the same as Yeats quipped about:

    Hurrah for revolution and more cannon-shot!
    A beggar upon horseback lashes a beggar on foot.
    Hurrah for revolution and cannon come again!
    The beggars have changed places but the lash goes on.

    Friere’s complicated but there’s some powerful notions in there – including the very difficult and ancient one that the oppressors suffer from the oppression they commit, thus deserve pity and need to be rescued from their abusers’ state – however, in Pedagogy this doesn’t mean coddling or pandering to them, but rather that we have a duty to break down the status quo no matter how much they struggle to defend it–!

  113. 113
    bellatrys says:

    ETA – not all the ones I know are Irish-Americans, in fact many of them are Franco-American and Italian-American. But relevant to this discussion is a relatively recent book, How the Irish became White, which is something that helps make sense of how my kin and their intellectual leadership like Buchanan can say things like “Slavery helped blacks, they should be grateful” when they’re not saying “they should get over it, it was over 100 years ago!” and not understand why I say “Yeah, and we should be grateful for the Hunger and the British response to the Famine, the Pogues should just shut up about the past!”

  114. 114
    Ives says:

    I’m from Boston. I saw Bill Russell play many times as a boy. The Bruins, who usually ended up in 5th or 6th place in a 6 team hockey league sold out the Boston Garden every night (13,909 seats). The Celtics who were winning championship after championship were not as big a draw. You could get a ticket for the Celts the day of the game.

    Bill Russell was the best basketball player I have ever seen play the game. Off the court he was never afraid to speak his mind, which didn’t always make him popular with the sports writers and fans, but made him soar in my eyes. Boston was a very racist town in those days. Russell could have played it cool, signed autographs, said the normal banal BS when interviewed by the press, and by doing so, flown under the racist radar as it were. Instead he was himself. He would not be intimidated on or off the court.

    I’d like to read How the Irish Became White. I’m an Irish-Catholic from Boston. My grandfather told me years ago about factories with ‘Irish Need Not Apply’ signs draped on their gates. It seems that by the 1960s the past experience of Irish-Americans in Boston as objects of discrimination had mysteriously vanished from their collective memory. Many were seemingly eager to dish out the same treatment their ancestors received to somebody else. Bill Russell was not popular with these folks.

    To me though, Russell was the personification of integrity. Maybe he helped make me a little less ‘white’ than some of my ethnic brethren by his example. In any case, he was a hero of mine as a boy, and remains an inspiration.

  115. 115
    T. O'Hara says:

    Ted Kennedy knew discrimination? This is a joke right?

    No. It isn’t.

    It sure is funny. Still think the media is a vast right wing conspiracy? Where’s the reality in the ‘reality based’?

  116. 116
    T. O'Hara says:

    Being a good legislator is a lot of hard work, really hard work to be really effective, and Kennedy did it, day after day after day.

    Partying really hard is hard work, too.

  117. 117
    bellatrys says:

    @Ives:

    It seems that by the 1960s the past experience of Irish-Americans in Boston as objects of discrimination had mysteriously vanished from their collective memory. Many were seemingly eager to dish out the same treatment their ancestors received to somebody else.

    Ives, it’s a very weird thing: it’s disappeared on one level, but not another. The Irish-American wingers I know, all have infinite memories of the past discrimination that they themselves have never experienced (none of them have ever been pulled over for driving while Irish, refused a job themselves for being an Irish Catholic, suspected of being a terrorist no matter how much they cheered – or even funded – the IRA, let alone an illegal no matter how much illegal immigration around here has been an open secret on the East Coast no less than fundraisers for the Provos, etc etc) but this makes them not a whit more mindful of anybody else’s sufferings nor able to see any equivalent comparison. “Only my own sufferings count, even if they’re only vicarious” – part of that general conservative Exceptionalist mindset, goes along with the overall absence of empathy we see in re Medicare For Me But Not For Thee etc. Nothing of “remember ye too were slaves in the land of Egypt, therefore oppress not the stranger among ye” for them!

    It’s so bad that after 30 years in New England I actually *expect* to hear something racist/sexist/xenophobic/otherwise bigoted when I hear a Southie accent, and am quite pleasantly shocked when I don’t. (North End Sicilian descent likewise – people I’m kin by blood or marriage to who Just Don’t Get It on all sides of my family.)

  118. 118
    Betseed says:

    I have a right-wing cousin who, a few years ago, spent a lot of time railing about how Mexicans immigrants were unassimilable. I pointed out that everything he was saying about Mexican-Americans was EXACTLY what they said about our own ancestors when they came to New York from Ireland. That’s what Bill Russell meant.

    Sometimes I’m sure that what fundamentally divides modern conservatives from modern liberals is that liberals actually know history, and can apply it. In this example, of course, the other variable is race: my cousin didn’t want to concede my point because he sees a racial difference between the two groups, and I don’t.

  119. 119
    bellatrys says:

    Betseed, that goes right along with knowing your history (rather than your mythtory, if you’ll pardon the punning coinage) – of course the ethno-religious bigots of the Know-Nothing era also saw Irish immigrants as another race, and drew them in cartoons as a different, apish species, as can easily be found online with barely a bit of Googling.

    Plus ca change, plus ca fucking change…

  120. 120
    Deschanel says:

    One aspect of Irish-American’s reputation at being bigoted: in the 19th century, the lower classes were all set at each others throats to compete for scraps- jobs, subsistence- no matter where they came from, or what race they were. It was a very handy thing for the WASP owners, the wealthy and the powerful. It deflected attention from misery of the poor- get the poor to balme each other, fight each other, hate each other.

    I’m deepy unproud of the violence of the Civil War draft riots, a hideous incident. But the wealthy Wasps could buy their way out of the draft, and did. Blacks were ineligible. The Irish were being sent to fight and die for a Union that already treated them badly, and in their absence the idea that blacks would take their jobs was intolerable to them. I can’t ever excuse the hideous violence, but it wasn’t just “racism”.

    Incidents like this tarred the Irish in America as bigots. Which neatly deflectes attention from the fact that WASPs were the ones whose families profited from slavery, even indirectly and even in the North. And the idea that the WASP elite were any less racist against blacks is a bitter joke. They were every bit as racist- even those who supported Abolition would never dream of admitting a black person into their society. Better for them to let the Irish take the fall for racism, sit back and watch the fireworks of the poor battling each other.

    (Ist gen American here, my parents are from Ireland. I am sorry that there really is this legacy of IA bigotry. My parents came in the early 60’s and my mother especially revered Dr. King and the civil rights movement- she sympathized, growing up as a second-class citizen in Derry, NI, under British rule. We both had a good cry when Obama won in November. Not all Irish are the same, and times have drastically changed, for the better. The Kennedys have been an enlightened example, I think, of losing the fears, the prejudices of the past. )

  121. 121
    Sui Generis says:

    @Deschanel:

    in the 19th century, the lower classes were all set at each others throats to compete for scraps- jobs, subsistence- no matter where they came from, or what race they were. It was a very handy thing for the WASP owners, the wealthy and the powerful. It deflected attention from misery of the poor- get the poor to balme each other, fight each other, hate each other.

    Amen, but not just in during the 19th century; it was strong during the 20th century, and very obvious especially in the South, where it was used between the poor Whites and poor Blacks. “Go ahead, start a Union; I’ll fire the lot of you and hire some Niggers; they’ll be cheaper too.”

    It still goes on in the 21st century. Look at the demonizing of “union thugs.” If you get people chanting that they will be much less likely to join Unions themselves.

  122. 122
    bellatrys says:

    Aye, but the 19th century was a long, *long* time ago, unless you’re talking geological eras. (A very long time, for people who don’t even remember what Tonkin Gulf was, or Operation Ajax, and only know who Wallace was thanks to Mad Mel.)

    It isn’t *19th century* causes that have my folk shitting on “wetbacks” and “Hajjis” today.

    –Except in the sense that they’re getting played the exact same way that our ancestors did, by the descendants (many of them) of the same goddamned plutocrats were playing this selfsame game before electricity or even gas was laid down in this town.

    (Yeah, yeah, I know. My connection’s bogging down on the last 3rd of the ep.)

  123. 123
    DougJ says:

    I’ll have to read that book “How the Irish Became White.” Thanks everybody for a great thread.

  124. 124
    Lineltin says:

    Leave it to Olbermann to bring race into the discussion.
    Ghhh.

  125. 125
    Ives says:

    bellatrys
    The Irish-American wingers I know, all have infinite memories of the past discrimination that they themselves have never experienced (none of them have ever been pulled over for driving while Irish, refused a job themselves for being an Irish Catholic, suspected of being a terrorist no matter how much they cheered – or even funded – the IRA, let alone an illegal no matter how much illegal immigration around here has been an open secret on the East Coast no less than fundraisers for the Provos, etc etc) but this makes them not a whit more mindful of anybody else’s sufferings nor able to see any equivalent comparison.

    You are correct. I phrased things very poorly. I meant to say something along the lines of forgetting the pain of discrimination their ancestors went through, and retaining only the resentment. You’ve said it better and more completely than I could have managed.

  126. 126
    bellatrys says:

    No, Ives, you raised the great point – I’m just a mickle pedant and was before I got a degree in pedantry (what else is a BA Phil after all?) but imo it is important to drag out and spotlight *all* the bizarre twists of hypocrisy and irony that make up the mess of our political discourse – just like with the “Govt Out Of Medicare/No Socialist Medicine!” brigade.

    Especially since the pros aren’t going to do it in the media for us…

    (Also, damn, but somebody should take away Michael Bay’s camera and directoral clipboard until he has been sat down and forced to watch the work of better directors of action dramas than he. Even the night fight sequences are intelligible in the Sharpe episodes!)

  127. 127
    Deschanel says:

    I’m hearing you respectfully, appreciate your points. But saying that the 19th century “is a long, long time ago” means nothing to anyone who reads history. It’s like saying “space is vast”, or “biology is too complex”. I’m 40, and the 19th century was 68 years before me. It’s not Mars, human nature doesn’t change that rapidly. Every day I deal with structures and buildings built in the 19th century. Yes, it’s long ago, but not wildly, unimaginably so. And the social forces set in motion at the end in the 19th century affected people well into the 20th. Ted Kennedy’s parents were born in the 19th century, and here we are speaking of his death in 2009. One generation removed.
    If one has a sense of the past, a feel for for it, it’s really not some unfathomable prehistory.

  128. 128
    bellatrys says:

    Operative words, “if someone has a sense of history” – I am still baffled by how many other 40-somethings are boggled that I remember the Falklands War, let alone anything about it.

    I mean, we just talked about it every damn day in Jr HS social studies class, were they comatose for it all?

    Apparently so.

    Now, I am exceptionally historically literate, I realize – I thought a fun time was spending hours in the basement of the public library reading hundred-years-old New York Times, when I was a teenager – and I was considered a freak’s freak even by most adults.

    However, I also realize – have in particular been made to realize in the last six-seven years of being aware of the blogosphere – just how limited, both by deliberate and by incidental censorship, my historical knowledge was. American pop cultural histories are particularly given to “written by the victors” syndrome, something I became aware of as I was reading simultaneously the first-hand reportage of the day and comparing it to our senior-year AmGov textbooks writing about those same past generations.

    And the first-hand sources are themselves filled with biases that it takes *massive* reading and research to even detect, let alone correct for – you can’t work out what you should be taking into account if you’ve never been told that a controversy existed. You can stumble across it – but that so much of labor rights battle history has been erased, from popular awareness, except those whose families directly suffered under it? Before the sorts of debunking diaries that taught me about Twain’s radical anti-Imperialism, frex, I only chanced across such subversive stuff in art books, by accident, for the most part – and with scanty context, too, making it hard to figure out what say a Ben Shawn was going on about…until someone made a reference in a blog post about the past that made his scathing satires “click” all the sudden – oh, *that’s* what that graphic was about–

    And if you’re a conservative, raised a conservative, it’s even harder to have a “Sense of History” – because you’re a) raised with a complete Lynne Cheney approved mythtery substitute filling your head instead, and b) convinced that only you know the Real True History uncorrupted by liberal revisionism.

    That is, assuming that you’re interested in anything but the next American Idol or Lost or Pats game…which most aren’t.

    The truth’s out there, sure, but it’s damn hard work digging it up and harder work convincing people it’s worth *looking* at. Just see how many years I’ve been posting on US torture policy and practice at home and abroad, and how many people are still shocked – and not like Capt. Renaud, either – to find that we’ve been administering the “water cure” for over 100 years now, with impunity–

  129. 129
    Comrade Kevin says:

    Being from a Catholic background is not necessary for you to have gotten the brunt of the anti-Irish sentiment that was in this country.

    My parents got the same treatment when they came here in the 1950’s, and they weren’t Catholic. I got it when I was in junior high school, in the 1970’s (!) in California.

Comments are closed.