Day 39: The Know Nothings

Not much to report from Friday night by way of lesbianism. My bad, that turned out to be a bit of a prick tease (har har har…). Although we did manage to successfully locate and attend a lesbian event in Oxford St. Got the right date and time and everything! So already it was the most successful sojourn so far. But there just wasn’t much going on really. Bit of a quiet one. Even Stonewall seemed empty. Oh well. I did get to catch up with some footy mates that I hadn’t seen in God knows how long, so that was nice.

Yesterday I watched Lincoln, the Daniel Day-Lewis one, and it inspired me to get cracking on something I promised to do at the start of the week: learn more modern history. So this weekend has been devoted to FACTS. I started on Lincoln and the events of the film, and ended up covering more American presidencies, the Ku Klux Klan (yesterday was the hundred year anniversary of the release of Birth of a Nation), the first Indochina War, and genocide (a topic of conversation clinically proven to get the ladies a’swoonin’…try it, you’ll thank me later).

I’ve already learned some cool facts. I didn’t know Andrew Jackson pushed the Indian Relocation Act through and was responsible for the Trail of Tears. I didn’t know that Lincoln was pro-colonisation and tried to set up freedmen colonies in Panama, Belize and Haiti. I previously knew nothing about the Rwandan genocide and now I know stuff about it. Makes you just fucking despair at the state of humanity. On the other hand, not to be too flippant, but there was a French military operation in the early days of the Rwandan conflict called ‘Amaryllis’, which made me laugh way too hard for something involving mass genocide…


But best of all, there was a short-lived political party in America called the Know Nothing Party. That is simply amazing. Some right-wing, ultra-nativist movement that hated Catholicism and immigration, in that order. President Fillmore became one of them and ran as a Know Nothing in the 1856 election. Outstanding stuff.

You know, the strength of anti-Catholic feeling in America during the nineteenth century is something that really struck me. I suppose there are more famous and pressing issues from around that time – slavery, African Americans, Native Americans – that it doesn’t immediately register. Plus I’m used to American religious fervour turning inwards, not outwards; with Puritanism, Temperance and all the rest of the main bullet points being more concerned with improving the practice of the Protestants themselves, rather than attacking Catholicism or starting secular beef. I think you’d have to skip forward to the present and the current conflict with the Islamic world for the only other time America has really engaged in wars of religion, or at least ostensibly to do with religion. Which is strange for such a fanatically religious nation but again, inwards, not outwards. Americans. Always gotta be the exception. They should coin a phrase that describes this peculiarity…I suggest “American Exceptionalism”.

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