T2B8: People Worth Watching III
|Rajesh Kasturirangan||Nov 17|
I had a soft corner for Alexander Hamilton and liked him even more after the show.
I thought he was one of the few founding fathers not tainted by slavery. Wikipedia says:
By the time of Hamilton's early participation in the American Revolution, his abolitionist sensibilities had become evident
Turns out I was wrong:
A paper by a researcher at the Schuyler Mansion finds overlooked evidence in letters and Hamilton’s own account books indicating that he bought, sold and personally owned slaves.
Which is a bummer, but also reveals the absolutely central role of slavery in the early capitalist era. People were the first commodity.
Why Am I Doing This?
Now that I am into my second week of these updates, I want to ask myself: what’s the purpose of this Trump to Biden series of posts? A couple of answers:
Gives me an excuse to read and learn more about an interesting and important topic.
Begin to understand where America is going.
As a way of dipping my toe into the future before diving in - too cryptic for you?
Like most people alive, my life has been lived entirely in the shadow of American power though that’s decreasing - the US had about 40% of the world GDP in 1960 compared to about about 15% today. And yet, as foreigners, we rarely get to understand the internal dynamics of the US; we only get to experience it from the perspective of various elites - the people who control business, media etc.
But as democracy has deepened, we are now seeing any number of other views emerge (many repulsive!) and gather influence. Understanding these changes takes a lot more than sticking to one’s bubble, whether that be an immigrant community or ivory tower academic institutions.
When I say democracy has deepened, I don’t mean that the ideals of ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’ have deepened though has happened too. I mean that the processes of capitalist-nationalist power have spread wider and deeper and are enmeshing more of us in its workings.
When we say ‘government of the people, by the people and for the people’ what do we mean by ‘people?’ Whatever the answer to that question, it’s clear the people of 2020 aren’t the people of 1920, let alone 1776.
The US is the country most associated with the ‘future.’ Every other country - especially ones that bear the weight of ‘civilization’ - is associated with the past but only the US has defined itself with respect to the future. That’s the promise of the New World, right? - especially if you can wipe the slate clean of anyone who came before you. Don’t mind my snark; I am a romantic about the future. When I first arrived in the US oh so many years ago, I used to watch Star Trek every single night in the TV room in my apartment complex - and the friends I made then are some of my best friends.
That romantic future is taking a beating these days, what with climate change, ecological collapse, killer robots, you name it. But even the dystopia is draped in the American flag.
If you want to understand the future, understand America
Incidentally, what I wrote about yesterday, i.e., collapse studies, is a subset of future studies….
In an important development over the last decade, women, especially women of color, are the ‘natural stars’ of the Democratic party - leaders with mass support as well as media appeal. Barack Obama was a lone star but today we have The Squad:
You can read more about them in the linked Wikipedia article. They get a lot of national and international press. Stacey Abrams isn’t as well known, but she might well be the most important political figure in this list. Like the other two people profiled in this series (Ron Klain and Tom Cotton), she too went to an Ivy League law school (Yale), which seems to be a general requirement for political prominence, but has since cut her teeth in a more difficult political terrain - Georgia politics - than the squad.
Abrams lost the Gubernatorial race in 2018 to Brian Kemp with credible charges of voter suppression in the background, but she turned that defeat into victory by leading a massive campaign to register African-American voters. That drive led to Biden winning Georgia and will be instrumental in Democrats winning one or both senate seats that are headed to a runoff.
Abrams star will rise meteorically if the Democrats win one or both of those seats