Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only ask one time of year, but when we do, we mean it. Without your support we can’t continue to bring you the very best material, day-in and day-out. CounterPunch is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. Help make sure it stays that way.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Where Sarah Gets Her Guns

by JAYNE LYN STAHL

Those who dismiss Sarah Palin as historically ignorant are wrong. In the coming weeks, as the former Alaska governor on her national roadshow exhorts members of her Tea Party fan club to “reload,” the gun reference will have peculiar resonance in light of another time in our history.

On Christmas Eve, 1865, right after the end of the Civil War, the first chapter of the Ku Klux Klan was formed by a half dozen middle class Confederate vets from Tennessee. Many think that the name itself came about because “ku” and “klux” closely simulate the sounds of loading and locking a rifle.

Apart from the image of reloading, the parallels between the founding of the KKK and the establishment of the Tea Party are striking. Once again, America is dealing with a rapidly, and drastically changing social climate. Tea Partiers, the reactionaries of our day, are the heirs of the white supremacists who tried to take back what they thought was their country in the days immediately following the Civil War.

The fact that the Tea Party is almost exclusively white doesn’t make it necessarily white supremacist, but like the founding chapters of the KKK, the Tea Party, and their newfangled leader, Sarah Palin, oppose moderate Republicans in state elections in much the same way the Klan organized a southern resistance to Reconstruction using intimidation.

The difference, of course, is that the KKK spoke openly about racism and anti-semitism, and that they didn’t just use violent imagery, or threats. They actually killed those Republicans whose politics were thought to be progressive, meaning those southern Republicans who favored emancipation. Tea Partiers, by contrast, hide behind code phrases, but when they speak of the expansion of “big government,” and say that the public option is really reparation for slavery, the underlying meaning is the same.

But, if you think the Tea Party has nothing to do with race, or white supremacy, consider this: would there be a Tea Party if John McCain and Sarah Palin won in 2008? And, not coincidentally, descendants of Fred Koch, one of the original founders of the John Birch Society, are the ones financing the Tea Party movement.

Congress should not look to the Supreme Court for leadership, but consider expanding hate crimes legislation to include threats, or violence against individuals under the rubric of political participation.

The federal government wasted no time in responding to Klan violence when, in the 1870’s, Congress passed “the Force Acts,” designed to “enforce the rights of citizens of the U.S. to vote in the several states of the union.” It was on Ulysses S. Grant’s watch that this measure passed, and the immediate effect was to curtail Klan violence. Ultimately, though, the Force Acts led southern segregationists to establish Jim Crow laws.

If the Tea Party movement is allowed to take hold, in this country, it is not inconceivable that, in a few decades from now, we will see the rebirth of a Jim Crow mentality, and a renaissance of segregationism..

Anyone who witnessed, or participated in the campaign for civil rights in the 1960’s should not only be shocked by the recent attacks on Rep. Lewis, and others, but must also be on heightened alert when hearing terms like “reload,” not just because it is extremist rhetoric, but by the inescapable, and haunting way it resonates with the signature white supremacy movement immediately following the Civil War.

Those who think Sarah Palin doesn’t know her history are wrong. She knows it well enough to repeat it.

JAYNE LYN STAHL is a widely published poet, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter, member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA.

WORDS THAT STICK

JAYNE LYN STAHL is a widely published poet, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter, member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail