FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Gingrich Confronts History in the South

“It’s not that I’m a good debater. It’s that I articulate the deepest-felt values of the American people,” announced the victorious Newt Gingrich in South Carolina. Republican voters [only 2% were African Americans] saw his tough, angry, racial language as straight talking. He eagerly strummed racial themes — Black urban pupils serve as assistant janitors to learn what is really needed in school which is how to stick to a job, make and spend money. And then he suggested the urban poor need to  get a job and learn decent work habits rather than accept handouts from the “greatest food stamp president.” He was also comfortable with violent rhetoric. To a voter who suggested he punch President Obama in the mouth, he responded, “I’d like to knock him out!” As for the Second Amendment — it is “not just for hunting pheasants” but a “political right.” He tongue-lashed a TV journalist for questioning his casual approach to marriage. He not only slapped down the African American Fox News’ moderator Juan Williams for questioning his racial appeals, but then ran his rant against the African American as a campaign add. Gingrich is the winner, and so is his in-your-face, openly racial, campaign style. We have repeatedly tried to walk away from this kind of divisive, nasty politics.
True, in the 2010 Congressional election one Republican Senatorial candidate suggested “Second Amendment Solutions” to the Obama administration, and the former Republican Vice Presidential candidate urged citizens to “lock and load.” But then Jared Lee Loughner’s shooting spree outside an Arizona grocery store on January 8, 2011 took six innocent lives and put a bullet in Congresswoman Gabby Giffords head. Since Giffords had just warned about the consequences of “lock and load” appeals its proponents quietly slunk away.

The build-up began of course with Obama’s entry into the presidential primaries that brought so many death threats the Secret Service provided him earlier protection than any candidate in history. Rupert Murdoch was an eager participant. On May 25, 2008 his Fox TV News co-anchor Liz Trotta in New York signed off her Sunday evening news broadcast by urging that “somebody knock off Osama, um, Obama—well both, if we could.” On February 18th 2009 the day after now President Obama signed the Stimulus Package, New Yorkers awoke to a cartoon in Murdoch’s New York Postthat showed two white policemen identifying the dead chimpanzee they just shot as the author of the stimulus package. Does a comment on a TV news broadcast heard by millions, or a newspaper cartoon seen by tens of thousands simply disappear into the night, or does it linger?

Gingrich’s words in praise of General Andrew Jackson’s red-meat belligerence in South Carolina are worth thinking about, and have a personal revulsion for me. On January 16th he lectured voters on history. “South Carolina and the Revolutionary War had a young 13-year-old named Andrew Jackson. He was sabred by a British officer and wore a scar his whole life. Andrew Jackson had a pretty clear idea about America’s enemies: Kill them!” The crowd loudly approval.

First, how does “kill them!” rate as an approach to foes? We know the British were once our enemy and now a valuable ally, Germany, Japan and Italy were enemies and now fairly reliable friends. Is “kill them!” a good foreign policy objective in the Middle East? Has it been successful in Iraq or Afghanistan? Should “kill them” apply to countries that sometimes sound like foes — such as Russia, Iran and China, to name three?

Also, what does the Gingrich’s embrace of General Jackson as a hero tell us? He was the hero of New Orleans where he defeated a vastly superior British army, (and in this had the support enslaved and free African Americans, Choctaw and other Indians). But he was never a hero to Native Americans — they called him “Long Knife.” He was elected President as a successful “Indian-fighter” and then authorized the US Army to remove 70,000 peaceful people from their homes in the southern states and deport them at bayonet point on the infamous “Trail of Tears.” As a Tennessee slave trader and slaveholder he could hardly be considered a hero of the families he held in bondage.

If ever Jackson showed his unrestrained belligerence it was when he led a U.S. invasion of Florida. His goal was to throttle an alliance of African American escaped slaves and Seminole Indians who had lived there for years, a rainbow coalition peacefully bringing up their families, defending their lives, freedom and land. He also planned to take Florida from a Spain that claimed it by conquest. An updated edition of my book Black Indians came out a week before Gingrich’s words, and spends entire chapters on the Florida invasion, to destroy the Black-Seminole communities.

Since Southern US planters were driven to sputtering fury by the nearby presence of successful and armed communities of people of color, for years they had been sending armed slave-hunting posses into Florida. By 1818 the slaveholder grip on US foreign and domestic policies helped send Jackson and the strongest army in the Americas to defeat these freedom-fighters and take Florida.

This is what I wrote in the current edition:

Jackson’s invasion of 1818 did more than take Florida from Spain. It threw the United States into a war to prevent the Black Seminole alliance from disturbing the South’s plantation system. Slaveholder James Monroe secretly ordered the invasion, and slaveholder General Andrew Jackson conducted it to provide the president “plausible deniability.” Secretary of State John Quincy Adams lied to Congress about the war’s intent, massacres, and clear violation of the Constitution. Only Congress can declare war. Adams further declared opponents of the war were “aiding the enemy” and said Jackson’s atrocities were efforts at “peace, friendship and liberality.” To these leaders Florida’s African Seminole alliance was a dangerous beacon light, refuge and a massive underground railroad for their slaves, writes historian William Weeks.*  They feared it would trigger a rebellion that could destroy the US plantation system. Their words and actions as government officials, Weeks writes, remind “historians not to search for the truth in the official explanation of events.”

Old wounds, fevers, and malaria aggravated Jackson’s hatred as he threw himself into this “savage and negro war.” He ordered his men to destroy crops, take women and children hostage, and deploy savage dogs. He claimed “self-defense” and “the purest patriotism,” and at the end boasted to his wife, “the enemy is scattered over the whole face of the Earth, and at least one half must starve and die with disease.”

Jackson, Monroe Administration officials, and now Newt Gingrich, believe the General a gallant, selfless patriot fighting for a noble cause. Gingrich’s take on history and Jackson as a “kill them” hero reveals how he intends to run for the White House, and suggests how he would pursue foreign and domestic goals.

WILLIAM LOREN KATZ is the author of Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage and forty other American history books.  His website is www.williamlkatz.com

* *William Weeks, John Quincy Adams and the American Global Empire (Lexington, 1992), pages 117-119]
More articles by:

William Loren Katz is the author of 40 books on African American history, and has been associated with New York University as an instructor and Scholar in Residence since 1973. His website is www.williamlkatz.com. Read an interview with Katz about his life teaching and writing history.

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail