Today in Trumpland

Mankato

The Democratic National Convention starts tonight. Even if we just considered what happened today, the speakers at the DNC will have a lot to work with. So what did happen in Trumpland today?

Miles Taylor, who was a former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under Trump, endorsed Joe Biden. According to Taylor, Trump used the DHS “for his political benefit.” Taylor says that “years of DHS planning” for something like the coronavirus “have been largely wasted. Meanwhile, “more than 165,000 have died.” He adds: “It is more than a little ironic that Trump is campaigning for a second term as a law-and-order president. His first term has been dangerously chaotic. Four more years of this are unthinkable.”

In North Carolina, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill decided to move all undergraduate classes online after 130 students tested positive for Covid-19 in the first week of classes. Meanwhile, a Kansas teacher has created a national database of school closings, quarantines, cases and deaths.

As more people die everyday from Covid-19, Trump is getting medical advice from the My Pillow guy. Yes, you read that correctly. In the midst of a pandemic that most experts say is going to get worse in the next several months, Trump is spending his time entertaining a miracle cure promoted by a pillow salesman.

Trump continued his assault on a nearly 250-year-old institution. As Paul Krugman wrote today, the United States Postal Service (USPS) brings “Americans into better contact with one another and the world at larger….it has a universal service obligation,” “binding the nation together” and “facilitating citizen inclusion.” He calls Trump’s attempts to defund the Post Office as “the unbinding of America.”

Nancy Pelosi has asked the members of the House of Representatives to return from recess to consider a Postal Service bill that will prevent Trump from using the USPS to manipulate the November presidential election. Initial reports suggest that the bill will provide billions of dollars in funding to the Postal Service in an attempt to strengthen it in preparation for November.

Earlier today, after repeating five times that he signed an emergency declaration to help Iowa after the state got hit by a massive storm last week (and adding that he is doing well politically in Iowa), Trump again blamed Amazon for the post office losing money. It is a dubious claim.

By the way, Fox News is countering all this with reports that Barack Obama removed mailboxes during his presidency.

In Defense of Keeping Silent Sam

Silent Sam

Get up to speed here and here.

University of Pennsylvania historian Jonathan Zimmerman is in favor of keeping the statue on campus.  He writes in the wake of the UNC-Chapel Hill administration’s decision not to build a special interpretive center for the statue.  Here is a taste of his piece at The Chronicle of the Higher Education: “Historians Should End Silence on Silent Sam“:

The Confederate statue known as Silent Sam is a monument to white supremacy, so it should be removed from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Right?

Wrong. It’s precisely because the statue embodies white supremacy that it should remain on the campus, in a history center that tells its full and hateful story. And my fellow historians should be the first people to say that.

Alas, we’ve gone mostly silent on the removal of Silent Sam. Historians have carefully exposed the racist roots of such Confederate memorials, which were typically erected in the early 20th century to burnish slavery and buttress Jim Crow. But when Chapel Hill’s chancellor, Carol L. Folt, proposed that Silent Sam be placed in a new history center, sparking protest by students and faculty members, few members of our guild rallied to her side. And late last week, when the UNC Board of Governors voted down Folt’s plan, most of us kept quiet.

Even worse, some historians embraced the attack on the proposed history center. In a statement last week, the National Council on Public History argued that placing Silent Sam on display “threatens to discourage open dialogue about the white-supremacist history” of the monument and about “the negative effects of its continued presence on members of the UNC community.”

Come again? Putting Silent Sam out of sight will also put him out of mind, suppressing rather than promoting the kind of “open dialogue” that the council hails. And ultimately that will have negative effects for the entire UNC community, including its minority members.

I understand and respect that many minorities at UNC denounced the history center, arguing that a racist symbol like Silent Sam has no place anywhere on the campus. But I think they’re wrong, and the best way to show respect for them is to explain why. Anything less isn’t respect; it’s condescension.

Read the rest here.

University of North Carolina Proposes Building a House for “Silent Sam”

Silent Sam

The University of North Carolina is proposing a $5.3 million dollar building to house a Confederate monument that was recently toppled by students. Here is a taste of an article at CNN:

Administrators at the University of North Carolina are proposing a new $5.3 million building to safely house a controversial Confederate monument that was toppled by protesters in August.

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said that experts concluded that the rifle-carrying statue, known as “Silent Sam,” could not be returned to its previous home on campus because of public safety concerns.

However, the statue also cannot legally be moved to a museum, mausoleum or cemetery because of a state law that limits the removal of public monuments.

So the university plans to build a new indoor facility on campus to house Silent Sam, Folt said on Monday. The new building, at a proposed cost of $5.3 million plus another $800,000 in annual operating costs, will provide historical context for the statue and for the university’s broader history.

“(We plan to) make it a truly strong interactive center that tells our full history of this university, from before settlement to its emergence this day as one of the leading public state research universities in America,” Folt said.

Read the rest here.

Other coverage:

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Students at UNC are not happy about the decision.

Adam Harris reports at The Atlantic

The editorial board of the Charlotte Observer opposes the building.

I am sure some American historians will weigh-in today.

Goodbye Silent Sam

In case you have not heard, last night protesters (apparently students) at the University of North Carolina pulled down a Confederate statue called “Silent Sam.”

A few quick comments:

  1. I support the spirit behind this act.  The statue needed to be removed from its prominent place on campus.
  2. I understand what Silent Sam stands for, and I oppose it, but I was bothered by the hate and rage I witnessed during this video.
  3. The UNC History Department has made an earlier statement about the monument.  The department proposed removing the monument from its prominent position on campus and moving it to an “appropriate place” where it could “become a useful historical artifact with which to teach the history of the university and its still incomplete mission to be ‘the People’s University.'”  I wish the UNC administration would have acted sooner on the UNC History Department’s recommendation.