That brings to mind the saying in the Douay-Rheims version of the Bible in Ecclesiastes 1:9-10: “What is it that hath been? the same thing that shall be. What is it that hath been done? the same that shall be done. Nothing under the sun is new, neither is any man able to say: Behold this is new: for it hath already gone before in the ages that were before us.”
I turn to Wikipedia to refresh my recollection. It starts off: “The Know Nothing, formally known as the Native American Party and the American Party from 1855 onwards, was a far-right nativist political party and movement in the United States which operated nationwide in the mid-1850s. It was primarily an anti-Catholic, anti-immigration, and xenophobic movement, originally starting as a secret society. The Know Nothing movement also briefly emerged as a major political party in the form of the American Party. Adherents to the movement were to simply reply “I know nothing” when asked about its specifics by outsiders, providing the group with its common name.”
Here we are today confronting another far-right nativist political party and movement which is clearly xenophobic surprisingly composed of many of the papists, a derogatory term freely applied to Catholics. I was always struck by Herman Melville’s description in his 1857 novel The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade where he mentions papist as a particular type of people who traveled on the Mississippi steamboats prior to the Civil War: “Quakers in full drab, and United States soldiers in full regimentals; slaves, black, mulatto, quadroon; modish young Spanish Creoles, and old-fashioned French Jews; Mormons and Papists; Dives and Lazarus; jesters and mourners, teetotallers and convivialists, deacons and blacklegs; hard-shell Baptists . . ..”
Clearly the Trump Party is xenophobic. Just think, a couple of days ago we read reports of “World leaders came together in a virtual summit Monday to pledge billions of dollars to quickly develop vaccines and drugs to fight the coronavirus. Missing from the roster was the Trump administration, which declined to participate . . . “ Which shows the consistent xenophobic vision of the world Trump set out in his inauguration speech: “We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, in every hall of power – from this day on a new vision will govern our land – from this day onwards it is only going to be America first – America first!”
Is it not so long ago that America was looked up on as a world leader? Wasn’t it in the late 19th century that we received the Statue of Liberty whose purpose was to shine America’s liberty to the benighted nations of the world? Is the idea behind making America great again bringing it back beyond those days to the days of the Know Nothings? It certainly looks like it.
This time the New Know Nothings include among their cult their former enemies the papists. I can never understand how people become like their former enemies. How is it they can engage in the same actions that at one time they found so obnoxious and repelling. The American Patriot poster shown above has words that sound so familiar that they could easily be said today, in fact have been said by some. These Patriots were opposed “To being taxed for the support of Foreign paupers millions of dollars yearly.’ They go on with words heard daily from the Trump acolytes especially today: “We are tampered with in our religion. We are injured in our labor. We are assailed in our freedom of speech.”
According to Wikipedia Abraham Lincoln, who shed tears seeing Trump sitting in his memorial, stated: “As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equals, except negroes and foreigners and Catholics.” When it comes to that I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty—to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.”
It is hard to imagine how many exceptions to the “all men are created equal” will come about if Trump remains in office much longer. Let’s hope that the Trump Party quickly follows the fate of the Know Nothings.