Anger: An American History

Rabid xenophobia “is not what this country stands for.” But it is what it’s built on.

Comments: 214

  1. Few groups have no violence in their history. It was part of the basis of Islam, hundreds of years before the Crusades. Nevertheless, with 1.7 billion Muslims, it is probably not a good idea to encourage the violent among them.

  2. Why not? We seem to be encouraging the violent among the "Christians."

  3. WHAT and why did you single out Islam? Ever hear of a little bellicose ethnic tribe from back in the day called "the Israelites"? Also, please provide names of the "few groups" that have no violence in their histories. Thanks!

  4. What you say about the Israelites is true. I think there is violence among even Buddhists, and almost every church/cult. Living in Colorado I have experienced the violence of evangelical Christians targeting Planned Parenthood and others and do not need to be told about the issue. If it wasn't for Charles "the hammer' of France Islam would control most if not all of Europe. I am not a believer of any church but as far as I know Jesus did not send his followers to kill members of other groups. In fact, according to conventional history he did even object to Hebrews paying taxes to Rome.

  5. Omg, blood curdling, hair raising account. We still have blue blood Boston Brahmin towns in MA, to this day, 2015. The realtors and brokers screen home buyers apparently. Chinese cash buyers are still resisted somewhat. White Americans from outside Boston also struggle to fit into the culture. Once in, they too become simewhat snobbish, easily and quickly forgetting where they came from. Humility is not a Boston Brahmin trait, sadly.

  6. Here's to the town of Boston the town of the bean and the cod.
    Where the Cabots speak only to Lowells and the Lowells speak only to God.

  7. Cotton Mather expected the final battle between good an evil was going to take place in New England and he was determined to lead the fight on the side of good.
    He had two other motivating factors: lust for political power and for the presidency of Harvard. He failed in both, largely due to his role in the Salem witchcraft panic, and the Godwin children and Margaret Rule's cases.

    I don't want to sound like a Mather apologist, but it's very easy to spin Mather's writings (the guy only wrote, like, 1,000 books and tracts) thanks to his use of what John Calef called "the ambidexter style" where Mather started out saying one thing and finished by contradicting himself. This was quite common among ministers in his time.

    Mather was pedantic but he was fairly open-minded. He worked with his political enemies like Leveritt and used himself and his children to encourage his flock to prove the safety of a smallpox vaccine.

    Mather was angry because of his own failings in life and his distress at the way he felt the world was treating him after the end of the Phips administration.

    He hated much and judged harshly, and that's how he should be remembered but he was an equal opportunity hater, not a bigot.

  8. @marklemagne: "Mather started out saying one thing and finished by contradicting himself. This was quite common among ministers in his time." Perhaps an additional line can be added to that comment: "And quite common among ministers in all times, including the present."

  9. This Sunday; the New England Patriots versus the Tennessee Titans. The final battle between good and evil. It's this important!

  10. "An equal opportunity hater" sounds to me very much like "I'm all right, you may be, and they are beneath contempt." The division of the world into "us" and "them" strikes me as one of the most pernicious symptoms of religiosity.

    That said, perhaps a religion has an arc of maturity, much as does an individual: Islam is about 600 years younger than Christianity, and what was the Christian world doing around 1500, or thereabouts? To non-Christians, or to flavors of Christianity considered to be heretical or just different. It wasn't far from what Islamic fundamentalists are doing now. And to some Christians, it seems to make sense to respond in kind. That's "kind" as in "alike," not "kind" as in "compassionate."

  11. BEWARE THE IRISH MENACE! That headline screaming from Page 1 of an 1840s Connecticut newspaper proves why Trump and his fellow Republicans are right. America failed to stem the Irish Menace, and look what happened to America.

  12. Lots of people coming from Ireland were actually French/German, having earlier fled the Palatinate over which Germany and France had been continually fighting. The English welcomed them at first, but later encouraged them to resettle in Ireland because increasing the Protestant population on that other island was deemed highly desirable. Some of the Irish immigrants came here to escape a violence during a time when Irish peasants were rising up against the Scottish Protestant nobility that the English had installed as their overlords, and some fled here to escape punishment for that violence.

  13. Organized Religion seems to be at the root of all the problems, just as radical religionists are trying to cause chaos, fear, anger and hate today. This is why WE must DEMAND that separation of church and state be enforced by OUR politicians and courts. Time to take away tax-free status, and make them pay back taxes for all the years they have been manipulating OUR governments and getting OUR taxpayer-funded tax-free grants along with tax-free "donations" and property. Tax ALL religious and political "non-profits" unless and until they keep their religion in their homes and places of worship.

  14. Thank you Tomas de Torquemada,your opinion is precisely why the Pilgrims left Europe to escape the oppression of government. Progressives such as yourself knell before the jackboot of government as you surrender your personal and the nations sovereignty and liberty to forces that are hellbent on destroying what Lincoln said is "the last best of earth."

  15. The notion that rabid xenophobia is what this country was built on is absurd.

    Certainly, Americans throughout our history were as xenophobic and racist as any other society on Earth, but not more so. The xenophobia that operated in early times was cosmic background radiation that existed within which we built this country on unrelated principles.

    Race and numerous ethnicities were our bugaboos – as the British, French, Chinese and Japanese, among others, had them as well. But it should be said that it was Americans who commissioned the famous work that contains the immortal words of Emma Lazarus that testified to our ability to get beyond our prejudices. Not coincidentally and despite the prejudices, our collective American bloodline contains much African, Jewish, Irish, Asian and Hispanic contributions. Sadly, less can be said of the indigenous American.

    The author seeks to take out of their historical context attitudes that were as commonplace anywhere in Europe as they were here, and just as common in the large Asian countries of the time. This is an invalid means of historical analysis.

    Many have problems with American immigration on the basis of race and ethnicity – yet we remain one of the most sought after destinations of emigrants ANYWHERE, we absorb IMMENSE numbers of people, and indeed we are the only developed nation projected to INCREASE in population, due to net positive immigration. We’re not so angry that it has a lot of effect – and we never have been.

  16. @Richard: I'm afraid you have it a bit backward - we actually have absorbed and benefited from many and various immigrations IN SPITE OF the xenophobia each succeeding generation seems to inherit and exhibit. Your comments continue to display that continuing sad trend.

  17. Aaron

    The whole point of my comment is that while we have possessed the xenophobia that all societies demonstrate, we've been able to overcome it in every generation, even when it was at its strongest, to attract in particular the targets of that xenophobia, which have come here in great numbers to prosper.

  18. Unfortunately, religion's mythologies take a strong hold on the minds of men and women. When a group of people believe strongly in things (angels and devils) and beings (gods) that cannot be known with human senses, rational logic breaks down. Religious mythology forces people to live in a make-believe world. It has an adverse effect on believers and society because the power of human reasoning is abandoned in favor of hocus-pocus.

  19. We cannot talk about America's early xenophobia without adding its racism to the discussion. The southern colonies had made their own pack with the devil in the form of African slavery, its peculiar form of immigration. The great and constant fear was that the slaves might one day revolt and give back to their owners a measure of the cruelty that they suffered. Numerous laws were passed to prevent any intermingling between free men and slaves, including the penalties for teaching a slave to read. Religion was not an issue because any African caught practicing his own religion or even speaking his own language faced severe punishment or death.

    One irony among many of this system was that Africans and whites lived and worked in close proximity to one another. This common southern experience would lead Dr Martin Luther King to exclaim how similar whites and blacks were in their culture, but dissimilar in their ability to live equal civic lives.

    A little mention fact from this period of American "fear of the other" is that the mandatory slave patrols in the southern colonies accounted for the language in our 2nd Amendment. The south feared that the federal government might pass laws interfering with slavery and so the "well regulated militias" clause preceding the right to bear arms language was to retain the forced slave patrols imposed on all whites, slave owners and non-slave owners alike. We are sadly still paying the price of this fear and hatred.

  20. It wasn't just the south that had slavery. Most of the northern states didn't end slavery until the 19th century.
    And laws varied from colony to colony and state to state as to educating slaves and whether they were entitled to any profit from their labors (in some slaves could hire themselves out for pay).

  21. The puritans weren't in search of religious freedom. They were intolerant of opposing religious views. Rather, they were fleeing what they believed to be the coming of the end (you know, the Whore of Babylon and stuff like that).

  22. Long before the events in New England described in the article, down in New York Peter Stuyvesant who was head of the colony there tried to keep Jews out and subjugate the Quakers who lived there.
    One comment about the Rosenberg case the writer refers to: the judge was, like the Rosenbergs, Jewish. Many think he was purposely chosen for the case to deflect charges that prosecution of them was based on antisemitism (at the time many people still considered Judaism and communism to be close allies).

  23. I would wage my life that no more than a dozen of Trump's supporters recognize half of the names mentioned in this article, if that. Which begs the question. Does the xenophobia that has been unleashed recently by the likes of Donald Trump and the anger it feeds can be based on anything else but profound ignorance?

  24. When you seek to convince others of supernatural agencies and "given" moralities - as do religionists - you must constantly be fighting rearguard actions against other "faiths" and against those who would approach real life issues with reason and science. This necessitates prejudice, fear-mongering, deception, and authoritarianism.

    Christianity has gotten a bit better about this in recent times, but it was not always so. Islam is still in this more rudimentary phase.

    Once we rid ourselves of the burdensome crucible of religion, we can more quickly eliminate arrogant tribalism from the human experience - or at least reduce its insidious effects.

  25. It seems like to me that religion was involved in many of these issues faced by the early people of the US. Another defining moment was the Civil War, 4 years of division and hatred sometimes between families on differing sides. Also, the singling out of a people to blame. The disquiet displayed in today's world is harder to pin down but is driven by individuals in the public spotlight trying to win the leadership of our country. So far they have not joined hands with the religious right but that is on the horizon for them to win their aims. We are also beset by outer forces which fuel the fears and uncertainties. There are no easy solutions to these issues and it will take more than an election to solve anything. In the meantime looking to the past as this article as done is a start.

  26. Betsy Herring - Edmund
    I agree. Religion may be an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence.
    Many religions have narratives, symbols, and sacred histories that aim to explain the meaning of life, the origin of life, or the Universe.
    From their beliefs about the cosmos and human nature, people may derive morality, ethics, religious laws, or a preferred lifestyle.
    Religions may have organized behaviors, clergy, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, holy places, and scriptures.
    The practice of a religion may include rituals, sermons, commemoration or veneration (of a deity, gods, or goddesses), sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trances, initiations, funerary services, matrimonial services, meditation, prayer, music, art, dance, public service, or other aspects of human culture. Religions may also contain mythology.
    There are many ways of perceiving one's world, some bigoted.

  27. Let's face it, "nativism" and all its grubby variants is not just an American wart, it is pretty universal among all of us home-sapiens. It's in our genes, carved into them because it was survival positive for millions of years of evolving primates. To not look at xenophobia as an inbred trait is to miss possible solutions to this behavior that is so destructive in modern society.

  28. So we're not really all that "exceptional," after all?

  29. will duff - Tijeras,
    Well said, "nativism" & "xeonophobia" (from the Greek, xenos -strange).
    We might have needed "strange" to distinguish a cougar from a rabbit on the savannah of our neanderthal ancestors to keep from being eaten.
    But, some of us (who have traveled), have evolved from then.
    And, the stranger we've never met may turn out to be our friend.

  30. I would re-phrase Schiff's description of Puritan motives. They did not come seeking religious freedom; they sought religious purity, as their name indicates. In England, they had to rub shoulders with all sorts of people they considered violators of God's law. In America, they would create a new community, one that God would bless because it adhered to his laws. Those settlers who failed to qualify for church membership would still have to live a godly life.

    The search for purity, naturally, crashed into the stone wall of human nature. Even in the first generation, Puritans encountered amongst themselves those, such as Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, who defined purity differently than the majority. In the second and subsequent generations, the numbers who failed to merit church membership grew faster than the elect.

    The tarnished reality of this Puritan paradise incited these literalists to see the Devil's handiwork in their failures. The horrors that Ms. Schiff discusses stemmed from the determination to expel the minions of Satan living amongst them. Only in that way could they regain the favor of the stern deity who had punished them with Indian wars, the loss of their charter, and the infestation of witches.

    We yearn for a different kind of purity, one based in reverence for the political ideals that define our nation. Each wave of new arrivals faces prejudice due partly to fear that their alien background will preclude adherence to our political faith.

  31. @James Lee. Your comment is very intelligent. But, I doubt some despise aliens because they have a different political faith. It's enough that aliens have features, language or cultural that identifies them. The best we do is admire and eat their food. That's why our best national holiday is Thanksgiving, not Christmas.

  32. The Puritans " sought religious purity, as their name indicates. In England, they had to rub shoulders with all sorts of people they considered violators of God's law. In America, they would create a new community, one that God would bless because it adhered to his laws. Those settlers who failed to qualify for church membership would still have to live a godly life."

    So, a Puritan caliphate, more or less. With its own varieties of public executions and mistreatment of women.

  33. I agree, AIR, and that is why I attributed prejudice "partly" to the fear of political heresy. Catholics, for example, confronted hostility partly because of the Protestant assumption that the pope and his bishops in America controlled their votes. But I would never deny the powerful impact of racism. The strict limit on the length of responses forces one to concentrate on the main point, omitting important qualifications.

  34. Why exactly is there no mention of the anger, terror and hatred towards the people who were here before all of these settlers, the Native Americans? Why is there no motion of the anger, terror and hatred towards the people who were brought in chains to serve these settlers, the African Americans? While it's comforting to know that there the settlers were equal-opportunity in their anger, terror and hatred towards other human beings, it seems like a broad white wash (pun intended) to give hardly a mention to those peoples who not only built this nation, but suffered, and continue to suffer, from anger, hatred and terror perpetrated for centuries by these so-called Christian settlers.

  35. Diva, the principal focus of the piece on the earliest manifestations of American xenophobia, in Puritan New England. The region at the time has a tiny black population. The Puritans, however, did experience "anger, hatred, and terror" toward the Native Americans, particularly in western Massachusetts.

    Ms. Schiff does not overlook these facts. Re-read paragraph six, with its references to "nascent sense of racial privilege," an "emboldened Native American population," and the predicted "imminent descent" of waves of "Indians and Gallic bloodhounds."

  36. I have mixed feelings about some of those long-ago Native Americans, because members of the Iroquois tribe massacred some of my ancestors during the Revolutionary War. I don't believe that any group has all bad or all good members, however.

    Although undoubtedly suffering the most, Africans who were brought here in chains weren't the only people mistreated by their masters. British people who had committed crimes for which capital punishment was not thought appropriate were permanently and conspicuously marked (on the hand) by branding and punished through transportation to the American Colonies, where they were to work as servants. Others were lured into what they thought was temporary indenture, in return for passage, only to find the terms of the contract changed to lifetime indenture upon arriving, and the only recourse they had was to escape their masters, as a slave would. That relationships between slaves and indentured servants were not uncommon seems to indicate their similar status.

    One aspect of American history that has been lost in the common narrative about race is that some African-Americans were so-called Free People of Color, or FPOC, so not every black person whose family has been here for hundreds of years is a descendant of slaves, and some who were were actually "owned" for their own protection by close relatives.

    I agree that the significant contributions of Africans at every stage of this country's development have not been sufficiently recognized.

  37. The author is highlighting the foundational nature of hate in Puritan New England. The Indigenous people are presented here as not being merely objects of hatred but shows them as a still powerful force to be reckoned with.

  38. It is the way of man. Early indicators can be seen in the jungle trees and grassy savannah.

  39. >

    "The established group has always taken a paranoid stance toward the others; in this great empires, indeed, organized humanity as a whole, are no better than head hunters."

    Horkheimer and Adorno
    Dialectic of Enlightenment

  40. The valid security needs of our country to be able to protect the borders and know who enters the country are not "raging suspicion and rabid xenophobia" but are used in the article to make the bulk of what the author says relevant to the anti-Trump hysteria and current political discussion.

    That was then, this is now.

  41. "That was then, this is now." The article forgot to mention that phrase is how you identify the next generation of those raging Puritans...

  42. ..."trumped up fears".... Exactly!

  43. None of the early colonies allowed Jews, except NYC, then called New Netherland.

  44. Well, no. Pennsylvania let in just about any old riffraff. But then the Quakers were known to be a little nutty. But then there was that little matter of our genocide of the local Indians. But of course that wasn't constrained by religion, in spite of being led by a Protestant minister -- in fact, they killed the "praying" Indians as cheerfully as any others. So: was our intolerance rooted in our religious prejudices, or were our prejudices just clothed in religious language?

  45. Wrong. The first synagogue in America was built in Newport, Rhode Island.

  46. My very good father never forgave FDR for not doing more to help the Jews during World War II.

    But after he finally succeeded in gaining entry to this country in 1941, he never once, not for a minute, ever considered setting foot outside of it again.

    I don't care who you are, or how badly the country may have treated you in the past or is still treating
    you, the U.S. remains the best of the best of all possible places, and even recalling our gravest mistakes like slavery and the others recalled here does not diminish that.

  47. "... does not diminish that in the slightest."

  48. A. Stanton - Dallas,
    I beg to differ.
    How can one become cosmopolitan (in it's meaning of knowledge of the world), if one never leaves the United States ?
    "Those who don't read history are doomed to repeat it".
    "The best of all possible places ?"
    I've seen "American Interests" trump altruism on many occasions.

  49. Of course, one should travel. Among other
    benefits, it informs you just how much we have here.

  50. This is a well done Opinion and rightly so asks people to stop and think in context of the sweep of Our History.

    I for one hate the raising tide of hate against all those from the middle east who come to the USA. I think we should do more to take in people fleeing the mess that has become the middle east.

    All that said however, one must acknowledge that with more people coming in from the middle east there is a real possibility that people who want to do hard to us will slip through with the 99% who do not.

    To that end, I want the right to defend myself as I go about my daily life. Not wait for some policeman to come and pick up my body after the fact.

    I am a believer in the saying The land of the Free and the Home of the Brave"

    I should be brave enough to take on the danger of living with my philosophy and let people in who want to come into USA. I should have the freedom to arm myself for my self defense as I walk down the street, or go to work, in case someone slips in and tries to kill me because I was brave enough to risk letting them in.

  51. Fear of groups none of whose members, or, for that matter, outwardly indistinguishable others claiming to be members, have committed many organized terrorist acts, is far different from fear of groups members of which rarely or never do so. One is irrational, and the other is entirely rational. We are talking about human nature, after all.

  52. Brilliant testimony as to why we are in the midst of mess that is painfully similar to many events in America's past, and further proof that education--including an ample introduction to the humanities--remains our best defense against repeating such atrocities.

  53. What passes for education in this country is what the educated in other parts of the world call skills training. Be that as it may, college education has been largely priced out of the wallets of ordinary people and there is a growing sentiment among right wing politicians that colleges somehow turn students into progressive voters. The current House Speaker is on record ridiculing President Obama for voicing support for affordable college education.

    Big business still finds fault with our schools for not functioning fully as boot camps for the IBMs and the GMs of the land.

    You may see "ample introduction to the humanities" as "our best defense against repeating [the atrocities in America's past]" If the the majority of the college educated vote for Democrats and the majority of the less educated vote Republican, then we have practical problem on our hands in giving our children the kind of education they need.

  54. I would love to think that education would mitigate hatred and fear of "the other." Sadly, it's pretty obvious that we have lots of educated voters who believe that they hold the Truth for everyone. That is the real problem: the conviction that only you or only your group knows what is best for everyone. (Remember that those Puritans were among the best educated of their time.) This conviction is propagandized and promoted by corporate money and elevated to high office through gerrymandering, and it's why our Congress is incapable of bipartisan law on most issues.

    It is the emotional conviction and self-righteousness horse on which all these hate-filled windbags ride into town.

  55. Naw, a good comparative religion course would be the work of the devil- making true believers have doubt that their way is the true way. You'd have a collapse of all the major monotheistic religions-not that such a thing wouldn't be a needed and wonderful thing but it just isn't going to happen. Too "disruptive" to the ruling elite.

  56. It is not the idea of America that is poisonous. It is religion and the intolerant dogma that coats all faiths. The open to all philosophy of our country is both admirable and obtainable when faith based laws of any kind are avoided. Our founders knew that and even put it in writing. And yes, it really is that simple.

  57. Intolerant dogma comes in many forms, not all of them religious. The communist purges of Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot were based in ANTI-religious ideology.

  58. @ Steve W

    Intolerant dogma comes in many forms, not all of them religious...but most of them are.

  59. Paula C. - Montana
    But currently, we "Americans" don't enjoy a very savory reputation in the world.
    So, in lieu of "Being Canadian", I choose to say, "I'm Canadian", when I travel.
    It's fun to change personae once in a while.

  60. "My fairy tale is better/truer/more godly than your fairy tale." What a pitiful people we can be when we invest ourselves in such beliefs.

  61. This is standard in-group // out-group selection. The battle for status and resources. Luckily for all religions there is a always a written doctrine of exclusion!

  62. The puritans condemned the celebration of Christmas not because Christmas merriment suggested frivolities associated with the pagan.

    There was a much more specific, doctrinal reason for their refusal to celebrate Christmas. They noted that neither the New Testament, nor the Old Testament, said when Jesus was born, let alone contend that he was born on December 25 or December 24. Since the testaments were silent on the time of Jesus' birth, there was no biblical basis to celebrate Christmas and, in line with the fundamentalism of the times, without a biblical basis X mas would have to be scrapped.

    It is not entirely clear what prompted the Protestant West to change its tune. The desire to move merchandise off of store shelves was probably a factor as our nascent consumer society was just beginning to stir.

  63. Thanks for the reminder of who we really are and where we came from, rather the the PC fairy tale version those who lead us would like to have us believe so it makes whatever they do look virtuous, supposedly because it's on our behalf.

    And thanks also, because without being willing to face the real ourselves in the mirror, can we actually ourselves to anything constructively honest to change anything, hopefully for the better. Myths and fables are okay to teach kids because they need to feel good about themselves and secure as they grow up. But once as adults, Shedding the make-believe and facing the realities of life is part of what makes us an adult.

    Maybe perpetual childhood is great for all those out there who all they want to do is sell us stuff - and what sells hotter than toys to kids - but that unaltered state is limited and can only take us a small step of the way that we have the full potential to take.

  64. Religion has been bad for people since it was invented by a bunch of people wandering in the desert thousands of years ago. Maybe someday it will go by the boards. Just IMAGINE.

  65. "You man say I'm a dreamer
    But I'm not the only one."

  66. All nations and religious institutions have embedded within their history a certain amount of xenophobia and fear of the "other". The United States stands out for our efforts and success in providing and supporting freedom and equality in our country and the world.

  67. Great article. We're taught in school that American prosperity is the result of hard work, ingenuity, and self reliance, all resulting from the pure foundation of equality of opportunity. It's a complete and utter myth. American prosperity was built upon slavery, racism, theft, murder, extortion, and last but not least, war. Throughout history when the ruling classes want something, whether the land belonging to the Mexicans or the Native Americans or the Iraqis, they just take it.

  68. It's not either/or. It's both. We have the rule of law in this country. We have a desire for justice and to strive for what it right - that is no myth. High-minded ideals are what most of us aspire to as humans, American or not. But as humans, we also have undeniable traits that most of us would describe as dark. The most persistent war is the one eternally waged inside each of us, between these two natures.

  69. And war is the biggest money-maker of all.

  70. Michael - Tribeca
    Bravo !

  71. The idea that serious and violent xenophobia is un-American is, well, just that. More an idea or desire (by some anyway) than an ongoing reality.

  72. I suppose it shouldn't anymore, but it still amazes me how certain quarters write as though the human pathology of bigotry and xenophobia are uniquely American traits; or at least define our history and country in some broad way.
    If Americans are intolerant bigots, its because they are human, for humans beings are by their very nature intolerant bigots.
    And no one is spared this curse. Least of all those who like to point the finger of guilt at others but with no apparently self-reflection on their own guilt whatsoever.

  73. The article doesn't suggest that this is strictly an American phenomena. It simply discusses American history as it relates to xenophobia.

  74. Thanks for this comment. Are we guilty far too often of xenophobia, as all human are? Yes. But America, "built on xenophobia?" I don't think so.

  75. The point is that our nation's principles espouse pluralism (note our national motto, e pluribus unum) and always have. No one is surprised at xenophobia in European nations, which are essentially ethnic homelands with narrow, ethnically-based cultural identities. This kind of nonsense is sharply at odds with the entire foundation of our country. If we want to claim exceptionalism, we'd better start acting exceptional.

  76. Not all fears are irrational. I wasn't in Jersey City on that 9/11 morning and so cannot say if Moslems there were, or were not not celebrating. But I was in downtown Manhattan right next to the twin towers, and I can confirm that the attacks of 9/11 actually did happen. From the fact that Salem's witches were a figment of conspiratorial imagination, it does not follow that there are no people today wishing to do us harm...

  77. At no point does Schiff say that 9/11 didn't happen. What she's talking about is the demonization of people regarded as outsiders, and the distortion to rational thinking that results, a phenomenon that was prevalent in 1690's Salem and lives on in 21st century America, and elsewhere, of course. It was that kind of distorted thinking that led this country to attack Iraq in 2003, a country that had not attacked us and, indeed, had no intention or capacity of attacking us. And now we all must live with the consequences.

  78. Brilliant column.

  79. What a specious argument! Viewed with the retrospectoscope in the twenty first century, of course it's easy to see how misguided these old views were. Try telling the victims of jihadist terrorism throughout the world, that with time we will see how ' wrong' our views are as they bury their dead. We are in a war unlike any in our history. The evidence is overwhelming. You can see it on television,our troops have experienced it. Ask the Syrians, the Israelis, the Kurds anon if this is a figment of our collective imaginations.
    Columns like this one, mislead and attempt to put our present rage and fears in a context of" will historians see us as being alarmist and paranoid reactors?". No,we are in the war and its threats are real. Maybe if we accept this reality we will stop navel gazing and do something concrete about it. Political correctness will not be important at the funeral of neighbors and loved ones.

  80. While you may have read the article (though I'm guessing the headline was as far as you got) you did not understand it.

  81. We are in a war with terrorists. We are not in a war with Islam. You only need to read the article about the closing of the Virginia school district today over a calligraphy assignment to see how destructive conflating terrorism and Islam can be.

  82. Why the outrage? The righteous indignation? Our history and traditions are not disconnected from the present. And we have a shameful history, full of bigotry, greed and inhumanity, which continues into the present day.

  83. this is a great article! Malcolm is the great American who has most influenced me. He said he was not an American "I can't sit at the table and watch you eat and call myself a diner." But he was wrong. When we engage in the study of the founding of America, that is as American as it gets and we know Malcolm was a student of American history. The big thing that jumps out at you when you study America's founding is the rampant racism and bigotry and the cruelty that flowed from it. True students of America and our history automatically are repulsed at prejudice and bigotry because these evils are America's first sins. And this holds true even for conservative students. You can be for a weak federal government and still reject the idea that our national morals rest on sadistic superiors and a permanent underclass. This article brings to light that what is driving the current group of xenophobes is not hate as much as it is them simply not ever haven taken a decent civics course.

  84. The country was founded on and fueled by slavery. Our existing infrastructure and the tremendous wealth of our economy would not exist without the blood, sweat and tears of slaves. Our history is one of greed, inhumanity, intolerance, and selfishness. We stole the land from its rightful inhabitants and proceeded to desecrate and destroy it, turning it into garbage and pollution.

  85. And add to this the historical used of the language of racism and stereotype -- our calling each other names I will not repeat here, but that we all know, and the common use of adjectives about other groups among us, and you have an even grander historical base for prejudice and nastiness. Attempts to raise this dangerous and obviously wrongheaded use of language to self-awareness, and to substitute more accurate and civil vocabulary (or to simply eliminate crass and highly misleading words that provide an aura of truth and acceptability), is now hatefully referred to as imposing political correctness. So now anger and hatred about PC adds even more fuel to the fire. Is there no way out?

  86. So, it's really religion that fueled our intolerance from the very beginning of the country. If only a group of atheists, searching for freedom from persecution, had founded America and built a country. It's interesting to speculate what kind of nation we would be today without the divisiveness that religion caused over the centuries. We'd probably still hate each other, but without religious texts and practices, what would our hatred be based on? Religion is so ingrained in our culture and history, and we're so used to using it as a reason for our intolerance of others that it's difficult to even imagine such a scenario.

  87. Atheism does not inoculate one from xenophobia and bigotry. See Sam Harris and other New Atheists.

  88. How many christians (or other religious people) have been burned at the stake in the name of Atheism?

  89. Those fleeing religious persecution who came here for a different life turned around and did the same to others who came later. Maryland was founded as a haven for Catholics, and Pennsylvania for Quakers. Both have been reviled in American history. Just look at the suspicion that people held against Catholics when JFK ran for president. Americans are an odd bunch. Mostly living in a fantasy world and allergic to facts.

  90. Things have changed. One that has changed is that we have a very well populated country now. Do we need more people? Do we owe the world to compromise our own well being by taking in more people than we can handle? Where will this end? I have read that about 50% of Americans are taking government money. We provide housing for people who not citizens while citizens go without. We work extra to pay for people who will not or cannot work? How much more should be asked of us? Remember that when people came here in the pass, they did not feel entitled but grateful. The new crop does not appreciate this country or its people or the effort that has gone into making it great. Are we in decline?

  91. We all take government money because our taxes are pooled together to create benefits for everyone. That includes you. That you are able to write your messages online is a testament to government investment in communications infrastructure. Do you drive on a public highway? Benefit from laws that protect public safety? Go to bed at night knowing that you have the world's finest military protecting the country from attack? Know that if you have an emergency, a call to 911 will bring an ambulance and a fire crew to your home under 5 minutes? Stop demonizing the poor. The majority of poor people do work, and usually more than one job. Immigrants are the least likely people to depend on public assistance because they usually come from places where people are accustomed to working very hard, and so when they arrive, they do the same here. Who are we housing free while our citizens go without? If we have people in poverty, it's because we have corporations that pay their executives millions of dollars while paying their workers poverty wages. Did you know that Walmart pays its employees such low wages that they qualify for Medicaid? Or that adjunct professors right there in your home town are being paid poverty wages while university administrators make six figure salaries? Instead of demonizing the poor and immigrants and refugees, why don't you get out of your comfy chair and do something about the raging inequality in this country?

  92. What in the world are you talking about? I don't know because you do not cite any references for the outlandish statements you are making, such as "50% of Americans are taking government money". And anyway, I have news for you...government money is the people's money, and perhaps it should go to people in need. And yes, sometimes we work more so that people who cannot work have something. That is what communities do for each other. Please learn to actually follow whatever religion you follow.

  93. Maybe you are in decline, maybe you've always been an ignoramous. And you live in a university town, too.

  94. It all comes down to this: what we can't explain we attribute to God's mysterious ways. Fairy tales are mysterious too.

  95. The "God of the gaps" in our knowledge has less to work with each year than he had the year before. What's a theist to do?

  96. What nation wasn't xenophobic and prejudiced in times past? American fears may have been expressed more than most for the simple reason that the nation had real diversity. Remember: In order to hate the other, you have to have the other.

    The xenophobia is unsurprising for the eras the author cites. What is shocking is its re-emergence in this day and age. The second half of the 20th century largely saw this kind of talk and thought dissipate. Never did I think I'd see the day when a major presidential candidate suggested branding all people belonging to a religion.

  97. Does that mean if Donald Trump gets in the White House, we should just shrug it off as a fine, old, American tradition? I'm having trouble with that.

  98. Reminds me of the jihad waged throughout academia by climate 'believers' against 'deniers.' The left are equally skilled in the art of self-righteous atrocity. Janet Reno took particular glee in incinerating masses of children against a disapproved 'cult'; Democrats led the Jim Crow Era; and FDR jailed American citizens in concentration camps. There's plenty of shyte to throw around.

  99. @Publius: yes indeed let's look at the persecution of the climate deniers: the repeated subpoenas by powerful Senators and Congressmen and the leaks of misrepresented information to the press, the calls to subvert and defund the National Science foundation and NOAA, debunked lies and distorted history and data plots. Oh, I'm sorry, that was the fossil fuel-funded denialist lobbying machine. The parallel with the past is that it is the powerful that have a sense of persecution: the deniers are the downtrodden even as they seek to use the tools of government and the press to get scientists fired or suppressed. An example is Gov Scott's actions against disaster preparedness officers in Florida.

  100. Or that against flat earthers or a geo-centric universe...

  101. It's really important that you learn to distinguish between history and fable. In this case, everything you've written is either ignorant, untrue or deliberately misconstrued. You can do better!

  102. Xenophobia is so widespread and common not only among our species but many others as well that it has to be considered a natural phenomenon or behavior pattern which has evolved and thrived due to advantages in natural selection. Instinctual, hardwired perhaps, it will not go away anytime soon. Fortunately we also have a natural wiggle room, perhaps only a small antechamber, called culture, which seems to enable some modifications. On what modifications, amendments, embellishments we need and want and how is where more of our attention should be focussed.

    The West has roots in ancient Greek culture which gave us as a model of conscience Athena who unlike other models such as Moses and Mohammed did not demand adherence to specific and hard-set instruction manual with a particular list of do's and don'ts but instead advocated thought itself before the completion of or surrender to impulse or instinct or tradition and custom . . . education and artistic endeavors could do more in that direction.

  103. "Belief in the divine is the origin of all dictatorship." - Christopher Hitchens

    It is dismaying to read about historic xenophobia that avoids the generic tribalism of fundamentalist religion. The Massachusetts Bay colonists for instance had left an England via (the present day) Netherlands in a time when religious factionism of the English Civil War was killing a higher percentage of British than were lost in WW1. The 16th & 17th Centuries in Europe were bathed in state sanctioned religious bloodshed from the battlefield to the gibbet, ranging from Oliver Cromwell's murderous rampages in Ireland where women and children were not spared to the execution of a King. To talk about xenophobia in a 17th century context without directly invoking the madness of religious faith itself is like talking about illness without mentioning disease.

    I don't know where our current high state of hands-off phobia toward directly aligning and correlating faith in the supernatural with bad acts by humans comes from (and I believe the two-letter explanation that also describes a computer is getting tired innefective.) But it's moved intelligent discourse on history and culture back 50 years and buried the intelligent analyses of some brilliant thinkers in PC (whoops) muck.

    "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction." - Blaise Pascal

  104. My mother and her cousin told me that, during their childhood in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, the family sent the cousin to shop in certain areas of the neighborhood because, blonde and fair-skinned, she didn't look Italian. This was back in the 1920s, when prejudice against Italian immigrants was high. Italians were regarded as stupid, dirty and subversive. I heard these stories while sitting in my mother's kitchen which, like my grandmother's kitchen before it, was so clean that you could literally eat off the floor. My mother was a clean-freak to rival any minimalist wall-scrubber.

    My uncle, who died recently at age 96, graduated from HS at age 16 & was accepted by Brooklyn College. He could not attend, however, because it was 1935, and the family had no money for either books or the facilities fee (about $25.00 per semester). He went to work on the docks, then fought bravely in WWII, landing at Normandy a week after D-Day, helping to liberate Paris and fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. So much for dumb and unpatriotic.

    My husband, whose family was in politics, has told me that the Democratic Party wisdom in NYC from the 40s through the 60s was that a ticket for Mayor, Comptroller and City Council President had to include "an Italian, an Irishman and a Jew." Slowly, each ethnic or religious group - mine included - overcame xenophobia and became the establishment. We need to recall that the next time someone warns us to fear "the other."

  105. What nonsense. Everything Ms. Schiff writes may well be true, but there is nothing uniquely American about this - and by her tone Ms. Schiff implies there somehow is. What evidence is there that any other human culture or nation state did not act in the same manner? In fact, notwithstanding many examples of xenophobia, America has historically been more welcoming of foreigners, more willing to define citizenship by shared values than by ethnicity, than other nation states.

  106. "What evidence is there that any other human culture or nation state did not act in the same manner? " Um ... Ms. Schiff is not required to prove a negative for your personal satisfaction. If you have genuine historical examples that support you view and that you would like to discuss, then by all means enlighten us.

  107. My observation is that the vast majority of people are suspicious and xenophobic and it starts at a very young age with treating other kids as "not in the club" and migrates to middle school and HS cliques, moves on to fraternities/sororities in college and then full on paranoia in zealot political parties. Those guys in the other party are "devilish evil and want to eat your children" rhetoric. And globally there are the religious and race suspicions as well.

    What's much more amazing is that most people don't believe they are suspicious and xenophobic. That's called denial. Until people own up to it they can never control it.

  108. Very well-written article, in terms so simple one would think even the zealots could comprehend the similarities to their own xenophobia's, but that is surely a bridge too far...or multiple bridges and multiple distances, as time has proven that those most in need to learn from history are the same people who are most ignorant of it, and ignorant of so much else. Even the stories from our childhood - the Salem witchcraft horrors - don't seem to resonate in the proper manner, as if they are just titillating tales of strange people from long ago and a lead-in to Halloween merry-making, instead of the true lesson of bigotry, isolationism, and the demonizing of the "others".

  109. "From that earlier set of founding fathers — the men who settled 17th century Massachusetts — came the first dark words about dark powers. No matter that they sailed to these shores in search of religious freedom."

    Not so. Unlike the stories we were told in elementary history class, the men and women who settled Massachusetts were not fleeing persecution. They had been living comfortable (and peacefully) in the Netherlands for many years. Their Dutch hosts were tolerant of all religious practices, and presented no threat to them.

    But the Dutch, apparently, were TOO tolerant. Puritans feared that their children were being exposed to un-Puritanical ideas and lifestyles. And so they left.

    It's not accurate to depict the Puritans as peaceful people fleeing persecution. Indeed, they were intolerant of others before they ever even came to these shores. This country was indeed founded on religious intolerance.

    Except for Jamestown, which was a purely commercial enterprise. It's accurate to say that American roots are founded in the pursuit of money, and ideological intolerance.

  110. You are confusing Pilgrims and Puritans and they were not the same. The Pilgrims were genuine Separatists who believed that the Church of England was beyond redemption and wanted complete religious and political separation. Those folks washed up on Cape Cod in 1620. The Puritans, despite their stern and unforgiving ideology, were reformers and were still looking to work within the system (albeit to transform it to their way of thinking, see, Cromwell, Oliver). Their Great Migration of 1630 that formed the Massachusetts Bay Colony was much more significant to our nation's history than those radical Pilgrims. Everyone knows about the "Mayflower," I'll wager not one in a thousand knows the "Arbella."

  111. It is interesting to read the list of the Jamestown settlers along with their occupations.

    I know that included two "Perfumers" who might have cornered the market selling perfumes to the natives!

  112. Thank you very much for your comment! It often surprised me to encounter so many people honestly believing that the first settlers in America fled terrible religious persecution. I could not quite reconcile it with the fact that by the time of exodus to America religious persecution in Europe was on its down spiral. I am especially grateful to you pointing out about the first settlers living in The Netherlands before they came to New England which was quite a progressive place at the time compare to other places not in the least due to trade. There was a very good informative documentary on history channel about the first settlers around this Thanksgiving. Too bad it could never gather an audience as large as presidential campaign debates. But how nice it is to spin and believe in the myth of exceptional spirituality.

  113. Unfortunately: I can't be personally too shocked, because reading of historical harshness over years does tend to imprint this student.

    Donald Trump has seemingly tapped into today's popular fear & loathing,
    and is potentially his party's likely presidential nominee.

    The people of the USA aren't impervious and essayist Stacy Schiff is
    simply if not scarily/sensationally reminding us of some harsh reactionary behavior.

  114. Even agreeing that intolerance, mistrust, and abuse are part of our national history, even human nature, does not mean that we can leave things at that. We need leaders who move us from our base instincts and to thoughtful, equitable, forward-looking policies. The whole world needs such individuals.

  115. Purity vs. plurality. I want pure air, water and food. I want eclectic education, diverse experience and uncommon friendship. I like salt, pepper and all manner of spices. I don't like one religion, one color or a single political view. I embrace more than just tolerate and I encounter pure joy, often.

  116. The problem with discrimination of any sort, whether ethnic or religious, is that it happens in a timeline, where we are unable to see who is behind us or ahead of us. That is called exclusion.
    It's only when we face each other in a circle and are able to see who we really are as humans that the spectre disappears. That is called inclusion.

  117. I believe we are all predisposed at times to some xenophobia. ( okay... I know that's a bit vague for such a blanket statement ) Root causes: our tribal instincts? genetics? cultural? Bring on the right amount and form of stress and/or hardship to our "group" and the xenophobic reaction rachets up to bring out the worse in all of us. We have to blame something/somebody. Sadly, I feel it's a hopeless condition of being "human". Sorry about such a downer comment.

  118. Don't forget too the rampant sexism and ever-present attempts to suppress women's voices, seen as a reaction to King Philip's War, and very much a component of our current terrorized response to terror, detailed so well by Susan Faludi in "The Terror Dream."

  119. So I guess the moral to this story is, we as humans haven't come very far in the last 300 years. Even though we appear to be better educated the primal 'fear factor' still exists within us.

  120. The column makes the same point (in less detail) as Richard Hofstadter's famous 1965 essay, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics."

  121. 'Xenophobia: An intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries.'

    What has happened is that non-Muslims have a Pavlovian reaction to anyone dressed in Muslim religious attire, as it that is an indication of the their degree fundamentalism.

    Considering the daily atrocities committed by Muslims throughout the world, the fear and anger may not be fair, but it is not irrational.

  122. "History is bunk!" Henry Ford may have said this meaning you can't trust historians to tell the story truthfully. But then Henry was viciously antisemitic and thought Hitler was terrific, as did Charles Lindberg.

    Lessons can be learned from history if you can get the story straight and get students to listen, not easy in a failing public education system. The writer quotes Donald Trump, an interesting choice for an article about anger.

    My choice is to make decisions and plans based on current verifiable information with a heavy emphasis on risk management. If it ain't broke don't fix it and beware of the Cheney's and Rumsfelds in life who promise victory but who rely on exaggeration or falsehoods to risk your life in war.

    The military solution is rarely the best choice. Finding out why people hate you and eliminating their reason for hate may eliminate the need for war.

    Think about it !

  123. US "Exceptionalism " and Israel´s "Chosen people" makes them both among the most racist countries in this world. The treatment of Mexican peasants being
    thrown out of their land for being " foreign "in spite of desiring to live precisely
    in the same places i.e.. San Francisco, Santa Fe, Los Angeles etc ( Where do you think those names came from ?) comes from a culture born out of permanebnt conflict. And that is exceptional.

  124. It would be interesting to see you, in a much longer article admittedly, develop this thread throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries as well. Many examples come to mind - McCarthy, of course - but also George H.W. Bush who, during the Gulf War, used (fairly puerile) language to describe Saddam Hussein that no other world leader (that I could understand) ever echoed, and which spoke to a real need to set up diabolical enemies and denounce them in order to fire up the nation. Rush Limbaugh is another example of (a) the need for an enemy (liberals) and the extreme language used to discredit and demonize them. When I listen to Rush Limbaugh, I am reminded of what the Völkischer Beobachter must have read like.

  125. Religious intolerance has fueled more hatred and loathing than anything else in our history. Odd, isn't it? All religions teach love and tolerance but few show that in action. Abdu'l-Baha of the Baha'i Faith once proclaimed that if religion be the source of discord, man is better off without it [paraphrased, not a quote]. Why is it that Christians, once divided into sects such as Catholic and Protestant, turn against each other? Why is it that Sunni's war against Shia's in a religion that forbids Holy War except against apostates? And, of course, we now have the Islamic version of radical Jihadists at war with everyone else, but especially other versions of Islam. The only thing much different today is the willingness to mass murder your own kind along with other religions and the weapons used to do it.

    Still, there is hope. Catholics and Protestants have pretty much learned to live with each other without killing each other; most muslims are peaceful and not interested in participating in a Holy War; and Baha'is don't hate or kill anyone. Maybe, if religions could learn to get along with each other, we could even get politicians who would cooperate.

  126. Nice irony at the end especially- wasn't aware that puritans rejected Xmas.

  127. The majority of the perpetrators – those uttering “the dark words about dark powers” here - come from England. Such practices accompanied the English them everywhere as they embarked on colonization. South Africa had apartheid; Australia had the White Australia Policy. Things weren’t so good in the last century either when, in the UK, prejudices against West Indians, Pakistanis, Indians and Irish Catholics were more common that we’d like to believe.
    But things improved. South Africa no longer has apartheid nor Australia the White Australia Policy. Irish Catholics now have a significant say in how they are governed and a quarter of the UK Parliament (House Of Commons) is made up of minority members, including the Conservative MP for Stratford On Avon, Nadhim Zahawi, a British Iraqi. (I think Shakespeare would have approved.)
    America contributed to this change. Those who participated in the Civil Rights reforms in the 1960s probably had a wider influence than they thought.
    Right now, Mr. Trump and others are offering solutions left right and center but they too will be swept along by the tide of history.

  128. South African apartheid was the work of the Afrikaner majority. The English were never fans of the mixing of races in their colonies but apartheid, and the worst excesses thereof, happened after 1948 and were imposed by the National Party.

  129. Here is overwrought NYT silliness at its finest, with the recent obligatory theme of Donald Trump as the prime villain.

    Just to start with, Trump & his followers aren't a small group of zealots suffering hallucinations (e.g., "gleaming balls of fire in their beds"). The San Bernardino attack was a real event with real terrorists. While most Americans rightly decry Trump's broad anti-Muslim rhetoric, the fact remains that:

    1) A Muslim man who was seemingly well-integrated into American life evaded detection as a threat and slaughtered 14 Americans.
    2) His wife who participated in the slaughter was admitted into the US despite govt processes we'd hoped would weed out terrorists.

    Instead of attacking Trump daily, why doesn't the NYT lead a robust, fact-filled, thoughtful, & practical discussion of what a liberal democracy like ours should do to prevent attacks such as those in CA & Paris, and the truly thorny issues involved?

    We're not in an era where we're illogically blaming the French for killing "the sheep grazing on Cambridge Common" when it was probably wolves. Islamist terrorists have announced their intention to kill people & have done so.

    In CA, Syed Farook's neighbors had a gut feeling that something was amiss but didn't call authorities because they felt they were stereotyping. So where is the balance between vigilance & hysterics? I fear we'll never find it because Trump types are overreacting while the Left is underreacting.

  130. Wow, wouldn't it be fun to see Donald Trump all decked out in a Puritan outfit, tall black hat, with his orange hair pouring out from under a wide brim, his ample jowls bursting from under the white collar.

    But then, how would he explain his three marriages, and saying he would love to date his daughter, if she his daughter?

  131. The people most immune from the frantic dystopian hype about an imagined omnipresent "Nefarious Malevolent Evil" -- are the artists. This band of folks excel at telling stories in words, music, painting, poetry, dance and the like. As they are experts -- more than any other class -- in creating imaginal reality -- excepting perhaps the mystics -- they know that fear is generated not by a single thing in the outer world, but by what goes on in the inner world. When a man tells you to be afraid of something, he's telling you mostly about his own inner world, and very little about the actual world in front of his own face.

  132. This is an excellent commentary. I often compare the hideous attacks on Thomas Jefferson in the 18th century to the hideous attacks on Barack Obama in the 21st century. The sad fact is that these xenophobes and racists have always been with us, but thanks to multi-millionaires' largess and the Internet, their nastiness has been amplified way too much. If only we could dial down the volume control.

  133. The sins of the fathers are visited on the sons...

    We pass these things down through generations in families and neighborhoods. The context may change somewhat, but the tendency toward fear and hatred remains the same.

    I'd be interested in another book, Ms. Schiff, about influences brought to our country by the influx of Scots in the mid 18th century. I've read suggestions that this immigration brought with it large helpings of bigotry, fear, and ignorance, that the uprising crushed by the English sent a wave of devastated and traumatized country people to the Colonies, and that this fed a culture of violence mistrust among some rural populations here. It's an interesting hypothesis that might bear investigating.

  134. The core of this article is not that the US or its people are uniquely xenophobic.
    Instead it highlights two things:
    First, what we today take as facts may be based on the same prejudices that led us to belive the earth was flat or the center of the universe, or that there are witches.
    Second, that which defines us as civilized and purports to separate us from lower primates is that we adhere to principles and rules that we deem higher than our raw instincts.

  135. Ms. Schiff, thank you for pointing out the shortcomings of Cotton Mather. He was certainly wrong. Even so, John Endecott might be a better example for your purposes of demonstrating religious intolerance especially vis a vis the Quakers.

    There is a difference between Quakerism and Islam - no, there is a gulf of differences between Quakerism and Islam. But forget that.

    Mary Dyer did not go to Boston to murder and maim.

    There are valid reasons that Americans view their Moslem neighbors with suspicion. Think on that, Ms. Schiff. What might they be?

  136. Sazerac - New Orleans
    Mary Barrett Dyer was a smart woman.
    She may not have gone to Boston with malice aforethought, but she did know at the time, she was going to a place of gender inequality.
    Did she have a death wish ?
    Was she engaging in the more current "suicide by cop" ?
    Or, verdict by judge ?
    Hindsight is wonderful but might there have been another way ?

  137. I think humans are innately aggressive. We have not used our great intellect to overcome our instincts. I know that violence on tv and in movies is an overused example. But if I may for a moment ... Admittedly, I am a fan of the classic Cary Grant movie. So I may not be the most objective person. But last night, prior to the start of Star Wars, I sat through countless dark, apocalyptic, extremely violent trailers. They just kept coming. I appreciate how digital technology has truly given us tools to create incredible imagery. But we must ask ourselves what it means when we find these dystopian movies enjoyable.

  138. The New England settlers, and their countrymen throughout North America, brought with them the religious intolerance of the homeland. These supposedly early American hatreds were, like the people who expressed them, merely an English import. Of course, religious intolerance seems to be a feature of religion itself, and not country-specific. To quote Tom Lehrer:
    Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics
    and the Catholics hate the Protestants
    and the Hindus hate the Muslims
    and everybody hates the Jews.
    Because it's National Brotherhood Week...

  139. Thank you Ms. Schiff for this brief but informative walk through our history. Unfortunately, the handful of people who know this material will say "Yup, that's what I've been saying but no one wants to listen." The great ignorant masses who do not know or even want to know our real history will continue to wallow in the nativist culture of fear and mistrust that they find so comforting.

  140. Knowledge of history, like science, is an amazingly effective path to more open minds and tolerance.

    Sure, it's possible to become highly educated and still remain an ideologically-blinkered bigot -- like Cotton Mather, or Ted Cruz. All the more dangerous for the skill in demagoguery, public pontification and lies.

    But for the most part, when children are taught to read widely, when students are given a broad liberal arts education, when adults read and travel and rub shoulders with diverse others, then think critically and reflectively about what they've learned and the realities they see around them ... spiritual courage often deepens even as religiosity disappears. Both compassion and rationality grow stronger. Love for the planet and fellow creatures abounds, and so does regard for objective facts, proven solutions, and empirical arguments instead of empty rhetoric.

    But it all starts with education. As I know from my own redder-than-red State, that's high on the long, long list of things the reactionary extremists hate. You can lead the GOP to water, but you can't make them think!

  141. Yes indeed, more knowledge is better for everyone, and so for the community and nation as a whole. I am surprised that in the 20 hours since TL posted this no NYTimes reader has pointed out the GOP's antagonism toward science, education and political transparency: keep those 'hard-working Americans' uninformed!

  142. 'Please refrain from referring to people like Ted Cruz as "highly educated." They are highly trained. There is a difference.

  143. The problem is, if you read the first post in this thread, you realize that the typical broad liberal arts education is as useless as the southern one. I've never seen such appalling ignorance. The people who recommended that post should have flunked seventh grade history. I mean, "American prosperity was built upon slavery, racism, theft, murder, extortion, and last but not least, war"? That makes Donald Trump sound like a genius.

  144. Too bad we can't live in a world described by John Lennon's song "Imagine".
    Think what a better world this would be---no country's to die for or religion too.

  145. …nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too"...

  146. Unable to learn from our sins of the past and to adapt, the only thread had holds together the fabric of our nation is to have a common enemy we wage war against. Thus, in order to exit, we must engage in perpetual war to fight our nagging fear that America, indeed, is not exceptional.

    Unless we understand, accept, and embrace that we are equal among equals among all nations on earth, we’re destined for obscurity.

  147. The US government should not create, support of prefer any particular religion, but America does grant tax exemptions and other financial benefits to various religions!

    I never thought about it very much, but churches are really entertainment businesses that collect funds from senile little old widowed ladies like my 90+ year old mother and then use these dollars to buy expensive vacations, luxury cars, grand large houses, expensive mistresses, services of prostitutes, pedophile sexual activity lawsuit settlements, and/or other similar expenses.

    They might spend a little bit for religious activities, but most of the donations are probably are spent enhancing the lifestyles of their clergymen, and that is a very great religious sin in my opinion, even if it is not a crime.

    The US Constitution prohibits the establishment of any religion, and this (probably) implies that taxes cannot be used to support any religion. The exemption of any religion or any other entertainment venue from paying their fair share of taxes to pay for the various services that they use means that my taxes are increased to pay for the public services that they are provided with my tax payments.

    If money donated to religious and charitable organizations are tax deductible, then this is financial government support of religion when government taxes are indirectly diverted to religious organizations!

  148. Donald Trump is simply the worlds best lipstick on the GOP pig.

    If he didn't exist, the media would have to invent him.

    On second thought, maybe they did.

  149. While it is difficult to disagree with much of what Stacy Schiff writes in this article, it is both thin and one-sided. What's missing is an attempt to explain why xenophobia is a feature in our history, or to point out its dynamics. Are we just a nation of small-minded, bad people? Is it something in the American character? Has xenophobia been constant, or does it ebb and flow? What might cause this? And if it is so pervasive, how have so many nationalities over the centuries come to call America home?

  150. Schiff seems unaware that much of the New Englanders' xenophobia reflected the European politics they had not fully left behind. Britain and France were at war during much of the time between the 1680s and 1763. The pacifist Quakers were a product of the English Civil War of the 1640s and 50s and were widely reviled on both sides of the pond. That same Civil War was in part caused by the rift between Puritans and Anglicans. To say this is uniquely American seems to be missing the point. It's human.

  151. Taking territory from others, establishment of new states and institutions, changing regimes, revolutions and revolutionary wars are by their nature violent undertakings throughout all of human history - not just in the Americas. This doesn't preclude that some 300 years later, American citizens can and should do much, much better. We have a Constitution and Bill of Rights that enshrines some very noble ideas. Let's look to those documents for guidance.

  152. I applaud the effort to show that America as an place of freedom only works if some people are free and others not so. This has always been the people's conception of freedom for the majority. Although the sentiments expressed in our Declaration of Independence are important as showing a direction to strive for. The reality is much more ugly, the uglier because of the US's devotion to an Exceptionalism that precludes us from learning from others.

  153. Don't forget that the 17th century was a time of disastrous climate change throughout the world. Changes in solar weather made the Little Ice Age. During that time, summer temperatures dropped slightly (akin to the rise we are already experiencing today) causing crops to rot in fields, long droughts were interspersed with massive floods. The ensuing famines yielded war, migration, xenophobia, revolt, and regicide. We're heading into our own period of devastatingly dramatic climate change, which has so far yielded droughts, floods, heat emergencies, wars and massive migration, but this time, we created it and we have the means to reverse it. Do we have the grace to do so or will we fall back on blaming the Other?

  154. Lets be honest - except in the Middle East, Muslims are not welcomed in many areas of Europe and the US. The fact that many Muslims who carry out Jihad were actually born in the US or Europe, raises the suspicion of them.

    With the threat of ISIS to infiltrate the refugee stream and exploiting porous borders both in the US and Europe, we can expect criticism and attacks on Mosques and Muslims to increase.

    Who would have through the San Bernadino couple were terrorists? That is the problem and it was true of the Paris attacks. Many people knew the attacker and they seemed like nice, quiet people UNTIL they went on their jihadist rampage.

    The fact that Jihadist could be living among us or be part of our naive Syrian refugee influx, deepens the suspicion of all Muslims. This suspicion is not just in the US but in Europe also. It raises serious questions everywhere about accepting refugees from the Middle East.

    It would be far better if the money spent on resettlement were instead used to improve exists refugee camps and establish more of these camps were these people can live a decent normal life until they can return to rebuild Syria.

    We should provide schools, playgrounds, business opportunities in these camps so people will be willing to stay in them. Money should be spent on that NOT on resettling refugees - in fact every effort should be made to stop resettlement by improving refugee camps.

  155. @ Judyw
    "Lets be honest..." writes Judy. Ok. By all means.

    "Who would have through [sic] the San Bernadino couple were terrorists?"

    Who among the Charleston churchgoers thought that the young man, Dylan Roof, sitting among them during bible study would suddenly open fire and kill so many of their group.

    "The fact that Jihadist could be living among us or be part of our naive Syrian refugee influx, deepens the suspicion of all Muslims."

    How is it that supporters of the Confederate flag living among us do not face such suspicions? If you were inclined to be honest, Judy, you would at least ask such a question, would you not? Let's say we DON'T resettle Muslim refugees. We would still have a problem with home-grown terrorists, of the Christian variety, in these United States.

  156. Xeno"phobia" connotes an irrational fear. After the 2012 election, Charles Blow announced that demographic changes would doom conservatives, and traditional America. I totally agree with Mr. Blow.

    Demography is Destiny.

    For those of us who do not want the United States to be "fundamentally transformed," it behooves us to stop all immigration from third-world countries as soon as possible.

    Build the wall and build it now. Clarify that the 14th Amendment does not grant birthright citizenry.

    And increase the immigration of those who will vote for conservative candidates. Perhaps industrial, hard working people who wish to escape collectivism, socialism, and the dulling insipidity of today's Europe.

  157. Solomon recommended increased immigration into our country of conservative people: "Perhaps industrial [sic], hard working people who wish to escape collectivism, socialism, and the dulling insipidity of today's Europe."

    There are (perhaps surprisingly to some) very few these days who wish to leave that "collective, socialist" Europe for a supposedly "freer" America. Europe recognizes, respects and provides for basic human needs neither recognized, respected or provided for here in the United States. People do really need to understand and accept that while for people in Central America or other relatively deprived areas the United States may still represent a better future the Europeans have now created even more welcoming societies. They have their problems, but average people there are still better off than average people here.

  158. I think you'll likely only attract the obsessive, workaholic people who wish to escape the fraternity, egalitarianism, and vibrant cosmopolitanism of today's Europe.

  159. Many comment here seem to think Schiff's article is an attack on America, when it is simply explaining how suspicion of, fear of, and hatred of others has been very much a part of our history (other comments add that she left out historical attitudes about indigenous Americans and Africans). She is not comparing us to others. If she is comparing us to anything it is comparing our real history to imaginary idealization of our past and present -- arguing with those who think that we are exceptionally better than others and that we are in an exceptionally different situation than ever before. Some comments seem to think that although we may have not been justified in the past for our fears and anger, we are justified now because of the different nature of the threat. Those comments derive from an exaggeration of the current threats, along with a lack of appreciation for how safe and secure we are now compared to all times in the past -- certainly in terms of life-expectancy, general safety, and health as well as the threat of random violence (unless we see nuclear war as inevitable -- but that is another story).

  160. Stacy Schiff,

    I really enjoy your article. We are all advised not to discuss religion or politics in order to not incite controversial comments which will create advisaries for yourself.

    I do, however, believe that all churches and all other non-profit organizations should pay property taxes on all of their property plus sales taxes on all of their purchases to pay their share of the public services that they use, instead of everybody else's taxes paying for the cost of the services that the churches and non-profit organizations use.

    I believe that preachers, choir leaders and other paid church employees should also pay income taxes and social security taxes on their salaries and other compensations, the same as any other person in order to pay for the benefits that they and everybody else living in the USA receives.

    This tax exemption for churches (and other non-profit organizations) means that the government takes money from me and in essence gives that money to churches to support that church with the increase in my taxes to pay for various taxpayer services that the churches utilize.

    This would probably not be allowed by the US Constitution if a proper brief was filed to the US Supreme Court.

  161. I believe that we should fight to eliminate the income tax deductions and the property tax exemptions that are granted to religious groups by the federal government and by the various state, county, local and municipal governments.

    These free rides increase the tax burdens onto all of the other (non-exempt) taxpayers.

    Church property should not be exempt from paying local property taxes.

    The Churches call police when they are the victims of a crime, call the fire department when they have a fire, demand city water and sewer services, use city taxpayer provided street lighting, paved streets, etc.

    Most local authorities provide exemptions from local taxes for religious owned property and charge the remaining property owners an increased amount in taxes to pay for serving the church properties.

    This is taxpayer tax supported religion.

    The US Clergy enjoys the rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by our government with our armed forces.

    Maybe they should pay their fair share for the support of the military forces, and the judicial system.

    Maybe they should also pay for the government welfare programs that all other taxpayers are forced to support.

    Maybe the Clergy should pay taxes upon the value of all of the things that they get as perks from the churches such as free housing and free automobiles.

    The remainder of the taxpayers must pay more taxes in order to make up the amount of taxes not paid by the clergy and the organized religions.

  162. And here we have, on full view, as the (currently) top-rated comment, a perfect example of religious bigotry, this time in its 21st century American guide of radical, hateful opposition to the free exercise of religious beliefs by others. Special taxes on those who believe in a Higher Power than people. The naked exercise of government power to seize property and subject believers to house arrest (or worse). The demand that educational and charitable activities by believers be prohibited unless they follow the ideology du jour.

    Njglea is the direct descendant in practice of the Puritans who led the Salem Witch Trials, and also the direct descendant of the ideological atheists who killed, imprisoned and enslaved millions of believers in the Soviet Union and China in the course of the 20th Century.

  163. Emma Lazarus' poem also states the flame from the Colossus' torch "is the imprisoned lightning", a nature tamed, that can finally welcome the wretched fleeing from the world of the Old Colossus. To emphasize the anger seeping through our American heritage as ur-American without balancing the continuing efforts underscored by the Constitution to embrace diversity and individuality seems to jail Americans and ISIL fanatics into the same crowded cell in the name of an inescapable cultural DNA. But the American experiment has enlightened the world, has succeeded, and glows proudly its world-wide welcome. Why shackle that brilliance in a literary myth?

    The Donald's angry and thoughtless remarks cannot snuff-out our historical progress and certainly do not resonate with the voice of an ur-American but an un-American. But alas, some Americans need to take the time to sift through the quacks from facts.

  164. Has everyone forgotten the Bill of Rights authored by the Founding Fathers and in effect since its inception?

  165. The "founding fathers" (which ones are you referring to?) opposed the Bill of Rights and only amended the Constitution to include it under pressure and threats to block ratification from those opposed to the Constitution.

  166. Jon,
    Yes Jon that is how a democratic republic works. One can now judge that this use of threats etc was a good thing and those who opposed it were morally lacking as opposed to the contemporary use of the same tactics to undermine the People's rights and protections formerly enacted to deal with problems that harmed them.

  167. I have said this many times--nearly all wars around the world have been fought over intolerance of others' religious beliefs. The narrow-minded will wreak havoc at the tiniest hint of threat from a neighbor different from him/herself.

    I could go on to include land-grabbing/expansion of territory, but religious belief is, in fact, the primary culprit in the destruction of humans by humans (or are we merely rabid animals?)

  168. Edwin Starr wrote and sang years ago:
    War, huh, yeah
    What is it good for
    Absolutely nothing
    War, huh, yeah
    What is it good for
    Absolutely nothing
    Say it again, y'all
    War, huh, good God
    What is it good for
    Absolutely nothing
    Listen to me
    Ohhh, war, I despise
    Because it means destruction
    Of innocent lives

    I think he used the word "war" because "religion" had too many syllables. War. Religion. Same thing.

  169. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were mostly atheists and agnostics.

    There were only a very few practicing Christians and no known clerics of any other religious denomination that signed the Declaration of Independence.

    Most of these signers were Free Masons.

    The Christians that participated in the founding of this country were only a tiny minority of the participants.

    I am a Christian, but I do not believe that this country was founded as a Christian nation.

    The constitution prohibits the establishment of any religion, and that implies that public taxes cannot be used to support any religion.

    The treaty of Tripoli states that the USA is not a theocracy or religious nation.

    I do not know much about the Masons except that I have heard (on the History Channel) that they were founded to protest the murder and physical torture and murder of innocent people (including the Knights Templar) by the official state Roman Catholic religion of various European Nations.

    The History Channel hints that maybe the Masons are somehow associated with or descended from the Knights Templar. I would like to learn more about this topic someday.

  170. We look like such hypocrites to the rest of the world. Trumpeting our moral superiority while all the while strong-arming anyone who gets in the way of our unfettered accumulation of wealth and privilege. American arrogance and greed gets in the way of any meaningful self-reflection.

  171. Laura,
    There is a big difference being missed here. Yes we look like hypocrites, but only because our system allows for the truth to come out. Even in Europe that is not as easily done as the PR would have us believe. They have a more "do as I say not as I do" ethos than us we don;t see it because it is mostly hidden.
    The biggest problem in the US is that we currently have an intellectual problem of how to apply reason and rational thinking to public discourse again.

  172. I'm not sure I agree. I lived in Europe for years and the press there is very open and also very self-critical.

  173. I would refer you to the VW scandal and a recent piece in the Guardian about light bulb quality.
    The individual reporters or pres orgs may be diligent and honorable but the "system" doesn't catch things like the VW intentional subversion of regulation which started in 2005! now that they are "being open" about it.
    I don't think its the kind of intentional subversion of the whole system as we see in Congress but there are individuals in positions of authority that matter who are corrupt and do things which are subversive of the very model Western systems are based on just to make money.

  174. How can you possibly blame Americans, in light of recent history, from not feeling compelled to embrace anything having to do with Islam ? The solution is not sensitivity training or political correctness. The war is not with Islam but the solution is with Islam.

  175. Nothing like swatting a few 300-year-old WASPs to ring in the Christmas season. Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to say Christmas season. How offensive of me.

  176. Nothing like the descendants of 300 year old Wasps brining in the Christmas season by demonizing Muslims and other immigrants, and then being offended by having it pointed out to them.

  177. god forbid we learn from the past!

  178. Another attempt to denigrate the history of the United States of America!

  179. How is the retelling of history actually a denigration of our country? Or has Ms. Schiff's article merely made you cringe because of its accuracy?

  180. Great article. It is wise for us to remember that we come from a long line of paranoid people.

  181. "If you are the pure, someone else needs to be impure."

    This was a beautifully written and well-researched article. Thank you for showing us that xenophobia and religious intolerance--even as we pride ourselves as a nation founded on tolerance--have been a big part of our history.

    So it seems every era has had its battles, whipped up by zealots capitalizing on citizen fears. I've heard it said there are two kinds of fear: not getting enough of what we want, or losing what we already have. "Effective" zealots play both sides of this in order to advance themselves.

    Thus the new "know nothings" of the 21s century--Trump, Cruz, and Carson--keep telling us that immigrants, and now terrorists are either going to take our jobs and our lives or prevent us from getting our due, our share of the finite economic pie.

    The question is, what are we going to do about it? Paul Ryan, echoing President Obama, can remind us that anger over outsiders is "not who we are," but the problem is this: in many cases, it is who we are unless some more charismatic leader steps up to the plate to help us aspire to the values we love to guide us.

  182. Oh dear, we are indeed an exceptional people! But today it's 2015. Just because ISIS behaves as though it lives in centuries past, do we need to follow its example? Or is ISIS following ours?

  183. It's not a question of being smarter. It's about the human ego that always wants to be different and separate and superior. One at a time, we need to learn that compassion and tolerance and loving kindness feel a lot better than separation and judgment. Those of us who try it, like it.

  184. Xenophobia is a natural instinct that evolved through the centuries as a protective mechanism. How wise would it have been for a caveman to assume that every stranger he met was his friend? If that stranger had the appearance of someone who had done him harm in the past, it would call for even more caution.

  185. If tribalism is a recent adaptation, certainly it's categorically obsolete and something which our vastly more powerful and ancient adaptation, intelligence, should by now be able to overcome.

  186. How can Muslims such as the Fort Hood Shooter Major Nidal Hasan join the Military and take an oath to defend the USA if they believe in the Quran which commands Muslims to convert or murder Christian, Jewish, and other non-believers (including those in the USA) by cutting off their heads if they refuse to convert to Islam?

    Murdering US citizens that do not convert to Islam as commanded by the Quran is in conflict with Muslims in the Military that swear to defend the USA against all enemies foreign and domestic as a part of the Oath of Office!

  187. The same can be said of the bible:

    "And they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul, but that whoever would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman."

    "If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you ... Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die."

    See how easy it is to take things out of context?

  188. Excellent piece -- except for the one mistake that, unlike all your other correct examples of wrongheaded persecution, the Rosenbergs were indeed guilty of treason (of, amazingly, passing along nuclear-bomb secrets to Stalin) and, at least possibly, deserved their sentences.

  189. They were not guilty of the crimes they were convicted of.

  190. Sure they were.

  191. They were convicted of giving the Soviets the bomb by a perverted form of jury nullification induced by the FBI and prosecutions propaganda before the trial. The particular facts of the case notwithstanding.
    They may have "spied" but they were mostly ineffectual and stupid about it. They died because Ethel's brother David Greenglass who did actually steal documents, gave her up to save his own wife who was the typist.
    The technicality of not being guilty of what the jurors were lead to believe they were guilty of should matter to you if you are American. Ask anyone even today and most will say they gave the Soviets the bomb and that is what they were convicted of and executed for. They did not do that and Ethel was entirely innocent.
    The Soviets did finally admit Julius spied for them but had no evidence that Ethel was involved and he did not give them the bomb. The stupid notes he sent were looked at and forgotten.

  192. The Roman Empire grew and prospered until the Roman Emperor Constantine established Christianity (altruism) as the state (preferred) religion in about 312AD.

    The Empire then ceased to exist a few decades after it accepted the altruistic principles of the Christian religion and was overrun and conquered by people from the Northern European territories.

    I believe that adopting Christianity by Rome as the preferred state supported religion was also one of the main causes for the decline, fall and collapse of the Roman Empire.

  193. @Gerald from texas:

    So you're saying that having an empire built on slavery, brutality, conquest, intolerance & tyranny is better than altruism?

    If only the compelling power of Christianity was in fact altruism & not terror of a vengeful, violent deity who banishes everyone to burn forever lest they obey whatever interpretation of scriptures prevails.

    Contrary to the idea that Christianity destroyed the empire of the civilized, it would seem that Constantine's Christian mandate used Rome's empire to ultimately subjugate the entire world under the thumb of New Testament tyranny in one form or another.

  194. Sorry, Rome was in decline long before Constantine. In the second half of the 3rd century the empire almost descended to anarchy. Christianity as adopted by Constantine had nothing of altruism about it. It did have something to do with centralizing religious as well as governmental authority for the better control of the empire. And the empire did made something of a comeback under his authority: the first half of the 4th century was an improvement over what preceded it in many ways.

    I've read Gibbon, too. Christianity did help undermine the Roman empire. But Constantine's adoption of it as a state religion did not per se harm the empire as much as it harmed Christianity.

  195. America: Home of the cowardly and land of the prejudiced.

    "The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear - fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable. What he wants above everything else is safety."

    H. L. Mencken

  196. No, Xenophobia is not part of American DNA. Although granted, Ms. Schiff makes a fascinating case for it. The word wasn't even coined until the early 1900s. A certain Mr. E.L. James was quoted by the NYT of August 29, 1926, to explain the term to their readers as "hatred for strangers or in other words, anti-American sentiment".

    What is part of the American DNA however, is self-righteousness, hand-wringing, and festering guilt over history long gone. You won't find much of that in Europe or Japan or the ME or Africa. It's a charming trait and one that all Americans can be truly proud of. After all, it does define our national character in so many ways. Yes, it can also be a bit tiresome. Most Germans don't let WW history get in the way of their daily lives. VW won't be a conversation next month. That's an enviable trait too.

    Now coming to Mr. Trump and his unique brand of Trump-speak, that's the DNA most uniquely American, most-loved around-the-world, which is shoot-from-the-hip straight-talk. Happy to see it make a comeback. Many seem unable to to even recognize it as such these days. But many do and rightly want more of it.

    Ain't seen nuthin' yet? Sure hope so.

  197. Errant nonsense ... the notion that neither Europe nor Japan feel the weight of their past is absurd. Their nation's role in the Holocaust continues to have an impact on how Germans relate to the rest of the world (go review some of the commentary on the current refugee crisis to see just one of the countless reverberations). So too does Japan's early 20th century militarism on today's Japanese.

    Trump's xenophobic verbal diarrhea is NOT the kind of thing that people love about America nor is it uniquely American. "Shooting from the hip" works better when one actually knows what one is talking about!

  198. What an interesting and well-written article. Enjoyed it very much.

  199. This article's historical research offers a clear signpost for today- the GOP's rhetoric stands for yesterday while liberals stand for the future. I'll take my chances with progress, as uncertain as it may be, rather than repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

  200. Just one side of the coin. How about Roger Williams? The voices of reason eventually won, even though the urTrumps seemed powerful at the time.

  201. Thank you. A timely and welcomed perspective from which to view the current anti-Muslim intolerence.

  202. "The Puritans came to America to have the freedom to live a life of greater restriction." - - Garrison Keillor

  203. These days I hear much from my fellow liberals and progressives about how the values that we hold dear in this country are built on myths. They shake their heads at the hypocrisy of our fundamental beliefs: The right to free speech and free press (the freedom of thought), the right to assembly, equality before the law, the concept of free enterprise, the concept of one person—one vote, majority rule, the respect for the individual, etc., etc.

    While I agree that most, if not all, of these rights and concepts have been eroded lately, my questions are these: If all this is a sham, what SHOULD we be teaching in school? What SHOULD our national narrative be?

  204. a reminder by Ms. Schiff-an excellent piece most apropos at this season of the year. Thank you ms. Schiff...


  205. "But while the demonizing may sound un-American, it happens also to be ur-American." Wrong. The author spends 3/4 of her article reciting events which happened a century or more before the Declaration of Independence, and subsequent writing of the Constitution. Noticeably absent from this sweeping revisionist history (American bad now; America bad always) is anything about the founding fathers or the Enlightenment which animated their politics and actions. A reader might miss the fact that the First Amendment explicitly protected all religions, not just popular ones at the time. A reader might miss the fact that the Constitution established no religious test of any kind for holding public office. Quite a sea-change from the internecine religious warfare the early settlers brought with them.

    It is therefore the grossest of oversimplifications to say "Cotton Mather" and "Salem witch trials" and conclude that they are in any way representative of the state of mind of the nation formed in 1776, and as it was institutionalized in 1787. This is, predictably, what happens when someone cherry-picks history to make a "point."

  206. Love of country is at it's best after taking the blinders off.

    Principles institutionalized in 1787?

    1) Native Americans were subhuman, therefore "God" looks down favorably upon stealing their land and destroying their way of life.

    2) Africans too, were subhuman. Their divine purpose was to be enslaved, and subsequently worked to death.

    And yet, "all men are created equal"?

  207. And what do all of these historical figures have in common? They are all members of the genus homo.

  208. Probably not a good idea to include the Rosenbergs in this essay, who post-USSR files proved were indeed Soviet agents.

  209. There are two ways of looking at this. The pessimistic way is that these dark episodes in our history show that the fear-hate cycle is so fully encoded in our DNA that trying to break it is a hopeless cause. The optimistic way is to consider that the fact that we are no longer hanging Quakers in Boston Common (being one, I'm glad for that) means that peace and reconciliation are always possible. If you asked any seventeenth or eighteenth century Englishman or Frenchman whether they could envision a world in which England and France were staunch allies rather than implacable enemies, they would have you locked up as a raving lunatic. Yet it has happened.

  210. Part of the buildup of anger is from the vast watering down of the
    intentions of the Founding Fathers for citizens to elect their representatives,
    specifically including the following:

    * the gerrymandering of districts by the major party in control of the state
    which artificially keeps incumbents in office, which, in turn, creates a torrent of political donations to go to that incumbent due to his increased power in that legislative body, regardless of his competence.

    * the fact that Presidential elections are determined by the few Midwest states that are famous for both being swing states and being the major corn producing states, thus creating the ethanol fiasco, perhaps the biggest boondoggle in American history as artificial demand for an inferior commodity.

    * the rush towards incompetence of both of the major American political parties which have become dominated by extremists of the far right and the far left, resulting in perhaps the most inept slate of candidates for the Presidency in recent history. This is at a time in which the next incumbent might well select three members of the US Supreme Court, who might serve for decades, thus producing such miscarriages of justice as the Citizens United decision, which effectively removes the ceiling on political donations.

    * The Citizens United decision of the US Supreme Court.

    * The inability of the media to censor political attack ads.

  211. Your list is missing its most important point: the willingness of lazy thinkers to accept a false equivalence between "extreme right" and "extreme left", which inhibits them from examining policies on their merits and leads to a kind of quietism. Voting rights don't have to be suppressed if the voters have already suppressed themselves intellectually.