The Wednesday Pop Culture Rant would like to discuss members of the electorate that oppose immigrants and mysterious religions. Trump? Tea Party? Glenn Beck? No, the mid-19th Century Know-Nothing party. We turned on an historical dime there. The Rant has skills; Lin-Manuel Miranda1 isn’t the only one that can get all sassy with the past.
The immigrants in question during the day were Germans and the Irish, and the religion striking fear into WASPY hearts everywhere was Catholicism. Or Popery as the Neandertrumps liked to call it. Fiendish Popery where the Whore of Babylon would soon be taking over America on the backs of nefarious Germans and Irish. Although given the fact most immigrants worked eighteen hours a day, since there were no labor laws, The Rant finds it difficult to imagine the Catholic masses toting anyone Pope-ish or otherwise.
To quell the coming perfidy, honest, upright citizens formed secret groups like the Order of the Star Spangled Banner, with super-secret handshakes, sashes, and hats. These groups would later morph into the Klan after the civil war. Members, when questioned why they had bloody clubs and there were so many Irish laborers with head wounds, were instructed to reply, “I know nothing.” And thus was a party born.
When Know-Nothing Party didn’t test well with the focus groups, they changed to the American Party. Nativist, racist, religiously intolerant bigots? No, no, no, you have us all wrong. We’re patriotic. Perhaps you’re the one with the problem. Then they played another round of Whack-an-Immigrant with new clubs provided by the Koch Brothers Free Market Wailing Sticks.2
The Rant can never decide whether to take solace in America’s penchant for repeating itself or to despair that we never learn anything. The solace derives from the fact we generally emerge from our madness, while the despair rests in the realization we seem to take a perverse pleasure in knowing nothing at the expense of others. Either way, The Rant chooses not to join the party.