Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pap Finn, Prophet of the Tea Party

One of the many things Huckleberry Finn can teach us is that the worldview of American reactionaries has undergone remarkably little change in the past 150 years. Huck Finn's father--one of Twain's supreme creations, a character equally comic and terrifying--at one point launches into a rant that could, mutatis mutandis, issue from the mouth of any of the millions of present-day Americans (about 20% of the voting population, it appears) who constitute the rank-and-file of that amalgamation of corporate tools, right-wing anarchists, nativists, gun rights hysterics and others who seek shelter under the Tea Party's umbrella:

"Oh, yes, this is a wonderful govment, wonderful. Why, looky here. There was a free nigger there from Ohio--a mulatter, most as white as a white man. He had the whitest shirt on you ever see, too, and the shiniest hat; and there ain't a man in that town that's got as fine clothes as what he had; and he had a gold watch and chain, and a silver-headed cane--the awfulest old gray-headed nabob in the State. And what do you think? They said he was a p'fessor in a college, and could talk all kinds of languages, and knowed everything. And that ain't the wust. They said he could VOTE when he was at home. Well, that let me out. Thinks I, what is the country a-coming to? It was 'lection day, and I was just about to go and vote myself if I warn't too drunk to get there; but when they told me there was a State in this country where they'd let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says I'll never vote agin. Them's the very words I said; they all heard me; and the country may rot for all me --I'll never vote agin as long as I live. And to see the cool way of that nigger--why, he wouldn't a give me the road if I hadn't shoved him out o' the way. I says to the people, why ain't this nigger put up at auction and sold?--that's what I want to know. And what do you reckon they said? Why, they said he couldn't be sold till he'd been in the State six months, and he hadn't been there that long yet. There, now--that's a specimen. They call that a govment that can't sell a free nigger till he's been in the State six months. Here's a govment that calls itself a govment, and lets on to be a govment, and thinks it is a govment, and yet's got to set stock-still for six whole months before it can take a hold of a prowling, thieving, infernal, white-shirted free nigger, and--"

Imagine Pap Finn's reaction if someone told him that the president of the United States was a "mulatter p'fessor" and you will begin to understand the dark circuit of American memory from which the Tea Party draws its power.

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