When I write about speeches that get people really riled up – as part of our research team’s ongoing study of genocide – one of my favorite examples is Slobodan Milošević’s Gazimestan speech. About a million Serbs showed up to hear this 1989 speech, which revitalized a 600-year-old grievance (the Serbian loss at the Battle of Kosovo, against the Ottoman Turks) and led to unthinkable violence (the Serbian “ethnic cleansing” and genocide against their Bosnian neighbors, who had largely adopted the Ottomans’ religion during centuries of occupation).
A 600-year-old grievance! That couldn’t happen here. Right? After all, the United States is less than 250 years old. The first permanent English settlement here wasn’t until 1620. And yet…
Let’s start with today’s partisan polarization. We have the Democrats, affiliated with an “urban elite,” and the Republicans, now dominated by a populist, nativist mindset most thoroughly entrenched in rural communities. And even though we often think of the split as epitomized by, say, New York City and Los Angeles versus “Flyover Country” in the Midwest, it’s also generally understood that the sense of grievance among Trump’s supporters is partly fed by unresolved resentments from the U.S. Civil War. This “Lost Cause” mentality fueled anger against plans to remove commemorations of Confederate leaders, flaring up at Charlottesville and shifting to a new Lost Cause in the January 6 riots.
What I hadn’t realized until reading a post somewhere recently was that the settlement patterns leading up to the North-South split in the U.S. Civil War had essentially mirrored the two sides of the English Continue reading