Why Republicans are linked to Elephants

Why Republicans are linked to Elephants

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What Are Republicans Reading? An Elephants in the Room Summer 2017 Reading List.

As summer travel and holidays get underway, your Elephants in the Room contributors have resurrected a tradition from our erstwhile Shadow Government days and put together our summer reading list.

Peter Feaver

As summer travel and holidays get underway, your Elephants in the Room contributors have resurrected a tradition from our erstwhile Shadow Government days and put together our summer reading list.

Peter Feaver

Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself, by Garrett Graff. This is a deeply reported and richly detailed account of one of the most sensitive secrets of the Cold War era: the U.S. government’s myriad plans to preserve some semblance of a functioning, democratic government in the event of a Soviet nuclear attack. These efforts, collectively known as continuity of government and continuity of operations plans, developed incrementally over the decades of the nuclear era as leaders grappled with the daunting task of thinking the unthinkable. Graff’s skepticism that these plans and systems would actually work is palpable and we all should be deeply grateful they have never been put to the ultimate test. This is a topic I studied very closely at the start of my professional career, and though I have just started the book, I am amazed at what Graff was able to uncover. So far, I am learning something on every page. And the nuggets add up to one important insight: As difficult as the geopolitical challenges are that preoccupy our leaders today, they still do not add up to the civilization-threatening challenge of deterring or surviving a global thermonuclear war.

Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight over World War II, 1939-1940, by Lynne Olson. A gripping account of the political battle with the first America Firsters. Franklin Delano Roosevelt comes across as a poll-driven politician, Charles Lindbergh as a tragic figurehead, and Wendell Willkie as a principled internationalist who bucked his own party to save the country. Eerily reminiscent of the present, but inspiring in its own way.

Escape to Pagan: The True Story of One Family’s Fight to Survive in World War II Occupied Asia, by Brian Devereux. The true story of a woman who fled with her aging mother and young toddler across warn-torn Burma as marauding Japanese soldiers, Chinese deserters, hill tribes, and poisonous snakes threatened them at every turn. Written by the toddler a half-century later.

Frozen Hours, by Jeff Shaara. Not for the erudite, but his you-are-there novel about the 1st Marine Division fighting its way out of the Chosin Reservoir is great beach reading. My favorite character: Colonel Ray Murray, whom I met at a conference on the Korean War in 1995 where some lefty academic was droning on about American imperialism during the Cold War. The 85-year old Murray stood up with his Medal of Honor hanging around his neck and said to the audience, “I didn’t carry my Marines through the blood and snow of Chosin Reservoir to listen to this b*** s***!” Shaara nails his character perfectly.

Celeste Gventer

Anatomy of Post-Communist European Defense Institutions: The Mirage of Military Modernity, by Thomas-Durell Young. A clear-eyed assessment from a defense institution-building practitioner of the effectiveness of U.S. assistance in reforming the defense institutions in Central and Eastern Europe over the last 25 years. Spoiler alert: not so much.

Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself, by Garrett Graff. The “Fresh Air” interview alone was gripping — can’t wait to read it.

Jetzt: Geschichte meines Abenteuers mit der Phantasie, by Karl Heinz Bohrer. Well, I’m going to try. It might take me until next summer. But German intellectuals say it’s important — thank God for dictionaries.

John Hannah

Two books sitting on my nightstand, both highly recommended by colleagues at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Mark Dubowitz insisted that I read Victory: The Reagan Administration’s Secret Strategy That Hastened the Collapse of the Soviet Union, Peter Schweitzer’s history of NSDD-75, the wildly successful Reagan administration strategy that helped defeat the Soviet empire.

Reuel Gerecht calls Misagh Parsa’s Democracy in Iran: Why It Failed and How It Can Succeed the most important English-language book ever written on the Islamic Republic. Parsa concludes that — former President Barack Obama’s delusions notwithstanding — the theocracy birthed in 1979 is probably incapable of meaningful reform. Change, when it comes, will far more likely result from the next iteration of 2009’s Green Revolution, a popular movement “to transform the political system through a disruptive, revolutionary route.” I’ll leave it to readers to divine the practical implications of these two important works.

Will Inboden

Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam, by Mark Bowden. Bowden is one of the great journalists of our generation, and with this book he provides a captivating account of the pivotal battle that did so much to alter the trajectories of not just the Vietnam War, but also American politics and our nation’s global posture. With its capacious research that includes the perspectives of combatants and civilians, Vietnamese and Americans, presidents and privates, it epitomizes what a definitive account should be. This is also the type of military history that one wishes more academic historians would take up, but given the near extinction of military history in university history departments, it is left to skilled journalists like Bowden to fill the gap.

Patriotism is Not Enough: Harry Jaffa, Walter Berns, and the Arguments That Redefined American Conservatism, by Steven P. Hayward. A famous line — “academic politics are so vicious because the stakes are so small” — has been variously attributed to Wallace Sayre, Henry Kissinger, and Jesse Unruh. Regardless of who coined the phrase, it is generally true, but as this captivating new book demonstrates, sometimes the stakes are of great consequence. In this case Hayward’s book uses the epic academic feud between two protégés of Leo Strauss, political philosophers Harry Jaffa and Walter Berns (both of whom I was privileged to know a bit and learn from), to trace the various intellectual strands of modern conservative thought. This account is all the more illuminating and relevant as American conservatism seeks to navigate its new divisions and uncertainties being wrought by the Trump era.

Clement Attlee: The Man Who Made Modern Britain, by John Bew. For most Americans, Clement Attlee is known only as the answer to a trivia question: Which British politician defeated and succeeded Winston Churchill as prime minister at the end of World War II? Bew, one of the finest historians writing today, shows rather that Attlee was one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century, who created the modern British welfare state while also managing the final decline of the British Empire and embedding the United Kingdom in the emerging Western alliance against Soviet communism.

Mark Kennedy

Part of the advantage of moving from George Washington University to North Dakota as President of the University of North Dakota is that I have more five-hour car rides, more time to read books. Let me recommend five books that will help you understand the angst that is roiling today’s civic landscape and that provide prescriptions for addressing today’s accelerating changes and heightened activism.

My reading list begins with Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance. Anyone trying to understand the change in the electorate that led to today’s surging populism should begin with this riveting portrayal of a culture in crisis — that of white, working-class Americans who no longer believe they can drive their own destiny. In the end, Vance’s autobiography is an ode to accountability. It has been a long time since I have cried and laughed this much reading a book. I can’t wait for the movie.

Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, by Thomas Friedman outlines the impacts of how three combined, logarithmic waves of change — technological advance, globalization, and mother nature — are resulting in upheaval that is disrupting every aspect of our lives and fueling the uncertainty that is agitating today’s politics and geopolitics.

Friedman strikes themes similar to those struck by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee in The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, which is also worth a read. Both books are good at describing the challenges we face. The solutions they prescribe provide food for thought, even if not always prudent direction.

Adam Grant’s Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World helps you understand how to effectively innovate and champion new ideas. During today’s period of rapid upheaval, Grant’s book provides actionable insights into how you can keep driving change, rather than being driven by it.

You would expect me to say that no 2017 reading list would be complete without my new book, Shapeholders — Business Success in the Age of Activism. I update the rules for an organization’s engagement with society reflecting the rise of activism and expanded political involvement in commercial affairs. I introduce the concept of “shapeholders” — the political, regulatory, media, and activist actors that have no natural stake in an organization’s success, but significant ability to shape its opportunities and risks. The book outlines steps to effectively engage shapeholders to sidestep conflict, find ways to profitably collaborate, and when necessary, win political skirmishes.

The Retreat of Western Liberalism, by Edward Luce. I don’t agree with all of Ed’s views, but he is always worth reading. His ideas are thought provoking, he writes beautifully, and he takes on central issues — in this case, whether popular discontent is signaling the end of Western liberal democracy.

The Man Who Knew: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan, by Sebastian Mallaby. A biography of the former Federal Reserve chairman. Everything one wants in a summer nonfiction read. Monetary policy has leapt to the forefront of international economic policymaking (quantitative easing, saving the eurozone) and Greenspan heralded the ascent of central banker as demigod. Biography is a particularly pleasurable way to pick up useful background, especially when an author writes as well as Mallaby does and the subject is as colorful as Greenspan.

The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism, by Yuval Levin. Domestic distrust has pulled down U.S. trade policy and foreign policy. Levin is usually domestic in focus, but these are the key underpinnings of the U.S. global position, and he is a very insightful commentator.

Daniel Runde

Argentina’s Economic Reforms of the 1990s in Contemporary and Historical Perspective, by Sonia Cavallo Runde and Domingo Cavallo (yes, my wife and father in law’s book) — an English-language, economic history of Argentina.

By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783, by Michael Green. A history of U.S. grand strategy in Asia from our nation’s founding.

The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force, by Eliot Cohen. This book argues that “soft power” is not enough. As a soft power person, I agree. We need hard power too. It’s a fabulous read.

Shapeholders: Business Success in the Age of Activism, by Mark Kennedy. The book describes the new media and civil society environment shaping and impacting business and how to manage it.

Kori Schake

Howard French, Everything Under the Heavens. With all the facile Thucydides comparisons currently being pushed, it was a real treat to have a journalist with deep experience describe China’s perspective without trying to force it into any pattern other than its own. I especially liked his attentiveness to where China’s self image is myth rather than history. His description of China’s difficulties comes as a relief after seeing the country’s intentions revealed.

Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom, by Thomas E. Ricks. It’s such fun to watch Ricks choose topics related to but broader afield from his defense expertise — I wouldn’t have linked Orwell and Churchill, but he makes a solid case they were two clarion voices, often reaching similar conclusions by very different experiential and intellectual routes. Intertwining the stories of their work and development gives a richer perspective on both: It grounds Churchill and illuminates the grim conclusions Orwell didn’t blanch at, like his dark, practical view that Spain was better off with Franco winning the civil war.

Nicole Bibbins Sedaca

Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom, by Condoleezza Rice. In her book, former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Rice reflects the Bush Administration’s approach to democracy promotion and that pivotal lessons that can be learned from that time. She discusses the nuances of promoting democracy, given the uniqueness of each country’s circumstances and the difficulty of promoting democracy in conflict or post-conflict situations. A practitioner-academic, Rice argues that the ideal conditions for promoting democracy will not occur perfectly in the real world, and that it is essential to focus therefore on how to promote democracy in difficult, fast-changing, and divergent situations. Having worked on democracy promotion under President Bush, I am keenly interested in reading Dr. Rice’s reflections — both what worked and what didn’t — and assessing the applicability of these lessons to our current environment. As many of us and the global community wrestle with how to respond to rising authoritarianism, internal and external threats to democracy, and waning American leadership on democracy promotion, it is essential to revisit why democracy promotion was foundational for many years, and the ramifications of the United States stepping back from its leadership role on this issue.

The Retreat of Western Liberalism, by Edward Luce. Luce’s book analyzes the weakening liberal world order, arguing that the decline is not a recent phenomenon, related only to events such as Brexit and the elections of populist leaders around the world, but rather a longer and sustained unraveling of the global system. He posits these recent events are a manifestation of a trend that began with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and was caused by an insufficient understanding of the foundational principles of the liberal world order and what it would take to maintain the order. Luce argues that it will be necessary to rebuild an economy that benefits the majority of its people, in order to maintain the West’s political gains and protect political liberties.

As we analyze and debate the factors that have contributed to the weakened liberal world order, I look forward to understanding Luce’s assessment of factors that have emerged since 1989, and contrasting his arguments with those that take a shorter-term view of the decline. And as I work with foreign policy graduate students on how to navigate and assess the current political environment, it will be useful to have Luce’s analysis to paint a picture of how we could have forecasted or prevented this unraveling many years ago.

Steve Slick

This year’s early summer reading was aimed at preparing for an academic course in the U.K. on the Anglo-U.S. security relationship. Sinclair McKay’s The Secret Life of Bletchley Park: The WWII Codebreaking Centre and the Men and Women Who Worked There is an engaging oral history of the social life experienced by thousands of talented (and discreet) patriots who staffed the industrial-scale codebreaking enterprise there during the war. Ben Macintyre’s A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal is a terrific retelling of the serial betrayals of MI6’s Harold “Kim” Philby. That the U.S.-U.K. special intelligence relationship survived Philby’s decades of treachery is testament to a rare resilience, and places into useful context recent hyperventilating by the media about rifts in the alliance.

“Cabin reading” this month includes The Last Station: Underground Railroad of Quaker Corner, compiled by William Roy Mock. This is an amateur history of the dangerous work by several families of Friends who lived in a rural pocket of Bedford County, Pennsylvania and hid, protected, and transported hundreds of fugitive slaves northward over the Allegheny Front towards Canada. It’s a remarkable account of quiet, uncelebrated courage that appears to have included several (very) distant relatives.

Finally — and long overdue for the occupant of an office in Sid Richardson Hall here at the University of Texas-Austin — I’m resolved to finish Bryan Burrough’s The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes. This 2009 bestseller will, I’m assured, help demystify the cultural anthropology of the Lone Star State for a recent immigrant.

Daniel Twining

The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, by Peter Frankopan. This is the kind of meta-history that will captivate American readers on long flights to Asia in the same fashion as a good novel. It retells the story of the world from the perspective not of the small peninsula of Europe and its North American offshoot, but from the Eurasian heartland and the once-great empires of the Near East — from a starting point that is thousands of years old, long predating the rise of the West. Its scope is breathtaking, and the narrative usefully reorients one’s geopolitical compass as power again shifts to the east.

By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783, by Michael Green. The author spent many years researching this book and it promises to be the best in its class. The young American republic quickly emerged as a Pacific power determined to extend both its interests and its values. U.S. strategy in Asia has always privileged open markets and has been ever mindful of shaping regional balances of power while extending principles of liberty where possible. A useful corrective to the notion that America’s “pivot” to Asia began under Obama — and a reminder that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call for “Asia for the Asians” is ahistorical given Washington’s enduring interests and role in the region.

India’s War: World War II and the Making of Modern South Asia, by Srinath Raghavan. India was central to the allied war effort. Churchill thought Britain could prevail against Germany, even in the event of Nazi conquest of the British Isles, using the manpower, resources, and strategic reach of the subcontinent. Millions of Indians fought against the fascist powers — in Europe, North Africa, and Southeast Asia — in ways that were critical to the Allied victory. Mobilization transformed not only the war’s outcome, but also the political future of India and its neighborhood, including the British military recruiting ground of what became Pakistan.

All Measures Short of War: The Contest for the Twenty-First Century and the Future of American Power, by Thomas Wright. We are entering an age of intense geopolitical competition between states, with both Chinese and Russian power resurging and projecting into regions core to American interests. The liberal global order risks fracturing as a result of great-power revanchism, nativist currents in the West, terrorism and migration, the diffusion of power within states, and the collapse of sovereign order in the Middle East. Uncertainty about the U.S. commitment to its allies, to managing great-power competitors, and to an open international trading order compounds the stress. This book promises a roadmap for navigating these geopolitical currents in a way that could save the free world.

Dov Zakheim

Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets, by Svetlana Alexievich and Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance. Both books are about what life is (or has been) like for ordinary people — Russians in the former case, Americans in the latter.

Alexievitch writes about the disorientation that affected ordinary Russians during the Yeltsin years, which may explain, in part, why Putin is popular in Russia. Similarly, Vance illustrates the hardships that confront ordinary families in Appalachia, who feel neglected by the powers that be, and who have formed the backbone of President Donald Trump’s support. The contexts are different in Russia and Appalachia, but the similarities are eerie.


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The Asian elephant appears in various religious traditions and mythologies. They are treated positively and are sometimes revered as deities, often symbolising strength and wisdom. Similarly, the African elephant is seen as the wise chief who impartially settles disputes among the forest creatures in African fables, [2] and the Ashanti tradition holds that they are human chiefs from the past. [3]

The Earth is supported and guarded by mythical World Elephants at the compass points of the cardinal directions, according to the Hindu cosmology of ancient India. The classical Sanskrit literature also attributes earthquakes to the shaking of their bodies when they tire. Wisdom is represented by the elephant in the form of the deity Ganesha, one of the most popular gods in the Hindu religion's pantheon. The deity is very distinctive in having a human form with the head of an elephant which was put on after the human head was either was cut off or burned, depending on the version of the story from various Hindu sources. Lord Ganesha's birthday (rebirth) is celebrated as the Hindu festival known as Ganesha Chaturthi. [4] In Japanese Buddhism, their adaptation of Ganesha is known as Kangiten ("Deva of Bliss"), often represented as an elephant-headed male and female pair shown in a standing embrace to represent unity of opposites. [5]

In Hindu iconography, many devas are associated with a mount or vehicle known as a vāhana. In addition to providing a means of transport, they symbolically represent a divine attribute. The elephant vāhana represents wisdom, divine knowledge and royal power it is associated with Lakshmi, Brihaspati, Shachi and Indra. Indra was said to ride on a flying white elephant named Airavata, who was made the King of all elephants by Lord Indra. A white elephant is rare and given special significance. It is often considered sacred and symbolises royalty in Thailand and Burma, where it is also considered a symbol of good luck. In Buddhist iconography, the elephant is associated with Queen Māyā of Sakya, the mother of Gautama Buddha. She had a vivid dream foretelling her pregnancy in which a white elephant featured prominently. [6] To the royal sages, the white elephant signifies royal majesty and authority they interpreted the dream as meaning that her child was destined for greatness as a universal monarch or a buddha. [7]

Elephants remain an integral part of religion in South Asia and some are even featured in various religious practices. [8] Temple elephants are specially trained captive elephants that are lavishly caparisoned and used in various temple activities. Among the most famous of the temple elephants is Guruvayur Keshavan of Kerala, India. They are also used in festivals in Sri Lanka such as the Esala Perahera.

In the version of the Chinese zodiac used in Northern Thailand, the last year in the 12-year cycle – called "Year of the Pig" in China – is known instead as "Year of the Elephant", reflecting the importance of elephants in Thai culture.

In Islamic tradition, the year 570 is when the Prophet Muhammad was born and is known as the Year of the Elephant. [9] In that year, Abraha, ruler of Yemen tried to conquer Mecca and demolish the Kaaba, reportedly in retaliation for the previous Meccan defilement of Al–Qalis Church in Sana'a, a cathedral Abraha had constructed. [10] However, his plan was foiled when his white elephant named Mahmud refused to cross the boundary of Mecca. The elephant, who led Abraha's forty thousand men, could not be persuaded with reason or even with violence, which was regarded as a crucial omen by Abraha's soldiers. This is generally related in the five verses of the chapter titled 'The Elephant' [b] in the Quran. [11]

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, medieval artists depicted the mutual killing of both Eleazar the Maccabee and a war elephant carrying an important Seleucid general as described in the apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees. The early illustrators knew little of the elephant and their portrayals are highly inaccurate. [12]

The unfamiliarity with the exotic beast has also made elephants a subject of widely different interpretations thus giving rise to mythological creatures. The story of the blind men and an elephant was written to show how reality may be viewed from differing perspectives. The source of this parable is unknown, but it appears to have originated in India. It has been attributed to Buddhists, Hindus, Jainists, and Sufis, and was also used by Discordians. The scattered skulls of prehistoric dwarf elephants, on the islands of Crete and Sicily may have formed the basis of belief in existence of cyclopes, [c] the one-eyed giants featured in Homer's Odyssey (c. 800

600 BC). As early as the 1370s, scholars had noted that the skulls feature a large nasal cavity at the front that could be mistaken for a singular eye socket [13] and the skulls, twice the size of a human's, looked as if they could belong to giant humanoids. [13] [14] It is also suggested that the Behemoth described in the Book of Job may be the elephant due to its grazing habits and preference to rivers. [15]

From Stone Age rock-art to Modern age street-art, the elephant has remained a popular subject for artists.

Prehistoric Edit

Prehistoric North Africans depicted the elephant in Paleolithic age rock art. For example, the Libyan Tadrart Acacus, a UNESCO World Heritage site, features a rock carving of an elephant from the last phase of the Pleistocene epoch (12,000–8000 BC) [16] rendered with remarkable realism. [17] There are many other prehistoric examples, including Neolithic rock art of south Oran (Algeria), and a white elephant rock painting in 'Phillip's Cave' by the San in the Erongo region of Namibia. [18] From the Bovidian period [d] (3550–3070 BCE), elephant images by the San bushmen in the South African Cederberg Wilderness Area suggest to researchers that they had "a symbolic association with elephants" and "had a deep understanding of the communication, behaviour and social structure of elephant family units" and "possibly developed a symbiotic relationship with elephants that goes back thousands of years." [21]

Ancient Edit

Indian rock reliefs include a number of depictions of elephants, notably the Descent of the Ganges at Mahabalipuram, a large 7th-century Hindu scene with many figures that uses the form of the rock to shape the image. [22] At Unakoti, Tripura there is an 11th-century group of reliefs related to Shiva, including several elephants.

Indian painting includes many elephants, especially ones ridden for battle and royal transport in Mughal miniatures.

Modern Edit

Elephants are often featured in modern artistic works, including those by artists such as Norman Rockwell, [23] Andy Warhol [24] and Banksy. [25] The stork-legged elephant, found in many of Salvador Dalí's works, [e] is one of the surrealist's best known icons, and adorn the walls of the Dalí Museum in Spain. [26] [27] [28] Dali used an elephant motif in various works such as Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening, The Elephants and in The Temptation of Saint Anthony. The Elephant and Obelisk motif also found its way to various works by this artist.

The elephant is also depicted by various political groups and in secular society.

In Asia Edit

Asian cultures admire the high intelligence and good memory of Asian elephants. As such, they symbolise wisdom [29] and royal power. They are used as a representative of various political parties such as United National Party of Sri Lanka and Bahujan Samaj Party of India. The Elephants of Kerala are an integral part of the daily life in Kerala, South India. [30] These Indian elephants are loved, revered, groomed and given a prestigious place in the state's culture. [31] There they are often referred to as the 'sons of the sahya.' The elephant is the state animal of Kerala and is featured on the emblem of the Government of Kerala. The elephant is also on the flag of the Kingdom of Laos with three elephants visible, supporting an umbrella (another symbol of royal power) until it became a republic in 1975. Other Southeast Asian realms have also displayed one or more white elephants.

The elephant also lends its name to some landmarks in Asia. Elephanta Island (also called "Gharapuri Island") in Mumbai Harbour was given this name by 17th century Portuguese explorers who saw a monolithic basalt sculpture of an elephant near the entrance to what became known as the Elephanta Caves. The Portuguese attempted to take it home with them but ended up dropping it into the sea because their chains were not strong enough. Later, the British moved this elephant to the Victoria and Albert Museum (now Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum) in Mumbai. [32]

In Europe Edit

Aside from being a curiosity for Europeans, the elephant also became a symbol of military might from the experience of fighting foreign powers that fielded war elephants throughout history. [33] In 326 BC after Alexander the Great's victory over King Porus of India, the captured war elephants became a symbol of imperial power, being used as an emblem of the Seleucid Diadoch empire.

In about the year 800 AD, an elephant called Abul-Abbas was brought from Baghdad to Charlemagne's residence in Aachen as a symbol of the beginning of the Abbasid–Carolingian alliance.

In 1229, the so-called Cremona elephant was presented by Sultan of Egypt Al-Kamil to the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, and the elephant was used by the Emperor in parades. The elephant is mentioned in the visit of Frederick's brother-in-law Richard of Cornwall to Cremona in 1241, in the Chronica Maiora of Matthew Paris. The presence of the animal is also recorded in 1237 in the Cremona city annals.

In 1478, the Order of the Elephant (Danish: Elefantordenen) was founded by King Christian I. This very select religious organization is the highest order of Denmark, and uses the elephant as a symbol of docility, sobriety and piety [34] instituted in its current form in 1693 by King Christian V.

In the early 1800s Napoleon Bonaparte wanted a monument to his own imperial power, and he decreed that a colossal bronze elephant fountain be cast from guns captured at his victorious 1807 Battle of Friedland. This was intended for the site where the Bastille once stood. [35]

In 1870, the killing and eating of the elephants Castor and Pollux from the Botanical gardens during the Siege of Paris received considerable attention at the time. This became emblematic of the hardships and degradation caused by siege and war, especially since the two elephants were previously very popular with the Parisian public.

The city of Catania, Sicily has an immemorial connection with the elephant. The local sorcerer Heliodorus, was credited with either riding a magic elephant or transforming himself into this animal. Under medieval Arab rule Catania was known as Medinat-ul-Fil or Balad-ul-Fil (City/State of the Elephant). The symbol of the city is the Fontana dell'Elefante (Fountain of the Elephant) assembled in its present form in 1736 by Giovanni Battista Vaccarini.

In Central London, England, an area known as the "Elephant and Castle" (or "The Elephant") is centered on a major road intersection and a station of the London Underground. The "Castle" in the location's name refers to a medieval European perception of a howdah. The heraldic elephant and castle has also been associated with the city of Coventry, England since medieval times, where it denotes religious symbolism [f] and with the town of Dumbarton, Scotland. [g] More recently in Britain, Welephant, a red elephant cartoon character with a fireman's helmet, was originally used as a mascot by fire brigades in the United Kingdom to promote fire safety for children and has become the mascot for the Children's Burn Trust. [37]

In America Edit

The elephant as the symbol for the Republican Party of the United States originated in an 1874 political cartoon of an Asian elephant by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly. This cartoon, titled "Third Term Panic", is a parody of Aesop's fable, [h] "The Ass in the Lion's Skin". It depicts an elephant (labelled The Republican Vote) running toward a chasm of chaos frightening a jackass [i] in a lion's skin (labelled Caesarism) which scatters animals representing various interests. Although Nast used the elephant seven more times to represent the "Republican Vote", he did not use it to represent the Republican Party until March 1884 in "The Sacred Elephant". [41]

In Africa Edit

Many African cultures revere the African Elephant as a symbol of strength and power. [42] [43] It is also praised for its size, longevity, stamina, mental faculties, cooperative spirit, and loyalty. [44] South Africa, uses elephant tusks in their coat of arms to represent wisdom, strength, moderation and eternity. [45] The elephant is symbolically important to the nation of Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire) the Coat of arms of Ivory Coast features an elephant head escutcheon as its focal point.

In the western African Kingdom of Dahomey (now part of Benin) the elephant was associated with the 19th century rulers of the Fon people, Guezo and his son Glele. [j] The animal is believed to evoke strength, royal legacy, and enduring memory as related by the proverbs: "There where the elephant passes in the forest, one knows" and "The animal steps on the ground, but the elephant steps down with strength." [46] Their flag depicted an elephant wearing a royal crown.

The elephant has entered into popular culture through various idiomatic expressions and adages.

The phrase "Elephants never forget" refers to the belief that elephants have excellent memories. The variation "Women and elephants never forget an injury" originates from the 1904 book Reginald on Besetting Sins by British writer Saki. [47] [48]

This adage seems to have a basis in fact, as reported in Scientific American:

Remarkable recall power, researchers believe, is a big part of how elephants survive. Matriarch elephants, in particular, hold a store of social knowledge that their families can scarcely do without, according to research conducted on elephants at Amboseli National Park in Kenya. [49]

"Seeing the Elephant" is a 19th-century Americanism denoting a world-weary experience [50] often used by soldiers, pioneers and adventurers to qualify new and exciting adventures such as the Civil War, the Oregon Trail and the California Gold Rush. [50] [51] [52] A "white elephant" has become a term referring to an expensive burden, particularly when much has been invested with false expectations. The term 'white elephant sale' was sometimes used in Australia as a synonym for jumble sale. In the U.S., a White elephant gift exchange is a popular winter holiday party activity. The idiom Elephant in the room tells of an obvious truth that no one wants to discuss, alluding to the animal's size compared to a small space. "Seeing pink elephants" refers to a drunken hallucination and is the basis for the Pink Elephants on Parade sequence in the 1941 Disney animated feature, Dumbo. "Jumbo" has entered the English language as a synonym for "large". [k] Jumbo originally was the name of a huge elephant acquired by circus showman P. T. Barnum from the London Zoo in 1882. The name itself may have come from a West African [l] native word for "elephant". [53]

Literature Edit

The elephant is viewed in both positive and negative lights in similar fashion as humans in various forms of literature. In fact, Pliny the Elder praised the beast in his Naturalis Historia as one that is closest to a human in sensibilities. [54] The elephant's different connotations clash in Ivo Andrić's novella The Vizier's Elephant. Here the citizens of Travnik despise the young elephant who symbolises the cruelty of the unseen Vizier. However, the elephant itself is young and innocent despite unknowingly causing havoc due to youthful play. [55] In the Tarzan novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tantor is the generic term for "elephant" in the fictional simian Mangani language, but is associated with a particular elephant who eventually becomes Tarzan's faithful companion. Other elephant characters that are shown in a positive light include Jean de Brunhoff's Babar and Dr. Seuss' Horton. Jules Verne featured a steam-powered mechanical elephant in his 1880 novel The Steam House. In addition, the animal is depicted in its military use through the oliphaunts of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the alien invaders of Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's 1985 science fiction novel, Footfall.

Notable short stories featuring elephants include Rudyard Kipling's "Toomai of the Elephants" and "The Elephant's Child" as well as Mark Twain's "The Stolen White Elephant". George Orwell wrote an allegorical essay, "Shooting an Elephant" and in "Hills Like White Elephants", Ernest Hemingway used the allegorical white elephant, alluding to a pregnancy as an unwanted gift. [56]

The animal is also seen in historical novels. The Elephant's Journey (Portuguese: A Viagem do Elefante, 2008) is a novel by Nobel laureate [57] José Saramago. This is a fictional account based on an historical 16th century journey from Lisbon to Vienna by an elephant named Solomon. [58] An Elephant for Aristotle is a 1958 historical novel by L. Sprague de Camp. It concerns the adventures of a Thessalian cavalry commander who has been tasked by Alexander the Great to bring an elephant captured from King Porus of India, to Athens as a present for Alexander's old tutor, Aristotle.

Elephants can also represent the hugeness and wildness of the imagination, as in Ursula Dubosarsky's 2012 children's book, Too Many Elephants in This House, [59] which also plays with the notion of the elephant in the room. [60] An imaginary elephant can (perhaps) become real, as with the elusive Heffalump. Although never specified as an elephant in A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh stories, a heffalump physically resembles an elephant and E. H. Shepard's illustration shows an Indian elephant. "Heffalump" has since been defined as "a child's term for an elephant." [61]

Sports Edit

The elephant is used as a mascot or logo for various sports groups.

Circus showman P. T. Barnum donated the stuffed hide of Jumbo the elephant to Tufts University in 1885, where Jumbo soon became the mascot for their sports teams. However, all that remains of Jumbo are some ashes stored in a peanut butter jar and a piece of his tail following a fire in 1975. "Jumbo's spirit lives on" in the peanut butter jar which is ceremoniously passed on to successive Athletic Directors. [62]

The mascot for the Oakland Athletics (A's) baseball team is based on the figurative white elephant. The story of picking the mascot began when New York Giants' manager John McGraw told reporters that Philadelphia manufacturer Benjamin Shibe, who owned the controlling interest in the new team, had a "white elephant on his hands" manager Connie Mack defiantly adopted the white elephant as the team mascot. [m] The A's are sometimes, but infrequently, referred to as the 'Elephants' or 'White Elephants'. Their mascot is nicknamed Stomper.

University of Alabama's Crimson Tide mascot has been an elephant since 1930 after a sportswriter wrote of a fan yelling "Hold your horses, the elephants are coming!" as the football team rumbled onto the field. [63] Their elephant-costumed "Big Al" officially debuted at the 1979 Sugar Bowl.

Catania, Italy uses the elephant to represent their football team, referencing the animal that has represented their city since ancient times.

The crest of Kerala Blasters FC, an Indian association football club is designed around an elephant holding football. [64] Elephants are the state animal of Kerala and have a main role in the their culture. They are considered as symbol of unity, power, and pride. The crest of the club symbolises the heritage, culture, spirit, and passion of Kerala, and its love for football. [65]

Music Edit

The elephant is also represented in music such as Henry Mancini's hit song "Baby Elephant Walk", which has been described as "musical shorthand for kookiness of any stripe". [66] The American band the White Stripes' fourth album was entitled Elephant in honour of the animal's brute strength and closeness to its relatives. [67] The hit single "Elephant" by British recording artist Alexandra Burke is based on the expression "elephant in the room". [68] "Nellie the Elephant" is a children's song first released in 1956 and since covered by many artists including the punk-rock band Toy Dolls [69] For her album, Leave Your Sleep, Natalie Merchant set to music "The Blind Men and the Elephant" poem by John Godfrey Saxe, which is based on the parable. [70]

Film and television Edit

The elephant is also featured in film and on television. Thailand has produced various movies about the animal, from the 1940 historical drama film King of the White Elephant to the 2005 martial-arts action film, Tom-Yum-Goong. [n] In the West, the elephant was popularised by Dumbo, the elephant who learns to fly in the 1941 Disney animated feature of the same name. Kipling's "Toomai of the Elephants" was adapted as the 1937 British adventure film Elephant Boy. In popular modern films, Tai the elephant-actress has portrayed Bo Tat in Operation Dumbo Drop (1995), Vera in Larger than Life (1996) and Rosie in Water for Elephants (2011).

On television, Nellie the Elephant is a 1990 UK cartoon series inspired by the 1956 song of the same name, featuring Scottish singer Lulu voicing Nelly. Britt Allcroft adapted "Mumfie" the elephant from Katherine Tozer's series of children's books, [o] originally in a '70s televised puppet show and then in the '90s animated Magic Adventures of Mumfie series.

The 2016 action-comedy film The Brothers Grimsby gained notoriety for its crude and graphic elephant scene. [72]

Games Edit

The elephant can also be found in games. In shatranj, the medieval game from which chess developed, the piece corresponding to the modern bishop was known as Pil or Alfil ("Elephant" from Persian and Arabic, [p] respectively). [74] In the Indian chaturanga game the piece is also called "Elephant" (Gaja). The same is true in Chinese chess, [q] which has an elephant piece ("Xiàng", 象) that serves as a defensive piece, being the only one that may not cross the river dividing the game board. In the Japanese shogi version, the piece was known as the "Drunken Elephant" however, it was dropped by order of the Emperor Go-Nara and no longer appears in the version played in contemporary Japan. Even with modern Chess, the word for the bishop is still Alfil in Spanish, Alfiere in Italian, Feel in Persian, and "Elephant" (Слон) in Russian. All of these games originally simulated a kind of battlefield, thus this piece represented a war elephant. In the present-day canonical Staunton chess set, the piece's deep groove, which originally represented the elephant's tusks, is now regarded as representing a bishop's (or abbot's) mitre.

In the 18th-century, French architect Charles Ribart planned to build a three-level elephant building at the Paris site where the Arc de Triomphe was eventually built. Nothing became of this, but in the early 19th-century, Napoleon conceived of an even larger elephant structure, the Elephant of the Bastille. Although the ambitious project was never completed with its intended bronze elephant, a full-sized plaster and wood-frame model stood in its place. After Napoleon's defeat, this structure eventually became a neglected eyesore, and a setting in Victor Hugo's 1862 novel, Les Misérables.

Three multi-story elephant shaped buildings were built in America by James V. Lafferty in the 1880s. The largest, seven-story, thirty-one room Elephantine Colossus served as a hotel, concert hall, and attraction on Coney Island before it burned down in 1896. The six-story Lucy the Elephant is the only remaining of the three, and survives as a tourist attraction near Atlantic City. These giant elephant structures, however, are dwarfed by the 32-story Bangkok Elephant Tower in Thailand. This iconic elephant-inspired building reflects the influence of the elephant in Thai culture. [76]

Buddhist parable of the blind monks examining an elephant illustrated by Itchō Hanabusa. (1888 Ukiyo-e woodcut)

A royal white elephant in 19th century Thai art

Fontana dell'Elefante (Fountain of the Elephant) Catania's symbol

Elephant statues at the Buddhist Udaygiri temple ruins in Odisha, India

Country Gentleman magazine. Norman Rockwell cover, 16 August 1919

Hannibal Crossing the Alps detail of fresco by Jacopo Ripanda, ca. 1510, Capitoline Museums, Rome

Dernier projet pour la fontaine de l'Éléphant de la Bastille (1809–1810), Watercolor by Jean-Antoine Alavoine

1354 illustration depicting Panchatantra fable: Rabbit fools Elephant by showing the reflection of the moon

'Who Is An Evangelical?' Looks At History Of Evangelical Christians And The GOP

NPR's Audie Cornish talks with Thomas Kidd, a professor of history at Baylor University, about the history of the relationship between evangelicals and political power.

We've reached the point in the media where the word evangelical has lost a lot of its original meaning. Author Thomas Kidd points this out in his new book "Who Is An Evangelical?"

THOMAS KIDD: I think it is a sign of the politicization of evangelicalism that people who, say, don't go to church would still be willing to say that they're an evangelical. I think that signals that somehow, evangelical now is a fundamentally political term.

CORNISH: Thomas Kidd says prior to the mid-'70s, there wasn't a box to check. But it was shortly after pollsters started actually asking voters about their religious affiliation that we saw the coalescing of a powerful political voting bloc.

KIDD: The transition moment has to be 1976.


PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: My name is Jimmy Carter, and I'm running for president.

KIDD: . When one of the major parties nominates an outspoken evangelical, Jimmy Carter, for the Democrats.


CARTER: All of us - our individual fates are linked.

KIDD: . As the presidential candidate and obviously eventually became president.


CARTER: In that knowledge and in that spirit, together, as the Bible says, we can move mountains. Thank you very much.

KIDD: And one of the most important developments that comes associated with that is that 1976 is the first year that the Gallup organization begins polling about whether people are evangelicals or born again. And it's often not being asked about whether you're an evangelical to see what your spiritual beliefs and practices are but to determine what your political behavior is.

CORNISH: And yet you say it was Ronald Reagan's campaign that unifies white evangelicals and fundamentalists in a way that hadn't been seen since the '20s - so really creating something that feels political.


PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: Those of you in the National Association of Evangelicals are known for your spiritual and humanitarian work. And I would be especially remiss if I didn't discharge right now one personal debt of gratitude. Thank you for your prayers.

CORNISH: How? What did he do that was different?

KIDD: I think 1976 introduces the concept of - or reintroduces the concept of evangelical onto the political landscape. And then Reagan helps to consolidate the Republican - a successful courtship of so many white evangelicals and fundamentalists. And that cohort becomes arguably the most dependable part of the Republican base in America because of the anti-communist views that they hold during the era of the Cold War.


REAGAN: He went on, I would rather see my little girls die now, still believing in God, than have them grow up under communism and one day die no longer believing in God.

KIDD: Because of antagonism towards the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 legalizing abortion, because of perception about cultural changes.


REAGAN: Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged.

KIDD: . There was a whole matrix of cultural and political and foreign policy concerns and challenges that drew white evangelicals to the Reagan coalition.

CORNISH: And while there's always been a very public movement of religious leaders, you have televangelists, right? You have, like, a movement of this merging of both political and religious leadership who now are able to be quite media-savvy.

KIDD: That's right. And so people like Jerry Falwell, senior founder of the Moral Majority, is able to bring his pre-existing media network into the service of politics.


JERRY FALWELL: I feel that America is, in these 1980s, experiencing a moral and spiritual rebirth.

KIDD: Same with Pat Robertson, who had his CBN News and "The 700 Club."


PAT ROBERTSON: Well, thank you, and welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to this edition of "The 700 Club." Nearly moment by moment, young people are bombarded by distorted visual images and twisted music messages.

KIDD: Leaders partly become the most visible white evangelical leaders in America because they had already cultivated these very influential media networks among evangelical viewers. And they're able, in the 1980s especially, to transition those into the service of national Republican politics.

CORNISH: You've also written that Republican evangelical insiders have supplied a ready-made narrative to the media in their quest for influence.

KIDD: There have always been a small group of white evangelical political leaders who tend to be the go-to people for the media to get the standard Republican talking points from this select group of white evangelical leaders. So in the Moral Majority era, it was Jerry Falwell Sr. And it was Pat Robertson, especially once he ran for president, and Ralph Reed, the evangelical political consultant. And down through the presidents - people like Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell Jr. and so forth that tend to give the impression that they sort of speak for all evangelicals in America and especially all white evangelicals.

CORNISH: Do they? I mean, what do the numbers say in terms of how white evangelicals have been voting?

KIDD: Well, if you look at the political polling, there is an overwhelming commitment of white evangelicals to the Republican Party, most famously the 80- or 81% that supported Donald Trump in 2016.

But I also think that that number, the 81%, is more complicated than it's often portrayed. Whenever pollsters dig a little deeper, it turns out that millions of those people really are practicing devout evangelicals, but then segments of them don't go to church. They don't have distinctive evangelical beliefs. And it's a little hard to understand why they're even telling a pollster that they are an evangelical.

CORNISH: President Trump has said.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You know, the other side - I don't think they're big believers. They're not big believers in religion. That I can tell you.

CORNISH: We've reached the point in American political life where the term evangelical is media code for white conservative Republican. Is that changing?

KIDD: Well, I hope people will think about it differently, and I suspect that as time goes on that just the sheer force of demographics will help us to think about it differently. I mean, the white Republican segment of evangelicalism, which is a very large segment - but that is a shrinking segment, demographically. And the growth areas for evangelicalism in America and around the world are Latinos and other recent immigrants from Africa and from East Asia and so forth.

And so the image of the white religious Republican being evangelicals is going to become less and less relevant as time goes on. I mean, this is just going to be the reality going forward in the coming years and decades that evangelicalism in America is going to become less dominated by white leaders.

CORNISH: Thomas Kidd is the author of "Who Is An Evangelical? The History Of A Movement In Crisis."

Thank you for speaking with us.


Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR&rsquos programming is the audio record.

For many decades before "pink elephant" became the standard drunken hallucination, people were known to "see snakes" or "see snakes in their boots." [1] Beginning in about 1889, and throughout the 1890s, writers made increasingly elaborate modifications to the standard "snakes" idiom. They changed the animal to rats, monkeys, giraffes, hippopotamuses or elephants – or combinations thereof and added color – blue, red, green, pink – and many combinations thereof.

In 1896, for example, in what may be the earliest recorded example of a (partially) pink elephant, one of Henry Wallace Phillips' "Fables of our Times" referred to a drunken man seeing a "pink and green elephant and the feathered hippopotamus." [2] In 1897, a humorous notice about a play entitled "The Blue Monkey," noted that, "We have seen it. Also the pink elephant with the orange trunk and the yellow giraffe with green trimmings. Also other things." [3]

An early literary use of the term is by Jack London in 1913, who describes one kind of alcoholic, in the autobiographical John Barleycorn:

There are, broadly speaking, two types of drinkers. There is the man whom we all know, stupid, unimaginative, whose brain is bitten numbly by numb maggots who walks generously with wide-spread, tentative legs, falls frequently in the gutter, and who sees, in the extremity of his ecstasy, blue mice and pink elephants. He is the type that gives rise to the jokes in the funny papers. [4]

"Pink elephants" became the dominant animal of drunken-hallucination choice by about 1905, although other animals and other colors were still regularly invoked. "Seeing snakes" or "seeing snakes in one's boots" was in regular use into the 1920s. [5]

In Action comics #1, published in 1938, Louis Lane reports at the Daily Planet that she witnesses Superman. Her editor brushes off Louis's story, asking if it wasn't pink elephants she was seeing.

A well-known reference to pink elephants occurs in the 1941 Disney animated film Dumbo. After taking a drink of water from a bucket spiked with champagne, Dumbo and Timothy begin to hallucinate singing and dancing elephants in a segment known as "Pink Elephants on Parade".

Pink elephants actually do exist in nature. Although they are extremely rare, albino elephants can appear to be pink as well as white. [6]

The association between pink elephants and alcohol is reflected in the name of various alcoholic drinks. There are various cocktails called "Pink Elephant", [7] and The Huyghe Brewery put a pink elephant on the label of its Delirium Tremens beer. [8]

In 2008, Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin used the phrase "pink elephants" to refer to conservative women such as herself, Carly Fiorina, Sue Lowden and Jane Norton [9] (referencing the elephant being the symbol of the Republican Party and pink being a stereotypical feminine color).

Reuters headline suggests GOP opposes teaching 'Black history' in schools, buries link to 1619 Project

Republicans push back on Biden administration's 1619 Project proposal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, GOP take issue with proposed rule from the Education Department Chad Pergram reports.

Reuters published a misleading headline Friday suggesting that GOP lawmakers oppose the teaching of Black history in America's schools.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and fellow Republicans have demanded President Biden's Department of Education block a planned history education proposal that invokes the 1619 Project.

McConnell and more than 30 of his GOP colleagues penned a letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona blasting the new proposed priorities for American history and civics teaching as "divisive nonsense."

"Americans do not need or want their tax dollars diverted from promoting the principles that unite our nation toward promoting radical ideologies meant to divide us," McConnell wrote.

However, the headline published by Reuters read, "Republicans ask Biden to withdraw ‘divisive’ proposal to teach more Black history," skewing the complaint brought by the McConnell-led group.

"Dozens of Senate Republicans called on the Biden administration on Friday to withdraw what they say is a 'divisive' education proposal that would place greater emphasis on slavery and the contributions of Black Americans in history and civics lessons taught in U.S. schools," Reuters began its report.

While the "1619 Project" was the main focus of the GOP's pushback, Reuters buried any mention of it until the sixth paragraph.

The wire service elevated its narrative by attaching a photo of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C. to its report and tweet, suggesting that Republicans also reject the idea of children learning about the civil rights icon.

Critics called out the misleading headline on Twitter.

"Not what it is but Reuters knows this," conservative commentator Stephen Miller wrote.

"1619 Project is not '[B]lack history,'" Twitter user Fusilli Spock tweeted.

On April 19, the Department of Education published a proposal for new federal grant guidelines designed to promote more "culturally responsive teaching and learning" at K-12 schools. As positive examples, the department cited the "landmark" 1619 Project, the resources of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and "anti-racist practices" modeled by scholar and author Ibram X. Kendi.

The 1619 Project was a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times Magazine enterprise that examined the long-term consequences of slavery in America. It was released in 2019 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in colonial Virginia in 1619. Historians have raised concerns about some of the claims, notably that slavery was a primary reason that American colonists sought independence from Great Britain.

The Republican Party, Racial Hypocrisy, and the 1619 Project

Bills to penalize the teaching of the 1619 Project, named for the arrival of African captives in America, were introduced in Republican-controlled state legislatures this year. Photograph by Julia Rendleman / Reuters

Late last month, when Senator Tim Scott, of South Carolina, delivered the Republican response to President Joe Biden’s first major address to a joint session of Congress, the subtext could scarcely have been closer to the surface: the sole Black Republican in the Senate was speaking on behalf of a Party that, under the increasing influence of the far right, has embraced a brand of belligerent and overt racism that was naïvely thought to have been banished from American politics. In the midst of a fairly straightforward conservative critique of Biden’s policies and priorities, the senator detoured into a complaint about liberals who he said had called him racial epithets—he graciously declined to call them “the real racists”—and claimed that progressives are intent on teaching people that, “if they look a certain way, they’re an oppressor.” He defended the G.O.P. voter-suppression bills that have swept the nation in the wake of Donald Trump’s defeat, and stated his case plainly. “America,” he said, “is not a racist country.”

This was a stunning display of cynicism, even by the standards of the current G.O.P., yet this was not the first time that Scott’s race had been utilized so disingenuously. A month earlier, he said on Fox News that “woke supremacy is as bad as white supremacy,” a kind of equivalence that could be dismissed as political pandering had Scott not been a friend of the late Reverend Clementa Pinckney, the South Carolina state senator and pastor who was gunned down in the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, in 2015, by Dylann Roof, a white supremacist who dreamed of a race war. Scott was also the man whom the G.O.P. turned to when, in the wake of Trump’s comments about the Charlottesville crisis, they decided that the President needed to be tutored in matters of race. (Ahead of that meeting, Scott said, “Racism is real. It is alive.”) The absolution that Scott offered the nation in his rebuttal to Biden sparked an online discussion about how much racism it takes for a country to be considered racist, but, in some ways, that question was beside the point. The real significance in Scott’s words lay in their connection to a broader offensive that the Republican Party has been coördinating since Trump’s reëlection loss, in November.

In a poll in June, 2020, fifty-two per cent of Americans said that they considered Trump a racist. His candidacy famously emboldened white nationalists, as evidenced by the tiki-torch crusade in Charlottesville, the racist motifs of the January 6th attack on the Capitol, and his astounding directive to the Proud Boys, delivered during the first Presidential debate last year, to “stand back and stand by.” Since the murder of George Floyd last May, the nation has grappled publicly with its racist legacy and, to a considerable degree, with the extent to which Trump and the G.O.P. had made matters worse in the preceding three years. Books such as Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist” and Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility” rocketed up the best-seller lists.

In response, many on the American right decided to change the subject. If they could not market themselves as racists, they could certainly make a profitable brand as anti-anti-racists. (They have oddly chosen to lump all things racial and contemptible under the banner of critical race theory, a school of legal thought concerned primarily with inequality and the failures of civil-rights litigation to ameliorate it.) The objective here is not only to launder the G.O.P.’s reputation—though that is part of it—but also to facilitate the more overtly racist portions of the Party’s agenda. The left, in this light, is not simply advocating equality of people regardless of their backgrounds it’s a cabal seeking to marginalize and browbeat white people for having created a bigoted society that does not actually exist.

Before Trump lost reëlection, he issued an executive order banning federal diversity initiatives that involve anti-racism training. Corollaries to that directive began taking root earlier this year, as bills to ban anti-racism training and to penalize public schools for teaching the 1619 Project were introduced in Republican-controlled state legislatures. (In April, the Iowa senate passed legislation sharply restricting what can be taught in diversity trainings at state and local entities.) Last summer, Senator Tom Cotton, of Arkansas, launched both a Twitter crusade against the 1619 Project and an ultimately failed effort to pass federal legislation that would ban it from being taught in schools nationwide. In an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, he said that the Founders saw slavery as a “necessary evil,” a point which elicited a response, on Twitter, from the 1619 Project’s creator, Nikole Hannah-Jones, who wrote, “its hard to imagine what cannot be justified” given that Cotton had essentially justified rape, torture, and the selling of human beings.

It is worth noting that the 1619 Project, which first appeared in the Times Magazine almost two years ago, on the four-hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the first African captives in the British colonies in North America, stirred currents that were not entirely unfamiliar. Twenty-six years ago, on the fiftieth anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, similar discord greeted renewed arguments that the release of two atomic bombs which immolated some hundred thousand people, most of them civilians, was a stain on this nation’s history. Three years before that, the five-hundredth anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the Western Hemisphere again stirred contentious debate about his role as a herald of colonialism, slavery, and genocide of the indigenous populations of the West Indies.

A very specific divide animated these conflicts, and it underlies the G.O.P.’s current efforts to rescue Americans from an accurate account of their own history. A growing body of progressive white scholars and scholars of color have spent the past several decades fighting for, and largely succeeding in creating, a more honest chronicle of the American past. But these battles and the changes they’ve achieved have, by and large, gone unnoticed by the lay public until benchmark anniversaries occurred, and the scholarship collided with a public unsettled by how distinct that version of history was from the anodyne tales they imbibed in school. Claims of “revisionist history” greeted each of these moments, but this, too, missed the point. History exists in a constant state of revision, as we learn more about the present and the worlds that preceded it. This is why contemporary books about Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Harry S. Truman take a different, and far more laudatory, view of their subjects than do books written closer to their lifetimes. Revising history is the whole point of having historians. Scholars, including some whose work has offered correctives to the whitewashed history of race, have debated in good faith about some aspects of the 1619 Project. More significant, though, is that the argument the project presented fell within the spectrum of established views.

But the aversion to unflattering truths can be made into political currency. Trumpism established the profitability of telling wholesale lies the G.O.P. has realized that those lies need not be told only about the present. Recently, as the Texas Tribune reported, Texas introduced a bill that prohibits the teaching that any race is superior or inferior to another—an ostensibly respectable principle, but the bill was ultimately concerned with an imaginary world in which white people were actually the victims in need of protection from racism.

The narrative took another turn last week, when it was revealed that the board of trustees of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill declined to extend tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones. Normally, the byzantine workings of academic-tenure review are of little pertinence to anyone beyond the individuals involved. But the nature of Jones’s work, combined with the ongoing assaults from the right on any scholarly or journalistic examination of race, has given her case particular significance. Jones holds a MacArthur award, a Pulitzer Prize, two Polk Awards, a Peabody Award, and three National Magazine Awards. In many cases, this would be an impressive tally for an entire journalism department. Her tenure as the school’s Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Reporting was supported by the Hussman School of Journalism and Media’s tenure committee, its dean, and the chancellor of the university. The board’s intervention was an override of multiple tiers of faculty governance in a way that to many smacked of politics. In fact, when asked to explain the decision, an unnamed board member used exactly that word—politics—to sum up what had happened.

Why Do Mosquitoes Exist? Why Do Elephants and Donkeys Represent the G.O.P. and the Democrats? And More Questions From Our Readers

While they can seem pointless and purely irritating to us humans, mosquitoes do play a substantial role in the ecosystem. Mosquitoes form an important source of biomass in the food chain—serving as food for fish as larvae and for birds, bats and frogs as adult flies—and some species are important pollinators. Mosquitoes don’t deserve such a bad rap, says Yvonne-Marie Linton, research director at the Walter Reed Biosystematics Unit, which curates Smithsonian’s U.S. National Mosquito Collection. Out of the more than 3,500 mosquito species, only around 400 can transmit diseases like malaria and West Nile virus to people, and most don’t feed on humans at all.

Q: I read that a lioness may eat her cubs or let them starve. Is that true? Why would she do that?

— Jeaneth Larsen | Mitchell, South Dakota

If a lioness eats her cub, it’s likely because there’s a problem: Either it was stillborn or died shortly after birth from natural causes. The mother consumes the remains so predators aren’t attracted to it. Think of it more as a survival tactic than a brutal ritual, says Craig Saffoe, curator of Great Cats areas at the National Zoo. A lioness will feed her offspring milk unless she physically stops producing it, which might happen due to low food and water resources and could lead the cubs to perish. If the cubs are old enough to eat solids, they usually eat with the rest of the pride, but have to eat last and are usually the first to die off if resources are low. Grown adults generally eat first that enables them to breed again as soon as resources return to normal.

Q: What was the origin of ZIP codes?

— Rosanne Levitt | New York City

The U.S. Postal Service introduced the “zone improvement plan” (ZIP) code in 1963. The nationwide system mechanized more of the work of mail sorting, which had previously been done by hand, says Lynn Heidelbaugh, curator at the National Postal Museum. The idea dates to 1944, when postal inspector Robert Moon proposed adding a three-digit code to addresses the first number referred to a region and the next two to a mail processing center. Two decades later, after mail volumes had grown exponentially, Postmaster J. Edward Day adopted a version of that plan, adding a fourth and fifth digit designating a specific post office. The Zip code has been expanded twice: Four additional numbers indicate what side of the street, or even hallway, the destination is on. Two more numbers sequence the carrier’s route to make it more efficient.

Q: Why is the Republican Party represented by an elephant and the Democratic a donkey?

President Andrew Jackson, who was supported by the Democrats in 1828, earned the nickname “Jackass” for his stubbornness, says Jon Grinspan, curator of political history at the National Museum of American History. The image stuck to the Democrats and took off after the Civil War, when they were seen as the defeated party that wouldn’t accept its loss. Around the same time, cartoonist Thomas Nast started drawing a stumbling elephant to represent the Republican Party, once united by its abolitionist goal but struggling in the postwar years. Originally somewhat insulting, the two symbols were embraced in the early 20th century.

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This article is a selection from the December 2019 issue of Smithsonian magazine

Why do Republican politicians oppose ‘critical race theory’? Simple: they prefer history through a white filter

The bottom line: They like white history, as interpreted by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the cult of Robert E. Lee. You know what I mean: Slavery had its good points. Reconstruction was wrong. There was and is no systemic discrimination against black people in the United States of Dixie.

State standards on teaching social studies and history vary quite a bit, The Root says. Black history? Non-existent. Writes The Root:

Knowing this, we dug through bios, school archives and academic resources to find out how these GOP legislators gained their knowledge of America’s past. In most cases, we were able to find the exact textbook each legislator’s school district used for one of the state or American history courses. In other cases, we were able to find contemporaneous descriptions of the textbooks from academic journals or reports. To our surprise, most received a well-rounded education on the history of Black people in America.

Just kidding. They all learned variations of the same white lies. And, apparently, they’d like to keep it that way.

Among the Republican senators reviewed was Sen. Tom Cotton and the finding was likely similar to what you’d find in the school background of noisy whitewashers such as Rep. Mark Lowery and Sen. Trent Garner, who led the legislative assault on teaching history that includes an honest depiction of racial strife. From The Root:

Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)

What he said: “The 1619 Project is left-wing propaganda. It’s revisionist history at its worst.”

What he read: Tom Cotton, a 1995 graduate of Dardanelle High School, likely learned his American History from The American Pageant. While Cengage is a relative newcomer in the textbook industry, its high school history book, The American Pageant was used across the country for many years. The text is nuanced and thorough, even in how it presents slavery…most of the time.

One of the realities of the textbook industry is, because of the UDC’s influence over school districts and boards of education in the South, publishers must choose between telling the truth or bowing out of the textbook market in one-quarter of the country. Cotton’s text never explicitly says the Civil War was about slavery or even refers to it as a “Civil War.” Instead, it carefully couches the “War for Southern Independence” as a clash that had to do with tariffs, Northern overreach, blah, blah, blah. The book also doesn’t quote any of the actual declarations of secession, only noting that the “rebel” Jefferson Davis told the despotic “King” Abraham Lincoln: “All we ask is to be let alone.”

And, of course, the textbook describes the period after the Civil War:

“Unbending loyalty to “ole Massa” prompted many slaves to help their owners resist the Union Armies. Blacks blocked the door of the “big house” with their bodies or stashed the plantation silverware under mattresses in their own humble huts, where it would be safe from the plundering “bluebellies”…Newly emancipated slaves sometimes eagerly accepted the invitation of Union troops to join in the pillaging of their master’s possessions.”

This would be a theme throughout many of the textbooks. The few passages that described the lives of Black people were usually crafted from single-sourced narratives of enslavers or other white people. “The-thing-that-happened-that-one-time” becomes the mold for “this is how the slaves were,” which is the literal definition of stereotyping.

Perhaps the only thing more racist than this textbook is the name “Tom Cotton,” which sounds like the person you have to fight when you defeat all the other slave masters.

Watch the video: Why Do a Donkey and an Elephant Represent Democrats and Republicans?


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