Base Alloy

Karl Marx once said that “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” Many observers have commented on the recent reinfection of right-wing nativism and anti-immigrant bigotry that echo the earlier rise of the Know-Nothing political party in the 1850s and the resurrection of the Klu Klux Klan in the 1920s. The current contamination of our civil discourse with this recurring virus seems to have elements of both tragedy and farce. The recent border kerfuffle and Moscow malperformance by our Presidential “tick-in-chief” conjures memory of a salient note written by Abraham Lincoln to his former business partner and best friend, Joshua Fry Speed in 1855.

“When the Know-Nothings get control, it [the Declaration of Independence] will read “all men are created equal, except Negroes, foreigners and Catholics.” When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense to loving liberty – to Russia for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, without the base alloy of hypocrisy.”

—Abraham Lincoln

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