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Author: Emma Joaquin

Make America Great Again

A particular poem by Langston Hughes that stood out to me was “Let America Be America Again.” This poem talks of how the ideals that America and the “American Dream” were built on do not apply for everyone that make up this nation. Lines such as, “but opportunity is real, and life is free, Equality is in the air we breathe,” are countered with lines like, “(There’s never been equality for me, Nor freedom in this ‘homeland of the free.’)” America boasts the importance of liberty, equality, freedom, etc.; however, not every person in America has these important rights our nation was built on. For those of color, achieving these aspects of the American dream has been an on-going battle throughout the entirety of the nation’s history. 

I found this poem particularly interesting because of the present day relevance with the similarities it holds with the slogan of the Trump administration: “Make America Great Again.” This slogan closely mimics the title of the poem. Both the poem and this slogan infer a greater America in the past, but for those of color, America has never been great; issues such as the oppression and segregation of African-American citizens were only more severe. Although America is still not a land of equality for minority groups, comparing this present day America to the America 100 years ago, America is technically “greater,” even if not by much. 

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Gender Inequality Issues & Their Impact on Uncle Tom’s Cabin

An interesting anecdote from “‘Oh, what a slanderous book,’: Reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the Antebellum South” that is closely connected with our discussion involving intersectionality in class on Thursday was made by reviewer John R. Thompson. Thompson critiqued Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel beyond just its usual controversial implications about slavery in the south at the time. Thompson had additional critiques for Stowe herself. Specifically, he did not approve of her writing the novel as a woman. Hagood explains Thompson’s reaction to the novel saying “Stowe had violated the rules of nineteenth-century gender decorum and the American patriarchal order that pervaded both North and South … Thompson found her willingness to engage publicly in the slavery debate an affront, one that might ‘place woman on a footing of political equality with man.’” This critique exemplifies how the issue of women’s rights and the abolitionist movement were so tightly connected beyond the typical assumption. 

As a result of the extreme gender inequality at the time that Stowe released Uncle Tom’s Cabin, some critics discredited her writing due to her gender. Even those that commended Stowe for her work treated her differently than they would a male author. When Abraham Lincoln met her he referred to her as “the little woman,” who helped spark the civil war. Although a positive comment, these words still implied that it was extra surprising that the novel was successful given she was a woman. Although supporting the abolishment of slavery as a woman was important, in some ways it hurt the cause as many critics also discredited women’s opinions and women’s rights.

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Comparing Present-Day & Historical Leaders

In Issac Butler’s article entitled,“Did Richard II Provoke an Elizabeth Rebellion,” Butler discusses the implications stemming from Shakespeare’s play, Richard II, and their effects on the second Earl of Essex’s rebellion against Queen Elizabeth in 1601. The day prior to Essex’s attempted rebellion against the queen, his men had paid to present and attend a showing of Shakespeare’s play Richard II. Richard II tells the story of Henry IV’s rebellion against King Richard II, who was a corrupt and unfavorable king, and how Henry managed to take over the throne for the betterment of the nation. Some argued, including the crown, that this act of attending this particular play was meant to signal to the nation of England that corrupt leaders, whose actions paralleled the actions of their current queen, were successfully overthrown in the past and that they should support Essex’s efforts to do it again. 

This kind of propaganda that Butler discusses is enacted in the form of a comparison between Queen Elizabeth and a formerly disliked leader. This kind of comparison of a present day leader to a previously disliked leader in history is something that still occurs today. Comparing a leader to a widely disliked historical figure is an effective way to prove a point of why a present day leader is “bad.” During the 2016 election of Donald Trump, comparisons between historical leaders, tyrants, and dictators and Trump were frequently made in the media. Articles illustrated parallels between Donald Trump and Hitler, Stalin, and other unethical and disliked public figures throughout history. If an article proves a few strong points of comparison between Trump and Hitler, for example, then the only conclusion that can follow, given one accepts this premise that these two are in fact very similar, is that Trump is just as terrible of a leader as Adolf Hitler.

Although some of these comparisons may seem far-fetched and some people may not accept the comparisons made, resulting in additional rejections of the conclusions made, this can be an effective method to rally support against a leader. Having seen these kinds of articles during the election myself, I know personally that I was shocked by the comparison points demonstrated in these kinds of articles, and I was fearful of what this could mean for our country. This shock and fear left with the readers of these articles may resonate with them when thinking of President Donald Trump thereafter; therefore, it is a strong form of propaganda to employ. The Earl of Essex’s method of using it continues on throughout present day, and maybe one day a future leader will be compared to President Trump in a similar fashion.

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