Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Romney Warsaw Speech: "Pulaski" a Ku Klux Klan Dog Whistle?


I debated whether to write this down, but after reading Mitt Romney's Warsaw speech several times, a possible racist dog whistle jumped out at me. I do not know if this was intentional or unintentional, but I bring it up since everyone from Cokie Roberts to Chris Matthews has mentioned that Romney is trying to get the white Polish American vote in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

But my theory now is that the goal is bigger than that -- What if he is trying to seal the deal not just with European ethnic groups, but with all the white supremicist voters in the United States? After all, he has to have them to win because he's alienated so many other groups in the country, such as Hispanics.

I'm talking specifically about all those people who hate Barack Obama just because he is African American, the ones outraged that he was ever elected President in the first place, the birthers who view him as "foreign" or un-American - as Romney spokesman John Sununu was blabbing about a few weeks ago.

Sometimes for the racist factions, "European" is as much a dog whistle as "Anglo-Saxon," which Romney threw out in a statement just last week before his London debacle.

And NOTE: I realize there are lots of other places called Pulaski in many states. I'm discussing just one in particular. Stay with me here, and follow Romney's own words . . .

Let's look at what Romney said, then study some history:

I, and my fellow Americans, are inspired by the path of freedom tread by the people of Poland. Long before modern times, of course, the Polish and American people were hardly strangers. The name "Pulaski" is honored to this day in America, and so is the memory of other Poles who joined in our fight for independence.

Complete Text of Speech Here

The "fight for independence" is a reference to the Revolutionary War, correct? That could just be a shout out to the "Patriot" movement connected to the Tea Party, but there's more . . .

Who is he talking about specifically? Who is the person called "Pulaski" who helped us in our fight for "independence" from the British?

Here's the answer: Casimir Pulaski, native of Warsaw, who fought with George Washington.


From the Polish American Center

Casimir Pulaski, son of Count Joseph Pulaski, was born in Warsaw, Poland, on March 6, 1745. At the age of fifteen, he joined his father and other members of the Polish nobility in opposing the Russian and Prussian interference in Polish affairs. Outlawed by Russia for his actions on behalf of Polish liberty, he traveled to Paris where he met Benjamin Franklin, who induced him to support the colonies against England in the American Revolution. Pulaski, impressed with the ideals of a new nation struggling to be free, volunteered his services. Franklin wrote to George Washington describing the young Pole as "an officer renowned throughout Europe for the courage and bravery he displayed in defense of his country's freedom."

In 1777, Pulaski arrived in Philadelphia where he met General Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. Later, at Brandywine, he came to the aid of Washington's forces and distinguished himself as a brilliant military tactician. For his efforts, Congress appointed him Brigadier-General in charge of Four Horse Brigades. Then again, at the Battle of Germantown, Pulaski's knowledge of warfare assisted General Washington and his men in securing victory for American forces.

All well and good - he was a Revolutionary War hero. Nice.

But here's the Dog Whistle part: there's a town named precisely for Casimir Pulaski here in my home state of Tennessee.

Pulaski, Tennessee, in Giles County.

But beyond the European/Polish/Revolutionary War connection, what is is Pulaski, Tennessee, MOST famous for? Do you know? Well, here's the dog whistle part: Pulaski is where the Ku Klux Klan was founded.

From PBS, Jim Crow Stories
The Ku Klux Klan was originally organized in the winter of 1865-66 in Pulaski, Tennessee as a social club by six Confederate veterans. In the beginning, the Klan was a secret fraternity club rather than a terrorist organization. (Ku Klux was derived from the Greek "kuklos," meaning circle, and the English word clan.) The costume adopted by its members (disguises were quite common) was a mask and white robe and high conical pointed hat.

According to the founders of the Klan, it had no malicious intent in the beginning. The Klan grew quickly and became a terrorist organization. It attracted former Civil War generals such as Nathan Bedford Forrest, the famed cavalry commander whose soldiers murdered captured black troops at Fort Pillow.

The Klan spread beyond Tennessee to every state in the South and included mayors, judges, and sheriffs as well as common criminals. The Klan systematically murdered black politicians and political leaders. It beat, whipped, and murdered thousands, and intimidated tens of thousands of others from voting. Blacks often tried to fight back, but they were outnumbered and out gunned. While the main targets of Klan wrath were the political and social leaders of the black community, blacks could be murdered for almost any reason. Men, women, children, aged and crippled, were victims.

The Klan occasionally still marches in Pulaski, although most of the locals aren't happy about it.

Klan Rally in Pulaski, TN, 2009


The Southern Poverty Law Center calls Pulaski the "white supremicist epicenter of the nation" in this article about a Klan march there back in 2010:

Racist Event in Pulaski
Although it’s a small town of about 7,800, Pulaski, Tenn. may well be the white supremacist epicenter of the nation — at least if the number of rallies held there by bigoted groups is any indication.

The mayor and other residents aren’t pleased. “There’s never been a local person involved in these marches or rallies,” Mayor Daniel Speer told Hatewatch this week. But they’re resigned to being a favorite locale for the haters on the American radical right. Speer’s town is more than one-quarter black, but it has for decades been a favorite place for white supremacist groups to rally because of one unfortunate historical fact: This was where the Ku Klux Klan was born.

“It’s a great place to come and learn about the heritage of European Americans,” the festival’s website says. The site includes links to racist individuals and groups including David Duke, who founded Robb’s Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in 1975; the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group that has described black people as a “retrograde species of humanity” and opposes “race mixing”; and The Barnes Review, the leading American journal devoted to denying the Holocaust.

The European Heritage Festival follows by three months a “White Unity Day March and Rally” in Pulaski conducted by the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations. A year earlier, in July 2009, the Fraternal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan staged a birthday march in Pulaski for their hero, Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. There have been many other Klan rallies in Pulaski over the decades.

. . . “It’s frustrating,” the mayor says. “[We’re associated with] the Klan. It’s a stigma. Unfortunately, I just don’t see it going away.”

"A great place to . . . learn about the heritage of European Americans." Yep - just like Casimir Pulaski, the guy referred to in Mitt Romney's Warsaw speech.

More Here: Southern Poverty Law Center and Hate Watch

NOTE: I do NOT in any way, shape, or form mean to insult anyone named "Pulaski" or any Polish Americans, nor anyone living in present-day Pulaski, Tennessee. My goal is just to point out that Mitt Romney may have made a racist reference in his Warsaw speech, whether intentional or unintentional. If it is unintentional, then he really needs a new speechwriter because it is unbelievable that they would let the candidate unintentionally invoke the history of Pulaski, TN, in the United States.

If it is intentional, then Romney is just as cynical and cut-throat as everyone thinks, since he also quoted Condileeza Rice and Pope John Paul II, who make strange bedfellows with the Klan. My feeling is that his political team will do or say anything to win, and that's why this speech is a jumbled word salad aimed not at Europe, but at the Tea Party and even the Aryan Nations in the U.S. He is name-dropping this and that to get the couple hundred thousand votes he needs to win, ironically along with the help from the new Jim Crow-style laws in the swing states. Does this sound strange? Well, stranger things have happened - remember the election of 2000?

I'm only talking here about the way that reference might be taken by certain factions, and given the fact that Romney needs the Southern White or Midwestern White vote to win this election, this is a fair topic. I don't seek to insult anyone or any place either, but history is history, and considering how many borderline racist comments Mitt Romney has made in the past few months, let alone the past few days with the Israel/Palestine comparison, I'm just throwing this out there . . .

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