I’ve been reading H.J. Desmond’s history of the Nativist Movement, copyright 1905. This group created a political party called the “American Party,” more popularly known as the “Know-Nothing Party.” They became strong in the mid-1800s. This was the time of great immigration to the U.S.

There were rules about joining the secret society known as the Order of the Star-Spangled Banner (OSSB). An initiation rite called “Seeing Sam.” The memorization of passwords and hand signs. A solemn pledge never to betray the order. A pureblooded pedigree of Protestant Anglo-Saxon stock and the rejection of all Catholics. And above all, members of the secret society weren’t allowed to talk about the secret society. If asked anything by outsiders, they would respond with, “I know nothing.”

There were 5 million people (all immigrants because they didn’t count the Native Americans.) in the United States before 1850. By 1900, 20 million had joined the land. The KnowNothing Party intended to prevent Catholics and immigrants, mainly Irish in the east and Germans in the mid-west, from being elected to political offices. Its members also hoped to deny these people jobs in the private sector, arguing that the nation’s business owners needed to employ true Americans. More radical members of the KnowNothing Party believed that the Catholics intended to take over the United States of America. The Catholics would then place the nation under the Pope’s rule. We heard this again when Kennedy ran for President.

By 1852 the Know-Nothing party was achieving phenomenal growth. It did very well that year in state and local elections, and with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 it won additional adherents from the ranks of conservatives who could support neither the proslavery Democrats nor antislavery Republicans. When Congress assembled on Dec. 3, 1855, 43 representatives were avowed members of the Know-Nothing Party.

It seems to me that our Senate, Democrats and Republicans could be called the “Know-Nothing’s.” They certainly Know Nothing about integrity, the general good of our country or even the Constitution. They do know about re-election, lobbyists, and lining their own pockets.

Do they know what generativity means? What they are leaving their grandchildren and mine? Do they know weakening the EPA will give us black air like the cities of China? Do they know what Civil Rights Means? Do they know that our National Parks are in danger? Do they know what good example means? What the hell do they know?

When you put on your “Make America Great Again” hat. Ask how is this going? Does voting along party lines make this a better country? Does vulgarity enrich us? Does leaving out a portion of our citizens make this country great? What can each of us do to make this happen?

Immigration to the United States has always been a confusing subject if you read history. I believe there is a moderate method to take in people who have nowhere else to turn. My ancestors came here legally (yes I have the papers to prove it) but they came and worked hard. Other people walked across the border, stayed and worked hard too.

Here in California, the Anglos invaded and moved the border, marginalizing the Native Americans and the Spanish Immigrants who had been here 200 years before them.

So what’s the point? History does repeat itself. The people who took the Native American lands despised those who came later for the same reasons they did. Now the descendants of those people are railing against anyone new. The names are new, but the actors are the same.

Round and round we go- where it stops nobody knows.

For more information check out The Smithsonian Magazine’s article on the Know-Nothing Party.

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