Here is your open thread for February 27, 2020.
Mysterians guitarist Bobby Balderrama turns 70 today.
Granted, Balderrama isn’t as cool as that band’s frontman, Rudy Martinez — better known as “?,” or “Question Mark” — but to be fair, very few people have ever been as cool as Question Mark, who was the first person ever described in print as “punk rock.” Here’s ? and Balderrama and the rest of the original band performing their biggest hit in 2006. Immigrants, they get the job done.
On this date in 1922, the Supreme Court smacked down a sad little man named Oscar Leser who was trying to argue that the 19th Amendment was unconstitutional.
Leser’s argument — picture the Duke brothers wailing “Turn those machines back on!” at the end of Trading Places — was slightly more complicated than that, but the gist of it was that he was a man who didn’t think women should be allowed to vote and that it upset him very much that America went and amended its Constitution in ways he did not like. He therefore believed he was entitled to pretend that Amendments he didn’t like were illegitimate and could be disregarded. This may seem profoundly dumb, but once this school of thought was given the fancy new name of “originalism” it became a respected strain of judicial argument and now holds sway in a majority of the highest court, where Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Not-Garland and Rapey Beer Guy are using it to gradually erase the Reconstruction Amendments as though they never happened.
Legendary contralto Marian Anderson was born 123 years ago today. The painting to the right depicts her 1939 Easter Sunday concert at the Lincoln Memorial, an event arranged with the help of Eleanor Roosevelt after the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow concert space for a black singer to perform for an integrated audience.
Anderson’s hometown Philadelphia Tribune editorialized about the DAR’s decision: “A group of tottering old ladies, who don’t know the difference between patriotism and putridism, have compelled the gracious First Lady to apologize for their national rudeness.”
When my dad got obsessed with genealogy, he realized that my sisters qualified for membership in the DAR, but explained that was a club that no one should want to join because they’d snubbed Marian Anderson 50 years earlier.John Steinbeck was born 118 years ago today. The movie was better than the book, but don’t let any uninspiring high school English teachers you may have encountered prevent you from reading The Grapes of Wrath at some point before you die. Or Of Mice and Men.
John Connally was born 103 years ago today. He served as governor of Texas and as the US Secretary of the Treasury, but he’s probably most famous for not buying the claim that he was shot three times by one bullet.
Elizabeth Taylor would’ve been 88 today. Taylor was raising a ruckus fighting for AIDS research and treatment in 1984 — years before almost anyone in government was even willing to mention the disease publicly. She was also terrific in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and dozens of other movies, but speaking up about AIDS when few others in her position were willing to do so is what makes her an icon in my book.
Vicious political scorpion Harvey LeRoy Atwater would’ve been 69 today. If you want to understand American politics (or white evangelical Christianity) over the past 50 years, the most succinct explanation of it was provided by Atwater in a 1981 interview:
Y’all don’t quote me on this. You start out in 1954 by saying, “N—r, n—r, n—r.” By 1968 you can’t say “n—r”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this”, is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N—r, n—r.” So, any way you look at it, race is coming on the backbone.
Today is the 90th birthday of Joanne Woodward. It’s the 80th birthday of Dr. Johnny Fever himself, Howard Hesseman. Charming actor and frustratingly awful human Adam Baldwin turns 58. Noah Emmerich — who was never even nominated for an Emmy for his amazing work in The Americans — turns 55. Donal Logue is either 55 or 54 today, still plenty young enough to start work on Season 2 of Terriers. Chelsea Clinton turns 40.
Finally, today is the feast day of St. Leander of Seville, a sixth-century bishop who, through his friendship with the queen (and the threat of military action), converted the Visigoth king Hermengild and is thus credited with “saving his country from Arianism.” He is the namesake of San Leandro, California, a city near Oakland that is widely noted for not being a hotbed of Arianism.
Talk amongst yourselves.