On this week’s Past Present podcast, Nicole Hemmer, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, and Neil Young discuss the Oregon standoff, President Obama and executive orders, and Downton Abbey.
Here are some links and references mentioned during this week’s show:
- The grievances listed by armed militants in the Oregon standoff include the federal government’s ownership and regulation of vast lands used by ranchers, but those ranchers have benefited from incredibly discounted usage rates guaranteed by the federal government, as Neil pointed out. Ideas about the West as an open landscape welcome to rugged individualists have long roots, Natalia noted, strengthened in part by Fredrick Jackson Turner’s “Frontier Thesis” of 1893. Natalia also cited the racist origins of Oregon’s statehood as relevant to the current crisis, and Neil argued that Mormonism’s longstanding tensions with the federal government were significant, as several militant leaders cited their Mormon faith and scriptures as inspiration for their cause.
- President Obama’s executive orders regarding guns, including increasing background checks, elicited pushback from Republican lawmakers and charges that Obama had overstepped his authority. Neil cited data that showed Obama has averaged fewer executive orders per year than Reagan and far less than presidents in the early twentieth century.
- Downton Abbey’s popularity in the U.S. is the latest example of American Anglophilia. Neil argued American fascination with a show on British aristocracy in a moment of Occupy Wall Street and economic uncertainty resembled Americans’ interest in the British television series, Upstairs, Downstairs, during the bleak economic years of the 1970s. But Natalia suggested Americans watched Downton because it offered the escapist pleasures of a soap opera, something the British historian Simon Schama has criticized the show for being.
In our regular closing feature, What’s Making History:
- Natalia commented on Sean Penn’s interview of the Mexican drug lord, El Chapo.
- Neil shared the news that the manatee will be removed from the Endangered Species List.
- Niki discussed Andrew Kahn and Rebecca Onion’s recent Slate essay, “Is History Written About Men, by Men?”