Wednesday, May 11, 2016

misfortunes of the Old World

In Reid's Brazen Age, when I read this list (or, as Reid says, "inventory") of political groups -- do we refer to them as "radical" or "impassioned"...? -- such as the "Norman Thomas Socialists, Lovestoneite right-wingers, Progressive Labor Zionists" etc. ...I do not know what most of those are.

I've heard of some of them -- in Martin Scorsese's Bob Dylan documentary No Direction Home, musician and culture aficionado Dave Van Ronk

(who, like Donald Trump, is from the NYC borough of Queens) describes for an interviewer Greenwich Village in the early 1960s and mentions "Saturday night riots between the Stalinists and the Trotskyites" -- he chuckles with a sort of eye-rolling indulgence... "that sort of thing..."


When our current Candidate Trump discusses (should we put the word discusses in quotation marks?) immigration, one wonders whether he has read Reid's book:

----------------------- [excerpt] ------------------- The misfortunes of the Old World -- "potato famine, political oppression, and pogroms" -- impelled the mass migrations of the nineteenth century. 

During the "old migration" spanning the Civil War, the larger number of arrivals were Irish, especially during and after the famine of 1845-50, and German,  many of the latter seeking political or religious asylum. 

The Irish tended to scatter around the city, wherever work was to be found, while the Germans were concentrated on the later Lower East Side in Kleindeutschland (Little Germany), between Canal and Rivington. 

The tide of immigration from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Germany continued strong even as a more exotic and eventually more numerous "new migration" from Southern and Eastern Europe was beginning. 

In John Dos Passos's novel Manhattan Transfer (1925) the old fisherman tells his son:  "When I was a boy it was wild Irish came in the spring with the first run of shad . . . Now there aint no more shad, an them folks, Lord knows where they come from." ------------------- [end of excerpt]

[Manhattan Transfer is still in print.]


{excerpt, The Brazen Age, by David Reid.  Copyright 2016, Pantheon, Penguin Random House}


No comments:

Post a Comment