Entries by Brian Halpin

Sparks off the Wheel of Fortune

“Why waste your money looking up your family tree? Just go into politics and your opponents will do it for you.” Mark Twain The family tree of virtually every American family descended from “non-elites” is riven with mysteries, questions, dead ends, and dubious claims of lineage. By “non-elite”, we mean people with little access to […]

A Guy Named “Link”

1929.  Imagine being born into a dirt-poor Shawnee family in North Carolina in the first year of the Great Depression. Imagine getting sent away to fight in Korea at the age of 21, where you manage to contract tuberculosis. Imagine having a lung removed in your 20s, and being told that you will never sing […]

The View Through Different Eyes

There is a meme seen on social media, showing a large deer in the middle of a road enclosed by woods. Under the photo are the words “The deer is not crossing the road. A road is crossing his forest.” I often come back to this idea when considering American history. What we are reading, […]

The Origin of “Okies”

Dorothea Lange‘s photographic series Migrant Woman is easily THE most recognised series of iconic images documenting and representing the misery of the Great Depression in Dustbowl Oklahoma. These were the people forced onto the road, with thousands living in tent cities along dusty highways. For many, those highways led west.  California became the land of hope […]

J. D. Vance and Misbegotten Memoirs

In the USA, “self identity” is a privilege often enjoyed only by those people with access to the levers of power. Property. Money. Education. Social connections. Weapons. The right skin colour. A man called J. D. Vance (his own name the product of a selected identity) wrote a book four years ago at the ripe […]

Old Data, New Data

  The map on the left was compiled during the Civil War era.  The map on the right is the recent result of Google Analytics data. Most people inclined to think about it have always seen the Civil War in terms of a simple North/South divide. The literary-minded among us grew up aware of The […]

“Whiteness” in America

  The concept of “race” can be viewed from opposite ends of a long spectrum. At one end are scientists and geneticists, who do not recognise the existence of separate “races” at all. At the other end are racists.  In common parlance, “racist” has come to simply mean a person who hates other people based […]