On this week’s Past Present podcast, Nicole Hemmer, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, and Neil J. Young debate the natural and political implications of Hurricane Harvey, President Trump’s pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and the legacy of Princess Diana two decades after her death.
We discussed Hurricane Harvey and the origins of the meteorological model that determines whether a storm is a “1-in-500-years” eventuality and the role of human decisions in mitigating or intensifying natural disaster. We also discussed the history of media coverage of looting after such disasters; Natalia cited Andy Horowitz’ Washington Post article “Hurricane Harvey Threatens More than You Think.”
Sheriff Joe Arpaio
President Trump’s pardon of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has made headlines both for the troubling legal precedent it sets and the content of Arpaio’s career, defined by harsh treatment of prisoners and minorities. We discussed the entwined history of white supremacy and law enforcement; Neil mentioned Gilbert King’s book Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America.
Princess Diana died twenty years ago this summer, and she changed popular ideas about the crown, the media, and celebrity. Niki recalled her particular prominence in the tabloid press that profited immensely from her celebrity. Neil cited Jane Mendle’s TIME article about Diana’s positive role in destigmatizing mental illness in the United Kingdom.
What’s Making History
- Neil commented on historian Christopher D. Cantwell’s reflection in The Atlantic about sharing a name with alt-right activist Christopher Cantwell.
- Natalia discussed Ruth Graham’s article in Slate about the quick vilification of televangelist Joel Osteen’s response to Hurricane Harvey.
- Niki talked about the recent court ruling that the Cherokee nation must recognize the rights of descendants of Cherokee freedmen.