On this week’s Past Present podcast, Nicole Hemmer, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, and Neil Young discuss Pope Francis’ visit to the US, the “quit lit” phenomenon, and Donald Trump.
The papal visit of Pope Francis marks the tenth time a pope has come to the United States. In his new book,We Gather Together, Neil writes about how Pope John Paul II’s papal visits in the 1980s strengthened the American pro-life movement and deepened evangelical-Catholic relations.
The rise of “quit lit” from professors announcing their departure from academia in written form found its most recent example in an essay for the website Vox. But the fantasy of quitting one’s job has been a frequent theme in American pop culture, from Johnny Paycheck’s country hit, “Take This Job and Shove It,” to the twentieth-century novels Babbitt andRevolutionary Road.
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign continues to intrigue and puzzle political commentators.Historians have looked for historical precedents for Trump, but it may be that Trump, particularly in terms of his views on immigration and his outrageous comments about Mexicans, is best understood in the historical currents of American populism and nativism. Niki has written frequently on the Trump phenomenon in her column for U.S. News.
What’s Making History
- Natalia discussed the recent finding that more people in 2015 have died from “selfie-related deaths” than from shark attacks. Such news reminded Natalia of Christopher Lasch’s critique of American society in his 1979 classic, The Culture of Narcissism.
- Neil recommended Johnny Depp’s new movie, Black Mass, which depicts the career of James “Whitey” Bulger, the mafia kingpin and FBI informant who terrorized South Boston in the 1970s and early 1980s.
- ·Niki spoke about Erik Kirschbaum’s recent editorial, “Whatever Happened to German America?” Niki, our resident German American, waxed nostalgic about her love for kuchen, springerle, and theSchnitzelbank drinking song. While understanding the history of discrimination against German Americans, which David Kennedy outlined in his book Over Here, Niki suggested there are much stronger historical reasons why we won’t see an organized drive to reclaim German-American identity any time soon.