February 20, 2013

Another View: Critical cartoon harkens back to old-fashioned intolerance

By ABOUT THE AUTHOR By the Rev. Louis J. Phillips of Portland

Nick Anderson's cartoon on the editorial page (Feb. 14) was disturbingly similar to newspaper cartoons that appeared in American newspapers during the 1850s in the Know-Nothing Party era characterized by political xenophobia and anti-Catholic sentiment. 

Perhaps you recall these images from your high school history textbooks. Our history teachers used them to instruct us about the evils of bigotry and hatred.  

Empowered by popular fears that the country was being overwhelmed by German and Irish Catholic immigrants, who were regarded as hostile to democratic values and controlled by the pope (Pius IX) in Rome, and mainly active from 1854 to 1856, the Know-Nothing Party strove to curb immigration and naturalization frequently with violence, and were very active in our own state of Maine. 

Most notably, the Maine Know-Nothing Party conducted a barbaric and physically painful tarring and feathering of Father John Bapst in Ellsworth. Yes, the same Father John Bapst who bears the name of the present public high school in Bangor. 

Membership in the party was limited to Protestant males of British-American lineage. 

The Know-Nothing Party's mission was revived in later political movements, such as the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s. That is history. And history does indeed repeat itself. 

In our own day and time, the Portland Press Herald did a fine and admirable job in reporting and responding to the recent unfortunate, regretful and, perhaps most importantly, avoidable incident at Greely High School in speaking out against religious intolerance and bigotry. 

Regrettably, the editorial policy of this newspaper does not embrace the same mission when it comes to the Catholic Church. 

The deplorable cartoon on the editorial page on Valentine's Day promotes and incites the very same kind of bigotry and prejudiced behavior that this newspaper claims to deplore.

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