Monday, May 24, 2010


This past Saturday, the Lovely Bride had a Tai Chi class in the morning, and a Tai Chi demo in the afternoon at the Seattle Center, which left a four-hour block of time in Seattle. So we went to the MOHAI.

The MOHAI is the Museum of History and Industry, tucked into a thin wedge of land between 420 and the Montlake Cut (don't sweat about it, they are moving soon). It is a nice history and tech exhibit, heavy on the settlers and salmon and Fisher Communications, surprisingly light on Boeing, Microsoft, and Amazon. It is the final resting place of the Toe Truck, the Rainier R, and the cougar Eddie Baur shot. Boosterish but at the same time recognizing the racial challenges of the city (removing the Native Americans, Interning Nisei and Issei). Even Madame Damnable gets a passing nod.

But we were there for the Terror in America: The Enemy Within exhibit, a traveling show that will be running until 20 June. Sub-sub-titled 1776 to Today, it more accurately a history of the 20th Century of Terrorism, though it casts its net broadly. It name-checks the Boston Tea Party (which I would put down as vandalism as opposed to terrorism) and the burning of Washington (Done by an invading military force), but despite a large timeline to show the endemic nature of violence in American History, it really gets started with WWI sabotage and rolls forward from there.

And the general feel you get from the exhibits is that, while there were reasons for action (Union violence, Japanese spies, Communist agents), as much damage, if not more, was done through overreaction (Palmer Raids, internment camps, Red scares). In fact, we tend to seek sweeping results when dealing with the Other, and tend to bore down to individual crimes when dealing with groups that wrap themselves in the flag and faith (the Klan and the Militia movements). In the latter, we see the individual leaders being arrested and prosecuted, while entire families and classes of peoples where targeted when those responsible were members of minority groups.

It is pretty dour stuff, that reinforces the idea that we are still wrestling with the problem of balancing protection and basic rights, and all its takes is one action to crystallize the fears into action. Of particular amusement is a Jack Webb-narrated Red Scare film where Joe America wakes up to find the Commies in charge ("We tried to warn you, Dad! Sunday school has been closed by the State"). Interestingly, the film could be almost-effortlessly redubbed to represent our current right-wing radicals as the threat ("We tried to warn you, Dad! Sunday school has been closed for teaching about social justice").

The exhibit runs until June 20, and is worth catching, as is strolling through the rest of the mazelike exhibits (because we don't know what will be where when they move into their new digs). Check it out.

More later,