It Don’t Mean a Thing If it ain’t got that Swing!

Posted in Blues For A word Sorcerer, Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 18, 2020 by playthell

Remembering Stanley Crouch

BLUES FOR A WORD SORCERER

Alas, the sad news has reached my ears that Stanley Crouch, a unique tribune of our times, has danced and joined the ancestors. A poet, essayist, dramatist, short story writer and novelist. Stanley was by any objective measure a GREAT writer. A native of South-Central Los Angeles, Stanley began writing for the theater in a company that grew out of the great Watts riot of 1965. When I met him in 1968, he was a Poet in Residence at Pomona, one of the prestigious Claremont Colleges, just outside LA, popularly known as “The Harvard of the West.”

I was visiting the school as a guest lecturer to help make the case for the importance of Black Studies, add Stanley was part of the black campus movement attempting to establish a Black Studies Department. At the time he was a militant Black Nationalist, decked in a dashiki, dark shades with a big Afro, and had just produced a collection of weaponized words, radical poems titled: “Ain’t No Ambulances for No Niggers Tonight!”

It was clear that Stanley shared the view of writing advocated by the peerless word warrior, Ishmael Reed: “Writin is Fightin.”  And like Ish, his esthetic conception and literary concerns were shaped by the Black Arts Movement, which like the black cultural awakening in the 1920’s which is known to history as “The Harlem Renaissance, was also born in Harlem with the founding of The African Jazz Art Society in 1958.  The founders: Cecil and Ronnie Brathwaite, Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln, represented a cross section of the visual and musical arts.

The writers – especially Leori Jones aka Amiri Baraka and Larry Neal – greatly inspired and influenced him would come to Harlem from Newark via Greenwich Village, and Philadelphia.  And like everybody who were studying the extremely complex art of Jazz drumming, Stanley was profoundly influenced by Max Roach, the most influential innovator in improvisational percussion of the 20th century. These influences, deeply rooted in Black Cultural Nationalism, inspired and shaped Stanley’s poetic style.

Despite being far away on the western frontier in The City Of Angels, Stanley herd the word, as it was being transfigured and weaponized by cultural warriors in Harlem’s hip black coffee House “The Truth.”  A gathering place for Black revolutionaries on the political and cultural front, word sorcerers weaved dreams with the magic of the spoken word.  Poetry that made our spirits dance and fortified us for the liberation struggle.

Roland Stone aka Yusef Rachman, Ed Spriggs, Calvin Hernton, Roland Snellings, aka Askia Muhammad Toure, Leroi Jones aka Amiri Baraka, Larry Neal, Jayne Cortez, Soyna Sanchez, Aisha Rachman, were all born of this black cultural awakening in Harlem.  And as these Black Bards traveled across the country like circuit preachers spreading the good word, the Black Arts Movement caught fire.  Chit-Town produced Amus Moore and Don L. Lee  aka Haki Madibuti, and LA gave us Stanley Crouch, one of the most able of the radical Black Nationalist bards.

Although he would eventually fall under the tutelage of the celebrated novelist/essayist Ralph Ellison, and Blues Philosopher Albert Murray, weighty intellectual hep cats from our parent’s generation,  and reject Radical Black Nationalism, abandoning his leftist literary comrades, he remained a literary pugilist.   And would later savagely skewer those comrades in a critically acclaimed collection of essays: “Notes of A Hanging Judge.” For which he was awarded the highly prestigious “MacArthur Genius Award.”

‘Stanley would become one of the most decorated writers in American letters. Primarily an essayist, Stanley wrote on a variety of subjects, but his greatest distinction was as a masterful critic of the quintessential American art of Jazz, which he correctly viewed as the contribution of US civilization to the canon of great art. I discovered his love for Jazz the first time we met. After my speech he invited me over to his crib to hang out, and he had a set of drums in his living room.

Having once played the drum kit myself but had long abandoned them for the Afro-Cuban Conga drums, I had remained a fan and was interested in hearing him play. He put on a record and began to play along. He said he was working on “some different stuff,” that he was not ready to reveal. Among the students hangin out was the young lady who later became the famous television star “Judge Mable, and a young saxophonist I believe was Davis Murray, who became one of the truly original voices on the tenor sax.

After that visit I did not see Stanley again until about six years later, when we met again in New York. But I had followed his brilliant column “Crouch on Jazz,” which was published in Players magazine, a black version of Playboy. I thought they were the most elegantly crafted insightful was essays I had ever read on the art of Jazz. There was a grandeur to his conception of the music that set his writing apart from the common lot of critics, even in the Big Apple, where good writers are common fare.

Crouch’s writings on Jazz conjured up the observation of Zora Neal Hurston in a letter to James Weldon Johnson – two great early 20th century Afro-American writers who migrated from Northern Florida to the Big Apple just like me – when she said: “We are a people who love magnificence and cannot get too much of it.” In New York he joined the staff at the Village Voice, an incubator of great music critics. From his conspicuous prestigious perch at the Village Voice, Crouch quickly became the most outstanding Jazz critic in the big Apple…the world capital of Jazz. And his influence was such that Stanley became an intellectual mentor to the trumpet genius and brilliant composer Wynton Marsalis, and he was a major force in the creation of “Jazz Lincoln Center,” the nation’s most important monument to Afro-American culture!

Known as “the writer’s paper,” and the “home of the New Journalism,” the Voice, with its reverence for fine English prose and creative storytelling, was the perfect place for Stanley, as the editors prized the individual writers voice – especially the great Bob Christgeau, who edited Stanley’s finest essays penned during his tenure at the voice. Several of which ended up as award winning anthologies.

Stanley really blossomed at the Voice, as he branched out from Jazz criticism and wrote about art, literature and politics. Although the subjects of his interest changed, his pugnacious poetic style didn’t, concocting a prose style that prized poetic simile and metaphor. Often his prose seemed to dance off the page, animated by the polyrhythmic phrases.

A lover of literature, I was bewitched by Stanley’s compositions and avidly read his texts. In conversations about various and sundry issues, Stanly began to chide me about writing more, At the time my writing was limited to a few academic treatises published in obscure journals, and the lyrics to songs I had written for a great singer with whom I was smitten.

Stanley began to chide me to write more. He would say: “Listen man, it would be so easy for you because you speak in essays.” His comment really got my attention because Mike Thelwell,  my colleague at the University of Massachusetts who is a great writer and professor of Black World literature, had told me this a couple of years earlier as he pushed me to write, but to no avail.  I was a voracious reader, and I was always telling him about something I had read. But one day he said to me: “You know why you read so much? Because reading is a lot easier than writing!”

He badgered me until I began to take myself seriously as a writer. And once I started I have been unable to stop having now written hundreds of serious essays…1000 of them posted online at www.commentariesonthetimes.wordpress.com. I have written for some of the finest publications in the English language, here and in England. Along the way I have won several awards, and two Pulitzer Prize nominations for Feature Writing and Distinguished Commentary. The nominating letters are posted at Commentaries on The Times. I was in my forties when I began to write seriously, and had it not been for Stanley’s insistent prodding and encouragement, I might never have pursued a writing career. We became serious intellectual sparring partners for years.

In 2003, Stanley and I was commissioned to write a book commemorating the 100th anniversary of Dr. WEB DuBois’ classic American text: “The Souls of Black Folk.” Since I was a co-founder of the WEB DuBois Department of Black Studies at the University of Massachusetts in 1969, one year after our first meeting – the first free standing, degree granting, Black Studies department in the world, and acquired Dr, DuBois’s voluminous papers – and held a professorship in history there, we agreed that I would write the historical overview, reconstructing the intellectual milieu, in the US and Germany – that shaped DuBois’s education and worldview.

Reconsidering The Souls of Black Folk” consists of two complex essays in intellectual, cultural and political history and criticism centered around the historical context, text and legacy of “The Souls of Black Folk” and its brilliant author. The book was selected for discussion at the opening session of the National Black Writers Conference, sponsored by Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, and hosted by the Studio Museum of Harlem. C-Spans Bhttps://www.c-span.org/video/?176136-1/reconsidering-souls-black-folkook World covered the event, and I have appended the link to their video below.

See> https://www.c-span.org/video/?176136-1/reconsidering-souls-black-folk

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Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

September 2020

Had I Spoken at the Democratic Convention

Posted in Uncategorized on September 1, 2020 by playthell

This is What I Would Have Said

Friends, truth seekers, country men, lend me your ears!  I have come to speak the unvarnished truth about the historic choice that confronts us in the coming presidential election.  In choosing a President, the person who will serve as the chief executive of our government and Commander-In-Chief of our awesome armed forces – including our doomsday nuclear arsenal which can destroy our planet in a flash – what matters most is character and competence. Our guy, Uncle Joe, has both in abundance.  An embarrassment of riches!

Alas the other guy has a severe deficit of both.  Indeed, I think it fair to say: If character and competence were ink, Dirty Don tha Con wouldn’t have enough to cross a T, or even dot an I!   Since the good character, humble demeanor and humane vision of Joe Biden has been roundly attested to and duly praised by the high and the humble, from the suites to the streets, in a hail of poignant panegyrics worthy of a hero or a saint, and his competence for the high office he seeks has been duly demonstrated from decades of public service, and the wise counsel he provided President Obama that helped make him the GOAT, the Muhammad Ali of the political arena – The Greatest of All Times – I shall concentrate on the deficits of Devious Dangerous Donnie Dimwit.

In her eloquent, wise and extraordinarily relevant address to this convention our beautiful and brilliant former first lady Michelle Obama, once more implored us to take the high road, when the nasty amoral Trumpanzees who have converted the Grand Old Party into the Grand Obstructionist Party “go low.”  However, despite the fact that I fairly worships the ground she treads upon, I must dissent.  I find the position of former Attorney General Eric Holder much more to my liking: “When they go low…kick em!

It is in that spirt that I critique the cretin that is presently befouling the White House.  I feel this is of singular importance because no one thus far, in the flurry of florid oratory, rich in metaphor and elegant turns of phrase, pregnant with intellectual gravitas, none has flagellated the scurrilous scoundrel to my satisfaction.  I would bet my bottom dollar that when Uncle Joe comes up to speak, he will also fail to flog the foulhearted fool with a fitting flagellation!  For he is a Christian gentleman, and thus it is in his nature to forgive the transgressions of knaves and blaggards, to seek the higher ground that Lady Obama commends.  Hence the task of whipping Trump’s treacherous treasonous jive ass in the fashion he so richly deserves falls to me.

It is a calling I joyously accept!  For I am as perfectly suited to this…as killer whales to water.  Indeed, I feel born to this role, to this moment. For I am neither a Christian, a gentleman, and certainly not a lady!  In my comments about the present occupant of the Oval Office – I hesitate to refer to him as “the president” because, like the late great congressman John Lewis, I do not consider his “election” to be legitimate. Aside from the fact that he was trounced by Hillary Clinton in the popular vote by a three million majority, our intelligence agencies tell us that Russian military intelligence posted a million and a half disinformation messages attacking Hillary and supporting Trump.  And both the Mueller Report and the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee Report concluded that the Trump campaign welcomed Russian interference in behalf of the Moscow Candidate.

Hence, rather than address  Devious Donald as “President,” I have decided to follow his example of labeling everyone he disagrees by a negative nickname – “Crooked Hillary,” “Shifty Shift,” “Sleepy Joe,” “Sloppy Steve,” et al.  And I remind his Christian apologists of the biblical injunction: “Ye shall reap what ye sow.”  It has been a revealing exercise, since there are so many negative nicknames that suits Don Tha Con perfectly!

After covering Ditzy Donald’s presidential campaign, crack reporter Matt Taibbi wrote a book about the candidate titled “The Insane Clown President.”  It would be hard to find a titled that so accurately describes its subject, indeed history has proven Taibbi prescient in his projection.  For Trump has turned out to be just that…and worse.  In an interview on Democracy Now, with the highly informed veteran Journalist Juan Gonzales, Taibbi described his impressions of Dopey Donald after observing him closely for two years: “He is the perfect foil to reflect everything that is tasteless and vulgar and disgusting and cheap and greedy about American culture.”

Although Taibbi refers to Donnie Dimwit as “insane,” it is used as more of a symbolic rhetorical device.  However, there is compelling evidence that Trump is suffering from serious psychopathologies, and it affects his behavior in the political arena. A group of psychiatrists and psychologists became so troubled from watching his antics on television that they felt the nation should be alerted to the fact that we have a dangerous sociopath running the nation’s affairs.  And the published a book to do just that titled “Duty to Warn,” describing his psychopathology as “Malignant Narcissism and Paranoia.”  In the beginning it was less than twenty doctors who advanced this theory, but as Deranged Donald has continued cut the fool before the world the number of doctors who now lend their names and reputations to the Duty to Warn statement number upwards of 70, 000!

Many of these doctors constitute the elite of their profession, and they are not deterred from forming opinions on Trump’s mental state because of the “Goldwater Rule,” which argues that in order to assess a persons mental state the doctor must personally examine them, and we should not be deterred from referencing their opinions based on an antiquated rule which was a political act rather than a scientific finding.  In fact, as many of you know, the CIA regularly relies on this kind of psychiatric profiling of foreign leaders when advising the President and Congress on matters of national security and foreign policy.

In fact, this diagnosis was introduced into the psychiatric  literature by the distinguished German Psycho-analyst Eric Fromm, a refugee from Nazi terror living in the US, when he was contracted by the OSS, Office of Strategic Services, to develop a psychiatric profile of Adolph Hitler!  Hence, we have a President of the United states who suffers from the identical psychopathologies as the most destructive political leader of the 20th century!

This fact should keep us all awake at night, every night, when we consider the fact that this sicko is in command of our nuclear arsenal.  That he literally has the power to destroy the world!   And our nuclear chain of command does not have the failsafe checks on the Commander-In-Chief that the ordinary citizen thinks it does.  That’s why the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the world’s foremost experts on the probability of accidental nuclear war, has the hands on their Doomsday Clock poised at seconds to midnight! To their everlasting credit, Senator Ed Markey and Congressman Ted Lieu recognized the grave danger this poses and authored a bill to do something about it by requiring congressional consent before Dangerous Donald could launch a nuclear first strike.  But the bill never saw the light of day, because our political leaders found other issues more important…more urgent.

The indisputable truth is that although there is much criticism of The Donald’s myriad moral and mental shortcomings, his missing marbles, few understand the depth of the danger the world is in every minute this crazy corrupt charlatan remains in the White House.  Alas, we have received numerous warnings, the latest coming from his own niece, a PhD psychologist who has observed his antics from a front row seat for decades, and has written a book calling Dastardly Donald: “The world’s Most Dangerous Man!”

The evidence of his mental maladies is everywhere manifest.  One only needs to watch his act, his ongoing live reality show, in order to identify the symptoms.  The Malignant Narcissist believes the world revolves around him; that time moves when he moves.  It is his show 24/7, the world is his stage and the rest of us are but minor players upon it.  Hence, in his mind he knows more about war than the generals and more about medicine than the doctors.  He understands the Corona-Virus better than the scientist who have spent a lifetime studying it.  And when their prescriptions for suppressing its spread differs from his they are all involved in a plot against him, a conspiracy by the “Deep State” “to make him look bad.”  That is the paranoid component of his madness wedded to the dangerous Megalomania.  And while he claims to be a proud grandfather, his decision to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement to halt global warming, which along with nuclear war threatens the extinction of mankind, makes him the worst grandfather ever.

Deadly Donnie believes he understands world events better than the intelligence agencies that American taxpayers provide billions annually to fund.  And he routinely dismisses their findings when they disagree with his gut feelings, even refusing to read their detailed presidential briefing papers. Which explains why he refused to act on the CIA warnings about the Corona-Virus developing in Wuhan China long before it became a Pandemic, which led to the disaster we are now coping with.  He has declared himself a “stable genius” who alone understand and can fix the complex problems facing the nation.  In fact it was just such a statement that first led me to draw a connection between Don that Con and Adolph Hitler, whom his first wife said he so admired that he kept a volume of Adolph’s collected speeches on his bedside table.

But before I learned anything about his strange fascination with the German autocrat, or the fact that they suffered from the same mental maladies, I wrote an extended essay titled “Is Donald Trump a Uniquely American Fascist?”  This treatise was inspired by the fact that Hitler had made the same claim, the language was slightly different but it was the same in essence: “It All depends on me.”

What stood out for me was that both of these supreme egotists had conflated the nation and their personality into one entity.  This is why The Don feels that any criticism of him is “Treason,” a charge whose definition in the Constitution is unbeknownst to this pugnacious narcissistic ignoramus.  But this misunderstanding, coupled with Dirty Don’s grandiose conception of himself, is the key to understanding his personality and how it affects his often bizarre behavior.

To those who loudly protest that “Trump is no Hitler,” I readily agree.  For one thing Hitler was an aspiring artist and a connoisseur of the arts and architecture.  Hence when the Nazi armies marched into Paris, they had strict orders to preserve the art and architecture.  Donnie Dumbass, ignorant philistine that he is,  had to be restrained from ordering the bombing of ancient temples in Iran, priceless irreplaceable architectural and art treasure from ancient Persia.  The cultural heritage of all man the Iranians have preserved from antiquity. Alas, uncultured white trash that he is, this meant nothing to Donny Dimwit!

In the famous scene of Hitler entering Paris in his motorcade, the first stop he made was to visit the world-renowned Paris Opera House, where he toured the building to admire the architectural design.  He was a lover of great music who founded the annual Bayreuth opera festival, which celebrates the magnificent music of Richard Wagner, performed by great artists from all over the world.  Hitler was also an impassioned Nationalist, just as Donny Drumfp claims to be, but when time came to answer the call to arms in defense of the national interest, Hitler was a brave solder in combat and Don tha Con was a draft dodging coward, whose rich corrupt daddy bought him a phony medical report that falsely claimed he had a handicap that rendered him unfit for military service!

Hitler was a reader and student of history; Donnie Dimwit won’t even read his daily presidential briefings.  Hitler had a political philosophy and wrote a book to define it…Trump believes in nothing beyond building his brand, basking in the admiration of his acolytes, and making money.  And while Hitler spent his leisure visiting art exhibits and attending performances of classical German music, Trump was hanging out with lowlife child molesters like his ace boon coon Jeffery Epstein!   By now the shocked listener feels compelled to cry out: But Hitler was the most evil man that ever lived, how can you compare him to Trump?”

To wit I quote my grandfather’s defense: “I ain’t told a word of a lie yet”  Alas, facts are stubborn things…they persist even when they are embarrassing, inconvenient or discrediting.  In a burst of sophistic apologia by the Evangelicals who have entered a Faustian Bargain with this Devil, or a pitiful final attempt by Trumpanzees to salvage their savior,  they offer a final protest:  But Hitler killed Six Million Jews, and sparked a world war that killed 50.000 million!  President Trump has committed no atrocity that approaches Hitler’s crimes.   I readily concede the point.  However I caution you that if Deranged Donald is elected to another four years in the Oval Office, given his assault  on efforts to stem climate change, and his carless child-like infatuation with nuclear weapons, he could end putting forces in motion that will extinguish all life on planet earth…making his fellow German authoritarian, who like Donnie Drumfp attributed his “genius” to German blood – look like a small time butcher!

Hence, in dealing with this dangerous tragi-comic joker, we must arm ourselves with an unadorned understanding of who he is.  As the late Afro-American poet Maya Angelo warned: “When a person shows you who they are the first time…believe them!”  Hence in negotiating with Dirty Don tha Con we must always remember that we are dealing with a mentally ill, amoral, dangerous, Big Apple flim flam man who needs to “win” at any cost.  He is not a statesman, and he neither knows nor cares about how to govern.

The late Republican speaker of the House Paul Ryan – a wonkish fellow for whom mastering and making policy was a joy – said after one meeting with The Don: ”The guy knows absolutely nothing about government.”  This is who he is…it is what it is alas, and we must act accordingly: When he goes low kick him!  We owe it to generations yet unborn to get his evil charlatan out of the Oval Office ASAP!  This is the task history has assigned to enlightened Americans in the coming election.

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem New York
September 1, 2020

 

NOW LET US PRAISE A GREAT ARTIST!

Posted in Uncategorized on September 1, 2020 by playthell

IN REMEMBRANCE OF CHADWICK BOSEMAN

Three Reviews of his Magnificent Performances

For lovers of cinema, Chadwick Boseman has provided many magnificent moments with his marvelous performances on the Giant Silver Screen. I have loved the movies since I was a boy, bewitched by the magic images dancing around on a giant silver screen as we sat in awe staring in a darkened room. In the movies one could be transported anywhere in the world and out of this world.

But, alas, there was no Chadwick Boseman when I was a boy, and no movies like the ones he made. Movies that celebrate the beauty, bravery, heroism, and nobility of our collective spirits. A spiritual gravitas that enabled us to struggle in the savage wilds of North America and emerge four centuries hence strong, gifted and black…”with our souls in tact’ That’s why I write about the arts. Although I consider writing about politics a duty, writing about the arts is pure pleasure. Yet the time and effort I can devote to the task is limited, hence I only write about the MASTERPIECES!

Brother Boseman, who lately danced and joined the ancestors, was a sterling example of the best of the Afro-American cultural tradition – a tradition forged in the fires of persistent struggle over four long treacherous centuries, in which the Euro-American majority subjected Afro-Americans to unimaginable trials and tribulations. All the while being forced to recite drivel about Living in “the land of the free,” where “all men are created equal,” with freedom and justice for all,” when we knew it was a gargantuan lie! This is the real “American Exceptionalism”

Although to speak this obvious truth to white power would often invite disaster, despite your First Amendment right to say so. Colin Kapernik being a conspicuous example! That’s why the movies of Chadwick Boseman are essential tools to better understand our experience. For he has brought our heroes to life on the giant screen in living color. By brilliantly portraying such iconic figures as Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, Jessie Owens, James Brown, et al, he not only celebrated their greatness in bravura performances, he also brought to life the struggles of Afro-Americans in a country that is dedicated to the preservation of White Supremacy as I write.

Although I am always writing a treatise about something or the other, as my patron saint Dr. WEB DuBois said – “Something done and something doing” – writing about the arts is almost a guilty pleasure for me during these troubled times. I share Frederick Douglass’ unease when he was asked by fellow activist, and thoughtful intellectuals, how he could squander time and talents writing about the emerging art of photography while the country was being torn apart by the Abolitionists Movement, Civil War, and Reconstruction?

In truth, these are questions asked by well meaning philistines, sincere people with good intentions yet miss the meaning of art in our lives. Although politics determines our life’s chances, since it is the process by which power is created and distributed; the arts stimulate our imagination, nourish our souls, and make our spirits dance. Often the arts have been called upon to illuminate the power of the Gods!

In ancient traditional African societies, “Art of art’s sake” was a foreign idea, as all art had an organic connection religious ritual. The art of Chadwick Boseman strikes a close communion with the Ancestor Veneration Rituals of traditional African societies. The “Igungun” ritual of the Yoruba’s, a civilization from which many neo-African cultures of the Black Atlantic Diaspora of the America’s derive.

The function of these rituals was the celebrate the ancestors by evoking their spirits as we honored their virtues. That’s what Chad Boseman did in marvelous, heroic, performances on the silver Screen. A fundamental function of art everywhere is to imagine things unseen, to create new visions of human possibility. That is one of the major functions of myth making, and story telling, a function essential to all humanity, because the homo sapian sepecies alone have this gift!

This is accomplished magnificently in the movie Black Panther, where we see Chadwick Boseman in what will no doubt be his most influential and remembered role: The wise and brave King of the mythical African Kingdom of Wakanda, which captured the imagination of people all over the world, broke box office records, and presented our children with a superhero worthy of them!

REVIEWS:

Bio-pic of Jackie Robinson – Some Reflections on Forty Two” at https://commentariesonthetimes.me/…/some-reflections-on-fo…/

Bio-pic on James Brown: “Get On Up,” at https://commentariesonthetimes.me/2014/08/12/get-on-up/

BLACK PANTHER at https://commentariesonthetimes.me/…/black-panther-a-cinema…/

Chadwick Boseman as James Brown in “GET ON UP!”

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Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

August 28, 2020

A Giant Step Toward Peace?

Posted in On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , on August 27, 2020 by playthell
      Dirty Donald and his Partners in Crime

Or Yet Another Grand Delusion

Before the ink on the deal for diplomatic recognition between Israel and the United Arab Emirates could dry, there was chatter emanating from the White House about Don tha Con being awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in bringing the parties together – yet another manifestation of his hysterical Obama envy. The recognition of Israel by the UAE is being hailed as a watershed event that will improve the rancorous relations between Israel and her Arab neighbors, which has prevailed since the founding of the Zionist state in 1948.

However, while the American administration is touting the historic importance of this agreement, cheered on by traditional allies in the NATO Alliance, some key parties with serious interests at stake are not cheering. Their reactions range from the outright rejection by all factions of the Palestinians, whose status as a Middle Eastern people occupied by European Colonial settlers is the foci of the conflict, to the deafening silence of the Saudi’s; the regions richest and most powerful Arab state; to open hostility from Turkey and Iran – the most powerful Muslim military states in the region.

In view of this hodgepodge of reactions, it requires the boundless optimism of a professional hustler to conclude this deal is cause for enthusiastic celebration.  A candid view of the unvarnished facts, rather than the wishful thinking that permeates the US-Israeli narrative of events, presents a radically different scenario. Rather than a prelude to a period of regional peace, we see a rocky road ahead full of pitfalls and mine fields – real and metaphorical – that could just as easily lead to increased armed conflict and instability throughout the Mid-East.

In the view of many observers, this writer prominently among them, when the contradictions between the various ethnic and religious factions, the instability of oppressive kleptocratic Arab regimes – Saudi Arabia prominently among them – combined with the interest of individual nation states, the probability of protracted regional conflict seems inevitable. The task of this essay is to play past the fanfares and confetti, and objectively weigh the nitty gritty facts of the matter without fear or favor as the reactions of parties with skin in the game unfolds.

As is to be expected, the official “Joint Statement” issued by the three parties that crafted the agreement initiating diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE, is bristling with self-congratulation and promises of better days ahead for this trouble region:

“ This historic diplomatic breakthrough will advance peace in the Middle East region and is a testament to the bold diplomacy and vision of the three leaders and the courage of the United Arab Emirates and Israel to chart a new path that will unlock the great potential in the region. All three countries face many common challenges and will mutually benefit from today’s historic achievement…As a result of this diplomatic breakthrough and at the request of President Trump with the support of the United Arab Emirates, Israel will suspend declaring sovereignty over areas outlined in the President’s Vision for Peace and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world. The United States, Israel and the United Arab Emirates are confident that additional diplomatic breakthroughs with other nations are possible, and will work together to achieve this goal.”

However, the Palestinian leadership across the ideological spectrum, uniformly reject this view. And since it is their status as an oppressed people under Israeli military occupation that is at the center of the conflict between Israel and the Islamic world, no solution to this decades old problem can be realized without their cooperation. Hence one could reasonably argue that insofar as the Palestinians are concerned, the ambitiously titled “Abraham Agreement,” was as dead as the ancient Hebrew prophet after whom it was named at birth.

In a statement issued through his Senior Advisor, Nabil Abu Rodina, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the agreement “a blow to the Arab Peace Initiative and the decisions of the Arab and Islamic summits, as well as an aggression against the Palestinian people.” Abbas also denounced the agreement as “a de-facto recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” This recognition follows the US lead in one of the Trump Administration’s most blatant assaults on the rights of the Palestinian people, and a serious blow to a “two state” solution, which the entire world recognizes as the best way out of this protracted quagmire that continues to destabilize the oil rich Middle East.

Hence President Abbas considers the UAE recognition of Israel to be treasonous to the struggle of the Palestinian people. And he minces no words in denouncing it: “The Palestinian leadership rejects what the United Arab Emirates has done and considers it a betrayal…“Neither the Emirates nor any other party has the right to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian leadership shall allow nobody to interfere in the Palestinian affairs or decide on their behalf regarding their legitimate rights in their homeland…”

President Abbas denunciation and rejection of the Israeli/UAE agreement was echoed from all factions of the polycephalis Palestinian national liberation movement. After a meeting between Abbas and Haniyeh, leader of the more militant Hamas faction, Hamas issued this statemen:
“They clearly affirmed the rejection of this declared agreement, considering that it is a non-binding agreement for the Palestinian people, and will not be respected, and stressed that all components of our people stand together in rejecting normalization or recognizing the occupation at the expense of our people’s rights…They also stressed during the call that no one is allowed to make Palestine, its sanctuary, its most remote places, its martyrs and the suffering of its people a bridge for normalization with the enemy.”

The statement from Dr. Hanan Ashwari, a longtime negotiator for Palestinian rights and a member of highest circles of PLO leadership, perhaps summed up the pain Palestinians are feeling in the most poignant human terms. Upon hearing of the agreement after it was a done deal, she tweeted to the people of the world: “May you never experience the agony of having your country stolen; may you never feel the pain of living in captivity under occupation; may you never witness the demolition of your home or murder of your loved ones. May you never be sold out by your “friends.”

How Palestinians feel about the deal

 

The uniformly bitter rejection of the Israeli/UAE deal by the Palestinian leadership belies the rosy scenario conjured up by the treacherous triumvirate led by Dirty Don tha Con. And the deal’s vehement rejection by the Islamic powerhouses Turkey and Iran, representing millions of Sunni and Shiite Muslims, insures there will be troubled waters ahead that renders all the projections of smooth sailing ahead little more than a grand delusion.

The harsh Turkish rejection surprised many seasoned observers of Middle Eastern affairs. Considering the semi-secret pact between Israel and Turkey, whereby the Turks would support Israeli’s positions in regional conflicts with the Arabs, so long as the Israeli’s blocked any attempt in the United Nations to label the mass slaughter of Armenians by the Turkish government in the early 20th century “a genocide.” Hence we can conclude the Turks were really ticked when they declared:

“History and the conscience of the region’s peoples will not forget and never forgive this hypocritical behaviour of the UAE, betraying the Palestinian cause for the sake of its narrow interests…It is extremely worrying that the UAE should, with a unilateral action, try and do away with the [2002] Arab Peace Plan developed by the Arab League. It is not in the slightest credible that this three-way declaration should be presented as supporting the Palestinian cause.”

Iran, the powerful Persian nation and center of Shiite Islam, has been a consistent critic of Israel, insisting that their grievances with Europeans should have been settled with Europeans, with reparations in European territorial transfers to create a Jewish nation, rather than join the European imperialists and dispossess the Palestinian people of their lands and birth rights, when they were innocent bystanders to the crimes of the European holocaust. Although the Iranians are consistently portrayed as “Jew haters” in the US press, there are some Hassidic Jews, the Satmar sect of Williamsburg Brooklyn, who not only agree with the Iranian point of view, but has sent Rabbi’s there on missions of solidary.

This fact is mostly hushed up in the major press, an institution for whom I have worked, and despite its shortcomings, I still consider indispensable to democratic government, because it dramatically exposes the lie that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Especially when they turn out at the annual “Israel Independence Day” celebration in New York, jeering and denouncing the parade! The Satmar Hasidum, whose views are firmly based in the teaching of the Torah, believe that Zionism is heresy, and the Israeli state they created in the name of Judaism is an abomination. For an in-depth discussion of this issue see: “Is Zionism Anti-Semitism?” at https://commentariesonthetimes.me/2014/08/06/is-anti-zionism-anti-semitism/

Hence, one does not have to be an anti-Semite i.e. “Jew Hater” to reach the conclusion the Iranian government arrived at. This is “a huge mistake,” said Ayatollah Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran. “ The Emirate rulers think that if they approach America and the Zionist regime, their security will improve and their economy will grow…but this is totally wrong,” opined Rouhani, who called the deal between Israel and the UAE “a betrayal of the Palestinian cause.” Alas, there is one seriously unintended consequence of this deal for the treacherous triumvirate: it has forged a new unity between the largest Sunni military power and Iran, the center of Shiite Islam!

It is a welcome development for Iran, who has long been a target of covert actions carried out by the CIA and its Israeli counterpart, the MOSSAD. There were numerous actions carried out to impede and disable the Iranian nuclear program, from hacking into computer systems and planting highly complex viruses, to assassinating Iranian nuclear scientist. International intelligence experts were able to identify the perpetrators of these secret assaults because their sophistication was such that only a very few intelligence agencies in the world could successfully carry them out. Hence it was fairly easy to trace the origins of these attacks.

For the Iranians, being a target of covert US attacks is an old story that harkens back over half a century. The evidence is unimpeachable that all of Iran’s current political and economic problems stem from the CIA overthrow of the democratically elected liberal western educated president Muhammad Mossadegh in 1953. An event in retaliation for the Mossadegh government’s insistence that British and American oil companies pay a fair price for Iranian oil. And in the place of the democratic government the US installed the ruthless dictator Shah Reza Palevi.

The oppressive corrupt regime of the Shah, and his fawning genuflection before western civilization, ignoring the feelings of the Muslim masses, sparked a resistance movement that resulted in the first and only successful Islamic state in the world. And the United States has opposed the Islamic Republic of Iran ever since, even backing an Iraqi attack on them resulting in massive Iranian losses in blood and treasure. Hence the Iranians have good reason to be suspicious and hostile toward the US, and this is the source of US fears regarding Iranian intentions. As with several other issues, the US is wrestling with the consequences of the sins of our history.

However, the oft-cited fear of a radical Islamic Jihadist group gaining possession of nuclear weapons should not be centered on Iran, which is as preposterous as the discredited belief that they would get nuclear weapons from Iraq. Yet this argument was major justification for the American invasion of that country, kicking off a protracted war that is still in progress a generation later. In each case there were rumors that Iraq had the bomb, and Iran was about to get it.

However, the one Muslim nation that unquestionably has a nuclear arsenal is never mentioned: Pakistan. The way in which Pakistan acquired the bomb is the result of other policy blunders of the Cold War era during the 20th century, when the paramount objective of US foreign policy was to contain the expansion of Communism, which Washington regarded as an extension of Russian power and influence. This dogmatic view of the communist threat led to the Korean war, the Vietnam War, and hostile covert actions against progressive left-wing movements and governments all over the America’s.

From the agrarian reform movement led by president Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, for which he was overthrown by CIA backed mercenaries’ in 1954 and replaced with right-wing dictator Rios Mott, the CIA organized Bay of Pigs invasion of right-wing Cuban exiles in a failed attempt to overthrow the Castro led revolution in Cuba, to the CIA backed military coup that overthrew of the Allende government in Chile; installing the fascist murderer Augusto Pinochet, to funding the Contra-War in Nicaragua, et al. The history of CIA covert actions as an instrument of US foreign policy has been a source of chaos and death all over the world.

The Congo in Central Africa is still suffering from the CIA organized overthrow of Patrice Lumumba. And the West African nation of Ghana, whose president, the brilliant political philosopher Kwame Nkrumah, who was also the victim of a CIA promoted military coup, has never fulfilled it’s promise as the leader of a continent wide progressive pan-African political union based on a socialist economic model.

This policy of containing Communist expansion – which came to mean any form of socialism- led to the US forming alliances with India and Pakistan, two members of the non-aligned block of Third World nations growing out of the 1956 Bandung Conference, in which the non-white formerly colonized nations of Africa and Asia that had only recently become independent from European domination, decided not to align with the Communist or capitalist blocs. Instead, they would choose an independent path of development and form alliances as they served the interests of their nations. Hence the Non-Aligned Movement was born, and the effort to win the hearts and minds of the colored peoples in these emergent countries, became a major objective of the Cold War.

Due to the history of European colonialization in Africa and Asia, and the centuries old racial caste system that extolled white supremacy in the US, the capitalist bloc was at a disadvantage in competing with the Communist Bloc, led by the Soviet Union, which had opposed colonialism and provided aid and comfort to anti-colonial movements. Hence in the struggle to seek alliances with India and Pakistan against Russia and the People’s Republic of China, the US had allowed India, “the world’s largest democracy,” to acquire the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon.

When Hindu India announced their nuclear capability with “a peaceful” atomic explosion in 1974 called “Smiling Buddha,” Pakistan, their Muslim neighbor, took notice and accelerated their own efforts to produce a bomb of their own. Indeed, Ali Bhutto, who was Prime Minister of Pakistan at the time, had declared as early as the first Indio-Pakistan war in 1965, when he had heard rumors from Pakistani scientists that India was working on an atomic bomb: “If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass and leaves for a thousand years, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own. The Christians have the bomb, the Jews have the bomb and now the Hindus have the bomb. Why not the Muslims too have the bomb.”

Bhutto had no doubt that Pakistan had the technical talent to build an atom bomb, citing the distinguished Pakistani nuclear physicist Dr. Raziuddin Siddiqui,, who had worked on the invention of atomic weapons with the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos New Mexico, where the first atom bomb was invented and later dropped on Japan. He had also worked on the British atomic bomb project. So this Pakistani scientist was one of the world’s foremost authorities on the production of nuclear weapons and Bhutto appealed to his patriotism, urging him to do for Pakistan what he had done for the US and Britain,

When the US, under President Jimmy Carter, attempted to stop Pakistan from going nuclear the Pakistani’s accused Americans of applying a double standard. But President Carter, a nuclear engineer who had served as an officer on a nuclear submarine, well understood the dangers of two people’s with nuclear arsenals, who had such deep religious antagonisms they were forced to split into the separate nations of Hindustan and Pakistan because they couldn’t get along as of citizens newly independent India. And he was determined to prevent Pakistan from acquiring nuclear weapons. Whatever the evils of British Colonial rule, they had successfully suppressed religious strife between Hindu’s and Muslims in a unitary Indian state.

Although Jimmy Carter managed to slow down the Pakistani efforts to build a nuclear weapon, the US reliance on Pakistan in supporting the efforts of Muslim fundamentalist Mujahidin “Jihad” against the Soviet Forces that had invaded Afghanistan, caused them to look the other way while Pakistan went nuclear. Under the direction of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, a metallurgist, in collaboration with Pakistani experts such as Dr. Munir Khan, a nuclear scientist who had served as director of the Nuclear Power and Reactor Division of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA, acquired a nuclear weapon in an effort that spanned 30 years. Pakistan announced their entry into the exclusive club of nuclear nations when the successfully exploded five nuclear weapons in underground explosions on May 28, 1998, declaring itself “a nuclear power,” fifteen days after India had exploded two atomic bombs and declared itself a nuclear power.

Although the idea of an  “Islamic Bomb” originate with Ali Bhutto it       was General Muhammad Zia who made it his mantra as a justification for building the bomb. Hence, the idea of the atomic bomb being an equalizer for the Islamic world in the community of modern nations has been present from the beginning. Thus, it stands to reason, that should the Jihadist ever get their hands on a nuclear weapon, it will originate in Pakistan, a nation teeming with Muslim fundamentalists.

Furthermore, that the US will not even acknowledge the fact that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, despite the fact that it is well known to nuclear experts, is a source of great animosity among the Muslim Masses as well as the intellectual elite. By some estimates Israel’s nuclear arsenal is greater than that of Great Britain!

Although Egypt and Jordan hailed the Israel-UAE agreement as a sign of progress in the Middle East, it surprises no one who is informed on the region. For Egypt and Jordan signed peace treaties with Israel years ago. It was an act that cost the longtime Egyptian strong man, benevolent autocrat, modernizing military leader, and Arab accommodationist, Anwar Sadat his life. As he was assassinated in a public ceremony by Muslim fanatics in his own military.

It was the price he paid in blood for seeking peace with Israel, while the Palestinian people remained under the boot of the Zionist settler colonialist; whose claim to Palestinian lands was based on the their reading of the Torah, not the Koran. Which made him an apostate to the Jihadists, a heresy punishable by death.

And although I have been unable to find a statement from their leadership putting forth the Jihadist position on the Israel UAE deal, it is enough to know that as I write there are reports of Jihadists praying to Allah, pleading that all the “infidels” in western countries become infected with the Corona-Virus! Already we can surmise that chances are they will reject it

**************

One thing however is certain, there is no chance that the Trump administration will negotiate a peace agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Alas, any possibility of success was sabotaged the moment Ditzy Donald assigned that smirky Schmuck Jered Kushner to negotiate the deal. An arrogant dilettante and passionate Zionist, Kushner was about as qualified for this mission as a chimpanzee is to perform a Bach Fugue. First of all, his father is a builder of West Bank settlements; hence he is deeply biased in favor of the Israeli settlers on the occupied Palestinian lands that is at the heart of the conflict. And although there are no blood ties, Jered is like a member of Bibi’s extended family. Incompetence at the art of diplomacy, coupled with an inability to view the situation objectively, is a recipe for failure in a conflict as complex as this.

Furthermore, Kushner’s cavalier attitude toward the historical grievances and just claims of the Palestinian people, and his barely concealed contempt for their leadership, is a serious impediment to successful negotiations. His approach to this decades old conflict is premised on the assumption that the power of Israel, backed by the US, is such that they can impose a solution on the Palestinians of their making. Indeed, the arrogant novice Kushner has said as much. In an interview with Al Jazeera Kushner discussed the Palestinian problem as if it were a real estate transaction that can be settled by dangling dollars before them, 50 billion to sell out their birth rights. (see clip at the bottom of essay)

It is no wonder that the Palestinians rebuffed this light-weight charlatan, a New York real estate huckster like his Father-In-Law, who put him in charge of negotiating a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Neither of them has a clue how to go about the task. Having made no progress om this mission, they are now pursing a strategy of inducing Arab nations, former allies of the Palestinians, to recognize Israel diplomatically and thus force the Palestinians to accept Israeli/American demands. This is why the UAE recognition of Israel is being celebrated so loudly.

Yet the idea that a solution can be found to the Israel/Palestine conflict, which has persisted for more than 60 years, without consulting the Palestinians – whose tragic plight is the raison d’etre for the conflict – is the definition of delusion. However, this deal is best understood in terms of how it benefits the parties that negotiated it: Netanyahu, Trump, and the UAE. Ditzy Donald and Bumbling Bibi desperately need a political win. Under indictment for corruption and without a clear majority in the Knesset, and Benny Ganz poised to take over, Bibi’s future is increasingly uncertain. Devious Donald is also on shaky ground. Losing decisively in the polls with the election a couple of months away, and under criminal investigations in Manhattan, Don tha Con also needs a victory. And in his fevered narcissistic imagination this deal could win him the Nobel Peace Prize.

Alas, as in most things, the combination of Trump’s ignorance and megalomania conspires to lead him into delusions of grandeur that bear no relation to reality. For I can envision no scenario where the Nobel Committee will award the prestigious and much coveted Peace Prize to a shallow charlatan and pompous poseur like Devious Donnie Drumft, whose claim to fame is forging an alliance between a kleptocratic autocracy and an apartheid settler state, at the expense of the oppressed Palestinians who are still denied justice.

I suspect that Don tha Con will not win the Nobel Prize; the UAE may have increased it’s military position against Iran but has antagonized segments of its populace and that will lead to increased internal instability. Bebi is trapped between the Devil and the deep blue sea, because in order to maintain his pledge not to declare Israeli sovereignty over the “occupied” Palestinian territory on the West Bank, he will fuel the rage of right-wing Jewish settlers who angrily accuse him of “betrayal!” And should they pull out of his fragile coalition things could fall apart and Benny Ganz will become Prime Minister.

This is the reason why before the world could become adjusted to news of his UAE deal, Bibi was already backing out of his commitment not to seek control of the West Bank settlements and integrate them into the Israeli state. Pointing out that he had not abandoned his expansionist ambitions permanently, but was “temporarily” putting the decision on hold. Yet the NATO nations – France, England, Germany, Spain and the USA – all explicitly state that their support for this deal is based upon the Israel governments pledge to forfeit their expansionist policy unconditionally.

So what’s a land hungry Jew to do? Especially since Bibi’s decision might spark a region wide war. We shall see what the future holds: Is this a giant step toward peace, or yet another mirage conjured up by grand illusionist in the Mid-East desert?

** See Al Jazeera Interview with Jared Kushner, https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/talktojazeera/2019/06/jared-kushner-israel-palestine-deal-time-190625113553537.html

God’s Trombone Stirs Souls Around the World

Posted in Rev Al with tags , on June 8, 2020 by playthell

Yet Another Benefaction from the Afro-American Church

Reverend Al Displays the Power of Charismatic Revivalists

The brilliant and insightful Afro-American novelist, essayist, memorist and cultural anthropologist Zora Neal Hurston once observed “A preacher must be a poet in order to survive in a Negro pulpit, because we are a people who love magnificence and can’t get too much of it!” In a letter to her fellow Floridian, the Afro-American polymath James Weldon Johnson – poet, songwriter, lawyer, diplomat, first black Executive Director of the NAACP, and author of the deeply moving lyrics to the Afro-American national anthem,“Lift Every Voice and Sing” – Hurston said:”James, it seems that only you and I recognize that the Negro folk sermon is epic poetry.”

This letter was in response to a New York Times review of her 1937 novel “Jonah’s Gourd Vine,” whose central character was a black southern preacher. Although the Times writer had given the novel a glowing review, he offered the caveat that she had “put a bit too much poetry in the mouth” of that unlettered Negro preacher.

Zora had brought the matter up with her brilliant Florida homeboy because Johnson had written a volume of poetry titled “God’s Trombones,” which were based on the sermons by unlettered southern black preachers he heard while growing up in Jacksonville Florida, just 38 miles from St. Augustine, where I grew up hearing these clerical bards conjure their powerful verbal magic.

What the German anthropologist Janhienz Jahn, described as the “magic power of the spoken word,” in his pioneering treatise on Pan-African cultural traits “Muntu,” was everywhere in the churches of northeastern Florida. And Zora was from the all black town of Eatonville, an incubator of Afro-American folk culture. James Weldon Johnson observes in the foreword of his canonical text in Afro-American literature, that despite their lack of seminary training:”The old time Negro preachers had all the devices of eloquence at their command.”

Watching Reverend Sharpton deliver the Eulogy at the Memorial for the martyred George Floyd, all the gifts of the Afro-American preacher and the poetry of the black sermon were on display in dramatic fashion. Although not formally trained, Reverend Al, who began his career as “The Wonder Boy Preacher” here in New York City, was an apprentice of and tutored by some of the most outstanding seminary trained Verbal artists of the tradition.

An ambitious youth, he sat at the feet of Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Dr. Martian Luther King Jr. and Jesse Jackson, and he learned from the masters; who were arguably the greatest orators of the 20th century.  Surely the white church can offer no equal. Hence Reverend Al has combined the folk and the formal sermonic traditions of the black church in his style. And he has emerged a great master of his craft who can rock tha house with the word!

This was evidenced in the way he repeatedly brought the audience to it’s feet, bearing witness to the living truth he was telling, a truth that was verified by their life’s experience. This is because Reverend Al is preaching the social gospel that takes a biblical text and applies to the real problems his audience face, and offers a plan of action. And he has done it for decades now, in a thousand struggles all over America on behalf of the “least among us;” just as Jesus Christ hath commanded of us all. This is the essence of his powerful appeal, it is the secret of charisma; which is the ability of an orator to appear to embody the hopes, fears, anxieties, and aspirations of the audience to whom they are speaking.

It also explains what makes Reverend Sharpton such an effective leader of mass transformative socio/political secular movements outside of the pulpit, when he assumes the role of secular “Charismatic Revivalist.” To fully understand their role in the growth and development of a mass movement I continue to rely on the analysis of Dr. Luther P. Gerlach, the late professor of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, who introduced me to his theoretical model of the structure and function of mass movements when I spoke in Minneapolis after a riot over 50 years ago – an experience I will discuss at some length in my forthcoming essay “On Me and Muhammad Ali.” What I learned from my independent study of mass transformative movements with Professor Gerlach – who published his analysis in People, Power, Change – has served me well indeed.

Anyone interested in understanding what I mean should read my essays on the Occupy Wall Street Movement, written in real time as it was unfolding, and the mass uprising in the Islamic world know as “The Arab Spring.” These essays are posted at http://www.comentariesonthetimes.wordpress.com, and they now read like prophecy. And I also employed Gerlach’s model in an 8, 000 word cover story on Al Sharpton in the Village Voice. It was titled “Jive at Five: How Big Al and the Bully Boys Bogarted the Movement.”

Published in 1988, it was a critical analysis of how Al Sharpton and his legal advisors mishandled the explosive Tawana Brawley Case. It was nominated for the coveted Pulitzer Prize in the category of Feature Writing/Explanatory Journalism, and taught in Professor Martin Gottlieb’s seminar on long form journalism at the prestigious Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, from which my son recently took a degree. The nominating letter can be found in my bio at Commentaries On The Times.

Hence, I have a paper trail documenting my views of Reverend Sharpton; I have been been following his career for over 32 years. I watched him evolve from a crude conk wearing porcine jack leg preacher and borderline shyster, to an honorable man, movement leader and great preacher of the social gospel…a true friend and advocate for the poor and powerless. Furthermore, his services are and advice is sought after by the meek and the mighty, he is equally a home with the powerful and the powerless, he hob nobs with presidents yet retains the common touch.

Chillin at the Pinnacle of Power

Senator Obama Seeking Rev’s Support at the NAN Convention

Nowhere was Sharpton’s appeal across class lines better displayed than at the Memorial for George Floyd. That’s why the family asked him to deliver the eulogy. Hence some of the self-styled Facebook radicals, with no record of real struggle, who criticized the Floyd’s family’s choice, brings to mind the ancient Ibo proverb: “Beware of the stranger who comes to the funeral and cries louder than the owners of the corpse!”

Since professor Gerlach’s model treats mass movements as a class of phenomena, it is possible to look at movements across time and place and see clear rules that govern their development; critical factors that determine whether a movement will succeed or fail, and sometimes it is even possible to predict the ideological direction it will take.  It makes no difference if the movement is politically left or right leaning, sacred or secular.  The general rules of growth and dynamics still apply.

One of the critical elements in every movement is the Charismatic Revivalists. And if he has the gift of gab and a plan that can be skillfully expressed in powerful catchy slogans, he can move the masses on the wings of his soaring oratory. Professor Gerlach introduced this concept to me after watching me speak on television in Minneapolis.

He showed me his theoretical model, and although I had never heard of any of these concepts, his systematic manner of presentation made his hypothesis perfectly clear. When I watched Reverend Al deliver the Eulogy for George Floyd, I witnessed a master of the charismatic revivalist’s art, regardless of whether he understands what he is doing in scientific terms. Indeed few artists can explain their art in scientific terms. But Reverend Al has all the critical skills, honed from countless hours speaking before a wide variety of audiences. He is as home on the podium as a rabbit in the briar patch, or a shark in water.

This is readily apparent to the careful and thoughtful observer, yet he is able to move the listener with no knowledge about the mechanics of his oratory, nor ever give the matter a passing thought. Like the listener to music who, tho untutored in the technicalities of the art form, is nonetheless profoundly moved by it. Dr. WEB DuBois describes this phenomenon in his brilliant, deeply insightful essay, “Of the Sorrow Songs,” in which he recounts his reactions to hearing the “Negro Spirituals,” that majestic body of scared song composed by anonymous Afro-American slaves, in whose honor James Weldon Johnson wrote his epic poem “O Black and Unknown Bards.”

Dr. DuBois wrote:

“Little of beauty has America given the world save the rude grandeur God himself stamped on her bosom; the human spirit in this new world has expressed itself in vigor and ingenuity rather than in beauty. And so by fateful chance the Negro folk–song—the rhythmic cry of the slave—stands to–day not simply as the sole American music, but as the most beautiful expression of human experience born this side the seas…What are these songs, and what do they mean?

I know little of music and can say nothing in technical phrase, but I know something of men, and knowing them, I know that these songs are the articulate message of the slave to the world. They tell us in these eager days that life was joyous to the black slave, careless and happy…But not all the past South, though it rose from the dead, can gainsay the heart–touching witness of these songs. They are the music of an unhappy people, of the children of disappointment; they tell of death and suffering and unvoiced longing toward a truer world, of misty wanderings and hidden ways.”

Indeed, I have yet to encounter a technically trained musicologist who has provided a better description of the essence of this music.

***************

The first task of the charismatic revivalist is to choose the right theme for the occasion, one that will provide an opportunity to expand on the different dimensions of the question at hand without losing the central thought. For a preacher of the Gospels, this means selecting the right biblical text. On this occasion Reverend Al chose Ecclesiasties 3, which my friend the Reverend Susanne Sharon, an Anglican Priest in the Diocese of Toronto, who is learned in the interpretation of scripture, tells me is one of the “Wisdom Texts.” Which, like the Book of Solomon, was designed to provide wisdom to the Hebrew people. This is the text upon which Reverend Al preached:

Ecclesiastes 3

Everything Has Its Time

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

The four essential elements of a great speech designed to inspire the audience to action is: Select the right theme and skillfully weave your broader message around it; then deliver it with passion and conviction. This is a matter of technique, like playing the Blues: it is not merely enough to feel the blues emotionally, one must also have technical command of one’s instrument in order to play the blues convincingly. That’s because it is artifice not simply raw emotion.

Reverend Al has great technical command of his vocal instrument. Since he was speaking extemporaneously presenting his eulogy, improvising on a theme, he was like a great Jazz musician playing an extended solo from a “head arrangement.” This is a musical arrangement that allows the greatest spontaneity; yet it is organized around a central theme – the opening melody – which is given coherence by adhering to the chord changes that provide structure to the composition. That is the function of the scriptural reference in Reverend Al’s Eulogy.

Watching him I thought of how the great John Coltrane aka “John the Prophet,” a deeply religious mystic with a horn, once told me that he felt what he was doing had much in common with what great black preachers do. And when you hear him on performances like “A Love Supreme,” “Out of this World,” “Equinox,” “Spiritual” and especially “Alabama,” you can feel it in your soul.  Unless, alas, you got a hole in yo soul.

The latter tune was composed by John Coltrane in honor of the four little black girls murdered by depraved white racist in a Birmingham church, while attending Sunday School. It was an event that so enraged me, if I were not already a confirmed atheist I would have cursed God and dared him to strike me down!

However Elvin Jones, the master drummer that fueled the powerful John Coltrane Quartet – which included the great virtuosi McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Garrison on piano and bass – vividly described John Coltrane’s response to this unspeakable tragedy. In an interview with Gil Nobel – the late great television journalist,  host of the black public affairs show Like It Is, and documentary film maker – Elvin described how Trane was so devastated by the news of the slaughter of these innocent souls he sat down and composed “Alabama,” which they performed live that night.

Elvin said he had never heard Trane play like that before, although he had accompanied him in concerts around the world. Elvin says John played a solo that lasted an hour and a half, and the spiritual intensity of the music was such that he witnessed wings sprout from Trane’s shoulders and he became an avenging angel!

When I heard Elvin tell this tale I was dumbfounded, because Elvin was not a particularly spiritual person. In fact the bassist Jimmy Garrison, a buddy of mine from Philly, had previously told me that the one downside to playing with Trane was that he was regarded as a great spiritual master in many parts of the world, and that while the highly spiritual McCoy Tyner aka “Saud Suleiman” was cool with it, he an Elvin had a hard time because they wanted to drink, party, smoke wisdom weed and chase women. Hence the only explanation I can surmise is that Elvin was mesmerized and hypnotized by the power of John’s deeply spiritual musical incantation.

Listening to a recording of John performing Alabama live as I write, I can see clear parallels in his musical eulogy to the murdered little girls and Rev Al’s Eulogy to the murdered George Floyd. For both are forged in the crucible of painful racial memories of our ordeal living among the murderous white barbarians in the spiritual wilderness of North America. And both employ similar methods of presentation: A slow contemplative beginning that builds into a rousing crescendo!

Alas in the abbreviated performance of John the Prophet that I have appended to the bottom of this essay, we do not get the full grandeur of the performance described by Elvin Jones. But the complete Sermon of Reverend Al is captured on the video. Listen to both carefully, and you will see that there is a spiritual continuity between Afro-American religion and our music. While this connection is easily recognizable in Gospel music, for the careful listener it is equally present in our secular music such as traditional Blues and Rhythm and Blues, all of which prize the vocal tradition, but this connection is also manifested in the complexities of instrumental Jazz. Despite the fact that all of the secular genres have long been denounced by Afro-American religious fundamentalists as “The Devil’s music!” Yet the similarities between the performances of Trane and Reverend Al are striking.

A few days since the Memorial Service I encountered some young black radicals on Facebook, who are embarrassed by Rev. Al’s performance, which is to say the rituals of worship common to the religion of the black masses. Yet they have the unmitigated gall to think themselves truer representatives of our culture, alienated bourgeois that they are.  One of the things that embarrassed them most was the length of the Reverend Al’s Sermon, and the raw emotion he expressed.

But I am reminded of a tale told by Julian “Cannonball” Adderly, the brilliant alto-saxophonist in the Miles Davis Septet; arguably the greatest small ensemble playing complex instrumental music ever assembled in the modern era. And virtually all of these musically hip folks are fans of Trane, who was famous for his extended solos. According to Cannonball, one night Miles became annoyed and asked Trane: “Man why you always playing them long ass solos?” “I get involved in the music and just can’t figure out how to end them” Trane said. To wit an irritated and always candid Miles replied straight with no chaser: “Why don’t you just try takin tha fuckin horn outta yo mouth!”

Since Reverend Al’s instrument is his voice and he has no conductor…we will just have to hear him out. Like John, he becomes possessed by the spirit of his presentation and time stands still. And in the preacher’s art, as in our music, rhythmic repetition that creates a groove helps drive the point home. A classic example of which was Rev’s repetition of the phrase “You got your knee on our neck!”   Judging from the response of the audience in the room, and those around the world who witnessed the spectacle on television, it was very effective! They were deeply move by it…and so was I.

(Click on link to see Sharpton’s Eulogy)

Click to See John The Prophet Perform Alabama

 

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

June 7, 2020

Photo of Obama and Sharpton by: Lisa Dubois

An American Treasure

Posted in Cultural Matters, Music Reviews, Wynton Marsalis on CBS Sunday Morning with tags , on May 12, 2020 by playthell

Maestro Wynton Marsalis after Performing at U-Cal Berkley

CBS Sunday Morning Celebrates the Musical Marsalis’s 

This feature story from the vast archives of CBS television is a priceless treasure. It is a segment from the feature stories on Jazz hosted by the late GREAT Dr. Billy Taylor on CBS Sunday Morning, which introduced a largely unknown musical genius named Wynton Marsalis to the world.

A virtuoso on the piano and a composer / arranger, who also held a PhD, Dr. Taylor was the ideal impresario to present Wynton, a musically ambidextrous virtuoso of the trumpet who at 20 had mastered the two great traditions in western music: European Classical Concert music, and the modern Afro-American complex instrumental music popularly known as “Jazz.” While there have been other musicians who could ably perform in both traditions – flautist Hubert Laws, bassists Richard Davis and Carlos del Pino, trumpeter Miles Davis, percussionist Max Roach, pianists Herbie Hancock and Chucho Valdez, to name a few – none has achieved the level of success that Wynton enjoys.

Looking back at this interview, conducted in the inimitable style of Dr. Taylor, a combination of weighty erudition and cool hipness, with an elegant style accompanied by a beguiling smile, we can see how prescient he was in forecasting greatness for young Wynton. Although barely past his teenage years at the time of the interview, Wynton spoke with the wisdom of a learned elder and played with the technical virtuosity and musical gravitas of a master!

This was no accident, as we learn when we meet his father Ellis Marsalis, a brilliant pianist, influential teacher, and splendid father who, although a quintessential modernist, embodied the entire tradition of Jazz in his playing; beginning with the great musicians of his home town New Orleans, where Jazz was invented at the turn of the 20th century.

It is Ellis who gave Wynton his name, honoring his favorite pianist Wynton Kelly, who performed with andmade great recordings with the virtuoso trumpeter and imaginative innovator Miles Davis. Alas, this splendid man and great musician, was recently taken from us by the Corona-Virus plague…I believe if there is a heaven out there somewhere beyond the rainbow, where good souls go when they die, Ellis Marsalis is jammin with Gabriel in a celestial orchestra.

I knew Billy Taylor, and I first saw Wynton perform when he was around 20 years old in a concert with the great Herbie Hancock VSOP band. I had only vaguely heard of him from a few gigs he had performed around the Big Apple with the great Art Blakey’s “Jazz Messengers,” an iconic band in the history of Jazz, that had caused a buzz among aficionados.

From the moment I heard him play I knew Wynton was special and would become one of the greats. As a failed trumpeter who abandoned that extremely difficult instrument in a fit of despair during 9th grade, after I heard Clifford Brown play “Delilah,” accompanied by the quintessential modern percussionist Max Roach, in a quintet they led, I could easily recognize the brilliance of Wynton’s playing. Just like every failed basketball player can instantly reognize the greatness of Lebron James.
We would soon become good friends and over the years I wrote about him in a variety of publications from the Village Voice and the Daily News, to the Manchester Guardian – now the Guardian Observor of London – the Sunday Times of London, and Commentaries On the Times. I have an essay coming out in a new book of essays on Jazz, edited by the distinguished Jazz critic Willard Jenkins. It is titled “WYNTON IS THE GREATEST!”

This treatise on the art of the trumpet makes the case for Wynton’s place in the history of the instrument, and was originally published as a multi-media essay at:  Commentariesonthetimes.wordpress.com.
This CBS SUNDAY MORNING feature is a wonderful blast from the past, if you are inspired by brilliance, especially rarely celebrated Afro-American brilliance, despite the fact that it is EVERYWHERE, check this out! it will make your spirit dance in these dismal times of myriad trials and troubles.

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Click on Video

 

Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
In The Time of the Great Plague
May 11, 2020

An Open Letter to the Flim Flam Man

Posted in Guest Commentators, On Donald Trump, The Great Plague with tags , , , on April 10, 2020 by playthell

Bullshittin bout the Vrius

Some Straight Talk For Dirty Donald

by:Guest Columnist Craig Allen Wilkerson

Dear Fucking Lunatic,

At your recent press conference – more a word salad that had a stroke and fell down stairs, you were CLEARLY so out of your depth you needed scuba gear. Within minutes of going off air your minions were backpedaling faster than Cirque De Soliel acrobats… In India a week ago, I couldn’t get past the bit about your being the most popular visitor in the history of fucking india — a country of a BILLION human souls that’s only 3000 years old, give or take.!!! Trust me – Gandhi pulled CROWDS.. You pulled a cricket stadium and half WALKED out…

Do you know how fucking insane you sound, you off-brand butt plug? That’s like the geopolitical equivalent of “that stripper really likes me” — only 10,000 times crazier and less self aware. You are fucking exhausting. Every day is a natural experiment in determining how long 300 million people can resist coring out their own assholes with an ice auger. Every time I hear a snippet of your Queens-tinged banshee larynx farts, I want to scream! We are fucking tired. As bad as we all thought your presidency would be when Putin got you elected, it’s been inestimably worse.

You called a hostile, nuclear-armed head of state “short and fat.” How the fuck does that help? You accused a woman — a former friend, no less — of showing up at your resort bleeding from the face and begging to get in. You, you, YOU — the guy who looks like a Christmas haggis inexplicably brought to life by Frosty’s magic hat — yes, you of all people said that. You attempted — with evident fucking glee — to get 24 million people thrown off their health insurance. You gave billions away to corporations and the already wealthy while simultaneously telling struggling poor people that you were doing exactly the opposite. You endorsed a pedophile, praised brutal dictators, and defended LITERAL FUCKING NAZIS!

Ninety-nine percent of everything you say is either false, crazy, incoherent, just plain cruel, or a rancid paella of all four. Oh, by the way, Puerto Rico is still FUBAR. You got yourself and your family billions in tax breaks for Christmas. What do they get? More paper towels? Enough! Enough! Enough! Enough! For the love of God and all that is holy, good, and pure, would you please, finally and forever, shut your feculent KFC-hole until you have something valuable — or even marginally civil — to say?

You are a fried dick sandwich with a side of schlongs. If chlamydia and gonorrhea had a son, you’d appoint him HHS secretary. You are a disgraceful, pustulant hot stew full of casuistry, godawful ideas, unintelligible non sequiturs, and malignant rage. You are the perfect circus orangutan diaper from Plato’s World of Forms. So fuck you Mr. President! Fuck you forever!

Oh, and Pence, you oleaginous house ferret. Fuck you, too. You’ll be as useful as a chocolate teapot against a medical crisis you Bible thumping cock socket.

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The Obsequious Ass Kisser in Chief

A Great White Dope!

Craig Alan Wilkinson
Melborne Australia
April 10, 2020

 

Apocalypse Now!

Posted in Eyewitness to the Great Virus Plague 2021, The Great Plague with tags , on April 3, 2020 by playthell

Nowhere to Run…Nowhere to Hide…

Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Behold the Pale Horse of Plague

Living in the Shadow of Death…

The Whole is in trouble
…and the Danger one is everywhere!

Living in New York today, one experiences a nagging feeling of life on the edge of catastrophe, like the proverbial sinner who is hanging over hell’s fire by an eyelash, with their foot on a banna peel. As I write, my city is Ground Zero for the Corona virus plague, and I am witnessing scenes reminiscent of the Civil War, as the US military erect field hospitals in Central Park and the massive Javitz Center, while dead bodies are being stacked in refrigerated trailer trucks outside of hospitals as the death tool rises daily and city morgues are full. Yet for health care professionals this plague is worse than war, because they too are under assault by the virus; which is not restrained by the Red Cross that protects medical facilities under the rules of warfare.

Unable to get the protective gear they desperately need, despite the fact the one in every four cases in the US are in New York, health care workers are getting sick and dying in front of their helpless colleagues. Just going to work now days is like volunteering for a suicide mission; they are the true heroes of this moment and are worthy of all our praises and respect. Without them life in America today would be an unimaginable horror. That’s why New Yorkers are cheering and singing songs to them as the go to and fro taking care of their soul rending business.

Listening to a nurse describe working conditions in her hospital on television this morning, a seasoned journalist burst into tears! Hundreds of cops are infected at the same time that hundreds of convicts are being released from prison, and it is too disturbing to contemplate the fate of firemen – whose work requires them to live in very close quarters. The state unemployment bureau has been overwhelmed and it looks like benefits will not be paid quickly. Thus hunger will soon become a reality for some New Yorkers, who were doing fine before the plague engulfed New York while Agent Orange, the Moscow candidate who accidentally became President, fiddled. Some of the predictions that are being made by various experts increasingly sound like a psychedelic version of hell…

As we witness the prolonged talks on the Plague from Bill De Blassio, Mayor of New York City, and Mario Cuomo, Governor of New York State, those with a sense of history conjure up memories of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s legendary “Fire Side Chats,” in which the Democratic President soothed the nation’s anxieties and calmed the fears of Americans by his cool, calm, although candid, talks about the nation’s problems in a time of crisis and put forth plans to solve them.

FDR’s performance of the duties of his high office as leader of the American people was a Tour de Force, as he masterfully took the helm and guided the ship of state through turbulent waters troubled by World War and the worst global depression in history. Alas, Deranged Donald Dimwit, who presently befouls the Oval Office, is no FDR. Rather than take command and confidently guide the ship of state through the troubled waters that poses a clear and present danger to the fate of our nation, Duplicitous Donald is behaving like Captain Kleeg, in Mutiny On the Bounty. Kleegs incompetence, delusion, narcissism, and paranoia forced the crew to remove him from power and take command of the ship! Democrats in the US Congress voted to impeach the incompetent buffoon in the House of Representatives, where they are the majority, but the Republican controlled Senate, in a shamelessly corrupt cover-up, refused to convict him on the evidence; which by any objective standard of guilt, was overwhelming!

Hence, due to this moral corruption, the Republicans in Congress, at the insistence of their supporters, who are all fanatical members of Dirty Donald’s personality cult, the “Trumpanzees,” adopted amoral political expedience as their guiding principle. And now we are all payin a devastating price for the Senate’s dastardly dereliction of Duty. Despite Devious Don’s attempts to re-write the history of his myriad blunders in regard to the present plague, openly declaring himself free of “any responsibility” for the disaster that has befallen the nation, Trump’s decisions have played a major part in enabling the plague to spread.

From dismantling the government agency tasked with identifying pandemics and devising policies to defeat them, to ignoring the advice of scientists and medical professionals who warned him of the severity of the Corono-virus months before he finally decided to act, Dirty Don bears a huge responsibility for the deadly plague. The fact that he flatly refuses to accept any responsibility is a clear manifestation of his mental maladies: Malignant Narcissism and Paranoia, and how they endanger our national security. We see it in his absurd attacks on professional journalists – who dare to present the Sunshine King with gloomy or unpleasant facts that contradict his rosy narrative – his compulsive lying, and inability to show any real empathy with the victims of the virus.

When Donnie Dimwit was first presented with the facts about this infectious virus – which he seems to think he can make disappear by calling it “The Chinese Virus,” or at lest shift any blame away from him – he dismissed the gravity of the problem and openly ridiculed the press for presenting unpleasant facts to the public warning that the Federal government, which means him, was failing to take the necessary measures to contain the spread of the plague. As I write, Devious Don tha Con is shamelessly telling outright lies to the American people to try and cover up his tsunami of errors that has led us into this colossal mess. But the Boston

I am watching a clip from yesterdays Republican Follies, featuring Don tha Con, and he is blatantly misusing statistics in an effort to prove that the US is the most efficient nation in the world at containing the virus. What it actually proves is the old adage: “Statistics don’t lie…but liars can use statistics!” Speaking to the world at his televised press conference, he claims: We have tested over a million people, the best in the world by far!” But that is a false conclusion alas. It is based upon his use of the overall number of test given, rather than the per capita number which tells the real story. In fact, several countries are way ahead of the US based on percentage of their population tested. Many epidemiologists argue that the reason Germany has a lower infection rate than most countries is that they started early and got out ahead of the problem.

One of the most puzzling aspects of Trump’s Corona-virus policy is his response to New York – his home town where he was born, raised and found fame and fortune by virtue of his daddy’s big bucks and contrived media hype – but is now the most infected Hot Spot in the world. He has appeared at times deaf or indifferent to the incessant and increasingly desperate pleas of Governor Cuomo, begging for supplies that are critical to the continued ability of our hospital system to treat patients who will surely die if left untreated.

This is as serious as it gets, yet there are long time observers of Demented Donald who believe that he is shorting New York on vital aid because he is pissed that Governor Cuomo has criticized his inept response to the spreading plague! Which is further evidence, if such be needed at this point, of Demented Donald’s mental illness. All the symptoms – compulsive lying, self-aggrandizement, delusions of Grandeur, the inability to feel genuine empathy for the misfortunes of others, and persistent feelings of persecution – are prominently on display for the world to see even as the US press plays down or ignores it.

**********

There are rumors abroad that should Joe Biden arrive at the Democratic Convention lacking the required delegates to win on the first ballot, Governor Andrew Cuomo will be placed in contention for the nomination. I believe that would be a good move considering how the country is getting an opportunity to compare the leadership styles and abilities of the two men, who very much reflect their upbringing and life’s experience in the world of work.

Donald Jiveass Trump was raised by a father who was a money grubbing sexist bigot with a Darwinian view of the world and the business ethics of a pirate. And his son Dirty Donald followed in his foot steps, calling his wretched dad “the wisest man I ever met!” Governor Andrew Cumo is the son of Mario Cuomo, a silver tongued humane progressive public servant who was also governor of New York. Like fathers like sons! It’s an easy choice, even Denny Dimwit could figure out who is better equipped to be President.

As a result of Trump’s blunders and procrastination a bad situation has been made far worse. Life in New York just now is a lot like a protracted game of Russian Roulette. Alas, just going about the normal activities of daily life such as a trip to the grocery store; riding mass public transportation; catching a cab, taking a walk, sitting on a park bench, or taking an elevator in your apartment building, all seem like recklessly tempting fate in a macabre dance with the grim reaper.

It is a mind boggling experience unlike anything I have seen in almost 80 years on this planet, and lord knows I have seen some troubles. As I look out over the city from my crib on Sugar Hill, which affords me a view of several streets, bridges and highways, I have never seen things so quiet in the 40 years that I have gazed out upon this grand view. Inside, as I go about my daily routine of study and writing, all seems well, until I turn on the News at New York 1 and peep out the window.

The scenes from downtown Manhattan, one of the busiest spaces in the world crammed with visitors from around the globe 24/7, looks like scenes from the 1959 movie “The World, The Flesh and the Devil,” starring Harry Belafonte. It may have been the first post-apocalyptic movie. Made at the height of the Cold War, when nuclear holocaust seemed a clear and present danger, we were given a glimpse of what things could look like after an atomic disaster. Except this was not the result of dropping a nuclear bomb that blew everything up as in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, rather it was a deadly radio-active atomic cloud that had been unleashed on humanity. So it just killed people and left buildings standing, much like some of the low blast high intensity radiation bombs that sinister weapons designers have come up with and are now part of the US nuclear arsenal.

Belafonte plays a man who had been trapped underground in a mining disaster in Pennsylvania, and he was the sole survivor. When he emerges from the mine he found all the people had disappeared. As there were no newspapers or broadcasters he does not understand what has happened, so he hops in a car and drives to New York City, where he is certain he will find people. What he found was an eerie empty City. That’s what downtown Manhattan looks like today.

Scenes from the Apocalypse

42 Street Near Times Square
On a Normal Day

The Lights are out in Broadways Great Theaters

And no one can say when the will be back on alas…

However it is not a good idea to binge on news reports just now, the way I usually do, because the constant predictions and reports of gloom and doom could throw you into a depression or induce panic attacks. You will be far better off listening to your favorite music, making love, watching good movies and reading books about happier times. Of course, it could prove fatal to ignore the news, so check in periodically to stay abreast of vital information. Just don’t concentrate on it 24/7.

As horrendous as it is, the destructiveness of this plague is not confined to health issues alas; it is also causing major economic disruptions that could prove quite devastating for our society. For instance the Federal Reserve has issued a forecast predicting a rise in unemployment rates as high as 33%, which exceed the unemployment rates during the Great Depression of the 1930’s by 8%! When we reflect upon havoc created during the Depression in the absence of a plague, we can only speculate on the trials and tribulations that await us. I do not wish to be alarmist, just tell the unvarnished truth in the belief that the truth is better than a lie…especially when your life may well depend upon getting your facts straight.

If there is a silver lining in the storm clouds enveloping us, it is that this plague has exposed the inadequacies of our predatory Darwinian economic system; where greed is glorified, and the unequal distribution of wealth is a sin, shame, and odious crime against humanity. And it has placed our profit based model for health care delivery on trial, where it has proved dangerously unequal to the challenges confronting us. Instead of being able to requisition the materials required to save our hospitals from collapse, states find themselves in a market where profit, not human need, is determining the price of the product…and its rising fast. And since we are the greatest capitalist nation on earth, a system whose raison d’eter is the accumulation of profit, imagine how absurd we would look to the Chinese trying to embarrass them about price gougeing.

Before the crono-virus crisis, the right to universal health care was treated as a philosophical issue. But now we know that during a major epidemic of infectuous viruses we are all at risk of sickness and death! Unless everyone is treated that need treatment. Perhaps after this trial by fire we will finally recognize that health care for all is not just the right and Christian thing to do, although it is surely what Jesus would have done; it is also a matter of national security and personal survival for all classes and races of Americans.

The Book of Revelations in the Bible speaks of the Four Horseman of The Apocalypse that will ravage the earth in the last days in time, clearly the Pale Horse of Plague is running wild, but since I am a secular humanist who believes in the agency of mankind in determining our fate, perhaps we can arrest the progress of the other destructive horseman and buy some time.  Let us hope…and for believers who are so inclined…PRAY for better days.

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Playthell George Benjamin
Eyewitness to the Plague
Harlem,New York
April 3, 2021

Videos of Deranged Donald Trump and Franklin D. Roosevelt

Lying Republican Buffoon vs. A Great Democratic President…

Donald Trump’s Blatant Lies and Disinformation about the Plague

 

Thank the Gods for Videotape!

This is How a Real President Handles a Crisis!

https://www.c-span.org/video/?298210-1/president-franklin-roosevelts-fireside-chat

President Franklin D. Roosevelt Explains the Banking Crisis 1933

 

Truthful Erudition vs. Sophistry and Lies

Posted in On Donald Trump, Playthell on politics with tags , , , , on January 23, 2020 by playthell

The Three Principal Players: Pelosi, Dirty Don and Moscow Mitch

Notes on The Impeachment Trial Of Dirty Donald

“The Constitution is not a suicide pact,” so sayeth Adam Shiff, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee; as he presented his powerful, eloquent, opening argument in the Impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump aka “Dirty Donald Treasonous Trump,” for abusing the power of his office. The Chairman’s declaration was in response to the bogus arguments of Republicans that claimed the Constitution allowed to President to resist the oversight of the executive branch by the US Congress.

It is an argument learned in the law and constitutional history, and tis a pity that too few Americans are actually LISTENING to it. After a brilliant illuminating analysis of the context in which the Articles of Impeachment Chairman were crafted, Chairman Shiff systematically laid out the major charges that prompted the charges in the Articles, the events that necessitated the impeachment of Dirty Donald. It was a lesson on the theory and practice of proper governance in a Constitutional Democracy that could make up for your poor education in Civics.

I am listening to the Republican response as I write, and just like the opening statement from Senate majority leader “Midnight Moscow Mitch,” it is a shameless exercise in sophistry, which is a genteel term for BULLSHIT! In the Republican advocates for the President, we see the weaknesses of this process; for they are telling blatant lies, with no pretense at objective truth.

Rather they are committed to constructing a counter-narrative that serves their client. There several dangers in this amoral approach to such a serious matter. First of all, most Americans are at work now, and will learn what happened later through news reportage. And given our bifurcated mass media alas, the Republicans will get their summation of these proceedings from FOX, a right-wing propaganda outfit which is a burlesques on serious journalism.

Without the voluntary constraints exercised by serious journalists laboring under the ethical rules necessary to objective reportage, FOX presents vulgar propaganda screeds. Repeating the damned lies of the Republican advocates verbatim, they aim to inflame the untutored impassioned mob that comprises the “Republican Base.”

These wounded souls whom Trump has promised to make whole, are armed, dangerous and dumb enough to believe the hysterical charge that Democrats are conducting a coup against an innocent President, in order to overturn their choice, because Dems are elitist who think they are too dumb to pick a president. Ironically, the most effective propaganda is that which contains strong elements of truth. And the truth is that the are too dumb to pick a president and they suspect that we know it. This suspicion fuels their rage.

Hence the danger of wide-spread internecine violence is ever present. Yet beyond this there is a greater danger to the survival of Constitutional democracy in America. This danger arises from the fact that to the general public much of these complex legal arguments sound like incomprehensible Mumbo Jumbo! A tower of babble!

In their frustration and confusion they turn away from the democratic process and drop out. Standing on the sidelines, convinced that the process and everybody associated with it is corrupt, they shout:A CURSE ON BOTH YOUR HOUSES!!! And thus Benjamin Franklin’s statement to the delegates that had just crafted the US Constitution at the Philadelphia convention of 1787, takes on a fresh relevance:”Well gentlemen. you have got yourself a Republic, IF YOU CAN KEEP IT!”

This question aquires a special urgency just now, when eleven motions by Democrat house managers to introduce evidence in the form of witnesses and documents in presenting their case against the president was defeated by the Republicans in a series of party line votes, 47-53, to table the motion. It was an act showing indifference to truth and contempt for the Constitution.

Anyone who listened to the arguments presented by Chairman Shiff and the members of the Democratic Management team, cannot but be impressed with their eloquence, erudition and fidelity to fact. Nor can they fail to notice the bombastic sophistry and lies that the Republicans offered in response.

It is all too obvious that they are once again working from a calculus that takes into account the ignorance of the Republican electorate, who are political cultist bewitched by the “Great Leader” Dirty Don tha Con! The spell that devious Donald has cast over them terrifies the Republicans in Congress, who are ever aware that a vicious tweet from Trump can end their political careers.

It is the just desserts for those who made a Faustian Bargain: In exchange for passing their reactionary political program they were willing to sell their souls to the Devil. Viewing the Impeachment process, it is becoming increasingly clear that the price of the bargain may well be the demise of our constitutional democracy.

Alas, from the look of things, the Republicans in Congress are engaged in a wholesale effort to cover-up the crimes of Dirty Donnie. Their leader in the Senate, “Moscow Mitch” McConnell, has publicly announced that he has no intention of being “impartial” in judging the evidence against the President, but is taking his marching orders from him. Should the Republicans succeed in this cover up, and Dirty Donnie gets re-elected, millions of Americans will be outraged.

And in the very unlikely event that he should be removed from the presidency by the Senate, millions of Americans many of them armed and dangerous, will feel that their choice for president has been overthrown in a coup conducted by Democrats! As absurd as it sounds, that’s how the untutored mob in the Trump cult will perceive it, and perception is for them reality.

Added to this chaotic situation, the system of checks of balances arising from the separation of power into three co-equal branches of government will be rendered dysfunctional. Like Humpty-Dumpty our political system will have taken a great fall. The Republic will be broken, and who knows if we can put it back together again given the precedent that will be set. Yes we have a Republic for the moment…the question is can we keep it!

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
1/23/20

Can A House So Divided Continue to Stand?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 8, 2020 by playthell

Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader “Moscow Mitch” McConnell

Thing Are Falling Apart!

“A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Abraham Lincoln declared at the 1858 Illinois state Republican Convention, “I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.” This was only four years before Lincoln was elected President and the United States of America fell apart, degenerating into Civil War – the most destructive war in history at the time.

It was the first modern war where industrialized methods were used to produce and transport men and materials, it lasted four years and exacted a price in blood and treasure that devastated the nation. Yet Lincoln could not see it coming, and therein, I believe, lies a critical warning for our times; when Americans are arguably the most divided since the Civil War, and some Trump supporters are openly and increasingly calling for “Civil War” should he be impeached; which is now a fait accompli.

To gain some perspective on the dimensions of this bloody 19th century catastrophe that nearly destroyed the United States, we have but to point out the fact that 51 thousand Americans lost their lives during three days of combat at Gettysburg Pennsylvania, while from 2001 to July 7 2018, 2,372 American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan.

Hence over sixteen times more Americans were slaughtered by Americans in three days at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, than were killed in the Afghan war in 17 years! The battle however was a resounding victory for the Union forces, and spelled the beginning of the end for the southern Confederacy which saved the Union.

On November 19th 1863, four and a half months after the Union victory, Abraham Lincoln would stand on the blood soaked soil of Gettysburg to dedicate the opening of a new National Cemetery in remembrance of those who had fought and died there to save the Union. Although he feared his oration of 272 words did not rise to the occasion after following Edward Everette – a Massachusetts politician, preacher and famous orator that spoke for two hours – President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is remembered in history as one of the greatest speeches ever presented on a public occasion in America.

The press praised it widely and Everette even wrote to Lincoln that he felt the President’s brief speech touched the central issues of the war much more profoundly than his wordy oration. In fact, Lincoln’s view of why the war was fought can be summed up in the last words of his oration “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Alas, the question that confronts us today is whether truly representative democratic government shall perish from the USA? And I have referenced these events from our tumultuous past because I believe our understanding of current events can be greatly enhanced by the added dimension of historical perspective. Although it is axiomatic among professional historians that history does not repeat itself, that great American wit Mark Twain made a telling point when he observed “History may not repeat…but it rhymes.”

Hence if we view the fundamental cause of the Civil War as the failure of our constitutional government to peacefully resolve internal conflict, then we may be witnessing a recurrent phenomenon; a class of event that is not unique to America, but can be observed in nations embroiled in internecine conflicts across time and geography.

As hard as it is for many Americans to believe, our constitutional democracy is on very shaky ground. The election of Donald J. Trump as President has proved a grave mistake, a blunder of biblical proportions, and our democratic system of governance is imperiled. From the outset the validity of Trump’s election has been in question. Even as fair minded a man as Congressman John Lewis – an icon of the great Civil Rights Movement who is deeply committed to the democratic process, and once put his life on the line to insure that it worked for all Americans – openly refused to attend Trump’s inauguration, declaring his election “illegitimate.”

And the nation’s capitol saw one of the largest demonstrations in its history when the women marched and chanted “Not my president!” They were expressing their righteous anger, protesting what they viewed as a stolen election that prevented the first woman from becoming President. And to add insult to injury Hillary Clinton was the best qualified candidate ever to run for President, and Donald Trump was demonstrably the least qualified for the office. And that is exactly how he has conducted himself as president.

Not only has Trump been an embarrassment with his crude vulgar rhetoric, amoral behavior and disdain for the dignity of the presidency; he also poses a real and present danger to the national interests with his reckless attacks on the fundamental institutions that make our constitutional democracy work. He has repeatedly referred to highly competent dedicated professionals in the intelligence and foreign service communities as “scum,” accusing them of “treason” for doing their jobs – much of which he does not even understand – and declaring them agents of a mythical “Deep State,” that is orchestrating a “coup” against him at the behest of the “evil” Democrats.

He has called the major journalistic institutions, the newspapers of record that future historians will consult when assessing his legacy, “Enemies of the people!” Through the agency of his Twitter feed the Tweeting Twit has weaponized lies – he has been busted telling outright lies over 14 thousand times by professional fact checkers at the Toronto Star and Washington Post – Devious Donald is seriously undermining confidence in their government for millions of his acolytes.

Yet that is just part of the story. Dirty Donnie has also undermined confidence in our presidential and even senatorial elections by his refusal to admit the massive Russian interference in our last presidential election on his behalf even happened, and taking vigorous measures to prevent it’s recurrence. Indeed, he continues to refer to the Russian intervention, which all 17 US intelligence agencies agree happened, as “a hoax.”

When we consider the fact that former the National Intelligence Director James Clapper says Russian intelligence agencies, at the instruction of Vladimir Putin, posted 157 million disinformation messages attacking Hillary and promoting Fat Don tha Con on the internet, it is virtually impossible for a thoughtful person to conclude that such an effort could not influence 77 thousand votes in three states combined! Contray to the claims of that raging buffoon, Jiveass Jim Jordan, Devious Don’s shameless shill in the House of Representatives, trump did not “win the Electoral College in a landslide.” But it is undeniable that he lost the popular vote by three million votes!

Trump’s transparent lies began when he declared his inauguration was “the biggest ever” and denied the photographic evidence from the US Parks Service that clearly contradicted his bogus claim. Then he invented a bizzare conspiracy theory claiming that “millions of illegal aliens voted for Hillary.” When the extent of Russian meddling began to emerge, first from thoughtful analyst in the intelligence community such as retired spook Malcolm Nance, who wrote a book length treatise on it “The Hacking of America, and the FBI stepped up its investigation into the matter, Trump fired the FBI Director James Comey, and was later heard bragging about it to representatives of the Russian government in the Oval Office.

Alas, blabber mouth thoughtless fool that he is, Devious Donald told NBC Evening News host Lester Holt in a nationally televised interview that he fired Comey to end the investigation into Russian attempts to subvert the will of the American people through a covert cyber-attack. It was this act of stupidity and hubris that sparked the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as “Special Prosecutor,” with a mandate to thoroughly investigate the matter. After interrogating hundreds of witnesses and perusing thousands of documents, Mr. Mueller issued a 400 page report detailing extensive Russian interference in the presidential election to support Trump.

He identified the exact units and agents in the Russian intelligence apparatus that carried out the operation and issued indictments against them. Mr. Mueller explained that although he could not establish a “conspiracy” between the Russian operatives and members of the Trump campaign that would meet the standard of evidence required by the statute, the Trump campaign knew of and welcomed the Russian interference. But since “collusion” is not specifically addressed in the law, he would leave it to Congress to decide.

He also pointed to ten instances that could be construed as “Obstruction of Justice,” which he would also leave it to Congress to determine because of a Department Of Justice regulation prohibiting the indictment of a sitting President. However a thousand former Federal Prosecutors, Democrats and Republicans who served in urban and rural areas, say they would indict and convict a suspect on the evidence Mueller provided. Furthermore, Mr. Mueller clearly stated in his Report and later in testimony before Congress, that his investigation did not exonerate the President.

However, by the time the Mueller Report was released, Devious Donald had replaced Jeff Sessions – who had recused himself from all matters involving the Russian investigation, sparking outrage and charges of disloyalty from from Trump – and replaced him with Bill Barr, who proved eager to to do for Trump what the unethical lawyer Roy Cohn had done for him as a businessman in New York. Barr, who as Attorney General, had jurisdiction over Mueller and thus had access to the Report before the public saw any part of it, helped Devious Donald deceive the American people by misrepresenting the Report’s findings and witholding parts of it from the public and Congress.

Barr simply announced that the extensive investigation by Mr. Mueller “found no collusion and no obstruction of justice.” This pronouncement was quickly seized upon and repeated endlessly on Fox News, a right-wing propaganda outfit posing as a legitimate journalistic institution, and that has become the gospel truth for members of the Trump personality cult, that untutored mob they call “the Republican base.”

Since few people have either the time or inclination to actually read a dense legalistic document of 400 pages, and many Republican members of Congress openly declared that they would not read it, while Trump resorted to Twitter, partisan rallies and right wing media to declare himself “totally exonerated” in his hyperbolic style, the Mueller Report detailing the Russian cyber-attack and his crimes of obstruction has become largely irrelevant.

While the meticulous presentation of of the evidence of Russian intervention contained in the Mueller Report has not prevented Trump from labeling it “a hoax,” the new Inspector General’s investigation of the FBI, debunking Trump’s claims that the FBI “spied on his campaign” at the behest of President Barack Obama, seems destined for a similar fate. Attorney General Barr has already disputed it’s findings and has appointed a hand picked Federal Prosecutor to conduct another investigation that will yeild the results he seeks, which is to give legitimacy to Trump’s bogus claims.

Right before our eyes Barr and Trump are lying about the results of the investigation. Listening to them talk, they seem to have embraced the principle of The Big Lie, Invented by Dr. Joseph Goebbles, Minister of Propaganda for the Third Reich, it is a simple proposition that has proved to be very effective with targeted audiences subjected to controlled messages repeatedly beamed into their brains: “Tell the people a lie long enough and they will believe it!”

Dr. Goebbles had control of the national radio net work and the film industry, but Trump has the FOX network and Twitter – a more intimate means of communicating with his followers than Hitler ever had. And there is much evidence showing that the fervent acolytes in the Trump personality cult called the “Republican Base,” only believe what they hear on FOX, or right wing verbal arsonists like Rush Limbaugh on WABC radio, along with Trumps Tweets.

Hence they live in a fact free propaganda bubble that bears little resemblance to the reality that other Americans share by virtue of the reporting from objective journalistic organizations; whose reporters are bound by the ethics taught in Journalism schools, peer reviewed by colleagues and policed by professional organizations. The reporters who are winning Pulitzer Prizes for their careful reportage.

Herein lies the crux of the crisis we are now facing in defining reality: What is truth? One of the basic strategies of dictators in making reality conform to their will is to obfuscate and deny the existence of objective truth, Napoleon Bonaparte for instance, said “History is lies commonly agreed upon!” This is why in the effort to establish a dictatorship the first casualty is truth. We hear echoes of Bonaparte’s claim in Trump’s mouthpiece, Kelleyane Conway, who when confronted with unpleasant facts about Trump said: “We have alternative facts!”

This is a dangerous declaration, because Trump has been diagnosed as a “compulsive liar;” the main symptom of which is the willingness to lie even when you know that your lies can be easily disproven. We see this pathological behavior in Don tha Con all the time, it is his modus operandi. The danger we now face as a nation, is that the Republicans have proved willing to violate their oath to “defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic,” and place their personal and party interests above the national interests. This fact pattern conjures up some of the most dire warnings of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington at the founding of this nation, warnings that now have the ring of prophecy.

In his Farewell Address to the nation delivered on Sept. 19, 1796, President George Washington warned about the dangers of the factionalism promoted by the development of political parties in the new republic:

“I have already intimated to you the danger of Parties in the State… Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party generally. This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human Mind. It exists under different shapes in all Governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed… The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities…The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty…It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”

Although delivered over 200 years ago, this is a remarkably accurate description of the antics of Dirty Donald and the Republican Follies! One need only witness their attempts to disrupt the impeachment hearings with transparent lies and shameless sophistries, to recognize the willingness of partisans of the Grand Obstructionist Party to disgrace and beclown themselves to please a corrupt, wannabe autocrat, who demands a permanent lips to posterior posture from all who wish to remain in his good graces.

Why do they do it? Why does educated and accomplished elected officials shamelessly genuflect before this vulgar, pompous, ignorant, boisterous buffoon? The answer lies in their careerist opportunism and the ignorance of the Republican electorate who display a cult like devotion to their savior: “The Donald.” All Republican politicians live in dread of offending him and becoming a victim of the terrible tweets of this twisted twit!

For they have seen the ruin that can come to those who fall from favor with him and become the targets of his vulgar verbal assaults. And, like most elected officials, they understand their constituents and therefore well know that they are dealing with an untutored mob mesmerized by a big city bunko artists whose persona was forged on reality TV and a business career without accountability to superiors. To the “Republican Base” alas, Dirty Donald” is everything they hope to be…the stuff of their dreams.

When your head is empty you can even be convinced to go for the okey doke about Trump being “a blue collar billionaire,” a classic oxymoron. Yet this weird love affair between the plutocrat and the plebes cannot be fully understood without recognizing that they do share something fundamental in common, white trash values; Dirty Donnie is white trash with money! That’s why he can so easily con them with bullshit raps like “us against the elites,” when he is the a prominent member of the most powerful elite in America: The Plutocracy!

But perception is reality for most people alas, and when your mind is a tabla rasa incapable of critical thought, you are the perfect patsy for a bodacious bunko artist playing the long range con. This is the danger that Jefferson saw when he warned the nation: “A democracy cannot work with an ignorant electorate, because they will elect and return the worst people to power.”

The millions of Americans who see Devious Donald for the ignorant dangerous amoral lying charlatan that he is are determined to get his treasonous ass out of the Oval Office as quickly as possible. To them impeachment is the logical, legal and most efficient method of accomplishing this; it was the remedy provided by the architects of the Constitution to remove a criminal, incompetent or power crazed president from office. But the acolytes of The Donald, brainwashed by FOX and the right-wing disinformation complex, are just as convinced of his innocence and are certain that he is the victim of a “coup” directed by the “Deep State” and carried out by deluded evil “liberals” supported by “fake news” from the “Lame Stream Media.”

So here we are, one nation with two different views of reality, and a growing suspicion and mutual hostility toward each other. In a gun crazed nation with millions of firearms in private hands, including military assault weapons, where mass shootings have become commonplace, and a Malignant Narcissist in the Oval Office spouting increasingly reckless rhetoric which echos across the Twitter sphere on a daily basis and fires up the mindless Trumpanzees, anything can happen!

People often ask me how the present period compares with the turbulent 1960’s, which despite nation-wide riots and urban rebellions that set American cities ablaze from coast to coast we survived, and went on to thrive. It is a question that I have been giving serious thought lately, because it is a compass that will help us understand where we are now as the ship of state plows through troubled waters. As one who not only lived through the Sixties, but was a part of the black resistance movement that abolished southern apartheid and outlawed de jure racial discrimination all over this land, I suppose I have a unique perspective on the current state of the Union.

One obvious difference is that radical Black Activists viewed ourselves as part of the Third World Revolution, which was breaking out all over Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Islands of the seas. When I started in the movement I was an angry teenager, a 17 year old college student fighting for my constitutional rights.  Three years later, influenced by the writings of Third World Revolutionaries and news reports of their victorious movements,  spurred on by Thomas Jefferson’s talk about the right and duty to overthrow tyranny, I was an armed revolutionary advocating the overthrow of the racist capitalist American government.

However most Afro-Americans, then as now, continued to believe in the promise of equality contained in the Declaration of Independence and guaranteed by constitutional law. The biggest differences between the 1960’s and now is the absence of bi-partisanship when both parties had liberals and conservatives in their ranks. For instance, civil rights activists and southern segregationists were largely democrats. And major Civil Rights legislation of the period was all passed with Republican support despite the fact that it was authored by Democrats.

And most of all, there was no disagreement on the basic facts in our news media – which was confined to three networks ABC, NBC and CBS – whose reporters all adhered to a universal code of journalistic ethics that dictated the rules of objective reportage. Today the proliferation of propaganda outlets committed to promoting a “news” product determined by political ideology rather than fact based reportage, where the very distinction between reportage and opinion has been obscured, coupled with the internet where there are no journalistic standards at all in much of what is posted as “news,” our public discourse has been reduced to a tower of babble.

In such a confusing information environment many citizens cannot distinguish fact from fiction and thus choose the narrative of events that appeals to their prejudices or desires. This fractured view of reality promotes tribalist divisions among the populace. And when a demagogue like Devious Donald Trump tells his tribe that honest journalists, such as was envisioned by the founders who enshrined a free press in the Constitution because they considered it essential to a democratic society based on the rule of law, are their “enemies,” these divisions can threaten the stability, or survival, of our constitutional democracy.

This is what Americans are confronted with as I write, and whether a society thus divided can hang together is the paramount question that confronts us in this moment. And, deprived of the prescience of seers, or the heroic optimism of those who walk by faith, the future looks problematic to me.

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Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

1/8/20