Archive for June, 2016

Reflections on American Exceptionalism!

Posted in Cultural Matters, The 2016 Presidential Race, You Tube Classics on June 30, 2016 by playthell
James-Reese-Europe
James Reece Europe and the Harlem Hell Fighters Band

Setting the Record Straight

In the coming months we will hear endless praise for “American Exceptionalism,” and while the Republicans are sick with this, some consider commitment to this ideology a litmus test for one’s fitness to become President, large numbers of Democrats are also seduced by this self-serving fiction.  Alas, since “patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels,” as George Bernard Shaw observed, we must look at those who boisterously wrap themselves in the American flag with a jaundiced eye. The ground breaking Afro-American historian Dr. Benjamin Quarles, author of “The Negro in the American Revolution” advised us that “he who would understand the present realities need the added dimension of historical perspective.”

This is especially true when evaluating the doctrine of “American Exceptionalism,” which argues that America is exceptional among the nations of the world in promoting freedom, equality and justice “for all” people. This point of view is especially promoted by Republicans and ding bat White Nationalists like the supporters of Donald Trump, but it is shared to some extent by virtually all white Americans, and some black Americans as well as misguided immigrants who know little of America.

However it is a fiction. The actual history of the US reveals it to be the most racist nation earth! Both Adolph Hitler and the White South Africans got their racist ideology from white American eugenicists – especially Madison Grant’s tome “The Passing of the Great Race” – which Hitler called “My Bible” in a recently discovered letter in Grant’s papers.  Furthermore, the Nazi’s based their racist laws on America’s  anti-black laws.

Madison Grant
Madison GrantHitler’s Bible!

Although Afro-Americans have fought in every war since the Revolutionary war against Britain – which Professor Quarles details in his book, their courage and manhood was still being denigrated at the outbreak of World War I.  However when the all black 369th Regiment from New York, the famous “Harlem Hell Fighters,” was assigned to the French Army they became the most highly decorated of ALL American military units in the First World War.  Yet upon returning home their racist American government refused to recognize their valor, and had even tried to prevent the French government from decorating them!  That was certainly EXECPTIONAL among the nations of the world.

Real American Heroes!

Harlem Hell fighters 69th Infrantry

The 369th Regiment aka “Harlem Hell Fighters

Afro-American music, and the dances it inspired, changed the popular culture of Europe. One European philosopher remarked that had it not been for the popularity of Afro-American music they would have been left to listen to European classical music, and in the spiritual angst that engulfed the European intelligentsia trudging among the ruins of a civilization gone mad in the aftermath of World War I “we would have all committed suicide.”   The Afro-American Renaissance Man, James Weldon Johnson, may well have been right when he called the Harlem Hell fighters band “The greatest military band ever assembled!”

Yet true or not, one thing is certain, the Harlem Hell Fighter’s Band won the hearts and minds of Europeans through the power of music in a way that military power could not.  And I cannot think of a more powerful example of positive American Exceptionalism. For a further discussion of this question see my critical essay on Woody Allen’s thoughtful and artistic film about the period, “Midnight in Paris: A Flawed Masterpiece,” at https://commentariesonthetimes.me/…/midnight-in-paris-a-fl…/  This is a multi-media presentation with text, photographs and video of the Hell Fighter band performing in Paris.

As one who taught history in a variety of situations from church basements and adult ED classes, to university seminars, I have learned how to plan an effective lesson.  Fortunately I am lucky enough to be living in interesting times, a period of tumultuous change, and the Gods of the pedagogues have provided me with the internet, a marvelous medium in cyberspace that allows me to publish my Commentaries on these events to a world-wide audience.

Furthermore, on the Internet I am able to publish my views without the censorious mediation of editors who are owned by corporate media organizations that determine what we shall see, hear and read.  Added to these blessings are the magnificent video files on You Tube; which provide compelling evidence to buttress my often controversial arguments.  The videos cited here are prime examples, because they support my arguments in the essays superbly.

To view History Channel film on “Harlem Hell Fighters” click on link below.”)
http://www.history.com/…/wor…/videos/the-harlem-hellfighters

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
June 30, 2016

 

Heeeeare’s Donnie!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On the 2016 Presidential Election with tags , , on June 25, 2016 by playthell

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a news conference, at his Turnberry golf course, in Turnberry, Scotland, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

A Chump on the Stump

 Dumb Dangerous Donnie Cuts the Fool in Scotland

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, loves to talk about all the great lessons he learned from his daddy, but apparently old Fred Trump never told his son it is far better to be thought a fool than open your big moth and remove all doubt!   From the moment Trump’s helicopter landed at his golf resort and was met by reporters he immediately let the world know that he is clueless about world affairs.

Trump walked up to the microphone and announced that he supported the people of Scotland’s decision to “take your country back” by voting to leave the European Union.  His remarks elicited snickers of derisive laughter from the press on the scene as well as the commentators on the set of WNBC’s Morning Joe.  Their laughter was provoked by the fact that Trump evidently did not know that two thirds of the Scots had actually voted against the decision to take Britain out of the EU!  It was par for the course with Dumb Donnie.

Never able to pass up a chance to mouth off whether or not he has any idea what he is talking about, this proved to be just the beginning of a series of harebrained comments. Unlike all other major party candidates for the American presidency instead of visiting with officials of the country in an attempt to develop personal relationships, Trump concentrated on promoting his two golf courses in Britain.   Hence when he was asked what he thought about the fact that the Pound was being devalued by Britain’s exit from the EU, Trump replied that he thought it would be good for his business because the weak pound would make the United Kingdom an attractive vacation choice for American tourists.

Donnie showed not the slightest glimmer of regret for the trials of the Scottish people; instead he revealed his true colors as a New York real estate hustler – a gang of economic predators whose values rank several notches below the ethics of Barbary pirates – and began presenting a sales pitch for the luxury apartments and restaurant located on “the best par three in the world.”  He then described the state of the art sprinkler system he had installed and raphsodized about the beauty of the ocean waves crashing against the rocks.  Trump was shameless in pitching his properties and got so caught up in his sales presentation that for a moment he appeared to forget where he was; pointing to the lighthouse that contained some especially plush suites and declared: “This lighthouse is very important to Florida.”

The Donald resembled the bumbling cartoon character “Mr. Magoo,” with that goofey cap pulled down on his head, and he sounded as silly as he looked.  When asked if he thought the breakup of the EU was a good thing, he responded with a rambling anecdote about some German friends that really loved their country but was considering immigrating because of all the undesirable aliens being allowed to settle there.  Trumps answers were so off the wall that one of the reporters asked if he consulted with any foreign policy experts.  To wit Dumb Donnie said yes but they were just advisors and offered different opinions.  He went on to say that he saw no reason to meet further with foreign olicy experts, especially any who have been instrumental in formulating foreign policy in the last five years. Hence it came as no surprise that when Trump was asked to point out the members of the Scottish government in attendance he couldn’t.

Trump’s performance was so far beneath what seasoned political reporters expect from a potential president of the USA, more than one of them described it as “surreal.”  Mike Barnacle, one of the commentators witnessing this fiasco on Morning Joe, felt compelled to remark “We would be remiss if we didn’t point out that in great historical moment for Great Britain Trump choose to talk about real estate zoning laws.”  He was a complete embarrassment to educated Americans, and the idea that this clueless clown could be our next president seemed at once ludicrous….and terrifying.

The extent of his cluelessness was nowhere more convincing than when he began to explain how the vote to quit the EU was sparked by the fact that the Brits and Scots hate President Obama, and they did it just because he was against it. Yet the fact is that President Obama is widely admired in Britain and Dumb Donnie is both feared and despised.

Evidence of the contempt in which the Scots hold him could be seen in everything from newspaper editorials  – which he does not read, nor appear to have anyone reading them for him – to the Mexican Flags they were flying near his properties; to the box of golf balls with Swastikas on them presented to him by a Scottish citizen; to Scots waving a large banner reading “Dump Trump!”

The Scots were Clear in their Sentiments!
Donald Trump in Scotland Dump Trump
They want no part of “The Donald”

Donald Trump - Greatest Liar

There was nothing that Dumb Donnie said which suggested he has any idea how the European Union came into existence, what its mission is, nor its accomplishments.  Verbose airhead that he is Donnie just prattled on ad nauseum with no  hint that he was talking like a fool, to the shock and amusement of the onlookers.   Just as when he said on an earlier occasion when asked who was advising him about ISIS: “I mostly consult myself because I have a good brain.”

A pompous megalomaniac and shameless charlatan, Trump spouts nonsense as if it were divine wisdom. Watching his act conjures up memories of Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini – two other charismatic demagogues who excited the passions of insecure and untutored mobs in search of a savior, and soulless amoral elites that knew better but thought they could use them as point men in their quest for power.***  History tells us how that turned out, and prudence dictates that we heed the warning of the late Harvard Philosopher George Santayana: “Those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.”                                                                                                                                                                                                    ***************          

                To see Trump’s Speech and News Conference  double click on Link        

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****For a thorough discussion of the Similarities between Hitler, Mussolini and Trump my multi-media presentation on this question see: “Is Donald Trump a Uniquely American Fascist?”

Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
June 24, 2016

Bravo Samori! Good Show My Boy

Posted in Photo-Essays, Samori Graduates from SUNY with tags , on June 21, 2016 by playthell

At Samori's Graduation and lake Merritt 2016-06-16 141 - Edit

Chillin by the Fountain at Lincoln Center

A Joyous Baccalaureate at The Lincoln Center

There were many special things about the graduation ceremony for SUNY’s Empire State College class of 2016, but it was extra special for my son Playthell Samori Benjamin. Like many other students he was completing his degree as an older student who had to work while finishing his studies, and like all of these persistent students he deserves hearty applause for his tenacity.  Beyond these things that he has in common with his classmates however, Samori has a special relationship with this part of Manhattan and the Lincoln Center which is unique.

A Native New Yorker and lifetime resident of Manhattan Samori went to elementary school about twenty blocks away; he went to Junior High school – the unique “Museum Science School” – about ten blocks away, where he had a staff pass at the world renowned Museum of Natural History and he graduated from the Beacon High School which was even closer to the Lincoln Center where he was now graduating from college.  Furthermore, upon his first graduation from elementary school I took him and his twin sister Makeda to a concert in this very hall.

The great trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra was performing.  Since Wynton was a good friend of mine and I was a passionate supporter of the Jazz at Lincoln Center project in my newspaper columns and feature stories as well as my weekly radio show, I had the run of the place and took Samori up into the sound and lighting booth because he was curious about how it all worked.  The lighting technician was very gracious to him and allowed Samori to operate the lighting board; he then pressed the wrong button and plunged the entire auditorium into darkness while Wynton was soloing.

It was a hairy moment but quickly corrected by the technician.  Afterward we had a big laugh about it hanging out with Wynton.  I lost the photographs of Samori and Wynton from that night, which is why I am determined to preserve the images from this special night.  Fortunately I dis preserve a photograph we took at home just before departing for the Lincoln Center.

Samori’s First Graduation Night
img.414 
Just before leaving for the Lincoln Center

 Hence the graduation ceremony at Lincoln Center was something like coming home to a very familiar place, the return to scenes in which he had lived out the various stages of his development – the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  It was this reality that made this graduation, already a high point in his life, extra special for Samori as he donned his cap and gown and marched down the ailse to receive his sheepskin.

There had been many important stops along the way:  Norfolk State University; Sports Editor and broadcaster at WBAI FM; maintaining a website featuring his interviews with top athletes and articles on various aspects of sport; researching and writing a soon to be published book on baseball.  And finally back to the Upper West side and Lincoln Center to receive his Bachelor of Science Degree.  BRAVO SON! BRAVO!! And big ups to the class of 2016: THE WORLD IS YOURS AS MUCH AS ANYONE’S!

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At Samori's Graduation -2016-06-16 137- Edit

A Contemplative Moment Reflecting on the Gravitas of the Event
As the Students Marched In

At Samori's Graduation Edit III 2016-06-16 005

We Witnessed a the “Gorgeous human Mosaic” that People New York City

At Samori's Graduation First Edit 2016-06-16 012

All Races, Ethnicities, and Genders were Representin!

At Samori's Graduation Edit IV 2016-06-16 024

Some Calmly Pondered their Programs
While Others Stood Awaiting the Call

At Samori's Graduation Edit V 2016-06-16 123

To Proudly March Down the Asile

At Samori's Graduation Edit V 2016-06-16 037

Of the Grand Auditorium in Geffin Hall
After Much Pomp and Curcumstance

At Samori's Graduation Ceremony Edit VII 2016-06-16 048

The Newly Degreed Students Marched out Triumphantly

At Samori's Graduation a 2016-06-16 068 Edit March II

TheDeans and Professors bade them a Fond Farewell 

  At Samori's Graduation Dean Edit - 2016-06-16 007

As they Walked into the arms of Friends, Family and Loved Ones

At Samori's Graduation and lake Merritt 2016-06-16 099

Samori with hsi Mother June and Twin Makeda
Samori and Aunt Adjuwa

At Samori's Graduation and lake Merritt 2016-06-16 092

She watched him grow up
Samori and Makeda

At Samori's Graduation and lake Merritt 2016-06-16 111 EDIT II

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At Samori's Graduation and lake Merritt 2016-06-16 081

The Twins and a Good Friend

At Samori's Graduation Edit - 2016-06-16 127

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At Samori's Graduation - Edit wlth parents 2016-06-16 135

Chillin with Mom and Dad

At Samori's Graduation and lake Merritt 2016-06-16 102

Samori and Mom Joyously preserving Memories of Magic Moments

At Samori's Graduation and lake Merritt 2016-06-16 082- edit I

Playthell G Benjamin and Playthell S. Benjamin
The food and drinks were delicious and plentiful

At Samori's Graduation and lake Merritt 2016-06-16 057

A Token of Appreciation for the Graduates

At Samori's Graduation Edit- VIII 2016-06-16 069

The Student’s faces reflected Determination
And Hope

At Samori's Graduation Edit - 2016-06-16 074

And Joi de Vivre!

At Samori's Graduation and lake Merritt 2016-06-16 075

Plus Lots of Love, Optimism and Good Wishes !

At Samori's Graduation Edit- IX 2016-06-16 129

And the Shutter Bugs were Documenting it all for Posterity!

At Samori's Graduation

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Text and Photos by: Playthell G. Benjamin – excepting those in which he appears.
June 19m 2006
New York City