The Deeper Meaning of the Super Bowl

Posted in On Sports!, On the Superbowl with tags , on February 25, 2018 by playthell

Duel Threat Quarterback Russell Wilson Celebrates Victory

On Football as an Expression of the American Martial Spirit

For millions of Americans football rises to the level of a civic religion. And once a year we turn our attention to the Super Bowl, a grand spectacle paying homage to the God’s of the game; the champions of the American Football Conference and the National Football Conference that emerge at the end of a season of bloody carnage on the gridiron. The Super Bowl is a national bacchanal marked by gluttony, drunkenness, and myriad other debaucheries worthy of an ancient Dionysian ritual.  Hence the thoughtful observer might reasonably ask: What’s it all about, this game of football?

“He knows not cricket who only cricket knows,” says the brilliant Trinidadian polymath C.L.R. James, in the opening passage of his Erudite and insightful book Beyond a Boundary, a treatise on the Sport of Cricket that one historian of Victorian England Dr. Keith A.P. Sandiford, told this writer “changed the way we look at Victorian society.”   This, he explained, is because “before James’ broadly learned text nobody recognized the importance of sport as the embodiment of deeply held societal values.” The brilliance of C. L. R. James’ analysis is that he demonstrated how the game of Cricket embodied the values of the British upper class during the Victorian era, when Britannia ruled the world.

One could equally claim “he knows not football who only football knows.”  Guided by a Master Narrative of American civilization that is fashioned in the popular mind by hype artists and mythmakers more than the peer reviewed scholarship of professional historians, Americans like to think we are a peace-loving country.  Yet, alas, our history and present circumstances suggest otherwise.

The United States was born in a bloody war; the vast and fertile land Anglo-Saxon settler/colonists fought their British cousins for was stolen from the indigenous people by force of arms; then the settlers enacted genocidal policies to reduce the “Indian” population; they enslaved African Americans for 250 years employing some of the most savage depraved practices in history. They introduced the unprecedented destructiveness of modern warfare during the Civil War; provoked a war with Spain and seized her colonies at the end of the 19th century; and militarily intervened overtly or covertly in other countries over a hundred times in the 20th century.  Perhaps this is what we might expect from a country whose national mascot is a bird of prey, the Bald Eagle, and the national Anthem is a war song written by a slaveholder Francis Scott Key, in celebration of a victorious American battle in a war to defend the slave trade!

Hence, like Cricket in Victorian England, football embodies some fundamental American values that harken back to the formation of the nation.  And like Cricket, football began as a patrician sport played by upper class white males in the Ivy League; commencing with the Princeton v Rutgers game in 1869 – two years after the Marquis de Queensbury introduced the formal rules of boxing, transforming artless bare-knuckle brawls between pugnacious bullies into the martial art of pugilism, which at it’s best becomes what A. J.  Liebling calls a “Sweet Science.”

Driven by anxieties over the fear that upper-class white men were becoming “feminized” from “over civilization,” advocates of “the strenuous life,” such as Teddy Roosevelt, began to embrace the sport of pugilism as a proper manly pursuit.  The prestigious New York Athletic Club, playground of the rich and famous, hired a former professional bare-knuckle fighter and trainer Mike Donovan – nick named,” The Professor,” due to his knowledge of the sport – to teach men of the privileged class the fine points of pugilism. Hence boxing also became popular among the young men who played football in the Ivy League; men who would later become leaders among those who pass the laws, control commerce, define cultural standards and determine the proper manners and morals for the nation.

Yet it was the game of football that most faithfully reflected the Zeitgeist of a nation embarking on the road to empire.  It was the ideal sport for the age of “Muscular Christianity,” Social Darwinism, Anglo-Saxon ethnic/gender euphoria, the pseudo-science of Eugenics, and white male supremacy.  Football, from which black men were formally barred, became even more important as a demonstration of superior white male prowess after Jack Johnson won the World Heavy-Weight Championship. 

The gravity of this event for white supremacists was poignantly expressed in the hysteria of novelist Jack London’s call for a “Great White Hope” to take back the World Heavy-Weight Boxing Championship from the cocky, ebony black, Jack Johnson.  A fascinating man of elegance, in and outside the ring, who greatly influenced the “arrogant” public persona of Muhammad Ali. London viewed Johnson’s ascendancy to the Heavy-Weight throne as an unmitigated catastrophe!

Jack Johnson

Challenging the Myth of White Male Prowess
Breaking Taboos

A Menace to Society?

London’s views were widely held by white men everywhere.  The danger, as they saw it, lay in the fact that Heavy-Weight Champions were universally viewed as the most potent men on earth, and the trash talkin Johnson – who became a sex symbol to white women when that was the ultimate taboo – openly mocked and challenged the claim of white male superiority, and by implication the system of white supremacy that supported it.

No one personified the spirit of this golden age of white supremacy like Teddy Roosevelt – who served as US President from 1901 to 1909 – who was at various times a lawman, cowboy, cavalry officer, statesman, and intellectual.  A rich white Anglo-Saxon hetero-sexual male, born and bred among the Manhattan elite, Teddy was a real tough guy and passionate fan of pugilism who regularly beat the boxing bag in the White House Rose Garden.

Teddy’ public ridicule of white Heavy-Weight Champion Tommy Burns’ shameful dodging of the black challenger forced him into the ring with Johnson, who whipped the white champion with ease on December 26, 1908. Johnson’s victory enraged white Americans, whipping up a wave of violent racist hysteria that resulted in armed attacks on Afro-Americans nationwide by white mobs, resulting in injury and deaths just days before Christmas.  An avowed White Supremacist and Eugenicist, Roosevelt would write an article denouncing Johnson.  Dr. WEB Dubois, arguably America’s deepest social thinker at the time, observed that Johnson’s only crime “is his unforgivable blackness.”

Teddy would make clear his belief that football is essential to the character development of white American males – the exclusion of black men made it a quintessentially American game – when a group of reformers developed a movement to legally ban football as a barbarous practice unworthy of a civilized society in the 20th century.  Alas, despite the eloquent apologia of its many fans and defenders, football is a brutal blood sport that conjure up some of the dangerous spectacles in the Roman Circus Maximus. Although football players are not expected to fight to the death like Roman Gladiators, it is a distinction without a difference when we consider the consequences of playing football. Recent research shows a majority of professional football players suffer brain damage, and some die from injuries they received from playing the game.

Without the scientifically engineered equipment players now enjoy, football at the turn of the 20th century was a bloody barbarous business that resembled organized mayhem.  This period is richly detailed by David Kay Miller in his pathbreaking book The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football. Although Teddy didn’t make the varsity squad at Harvard because he was nearsighted, he remained one of the sport’s biggest boosters. He saw playing the game as excellent preparation for military combat and even attributed the success of the Cavalrymen he commanded during the Spanish/American War – popularly known as “Rough Riders” – to the fact that they were former football players.

Teddy Roosevelt: Cavalry Officer

At Santiago de Cuba

In a 1903 speech Roosevelt said, “I believe in rough games and in rough, manly sports. I do not feel any particular sympathy for the person who gets battered about a good deal so long as it is not fatal.”  However, the events of 1904 put Teddy, and all football fans on the defensive.  A measure of the carnage could be seen in a Chicago Tribune report of 18 deaths and 159 serious injuries among amateur football players in Prep schools.

As the casualty and injury rate continued to rise in 1905, amid public protests and editorial comment openly comparing football players to Roman Gladiators Roosevelt, now President of the USA now president of the USA for four years and basking in the prestige of having negotiated an end to the war between Russia and Japan – sending shockwaves throughout the white world when Japan kicked Russia’s ass –  decided to take a hands-on approach to making football safer.

A knowledgeable student of the game, Teddy could see that most of the injuries came from the power running strategy, with plays like the “Flying Wedge,” where groups of men repeatedly collided with each other at full speed.  His solution was to get the coaches to incorporate the forward pass in their offense, which was then illegal. Although some thought the decision blasphemous and would ruin the game, it reduced injuries, saved football from extinction, and gave us the modern game.

Today professional football is dominated by the forward pass, and with the speed, style and grace Afro-American athletes bring to the “skills” positions football has become the greatest show on turf.  In view of its history – and the state of perpetual warfare we find ourselves in today – it is no accident that the terminology used to describe the game is filled with military metaphors. The long pass is “the bomb.” The quarterbacks that throw them are called “field generals with “cannon arms.”  Accurate passes are called “bullets.”  The world class speed of wide receivers is called “after burners” like in fighter jets.  Line play is called “battling in the trenches.” And the paramount objective of the game is to advance and hold the opponent’s territory.

The desire to dominate opponents by sheer brute force is inculcated in players at an early age; it is the result of systematic indoctrination with the idea they are “warriors.”  When I played high school football in football cray Florida, before every game we would form a circle, pile on hands and repeat after the coach in a rising crescendo: “We want them…Before our feet!  They shall not rise!!!”  Yet, notwithstanding the fact that football remains a dangerous game, a metaphor for war and a license to commit legal assault – often resulting in life altering injury to the players, it is wildly popular.

Indeed, football is so popular that according to Richard Deitch of Sports Illustrated, NBC will average more than 5 million dollars for a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl!  And it has truly become the all-American sport; transcending race, class and ethnicity. The once lily-white teams from the foundational cites of Philadelphia and Boston, that will clash in the Super Bowl, now look more like the national teams of Nigeria and Ghana.  For the millions of spectators watching in hovels and high-rise penthouses, it’s just a game…but then: He knows not football who only football knows.

 

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Playthell, G Benjamin,
February 6, 2018

 

Is President Trump a Racial Hygienists?

Posted in On Donald Trump, On Trump and Hitler, Playthell on politics with tags , , on January 29, 2018 by playthell

Fanatical whites adoring their Savior

On Making America White Again

It was nauseating to witness Donald Trump, surrounded by grinning handkerchief head black quislings, read a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King. The bumbling fashion in which he read the text made it clear that he was not familiar with the facts, nor was it coming from the heart.   Like so much about Trump, it came across as phony.   That was certainly how it struck Congressman John Lewis, who walked with Dr. King in the heat of the Civil Rights battle and was brutally beaten by racist redneck cops on the Edmund Pettis bridge, during the voter registration drive in Lowndes County, Alabama.

When asked by reporter Katy Tur if he thought Trump’s remarks praising Dr. King was sincere, Congressman Lewis said no; pointing out that you cannot make racist statements one day and praise Dr. King’s legacy the next, yet expect to be taken seriously.  He said that he will not attend the upcoming State of the Union Address, because he does not consider Trump’s election to be legit, given the role played by Russian intelligence agencies in sabotaging Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

The racist statement Lewis was referencing, was Trump’s declaration that the US should not welcome immigrants from “shit-hole” nations like Haiti and African countries.  Trump said he would prefer more immigrants from “Norway” instead.   There was no shame in Mighty whitey’s game.  Aside from the fact that Trump’s comments about Haitians and Nigerians during a discussion of immigration policy in the Oval Office, exposed his abysmal ignorance about black people once more, they also conjured up memories of some of the most racist episodes of the last century.

It is obvious that Trump knows nothing about the role played in the American War of Independence by Les Chasseurs Volontaires de Saint Domingue, ten companies of Haitian soldiers numbering 500 each, who fought heroically in the battle of Savanna during 1779.  They were repaid a few years later with racist American opposition to their own heroic revolution against their French oppressors, despite the fact the Haitian Revolution was based upon the same ideals as the US and French Revolutions: “Liberty, Brotherhood and equality.”  As CLR James, says: “It was one the three great bourgeois revolutions of the 18th century” that helped shape the modern world.

Savanna Monument to Haitian Heroes of 1779

Lest  We Forget?

 It is equally clear that Trump does not understand the contributions Nigerian immigrants are now making to the US.  As a community Nigerian-Americans are model citizens.  They earn college degrees at a rate 10% higher than native born Americans. According to the Houston Chronical of January 12, “Nigerian immigrants have the highest levels of education in this city and the nation, surpassing whites and Asians, according to Census data bolstered by an analysis of 13 annual Houston-area surveys conducted by Rice University.”

These figures are reflected in the three Nigerians in my building: an international lawyer, a medical doctor and a mechanical engineer who has worked for Con-Edison, keeping the lights on in Trump Tower for the last 15 years.  I could cite many outstanding Nigerians contributing to the US in a variety of fields if I had the space.

Alas, none of this matters to Donald Trump, because his concern is keeping America white and, given his choice of Norwegians as the ideal immigrant: The whiter the better!  In this attitude Trump has taken us back 100 years to the ideas of another white New Yorker, Madison Grant.  A Columbia University graduate, Grant really did have the Ivy League education Trump bogusly brags about.  The President of the New York Zoological Society, and a leading voice in the racist Eugenics Movement – which advocated selective breeding to improve the human species – Grant published a 1917 book titled The Passing of the Great Race. 

This book was written as a warning against the Superior Teutonic “race,” whose ideal prototype was the blue-eyed blond, represented in America by the “conquering Anglo-Saxon,” intermixing with the “lesser races.” And here Grant was talking about European “races,” such as Greeks and Italians, whom he labeled “men from failed civilizations.”

In Grant’s view, the ancient civilization of Greece and Rome was built by blond haired Teutons, and it was their bad judgement in breeding with the darker races that brought on the decay and collapse of their civilization. There was a special warning against Jews.  Africans and other subhuman “colored races” were strictly off limits.

One way to prevent this dreaded intermixing with inferior racial stock was by controlling their presence in the American population through immigration policy.  However, Grant was elaborating on the ideas of another rich New Yorker, Teddy Roosevelt, who cultivated the role of Anglo Saxon superman to the hilt; even buying a ranch in Wyoming where he was said to have led posses against outlaws in the late 19th century.

This image was enhanced after he led the “Rough Riders” in the battle of San Juan Hill in Santiago Cuba during the Spanish American War.  Roosevelt felt that the paramount objective of reproductive practices was to prevent overly fertile “lesser breeds” from outbreeding the superior Anglo Saxons.  He was quite open in his views on the superiority of Anglo Saxons and felt that the decimation of American Indians and the conquest of the Philippines were acts of God.

These ideas would inform the passage of the racist National Origins Act of 1924, which set quotas on immigrants based on the countries from which they came.  The Act provided that be visas be issued to 2% of each ethnic group based on the 1890 Census, which would insure that Anglo Saxon’s would forever remain the majority.  One big fan of this law was Adolph Hitler, who praised it in Mein Kempf:

“There is today one state in which at least weak beginnings toward a better conception [of immigration] are noticeable. Of course, it is not our model German Republic, but [the US], in which an effort is made to consult reason at least partially. By refusing immigrants on principle…by simply excluding certain races from naturalisation,”

Hitler was also a big fan of Madison Grant’s “Passing of the Great Race,” from which he lifted his Teutonic master race theory.  We know this because historians have uncovered a letter Hitler wrote to Madison Grant, in which the Nazi leader thanked him profusely and gushed: “Your book is my bible!”  It was these all-American ideas that informed and inspired the Nazi “racial hygienists” to exterminate six million of their Jewish countrymen by industrializing mass murder, and launching a World War which resulted in 50 million deaths.

This is the tradition Donald Trump has so passionately embraced, a set of racist ideas that resulted in the enslavement of Africans and their descendants for 250 years, and the extermination of Indigenous Native Americans resulting in the greatest land theft in history!  Of course, Dumb Donnie Dimwit is too ignorant of history to know any of this – and based on his racist behavior many thoughtful observers believe it wouldn’t matter if he did – he is propagating these ideas nevertheless.

Ignorance is no excuse in any case.  After all, he ran for the presidency, he was not drafted. That he should attempt to associate himself with the prophetic legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, an Apostle of Peace and justice, with the aid of genuflecting Sambos, is beyond shameful: It is blasphemy!

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Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

January 29, 2018

A Made in America Autocrat!

Posted in On Donald Trump, On Trump and Hitler, Playthell on politics with tags , on January 6, 2018 by playthell

Dirty Donnie and the Brow Nosers
Senators Shamelessly Genuflect Before the Great Leader

It was nauseating watching the Republicans singing the praises of Fat Donald, assuming an embarrassing lips to posterior posture, while slapping themselves on the back for robbing the poor and showering the rich with even more money…making it rain bigtime for the super-rich plutocrats who own them, the billionaire donors who paid for the campaigns that put these pols in office. They are the new masters of Republican politics created by the Citizens United Decision of the US Supreme Court.

It was sad enough when we saw members of the cabinet cravenly kissing Trump’s rump in public, but this could be largely explained by the fact that their fate depends upon pleasing a vindictive president with a mercurial combustible temperament.  Yet for anyone who reveres the US Constitution, or just can’t stand suck ups, it was especially galling to witness members of the US Senate, a co-equal branch of government, the self-declared “greatest deliberative body in the world,” behave like lackeys in the Court of Ming the Merciless.

It was as if each Senator tried to outdo the other in crafting the most worshipful panegyric to the Great Leader.  They seemed terrified of the ever- present possibility of ritual crucifixion by the tweeting twit on Twitter, which could result in political death.  All one need to do in transcribing their remarks is substitute the salutation “Mr. President” with “Heil Hitler!” or “O Great Leader!” in order to recognize the dimensions of the crisis our democracy is presently facing from Donald Trump’s presidency. Sadly, congressional members of the GOP – Grand Opportunists Party – have entered into a Faustian bargain with an instable accidental President who the shrinks say is suffering from “Malignant Narcissism and Paranoia.” And who can say what the consequences will be?

The scene after the tax heist was, well, frightening, especially when one realizes that autocrats have been elected in other democratic societies to the enduring sorrow of its citizens. Most famously Weimar Germany, which was one of the freest and open democratic societies in the world, with a citizenry far better educated than the US electorate just now, when Hitler was elected. The foundations for a liberal enlightened German society such as Weimar had developed in Germany several decades before.

When the young Afro-American scholar WEB DuBois studied at the University of Berlin in the late 19th century, working on a PhD in economics, it was widely considered the world’s finest university. By the second decade of the 20th century Germany was publishing more books a year than any other country, which is evidence of widespread literacy.   And it was a leader in technology and Industry.

This was a society that had engaged in a protracted intergenerational debate about whether the soldier and statesman, or poet and philosopher represented the highest expression of citizenship. Whereas the billionaire business man is the most admired figure in America even if they are odious, stupid, amoral cretins.  Which does much to explain the ascendancy of Trump.

The Weimar Republic, which emerged in the aftermath of military defeat in the First World War spanning the years 1919-1933, represented a new expression of Democracy following the abdication of Wilhelm II, the last German Kaiser.  Weimar was a far freer and socially advanced society than the US was at the time. Weimar Germans were much more enlightened on race and gender issues, recreational use of drugs, and support for the arts. Afro-American Jazz music and dance – with its ethos of modernity and freedom performed at the “velocity of celebration” as Albert Murray called it – was in vogue, as is poignantly portrayed in the movie Swing Kids.

This tolerant open-minded milieu, where social life is played out to a jazz sound track, is meticulously recreated in the brilliant Novel “Clifford’s Blues; by John A. Williams.  And it is given rigorous scholarly treatment in The Jazz Republic: Music, Race and American Culture in Weimar Germany, by Johnathan O. Whipplinger.   To speak of Weimar says Whipplinger,

“is to evoke images not only of political radicalism and avant-garde artistic experiment but also jazz. More to the point, the Weimar Republic was, in a central way, Germany’s own “jazz age.”

 

But as Edwin Black shows in his seminal book, “Hitler’s Debt to America,” white America’s Master Race theories, racist laws against black people and attitudes about euthanasia advocated by the US Eugenics movement were all adopted by the Third Reich that crushed the Weimar democracy. Alas, the twin disasters that befell Germany after World War I due to the war reparations imposed by the 1919 Versailles Treaty and the Wall street Crash of 1929, sparking a world -wide depression that created a sense of hopelessness among Germans, set the stage for the rise of Hitler.

Although white Americans love to portray Nazis as subhuman monsters who are the antithesis of themselves, after interviewing some of the top leaders placed on trial for war crimes at Nurnburg, the insightful Jewish philosopher Hanna Arendt disagreed, she found them quite ordinary people, and coined the term “the banality of evil” to describe their behavior. Dr. Arendt outraged many Americans, and Jews everywhere, by concluding there was nothing uniquely evil about the Germans.

The problem, she concluded, was blind submission to authority and predicted that there are people we all know who are capable of running concentration camps if ordered to do so by our government.  It is evident that there are many such personality types among Trump’s followers, and like those who blindly followed Hitler, they cite emotional despair caused by economic anxieties as the reason for their allegiance.

Americans have been protected from the rise of an autocrat by our Constitution, which gives Congress the power to check the excesses of the President through legislation or impeachment.  But what happens if the Congress fails to use that power?  This is the question now being raised by serious people as Trump threatens to fire Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor investigating whether members of the Trump campaign team collaborated with the Russians to steal the presidential election, which Trump has repeatedly called a hoax.

After Trump launched threats against128 foreign countries that voted against the US on Jerusalem, former CIA Director Robert O. Brennan remarked: “Trump expects blind loyalty and subservience from everyone—qualities usually found in narcissistic, vengeful autocrats.”  One of the main characteristics of autocratic regimes are fawning flunkies who say things like the once proud Republican Senators were  Trump after the tax heist. Longtime Utah Senator Orin Hatch, said Trump might well be “The greatest president in history!”

This kind of sycophantic praise does not inspire confidence that the Republican controlled Congress will checkmate the power of a President who wishes to turn the FBI into his personal Gestapo and unleash them on his political adversaries; despises the free press; the independent judiciary and congressional opposition.  All the institutions that guard our democracy. In view of this reality, the thoughtful observer is compelled to wonder if the difference between Trump, Hitler and Kim Jung UN, has less to do with philosophy than opportunity.

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Playthell G. Benjamin
January 6, 2018
1013 words

The Amazing Carlos del Pino Plays Paganini

Posted in Music Reviews, The Art of Carlos del Pino with tags , , , on December 31, 2017 by playthell
The Virtuoso Contemplates the  Score

A Classically Cuban Concert for the Ages

It is no exaggeration to say that every time the virtuoso Bassist Carlos del Pino and his quartet – the pianist and violinist he has played with for years and are so tight they appear to read each others minds – performs in concert it is a history making event.  This was certainly true of the recent concert held at the elegant Christ and St. Stephens Church on the Upper West side, sponsored by the Cuban Cultural Center of New York, in collaboration with the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council of the Arts.

The eclectic programs performed by this quartet are made possible by the extraordinary musicians in the band, whose virtuosity span three major musical genres encompassing the most complex in the western tradition – European Classical, Classic Jazz and the Afro-Cuban Son Montuno.  On this occasion the quartet played a program of mostly Cuban composers, hence the title “Classically Cuban.”

However, the unequalled performance by Carlos del Pino of Niccolo Paganini’s solo violin compositions stole the show. Carlos’ comments on his aspirations as an instrumentalist provides us a glimpse of the twin ambitions that fuel his pathbreaking artistry. First, like all greats in any field, he is constantly trying to get better.  “Through time,” says Carlos, “man has always taken on goals and challenges to improve himself.  Music has been no exception.” And secondly, he seeks to expand the range of the double bass violin.  He tells us: “Due to its large size, the doubled bass has posed a challenge for musicians who wish to interpret works composed for other instruments.”

Since he is on a mission to prove the contra-bass is capable of performing compositions conceived for the lead violin, Carlos chooses some of the most difficult literature to perform. For instance, Paganini’s 24th Caprice is considered by violinists to be one of the most difficult pieces to perform ever written for solo violin. The performer must successfully negotiate such obstacles as Parallel octaves and rapid shifting covering several intervals. Plus, extremely fast scales and arpeggios including minor scales in thirds and tenths, left hand Pizzicato, high positions, and quick string crossings.  These compositions, written and performed by the peerless Paganini, are so difficult that his contemporaries believed his mother – like Dr. Faust – made a deal with the devil bartering her son’s soul in exchange for Paganini’s musical gifts.  Yet, Carlos never missed a note!

As if he intends to really stick it to the naysayers, Carlos performs these compositions pizzicato rather than bowing.  He explained the challenge he has undertaken in the present concert as “the interpretation of three Caprices by Paganini written specifically for the violin, played in pizzicato something never before accomplished with the double bass, which entails a double challenge – the technical and the musical…My interpretation will remain for future generations.”

For the musically tutored observer it was breathtaking to watch, the performance was flawless, Carlos performed this historic feat with the apparent effortlessness of the true virtuoso that can make the exceedingly difficult look easy. To observe how difficult this work is to play for a violinist with a bow, see the video at the end of this essay.  It will give the reader some idea of the magnitude of Carlos’ extraordinary achievement.

The marvelous versatility of his quartet enables Carlos to explore his ideas with a multi-lingual musical approach. Whereas the great majority of musicians spend a lifetime trying to master one musical idiom, Carlos and his collaborators roam across idioms at will, smashing musical barriers and ignoring the conventional wisdom regarding the limits musical performance.

This is no picayune feat because the demands that Classical European music and classical Jazz makes upon the instrumentalists are very different due to the philosophy, organization and performance technique required by the two musical idioms.  For instance, European Classical music evolved in a rigidly hierarchical society where the written text reigns supreme. Hence every note is dictated by the composer’s score, and if they are members of an orchestra the instrumentalist is also subjected to the tyranny of Conductors, who impose their vision of the score weilding a baton.

Classical Jazz is a creation of Afro-Americans in the 20th century; it is the product of what Professor Bernard Bell calls “a residually oral culture where written text competes with the spoken word,” in his seminal study “The Afro-American Novel and its Tradition.”   Hence it is more important to be able to hear musical ideas than to read music, because often the idea cannot be fully expressed in notation.  Jazz also embodies the continuous Afro-American quest for freedom, and as the quintessentially American Art Jazz is democratic, values individual liberty and promotes innovation.  It also swings to the poly-rhythms of a modern machine age society.

Hence, in Jazz the written score serves to set the theme and parameters of the musical conversation not dictate what the instrumentalist plays. And whereas performance styles in European music is dictated by rigid convention, the Jazz musician has been free to create new instrumental techniques to better express their musical innovations.  This is most apparent in the way the double bass is played in the two idioms.

In European music the contra-bass is the bottom voice of the violin section and played with a bow, in Jazz it becomes a member of the rhythm section and is played pizzicato – a technique which Afro-American musicians raised to a high art. In Jazz bowing is ornamental, and in European concert music the pizzicato is an ornament.  Hence in European Music virtuosity on the bass is achieved by bowing; the great innovation of Carlos del Pino is his performance of European masterworks pizzicato.

Given the undeniable brilliance of his artistry, one is compelled to ask why Carlos is not a featured virtuoso with the world’s great symphony orchestras?  Although I can only guess at the answer to this riddle, I suspect it is due to predjudices against the instrument he plays.  As absurd as this may sound to the layman, classical musicians are very exacting in adherence to conventional wisdom. The essence of the problem is that Carlos plays an upright electric bass while they hold the acoustic bass sacred.

But, alas, like Shakespeare, Carlos is forced to combine great artistry with commercial considerations.  The son of a leather tanner Shakespeare, like contemporary rappers, wanted to get paid for his verse.*  And as literary critic Leslie Fiedler tells us in his thoughtful euridite essay “On Literature and Lucre,” Shakespeare solved the problem of sustaining himself economically as an actor/playwrite by becoming a theater owner.

And Carlos makes a living with his instrument by playing lucrative gigs which riquire an electric bass.   And when I offered to remove this impediment  to the full recognition of Carlos’ genius by the omniscient arbiters of European classical music by starting a crusade to acquire an acustic bass of Carlos’choice, he thoughtfully responded:

“Playing pizzicato with my upright bass, I have been able to unify different schools and techniques into one. Creating new styles and presenting an upright bass instead of an acoustic bass will always present some challenges and encounter little acceptance. But I continue to be better and better at my chosen instrument, and I know I will succeed because I believe in myself. I study very hard every day and I am very happy with what I have accomplished.” 

The musicianship of the quartet, like the music they make, is beyond Category.  Pianist Chimi Nakai plays with the same technical brilliance and emotional power regardless of the idiom. And she is equally superb as soloist or accompanist to Carlos. Although a native of Osaka Japan Chemi holds a Masters Degree in Jazz performance from The Aaron Copeland School of Music at Queen’s College in New York, and has won distinction as a recording artist with her own band.

David Eure teaches Jazz violin at the New England Conservatory of Music, and is a master of the instrument whose passionate and innovative playing appears to push it to the limits of its capability.  Renowned for its voice like qualities, the violin is capable of expressing a wide rage of emotions through its tonal colors and lyrical phrasings.  David makes the most of them as his violin sings, cries and soars over the rhythm section.  He is an artist of rare gifts a virtuoso of the highest rank, as you can witness in the videos below.

Percussionist Thomas Estrada, a native of Santiago de Cuba, who like Carlos was trained at the distinguished Instituto Superior de Arte is a marvel who routinely does things with traditional Cuban percussion instruments that I would not have believed possible if I had not witnessed it.  I have been playing these instruments for 50 years, saw all the greats – Francisco “Mongo” Santamaria, Carlos “Potato” Valdez, Armando Paraza, Ta Ta  Guiness, Francisco Aquabella, et al – but Estrada remains unique.  When I closed my eyes, it sounded like three people playing.

Edgar Sanfeliz Botta was the featured vocalist with the fabulous four.  He is the kind of electrifying singer on whom Latin musicians confer the honorific “El Gran Sonoro,” and like the rest of the band it was clear that he can sing in a variety of styles.  He has performed with a number of groups in Cuba, and holds an honors degree in vocal performance from Florida International University.  In January 2012 he had the honor of singing for Pope Benedict XVI.

By any measure this was an all-star cast, fully up to the challenge of pathbreaking performance.  They belong to that rare class of gifted versatile musicians such as Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Hubert Laws, and Carlos’ Afro-Cuban countrymen Chucho Valdez, Arturo Sandoval and Piquito d’Rivera who speak various musical languages without accent.   It was an affair to remember.

* (See: “Sweet Willie and the Rappers” on this blog.)

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The Instrumentalists

Pianist Chimi Nakai

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Voilinist David Eurie

Tomas Estrada: Master Percussionist

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Edgar Sanfeli Botta: El Grand Sonoro!

The Fabulous Four Takes a Bow

Every Performance is Unique…Historic!

The Wind Beneath their Wings!

Mercedes!  She is the Engine that Enables Carlos to Soar

The Impersario!

From the Cuban Cultural Foundation

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The Audience Hailed from Far and Near

And Watched Spellbound!

 

These Music Lovers came from Boston and the High Sierras of California
There are always Cultural Luminaries at Carlos’ Concerts

With Internationally Reknown Painter and Gallery Owner Ademola Olugbefola

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It’s a Family Affair…..

A Sunday Kinda Love

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A Virtuoso Beyond Category

In a Latin Jazz Mood

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This is one of the solo violin compositions performed by Carlos

 

Pianist Chimi Nkai 

Performing her original composition

Chimi plays her arrangement of a Jazz Standard

David Eurie

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Edgar Sanfeliz Botta

Tenor Soloist with Choir and Orchestra performing Vivaldi’s “Gloria

Havana Cuba 2010

 

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Text and Photos by:
Playthell G.Benjamin
Videos from You Tube

Is Omorosa Trump’s Olivia Pope?

Posted in Uncategorized on December 24, 2017 by playthell

The Way they Were

Notes on Power, Privil ege, Sex and Race

The saga of Fat Donnie and Omorosa has burst upon the world stage with a bang.  Although We have seen this glamorous black woman hanging out with Donnie since his reality show days on The Apprentice, a hugely popular television show on NBC, where Omorosa became the star attraction among the contestants, her role in the Trump presidency propelled her to new heights in the real world.

Given the many pictures of them together all over the internet that suggest a secret intimacy, something more than meets the eye, it is unsurprising that many people wonder if we are not witnessing a real-life version of the hit ABC evening soap opera “Scandal,” in which Olivia Pope, a beautiful cunning Afro-American woman played by the ravishing Kerry Washington, captivates the white male US president, alienating his affections for his clueless white wife. Is life imitating art?

Well, maybe, but even if Devious Donnie and his chocolate sweetie are rubbin bellies, there are some sharp differences between the character, competence and experience of Omorosa Manigault and Olivia Pope.  Aside from the suggestion of a sexual scandal in their relationship with the President; the aura of sex and glamour that surrounds them; and their ruthless amoral approach to wielding power; Olivia and Omorosa have little in common.  A friend of mine, who is a successful show business entrepreneur that is a huge fan of Olivia Pope, and has interacted with Omorosa in a business setting, offers this assessment.  “These two women are light years apart in character and competence. Olivia is Queen of the Hill; she is running the whole show. Omorosa is a light-weight opportunistic bitch…just like her boss!”

First of all, Olivia is a brilliant and highly competent woman who is at the center of events in the White House, a big-time player.  Omorosa is an ornament, the black mascot whose role is to lure Afro-Americans to root for the Trump team.  The fact that 90% of Afro-American women voted for the Democrats in recent elections that were critical to Republicans, highlighted Omorosa’s irrelevance to Trump and the Republican Party’s black recruitment project.  And that’s because most black people regard her as little more than a slick ghetto hustler from hardscrabble Youngstown Ohio, looking out for numero uno.

Olivia Pope

Livin Large and in Charge

In this sense Omorosa has much more in common with Melania, a Euro-trash hustler and soft porn model from the impoverished Eastern European country of Slovenia, who may have been working as an illegal immigrant before she hooked the trick of a life time.  Neither of them are taken seriously by serious people – Melania is such a ditz she actually plagiarized Michelle Obama’s speeches twice!

Melania Strump

Euro-Trash as America’s First Lady

From all appearances the end came when the Republican princes and powers who counsel wanna-be King Donald convinced him that Omorosa is all blow and no go.   They presented unimpeachable evidence that she has not been effective in delivering the black vote, winning over black leadership, nor stimulating mass black love for the Great Leader who, by his own repeated declarations, is alone wise enough to save the nation.  In fact, just the opposite has happened. Fat Donald is despised in black communities in every section of the nation, and an energized Afro-American vote supplied the margin of victory in dramatic Democratic wins in Virginia and Alabama.  Once it became clear that Omorosa was useless, she got the same treatment that used toilet paper gets.

O Where is Her White Knight Now?

Trump’s Strumpet: Kicked to the Curb

Those with sources in the White House like Urban Radio White House reporter April Ryan, say Omorosa’s colleagues universally regard as ignorant and arrogant, with a permanent imperious attitude to boot. And beyond that nobody knew what her job description was; “Sister Girl” was all over the place.  So, there was much rejoicing amongst the white folks in the White House upon word of here unceremonious and abrupt departure.  Now she is playing the wronged, wounded, black woman who is pained over the way the Republicans are treating “My people…”

Well, from all the reactions I’ve witnessed from Afro-Americans, and I’ve seen a few – they are prominently displayed all over the internet – Omorosa fares no better than with her white co-workers in the White House.  Many long time Black Republicans have publicly accused her of being a “gatekeeper,” who used her position to block out more competent Afro-Americans -and they are legion – from Trump’s inner circle. She is widely regarded in the wider black community as a quisling and vulgar opportunist whose allegiance is dictated by expedience.  I’m reminded of a verse from “No Hiding Place,” an old hymn that was popular in the black community when I was a boy: “I went to the rock to hide my face / but the rock cried out no hiding place / O sinner man, there’s no hiding place down here.”

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Perusing photographs of Donald Trump and Omorosa Manigault together conjures up bitter memories from a shameful American past, where access to beautiful black women was regarded as the right of rich and powerful white men; a prerogative practiced by some of the most distinguished white men in American history, virtually all of them unabashed white supremacist.

We witnessed this practice after it accidentally spilled out into the open a couple of years ago when MS. V. Stiviano – a beautiful half black half Mexican lady – who was the clandestine concubine of Donald Sterling, owner the San Diego Clippers basketball franchise, put his racist hatred and penis envy of his black players on blast.  When she put his business in the streets he lost the franchise and his clueless white wife.

Beauty and the Beast

Donald Sterling and his Dusky Concubine

I have written an in-depth essay exploring the issues of race, class and ethnicity surrounding this affair (see: “Beauty and the Beast” at https://commentariesonthetimes.me/2014/05/16/on-racism-privilege-and-power/ )

Historically, racist white males were the most ardent at bedding beautiful black women, because it was a status symbol among their peers, the “good ol boys.”   It was part and parcel of the etiquette of white male supremacy.   However, like most of America’s barbaric history of white supremacy, this practice was banished from the public eye and relegated to the dustbin of US history.  I am aware of this tawdry tradition, which encompasses most of our national history, because I witnessed it growing up in Florida and I studied about it in scholarly texts.

Powerful white men of the political class who had black female lovers include George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Thaddeus Stevens and Strom Thurman.   Hence if Trump and Omorosa have ever been undercover lovers it would be nothing unusual in American history. The relentless, fevered, promotion of the white female as the most feminine, beautiful and sexually desirable woman on earth makes it hard for some whites to believe that a rich powerful white man would choose a black woman.

Prince Harry gets a pass – except from the White Nationalist crowd terrified of genetic annihilation – because his fiancée Megan Markel is not visibly black, although her mother is a dreadlock wearing Soul Sista and Queen Elizabeth described her future daughter-in-law as “exotic.”  But Megan would have been simply classified as “Negro” for most of my lifetime, and if she lived in the south during segregation as I did, she would have been subjected to every legal restraint that the blackest African Americans were subjected to because the Supreme Court refused to make a distinction between the legal status of “pure Negroes” and people of “mixed blood” when the issue was clearly raised in the 1896 Plessy v Ferguson decision.

I had neighbors when I was growing up in Florida that were whiter than Megan but were legally classified as “Negroes,” and so were some members of my family who moved to New York and Pennsylvania where they “passed” for white, which was illegal. In fact, Afro-Americans have a term to describe our folks who look like them: “Light, bright damned near white!’

Congressman Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania – the architect of Radical Reconstruction policies that secured the status of former slaves as free  people – is the only one of the powerful white men I listed above who was willing to marry his Afro-American lover, Lydia Hamilton Smith, who was of mixed blood but was considered a “colored woman.”  A divorcee with two sons by a previous marriage to a free black man, she was formally identified as his “housekeeper” during the 21 years they lived together 1847-1868.  But she was known to all their neighbors and friends as Steven’s “common law wife.”

In the biopic “Lincoln” we see Steven’s proposing marriage, but like Olivia Pope Lydia refused his proposal of marriage because she felt it would hurt the important work she wanted to see him accomplish. Lydia told him that she would rather have the passage of the 13th Amendment permanently abolishing slavery than a marriage certificate.  However, for the others their black concubines dare not hope to be honored by marriage. And this racial prohibition remained true even after they had children together.  Sally Hemmings had seven children for Thomas Jefferson, but she remained his slave, and her children became the property of Jefferson’s children by his white wife upon his death.

Strom Thurman, a Senator from South Carolina, who was the longest serving member upon his death, impregnated a black teenage maid that worked for his family.  They had a child with whom Thurman maintained a secret relationship even while he was leading the racist “Dixiecrat” movement to deny his daughter and her mother basic human rights.   Yet they never outed the old hypocrite, although many people in South Carolina knew. I first heard of her from a friend who was her classmate at South Carolina State, an all- black college, where a special room was set aside for Thurman’s secret visits to his daughter.   And his daughter, Essie Mae, published her account of their relationship after Thurman’s death.

Essie Mae

Strom’s Secret Black Daughter

Although Thurman spent his early political career as a Democrat, like virtually all the hardcore white racists in the Democratic Party, he switched to the Republican Party after Democratic President Lyndon navigated through Congress and signed the 1964 Omnibus Civil rights act and 1965, and he was much celebrated during his final days in Congress.  Largely as a result of the radical changes in American race relations brought about by this bill, white men in powerful political office can marry their chocolate lady loves.  Bill di Blasio, the Mayor of New York, Americans premiere city, the financial and cultural capitol of the world, has married his Black First Lady Chirlane.  Not so long ago this would have cost di Blasio the election, but he just won a second term.

The Mayor and First Lady Of New York
A Sunday Kind of Love

However, regarding the question that is the raison d’etre for this essay, the answer is no!  Even if Omorosa was sleeping with Fat Donnie, she is not his Olivia Pope, she has little in common with Pope. The nature of her overall relationship with Trump would cast her in the mold of Sally Hemmings or  Strom Thurman’s mistress.  Now, if rumors about a clandestine liaison between George W. Bush and the brilliant, glamorous, Condoleezza Rice are true, Condi would be George’s Olivia Pope.  In any case Omorosa has promised to write a book about her experiences in the Trump White House…I hope she tells all.

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin
December 2017

Donnie Dimwit and the Indians!

Posted in On Donald Trump with tags , , on December 23, 2017 by playthell

It was like a bad Comedy Skit

Navajo War Heroes Insulted by Draft Dodging Coward!

Recently Donald J. Trump held a White House ceremony honoring Native American “code speakers,” world war II heroes that helped this nation win the War against the formidable “Empire of the Rising Sun,” because they conveyed messages in their native language and Japanese intelligence could not translate them. According to military leaders, these soldier- were a critical secret weapon in the American war effort. These men are genuine American heroes, and it is a stain upon the character of the US that they should have been used as props for Trump’s petty political attacks against a sitting US Senator.  When Trump turned to the Indian honorees after insulting Senator Warren while offering silly compliments to them…he was greeted with silence and the coldest stone-faced stare I have ever seen from a living person.

Alas the pompous, narcissistic, abysmally ignorant, racist, compulsive liar that presently stinks up the White House and debases his office on a daily basis – White trash with money largely elected by white trash without money who see in him the personification of their most cherished values – failed to see that he was also insulting the Navajo veterans when called Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas.” Implying that she is that she is a liar when she claims her Native American heritage.

But since Trump has been flagged over 200 times for lying by Washington Post fact checkers, everything he claims should be viewed with a jaundiced eye as a matter of course.  Hence, I decided to investigate the Republican charge that Senator Warren – one of the finest minds in the US Senate and a leading advocate for the poor and powerless – lives in a five million dollar “mansion” and faked a Native American heritage to get a professorship at Harvard Law School.

The facts show that there is no truth to these claims. Senator Warren bases her kinship to the Cherokee nation on stories her mother told her.  And given the tragic history of Native Americans that oral tradition, based on family lore passed down over generations, is often the only way they have been able to maintain their identity and trace kinship ties.  Hence attacks upon the Senator’s veracity questions her character and impugns her integrity despite the absence of any evidence upon which to base their slanderous claims. This begs the question: Why do Republicans, from the top down, persists in reciting these charges as if they were Gospel?

This is especially troubling when the truth is so readily at hand; it is a special species of hubris that was first expressed in Trump’s claim: “I could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and get away with it!”  The latest expression of this brazen hubris is Devious Donnie’s apparent belief that he can just straight up lie to his acolytes with no shame in his game and get away with it….and so far so good.

When Newsweek, one of our great journalistic enterprises employing some of the best journalist in the world, looked into the “mansion” claim they concluded:

“Public real estate records suggest Warren’s house is not by any means what one might imagine a mansion to be, boasting a modest four bedrooms and three to three-and-a-half baths. Warren’s home last sold in 1995 for less than $500,000, and market estimates currently vary quite a bit for its potential resale value.”

From the Right-Wing Propaganda Machine
Appealing to the worst in White America

The charge that Senator Warren got her job at Harvard unfairly by claiming a bogus Native American heritage, also crumbles under the slightest scrutiny. Based on documents examined by the Boston Globe, Senator Warren wrote “No” when she was asked if she wanted to be considered for a program for minority students on her admissions application at Rutgers University.  And when she was asked her racial identity while applying for a job at the University of Texas, Warren described herself as “White!”

Furthermore, Charles Fried, who was chairman of the committee that recommended the appointment of Elizabeth Warren to the Harvard Law Faculty during 1995, told the Boston Herald that Senator Warren’s ethnic identity was not a factor.  “It simply played no role in the appointments process.  It was not mentioned.”  In a separate interview Fried, who was a solicitor General under Ronald Reagan, says “I can state categorically that the subject of her Native American ancestry never once was mentioned.”

Furthermore, Warren said that she did not apply for the job at Harvard Law, she was recruited.  Anybody who knows anything about the academic marketplace know that’s how it happens at the top.  All the evidence shows that the charges against Senator Warren are slanderous lies knowingly repeated ad nauseum as Republican talking points. With an air of disappointment and surprise, the Senator told MSNBC:

“This was supposed to be an event to honor heroes, people who put it all on the line for our country, and people who because of their incredible work saved the lives of countless Americans and our allies.  It is deeply unfortunate that the President of the United States cannot even make it through a ceremony honoring these heroes without having to throw out a racial slur.”

Native American groups and scholars have been quick to offer protests over Trump’s ignorant slurring of Native American Indians by calling Senator Warren Pocahontas, a figure which many Native Americans consider a symbol of contempt for their people and culture.   And they have no doubt that Donald Trump intends it as such.  Geographer Andrew Curley, a citizen of the Navajo Nation and postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina, who specializes in the study of “Indigenous Sovereignty,” aka the independence of Indian nations in relations with the US government, was candid in his views regarding Trump and Native Americans.

Dr. Curley said in a Newsweek interview: “Pocahontas is used as a racial slur in the United States all the time.  I grew up with these kinds of remarks.  It’s not the name itself but the way it’s used.  Trump is using it to attack Senator Warren and belittle Native Americans at the same time.   I take it as a personal insult.”  Curley says he considers the name in the same category of insult as the Washington football team’s use of the name “Redskins.”

Dr. Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, Professor Emeritus, at California State University, has written that the Pocahontas story “borders on child pornography, given that the historical Pocahontas was a child when she met John Smith” in her 2016 book, “All the Real Indians Died Off: And 20 Other Myths about Native Americans.”   And as I write Russell Begaye, President of the Navajo Nation, who was in attendance at the ceremony honoring the ‘Code talkers,” is speaking on this question on MSNBC and he says Trump’s name calling marred the occasion.

Begaye issued a statement that said in part: “In this day and age, all tribal nations still battle insensitive references to our people. The prejudice that Native American people face is an unfortunate historical legacy,” When asked about the president’s objective in hurling a racist slur at Senator Warren during the ceremony, Trump’s Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee responded with the same old BS: “What most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career.”

The fact that this is an easily disproven lie, yet the President’s spokesperson declares it as truth before the world, suggests that Joseph Goebbels’ strategy of the “Big Lie” has been fully adopted by the Trump administration; especially when viewed in light of Devious Donnie’s constant attacks on the free press. Yet this not the first time Dumb Donald has challenged the authenticity of Native Americans identity.

Dirty Donnie once went to court in New York in an attempt to discredit a group of Indians because he coveted their right to open gambling casinos on their reservations, while gambling remained illegal in New York City. In May 4, 1993 New York Times article, we are told: “Donald J. Trump, who owns three casinos in Atlantic City, has sued the Federal Government, maintaining that allowing Indian tribes to open casinos discriminates against him.”  Trump even went so far as to publicly declare “They don’t look like Indians to me!”  As if he had a clue.  The NYT article closes with a quote the sums up DD’s vicious racist avarice succinctly:

In an interview with The Associated Press, George Schneider, a lawyer representing 2,000 Ramapoughs in northern New Jersey and New York, said of Mr. Trump: “This guy is unbelievable. His father hands him a multimillion-dollar empire. The Native American Indians are lucky if they can give their children food, clothing and a roof over their head.”

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However, the most egregious offense the honorees endured at this ceremony honoring Native American heroes for their courageous and invaluable service in the US Marine Corps, was the fact that it was staged right in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States who held captive black people as slaves, and was one of the most notorious Indian killers in US history!  In the revelatory text “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” which is based on the US government’s stenographic records of negotiations with Native American leaders and documents white American treachery, Jackson is referred to as “Sharp Knife” by the Indians, while he is celebrated by white Americans as “The Great Democratizer,” a champion of the common man.

Nothing demonstrates the vast difference in the competing narratives through which white and non-white Americans view US history than the way Andrew Jackson is remembered.  Black people see him as a cruel racist and native American commentators have described him as a genocidal killer.  Jackson first revealed his murderous proclivities when he was ordered to seize Creek and Cherokee lands by President Thomas Jefferson – a Virginia slave holder who personifies the Schizoid national character resulting from the contradiction between America’s boisterous celebration of individual liberty and equality, and the oppressive murderous polices the European settler/colonialists practiced against Africans and Indians.

General Jackson ordered his soldiers to kill Indian men, women and children in an attempt to exterminate them.  In the process he stole 23 million acres of Creek land in southeastern Georgia and central Alabama on behalf of the US government, upon which white settlers established slave plantations employing African labor.  And when he became President, Jackson signed the “Indian Removal Act” on May 28, 1830.

This law required the remaining Indian tribes which had not been decimated by the violence of white settlers to relocate west of the Mississippi River.  Those who refused to leave their homes such as the Cherokee, were forcibly removed by the US military on a forced march that has become know to history as the notorious “Trail of Tears.” Several thousand Cherokees died on this horrendous trek, but it is a largely forgotten incident in the official American Saga.  It is instructive that “Old Hickory” is Donnie Dimwit’s Hero!

Old Sharp Knife

Mass Murderer!

That’s why some observers think the ceremony honoring Native American military heroes was purposely staged with the portrait of Jackson “The Indian Killer” prominently displayed in the background. I disagree, I don’t think DD had a clue.  I agree with the long-time Republican pundit George Will, who observed: “The problem with Donald Trump is that he doesn’t know what it is to know something.”  Hence, I believe that Donnie Dimwit is a buffoon, charlatan and know nothing, and his latest disgrace of his office is due as much to stupidity as venality, since he routinely displays generous portions of both.

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Commentaries On The Times
Harlem, New York
December, 2017

Sweet Home Alabama!

Posted in On Donald Trump, Playthell on politics with tags , on December 17, 2017 by playthell

Senator Elect Doug Jones and Supporters

Bamas Reject Racist, Sexist, Reactionary Politics

The look of resignation on the faces of the crowd gathered at the Campaign headquarters of Roy Moore when they heard of Doug Jones’ victory last night, conjured up images of what citizens of Montgomery – then the capitol of the southern confederacy – must have looked like when they heard that their beloved General Robert E. Lee had surrendered to General U.S. Grant.   They looked as if their world had come to an end, another grand cause lost.  One need only survey the ubiquitous grey heads in this crowd of deluded geezers to see that they represented Alabama’s past and the election results represent the hope of a different and better future.

Nowhere is this dichotomy in generational views demonstrated more dramatically than in the men the Democrats and Republicans put forth as candidates for the United States Senate.  Roy Moore represents the worst of the dismal southern past: A bible thumping, scripture quoting, racist, sexist, homophobic old hypocrite, Moore was the hope of the backward-looking Alabamians who pine for the days when being white meant you were somebody special even if you were an ugly, stupid, po ass redneck.

Moore’s beliefs and behavior, while outrageous and even unlawful – as in the charges of pedophilia – made him the hero of this crowd who seem to want to fight the Civil War all over again.   For instance, this is a guy who has been twice kicked off the judicial bench in Alabama because he refused to follow the law when it conflicted with his dogmatic religious beliefs.  Moore has said he thinks homosexual behavior is criminal and therefore homosexual marriage an abomination. And in response to his mouthing the Trumpist slogan “Make America Great Again,” a black reporter asked him when did he think America was great in the past.

Roy Moore: Fake Cowboy and Fake Christian

This Poseur Can’t Ride Worth Shit!

To wit the clueless old Neo-Confederate sympathizer cited the Antebellum south during “slavery times,” as the old folks who had endured the horrors of slavery used to say when I was a boy in Florida.  Moore actually said: “Of course we had slavery back then, but our families were united.”  Yet a basic feature of US slavery was the destruction of black families, who were the property of plantation owners with no more rights than live-stock.  This was made plain in the Dred Scott Decision of 1857, in which Justice Rodger B. Taney wrote “Black men have no rights that white men are bound to respect.”

That someone running for the US Senate could say such an outrageous thing at the dawning of the 21st century, and not cause an uproar from the US population, is further evidence that the Master Narrative of American civilization still relies more on self-serving white supremacist propaganda than the peer reviewed scholarly evidence presented by professional historians.  The fact is that Moore has added a grievous insult to the grotesque injuries Afro-Americans have suffered from the experience of chattel slavery in the US.

It was a massive crime against humanity that was legally practiced under American law for over two centuries, and spawned a legal caste system that insured the continuance of white supremacy in America for a century after slavery was ended in Civil War, the most destructive war in history up to that time.  It was only after the Supreme Court reversed Plessy V Ferguson in the Brown v Board of ED decision of 1954, followed by the Omnibus Civil rights Bill of 1964, that the legal oppression of Afro-Americans based on race – the criminalization of their skin color – ended.

This is such a shameful history that it is no wonder the official myth makers of white America want to play it down or try and pretend it never happened; as some southern states are doing by leaving the question of slavery out of their public-school textbooks in discussing the cause of the Civil War.  They prefer, instead, to talk about “States Rights” and “the northern invasion.”  The propagation of these fictive lies in the place of historical truth is the reason that we are still fighting over the public display of monuments honoring the Confederacy as I write – although it is akin to flying Nazi flags and building monuments to the Third Reich in Germany.

Roy Moore represents this shameful past, and Doug Jones represents a hopeful future where people of all races and sexual orientations can live together under the equal protection of the law.  Jones was elected by a coalition that has the potential to bring about progressive change everywhere in the US: minorities, women, progressive white men, and the LGBT community.  However due to the disparate interests of the various factions this is a combustible coalition that could blow up if identity politics become an issue.

This election provided ideal conditions for a winning alliance to form.  As the successful prosecutor of the white Ku Klux Klan terrorists who bombed a black church in Birmingham Alabama, murdering four lovely bright young girls attending Sunday School, Doug Jones is a hero to many Afro-Americans.  To choose him over a reactionary racist like Moore was a piece of cake.

What I find harder to explain is why so many white commentators find it surprising that Black Alabamians turned out to the polls in nearly the same numbers as they voted for Barack Obama.  I would have been surprised if the turnout had been otherwise.  Afro-American support for Jones was critical, according to Dave Wasserman, an editor at the authoritative Cook Political Report. who posted some of the numbers on Twitter.

For instance, in Selma, the Seat of Dallas County where a bloody struggle for voting rights took place during the 1960’s, 74% of black voters turned out.  And in Perry County, where Dr. King recruited participants for the Poor People’s Campaign, the turnout was 78%.  Their votes check mated the white rural vote for Roy Moore.  And 90% of all black voters cast their ballots for Doug Jones; in some counties their percentage of the vote exceeded their percentage of the population.

The fact that Roy Moore is an accused pedophile by several credible women, and he was strongly supported by the Groper-In-Chief in the Oval Office, caused him to lose many women voters, and his blatant homophobia turned the gay community against him.  His disregard for the Constitution’s prohibition against government promotion of religion alienated those who wish to maintain a secular society and prefer judges that follow the law. Since Doug Jones embodies all the virtues that Roy Moore lacks, the advantage accrued to him in this election.

This is demonstrated by the dramatic turnarounds in some counties.  For instance, Trump won the Tuscaloosa area – where the University of Alabama is located – by 20%, but Jones won it by 16% which is a 36% turnaround. In Lee County, where Auburn University is located the turnaround is even more dramatic.  Trump won the county by 23% but Jones won by 17%, which is a turnaround of 40%.

But the biggest looser in this election is Steve Bannon, the pompous poot-butt frantic frump, who has declared war on the Republican establishment and was the chief strategist for the Moore campaign.  Some Republicans in Congress have had enough, and are rethinking the Faustian Bargain they made with the iconoclastic charlatan.  Congressman Peter King of New York probably spoke for a lot of his colleagues when he asked: “How did this guy who looks like a dischelved drunk become the face of the Republican Party?”

The numbers from Lee County are especially interesting because Charles Barkley, who campaigned vigorously on behalf of Jones, was a basketball star at Auburn.  And in a state with no professional sports teams, being a major college star is a really big deal…especially if they go on to a Hall of Fame Career in Professional sports. Hence, I believe the role Charles Barkley, a native of Alabama, played in swaying the election to Doug Jones is underplayed, especially when one considers the critical role of the black vote.

Charles Barkley

Homeboy says: “Lets Stop Lookin Like Fools!”

In any case, it is to Alabama’s enduring shame that the election was so close.  Compared to the deeply flawed character of Roy Moore, Doug Jones is a white knight in shining armor.  Hence choosing Jones should have been a no-brainer.  Delusional old fool that he is, I suspect Roy Moore thinks galloping up to the polls on horseback makes him look heroic.   If a short fat guy like Napoleon Bonaparte looks heroic on a horse why not me he might well have asked himself.  Alas, as a life-long horse lover and rider, I was appalled by his brutal ineptness in handling his horse – yanking on the reins with two hands under western style tack and bouncing about like a sack of potatoes.  Hence, despite myriad reasons not to vote for this charlatan, this should have easily cost him the equestrian vote.

Steve Bannon: The Frantic Funky Frump

Wondering WTF Went Wrong!

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
December 2017