Sunday, July 15, 2018

"The Invisible Man" - When Hope Turns to Revenge

“When we take away from a man (woman, animal, earth itself) his traditional way of life, his customs, his religion, we had better make certain to replace I with something of value.” Robert Ruark

I keep these words on the wall above my computer so that I can be reminded of them daily to better understand what is happening with me and the world of my experience each day. Every time I experience something or read something I realize that what is happening in my world (beginning with me – a female in a white man’s world, the environment and the endless cycle of war, famine and poverty) is the result of treating this piece of advice as fake news.  I have a great deal of respect for  understanding the teachings of Jesus as a foundation for living to help me understand what it is that  oftentimes robs me of finding the “peace that passeth understanding” that Jesus lived.
 I grew up reading the Bible and believe in the truth and wisdom of these teachings, but I do not discount the teachings of others who have been enlightened, especially by honest observation of the world around them, and have their own parables designed to help me better understand spiritual truths that transcend this physical world, whether of some other faith or simply the playwrights and authors that have shared these ideas in great works of literature and the other arts. Robert Ruark did it in his best-selling book “Something of Value” and as I have delved into the authors from the Harlem Renaissance I am beginning to see how their works illustrate how the African Americans both in the North and the South are still in bondage because of Mr. Roark’s astute prediction. I could also see how all of us (women, indigenous people, immigrants, Asians and on and on) have been affected in the same way.

I just completed the chapter in “The Invisible Man” where the main character goes North with seven letters of introduction to some of the most powerful men on Wall St.  He doesn’t open the letters but believes in the truth of what the President of his all black college in the South has told him is written in the letters. The character believes that he will spend the summer in the North working for men of power who will make it possible for him to return to school in the Fall and redeem himself in order to graduate to follow in the footsteps of the esteemed President.This journey to the North has been the history of the African American in his/her struggle to be free and reap the fruits of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” which is what the North has always meant to the African American.
 What the main character of “The Invisible Man” learns is much the same as the experience of Richard Wright after he moved to Chicago. 

Wright’s autobiography details the truth of his experience there.  His fictional story “Native Son” is a powerful commentary on the situation in the North and gives the reader an understanding about why the Black Power movement and destructive race riots have been centered in the North instead of the South.  “The Invisible Man” like Native Son and Another Country by James Baldwin are other examples of great classics from the Harlem Renaissance.

After arriving in New York and settling in at the Men’s Club (a YMCA), the main character has a lot of time on his hands because despite visiting all but one of the offices of these powerful men, he never meets any but the secretaries and receives the same response from all after the letters, “he will be getting back to you." The character has encounters with owners of restaurants where he is allowed to sit at the counters with other white people but the white owner's stereotypes are all the same. When he finally gets an interview with the last man on the list, he is shocked by the ugly noise being made by a caged, tropical bird living in this resplendent office.  Why is he making such an ugly noise? The character then remembers a visit to one of the museums on the campus of his all black college.

 “I recalled only a few cracked relics from slavery times: an iron pot, an ancient bell, a set of ankle-irons and links of a chain, a primitive loom, a spinning wheel, a gourd for drinking, an ugly ebony African god that seemed to sneer (presented to the school by some traveling millionaire), a leather whip with copper brads, a branding iron with the double letter MM . . .  preferring instead to look at photographs of the early days after the Civil War . . . And I had not looked at these too often.”  As I remembered the metaphor of the beautiful caged bird, I realized why the bird was making such an ugly noise as I connected it to Robert Roark’s prophetic words.  When I finally discovered the contents of the letter along with the main character, I too, lost hope. The letter began “The Robin bearing this letter is a former student. Please hope him to death and keep him running. . .”
After leaving the Wall St. Office with all hope drained from his heart, the main character hears a black man singing a rhyme he remembered from his childhood.

“Ole well they picked poor Robin clean
Ole well they picked poor Robin clean
Well they tied poor Robin to a stump
Lawd, they picked all the feathers round from Robin’s rump
Well, they picked poor Robin clean.”

When the main character returns to his room, he begins to make a new plan – one now based on revenge.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

The New Carpetbaggers

“Those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.”  This is a quote often put on the wall of my social media pages. One of the things I find most ironic is that whether Democrat, Republican, conservative or liberal posting the quote, all of these are using this quote to take isolated occurrences of an event to prove a point being made by their side to  justify their support of a group of individuals who will make a difference. Most of these quotes usually originate from a site that if one investigates, comes from some group manipulating them to support their cause. I see very little that is original.  From my perspective, all are repeating the errors made over and over in this country, because of the failure of teachers of history and English to do their jobs in preparing students to read in order to understand current events in the context of what has happened in the past – history is not dead and our actions today must be put into a historical context that puts aside the belief that social problems result from the sudden rise to power of some evil entity that a righteous side needs to destroy in order to make society better. This is not the way to preserve freedom; this is the way oligarchs and dictators assume power.

 This is the true cause of the cycle of poverty and war that has robbed this country of the ability to be the true light of freedom for a world in chains - the lack of reading and critical thinking that has created a country where fear and jingoism rule. This makes our whole society vulnerable to those whose only desire is a desire for money and power.  The Founding Fathers who established this so called free country were no more than a group of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant males whose only desire for freedom was freedom from the primogeniture laws that existed in England and the power of the Catholic Church that kept them from having these very things.  A true survey of American history instead of the propaganda of white man’s political history that has been the traditional way of “preserving our heritage” since the inception of this country is what is needed if all of us are going to be able to make sense of what is happening in this country today under the guise of “making America great again.”

Those expounding this belief really mean, from my viewpoint, a return to the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant male rule that has established a country of haves and have nots under its powerful military controlled corpocracy. What we are faced with today is the control of the federal government by one person who has come to power by convincing a group of people that he will return America to its greatness by making America safe from terrorists, restoring God (or the Bible) into the educational system and creating jobs for middle income people to have all of the “things” that are choking the very planet we live on’s ability to sustain life for anyone.  A look at colonialism and empire building that has been at the root of our “greatness” proves that the problems we are facing today are the result of a planet dying and unable to support its people who live there. In addition, the wars and drug empires being built are adding to the problem creating massive numbers of refugees and immigrants coming to this country for refuge and the American dream when our own country can no longer sustain the massive explosion of people and the raping of the environment.
This is the root of the problem and until all sides come together in agreement about this we are truly in danger of allowing another “empire of evil” to take control. This time the empire is the collaboration of the giant Trump Empire with that of Vladimir Putin. This is no different than the alliance between Hitler and Stalin known as the Non-Aggression Pact that gave Hitler the confidence to invade Poland and take over all of Western Europe. His one mistake was believing he had the power to invade Russia as well and, like the Germany of World War I, fight a war on two fronts.
As I read “The Carpetbaggers” by Harold Robbins I am reminded of how the United States power builders after World War I knew what Hitler was doing and how they convinced the United States government to gear up the military industry in preparation for war. This is what truly brought the United States out of the Great Depression. 

The other industry that became powerful in this country was that of Hollywood. The book shows how Hollywood used America’s passion for stories of the Wild West involving the Indian wars that were made popular by Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows. After the invention of motion pictures, these action packed heroics were made possible by using those Indians who could still ride horses as stunt men for the white faced, white hat heroes making the fortunes. The book also recounts the way women were used in these pictures. Shades of all the scandals that still fill the headlines today.

 As I try to make sense of all of this, I think about all the celebrities who have done no more than make a lot of money in this industry who are taking political stands and who are worshipped by an audience that takes their word as gospel.  And as all these spats and quarrels fill the headlines with drama and judgement, those who are profiting still go on behind the scenes making money and building empires from the “spoils” of this never ending war. This is what I am concerned with and until Americans (especially women) come together to help make sense of this entire situation nothing is going to change. “Those who do not learn the lessons of history are destined to repeat it.”