Archive for November, 2014

Jingo Jingles

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

I was offended by the Veterans’ Day observance yesterday at my granddaughter’s school.  Veterans like me don’t consider the holiday an occasion for celebration but rather for reflection on the death and destruction of war.  Instead, my neighborhood school treated us to a canned holiday program, complete with recorded accompaniment, celebrating nationalism with bad music.  

Kids used to sing good music in school. The music teacher would accompany us on the piano.  Now that public education has became a lucrative industry, the old public-domain standards have been replaced by computer-generated programs for mixed elementary school chorus, complete with sheet music, CD, and recommended commentary.  Something for every occasion, no doubt.

The Veterans’ Day program our kids performed (remarkably well, considering how unmusical and unoriginal the tunes were) put melodies to selected words of our constitution and thanked veterans in song for protecting our freedom (neglecting to mention the wanton killing that stopped temporarily with the armistice the holiday is supposed to mark).  I wonder how much the Hartford Public Schools paid for this program and whether there is a single music teacher who thinks it’s really music. I didn’t see a sign of musical enjoyment in any child at any time during the performance, and I was in the front row.

The prayer to the flag (a pledge of allegiance equal to any vow taken at a Hitlerjugend assembly) was invoked twice, and the kids sang the national anthem twice, too, which was excessive.  The singers were so good, and so uninspired at the same time.  Eventually, the veterans were asked to stand up and be recognized.  I was ashamed and embarrassed, but I stood up anyway.

Next year, consider a good rendition of “Tenting on the Old Camp Ground” and “The Marines’ Hymn” and maybe some comments from an actual veteran on the  history of the  holiday and its significance to people who served in uniform.

Race Unspoken

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Has anybody else noticed the absence from political discussion of the role of race hatred in this election? Is it not clear that a huge factor in the nation’s apparent turn to the right was the color of Barack Obama’s skin? Republicans across the country made Obama their main issue. They didn’t have to mention his color. They just showed his face in key media markets, and they won the election. Are we really going to roll out the red carpet for rich people and have a war with Iran because our president isn’t white?

This country contains a core of caucasians–probably less than a majority, but still a lot of people–who really wish non-whites would just disappear. The smear campaign that Republicans employed to win the election (against a leader I revile as much as they do) was an ill-disguised lynch mob meant to attract white supremacist voters. Certainly, the deception couldn’t have fooled the mass media, but they’re not talking about it.

I’ve been half-expecting to hear some pundit say (as you might have said to your wife or husband), “That’s the last time Dems are going elect an African. It’s political suicide. Too many white racists casting ballots.” If there’s been such a discussion, I’ve missed it.

It’s like the other topic that can’t take in any discussion of race: disease in West Africa. Reporters are obliged to forget that a solid minority of white Americans wish an epidemic could just kill all the dark-skinned people. This is a truth that most dark-skinned people suspect and virtually all caucasians recognize from day-to-day interactions. But it can’t be discussed. Such discussions are called “playing the race card,” and they’re disfavored in enlightened company.

A big part of the racial gulf that divides us neighbors is this studied silence . Blacks tend to interpret the silence of whites as cover, while whites tend to interpret the silence of blacks as acquiescence. Either way, this is a morbid condition, and you have to wonder whether the election might have had a different outcome if someone had broken the silence.