Santeria Centro Habana, 3 November 2014. (Credit: Bernardo Capellini)
Soul of the Drum
On September 29, 1947, Dizzy Gillespie and legendary Cuban drummer Chano Pozo unveiled Afro-Cuban jazz at Carnegie Hall by premiering George Russell’s Cubana Be, Cubana Bop. On that date, Chano’s conga drums and Abakuá chants were first combined with Gillespie’s griot trumpet and his band’s bebop sounds. The integration of jazz and Afro-Cuban music demanded virtuoso accommodations from all performers. But in a shining corner of the universe, the ancient sounds of Africa—heretofore fragmented in diaspora—were reunited again. Chano and Dizzy had bridged two separate and distinct ontologies.(more…)
“The Capitulation of Granada” by Francisco Pradilla Ortiz, oil on canvas, 1882. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
For 800 years, the Spanish fought the Moors in the legendary Reconquista (8th to 15th cent.). Sacred relics from that holy war survive today in the region of Andalucía in Spain: in the cities of Sevilla and Córdoba, and most gloriously, in the magnificent Alhambra of Granada.
That centuries-old conflict was won as such wars against foreign empires are usually won: people inspired by religious beliefs and fighting for their homeland—as Ernest Hemingway reminds us—can be destroyed, but never defeated. The invader faces an endless struggle, reflected in the simple statement of the Confederate soldier who explained to Union soldiers why he fought in the US Civil War: “I fight because you’re here.”
In the countryside of New Jersey, I have seen the end of the Trump Apocalypse and a vision of the future of America after it gives up its imperial aspirations. (more…)
Portrait of Eugene O’Neill by Carl Van Vechten, 5 Sept. 1933. (Credit: U.S. Library of Congress)
After the success of Mourning Becomes Electra on Broadway, Eugene O’Neill labored in silence during twelve years (1934-1946) at the writing of a cycle of eleven plays (“A Tale of Possessors Self-Dispossessed”) which told the story of an American family from before the founding of the republic to the 1930s. One of O’Neill’s sources for his ambitious project was Matthew Josephson’s The Robber Barons: The Great American Capitalists 1861-1901. A reading of Josephson’s book today provides illumination on the contemporary plutocracy that controls the nation today behind the façade of the Trump presidency.
Josephson’s book chronicles the ascendancy to power of that group of capitalists which built railroads (Cornelius Vanderbilt), controlled the oil and steel industries (John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie), and revolutionized the country’s banking and financial sectors (J.P. Morgan and Jay Gould) after the Civil War. (more…)
Hunt the Devil is taking a June break. We will return on Wednesday, July 5, the day after Independence Day, with a post about our better angels.
We’re not letting the month pass without continuing to work on the project of mythic intervention. The pause in posts is allowing us to collect our thoughts about “After Empire,” our next book project.
The book is an exercise in mythic anagnorisis. The spirit of Old Man Coyote inspires us to think about slipping the war trap. How, we ask, might the country’s better angels help the citizenry to envision life beyond forever war? An exodus from war culture and its incantations of empire, as we see it, moves beyond lamentations of militarism into a deliberative space of democracy by dissent.
Future posts here at Hunt the Devil will continue to explore democratic resources for escaping the mindset of war.
Looking eastward over Lake Monroe southeast of Bloomington in Monroe County, Indiana, United States. The scene is on the western edge of the Hoosier National Forest; the photograph is taken from the northeastern corner of Clear Creek Township, and the distant shoreline is located in Salt Creek Township within the Paynetown State Recreation Area. (Credit: Nyttend / Wikimedia Commons)
Hunt the Devil is on holiday through the month of July.
The good life—a concept Kenneth Burke associates with the project of getting along with people—requires “adequate physical expression.” Otherwise, we become “bad poems.”
Physicality balances mentality. Aristotle’s anti-sedentary school of peripatetic philosophy, Burke held, was on the right track in this regard. Physicality helps to cultivate the sentiments and curb the overly ambitious passions, to enrich the social texture and live a more ecological life.
Burke’s idea of the good life is to channelize militaristic passions by transcending into a constructive, creative, cooperative way of being, which is the moral equivalent of war.
Kenneth Burke, Attitudes Toward History, pp. 256-260.
Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy: “The Three Wise Men.” (Credit: Nina Aldin Thune)
You’d wake up in the morning wondering if they were still there but you did not want to meet them, afraid of the magic of their passage which still infused the lighted Christmas tree that you could see in the living room down the hall from your vantage point at the doorway of your bedroom.
Xmas toys were small tokens that fulfilled the date peremptorily, almost a duty since you went to an American school in which instruction occurred in English. (Both Cuban and US holidays were celebrated and they had told you about Santa Claus coming to your house with toys on Christmas Eve.) We had no problem accepting gifts from Santa Claus, but the important toys—bicycles, Lone Ranger costumes, Tonto action figures, Zorro’s secret hideout (a miniature, plastic mountain)—were brought by the Kings on January 6. Train sets were also delivered, which you were not old enough to fix, but which delighted you by running round and around on their own power and on a single track.
Hunt the Devil is a timely and illuminating exploration of demonic imagery in US war culture. In it, Robert L. Ivie and Oscar Giner examine the origins of the Devil figure in the national psyche and review numerous examples from US history of the demonization of America’s perceived opponents. Their analysis demonstrates that American military deployments are often part of a cycle of mythical projection wherein the Devil repeatedly appears anew and must be exorcised through redemptive acts of war, even at the cost of curtailing democratic values.
Meticulously researched, documented, and argued, Hunt the Devil opens with contemporary images of the United States’ global war on terror in the aftermath of 9/11. In five chapters devoted to the demonization of evildoers, witches, Indians, dictators, and Reds by American writers in presidential rhetoric and in popular culture, Ivie and Giner show how the use of demonization in the war on…
Abraham Lincoln believed that there was nothing finer than Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and that Claudius’ monologue in Hamlet (“O my offence is rank!”) was superior to Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech. We are long since from the time when American presidents could render intelligent opinions about Shakespearean plays, and yet Shakespeare—much like the King James Bible written in Shakespeare’s language—still lives and breathes with us. His heroes and villains, his dramatic structures and his words, his myths and fables, are still our own.
Edwin Booth (brother to John Wilkes) was the finest Hamlet of his generation during the last half of the 19th century. In the 1930s John Barrymore (scion of two illustrious theatrical families), was the last great American Hamlet. After Barrymore’s time, the great vitality of American performative artistry—along with Shakespeare and the taste of American presidents—moved over to films and television. (more…)
José Martí. (Credit: Cuba. Secretaría de Instrucción Pública y Bellas Artes / Wikimedia Commons)
It is fitting that these Cuban posts will end one day before the birthday (January 28, 1853) of José Martí. We have had occasion in the past to speak of him. But we have not told how on that day, as if following a silent and sacred call, Cuban school children would deposit notebooks, pencils, rulers and other school supplies at the foot of the monuments in honor of the Maestro. And all of them would have learned the rhymes from the Simple Verses:
When I die
without a country, but without a master over me,
I want on my gravestone a branch of flowers
and a flag.
For most of his life he was a banished wanderer. At 17 he was sentenced to political imprisonment with hard labor in the rock quarries of San Lázaro, in Havana. (more…)