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He could dance. He could sing. He could do both at the same time and make it look effortless.

But, he has been dead only a few hours and already I am sick of the eulogizing.

The dude had serious problems.

He did not want to be a black man. He spent umpteen dollars on surgery and treatment to look more and more white, and more and more feminine. He lived in a theme park like a 12-year-old who became rich.

He preferred the playtime company of children. Was it all none-sexual? Hard to believe.

He made the artist formerly, and now again known as Prince seem normal.
In my previous post, I briefly considered the official White House reaction to the Iranian Protest.

In a nutshell, I am not altogether offended by President Obama's caution. By eschewing the traditional American harsh and unequivocal response in similar cases, the President wisely passes up the temptation to make the United States a center of attention in this internal struggle.

Even more importantly, as I intimated, and the Okie Gardener better articulated, we are "not giving unrealistic expectations to the demonstrators." On a macro moral level, the instances in which freedom-loving dissidents rise up, propelled by the false hopes of a decisive United States intervention, have too often concluded with heartbreaking and cruelly tragic misfortune.

On the other hand, by staying mum while the multitudes bravely take to the streets in pursuit of life, liberty, and peaceful change strikes many of us as craven--or at least quite peculiar. It is in our nature to stand up and yell out our support for and solidarity with our brothers in arms across the seas. As I said before, we have been doing this for more than two hundred years.

However, Obama Americanism is not quite that reflexive (at least not in the same direction). It is a studied skepticism for notions like "natural rights" and the inherent benevolence of American-style democracy. Barack Obama is the first president from a generation of Americans educated in the nation's finest institutions of higher learning transformed during the 1970s and beyond by the advent and establishment of a New Left ethos. At Columbia and Harvard one learns to appreciate cultural relativism and give great weight to the murky and sometimes inconsistent history of American foreign policy and the sometimes hypocritical struggle for freedom at home. President Obama comes to us steeped in nuance, irony, and cynicism.

Is that Enough?

Sometimes we want more than the detached cool of the knowing academic. Sometimes we want and need an official cri de coeur from the President of the United States. Sometimes we need some Daniel Webster.

A Thought Experiment:

When I watch the scene in Casablanca in which Freedom Fighter Victor Laszlo orchestrates the public singing of "La Marseillaise," drowning out the Nazis and "Die Wacht am Rhein," I cannot help myself: I tear up (watch here via You Tube--if you have never seen it, seriously, do yourself a favor).

Vive le France!

Vive Michael Curtiz!

God Bless America!

Godspeed to the brave souls in the streets of Tehran!

My Question:

I wonder, does Barack Obama cry when he watches that scene?

Do you get weepy watching that scene?


PREDICTION: For the record, I think the pressure is mounting for the President to come out strongly in support of the protesters. Regardless of whether he feels solidarity in his heart for their cause, I expect an eloquent statement identifying our history with the democratic yearnings of the masses in Iran.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Recently my wife and I drove to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and toured the Gilcrease Museum. Built around the art collection of an Oklahoma oilman, the Gilcrease houses an astounding collection of American art. Well worth the time and expense of a trip to Tulsa.

I first became aware of this museum several years ago when I noticed that many of the paintings printed in the American history textbooks I used were housed there.

The collection includes

James Madison (1792) by Charles Wilson Peale

Black Hawk and His Son, Whirling Thunder (1833) by John Wesley Jarvis

Boone's First View of Kentucky (1849) by William T. Ranney

And many, many more, including sculptures.

The art collection includes over 10,000 paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures by 400 artists from colonial times to the present. Some of the important, non-western artists featured in the Gilcrease Collection include Thomas Eakins, Robert Feke, Charles Wilson Peale, Daniel Chester French, John Singleton Copley, James McNeil Whistler, John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, John James Audubon, William Merritt Chase, and N. C. Wyeth. Among the Western artists for which Gilcrease is renowned are the following:

Albert Bierstadt
William M. Cary
George Catlin
Woody Crumbo
William R. Leigh
Alfred Jacob Miller
Thomas Moran Frederic Remington (including 18 of his 22 bronzes)
Charles M. Russell
Olaf Seltzer
Joseph H. Sharp
Willard Stone
Charles Banks Wilson
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Two hundred years ago Baptists were not organized into a national denomination. Instead, the Baptist movement, in two or three streams, had no national structures, local churches organizing into Associations. Baptists were, in general, not wealthy nor especially educated. They were not "high society." But, as the American nation grew and developed, so did Baptists. The majority organizing a national denomination (the Convention). But, the minority of Baptists remained outside this endeavor, for various reasons. They looked back to older, traditional ways. And among the treasures kept, was the real old-time music. Even when newer hymns were adopted, they were sung without instrumental accompanyment.

Much of this Baptist minority became the Primitive or Old School Baptist movement. Here is some of their music:

Audio, with a still picture of the Meeting House.

Last week I introduced you to Sacred Harp singing. Here is more, in a PB church.

This video sound a lot like the Primitive Baptist churches in which I grew up.

Another group of the Baptist minority is the Old Regular Baptists, found mostly in the Appalachians. Now they have preserved the real old time singing. Listening to them is like time traveling to a Baptist meeting in 1800. Some Primitive Baptist churches also sing like this, mostly in the mountains.

When Shall We Meet from the Smithsonian Folkways recording.

At a baptism, listen to the singing at the beginning of the video.

I Am a Poor Pilgrim of Sorrow another Smithsonian Folkways recording.