Thursday, November 24, 2005

Ancestry Cover Posted by Picasa

What's the Difference?

My anti-virus software somehow couldn't load its driver, that set me off on fixing a computer-related problem. So I've been offline for a couple of days. I'm the sort who wants the thing just to work, so I always resent the time spent and the time away from doing what I want to be doing. But, hey it's Thanksgiving, and I'm very grateful for computers and the Internet.

I'm much more thankful for all of you my dear friends.

On Tuesday I delivered a paper "blog" to a friend. It's just a booklet I rather crudely crafted and entiltled If I Knew Then What I Know Now. The idea is to put something on an open page of the booklet, that's two facing pages. Clearly we all know much more than can fit in such a small space. So it doesn't much matter what you choose when the booklet comes around, just choose something and don't take too much time dithering about it before handing it off to the next person. I'm looking forward to getting the booklet back and eventually sending it to my friend Nathan for his community to see.

Marie Daulne, the Zaire-born visionary behind Zap Mama is pictured on the cover of a new Zap Mama album. I haven't heard it yet, but I love Zap Mama. Here's a blurb about Ancestry:
The American beat is a revolution all over the world," she says. "Everybody listens to it and everybody follows it. But the beat of the United States was inspired by the beat coming from Africa. Not just its structure, but the sound of it. This is the source of modern sounds, the history of the beat, starting from little pieces of wood banging against one another, and arriving on the big sound-systems today. It's genius. So I wanted to create an album about the evolution of old ancestral beats, how they traveled from Africa, mixing with European and Asian sounds, and were brought to America.
One of my favorite pieces of writing is Invocation which prefaces Stephen Vincet Benet's John Brown's Body. It begins:
American muse, whose strong and diverse heart
So many men have tried to understand
But only made it smaller with their art
Because you are as various as your land,

As mountainous - deep, as flowered with blue rivers,
Thirsty with deserts, buried under snows,
As native as the shape of Navajo quivers
And native, too, as the sea-voyaged rose.
Bringing up this "diverse heart" often seems to set black Americans off because I seem to present a lack of appreciation for my white priviledge. Possibly in the same vein, appropriation of culture emerging from the experiences of black people in America is regarded as "theft."

Liberal is a word that's gooey. I do share a view with many others, esecially the trenchant Frances Moore Lappe, that we must be willing to examine our premises, including classic liberalism. So I'm willing to hold the word at arms length for examination, but unwilling to cast liberalism into the depths of hell, as so many of my fellow Americans do.

In Harpers Garret Keizer wrote an essay Life Everlasting: The religious right and the right to die brimming with awful and wonderful observations about our culture. He writes that bills in favor of Physician Assisted Suicide rest on two principles: The first that "we are owners of our own lives.
The second principle, without which liberal individualism always devolves into preciousness, is that we are collective owners of the culture we produce collectively.
So many of us are alienated from one another, our community and culture. Discussing issues cross-culturally with my African friends the reflected view of American culture is often surprising to see what is best in it.

Marie Daulne's father was Belgin living in Zaire (now called DRC)and her mother African. He was killed by people who hated white people, a hatred understandable given the history of the place. She along with her mother and siblings escaped into the bush and finally immigrated to Belguim to unite with her father's family who didn't know they existed. Yet through this great trauma in childhood, Daulne looks at the beauty in the world. She points to it in places most never look. So it was exciting for me to discover that she'd lived for a while in Philadelphia to explore the sound of American popular music. Being of "a certain age" that she chose Philadelphia pleases me.

In the year of my birth James Baldwin's Notes of a Native Son was published. An essay in the book, Stranger in the Village Baldwin observed:
This world is white no longer, and it will never be white again.
What a difference that makes.

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