". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Matter That Is The U.S.A. Is

profoundly, African.

A long time ago, maybe at the end of the 80's, I declared to many people that whereas the Matter of Britain was Arthurian, the Matter of the U.S. was Africa.

Periodically since my Other Blog came into being some have kindly participated in discussions about what, culturally, that is our nation, could endure, could sustain us, keep a sense of identity vital, if we were we were as riven from our homes and all we knew, as were the millions transported out of Africa to the New World. Whether people realized it or not, with hardly an exception, everything invoked came out of African American cultural roots.

Here we see popular UK historian, Simon Schama, underlining with his personal experience, one that so many USians and others alike have experienced -- what entrances him, exhilarates him, about his nation is -- black.

[ Why should the blues make you feel so happy? This is what I remember asking myself as the student ship MS Aurelia sailed under the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, on its way from New York back to Britain. Maybe it was an American thing, this peculiar mix of loss and desire; the need to get away and the certainty you’d be back. Maybe I, a first-time summer visitor to the United States, was already an American thing?
A few weeks earlier, on a sultry August night, I’d sat in a piano bar in one of the funkier streets in Washington DC, listening to a fat, black bluesman do Muddy Waters and Leadbelly: Mannish Boy, Hoochie Coochie Man. For such a big man his voice was high and sweet, and as he moaned and chuckled and did the little soul gasp, you felt as if all the troubles of the world poured away, along with the sweat beading on his cheeks and dripping onto the keyboard.
In the red-lit shadows, I took pulls at my Lucky Strike, put my mouth to the open-necked beer bottle and fancied that with each drag I was closer to becoming the Hoochie Coochie Man myself . . .
. ]

Even Lee Atwater, who was Reagan's campaign strategist, famous for employing racist dirty campaign tricks, loved the blues, and fancied himself a blues guitarsman (another form of that endlessly mutating performance paradox of Blackface and minstrelsy).

That we may have, hopefully have, our first black president in a few weeks, in the light of who this nation is, is only right.

That is what THEY are terrified of. THEY cannot accept that African Americans are at least as much of this nation as they are -- and in many cases, so many family histories reaching back to the 16th and 17th centuries, maybe even more so.

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