Posts Tagged ‘history’

Miracle at St. Anna

August 29, 2009 Leave a comment
Miracle at St. Anna Movie Poster

Miracle at St. Anna Movie Poster

It’s not black history month, but I can still talk about black history. Tonight I watched Miracle at St. Anna. James McBride and Spike Lee have given a treasure to all Americans that tells a story about the Buffalo Soldiers in WWII The 92nd division (all black soldiers) which has often been portrayed in a negative light (if portrayed at all) is given a wondrous and beautiful portrayal through a small band of soldiers. While the actual story is fictionalized, it is a story worth telling and does reflect element of the period.

James McBride has been studying this period, talking to the men who fought, and listening to their stories. Even while experiencing racial prejudice back home and abroad (from their white officers), these men laid down their lives for America and fought for all of the free world.

Thank you! I’m grateful for the service of these men and am glad to hear more of their stories.

We need to tell the hidden stories of Americans from all races. And I black history is not history for blacks. It is bringing to light stories and people that the greater culture often neglects. So I encourage all Americans to read more and learn more of the stories of blacks through our history.

Over the last few months, I’ve been writing a play on the Harlem Renaissance and was amazed to learn about the “Harlem Hellfighters,” an all black regiment in WWI who not only served heroically but introduced jazz to Europe (under the leadership of the regimental band leader James Reese Europe.

In Praise of School Teachers

June 26, 2008 Leave a comment

Bobi Jones lifts up an anthem of praises to school teachers. Drawing from a rich reserve of past Welsh icons, he compares them to the ploughman, the soldier, a preacher, and Orpheus.

As warrior people, the ancient Celts wrote warrior poems in praise of battles, great fighters, kings and triumphs. In the middle ages, a Welsh poet used to the warrior epic to write a poem of praise the ploughman. The ploughman is worthy of praise for his faithful tilling of the land that produces food for a nation and provides the very stuff of the Eucharist. So the ploughman ultimately unites the people together under God by his faithful labor.

Bobi draws from both images to write a warrior poem in praise of the exploits of teachers:

Ploughman of the daily children! Solider of a nation!
I will praise the chalk of your hair while I have breath.

The image of ploughman, soldier and preacher combine in the teacher as one who tills the soil of the young hearts, wars with ignorance and the threat of losing the Welsh language and identity, and the preacher who connects the student of the present with the great communion of saints in the Welsh past. By telling the stories, by remembering, the teacher keeps alive a people who survive as distinctly Welsh against the onslaught of the surrounding culture.

…The clichés of education
Are charmed into adventure by your modest cherishing,
Our country’s past turned into the following day.

In this beautiful poem of praise, I encounter the exalted role of the teacher who fights daily in the rich battle of the Welsh people to preserve their story, their language, their life-blood from generation to generation. The teacher’s words create the future through the children. Creating the future may mean change but it also means connecting the generations.

The teacher is connecting the students to the soil of their being that will inspire them to move forward with the vision of their people in new challenges and contexts:

A land’s in a man; and through it he opens out lands
Like dawn reaching a pageant of fingers toward them.
You’re the river across their ears as well; the waterfall that carries them,
Sparks for a sun, earth and water of their searchings.

In a world where the pressure of homogeneity constantly threaten the identity of the faithful, the poem resounds as a clarion call to keep the vital life of memory alive in our stories, in our classrooms, in our children. It reminds me of Eugen Rosenstock Huessy’s exclamation that our present action is created by looking back to the past and forward to the future.

We are a forgetful people. We forget our names, our landmarks, our stories, our heritage. Without the stories of our past, we face a storyless future or a future filled with stories that submit to the demands of the trends that drive our culture from moment to moment. We need the bards to come forth and sing us awake into the memory of our heritage and our call forward:

A wraith’s in a river; you are Orpheus, rippling
Before each little life, bubbling up
Towards a free world of men, leading them from the dark
Without once looking back to their empty well-spring.

New World Order

April 5, 2008 Leave a comment

Yesterday I suggested that the new world came under judgment:

But this new world came under God’s judgment. While we see the beginnings of judgment in nineteenth century, the clearest image of judgment is World War 1. This war marked the end of the Western Christian world, and we are still reeling from that war. The Western church has been under judgment since that war. Yes we’ve seen some hints of revival, but the forms are dead.

Today I was reading through an newsletter from James Jordan dated January 1, 1994 and came across this quote:

My central purpose was to show that God manages history through crises that bring about new models of world order. After the coming of the gospel, we have seen God do this twice, as the Early Church crisised into the Medieval, and the Medieval into the Reformation. We are at the brink of a new complete cultural crisis and transfiguration today.

James Jordan, Peter Leithart and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy are all worth studying to begin to understand the era in which we live.

American Popular Culture

November 16, 2006 Leave a comment

While trying to find out some words related to treasure chest, I stumbled across an old Catholic comic book series and eventually ended up at the Authentic American History Center. This site provides a fascinating collection of American pop culture artifacts that reach all the way back to the revolution.

There are pamphlets, comics, images and audio files from the Revolutionary War, Civil War, early 1900s, WWI, WWII, and each decade up to the present. The topic range from religion to politics to other elements that captured the national  consciousness.

Way cool! Plus the Catholic comic book Treasure Chest was pretty interesting as well.

The Importance of History

October 11, 2006 2 comments

Sisu offered a delightful Paul Johnson quote:

The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false. – Paul Johnson

Makes me think of this Chesterton quote:

“Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around.” G.K. Chesterton

I think both quotes point to the illusion that the current generation is always more advanced than previous generations. We cannot see outside our particular cultural milieu. While every group in history is trapped by the particularity of their times, we can gain perspective by listening and engaging those from other ages and cultures. And when we do, we realize humans are humans in all ages and struggle with many similar challenges, so in spite our our hyperlinked world, we’re still human with basic human struggles and we can learn from those who’ve gone before us.

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