Friday, July 25, 2014

“. . . the loudest yelps for liberty . . .”

“How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty
                                                         from the drivers of negroes?"
18th century Britain’s pre-eminent man of letters

In 1775 Dr. Johnson reached for his pen to write a political pamphlet, “Taxation No Tyranny,” in response to the protestations of the First Continental Congress about the Coercive Acts and other administrative and legislative actions of King George’s government. Johnson was no fan of either the colonial protests or American independence.

He pushed a tempting button. His acid comment about the slaveholders who would adopt the Declaration of Independence in 1776 rang more than a few bells in Britain, which developed an active anti-slavery movement soon after the Revolutionary War ended, and outlawed slavery throughout most of the Empire in 1833.

An early draft of the Declaration decried slavery in the colonies, but that mention was purged from the final official version.

Too bad that Americans waited about 90 years to do something official about eliminating slavery, and too bad we’re still dealing with the legacies of colonial acceptance of that most harsh of violations of human rights and spirit.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The oldest song in the world

This is unique, and I’m one of the people who takes pains to avoid using the word “unique” whenever it’s not appropriate, which is most of the time….

Here's a link to an audio interpretation of what scholars believe is the oldest song in the world. says it’s a 3,400-year-old Assyrian cult hymn written in the Hurrian language and found on clay tablets discovered in the 1950s in the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit, a port on the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.

It’s believed the ancients played this tune on a 9-string lyre.

I don’t think Wynton Marsalis or BeyoncĂ© or anyone else is going to be adding this short piece to a concert repertoire any time soon, but you can give it a try….

You can tap your foot, it’s OK….

Friday, July 4, 2014

“. . . that some men are created equal . . .”

A patriotic salute to our country and to all Americans on the 4th of July!

And now just a little dose of reality to leaven our celebration of the Declaration of Independence:

You probably know this, but let’s mention it anyway—those patriotic Americans who signed the Declaration really didn’t mean it when they said “all men are created equal.”

They certainly weren’t thinking about all of the poor, landless and otherwise disadvantaged white males who didn’t qualify in the various colonies to vote.

They certainly weren’t thinking about the roughly 600,000 slaves in the brand new United States. In fact, many of the signers owned slaves, and Jefferson’s draft paragraph decrying the slave trade was stricken from the officially adopted version of the Declaration.

They certainly weren’t thinking about Native Americans who lived in and west of the British colonies. The First Peoples were not mentioned in the Declaration in any positive way.

They certainly weren’t thinking about women. The prevailing mindset of the time, among men, really didn’t recognize any political role or rights for women. Abigail’s lectures to John Adams were marvelous; also, they were trivial marginalia in the great scheme of things during the Revolution.