Wednesday, April 18, 2007



Anyway , I was thinking about art & politics so I thought of Robert Lowell & his poem The Union Dead & the film " GLORY " which is about Colonel Shaw who led the first all Black / Afro-American regiment in The American Civil War. So below is the poem & clips from the film " GLORY ".

It seems odd that at the time when supposedly the Union was fighting the South over the question of Slavery that many in the North opposed using African Americans to fight in the war . Many believed that blacks were not dependable or untrustworthy or according to the racist view of too little intelligence to take part in the military . And many white soldiers refused to fight along blacks whom they saw as inferior . This continued as the prevalent attitude in America through the First & Second World Wars to Korea & to Vietnam.

Even today in 2007 Americans do not like to spend any time examining what racism still exists in American society . They sometimes talk as if there were no longer any wide spread racism in America & that racism died long ago or that what occurred from after The Civil War were only isolated incidents of racism. Yet the "Jim Crow Laws" of the Southern States were still in effect until the passage of the Civil Rights legislation of 1967.

It is only recently that the US Senate has apologised for not passing anti-lynching laws so that thousands of blacks & those who associted with them were murdered by mobs from the end of the Civil War til 1950 & that there were no laws to ensure that those who took part in these lynchings could be brought to justice.

We have been reminded again & again how deep racism flows through the American Culture as we saw after the Hurricane Katrina part ,at least, of the failed response of the Federal Government was due to racist attitudes . And if one doubts this just listen to Neocon spokespersons like Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter & a host of others when talking about New Orleans after Katrina or what they have to say on the issue of Immigration in the United States whether legal or illegal & their distrust & hatred of all Arabs & Arab Americans & all Muslims including American Muslims for instance Michelle Malkin & Tony Blakeley have argued in favor of setting up internment camps for Muslim & Arab Americans as they did to Japanese Americans in WWII without just cause.

For further cause of concern over racism in America is the disproportionate numbers of Blacks & Hispanics arrested & jailed for crimes & that they get longer sentences than whites who commit similar crimes & that there are a disproportionate number of Blacks & Hispanics on death row in the United States.

& on the other hand the US military up til the Iraq war had been taking steps screening recruits to keep white Supremacists of whatever sort & other racists out of the military ...but now in part because of the problems the US Military is having in getting enough recruits the Military has lowered its standards & accepts more recruits who have been convicted of Felons & those who are racists & white Supremacists & those who are known to be mentally unstable or your garden variety sociopaths. This creates not only problems within the ranks but with such racists soldiers & those who are mentally unfit being permitted to take part in military operations in a War Zone complicates ,at the least, the delicate relationship of the American occupying forces with the Arab- Iraqi People.

Music video of film GLORY- see bottom of this post for more on the film -
video from youtube user BuddyBoy1991

ending of film GLORY
from YOUTUBE USER AmericanCrusader

Unfortunately this poem " FOR THE UNION DEAD " is still relevant today as Blacks or some other minority groups are not respected & are treated unfairly in American society & are often used as Scape Goats for whatever is wrong in America.

Robert Lowell ( 1917-1977)
For The Union Dead

The old South Boston Aquarium stands
in a Sahara of snow now. Its broken windows are boarded.
The bronze weathervane cod has lost half its scales.
The airy tanks are dry.
Once my nose crawled like a snail on the glass;
my hand tingled to burst the bubbles
drifting from the noses of the crowded, compliant fish.

My hand draws back. I often sign still
for the dark downward and vegetating kingdom
of the fish and reptile. One morning last March,
I pressed against the new barbed and galvanized

fence on the Boston Common. Behind their cage,
yellow dinosaur steamshovels were grunting
as they cropped up tons of mush and grass
to gouge their underworld garage.

Parking spaces luxuriate like civic
sandpiles in the heart of Boston.
a girdle of orange, Puritan-pumpkin colored girders
braces the tingling Statehouse,

shaking over the excavations, as it faces Colonel Shaw
and his bell-cheeked Negro infantry
on St. Gaudens' shaking Civil War relief,
propped by a plank splint against the garage's earthquake.

Two months after marching through Boston,
half of the regiment was dead;
at the dedication,
William James could almost hear the bronze Negroes breathe.

Their monument sticks like a fishbone
in the city's throat.
Its Colonel is a lean
as a compass-needle.

He has an angry wrenlike vigilance,
a greyhound's gentle tautness;
he seems to wince at pleasure,
and suffocate for privacy.

He is out of bounds now. He rejoices in man's lovely,
peculiar power to choose life and die-
when he leads his black soldiers to death,
he cannot bend his back.

On a thousand small town New England greens
the old white churches hold their air
of sparse, sincere rebellion; frayed flags
quilt the graveyards of the Grand Army of the Republic

The stone statutes of the abstract Union Soldier
grow slimmer and younger each year-
wasp-waisted, they doze over muskets
and muse through their sideburns…

Shaw's father wanted no monument
except the ditch,
where his son's body was thrown
and lost with his "niggers."

The ditch is nearer.
There are no statutes for the last war here;
on Boylston Street, a commercial photograph
shows Hiroshima boiling

over a Mosler Safe, the "Rock of Ages"
that survived the blast. Space is nearer.
when I crouch to my television set,
the drained faces of Negro school-children rise like balloons.

Colonel Shaw
is riding on his bubble,
he waits
for the blessed break.

The Aquarium is gone. Everywhere,
giant finned cars nose forward like fish;
a savage servility
slides by on grease.

For more on Robert Lowell for example see :
POETS.ORG The Academy of American Poets

And here is a brief description of the film " GLORY ":

1989-USA-Historical Epic
N.Y. Times Review by Vincent Canby

Glory is a celebration of a little-known act of mass courage during the Civil War. Simply put, the heroes involved have been ignored by history due to racism. Those heroes were the all-black members of the 54th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, headed by Col. Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick), the son of an influential abolitionist (played by an uncredited Jane Alexander).

Despite the fact that the Civil War is ostensibly being fought on their behalf, the black soldiers are denied virtually every privilege and amenity that is matter of course for their white counterparts; as in armies past and future, they are given the most menial and demeaning of tasks. Still, none of the soldiers quit the regiment when given the chance. The unofficial leaders of the group are gravedigger John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman) and fugitive slave Trip (Denzel Washington), respectively representing the brains and heart of the organization. The 54th acquit themselves valiantly at Fort Wagner, SC, charging a fortification manned by some 1,000 Confederates. Glory was based on Lincoln Kirstein's Lay This Laurel and Peter Burchard's One Gallant Rush; the latter book was founded on the letters of Col. Robert Gould Shaw, the real-life character played by Matthew Broderick.

The film won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for co-star Denzel Washington, and additional statuettes for Best Cinematography (Freddie Francis) and Sound Recording. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

So take care,
love you too,

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