Zion is such beauty to behold.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

OObeezzee wins it Easy!!!

Yes, it's over.  Obama has been given another term, in the highest office in the land.  We can, we did, we're doing.  The believers have once again subdued the cult of matter.  Irony smiles on America, again, at last.  Crispus Attucks, Prince Hall, and John Brown can enjoy a beer with the LORD tonight. Justice demands the Sons of Africa be rewarded for their immeasurable contributions to the American Nations.  Congratulations Mr. President!  Congratulations America!!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Of Pope Shenouda III and the Killing of a Child.

     The recent passing of His Holiness Amba Shenouda the Third, the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and the heir to the Holy See of St. Mark the Evangelist is to be noted.  May he join the Lord and His fellow Saints in the abode of the Most High, and may the Throne of St. Mark next be occupied by a father as wise and sincere as the late Amba Shenouda III.  It is here worth noting that during his tenure as Patriarch, His Holiness Pope Shenouda restored the ancient Practice of the Monastic hood as a rite upon all Egyptian Monastics.
      I call it a restoration because in many icons from both Egypt and Ethiopia, Saints and Holy Fathers from the early Christian and medieval periods are all depicted wearing the Monastic Hood, or Askema as it is called in the Ethiopian tradition.   Just look at Icons of Abuna Tekla Haymanot, or any of the famed Nine Saints of Ethiopia and you will see an example of the same type of hood so common in the modern Coptic Church.  A monastic hood or scapular, is also extant in the Syrian Jacobite Church.  Monks and Hierarchs in the Armenian Apostolic Church favor a cowl,  attached to the cloak, however the effect is much similar.  My point here is that a hood of some sort is common to the Monks and Holy Men of the so called "Oriental" Churches.
     In the U.S. a hooded article of another type has recently been the focus of much public attention in wake of the horrific shooting of an unarmed 17 year old black youth named Trayvon Martin.  Some pundits and right wing wind up dolls have even gone as far as to say that young Mr. Martin's hooded sweatshirt, or hoodie, is as much at fault for his death as the man who pulled the trigger.
To be continued. . . 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What's in a word?

     Let us begin with a journey into the symbolic universe that is speech.  It seems like an appropriate place to start, after all; "In the beginning was the Word . . ." (JOHN 1:1, KJV).  Thus, by examining the meaning of a simple and somewhat antiquated word it is possible to glimpse the worlds shrouded within its seven letters:  Swar.thy \sworthe -the\ adj -thier; -est : of a dark color, complexion or cast.   - swar.thi.ness noun ( a>h ref="http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/swarthy">swarthy>).  Other dictionaries may be more concise, some may even add sunburnt to reiterate the notion of dark skin ("Swarthy." Tormont Webster's Illustrated Encyclopedic Dictionary.  1990 ed.).  However, the definition offered by Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary is most appropriate for use here as it states plainly what is often only implied.  Namely, that there exists a darkness of cast or casting, which has proven to quite literally cast countless multitudes into the abyss of popular imagination and historical subjugation based solely on the hue of their skin and/or hair.   
     The fact that swarthy is less seldom used today then it was a hundred years ago does not diminish its importance in the vocabulary and psyche of the English speaking world.  On the contrary, the relevance of the word is made greater by its scarcity in application. It remains as part of the English lexicon, a product of a bygone era in which the appearance of some two thirds of humanity could be identified with a simple adjective.  Indeed, a single word can act as a window into the past that allows us a clearer view of the racist, orientalist and overly simplistic social constructs which still dominate the way people and the world are perceived *(For the critique par excellence of such constructs see, Edward W. Said, Orientalism, Vintage Books 1979 & 1994). 
     Like many English words swarthy and its predecessor swarty, have their origins in German, schwarz meaning the color black.  Merriam-Webster's Dictionary date the English usage back some 450 years. Upon investigation we can actually determine that the use of swarthy became part of the English language and social fabric at least two generations before the reviling 'N-word' *(See Webster's Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language for entry) which still plagues the mouths and minds of many *(Dr. Laura's 2010 diatribe deserves noting). I am not equating swarthy with the word that is best left unsaid, but the words overlap somewhat in their usage and history.  Swarthy has been perceived to be more or less descriptive, and not an outright derogation.  But, is this perception accurate or is it impossible to call someone or something black or dark without making some sort of value judgement?
    Modern usage, especially in the U.K, of the word colored is probably the most appropriate analogy for the word swarthy.  Colored is used to describe all of the various ethnic groups that are most obviously, by their color, not British.  Thus, the obvious outsiders are deemed not white, or colored.  Swarthy carries with it, similar connotations.  In order to understand these connotations and their implications it is necessary to examine the way in which the word is utilized in the contexts of history and popular culture.
    Some are inlinced, and thus many of us have been led to believe that Benjamin Franklin was the prototypical American.  Who better then to give us historical perspective of the American English usage of swarthy then the prototypical American.  Simply google the words Benjamin Franklin swarthy and you can read a whole array of commentary on Franklin's low opinions of German immigrants, and how they were not white enough for Franklin's tastes. Franklin goes to great lengths to elucidate his dislike for "stupid swarthy Germans" and further goes on to  declare all Africans, Asians, Italians, Spaniards, Russians, French, Swedes (really) and "other tawneys" (including Germans), as somehow being less worthy to become "Americans" than those he deemed white.  Franklin chose to explain away his prejudice as being somehow inate in all humans, as we are naturally attracted to those who look like us, and complused by those who do not.  While I could go on at great length about Franklin's prejudices and racial theories, I want to focus on his choice of words to describe his misgivings about German immigrants as "stupid swarthy Germans."  By stating such Franklin is saying he believes Germans are not only stupid, they aren't white.
    However absurd Franklin's assertations about 18th century Germans may be, for him to make such statements so unequivocally, he must have been expressing a thought that was shared by many in his time. Franklin was after all very much in the know, or at least we have been made to believe that we was.  For the pursposes of this commentary however I think that the important point is to understand how the concept of "white" was used early on in American society.  For Franklin, white meant English/Anglo-Saxon Americans like himself, almost everybody else was swarthy or tawney, which like oriental*(see Said, cited above) are actually code words for inferior.  Thus, whiteness, though in a state of constant flux, has always excluded somebody based soley on their skin and/or hair color, and/or nation of origin (see Neil Irvin Painter, "The History of White People").  As we have heard since childhood, "bad guys wear black."
   The prevalence of cultural myths about blackness can in no way be understated, they are formative in modern western cultures, and in none more so than America.  As Franklin demonstrated with his bias against German immigrants, American culture has long been the subject of its prejudices. The fact that Germans, who largely peopled the British isles, were seen as not white enough to be American is proof of the irrationality of racialism.  Of course rationality has nothing to do with any of this, so we are left only with our choices.
     What then is in a word?  When that word is black there is much that is contained within it.  Whether that meaning is positive or negative depends on how the word is interpreted and understood.  The choice is thus deciding between the vulgar or sublime, the meaning forced upon you or the meaning you seek out.  The choice is yours, or ours really.  I have made mine.  The only race betrayers are those would betray us to a world without love, or worse without a world to even be able to choose.
     What does it mean to be swarthy?  For me it means beauty and loving myself.  For other people, and in other times it has been used to describe incorrigibles, foreigners, and gypsies.  Having been called all of those things as well I no longer care what I am called.  Though, I prefer my name, but as Al-Lawrence told Sharif Ali, "My name is for my friends."


....to be continued