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26 January 2008

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anna missed

Having a little trouble with the anti-imperialist thing, after all manifest destiny was a significant part of Jacksonian federalism. Perhaps the anti-imperialist reading of the South is better characterized as a threat to its essentially honor oriented culture - by the liberally oriented North. I'm sure Native Americans would agree.

clifford kiracofe

Sidney Smith,
Thank you for your comments and tip about the exhibit and catalog.

1. Note this exhibit and website:

"For Jews, the promise of America was deeply rooted in its commitment to religious liberty. George Washington's declaration in 1790 to the Newport Hebrew Congregation that this nation gives "to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance," provided the Jewish community with an early assurance of America's suitability as a haven."
http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/haventohome/haven-haven.html

2. Phil Weiss' position is similar to that of the early settlers here in the colonial period. America is our "Zion" metaphorically speaking. Hence the Puritans in New England associated it with a "New Zion" or "New Jerusalem" and erected towns such as "New Canaan" (CT). Just up Rte. 39 from me here in Virginia lies the "Goshen Pass" and the little town of "Goshen" etc.

3. As I argue in my forthcoming book, political Zionism is a creation of British imperialism/Palmerston era...Herzl MUCH LATER picks it up and first tried to shop it to the Germans and failing that sells his brand to the Brits, having been coached on the geography by an Anglican priest attached to a British embassy. Palmerston's policy toward Palestine can be dated from about 1839 while the Basle meeting of Herzl and the political Zionists was 1897.

Meanwhile, during this period in the United States, the Reform community in particular was comfortable with the idea of America as their New Zion and so said.

4. Weiss's position seems similar to that of American Reform Judaism of the 19th and the 20th century up to the forties.

For a useful technical study see:
Stuart E. Knee, The Concept of Zionist Dissent in the American Mind 1917-1941 (New York, 1979). The author documents how the political Zionist movement came to dominate the American Jewish community.

Sidney O. Smith III

Col. Lang:
Thank you very much for posting my comment. A “resurgens” of the work of Moses Jacob Ezekiel could do nothing but help our nation, in my view. I was so surprised that you posted my comment that last night the woman that I am dating and I celebrated by heading out to have a drink where-else but on Peachtree. But, on a more serious note, I appreciate greatly your sharing your thoughts with us. I will try to explain why in my responses to comments posted by Anna Missed and Professor Kiracofe.

Anna Missed:

Thank you for your comment. Your insight is most definitely something I need to consider. At this stage for me, I am suggesting that Col. Lang’s novel forces a re-exmination of the historical forces at work in America and highlights some trends that perhaps have been downplayed, underemphasized and neglected -- much to our peril today. The work of Moses Jacob Ezekiel, at least as I see it, supports Col. Lang’s view. To try to illustrate: in the South during this time, there was, as you may already know, a famous guerilla fighter named John Singleton Mosby. He opposed slavery but he fought for Virginia because it “was his country.” His view was shared by many.

This underlying and ignored historical current increasingly appears significant today. Despite the “curse” (what I’ll call ethnic nationalism), the South may have acted in part on a historical impulse that opposes a type of federal government that will lead ultimately to fascism. So by painting the South during this time with nothing but an evil brush may be a great mistake, as it overlooks a tradition that is much needed today -- one that may save our nation, in fact.

You mentioned the idea of an “honor” culture. Right now, I tend to stay away from any analysis that puts a pre-eminence on honor-shame cultures. This is because of the work of David Leo Gutman and others (at AEI) who, in my view, have used that characterization of a society as a pretext to try to legitimate the annihilation of an entire people who see honor as a virtue. In Gutman’s case he is referring to the Arab world. Quite frankly, I think all societies, with the exception of neoconservatives, stress to a certain degree the virtue of honor. The fact that neoconservatives see honor as a vice suggests much. But regardless, my concern is that, currently, people like Gutman are using the “honor-shame” culture analysis as a psychological tool to attempt to reduce guilt among the general populace when implementing ethnic genocide. Ultimately it will fail, if history is any indication.

Prof. Kiracofe:

Thank you very much for the references and your insights, per usual. Every time, I read your comments, I need pen and paper to write down all the sources you cite. I wish I had time to read them all and could take time to learn what all you teach. I look forward to reading your book, as it seems critically important at this time in American history. In fact, nothing may be more critical.

I was always impressed with George Washington’s letter to the Touro synagogue. And recently, I came across a quote by John Tyler -- the very man from Virginia who became the 10th US President and who, later, became a Confederate. As for religious freedom, he wrote:

The Mohammedan [Muslim], if he will to come among us would have the privilege guaranteed to him by the Constitution to worship according to the Koran; and the East Indian might erect a shrine to Brahma if it so pleased him. Such is the spirit of toleration inculcated by our political institutions… The Hebrew persecuted and down trodden in other regions takes up his abode among us with none to make him afraid… and the Aegis of the government is over him to defend and protect him. Such is the great experiment which we have tried, and such are the happy fruits which have resulted from it; our system of free government would be imperfect without it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Tyler

As for Philip Weiss and his stance, I’d like to offer an additional analogy for consideration. I am not yet sure if it is apropos but I want to put it out there anyway. Weiss in some ways reminds me of those federal judges in the South who a few decades ago had to stand up to the “curse” of militant ethnic nationalism. Many of those judges most certainly identified with the South as much as Weiss identifies with his American Jewish roots. And odds are high that the people attacking Weiss the most viciously are the very people with whom Weiss has most closely identified with his entire life. It was no different for those federal judges. At some point, I hope that people outside his “clan” will recognize what he is trying to do on behalf of America and will stand up for him.

From what I can tell, there is a reasonable presumption that militant ethnic nationalism and justice are mutual exclusive. And, more than that, historically, militant ethnic nationalism of whatever variety appears to be on the losing side militarily, although the amount of suffering it creates as it goes down in defeat is incalculable.

Obviously, Col. Lang’s novel is forcing the resurfacing of some neglected historical themes. I enjoy the idea of “alternative” history. In that vein, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if churches in the antebellum South had been fully integrated in the decades leading to 1861. I read that in early Christianity in Rome, slave and slave master shared the same pew, sitting next to each other. If this had happened in the South, a greater sense of brotherhood -- one that transcended race and ethnic nationalism -- may have taken place.

Actually if this had happened all over America, including most particularly in the North, our history may have differed, without nearly the divisions and hatreds that plague us today in addition to the phony relationships that appear to rest on the dynamic described by the courageous Shelby Steele in his brilliant book Content of Our Character.

I have spent time living in places in the US that are considered “liberal” and progressive. Boston and west LA are two such places. Fact is that today these centers of progressive and “liberal” thought are more segregated than “unhip” places such as Moultrie Ga..

And the truth is that the USM has done a much more authentic -- I stress authentic -- job of integrating different ethnic groups than the Woodstock version of the Hollywood crowd and perhaps even the Democratic party. It is not all as it seems.

Again, many thanks for the insights,
Sid

anna missed

Sid,

Perhaps you're right that an "honor" culture is the wrong terminology. What I mean more precisely is a culture more bound by its own sense of its own "tradition" as being paramount to its identity. Such a culture would be bound to its sense of tradition by a system of assumed, shared, and atemporal (static as opposed to dynamic) beliefs informing the culture from the family up to the larger social, religious, and political networks. Which would be "lived" through a set of incentives, rewards, and punishments with respect to authority as the guiding and evaluative principal. And bestowing "honor" on those that exemplify the adherence to tradition.

This would be in distinction to the "liberal" values (of the North) whereby the sense of identity is temporal and "progressive", and the individual is free(er) to be critical of tradition and all of its obligations and (re)define themselves outside of its structure.

In such a scenario, its not hard to see how tradition bound culture is faced with a onslaught of opportunistic seductive shifting values that perpetually threaten their foundation. While the progressive culture suffers no such fate, and can use and discard such social templates as the immediate need requires.

I don't know if this was the case in the civil war epoch, but seem to be the case generally, with regards to the current red/blue state characterization - perhaps as a legacy of the civil war.

And also, I just finished the Butchers Clever where the subject seems the primary motivation of the main character, who, if I were one of his targets, would make a really easy mark (after the above) (ha,ha).

Loved it nonetheless.

Jeff Rubinoff

Excellent post about Moses Jacob Ezekiel, of whom I have to admit complete ignorance before reading this blog.
I would like to add a small point as someone who once studied more than his share of cultural anthropology. I don't think it is inherently worthless to look at Arab culture as having a strong honor-shame core. This is true of Mediterranean cultures in general, and of many others, particularly in contrast to the comparatively pragmatic N Europeans. It is also true that a lot of racist and vile nonsense has used "honor and shame" as a synonym for "backward ignoramii whom we may as well shoot". I don't much care for the "honor and shame" cultural values myself, but I am culturally very much N European middle class, so I wouldn't. That, by the way, is part of the original meaning of "cultural relativism"--remembering that you have a culture too and therefore it is difficult to consider other cultures objectively. Anyway, my point is that it is very hard to understand some things about other cultures without taking even these rather oversimplified characteristics into account. Much of the Arab side in the Arab-Israeli conflict, for example, only really makes sense if you understand the depth and importance of the Arab sense of being humiliated.

Sidney O. Smith III

Anna Missed

You make fascinating points, much of which I need to ponder when I have some time. I too don’t know if your observations apply to the Civil War epoch but I do think odds increase that it applies to an over-idealization of the Lost Cause, which occurred after the war, and distorted much of history.

That said, I think a nation must proceed very cautiously before implementing progressive change -- progressive through the lens of another society -- through the instrument of war. It unleashes a lot of divisions and hatreds that will last generations, as the Iraqi invasion seems to have proven.

All that aside, it seems to me that one can argue that the neoconservatives (Christian and Jewish) -- particularly those of the Straussian order -- desire that the US become a fascist government so as to promote ethnic cleansing in the Middle East -- a war policy no doubt neoconservatives would hail as progressive change. And the neoconservatives go out of their way to exalt the cult of Lincoln (as well as Sherman‘s march through Georgia). Ergo, neoconservatives must believe that the path to US fascism goes through the Lincoln presidency.

I am not “anti-Lincoln”. In fact, when I was growing up, Sandberg’s biography of Lincoln was on one of my father’s bookshelves. I didn’t read it (opting out instead to listen countless hours to the Allman Brothers, for better or for worse) but surely it left an impression. In fact, I was always pro-Lincoln until the neoconservatives broached the topic, which gave me great pause. It is not all as it seems.

The neoconservative exaltation of Lincoln warrants at least an examination to see if the historical path that opposes US fascism lies, at least to a certain extent, buried in the history of the South. It’s buried because of the “curse” (of ethnic nationalism) as well as the overwhelming probability that US historians -- especially those from the 1960’s and beyond -- took a Manichaean approach to explaining the causes of the war.

Col. Lang’s novel brings those historical forces back to life and, in my view, acts as a counterweight to the historical forces upon with the neoconservatives rely. Moses Ezekiel’s work does as well. Hence the importance of both, most particularly at this critical time in US history.

Col. Lang awhile back mentioned that Brazil ended slavery in 1888 without a disastrous war that left hundreds of thousands of people dead, with an economic system (sharecropping and indentured servitude) just as bad as slavery, and scars that would last until today. Some responses to Col. Lang’s comment seemed to take offense at that notion. But I think, at a minimum, it is worth at least looking at.

Is Brazil today as race conscious as the US? Just look at what is going on in the Democratic party. It reminds me of something I read years ago. If memory serves me correctly, MLK said, in essence, that he didn’t know what racism was until he was in Chicago. So although I am from the South, I have always been inclined to talk about the tremendous race problem in the North. (written partly kidding).

The Democratic Party seems mired in petty race biting and racial sensitivities that remind me of heated conversations that took place in my high school cafeteria in the deep South back in the 1970’s. Unlike Chicago in the 1970‘s, my high school was racially integrated. And when I watch Hillary and Barak, it is almost like a I am watching two people running for class president in an integrated southern high school from decades ago. All the characters are present, including high school versions of Al Sharpton.

Meanwhile, Brazil -- a former slave nation that didn’t experience a civil war -- has become totally energy independent. Perhaps Hillary and Barak should agree to spend as much time focusing on the need for energy independence as petty racial issues.

Thanks to sst, I, increasingly am wondering if the biggest problem was that the American churches were not fully integrated as they were in Rome during the days of early Christianity. I am not “churchy” in the least, but it seems to me if you sit next to a person of another race while the chalice is being raised every Sunday, then you are more likely to see the humanity of that person, regardless of the economic institutions in place. So “progressive” change takes place more naturally without the scourge of war. It would be interesting to know if the Brazilian church was more integrated than those of America. Maybe I should write Pastor Hagee a letter and ask him but he seems intent on thumping the Bible and seeing the nuclear destruction of the Iranians. (and to be fair, same with Michael Novak at AEI and George Weigel).

Again, thanks for your insights.
Sid

W. Patrick Lang

Sidney

Among the varied purposes of TBC was this matter of seeking a revival of memory, memory of things that have been eliminated from modern minds in a succesful, if perhaps unconscious, campaign of suppression.

""THE HISTORICAL MEMORY OF A NATION IS NOT MERELY A REPOSITORY. OUR VISION OF THE PAST CHANNELS OUR VISION OF THE FUTURE BY CONSTRAINING OPTIONS, BUT ALSO IT PLAYS A PROACTIVE ROLE. THIS MEMORY IS ACTUALLY A VERY IMPORTANT FACTOR IN STRUGGLE.... IF ONE CONTROLS PEOPLES' MEMORY, ONE CONTROLS THEIR DYNAMISM.... IT IS VITAL TO HAVE POSSESSION OF THIS MEMORY, TO CONTROL IT, TO ADMINISTER IT, TELL IT WHAT IT MUST CONTAIN.' COLLECTIVE MEMORY IS THE TOOLSHED, TOMORROW'S IDEOLOGICAL ARSENAL, FROM WHICH POLITICAL CONCEPTS AND SYMBOLS ARE SELECTED, REINTERPRETED, AND MANIPULATED BOTH BY ESTABLISHED GOVERNMENTS AND OPPOSITION GROUPS. IT MAY WAIT FOR DECADES, PATIENTLY DORMANT, ONLY TO BE REACTIVATED SUDDENLY AS AN EXPLOSIVE CONTAGIOUS FORCE." DR. CHRISTINE M. HELMS IN MCNAIR PAPER # 10 "ARABISM AND ISLAM: STATELESS NATIONS AND NATIONLESS STATES." SEPTEMBER, 1990."

I also hope that it is a good yarn. pl

James Price

There were a number of Jews who served in the Confederate Army or Government, none more prominent than Judah P. Benjamin. Benjamin, a one time slave owner, who freed his slaves before the war became the Confederacys first Attorney General and also served both as Secretary of War and Secretary of State. After the war he fled to England where he became a distinguished barrister. Prior to the war he served as US Senator and was twice offered a seat on the US Supreme Court.

anna missed

My first impression of the Ezekiel artwork was that with Rodin as my reference (they were contemporaries), and having never personally seen Ezekiels work - was that it is merely commemorative. As the period dictated what must have been a virtual windfall of civil war statuary opportunities, that now grace every berg square east of the Mississippi. But, after being provoked here into looking a little further it becomes easy to see how his work might have gotten overlooked, both through guilt by association, the neo-classical labeling, and the general rush toward modernism as denoted by formal innovation. At some future date maybe Ezekiels work will receive proper attention for its uncanny ability to capture latent and important cultural narratives, perhaps even as a pretext to the subsequent modernism of the American Regionalist styles of Benton, Wood, or Curry. I really liked the Arlington piece in this way.

clifford kiracofe

1. So just where does the "honor-shame" culture thing come from? Perhaps from the Israeli writer Rafeal Patai's books?

"The highest levels of government have been corrupted by this Orientalist worldview. U.S. policy in the Middle East and the Gulf is driven, in Juan Cole’s words, by “complete ignorance of Arabs and Arab culture.” Indeed, pseudo-scientific narratives about Arab “behavior” have become the staple of official American thinking, if one can call it that. Rafael Patai’s The Arab Mind,[ii] a compendium of racist stereotypes and Eurocentric generalizations (there is “an all-encompassing preoccupation with sex in the Arab mind,” the Arabs only understand force, etc.), has become the bible of the Bush administration’s leading neoconservative lights and “the most popular and widely read book on the Arabs in the U.S. military.”[iii]"
http://www.logosjournal.com/issue_3.3/golub_khalidi.htm

2. The use of Lincoln by the Neocons is typical of their deception and sophistry. Strauss' method was to take an historic figure and "interpret" the person in Strauss' own perverted and idiosyncratic way. Could be Maimonedes, could be Plato, could be Lincoln, could be Hamilton. The idiosyncratic "reading" of Strauss then becomes normative for Straussians and Neocons in that faction like Kristol. Strauss (like Morgenthau) as emigre aliens to American culture chose to search for Amrican historical figures they could distort to support their own commitment to a Nietzschean position. The use of American figures (or others from the Classical Era) is simply a method, a cover. With Lincoln, it is the suspension of habeas corpus that they really like as they can twist that into a European Fascist take a la Carl Schmitt and his states of "Emergency" as a justification for dictatorship. A Straussian formerly in the Politics Dept. at VMI worked in this area of "Executive Privilege"/ power. He got a grant to study under Straussian Harvey Mansfield at Harvard for a year and went on to get a job in Michigan.

General Lee also gets twisted by some.

3. The Carl Sandburg edition is a good one. I visited his grave when I was in Galesburg at Knox College in 2002 to give an anti war (Iraq) speech to students and faculty. The site of one of the Lincoln-Douglass debates was a few feet from the auditorium in which I spoke.
http://www.sandburg.org/

4. My own edition of the multivolume "Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln" edited by Nicolay and Hay (1894) sits on a shelf next to a window in my second floor library at home that overlooks the chapel in which General Lee rests.


David Habakkuk,

You might be interested in the book William E. Dodd, The Cotton Kingdom (New Haven: Yale University Pres, 1919). This is the Dodd who was US Ambassador to Germany under FDR to 1938. There is an interesting discussion of how German philosophy/Hegel was imported into some Southern universities (like William and Mary in VA) as a method to justify slavery as an institution. Compare this use of Hegel to the Straussian use of Hegel by Kojeve per the "master-slave" relationship.

The young professor who studied in Germany was Thomas R. Dew who began pampleteering for slavery in 1832. His book "The Pro-Slavery Argument" (Charleston 1852) was a standard.
Excerpt at
http://www.wwnorton.com/college/history/archive/resources/documents/ch15_03.htm

Chancellor William Harper of the Supreme Court of South Carolina took Dew's line to an extreme form in his "A Memoir of Slavery" (1838).


YT

Sidney O. Smith III : thank you & the Col. for a great intro to the life of a great artist. Learnin' more 'bout Jewish culture. More illumination 'bout the cause of the South durin' the War Between the States is necessary instead of all that comic book history they've published since they concluded that epic conflict. May bards sing of the heroics of the Confederate Generals in centuries to come!

Was havin' a conversation with an associate from Brooklyn, N.Y. just earlier this evenin' (my timezone) & was I surprised 'bout Jewish activists in the US durin' all those freedom rights movments way back in the 60's. & I was always puzzled 'bout the lax gun laws in America, least now I understand that it was a guard against the possibility of despotism at the top echelons. Well, at least that WAS the original idea...

Hope to see more articles by your hand in the future. By the way, what's the initial "O" in your name stand for?

Col., sir : What's with the "W" in front of your's?

Sidney O. Smith III

Hey YT

Thank you for the kind words.

So you have an associate in Brooklyn? I have a niece who lives in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn and loves it. She is a freelance artist who graduated from SCAD a few years ago and, apparently, is doing well. Extremely talented, in my opinion.

Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Williamsburg, VA. I have connections to both at this time in my life and feel very fortunate.

You asked about the role of Jewish Americans during the civil rights era. One the greatest -- and I mean greatest -- Jewish Americans involved the civil rights movement was a newspaper editor by the name of Sylvan H. Meyer.

By happenstance, I got to know Mr. Meyer, and after spending time with him, I decided I discovered the secret to Mr. Meyer’s worldview and his “liberalism”, so I’ll share it with you: while Mr. Meyer was considered “liberal“, he loved Americans, including, yes, those from small towns and what we now call the red states.

And it is of no small significance, at least to me, that when Mr. Meyer retired, he and his wife moved to Dahlonega, GA.. He could have chosen anywhere on the planet but instead chose a small town in “Appalachia”. Just an amazing decision. I remember sitting on his porch late one afternoon, a couple of years before he died. And while we watched the sun set over the mountain tops, he regaled me with story after story about small town Southerners (and stories about Miami, where he also lived). And it was done in the tempo of affection and respect for all people. Again, he loved the American people while also standing up for his beliefs.

And, he had a fantastic sense of humor. As he once told a former federal judge (also deeply Southern, as was Mr. Meyer), “Judge, if the klan had only put a cross in my yard, I’d won a Pulitzer!”

Again, many thanks and I look forward to reading any of your comments that end up at SST.

Peter Nash

Hello. My name I Peter Nash and I am writing just to let you know that I have recently had published the first book-length biography of Moses Jacob Ezekiel.


The Life and Times of Moses Jacob Ezekiel: American Sculptor, Arcadian Knight tells the remarkable story of Moses Ezekiel and his rise to international fame as an artist in late nineteenth-century Italy. Sephardic Jew, homosexual, Confederate soldier, Southern apologist, opponent of slavery, patriot, expatriate, mystic, Victorian, dandy, good Samaritan, humanist, royalist, romantic, reactionary, republican, monist, dualist, theosophist, freemason, champion of religious freedom, proto-Zionist, and proverbial Court Jew, Moses Ezekiel was a riddle of a man, a puzzle of seemingly irreconcilable parts.

Knighted by three European monarchs, courted by the rich and famous, Moses Ezekiel lived the life of an aristocrat with rarely a penny to his name. Making his home in the capacious ruins of the Baths of Diocletian in Rome, he quickly distinguished himself as the consummate artist and host, winning international fame for his work and consorting with many of the lions and luminaries of the fin-de-siècle world, including Giuseppe Garibaldi, Queen Margherita, Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner, Sarah Bernhardt, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Eleonora Duse, Annie Besant, Clara Schumann, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Alphonse Daudet, Mark Twain, Émile Zola, Robert E. Lee, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and Isaac Mayer Wise. In a city besieged with eccentrics, he, a Southern Jewish homosexual sculptor, was outstanding, an enigma to those who knew him, a man at once stubbornly original and deeply emblematic of his times. According to Stanley Chyet in his introduction to Ezekiel’s memoirs, “The contemporary European struggle between liberalism and reaction, between modernity and feudalism, between the democratic and the hierarchical is rather amply refracted in Ezekiel’s account of his life in Rome.” Indeed so many of the contentious cultural, political, artistic, and scientific struggles of the age converged in the figure of this adroit and prepossessing Jew.

Here's the Amazon link:http://www.amazon.com/Life-Times-Moses-Jacob-Ezekiel/dp/1611476712/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1397425658&sr=1-2&keywords=Moses+ezekiel

Thank you.

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