Friday, November 5, 2010

Chairman Mao

Mao and Dubois
6 Degrees

Sixth Degree: WEB Dubois.  
In 1959, Chairman Mao met WEB Dubois, an American writer and thinker who was born in Western Massachusetts.  Dubois was African-American and not accepted by American intelligentsia.  Like many frustrated black intellectuals, he was attracted to the communist ideals and the acceptance that he could enjoy in communist countries.  Writing of his friend, Paul Robeson, he said “In America he was a ‘nigger’; in Britain he was tolerated; in France he was cheered; in the Soviet Union he was loved for the great artist that he is.” These words could easily be about Dubois himself. To read the entire book W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963
 By David Levering Lewis click here.

Fifth Degree: Paul Robeson 
Robeson toasting Marian Anderson
WEB Dubois was friends with Paul Robeson, the great American Bass.  Paul Robeson has one of the most recognizable singing voices in the history of song.  Most will know his as the voice of "Ol' Man River."  He was frustrated with his status in the United States as "that colored singer," and he wished to be known as simply a great artist.  He sang in the Soviet Union.  There he was not simply a caricature of a singer, but a performer of lieder.  Here is a recording from his Soviet concerts.  

Roosevelt's resignation
from DAR, click to enlarge
Fourth Degree: Marian Anderson
Paul Robeson gave a toast at a dinner given in honor of Marian Anderson.  A great lady of American song, Ms Anderson lead the way for other Divas-of-Color like Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman, Kathleen Battle, and Denyce Graves.

Third Degree, Eleanor Roosevelt:
She was acquainted with First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, who invited her to sing for the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).  Miss Anderson excepted, but the DAR refused to allow a "colored singer" to perform for them.  Outraged, Mrs. Roosevelt wrote a letter of resignation from the DAR and scheduled a concert for Miss Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial.  That famous concert is reported as a newsreel in the video click here.  I was unable to embed that video, but this one with Leopold Stokowski of the Ave Maria is below.  
To read more about Eleanor's relationship to Marian Anderson here is a link to the FDR library.  I saw these documents myself when I visited there.  Mrs. Roosevelt was an amazing woman.

Myron Taylor and Pius XII
Second Degree: President Franklin Deleno Roosevelt
FDR and Pope Pius XII exchanged many letters through FDR's envoy to the Pope, Myron Taylor.  To read all of the wartime correspondence between FDR and Pius XII  go here.  I believe you can also buy the book at that link as well.

Second (still)  Degree: Myron Taylor, Personal Envoy of FDR to Pius XII
FDR wanted his letters to the pope to be “the channel of communication for any views You and I might wish to exchange in the interest of concord among the peoples of the world.”  The pope deemed their letters to be successful in that endeavor.  He saw the US aide that flowed to be of great relief to the “misery begotten of the war” and praised secretary Myron Taylor to be the go-between at this pre-air-travel time. Click the above link to read Pius' words.

Now, I consider the letters to be direct correspondence even though they were delivered through Myron Taylor.  Therefore,

First  Degree: Pope Pius XII. Pius XII was pope #261 and John Paul #265.  Just as I'm considering bloodlines to be one degree of separation, I'm counting the papal succession as one degree as well.
Not so fun Catholic fact: Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you need to be against both sides of a conflict.  That was the case in World War II with Pius XII.  He was against the Fascist dictators on the basis of Fascist opposition to belief in God.  Fascism requires undivided loyalty of each citizen to the state, in such a state, true Christianity is anathema.  Pius was also against the Communist forces of the Allies.  Communism is by definition atheist.  For these reasons, Pius is one of the most vilified popes in history. Taking a stand for what is right will rarely render one to be popular.  Christ knew that always, most pointedly on the cross.

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