All from Arts & Letters Daily...
The Grandest Duke by Geoffrey O'Brien
Of many artists it can be said that deep cultural currents can be read through their work; much rarer are those who, like Ellington, worked so powerfully and subtly on those currents as to transform them. As a personality Ellington had many of the traits one associates more readily with the founders of religious orders or political movements than with lone artists absorbed in self-expression. In a close reading of the details that Cohen amasses, Ellington emerges as a prophetic figure imposing himself almost by stealth, using all the skills of an entertainer and a consummate diplomat.
And worse: The stories of national decline that they tell can be positively counterproductive. By comparing America to Rome and warning us about our imminent decline and fall, writers like Friedman think that they are issuing a necessary wake-up call; sounding an alarm in terms that cannot be ignored. But are they? The fall of an empire is a historical cataclysm on a scale so vast that, in hindsight, it is hard to see it as anything other than inevitable. Would Rome not have fallen if a group of clear-sighted, hardheaded Roman commentators had sternly told the country to buck up in the late third century, lest the empire share the fate of Persia? Was Great Britain’s decline in the twentieth century a product of moral flabbiness that a strong dose of character-building medicine could have reversed?
What Columbus Day Really Means by William J. Connell
When thinking about the Columbus Day holiday it helps to remember the good intentions of the people who put together the first parade in New York. Columbus Day was first proclaimed a national holiday by President Benjamin Harrison in 1892, 400 years after Columbus’s first voyage. The idea, lost on present-day critics of the holiday, was that this would be a national holiday that would be special for recognizing both Native Americans, who were here before Columbus, and the many immigrants–including Italians–who were just then coming to this country in astounding numbers. It was to be a national holiday that was not about the Founding Fathers or the Civil War, but about the rest of American history. Like the Columbian Exposition dedicated in Chicago that year and opened in 1893, it was to be about our land and all its people. Harrison especially designated the schools as centers of the Columbus celebration because universal public schooling, which had only recently taken hold, was seen as essential to a democracy that was seriously aiming to include everyone and not just preserve a governing elite.