Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Wisdom of Rodgers & Hammerstein

I shared this about my South Central L.A. boyhood with a Broadway actress in her dressing room one night.  A friend, who represented her, had taken me to see a 1990s revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein's THE KING AND I.  I grew up loving the movie version, watching it on TV every chance I got, and I loved listening to the movie soundtrack album.  Our house was like just about every other house on our block.  Our record collection had great jazz, Motown albums and at least one soundtrack to a classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musical.  Why?  Well, come on.  Their music was gorgeous.  In addition to that, they used their music and the stories to shout down bigotry and intolerance.  Our Black people were familiar with bigotry and intolerance.  After I told the Broadway star how moved I was by her show, she smiled and replied that she wasn't sure if she wanted to do revival at first because the libretto seemed dated. I emphatically told her how important works of art like THE KING AND I are.
America was in the midst of culture wars at that time.  I told her, "Anna is not a privileged white woman giving orders with a superior attitude.  She embraces cultural diversity and she has respect for different races. 'Getting To Know You' is very important.  'Getting to know you, Getting to know all about you.  Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me.'"  People of color are not invisible, second class citizens to her.  They become a part of her special world.  Her young son learns from his widowed mother's embrace of another culture and her humility.
When NBC network TV host Donald Trump consistently disrespected President Barack Obama verbally by claiming Mr. Obama, our first Black president, was not a real American and demanded to see his birth certificate, I was offended.  When he got on Twitter and wrote disrespectful things about President Obama, I was offended.  I was also offended that Donald Trump had never apologized to The Central Park Five, Black and Latino teens sent to prison for years and -- as we learned -- wrongfully accused of assault and rape.  He'd called for their execution.  And I was offended by the insensitive things the NBC entertainment TV host said about Mexicans.

To me, those actions of his were all red flags.

The TV host was elected to the White House, supported by citizens who held up signs reading "Time To Take Our Country Back."

This weekend, white nationalists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia.  One anti-nationalist reportedly was killed.  There's video of some marching and shouting "Heil, Trump!"  David Duke, a nationally known former KKK leader, attended the Charlottesville march and, on camera, said "We are determined to take our country back.  We're going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump..."

We saw Nazi flags in America.  Just like the one Baron von Trapp tears down and rips up in Rodgers & Hammerstein's THE SOUND OF MUSIC.
When I saw news photos of the white nationalists carrying lit torches in the Friday night Charlottesville rally, one thing that hit me was how young the faces were. Young men who could be new in college. How did ones so young come to that?  I agree with the wisdom of Rodgers & Hammerstein.  From the 1958 film version of their Broadway hit, SOUTH PACIFIC, a World War 2 love story that deals with racial prejudice, here's their song "Carefully Taught."
Be like Rodgers & Hammerstein.  Shout down bigotry and intolerance.

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