Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

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Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

Let's talk...

Let's talk...

Monday, January 9, 2017

Something to thnk about: The miseducation of the Americano

The miseducation of the Americano

  • Written by   
  • Tuesday, 10 January 2017 00:00

We were having our usual Thursday afternoon drink at our favorite restaurant in this Visayan city. Attendance was down this week, and there were just four of us: two Americans, an Australian and a Brit, each of whom had achieved or exceeded the biblical span of three- score years and ten.

The Australian, having recently read Charles Pellegrino’s fascinating Return to Sodom and Gomorrah, was explaining to one of the Americans, a born-again Christian, that there was a perfectly rational, scientific explanation for Joshua’s claimed feat in bringing the walls of Jericho tumbling down. 

Feeling that this discussion could be lightened with some musical accompaniment, I contributed the first few lines of “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.”

“You know,” said Born Again, “it’s about 50 years since I heard that song.”

“How about this one?” I inquired, before giving them the first verse of “The Ballad of Joe Hill.”

Greeted with blank expressions, I asked the two Americans if they really expected me to believe that they had never heard of Joe Hill. No, they never had.

“Well, he was an organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World…”

At this first whiff of radicalism, Born Again pounced. “Ah, in your country!”

“No,” I replied, “in your country. He was a Swedish immigrant, real name Joseph Hillstrom, and the authorities in your country framed him for murder and had him shot. So are you saying you’ve never heard of the Wobblies either?”

“The whut?”

“Wobblies. It’s what the Industrial Workers of the World were commonly called.”

The second American, who, in the same forum, had once expressed the view that Obama was encouraging Muslim emigration to the USA so that they could eventually take over the country, now made his first contribution. “So this was, like, back in the 1880s?”

“No, Joe Hill was executed in 1915.”

“I guess this was back East.”

“No, out West.” Utah, in fact.

Both Americans shrugged. This was all news to them.

“Okay, here’s an easier one: what’s the link between the two songs, ‘Joshua Fit the Battle’ and ‘Joe Hill?’” 
Sensing that the tongues of the Americans were about to emerge from the corners of their mouths, and frowns of concentration descend upon their brows, I hastily added: “Look, one singer performed both songs. Just give me the name of the singer.”

The Americans were like two schoolboys who, having neglected to complete their homework, were about to flunk a class quiz.

“Alright, I’ll tell you: it was Paul Robeson.”


“Robeson. R-o-b-e-s-o-n.”

To make it easier, I had thought of throwing in “Ol’ Man River” as an additional clue, but I could see now that this would have made no difference, as it was obvious that these two Trump supporters had never in their three-score years and 10 heard of Paul Robeson (1898-1976).

“Singer. Actor. Performed before Welsh miners and concert goers throughout Europe. He once said one thing he liked about going to the Soviet Union was that no one called him nigger there.”

“Oh, he was a black guy?”

“Yes, and at one stage your mighty bastion of freedom and democracy refused to issue him a passport for fear that he would say nasty things about the USA — which, of course, we all love —while abroad.”

It is often said — and correctly so, unfortunately — that the average Filipino has little knowledge of the history of this archipelago. But the more I encounter Americans over here (and there are, thankfully, exceptions), the more I am convinced that the average specimen is just as ignorant of US history.

On one occasion, I utterly failed to convince an acquaintance that many other Americans — Brazilians, Argentinians, certainly Cubans and even Canadians — resent the way in which the USA has appropriated the appellation “America” as its exclusive property; and, having never heard of Amerigo Vespucci, he was completely in the dark as to the origins of the name.

There is, however, a crucial difference between Filipino ignorance and the US variety: the Filipino with little knowledge of his own history rarely if ever oversteps the bounds of modesty, while many a benighted Americano will not hesitate to proclaim that the land of which he knows so little has, being the greatest nation in the world, the God-given right to lord it over the rest of the planet (about which, of course, he usually knows even less).

It’s amazing how a Thursday afternoon drink can provide such insight into recent events in the USA.