A Serious Note on Hate (and a great tune by Charles Mingus)

Hate is fucked up, let’s face it.  I used hate lightly in two recent posts, about the fucking super-wealthy and another one about the accursed poor.   I was being a little ironic, though irony about hate, I think now, might be a misguided use of irony.   There’s enough hate in the world without ironic hate being added to the mix.

When I was a boy, my grandmother, Yetta, always gave me grief when I’d come home from school and tell her about a teacher I hated.  (Harriet Bluming, my fifth grade teacher, comes to mind. Bluming was a snob who regularly persecuted a scapegoat in class, a girl named Simone, and was a snarling racist in the lunchroom, where she bitterly fought with ten and eleven year-old black children recently bused into the school.  Way to be a role model, I’ve always thought.)

“You HATE her?” Yetta would challenge me, when I vented my feelings for someone like Bluming, “you would kill her, or watch somebody killing her?   You don’t know what hate means.   Shut up!  You don’t HATE her.”    

“I hate her, grandma,” I’d say, full of the righteousness of childhood.  I suspect now that Yetta was probably right on this issue, I really should leave hate to the real haters.  I wouldn’t have been able to kill Harriet Bluming, or even watch somebody torturing her, deeply as I disliked the despicable woman.

On the subject of Yetta and hate, a friend reminded me of her classic line after she got a call from an old acquaintance who’d been silent since Yetta was diagnosed with the colon cancer that quickly killed her.   She had cooed to the woman, calling her sweetheart, thanking her for the call, inviting her to visit any time, assuring her that the cancer was not contagious.   She hung up the phone and announced, with vehemence, “I hate the guts from that woman!”  

Anger is a very common emotion, ubiquitous in human affairs.   The desire to hurt someone when angry is also common.   Acting on this desire is another thing, as is turning anger into real hatred.  Hatred is poison.  Spit that shit out, friends, do not swallow it. 

What is the proper response to news of a lynching, to photos of the twisted face, eyes bugging out?   It is not to assure people that in fifty years or so our laws and social attitudes might evolve to the point when people are ready to have a federal anti-lynching law to punish the perpetrators of this grotesque and heinous hate crime and prevent its use as a protected means of terrorist expression under racist state laws.   The proper response to terrorism and acts of hatred is banding together as civilized people and demanding an end to it, taking action to end it until it ends.   A rare response, granted, in our busy, bottom-line world.

On Christmas I am posting a remarkable 1960 track by the great Charles Mingus, originally called Fables of Faubus.  You can hear it and watch an excellent and somewhat chilling video here.  

Orval Faubus was the race card playing governor of Arkansas, the man who famously stood up to the Supreme Court’s desegregation decision and ordered Arkansas National Guard troops to Little Rock to prevent the integration of Central High School, where nine blacks were attempting to enroll, in 1957.  It presented Eisenhower with a constitutional crisis which he took prompt action to end.   Wikipedia:

In October 1957, Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard and ordered them to return to their armories which effectively removed them from Faubus’ control. Eisenhower then sent elements of the 101st Airborne Divisionto Arkansas to protect the black students and enforce the Federal court order. The Arkansas National Guard later took over protection duties from the 101st Airborne Division.   In retaliation, Faubus shut down Little Rock high schools for the 1958–1959 school year. This is often referred to as “The Lost Year” in Little Rock.[10] In a 1985 interview with a Huntsville Arkansas student, Faubus stated that the Crisis was due to an “Usurpation of power” by the Federal Government. The State knew forced integration by the Federal Government was going to meet with unfavorable results from the Little Rock public. In his opinion, he was acting in his State’s best interest at the time.

Faubus’s grandstanding as a proud segregationist won him many votes and admirers across the south.

Mingus asked a simple question about Faubus and his ilk: “why are they so sick and ridiculous?”   A legitimate question for a black genius to ask in the late 1950s, a question that remains legit and relevant today, in fact. 

Columbia, the record company Mingus was signed to, did not allow Mingus to release Fables of Faubus with lyrics.   Why was this corporation being so sick and ridiculous?   It was, we imagine, a business decision.  Mingus led a brilliant jazz combo that improvised to the changes of the tune, so there was plenty of musical material in addition to the lyrical section, a call and response between Mingus and drummer Dannie Richmond.  Fables of Faubus was released by Columbia as an instrumental in 1959.  

It was only when Mingus changed labels, the following year, that he put out the tune, under the title Original Faubus Fables, since contractually Fables of Faubus belonged to Columbia.  Dig the great vocal duet between Mingus and drummer Dannie Richmond.   A jazz critic had these insightful words about it:

Critic Don Heckman commented of the unedited “Original Faubus Fables” in a 1962 review that it was “a classic Negro put-down in which satire becomes a deadly rapier-thrust. Faubus emerges in a glare of ridicule as a mock villain whom no-one really takes seriously. This kind of commentary, brimful of feeling, bitingly direct and harshly satiric, appears far too rarely in jazz.”[8]

Dig it.  Czech it out.  Have a holly, jolly Christmas.

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