November 07, 2003

Lancaster’s Own

Charles Demuth is one of my “faves,” to use the vernacular. He was born, lived, created the greatest part of his work, and died in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He was also homosexual, a fact which everyone here at home works very hard to ignore. We keep him in the closet and let him out only on special occasions.
As a young adult, Demuth lived and attended art classes in Philadelphia, took residence in New York City and Paris at times, spent summers in New Hope, Pennsylvania, and vacationed in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and Bermuda. During the years 1901 to 1922 Demuth spent more time away from Lancaster than in it, but was forced to return to Lancaster permanently after his health deteriorated in 1922. He was diabetic (one of the first to receive insulin treatments in the United States). Once he had resettled in Lancaster on a more or less permanent basis, he discovered a mission to instruct the people of Lancaster, and to contribute his part to the new, “modern art,” in the United States. “What work I do will be done here; terrible as it is to work in this ‘our land of the free’....” he said.” “I fell ‘in’ America, -- even though it’s [sic] insides are empty. Maybe I can help to fill them.”
Why did Demuth think of the “American Scene” as vacuous? The question is intriguing, and begs for an answer. Indeed, it might be the fit subject for a book, dear journal. However, it must be sufficient to say here that he found Lancaster, provincial after his visits and residences in Philadelphia, New York, and the Paris of Gertrude Stein, the Avant Guarde, and the new, Modernist aesthetic. In fact, Demuth referred to Lancaster as “The Province.”

Crusade Versus Jihad

Why do I find Demuth’s comments about Lancaster and the USA still applicable today? Charles (I can call him by name, since I did meet him.) loved Lancaster as do I. It is a beautiful piece of this earth, and the fact that we call it “God’s country” gives an accurate picture of our local perception of it’s beauty. However, it also gives an indication of our provincialism. We do believe that God favor’s us and protects us above all others. Many of us here in “The Province” still see ourselves as the chosen of God. All others therefore are outsiders at the least, heathen and barbarian at the most.
I think it safe to say that many in our nation’s current presidential administration view all of Islam and most of the Middle East as barbarian and heathen. For instance I have excerpted the following from an article titled “The Pentagon Unleashes a Holy War” by William M Arkin of The Los Angeles Times on Line. The article is dated October 16, 2003 and is about the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, Jerry Boykin.

<>There was a man in Mogadishu named Osman Atto," whom Boykin described as a top lieutenant of Mohammed Farah Aidid.

When Boykin's Delta Force commandos went after Atto, they missed him by seconds, he said. "He went on CNN and he laughed at us, and he said, 'They'll never get me because Allah will protect me. Allah will protect me.'

"Well, you know what?" Boykin continued. "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." Atto later was captured.

Boykin is also quoted as saying, "George Bush was not elected by a majority of the voters in the United States," ... .... "He was appointed by God."

Men like Boykin view our invasion of Iraq as a holy war, a Crusade. What’s the difference between a Christian Crusade and an Islamic Jihad? Non, they are the same. They are both holy wars against an enemy who is understood to be heathen and barbarian, and we all know that the lives of barbarians and heathens are not important.

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