Bart Johnson, John Brown, Oil on canvas, 2011
For months now, I’ve been occupied with reading about 19th century American history… John Brown, just as McVeigh, Loughner and the latest “lone gunman” Wade Michael Page, was branded a domestic terrorist… and executed like McVeigh. Presumably the others will be executed as well.
The recent massacre at the Sikh Temple prompted me to begin looking more closely at John Brown. I’d done the painting above of Brown about a year ago which was when my interest in him started. I’m also going to do another post of paintings of Brown by various American painters over time after I finish writing this post.
To get an understanding of how things transpired in the 19th century Professor Blight of Yale does a remarkable job throwing light on the remarkable 19th century “Terrorist or Heroic Revolutionary” John Brown, as well as the precipitating circumstances of his actions, the most determinant one being the Supreme Court’s abominable Dred Scott decision.
As one of our greatest Southern novelists, William Faulkner observed: “The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.”
Gore Vidal, being one of the foremost scholars of American history, wrote an excellent piece in Vanity Fair that closely examines the background of McVeigh and the current strand of terrorism is is just as alive as it was in Brown’s day.
I also picked a piece from The Globalist (linked below). Note that the author, Michael Vlahos, mentions John Brown as the emblematic American case of what he terms “ritual human execution.” It’s an excellent and thoughtful examination of the problem of violence in America and all the more notable because it was written by a professor at the Naval War College in Rhode Island. His conclusion, that America will ever remotely alter, the course to destruction on which its headed if it first doesn’t recognize the problem.
Our corporate media and political leaders have completely abrogated their responsibility to examine the gun violence that is destroying the country.
Vlahos writes bluntly regarding the empty rhetoric coming from Obama/Romney.: “Nothing is going to happen. If it did, one thing would have to come first: recognition. Just getting to that place of self-awareness would represent an amazing achievement. It would be nothing short of America stepping outside of itself. We will go nowhere as a society until we take this first step.”