Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I don't know why New York threw two ticker-tape parades for Haile Selassie.

My team won last night's trivia contest at The Liberal Cup, but missed a chance for an extra point because we could not come up with more than one of the ten people who have had two ticker-tape parades thrown for them in New York City.

We guessed John Glenn, correctly; the other nine are Admiral Richard Byrd (who had three); golfer Bobby Jones; Captain George Fried, who led a ship that rescued two sinking freighters from New York Harbor on separate occasions; Amelia Earhart; Charles de Gaulle; pilot Wiley Post; Dwight D. Eisenhower; Italian prime minister Alcide de Gasperi; and His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Kings of Ethiopia and Elect of God.

I'm not going to discuss the relative merits of Haile Selassie's 43-year reign here, nor the question of whether or not he was a new incarnation of the Messiah. He was a powerfully charismatic man who instituted constitutional rule in Ethiopia, fought fascist imperialism in north Africa, and founded the Organization of African Unity. His role in the modern history of Africa cannot be overstated, and his influence continues.

What puzzles me about this, I suppose, is not that New York held two ticker-tape parades for Haile Selassie, but the realization that I can't think of one African leader -- apart from Nelson Mandela -- whose name most Americans today would recognize, much less think worthy of a ticker-tape parade. (Nelson Mandela did get a ticker-tape parade of his own, on June 20, 1990.)

It's part of a bigger issue that's been on my mind a lot lately. I work with MSNBC on for most of the day, just as white noise, and realized while I was in Washington how very little I know about what's going on in the rest of the world. MSNBC does a fine job of covering domestic political bickering, U.S. weather disasters, and box-office results -- but I saw no mention at all of the Inter-American Development Bank's meeting in Medellin earlier this month, or anything non-pirate related happening in Africa.

Sure, it's a big world, and we have a lot going on at home -- but I wonder whether all of this new technology and information has just made it easier to keep our own personal worlds narrow. If I'm spending all my time on Facebook reading about my friends' trips to the grocery store, I'm not reading a newspaper's account of people I don't know. I'm not sure that's a good thing.

That doesn't mean I'm giving up Facebook, though.

Five Random Songs

"Baba O'Riley," The Who. Ooh, tomorrow's blog post: who's Baba O'Riley, and why is this the name of the song, when we all think of it as "Teenage Wasteland"?

"Dream a Little Dream of Me," The Mamas and the Papas. That YouTube video of the English lady singing from Les Miz is very touching and all, but why would anyone be surprised that a plain person could be talented? I'm always more surprised when beautiful people are talented, because from an evolutionary point of view, they don't need to be. Anyway, Exhibit A: Mama Cass.

"Out of the Blue," George Harrison. A long, long jam off All Things Must Pass.

"Discarded," Uncle Tupelo. A good, angry song for my cranky mood today. "It's so goddamned hard to make it work..."

"Reason to Believe," Bruce Springsteen. The song that closes Nebraska, and it always feels like a blessing.

1 comment:

JIM LAMB said...

Maybe he could get a third parade since I was told in Jamaica that the devine Barry Obama is the reincarnation of Haile Selassie and the current living avatar of Jesus Christ. There are Rasta hymns on the radio in Jamaica to the devine Obama in the White House. Who would have thought!