I'm a Christian. I believe that greatness has to do with the quality of love shown to the least of thy brethren and the quality of service to those who are catching hell. When you look at it in that sense, I'd say America has had great moments, but I wouldn't call it a great nation. I don't think there have been any great nations in the history of the world, because in every nation you find poor people being subjugated. So, I see the term "great nation" as a contradiction, as an oxymoron.
We're talking about a prison-industrial complex. We're talking about a war on drugs that's generating unprecedented levels of incarcerated folk. We're talking about dilapidated housing. We're talking about joblessness and underemployment.
I'm not pessimistic, because poor people tend to bounce back. We've been through worse than this - working people been through worse than this. We've got slavery and Jim Crow. We've got workers with no rights up until `35. We're going to bounce back. We are resilient, resisting people. So, it's not pessimism, but it is blues-like. It's not optimistic. We're just prisoners of hope, that's all.
I was a gangster when I was young. I had a Robin Hood mentality and tended to always want to support the weak against the strong, but sometimes it was cohesive and I really needed to fall in love with the power of education to find the right venue to express my rage. I still have a righteous indignation at injustice, no matter what form it takes.
This book is the best treatment of the best American Marxist philosopher-and the best philosopher to emerge from American slums. Young Sidney Hook is essential reading for anyone interested in democratic theory and practice in America.
Like Richard Ellmann on James Joyce, Arnold Rampersad on Ralph Ellison is in a class of its own. His masterful and magisterial book is the most powerful and profound treatment of Ellison's undeniable artistic genius, deep personal flaws, and controversial political evolution. And he reveals an Ellison unbeknownst to all of us. From now on, all serious scholarship on Ellison must begin with Rampersad's instant and inimitable classic in literary biography.
But black folks have never really been optimists. We've been prisoners of hope, and hope is qualitatively different from optimism in the way that there's a difference between The Blues and Lawrence Welk. The Blues and Jazz have to do with hope while the other is sugarcoated music which has to do with sentimental optimism.