Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category.

Search to Reverse an Injustice and for a Higher Minded Humane Court for Attorney Robert Dekelaita a True Assyrian Hero

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By Abbey Mikha

I cannot believe the verdict that has been assigned to Assyrian American attorney Robert Dekelaita from Chicago! How can this be? How can someone who fought so hard to save so many people lives be found guilty of a crime? Is it a crime to save people in 2016 in America? Genocide is real and Islamic extremism (ISIS) against Christians and Assyrians of all denominations is a very scary reality! Do they not see what has been done to our children lying on the streets of the Nineveh plains in tattered garb with barely any food or water? Do they not comprehend what they have all conspired together and done to Assyrian families, women, girls, men, young boys, and the elderly! Go see our nation in occupied Assyria living in refugee camps and being treated on a subhuman level by the Iraqi and Kurdish governments. How evil must these people be to choose to be blind to all that is happening in Iraq and Syria to Assyrian Christians? And this is all occurring because we are a minority in the Middle East and the world and because we are helpless. Everyone knows that Obama would rather Islamic people enter the United States even though their intentions are unclear, rather than peaceful Assyrian Christians who are suffering so much at their hands and their Islamic extremism (ISIS) and Kurdish occupation.

Whenever genocide occurs continuously there are some individuals who have risked their own comfort in life to save the lives of their brethren. Robert’s courage must inspire us to defy those who want to keep Assyrians downcast, just like their fellow kinds in Iraq. Yes, Kurd, Arab, and even Turkish authorities and governments take joy and pride in the suffering of Assyrians and who have had a bloody hand in the Assyrian Genocide of yesterday and today. We must be aware. We cannot get too comfortable in the countries which we now live in. We need to speak out about injustice and not be blinded by the capitalism, materialism, greed of western countries, and the mafia against the Assyrian Christians in the homeland and in America. As was evident in Robert’s trial most American people cannot understand the Assyrian struggle. They do not sympathize with us and it is as though we are people from another planet!

Once upon a time when people helped others and saved their lives and gave them an opportunity for better lives they were called heroes even by Americans. For example we must remember that it was in Smyrna during the first Genocide of the century where a small-town minister from upstate New York became a humanitarian when he rescued and saved the lives of thousands of Christian women and children. His name was Asa Kent Jennings and he is worth remembering now at the centennial of the Armenian, Assyrian, and Pontic Greek genocide. He was a hero like Robert is a hero. His memory is also important now that the issue of Christian persecution has risen again in America, the Middle East and the world. Refugees are trying to escape into America, Canada, Australia, and Europe. Christian Assyrian persecution is not controversial. Assyrians are being killed! Assyrians are being raped! Assyrians are being intimidated! Our Assyrian homeland is being taken before our very eyes! Assyrians are being tortured and divided! If Assyrians could live as human beings in our own homeland we would. No one would ever want to leave our precious motherland to a foreign land if we weren’t being forced by evil forces!

The Assyrian people are on the verge of extinction and obviously this makes some people happy. We are being targeted in the Middle East and abroad. Robert Dekelaita was educated in the University of Chicago and graduated with a degree in International Relations. He is married and he is a family man with beautiful children. How can the court accept this decision? How can they sleep at night? There are so many murderers, rapists, drug dealers, and true criminals on the loose. Why have they targeted an innocent man? Why do they not use their time to sentence true criminals?

Obama the American president who is spreading all this boloney about how innocent Muslims are and how peaceful because he wets his bed when he thinks of the billions of Muslims which may turn against him many of which are Islamic extremists (ISIS). Obama sympathises with Muslims but he never has shed a tear for Assyrian children who are being raped and killed. Obama does not even blink an eye in regards to this issue, but when Donald Trump gets elected as president of the United States of America maybe things will change for Assyrian Christians because he has shown much more compassion towards the struggle of the Christians of the Middle East. He has directly said this in his speech about his foreign policy where he said, “We left Christians subject to intense persecution and even genocide.” Maybe Trump will awaken this sleeping country. Maybe then America will take another direction and not be so blinded by the media and the interest of the mafia.

On this kind of a week when hearing this court decision against Mr. Robert Dekelaita I am glad I do not live in America. America is not the land of the free. America has become the land where someone with a good heart who only wanted to help people of his nation is being allowed to be tormented. Everyone who was involved in Robert’s indictment should be ashamed. God be with Robert and his family in the upcoming days, months, and years. We will not be quiet! We will not let Roberts voice be diminished. God shall vindicate Robert and what he did for his people shall go down in history. He is a candle which burned itself for his nation. He definitely does not deserve what is happening to him. We need to search to reverse this injustice and for a higher minded humane court to save Robert a true Assyrian hero.

Notes:
Donald Trump Foreign Policy Speech: <https://www.donaldjtrump.com/…/donald-j.-trump-foreign-policy-speech>

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Hear Our Strangled Voices!

Assyrians against Isis

By Abbey Mikha

Assyrians need the help of anyone who cares about innocent human beings as Christians and most importantly as Assyrians. Assyrians are on the verge of extinction off of the face of this Earth! Our population used to be in the millions in Iraq and Syria and now there are only a few hundred thousand people left because of all the killings, rapping, and destroying. Our people are being murdered in Iraq and Syria and they are suffering so very much. What is happening to them is unbelievable! In the year 2016 there is a Genocide being committed against the Assyrian people and yes even if they call themselves by other names such as Chaldean or Suryoyo, they are true descendants of the Assyrians and people of ancient Assyria.

As Canadians, Americans, Europeans, Asians, Africans, Natives, and any other ethnic people of the world please open your hearts to the Assyrians. Please help the families, the children, girls and boys, and our friends who have no one to turn to except us and you. Help them first by finding out more about them. Read about what ISIS has done to our homeland and our people. All of this is happening to the Assyrians and the world media barely gives any attention to the issue because we are not a powerful nation and our people are scattered all over the world and their voices are not being heard by anyone.

You have to know something about Assyrians. Assyrian Christians are a very peaceful people. They strive only for family life, education, and working very hard. They are humble people who are only looking for the hope of living a normal life. There isn’t an Assyrian family who does not strive for their sons and daughters to be teachers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, or at least very good human beings who would never even think of hurting anyone.

Assyrian Christians are at the end of their rope. They need your voice. They need your help. They need your compassion. Please whoever you are wherever you are from help the Assyrian Christians! Help us be able to survive in countries like Iraq and Syria where humanitarianism is a thousand mile walking journey. Help us be able to have a voice in our homeland. Stand up for us. When we are strong and something happens in your country we will also stand up for you as we are a people who never forget other peoples kindness.

Read about the Assyrians. Find out about us. Read about what is happening in Iraq and Syria. Isn’t it amazing that there are individuals in the world called Assyrians who have survived upon the earth since ancient times! But, please do not take too long to look into our issue as our people in the homeland have been shouting for help for years and months now and not many people have been willing or kind enough to listen to them.  Their voices have been strangled!  Give us a chance. Our children deserve to live. Spread the message about the suffering of the Assyrians and we shall rise up against this threat and survive and thrive into the future. Just believe in us as a people and as a nation and believe in the compassion and sympathy in our hearts for every living being, compared to the ugliness and darkness of the hearts of those who are oppressing us such us the Islamic terrorist group called ISIS and others who want to throw us out of our own ancestral homeland!

Please share this post so that we can spread this plea from Abbey to spread the message about the suffering of the Assyrians which must come to an end as soon as possible! Thank you and may God bless you.

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Remembering Assyrian Martyrs Past and Present

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By Abbey Mikha

Every day I think about the Assyrian Martyrs who were massacred in 1915 in Hakkari, Tur Abdin, and other Assyrian areas and also in Simele in 1933. I am especially thinking about these Genocides today August 7th because today is Assyrian Martyrs day.

The Seypa Genocide is a part of my identity. I am a descendant of Assyrian human beings who escaped this Genocide from Zerineh Jilu Hakkari and Mardin Tur Abdin.   This Genocide which was perpetuated against Assyrians, Armenians, and Pontic Greeks at the hands of the Turks and their cousins the Kurds, devastated our nation perhaps forever…

I really feel that today in 2015 history is repeating itself and the Assyrians are suffering again and again as they did one hundred years ago. I ask God and the universe to protect my little nation and not let us be wiped out by cruel nations who do not have any humanity and only know the love of money, power, weaponry, and backwards religious mentality.

God be with the Assyrians who are still being held hostage in Syria today and all others who have fled and are seeking  life in other countries.  God help our people and may all individuals of other cultures sympathize with the Assyrians who are literally being silently wiped out today.

I pray for each and every Assyrian. I pray for your little children, for your girls and boys. I pray for your teenagers and those who are become young adults in this difficult time. I pray for Assyrian people of all ages and especially the courageous elderly.  I pray for this nation that the human race has forgotten and ignored.

May the Spirit of the Assyrian Nation shine brightly amongst nations in these difficult days! May the love in the hearts of Assyrian children and people surround each Assyrian individual in the homeland and protect them. May this love build bridges amongst our Assyrian people and bring us closer together as one ancient Assyrian united nation.

Lastly, may the truth become evident that the Assyrian nation was always in the heart of Jesus the Christ and any nation in the heart of Jesus deserves to survive, thrive, and bloom unto eternity.

I light this candle in the name of every Assyrian, past, present, and future.  God bless you all!

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USA Stop Assyrian Christian Genocide Safe Haven For Assyrians Immediately

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Abbey Mikha

In President Barack Obama’s recent speech on authorizing air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria dated August 7th, 2014 he addressed some very important issues. He said:

“We intend to stay vigilant and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq including our consulate in Erbil and our embassy in Baghdad.”

Of course this is typical, but when listening to him it reminded me of the Bush administration and campaign for the war on Iraq in 2003, which was called “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” This “operation” put the government of the United States of America responsible by the principles of humanity for providing a safe haven for the indigenous people of Nineveh and Northern Iraq the Assyrian Christians and other minorities who were being even at that time mistreated and oppressed. The Christian Assyrians were being systemically terrorized and killed, their churches were being bombed, and hundreds of thousands were forced to flee the country. Their national Assyrian name was removed and their national and political rights were at the mercy of the governments in Baghdad, Kurdish government in Erbil, and the terrorists who were silencing them. For these reasons Obama’s recent chosen words proved to me what is important to him. Maybe no one ever told him but he sounded very selfish and conceited. Also it seemed like someone was pulling his ears in order not to mention the Assyrians, which is like a phobia for these people because of the sensitivities of their Kurdish leader allies who have occupied Assyrian lands.

President Barack Obama also said:

“We are also providing urgent assistance to the Iraqi government and Kurdish forces so they can more affectively wage the fight against ISIL.”

This is great news for the Kurds but the fact is that the Kurdish peshmerga fighters have retreated in Assyrian Christian areas and contributed to an exodus of Assyrian Christians out of their towns and villages such as in Telkef, Qaraqosh, Karimlesh, Bartila, Batnaya, Baqoufa, Bashiqa, Bahzani, and Alqosh.

Assyrian Christians from all the various churches are dying in crowded camps in Ankawa and Erbil. These people were forced out of their homes by the vicious attacks by the Islamic State hooligans, and they do not know when they will be allowed to go home. Actually they do not even know where home is now. They are being humiliated and treated like beggars. It seems like this is the policy of the land in order to make the people leave their homeland. It seems there is an indirect relation between ISIS and the Kurdish peshmarga fighter policy. These are the groups who are benefiting from the situation of the departure of the Assyrians.

We are seeing pictures everyday of people sleeping on the streets, and in parks in the summer heat. Pregnant women, children, and the sick and elderly are sitting on dirty floors and they barely have any food to eat or water to drink. Our people are facing genocide and as you read this there is a complete extermination of Assyrian Christians being conducted from Iraq. It is a true catastrophe!

The Assyrian Christian people need a solution. Take responsibility USA stop the Assyrian Christian genocide! A Safe haven must be established for Assyrians immediately before it is too late! If President Barack Obama is only looking for American interests and this is characteristic, he must remember there is a responsibility his administration has after taking over from the Bush administration, especially in regards to the Assyrian Christian case and what happened to this people since 2003.

The Assyrians do not have a militia to fight because we are not taking part in the fight for power between Sunni, Shia, and Kurd, but we are paying the highest price because we are losing the last of the lands of Assyria.

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Is History Repeating Itself?

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By Abbey Mikha

            World War I as thought of as an Islamic jihad and or a Christian crusade is in essence very similar, but it involved diverse nations of differing historical background and from opposing regions of the world. Although the terms jihad or crusade had a religious connotation, the actual dealings, which occurred, by the Ottomans and the British were based on interests, benefits, strategy, and not necessarily religion. These religious ideas were used to rationalize war against a perceived enemy. The ordinary individual on both sides and his religious passions were sparked by these religious philosophies, which were used by their leaders to start conflict and continue it for the benefit of the heads of these empires. It is not the ordinary individual who benefited from war rather the planers and thinkers who use ordinary people to condition them to do their dirty work. History is repeating itself as ISIS is doing this today in Mosul, Iraq and other regions against the Assyrian Christians, the Indigenous people of Nineveh. It must be stated that ISIS itself is a tool in the hands of the same schemers who since 2003 until today have been terrorizing, displacing, and killing Assyrian Christians and other minorities. One must ask the question of who is benefiting from these criminal acts and then we will know who is responsible.

During World War I crusade meant a religious war and jihad meant effort or struggle. A call to jihad was made in Constantinople and another in Madina by Arabs. The leaders told the regular people that death or sacrifice for the cause would send them to paradise. In 1914 there were 270 million Muslims. 30 million governed by fellow Muslims. 100 million were British subjects. There were others in Chechnya. Those who opposed holy war were promised the fire of hell. This was to scare the ordinary religious individual. Call to jihad was translated into Persian, Urdu, Arabic, and Tartar. Jihad was also proclaimed in Afghanistan and India. In Persia there was a call for jihad by Shiites. Uganda, Congo, Sudan were also involved.   This was the most prominent instant of state sponsored jihad, for the Ottomans knew that their empire was going to be destroyed unless they made their move. Jihad was seen as a German plan to weaken Britain and her allies at the time.

Enver Pasha the Ottoman Minister of War himself wondered, “Is holy war useful?” In other words how could the Ottomans use the notion of holy war! Jihad was an attempt by the Ottomans to supposedly unite the empire. One must note that history seems to be repeating itself here again because today the Prime Minister of Turkey Tayyip Ordogan and his Turkish Foreign Minister Daoud Oglo are the main players in the fighting of a dirty war in Syria and Iraq in order to selfishly retrieve gas and oil by manipulating many Islamic jihadi groups in the region.

In regards to World War I in the Middle East and the Ottomans using the notion of holy war to unite the empire, one has to consider that there were many non-Turkish nations living under Ottoman tyranny who were also Christians such as the Assyrians, Armenians, and Greeks. If Jihad was going to strengthen the Ottoman Empire what was to become of its Christian inhabitants?

The British Empire had more Muslims living in it than the Ottoman Empire, but there was a religious crusade declared in Europe. The regular soldiers were told that the British army wanted to reclaim the Holy Land for Christendom and perhaps make Jerusalem the capital of the world. Throughout the 19th century the idea of crusade was associated with an act of public good, like crusading for a cause…

The idea of crusade was not just restricted to the Middle East. Anglicans demonized Germany as anti-Christian and perhaps even pagan. This was their propaganda. Though Germany was a European country the British wanted to defeat the Germans because these peoples were of a different culture. The British tried to distance themselves from fighting a Muslim Empire but they did want to reclaim Constantinople supposedly for Christianity.

In March 1917 the British took Baghdad but the British proclaimed themselves as liberators rather than colonizers. Also, when Allenby entered Jerusalem he did so on foot rather than as a conqueror on a horse. For soldiers of the Middle East who relied on the Bible crusading was about Ottoman government not Islam. They wanted to free people from Ottoman rule not Islamic rule. Soldiers many times saw themselves as tourists. They were fascinated by Islamic culture and found this to be a once in a lifetime opportunity.  A chance to see Egypt, tour the Christian Holy sights and Islamic architecture.   Most of the British soldiers were Protestants though and they did not feel a complete connection with the Christianity in the Holy Land. It was not what they expected. Perhaps here again history is repeating itself as the same sentiment can be seen in the reasoning for many if not most European, Canadian, American, and the larger English speaking community of the world today who do not feel a closeness and a need to stand up for the crimes against humanity which are being committed against the Assyrian Christians (also called Chaldeans and Syriacs) in our holdy land. We ask you on behalf of all the Assyrians suffering in the world. Open your eyes and hearts and help this ancient community, which is on the brink of extinction.

Conclusion

Religion is supposed to be about spirituality. Religion is about faith and it is for the individual not for nations to ruin the world through their understanding of religion. Faith is between you and God no one else. It was the leaders of the Ottoman and the British Empires who used the terms jihad and crusade to ignite in the ordinary individual the desire to go to war against another nation and other human beings of differing religions and cultures.

Lets give an example. Had World War I really been a Christian crusade as was thought by some of the British soldiers, the British planers and thinkers would have aided the Assyrians Christians in the Hakkari region, of what is now south east Turkey, and other regions, and not allowed them to be slaughtered and crucified by the Ottomans and Kurds just for being Assyrians of a different and more ancient culture, language, and because they were ancient Christians.

Although the Assyrians were called Britain’s smallest ally the British only used them and made false promises for a homeland for the Assyrians. They abandoned them and were not faithful to their promises. Today history is repeating itself because the Assyrian Christians are asking from the world community the establishment of their own federal region in their ancestral homeland, but the world powers are giving their lands to the Kurdish occupiers who are originally not from this land, rather from nomadic areas such as Afghanistan and Mahabad Iran. The Kurds have lived in the area less than 200 years and they are definitely not indigenous to this land.

Jihad and crusade during WWI had little to do with true religion, which is spirituality. Mahatma Gandhi who was a product of British colonization said something interesting. He said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” These words give witness to British mannerism and their colonial wars. It was not about religion or spirituality and faith, rather it was about the interests of the few at the expense of the ordinary poor individuals, human beings, and nations. Wars and conflicts are always between various sides that know each other well, and know what they want from their campaign or operation. The regular people who die, they don’t know why they are truly there and why they are dying.

Now almost a hundred years after World War I the Assyrian Christians are still suffering and being driven out of their ancestral homeland.  ISIS is a powerful gang who have taken advantage and created a strategy to gain control of an unstable Middle East. The Assyrian activists worldwide should realize that we have to be strong and diligent in speaking out about the events occuring in the homeland.  History repeats itself.  No one will give us our rights unless we ask for it and stand up for it.  It is very sad that basic human rights are not being afforded to the Assyrians Christians of the region. We need to have leaders that will work in the right direction and who wont be afraid to speak the truth and be faithful to the Sacred Assyrian Cause.

*All information from World War I in the Middle East class 2014

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My 3 Assyrian Wishes and Resolutions for 2014: a list that will shock you!

By: Ashur Sada

 

Did you notice that when it comes to our Assyrian resolutions and wishes for a new year, they almost always sound the same? Worse yet, they mostly fall short and don’t end up happening.

Let us try a different approach to our Assyrian resolutions for 2014

Let us try a different approach to our Assyrian resolutions for 2014

For 2014, I have decided to make the list and its wording a bit different this time, injecting some humor and sarcasm into it and looking at things from a different angle. Maybe, just maybe, this approach will be more effective this time. It is time we used an ‘outside the box’ type of mentality for our difficult and eternal problems.

 

1-Let there be no peace in Iraq, Syria and the rest of the Middle East

Yes, you heard that right. Let us use some reverse psychology. Maybe it will work this time. Better yet, let those who want no peace to keep doing what they are doing, as long as they don’t harm our peaceful people back home. Leave them alone and go on your destructive bombing and killing spree. And leave other innocent people alone too, whether they are our people or not.  Eventually, you will tire of your evil ways and quit. Why not just quit now?

 

2-May Assyrians remain divided

We have been asking for unity for years and decades now. Have we achieved it yet? while we have made some progress, we are far from a perfect or ideal unity yet. For this year, my resolution is for us to stay divided as people and political parties. As long as we can get things done. Really, think about it: if we are still effective without having to get united, let there be no unity.  In organizational behavior literature, we are told that certain individuals perform better on their own than to work within or with a group. How about we started applying that model to Assyrians? Let us give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that Assyrians work more effectively disjointed and individually rather than in groups?

 

3-For Assyrians to continue moving away from knowledge and education

There has been a bad trend amongst Assyrians here in Canada: getting less and less education. Those with a college or university education are becoming extinct. I am not sure about other countries but at least that applies here. And my wish for 2014 is for this trend to continue: more and more Assyrians getting less education and knowledge. Let them waste their valuable time on Facebook, sipping coffee at public places and so on. If that is what they want to do with their free time, who am I to judge and ask them to do something valuable instead? We know that humans instinctively and naturally like to do what is best for themselves. So maybe, just maybe, some Assyrians are made to only work and have fun. Education is just not their thing. And while education is of paramount and extreme importance in our society today, some uneducated Assyrians-and other billionaires-have done much better with their lives and careers than the best educated amongst us.

 

I have more Assyrians’ related resolutions, hopes and wishes for 2014. But I will keep it to this short list. But you get the idea here. It is time we tried and did things differently. It hasn’t worked for us doing things the old-fashioned way.  It wouldn’t hurt to do things differently. After all, what have we got to lose? Think of this as one giant lab, doing different experiments and comparing the results to see what methodology works best.

Let the experimentation on these 2014 resolutions start…

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Time for Assyrians to show that their ancestors created the first library

By: Ashur Sada

I have often preached on Assyrians Voice that Assyrians should always support their music and singers. One way to do so is to buy

Assyrians should support their authors just like they support their musicians.

Assyrians should support their authors just like they support their musicians.

their albums as much as possible.

It is time I start preaching the same thing about Assyrian books and authors. Considering that the great Assyrian king Ashurbanipal  is credited for creating the first library in history, it is only fitting that Assyrians of today would be interested in reading. Right? But is that the case? Are Assyrians of today fond of reading? How many books does the average Assyrian read per year? 3? 2? 1? Maybe less than that? I don’t personally know but I do know one thing: Assyrians need to do more reading. I don’t need to sit here and tell you the reasons why reading is a good thing. But in our case, there are two main reasons.

 

Knowledge is Power

Ever heard of this phrase before? I am sure and hope you have. And it is as accurate as it can ever be in our day today. Assyrians have suffered a lot in the last 100 years or more. And you can even argue that no education could have saved us from what we went through. And that is true to a large degree. But you could also argue that knowledge could reverse some of these losses and give us a better future.  Based on my personal and local observations, it doesn’t look like recent Assyrians settling here in Canada are getting any significant education. In fact, even high school is no longer an attainable option for a lot of them.  I won’t delve into the reasons as to why we have an increasing population with an ever decreasing education.  If school and academia is not an option or of interest to them, they can resort to reading books and picking more knowledge that can benefit them in the long run. Be it books about Assyrian history or any other topic, reading books is fun and very mentally-rewarding. And did I mention knowledge is power?

 

Supporting Assyrian authors

We often talk about the need for Assyrians to support their singers and musicians by buying their albums. It is time we preached the same thing for Assyrian authors. We need to support them by buying their books. Sure, we have a lot fewer authors than we do singers, but supporting them them will ensure they will keep writing and enriching our literature, culture and language.  We also have to remember that the more Assyrian authors and writers we have, the better chance we have at writing our own history and identity. This in turn prevents others from doing it for us, often doing it to serve their own agendas.   Our own Assyrian authors should be the ones to define the Assyrian identity, talk about all the Assyrian genocides and its countless victims, the great Assyrian empire and its contributions to civilization, and more.  As you can see, there is a lot at stake and it’s absolutely vital that we have our own capable writers who will tell things like they actually happened and are.  We can’t be lazy and complacent and let others write and manipulate it for us.

It doesn’t take much to start a new generation of educated and intellectually-enlightened Assyrians. It starts by spending more time on reading and maybe less time on other non-productive activities. And it is important that we start with Assyrian books and then expand our discovery.  Once you start reading, you will not want to stop.

If you are really proud of your ancestors, then at least show it by dedicating more time to reading, something your forefather Ashurbanipal would be very proud of!

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Assyrian parents: 10 things you should teach and tell your kids about

By: Ashur Sada

As an Assyrian parent with kids growing up in the west-or even in the homeland-your job is a little tougher. You not only have toTop 10 things Assyrian parents should teach and tell their kids about! help your kids grow like other parents, you also have a national and patriotic duty to ensure your kids are raised like true Assyrians and don’t forget who they are. To help you with the process, here is a list of 10 things you should teach and tell your kids about, starting as early as at a toddler’s age.

1-Assyrians have an amazing history, but….

Sure, it is an disputable fact that Assyrians have an amazing history and one of the greatest empires but the present and future is what matters the most. If every new born Assyrian , of the last 100 years, focused on the future instead of the past, we would be in a much better shape and state now. Tip: help him or her use the past to inspire them for the present and future. His ancestors were great and he can be like them too.

2-Family and social values matter a lot

As an Assyrian, family and social values matter a lot.  Regardless of where you are living and amongst what other cultures or religions.  While this doesn’t mean you can’t adopt to other cultures, it is important to teach them that the one family unit is very crucial to the Assyrian society. We value our parents, siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, in-laws, friends etc. In fact, family, cousins and relatives are so important to Assyrians, we have a word for each one of them (yes, there is even a word for ‘the husband of my sister in law!) Tip: teach them that family closeness and social values to Assyrians is one of those things that has helped them survive.

3- Getting an education is a matter of survival

Due to the fact that Assyrians have often been forced out of their homes and lands, getting a proper education hasn’t always been easy for our parents and grandparents. That shouldn’t be the case for your kids. Teach them the huge and vast importance of getting a proper education.  Tip: make it clear to them that getting an education will not only help them have a better life, it will also help their family and nation at the end.

4-Sunday morning is reserved for church and the lord

Ok, this one may not be an easy one but that is OK, it doesn’t have to be every Sunday if you are unable to make it on a weekly basis, for whatever reason. But at the very least, they have to grow up being at church on a regular basis. This includes ‘Sunday school’ . I don’t think I need to tell you why this is important, but proper discipline, faith, community gathering, bible teaching, growing a church, are just to name a few of the reasons why your kids should grow up to be regular church attendees. Tip: you don’t have to force them. Just make the effort to go yourself and they will come. And don’t forget to teach them about Assyrian Christianity and the history and timeline of the Assyrian church (and other eastern churches) which date back to the time of Christ.

5-Assyrian is your first and native language

Not only is the Assyrian language (AKA Syriac) your first language, it is your native language and you have to be proud of it.  Your kids are to learn it before they even learn to walk or put ‘1 + 1’ together.  In fact, the stage from 2 to 7 years old is very critical in language learning and development. This is where your hard work should be. Tip: learning Assyrian will help them in so many aspects and actually make them look cooler and more interesting to others.  After all, they are learning a language that Jesus Christ spoke.

6- Approach our enemies and foes with wisdom not anger

Assyrians have had a lot of enemies and foes in the last few hundred years.  Whether it is the Kurds, Ottomans, Islamists or other groups, our enemies have done a lot of harm to us.  Despite all of this,  our revenge should not be through violence. Violence and armed struggles may have been the preferred method in the past but in today’s ever changing dynamics in the middle east, we should defend ourselves with more than just arms and weapons. Unity should be our first defense, followed by education and money. If we have those three elements (Unity, Education and Money) the rest will take care of itself.  It is indisputable that we haven’t been very successful with these 3 in the last few decades.

7-Love all Assyrians, regardless of church , village or tribe

It can be very confusing even for the most educated Assyrians, now imagine our poor kids and what they have to go through to learn about all the different Assyrian names, identities, churches, tribes, language references, villages and so much more. You can simplify it to them and teach them that we are all one, despite all the different identity terms. If the name ‘Assyrian’ is not accepted by certain people and groups, that is fine. They are still our brothers and sisters and have to love them and be united with all of them.

8-Birthplace or ethnicity first?

Since Assyrians don’t have a country to call their own, those born in other countries (USA, Canada, Australia etc.) may struggle with the question of first loyalty: should they put their birthplace first or their ethnic identity? You can put your birthplace before your nation but don’t ever forget or deny your Assyrian identity and culture. I would rather have my kids put their birthplace before their Assyrian identity than to have them forget their Assyrian identity completely.  Moreover, being born in their respective countries, they have to appreciate the land they are living in and is providing them with food, shelter, security etc. The least they can do is to give their loyalty to their country, which is better than, say, those immigrants from third world countries, who make it to North America or Europe, and and end up turning against their new country (through terrorism and other illegal activities)

9- Honour your culture!

One of the most important things you can teach them is to be part of their community. By doing this, they get more acquainted with their culture and language.   They can do stuff on their own but they also have to dedicate time to be part of the community and other cultural activities. This could be in the form of a lecture, a picnic, community events etc. Doing this early on will ensure that it becomes a part of them and will do it when they are adults without you having to tell them anymore. Tip: it is important to start early!

10-Assyrianism must live on

Last but not least, Assyrianism must go on and never die. Not just in history books but as people, language, culture and maybe even a country again one day.  Assyria has survived beyond the fall of the empire and despite all the threats, for thousands of years now. The least your kids can do is to to ensure the beat of this nation goes on. In fact, this is an almost sacred duty for us to carry on, thanks to the various quotes in the bible about Assyria and its future :

“In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day, Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.” (Isaiah 19: 23-25)”
 
 

-Got any tips you would like to share with us? let us know in the comments section below or email us: assyrianvoice@rogers.com

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Peter Sellers an Example of Borderline Personality Disorder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Abbey Mikha

Mental illness is a very taboo subject in the Assyrian community and always has been even in the days when our great grandparents lived in towns and villages. How many Assyrians have been diagnosed with mental illness in the past ten years in the homeland and outside of the homeland?  Does war, depression, trauma, and pain increase mental illness?  Is mental illness on the rise in our community?  In university my majors were Psychology, History, and to a lesser extent Philosophy.  Since studying Psychology at this level I found the various kinds of mental illnesses to be very interesting especially after reading that the Essenes and Jesus Christ of Nazareth were known to cure mental illness in the days when He was a Healer on earth.  It is even said in the Bible that Jesus cured Mary Magdalene of seven various illnesses some of which were mental illnesses.

There are many interesting mental disorders but the most thought provoking to me are the various kinds of bipolar, schizophrenia, and antisocial personality disorder.  Two disorders, which I also studied in university, were borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.  I came across these disorders in various classes such as Abnormal Behavior and others.  In this specific class we had to study the personality of someone many of you may have heard of.  Peter Sellers was a very interesting person who was among other things an actor and the star of the Pink Panther movie.  He was rich and famous, but the amazing mechanism which we call brain, by which his psyche manifested, in many ways made him act out in ways which, had he been rational and stable, he probably would have never done so.  Interestingly the etymology of “Psyche” in ancient Greek was among other things “self” and “conscious personality.”   A question to the Greeks and psychologists and psychiatrists out there from Abbey is, “What would you call someone who is acting out of their subconscious mind?”

I want to dedicate this post to all Assyrians and people of our nation who have suffered from mental illness especially those who suffer from borderline personality disorder and features of narcissistic personality disorder like Peter Sellers.  When I say Assyrians I mean all of our people regardless of whether they belong to the Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac, or Aramean churches.  Mental illness does not discriminate based on ethnicity.  A percentage of people in our various name groups are affected.

It is a shame that there are supposed religious people in our communities who teach that people with mental disorders are beyond repair, lost souls who have behaved badly in their life.  This is untrue as evidenced by actual Science!  Also, regular people are many times afraid of individuals with various mental illnesses.  Statistics show though that most people with mental illness are more likely to hurt themselves than anyone else.

I also want to dedicate this post to my uncle Salem Mikha who lived in Iraq and was a member of the Chaldean church who had mental illness and was presumed dead during the past years during the war on Iraq although his body was never found.  God rest his soul and God help the souls of all those poor helpless people in Iraq who suffer from mental illness and are living with it as best as they can, and those who have passed away and struggled throughout their life without the help of psychiatrists, psychologists, and medication.

If you know anyone who is acting out or just very depressed or in a psychosis of any sort please be kind and help them get in touch with a psychiatrist or anyone else in the community who can help.  As Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, in as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Note: The following diagnosis was created by analysis of the biographical movie, “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers” 2004.  It was for a specific assignment for the class called Abnormal Behavior.  The professor said we did not have to use quotation marks in regards to the DSM-IV-TR criterions.  This diagnosis is a good introduction for anyone interested in mental illness and in borderline disorder, which goes undiagnosed as a lot as people cannot figure out what is going on in their life, which seems like a rollercoaster ride.

An Example of Borderline Personality Disorder- Mr. Peter Sellers

Identifying Information For Mr. Peter Sellers

The client Mr. Peter Sellers is a Caucasian British national who is 48 years old and currently employed as an actor.  Peter is of a high economic status and has lived in upscale neighborhoods.  He was married to Anne with whom he has two children.  Their marriage ended in divorce.  He also married Britt Ekland with whom he has a daughter.  Their marriage also ended in divorce.  Peter smoked marijuana, drank alcohol, and used cocaine on a regular basis.  He is currently single.  Although previously very affluent, he is now lacking in funds and thinking about taking part in the next Pink Panther movie. The main reason for this is that he wants to maintain his standard of living.  The producers at United Artists have requested that Peter undergo a psychological assessment because the director Mr. Blake Edwards is reluctant to work with Peter again.  Peter has reluctantly agreed to comply.

 

Behavioral Observations

Peter presents himself as a wealthy individual with above average intellectual ability, yet he is childlike and very much a jokester.  Upon meeting him Peter is well dressed, talkative, and wanting to exchange ideas.  After some discussion he opens up about his difficulties.  Peter appears to lack self-confidence and he does not keep eye contact continuously.  He expressed that he had been told by his wives that he has not been receptive to his children’s emotional needs.  He says that he tries to provide as best as he can, including things like a pony and a motorcycle for his children.  He also feels guilty that he could not tell his mother that he loved her when she explained to him that she was dying in the hospital.  Nonetheless, he says that he sobbed at her funeral.  Peter appears to be an extremely creative and intelligent person but he is also contradictory in many ways.   He recently has watched old videos of his time at the old comedy show, times with his mother and father, and his two wives Anne and Britt and their children.  Although he had positive and negative memories he says that he does not necessarily treasure them.  After thinking it through Peter burned all of these pictures and videos.

Current Circumstances

Peter was referred for a psychological assessment because he appears to be acting out and the producers at United Artists are worried about his mental health.  Peter fell in love with Sofia Loren who was a fellow actress.  He idealized her as a human being and a friend, and he wanted to be with her, although they were both still married. He misunderstood his relationship with Sofia Loren.  Peter tried to approach her for a relationship, but she told him, “Go home to your children, and go home to your wife.”  Her dismissal caused in him a great deal of pain and anxiety.

Other stressful events in Peter’s life are that his father and mother have both passed away.  He is haunted by the image and words of his mother.  He had a stressful relationship with his second wife Britt.  He wanted her to have an abortion but she persuaded him to keep their child.  He has also had a near death experience and this has changed his outlook on life.  He is tired of all the characters and roles.  He has come to the realization that he wants to be himself even in the movies, although he realizes this is impossible.  Peter displays great instability, including major shifts in mood, a very unstable self-image, and impulsivity. His interpersonal relationships are also very unstable. Furthermore, Peter is grandiose, needs much admiration, and at times appears to feel no empathy with others.  Peter is an amazingly intelligent person who is also very talented at making people laugh, but his chronic feelings of emptiness have deprived him of his own happiness.

Background Information

In Peter’s childhood his family moved around a lot.  His father wished he had more influence on Peter and hoped to have raised him differently.  Peter’s mom spoiled him and allowed him to have whatever he wanted.  At the beginning of his career Peter had a role in the Goon Show, which was a radio comedy show.  He became an actor after he persistently tried to get movie roles.  Peter is very proud of having received a British Academy Award. He loves taking on characters and becoming them for films, but sometimes this carries over to real life.  He encompasses the characters very well.  These personas fulfill in him the need to be someone.  He believes himself to be without much personality of his own.  At one point he was passionate and wanted to play the part of a man who has no discernable personality.  He felt a kinship with that kind of a character.

Peter appears to be hard working and he takes care of his family’s material needs.  After his first marriage to Anne ended he started dating Britt Ekland.  He told her soon after their first few dates, “I think I’m in love with you” to which she responded, “But you have just met me.”  At first he idealized Britt as he had done with Sofia Loren.   When Peter was not able to be with Sofia Loren he tried to satisfy his desire for her by having sex with her stand in, in the back seat of his car, although he was still married. Peter also used cocaine while having sex with his second wife Britt.  During one of these ventures Peter had a heart attack and almost died.  He told his children after his near death experience, “The Spirits have spoken daddy has come back from the dead…and nothing can hurt him ever again.”

Generally when Peter was upset he visited his mother.  He confided in her when Anne left him that he thought if he just gave the world a little push it would all fall in to place.  Peter got mad at his mother for not telling him his father was not well and in the hospital.  Peter’s mother acted like she was his protector.  She said things to him like that the press notices when he misses his daughter’s birthday.  Peter recalled his mother telling him that when they went out to dinner someone asked her, “How was lunch with your son,” and she said, “I don’t know I did not see him.”  He clings to his first wife more than to his second wife at his mother’s funeral.  Peter had an out of the ordinary relationship with his mother.  He goes to a therapist who hypnotizes him in order to be able to speak to his mother once again after her death.

Clinical Conceptualization

Peter appears to be suffering from borderline personality disorder.  The following five criteria from the DSM-IV-TR further explain this.  Peter shows symptoms of criteria three in the DSM-IV-TR, which states that, for borderline personality disorder to be diagnosed there must be an identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self present.   This is evident in various aspects of Peter’s life.  He voiced his concern about his unstable self-image when he told of the time he was once asked, “Peter, how are you able to inhabit your characters so successfully,” to which he responded, “I don’t really have any personality of my own… there used to be a me behind the mask but I had it surgically removed…If I didn’t have characters like Clussou I don’t know who I’d be, perhaps I’d be you.” Furthermore, at one point Peter’s children are trying to cheer him up and he expresses to them that, “Your dad does not exist.”

Criterion two in the DSM-IV-TR for borderline personality disorder, which appears to be present in Peter’s personality states: A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.  Peter’s interpersonal relationships are intense, as is evident in his relationships with his first wife Anne, Sofia Loren, and Britt Ekland.  He idealized them all.  Concerning his first wife Anne, he was deeply in love with her for many years until he met Sofia Loren, and suddenly decided that he did not love Anne as much. In Britt’s case he idealizes her at the beginning of the relationship but after devalues her to the point where he hit her and pushed her around after his mother’s funeral.

Criterion eight in the DSM-IV-TR for borderline personality disorder states: a person with this illness has inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger.  For example frequent displays of temper, constant anger, and recurrent physical fights.  An example of this anger is when Peter destroyed his young son’s toys because he painted a striped line across his brand new car.  Peter averted to physical aggression and violence against his sons toys when the boy was only trying to make his father happy.   He also destroyed his house after he realized that his wife Anne was sleeping with the interior decorator.  Furthermore, after his mother’s funeral his anger was unleashed at his wife Britt and they also got into a physical fight.

Criterion seven of the DSM-IV-TR for borderline personality disorder states that there must be symptoms of chronic feelings of emptiness present. For example at one point Peter said to his daughter Sara that he is, “A useless, talentless, empty man.”  Peter also confided to a psychic about this emptiness.  He said, “I keep making changes, you know, big ones, and little ones; always hoping that the next one will be the right one…nothing makes me happy the way that I’m supposed to be happy.”

Lastly, criterion four of the DSM-IV-TR for borderline personality disorder, which states that impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging, for example: spending, sex, substance abuse, and reckless driving.  These are all evident in Peter’s life.  For example, Peter was always changing homes from one mansion to another.  He splurged on various types of cars and had other types of spending sprees.  Peter tells of the times he raced down the highway with his boss trying to escape his responsibilities to the movie he was filming. Peter also misused alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine.   Moreover, he also had sex with Sofia Loren’s double in the back seat of his car while he was still married to his first wife Anne.

The etiology for borderline personality disorder is that like most personality disorders, there are interrelated issues that may contribute to the progression of symptoms.  A fear of abandonment tortures Peter, psychodynamic theorists look to early parental relationships to explain this.  Object-relations theorists propose a lack of early acceptance or abuse/neglect by parents.  Research has found some support for this view, including a link to early sexual abuse.  This may be indicative of the unconventional relationship Peter had with his mother Peg.  He even mockingly expressed to his mother at one point that he was going to marry his then girlfriend Britt because he was not allowed to marry his mother.  The Symptoms of borderline personality disorder may continue on for the remainder of Peter’s life.  Some features of the disorder have also been linked to biological abnormalities.  Sufferers who are particularly impulsive apparently have lower brain serotonin activity.

Clinical Conceptualization

Peter also appears to have some narcissistic features.  The DSM-IV-TR states in criterion six that a person with narcissistic personality disorder is interpersonally exploitative.    For example, when Peter took Anne to meet the interior decorator, he was fully aware that the man was handsome and Anne might be attracted to him.  He set this situation up because he wanted to start a relationship with Sofia Loren.  So, he was introducing Anne to another man because he had ulterior motives.  He told the interior decorator, “Whatever is fine with Anne is fine with me”, which was suggestive.   A further example of criterion six is that Peter remembered someone saying that he, “Always got the last cake even on someone else’s plate.”

In the DSM-IV-TR it further states in criterion one, of narcissistic disorder, another characteristic of Peter’s personality, which is that he has a grandiose sense of self-importance.  For example, he exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements.  An example of this is when Peter said to his mother, “I’m a star now; these people can’t do anything without me.”  Peter also remembered saying in front of a crowd of people that the only reason he, “Compromised his artistic integrity by walking in front of his cameras” (referring to Blake Edwards the producer of the movie Pink Panther) was because of money. He embarrassed Blake in front of the crowd and inflated his own ego.  Peter also said that no matter how bad the picture is he will always be the best thing in it.

Moreover, Peter is seldom interested in the feelings of others in this innocent way; he does not realize this about himself.  The DSM-IV-TR for narcissistic disorder criteria seven matches with Peter’s personality where it states:  He lacks empathy and is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.  This is very evident in his interactions with his children.  Peter’s daughter asked him if he still loves them, to which he responded, “Of course I do sweetheart, but not as much as I love Sofia Loren.” He does not seem to understand what he is saying.  He also inappropriately tells his son at one point that his mother is sleeping with the interior decorator.  If he was considerate of his children’s feelings he would not have said such things, but Peter did not even realize how much these words could have hurt them.  On the other hand, Peter does show empathy for his dying father on his deathbed.

The DSM-IV-TR criteria nine for narcissistic disorder is also evident in Peter’s personality.  It states that the person shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.  An example is when Peter says to his pregnant wife at the hospital while she’s having contractions, “Make it quick we start filming in a week.”  Another example is when Peter overreacts about taking a role another actor declined.  He does not want “sloppy seconds.”  Other times he gets mad at the director and yells at him.

The etiology of narcissistic personality disorder like most personality disorders is that there are many interrelated reasons that may influence the development of symptoms.  Symptoms are long lasting, and start to show in childhood and later in adolescence.  The full symptoms show themselves when the individual becomes an adult.  Psychodynamic theorists have theorized about this disorder focusing on cold, rejecting parents.  Object-relations theorist interpret this grandiose self-presentation as a way for people with this disorder to convince themselves that they are self-sufficient and without need of warm relationships. Cognitive-behavioral theorists propose that narcissistic personality disorder may develop when people are treated too positively rather than too negatively in early life.  Peter appears to have features of narcissistic disorder and is projecting this type of characteristics for protection of his equilibrium.  His disappointments, the pain that he felt as a result of the relationships with his parents, the failed marriages and friendships, and the harshness of the reality of life are being projected as narcissism.

Formulation

Axis I:  Deferred.

Axis II:  Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic features.

Axis III:  Heart condition.

Axis IV: Problems with primary family.

Axis V:  GAF score of 70.

There is evidence of borderline personality disorder present in Peter’s behavior, and features of narcissistic disorder.  The GAF score is 70 because there is some mild symptoms present like depressed mood.  There is evidence of some difficulty in social, occupational functioning, but Peter is generally functioning well, and has had some meaningful interpersonal relationships.  In the DSM-IV-TR criteria three, eight, two, and seven have been met for diagnoses of Mr. Peter Sellers as having borderline personality disorder.  In the DSM-IV-TR criteria six, one, seven, and nine have been met for narcissistic personality disorder, which therefore suggests that Mr. Peter Sellers has features of this disorder.  Disorders to be ruled out are multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia.  Peter does not appear to have different personalities; he is more just an actor who takes on different roles, as opposed to being different people in real life and having certain personalities take over at different times.  He also is not delusional nor does he hallucinate, which would rule out schizophrenia.

Further information to strengthen the conclusions of the primary diagnosis of borderline personality disorder is that Peter had that great fear of abandonment, and psychodynamic theorists look to early parental relationships to explain this and the disorder.  Peter always tried to fall in love and be with someone he cared about, or just randomly date, as long as he was not alone.  When things did not work out with the women he found comfort in the arms of his mother, but as of late even the thought of his mother is not comforting to him, and the stress of being an actor has reached an ultimate high level.

Treatment Recommendations

Psychotherapy can be very helpful in Peter’s case when used in combination with medication.  The most helpful forms of psychotherapy include cognitive-behavioral therapy and two broader sociocultural therapies: family therapy and social therapy.  For borderline personality disorder it appears that psychotherapy can eventually lead to some degree of improvement for Peter.  Antidepressant, antianxiety, and antipsychotic drugs have helped some individuals to calm their emotional and aggressive storms.  Narcissistic disorder is one of the most difficult personality patterns to treat, and since Peter has features of this disorder, once in treatment, he may try to manipulate the therapist into supporting his sense of superiority.

In regards to Mr. Peter Seller’s assessment, it must be said that it is unfortunate to think that the directors Peter worked with were not sensitive to his personality and condition.  Perhaps they did not realize that Peter suffers from mental illness.  Peter’s talent for being able to express himself through various characters is a gift but should not be misused.  Peter complained to one director that, “Three characters are enough!”  He said three is a good number, but the director responded, “You are being paid for four.”  This director also said to Peter, “I think you are whoever I want you to be.”  People in show business should be kind and gentle with people like Mr. Peter Sellers.  They said that Peter was, “A vessel in which characters and personalities ran like phantoms.”  The director also said about Peter that, “There was no person there to begin with but even an empty vessel can become too full.”  Sometimes Peter was not treated with humanity and he was you could say even abused by these people.  The reality though is that Peter subjugated himself as well to continue living in his life style.   I would recommend that firstly Peter receive treatment for his drug and alcohol addictions.  I also would only recommend that Peter continue working in show business if he is allowed to find himself and be whoever he wants to be.  The directors of his next movie should understand what Peter has been dealing with all along.  If they do not want to understand him then they do not deserve to work with him.

Note: How many Assyrian Peters are out there and are undiagnosed and living their life in a supposed normal way without realizing that borderline personality disorder is devastating their lives?  How many fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and friends?  How many have never even heard of borderline disorder?  Hopefully this analysis of Mr. Peter Seller’s life and personality was a good introduction for any of you who are interested in the subject.  Please take the time to read more about this issue if you find it of interest and if you have similar symptoms.

 

 

 

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The Spirit of Music and the Revolutionary Influence of Slave Melody and the Fiddle on America

 

 

 

black fidler

By Abbey Mikha

Assyrians care about peoples from other cultures and they sympathize with their struggle!

I wrote this essay a few years ago for Slavery class.  I encourage all of you to read it.  Although it is not about Assyrians we can still learn from what other peoples of other nations have gone through and the struggle they faced at the hands of oppressors.

Introduction

Since the beginning of civilization many prejudiced catastrophic series of events have occurred which the human race should be ashamed of.   Such an event took place during the transatlantic slave trade.  This was certainly a miserable time in history, a strange time, when the human race had not yet understood itself in relation to people who appear different.  In that time Europeans devastated Africa.  They used African people as slaves and for many years they were their main labor force, which made a lot of Europeans materially rich, but in a historical sense evoked an image of them as morally devoid.  Slaves were important to the economic development of various countries and were shipped to the New World, to what is still today called the Americas.  The African slaves though did not forget about their home and always desired Africa.  Although they were not allowed to conjure an image of their homeland, they did so spiritually in the depths of their psyche and soul and through their music.  This psychological phenomenon became a gift to the New World from the slaves.  Although this world was unkind to them they still contributed to the culture. They told folkloric tales, danced, sang and kept alive the melody of their homeland.  It is undeniable that their beliefs were also repressed and substituted for Christianity, which was forced upon them.  Nonetheless, the melody and beat of Africa, which ran through their veins, would find its way into the notes and hymns of the slaves and the innovative rhythm of their descendants.  At first the music continued to be a reflection of the immeasurable sadness and hopelessness of an oppressed people. After, the interaction of African and European musical cultures as a result of the transatlantic slave trade created an undeniable musical revolution, which began with instruments such as the fiddle and the melody, which forever continues to have a major effect on the development of music in America.

Richard Jobson an English captain who visited Gambia during the years of 1620 to 1621 observed the importance of music in the African way of life: “There is without doubt, no people on the earth more naturally affected to the sound of musicke than these people; which the principal person [that is, the kings and chiefs] do hold as an ornament of their state, so as when we come to see them, their musicke will seldom be wanting.”[1] Zora Neale Hurston stated that in the time of slavery blacks “became lords of sounds.”[2] The melody of Africa was in the hearts of every black man and woman.  Although the sad melody of slaves became a mirror of sound of the torture they endured and a certain deep depressive expression of their calamity, one cannot deny the influence it was to have on America forever after.  Shane and Graham White said that, “For nearly three centuries of African American history, much of what was distinctive about black culture was to be found in the realm of sound.[3] Many people today attest to the fact that a large number of African Americans are musically gifted; this is evidenced by the eloquent gift of the spirituals that African slaves gave to people of all color.

For the slaves, as each day drew to a close and fading light made more work impossible, these physically tortured human beings were marched back to cabins for a few hours of rest:

“At night they would begin to sing their native songs, and in a short while would become so wrought up that, utterly oblivious to the danger involved, they would grasp their bundles of personal effects, swing them on their shoulders, and setting their faces towards Africa would march down into the water singing as they marched until recalled to their senses only by the drowning of some of the party”.[4]

In regards to such escapes and in some extreme cases nervous whites wished to silence slaves, at times quite literally.[5] Sometimes slaves were not allowed to even sing during their work so they “quietly hummed against the threat of punishment by the overseer or owner.”[6] This punishment of silence was perhaps why their heart was stubborn and still wanted to sing.  Words, rhymes, notes, and melodies after all are what make any life more bearable.  Although as time passed whites recognized their liking for many of the sounds of slavery. [7] “As would later happen with the paintings of Picasso and Braque, antebellum whites continued to use words such as “wild” or “strange” to describe the sounds that they had heard from colored people, but they also acknowledged the power of what had been revealed to them.”[8]

There were all kinds of songs that the slaves sang.  Some were work songs, dance and play songs, story songs or ballets, satirical songs, field and street cries, spirituals, and poetic forms.  The most common poetic structure was the call and response form, in which the solo verse alternate with the refrain lines. [9] The following is an interesting song with a typical arrangement.  In the song the “springs that never run dry” could be an expression commonly used by slaves to refer to that place where they could indulge in something so natural as a spring, where fresh water flows to the surface of the earth from underground, or even perhaps heaven a place where they would be free from the difficult physical labor which they had to endure on earth at that time:

I meet little Rosa early in the morning.

O Jerusalem! Early in the morning.

And I asked her, how [do] you do, my daughter,

O Jerusalem! Early in the morning.

I meet my mother early in the morning.

O Jerusalem! Early in the morning.

I want to go where Moses trod.

O the dying Lamb.

For Moses gone to the promised land.

O the dying Lamb.

To drink from springs that never run dry.

O the dying Lamb.

Some primary sources such as town and court records and assembly journals of the time reveal matters of musical interest among the lists of facts.  Thus we learn, for example, that the slave Nero Benson was a trumpeter in the company of Captain Isaac Clark.[10] The trial records of one slave revolt in 1741 show that one of the slaves involved was a fiddler named Jamaica, a slave of Ellis.[11] “Fiddling was an occupation that was commonly, if not exclusively, performed by African Americans and the tradition of black fiddling has its roots in slave culture.”[12] The record of slave fiddling was so strong, in fact, that some whites became convinced of the primacy of blacks as dance musicians in antebellum America.[13] Slave musicians had created a custom whereby they provided dance music for white America, and it was some time before blacks were seriously challenged in that field.[14] Therefore, a distinct African American musical tradition, one that combined elements of African and European music, had become well established.  This means there was cultural exchange and African slaves were influencing European music and revolutionizing the culture.  Had the Europeans known that this revolution in melody would occur and influence American culture to such an extent, they may not have allowed it.  It can be said that this gradual musical cultural exchange snuck through with mother time.  There were many songs, but there is a tune fiddlers played called “Lost John” which is said to have originated in black tradition.[15] The fiddlers were the hearts and souls of the party; for slaves it was a way to show their musical expertise and their free spirit.

There are eight important points in regards to slavery and fiddling, which Paul Wells stated in his article “Fiddling as an Avenue of Black-White Musical Interchange.”   These are very worth mentioning and are central to understanding the significance of the slave fiddler:

1.Slaves were playing fiddles for white dances as early as the 1690’s and presumably learned-and possibly adapted-the prevailing popular dance repertoire.

2. Black fiddlers also played tunes that were more African in character-“Negro jigs”-which do not conform to the standard British, Irish, American fiddle-tune mod but which may have influenced later southern fiddling, both white and black.

3. The combination of fiddle and banjo grew out of slave culture, and slaves were playing fiddles and banjos together at least as early as 1774.

4. Syncopated bowing patterns, which were likely borrowed from black fiddling, strongly influenced the development of a particularly southern version of fiddling and later forms of popular music.

5. White minstrels adapted black instruments, techniques, and repertoire and combined them with European musical elements to form a popular synthesis of African and European music.

6. Minstrelsy impacted later white fold tradition.

7. In late-nineteenth-century black urban communities, piano-based music supplanted the older fiddle and banjo dance music, leading to the development of ragtime.

8. The blues exerted a strong influence on white southern fiddling and, ultimately, on commercial genres that grew out of it.[16]

The African fiddler became an expert in his field and through his passion allowed white Americans to see the diligence and effort that the African slave was capable of.  Fiddling eventually became the most reported musical activity of African Americans during Antebellum America.

There have also been many forgotten songs influenced by slave culture but one song that everyone knows is “Amazing Grace” by John Newton.[17] “Although the origin of the melody is unknown, most hymnals attribute it to an early American folk melody. The Bill Moyers special on this song speculated that it may have originated as the tune of a song the slaves sang.”[18] Many people, to this day, do not appreciate the influence of slave cultures on America, and do not like to admit that it contributed anything profound, especially in the field of music.  The argument that slave music sounded very simple and primitive and could therefore not have influenced eloquent American music is not true.  Anyone with blood running through their veins knows that the saddest melodies are those that most touch the soul and influence musical minds that perhaps purposely overheard a song and were then inspired to write something similar combining style and music.  According to Samuel Floyd Jr. a journalist once said that Black music died at the hands of British rock groups in the 1960’s.[19] He says that, “part of the reason that such mythological thought continue to surface in scholarly writings is that too few black intellectuals have been involved in black music research for significant and persistent debunking to take place.”[20] Although he wrote this in 1983 it is still very true today.   It is sad that throughout history and even in this advanced century some scholars still deny the influence of slave music on America.  This gives witness to the fact that sometimes people who we believe to be thinkers, philosophers, and leaders in a certain field should be questioned, especially when the truth is so evident.

It is interesting to note that someone who is considered a great thinker like Friedrich Hegel also rationalized slavery.   He said that Africans lack consciousness, which sets man apart from other “animals”.  He thought that since Africans did not have that consciousness they deserved to be enslaved.[21] These are devastating thoughts and ideas, but even the Pope himself at some points in history sanctioned slavery.  Nonetheless, neither Hegel nor the Pope had enough authority to take away from slaves the power of music. Quite a few ex-slaves stated that their masters and mistresses and sometimes their white guests as well would come down to the slave quarters to witness and be entertained by a slave dance.[22] In the narratives, one finds references to blacks listening to white music and whites listening to black music.[23]

The truth is that racism has been there since anyone can remember,[24] but there have also always been a few kind people who knew that slavery was wrong on every level and tried to destroy it as an institution.  Sometimes the behavior of criminal peoples can be difficult to understand especially when we do not agree with them on any level. The transatlantic slave trade was a devastating event which, to say the least, shook and traumatized millions of Africans perhaps forever.  The creation of the universe may still be a mystery, but the creation of slavery was no accident.  One positive thing that came out of the transatlantic slave trade was the interaction of African and European musical cultures, which eventually created an undeniable musical revolution.  It was initiated by instruments such as the fiddle and the melody that forever continues to have a major effect on the development of music in America.

Imagine the fiddler, a man who happens to be black and also a slave, who in his moment of happiness shows excitement and creativity in play and in movement.  He created in the heart of the humanitarian onlooker a desire for a human uprising, an explosion of feeling, with his deliberate exchange and intermixing of techniques, notes, dancing, and feeling.  This musical expression, which stems from the source of the need to be free and to be allowed to exist is an image and sentiment that alone can influence generations of people in the beat of every second in time.

End Notes

[1] Eileen Southern. The Music of Black Americans A History. New York.  W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1971.  4.

[2] Shane White and Graham White. The Sound of Slavery. Boston: Beacon Press, 2005. Ix.

[3] White, The Sounds of Slavery. Ix.

[4] White. The Sound of Slavery. xi.

[5] White. The Sound of Slavery. xiii.

[6] White. The Sound of Slavery. 55.

[7] White. The Sounds of Slavery. 18.

[8] White. The Sounds of Slavery. 18.

[9] Southern. The Music of Black America. 190.

[10] Eileen Southern.  The Music of Black America. 30.

[11] Eileen Southern. The Music of Black America. 30.

[12] Paul Wells. “Fiddling as an Avenue of Black-White Musical Interchange.” Black Music Research Journal. Vol 23. 138.

[13] Wells. “Fiddling Avenue Interchange.”138.

[14] Wells. “Fiddling Avenue Interchange.”138.

[15] Wells. “Fiddling Avenue Interchange.”142.

[16] Wells. “Fiddling Avenue Interchange.” 145.

[17] Professor Mohamed H. Mohamed. Class notes.

[18] Al Rogers. Amazing Grace: The Story of John Newton. http://www.anointedlinks.com/amazing_grace.html (accessed December 1st).

[19] Samuel Floyd Jr. “On Black Music Research”. Black Music Research Journal. Vol. 3. 1983. 48.

[20] Floyd. “Black Music Research”. 48.

[21] Professor Mohamed H. Mohamed. Class notes.

[22] Robert Winans. “Black Instrumental Music Traditions in the Ex-Slave Narratives”. Black Music Research Journal. 1990.  53.

[23] Winans. “Black Music Ex-Slave Narratives.” 53.

[24] Professor Mohamed H. Mohamed. Class notes.

Works Cited

Floyd, Samuel Jr. “On Black Music Research”. Black Music Research Journal.  Vol. 3, (1983), pp. 46-57.  Published by: Center for Black Music Research – Columbia College Chicago and University of Illinois Press. (accessed December 2nd 2010). Jstor.

Southern Eileen.  The Music of Black Americans A History. New York.  W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, 1971.

Wells Paul.  “Fiddling as an Avenue of Black-White Musical Interchange.” Black Music Research Journal. Vol. 23, No. 1/2 (Spring – Autumn, 2003), pp. 135-147.  Published by: Center for Black Music Research – Columbia College Chicago and University of Illinois Press.  (Accessed December 1st 2010). Jstor.

White Shane and White Graham.  The Sound of Slavery. Boston: Beacon Press, 2005.

 

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