Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin 15 July 1892 – 26 September 1940)[6] was a German Jewish philosopher, cultural critic and essayist. An eclectic thinker, combining elements of German idealismRomanticismWestern Marxism, and Jewish mysticism, Benjamin made enduring and influential contributions to aesthetic theoryliterary criticism, and historical materialism. He was associated with the Frankfurt School, and also maintained formative friendships with thinkers such as playwright Bertolt Brecht and Kabbalah scholar Gershom Scholem. He was also related by law to German political theorist and philosopher Hannah Arendt through her first marriage to Benjamin's cousin, Günther Anders.

Theses on the Philosophy of History

Theses on the Philosophy of History is often cited as Benjamin's last complete work, having been completed, according to Adorno, in the spring of 1940. The Institute for Social Research, which had relocated to New York, published Theses in Benjamin's memory in 1942. Margaret Cohen writes in the Cambridge Companion to Walter Benjamin:

In the "Concept of History" Benjamin also turned to Jewish mysticism for a model of praxis in dark times, inspired by the kabbalistic precept that the work of the holy man is an activity known as tikkun. According to the kabbalah, God's attributes were once held in vessels whose glass was contaminated by the presence of evil and these vessels had consequently shattered, disseminating their contents to the four corners of the earth. Tikkun was the process of collecting the scattered fragments in the hopes of once more piecing them together. Benjamin fused tikkun with the Surrealist notion that liberation would come through releasing repressed collective material, to produce his celebrated account of the revolutionary historiographer, who sought to grab hold of elided memories as they sparked to view at moments of present danger.

In the essay, Benjamin's famed ninth thesis struggles to reconcile the Idea of Progress in the present with the apparent chaos of the past:

A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

The final paragraph about the Jewish quest for the Messiah provides a harrowing final point to Benjamin's work, with its themes of culture, destruction, Jewish heritage and the fight between humanity and nihilism. He brings up the interdiction, in some varieties of Judaism, to try to determine the year when the Messiah would come into the world, and points out that this did not make Jews indifferent to the future "for every second of time was the strait gate through which the Messiah might enter."

The historical record indicates that he safely crossed the French–Spanish border and arrived at the coastal town of Portbou, in Catalonia. The Franco government had cancelled all transit visas and ordered the Spanish police to return such persons to France, including the Jewish refugee group Benjamin had joined. They tried to cross the border on 25 September 1940, but were told by the Spanish police that they would be deported back to France the next day, which would have destroyed Benjamin's plans to travel to the United States. Expecting repatriation to Nazi hands, Walter Benjamin killed himself with an overdose of morphine tablets that night, while staying in the Hotel de Francia; the official Portbou register records 26 September 1940 as the official date of death.[16][6][17][18][19] Benjamin's colleague Arthur Koestler, also fleeing Europe, attempted suicide by taking some of the morphine tablets, but he survived.[20] Benjamin's brother Georg was killed at the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp in 1942. Despite his suicide, Benjamin was buried in the consecrated section of a Roman Catholic cemetery.


Most of all, I write to please myself.  Also, I write because as Walter Benjamin wrote in his schema of history, “The Angel of History Flies Backwards.”  The problem with American education is that it does not teach an appreciation of history and how it affects and effects the present.  Everything to the average American happens in the now and has no antecedent giving the impression of American innocence and victim-hood.  This is what Donald Trump's “Make America Great Again” relies on.  

I have been told that I rely too much on National Public Radio (NPR), interviews from On Point Radio, Here & Now, and Iowa Public Radio (IPR) for my illustrations.  But first I must state, “I am not Alex Jones and do not want to foster conspiracies.”  I rely on NPR/IPR for human input because it supplies voices to its stories and programming that are quotable and text that can be easily embedded. is a digital visual medium.  The radio provides interviewees and reporters speaking for themselves because as it states at Luke 6:45 “Out of the heart's abundance the mouth speaks,” and one can/may slander oneself or others with impunity.  But the history of the utterance cannot be fact-check for validity.  Even so the tone and timbre of the voice always betrays ignorance or a lack thereof, as can be observed from President's Trump's public utterances.  And how his election as “leader of the free world” has distorted democracies and elections worldwide.

My writings are meant to educate myself first and then my reader/viewer.  I put my second-tier college education to the test remembering my Marxist literary theory and put it to the use.  I triangulate pulling history and culture together to understand the present.  This lets me continue to keep James Baldwin's admonition in Notes of a Native Son:


“If ever, indeed, the violence which fills Harlem's churches, pool halls, and bars erupts outward in a more directed fashion, Harlem and its citizens are likely to vanish in an apocalyptic flood.  That this is not likely to happen is due to a great many reasons, most hidden and powerful among them the Negro's real relation to the white American.


This relation prohibits, simply, anything as uncomplicated and satisfactory as pure hatred.  In order really to hate white people, one has to blot so much out of the mind—and the heart—that this hatred itself becomes an exhausting and self-destructive pose.  But this does not mean, on the other hand, that love comes easily: the white world is too powerful, too complacent, too ready with gratuitous humiliation, and, above all, too ignorant and too innocent for that.


One is absolutely forced to make perpetual qualifications and one's own reactions are always canceling each other out.  It is this, really which has driven so many people mad, both white and black.


One is always in the position of having to decide between amputation and gangrene.  Amputation is swift but time may prove that the amputation was not necessary—or one may delay the amputation too long.  Gangrene is slow, but it is impossible to be sure that one is reading one's symptoms right.  The idea of going through life as a cripple is more than one can bear, and equally unbearable is the risk of swelling up slowly, in agony, with poison.  And the trouble, finally, is that the risks are real even if the choices do not exist.


Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man/woman who hated and this [is] an immutable law.


One [will] have to hold in the mind forever two ideas which seem to be in opposition.  The first idea [is] acceptance, the acceptance, totally without rancor, of life as it is, and men/women as they are: in the light of this idea, it goes without saying that injustice is commonplace.  But this [does] not mean that one could/should be complacent, for the second idea was of equal power: that one must never in one's own life, accept these injustices as commonplace but must fight them with all one's strength.


This fight begins, however, in the heart free of hatred and despair.”

My strength is in my visual historicity (most via YouTube) to an increasingly illiterate society; listen to friend and foe alike (via NPR/IPR)—triangulate; give my opinion, which is always way-out-there; thus gleaning through Baldwin, 1Corinthians 13:1-3: If I speak [or write] in the tongues of men and of angels but do not have love, I have become a sounding piece of brass or a clashing cymbal.  And if I have the gift of prophesying [that all writers hope for] and am acquainted with all the sacred secrets and all knowledge and if I have all the faith so as to transplant mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I give all my belongings to feed others, and if I hand over my body that I may boast, but do not have love, I am not profited at all.”


Thereby unless I have history to back up my point in order to publish, I have sorely missed the mark.  My love for the human race to paraphrase Santayana: Not to relive my history because of my own ignorance of it, and to know bull shit when I hear and see it.  And to warn the public that their future relies in its past.

11 Killed In Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

People hold candles as they gather for a vigil in the aftermath of a deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation, in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Eleven people were killed in an attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The gunman is in custody. We look at the shooting and rising anti-Semitism around the world.


David Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (@ShribmanPG)

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, rabbi-in-residence at Avodah. (@TheRaDR)

Howard Fineman, NBC News analyst and a journalism lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania. Former global editor at the Huffington Post. He grew up in Pittsburgh and was a member of the Tree of Life synagogue. (@howardfineman)

From The Reading List

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Dispatch from Squirrel Hill: Dread in a peaceful place" — "We knew it could happen here — any here, anywhere — when we learned that nine people were killed three years ago in the historic Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. We knew it could happen here – any here, anywhere — when we learned that six were killed in the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City last year.

"Now we know it can happen here, as anywhere, because it has.

"Here, this weekend, is Squirrel Hill, home of a dozen synagogues and for more than a century and a half not only the spiritual center of Pittsburgh Judaism but also a vital landmark in the history of Jews in America, along with New York’s Lower East Side and Boston’s Blue Hill Avenue, one of the vital centers of Jewish identity since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution."

New York Times: "Opinion: Shaking My Faith in America" — "I grew up in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. My parents taught Sunday school there. I learned to read Hebrew (sort of) there. I was a bar mitzvah there. My mother sewed a fancy velvet jumper for my little sister to wear there.

"On Saturday morning — the Jewish sabbath — Jews at prayer were slaughtered at Tree of Life because and only because of who they were. It was possibly the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in this country’s history, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

"My response is grief, of course, and the immediate realization that this horror is part of a larger pattern of mayhem and hatred in America and around the world. Churches, minority communities, gay nightclubs, politicians and journalists are threatened. We live in an age of assault rifles, pipe bombs and bone saws.

"But I also have to admit — and am grieved to admit — that the mass murder at Tree of Life has shaken my perhaps naïve faith in this country, one that I began developing as a boy growing up in Pittsburgh."

Washington Post: "The victims of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre are martyrs" — "Eleven people woke up Saturday morning and got dressed, drank their coffee or chatted with their spouses or read another chapter of that novel, and then made the decision to spend Shabbat — the Jewish Sabbath, our holy day of rest and community and connection and service to the divine — in synagogue.

"Some were there to celebrate a brit milah — to welcome a new baby boy into the community. Perhaps some of them went primarily to be with friends, or to pour out their hearts in prayer. Maybe some were there for a combination of reasons. But they were all together in a sacred space, in holy time, when a gunman opened fire.

"President Trump referred to the killing of those 11 people as 'evil,' and he is correct. But it is not an evil devoid of context. We cannot understand this massacre when we try to treat it as an isolated incident. Like most tragedies, it has a lot of contexts."

CNN: "Hate crime charges filed in Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that left..." — "Federal prosecutors have filed hate crime charges against a Pennsylvania man they say stormed a Pittsburgh synagogue and opened fire, killing 11 people.

"Robert Bowers, 46, of suburban Baldwin, surrendered to authorities after Saturday morning's shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue. He made anti-Semitic statements during the shooting and targeted Jews on social media, according to a federal law enforcement official.

"Bowers faces 29 charges in a rampage that left the historic Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill and the rest of the nation stunned. The attack is believed to be the deadliest on the Jewish community in US history, the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement."

This program aired on October 29, 2018.


Eli Saslow Traces A 'Straight Line' From White Nationalism To The Synagogue Shooter

Police tape and memorial flowers are seen on Oct. 28, 2018, outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Journalist Eli Saslow says there's a "straight line" between the suspect charged with 29 counts related to the deaths of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday and the views of the white nationalist movement.

In the "horrific hierarchy of white nationalist beliefs," Jews are considered the "primary enemy," Saslow says. "Throughout the history of the white nationalist movement, we've seen more attacks on synagogues, more bombing threats on Jewish schools than we have almost any other demographic group."

Saslow's most recent book, Rising Out of Hatred, chronicles the life of Derek Black, a young man who was once a leading voice in the white nationalist movement but has since denounced his views. Saslow says that he spoke to Black after the synagogue shooting, and that Black feels "heartbroken" by the incident.

"Every time something like this happens, [Black] feels in small ways culpable," Saslow says. "He wonders how much of the messaging that he did in terms of white nationalism plays into incidents like this."

For his part, Saslow was saddened — but not surprised — by the attack.

"It seems like there's a certain kind of inevitability. ... I don't think that this will be the last one, and I think probably, like a lot of us, I sort of live in fear and with a sense of dread of when is when is the next horrible thing like this going to happen?," Saslow says.

Click the audio link above to hear Saslow's reaction to the synagogue shooting, and excerpts from his September 2018 Fresh Air appearance with Derek Black. You can find audio of the full Saslow and Black interview, and read highlights of that conversation below.

How A Rising Star Of White Nationalism Broke Free From The Movement

September 24, 20182:31 PM ET

Derek Black was following in his father's footsteps in the world of white nationalism until he had a change of heart. Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

As the son of a grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Derek Black was once the heir apparent of the white nationalist movement.

Growing up, he made speeches, hosted a radio show and started the website KidsStormfront — which acted as a companion to Stormfront, the white nationalist website his father, Don Black, created.

"The fundamental belief that drove my dad, drove my parents and my family, over decades, was that race was the defining feature of humanity ... and that people were only happy if they could live in a society that was only this one biologically defined racial group," Black says.

It was only after he began attending New College of Florida that Black began to question his own point of view. Previously, he had been home-schooled, but suddenly he was was exposed to people who didn't share his views, including a few Jewish students who became friends.

Black's new friends invited him over for Shabbat dinner week after week. Gradually, he began to rethink his views. After much soul-searching, a 22-year-old Black wrote an article, published by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2013, renouncing white nationalism.

Derek Black's "awakening" is the subject of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eli Saslow's new book, Rising Out Of Hatred. Saslow also interviewed Black's father and other leaders in the white nationalist movement.

On the "rebranding" of white supremacy, led in part by Derek's father, Don Black

Derek Black: My dad popularized the term "white nationalism" ... when he founded Stormfront and called it a white nationalist community, and he saw the distinction between white nationalism and white supremacy as being one that he didn't want anything bad for anyone else — he just wanted everybody to be forcibly put in different spaces, and that that was not about superiority, it was just about the well-being of everybody. ... Looking back on it, that is totally irrational. How exactly do you think you're going to forcibly separate everybody and that that's not supremacy?

Eli Saslow: They believed America was founded as a white supremacist country. ... Their job was just to give people a space to say racist ideas in a more explicit, proud, confident way. ...

White nationalism, I think, effectively identifies a movement of people who are actively pursuing an end cause of separating races into different homelands. White supremacy, unfortunately, is something that's much more endemic, and much more structured into what the country is.

On Black's usage of white nationalist talking points in a campaign for the West Palm Beach County Republican Committee

Black: I knew from the time that I was a child that white nationalism, as long as it was not necessarily calling itself white nationalism, could win campaigns. So I did things like run little Republican county elections [to] demonstrate that I could win with the majority of the vote [using] white nationalist talking points in a very normal South Florida neighborhood.

I ran training sessions on how people could hone their message to try to get that audience, not freak people out and just tap into things like, "Don't you think all these Spanish signs on the highway are making everything worse? And don't you think political correctness is just not letting you talk about things that are real?" And getting people to agree on that would be the way forward.

On how President Obama's election motivated white nationalists

Saslow: I think a lot of white nationalists saw President Obama's election as a huge opportunity for their movement. Because what white nationalists have done, with dangerous effect, is play to this factually incorrect sense of grievance that exists, unfortunately, in large parts of white America.

Polls consistently show that 30 to 40 percent of white Americans believe that they experience more discrimination and more prejudice than people of color or than Jews, which is factually incorrect by every measure that we have. ... By feeding that sense of grievance and by playing to these ideas of your country is being taken away, [that] things are changing ... it's what got Derek elected [he was unable to serve in office], and it's what has gotten other politicians elected in our country as well.

On the responsibility Black feels for racially motivated violence that was inspired by the white nationalist beliefs he once espoused

I said things that tried to energize racist ideas and get people to be more explicit about it. And then people who listened to that and who believed it, some of them committed horrible, violent acts. ... That is a moral weight that is very difficult to reconcile.

Black: I spent so many years rationalizing that that was not us. We were not responsible for that. We were not advocating violence, so therefore when people committed violent acts who had all the same beliefs as us, that that was not us. That was the media portraying us in a way that attracted psychopaths, and that we were somehow not responsible for that because it was not clear how to tangibly connect what I was saying and what I was promoting to the actions that those people took.

And now I look back on it and I said things that tried to energize racist ideas and get people to be more explicit about it. And then people who listened to that and who believed it, some of them committed horrible, violent acts. And what is my culpability and responsibility for how these things went out into the world and they continue to bounce around in the world, and I can't take them back? That is a moral weight that is very difficult to reconcile.

On how the actions of various students Black met at college helped him move away from his white nationalist beliefs

Saslow: In addition to being the story of Derek's transformation, the book is also the story of the real courage shown by a lot of students on this campus who invested themselves in trying to affect profound change. And they did that in a lot of different ways. There was civil resistance on campus by a group of students who organized the school shutdown, and shut down the school, and sort of cast Derek out, and made it clear to him how awful, and how hateful, and how hurtful this ideology was.

And it was also students like Allison, eventually his girlfriend, who won his trust, built a relationship, but [who] also armored herself with the facts, and sort of like point by point went through and showed how this ideology is built on total misinformation.

And then there were also [Jewish] students like Matthew [Stevenson] and Moshe [Ash] who, in a remarkable act, invited Derek over week after week after week, not to build the case against him but to build their relationship, hoping that just by spending more and more time with them he would be able to begin seeing past the stereotypes to the people and to the humanity. ... I think it's important to note that that did not happen quickly, and that they knew the full horror of a lot of the beliefs of this ideology and the things that Derek had said.

Heidi Saman and Mooj Zadie produced and edited the audio of this interview. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Meghan Sullivan adapted it for the Web.

I, a Social Democrat am subtle; believe in Revolution begins and ends in the voting booth.  And that man/woman is not an unreasoning beast.  This is part of my history.

I write as I do because I want change and there are two historical ways toward that change.


Views: 70

Comment by mary gravitt on October 29, 2018 at 2:51pm

I write because I want change!

Comment by alsoknownas on October 29, 2018 at 3:06pm

You're the best messenger on this site Mary.

Thank you.

Comment by Robert B. James on October 29, 2018 at 3:33pm

 Good work MG. I’m late to the history party...but a historian none the less. I have been mildly obsessed with change, but not as much as I am with growth. I see change as forgetting, and growth as remembering. Growth requires a steady return to ones roots...from which there is as much to learn as any place. Growing into something or beyond something requires effort. Change happens. Change can be undone, and redone. We grow into our roles...we change our socks. We seed  and nurture what we grow...with love, care, and  forethought. Not only ours but on the shoulders of others who got us to where we can add our creativity to what we have been given. 

   I like your work. I like the way you think. 

Comment by mary gravitt on October 31, 2018 at 2:16pm

We must study history because we cannot escape it.  This is the lesson of Pittsburgh and the Zionists who think Trump is the greatest man since Dirius the Mead.  Trump has no empathy, therefore he does not care for the pain he causes.  He pimps his daughter to Jewry as a pawn:  He can't be evil because he has a Jewish sons-in-laws, and a daughter who converted.  Watch Laurence Rees The Nazis: A Lesson From History.  Marxist Jews thought that the Nazis were not so bad because some had Jewish girlfriends.  

Trump like Hitler knows the weakness in American society: Racism and Class Warfare.

He in the US, we: Blacks, Jews, Gays, browns, Native Americans must stick together and vote on November 6.  And make it as Malcolm X states: The ballot or the bullet.


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