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  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 20, No. 1, 2021
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
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David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nick Catalano
Chris Barry
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Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

more than just a pipedream



Nick Catalano is a TV writer/producer and Professor of Literature and Music at Pace University. He reviews books and music for several journals and is the author of Clifford Brown: The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter, New York Nights: Performing, Producing and Writing in Gotham , A New Yorker at Sea,, Tales of a Hamptons Sailor and his most recent book, Scribble from the Apple. For Nick's reviews, visit his website:

This last phrase of the American pledge of allegiance aspires to an ideal which the world is further from attaining than ever before. Because of huge population increases, crowded urban centers, increasing demi-wars and conflicts, complex business and personal relationships, and corrupt governments, any semblance of utopian justice seems more elusive than ever.

Instances of injustice proceed from universally observable events to personal tragedies. Examples of some that many have witnessed through the years can help illustrate the scope of the issue.

On December 21, 1988 a U.S. jetliner exploded from a terrorist bomb over Lockerbie Scotland killing 270 people including 189 Americans. Most of the latter were college students studying abroad. Although instances of terrorist bombings were common during that time, I was particularly horrified because I was teaching my own university students a travel course and we all traveled to Europe together every spring for my seminar. As time went on, investigations revealed that the bomb was planted by Libyan terrorists.

It has been 32 years since this catastrophe and scores of international law enforcement agencies have failed to bring the perpetrators to justice. The case was recently reported by a PBS Frontline journalist who lost a brother on the flight -- Pan Am 103. Several of my students from that time emailed me to share their despair at the injustice that has occurred for so many years.

A few years ago in these pages I wrote about the age old injustice associated with the Nazis stealing art from all over Europe during their reign of terror. I reviewed the George Clooney film The Monuments Men which exposed some of the more spectacular thefts: Michelangelo’s “Bruges Madonna,” the Ghent altarpiece, Vermeer’s “The Artist Studio”, and thousands of works by Renoir, Klimt, Picasso and every important artist imaginable. The film noted that much of the art would never be recovered.

At this writing, a new book from Yale University Press, Goring’s Man in Paris: The Story of a. Nazi Art Plunderer and His Word, notes that the original thievery by Hitler’s henchmen continues its legacy of injustice. Insidiously, during the past 80 years scores of art dealers, gallery owners and even famous museums have perpetuated this injustice enabling generations of new thieves as they ignore factual reports of stolen art in their possession.

Even when there has existed advanced civilized mechanisms to counter the vast array of social injustices history records colossal failures. After the American civil war fought mainly to eliminate slavery, the Congress enacted measures to enforce the liberation of former slaves. These measures collectivized under the label “Reconstruction” included the fourteenth amendment (1868) providing former slaves with national citizenship and the fifteenth amendment (1870) granting black men the right to vote. These laws were included in the Reconstruction Act of 1867 which needed the override of a veto by President Andrew Johnson.

Northern military units were dispatched to enforce the Reconstruction edicts but after a few years the troops were withdrawn. Immediately, southerners returned to their abuse of freed blacks; courts and jurists seldom wavered from their urgent need to solidify white supremacy. The judiciaries upheld a double standard of justice for whites and blacks while police forces eagerly enforced monstrous racial abuses. Enormous horrors occurred from widespread lynchings to ordinary bus ride restrictions of blacks.

These and vastly more well-documented abuses continued unabatedly for over 30 years until Homer Plessy, a black train rider, refused to sit in a train car for blacks. He brought charges challenging the Louisiana Separate Car Act of 1890; this law was typical of dozens of similar state and local segregation laws throughout the south. Racial prejudice had been challenged in the network of southern segregationist courts but no human rights changes were ever made. However, Plessy’s case somehow made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. At last, generations of racial discrimination and hopeless injustice had a golden opportunity to be changed. Despite a long history of essential human rights violations, the American dream of “justice for all” would be realized and blacks could finally receive the moral compensation long denied them.

Incredibly, in one of the blackest moments of U.S. Supreme Court history, the Justices voted to support the network of southern state segregation laws. In May 1896, in a 7-1 decision, the court affirmed southern segregation practices maintaining that no negro civil rights were violated in what they termed “separate but equal” practices everywhere in the south. It wasn’t until 1954 in the case of Brown vs. Board of Education that the court, in a reversal, declared the “separate but equal” doctrine unconstitutional. But to the present day, systemic racism remains a practice in the darker corners of American sociology.

The shibboleth “Justice delayed is justice denied” was iterated as far back as the Magna Carta in 1215. I chose the above instances of injustice because, as in countless other situations, the delays in righting wrongs continue daily everywhere unabated.

Although, after what we have just presented, universal injustice seems as elusive as ever, some collective idealism does exist in the international halls of power. As far back as 1899 in the convention of the first Hague Peace Conference the Hague Tribunal -- the popular name for the Permanent Court of Arbitration -- was established. Through the decades The Hague court structure has been updated to address classic cases of war crimes and other easily identifiable international injustices. In the recent past the cases of Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone come to the fore with the Court’s prosecution for the crimes of presidents Radovan Karadzic and Charles Taylor. In another area under The Hague aegis one of their organizations won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 for their “extensive work to eliminate chemical weapons.”

But make no mistake. Grossly insufficient support for work of The Hague structures has been given by world leaders who have historically merely paid lip service to its existence. Indeed, it remains the only world organization and hope to remedy universal injustice. As a new administration comes to Washington, hope exists that President Biden will find time to initiate new support and recognition of the work at The Hague.


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By Nick Catalano:
Costly Failures in American Higher Education
Trump and the Dumbing Down of the American Presidency
Language as the Enemy of Truth
Opportunity in Quarantine
French Music: Impressionism & Beyond
D-Day at Normandy: A Recollection Pt. II
D-Day at Normandy: A Recollection Pt. I
Kenneth Branagh & Shakespeare
Remembering Maynard Ferguson
Reviewers & Reviewing
The Vagaries of Democracy
Racism Debunked
The Truth Writer
#Me Too Cognizance in Ancient Greece
Above the Drowning Sea
A New York Singing Salon
Rockers Retreading
Polish Jewry-Importance of Historical Museums
Sexual Relativity and Gender Revolution
Inquiry into Constitutional Originalism
Aristotle: Film Critic
The Maw of Deregulated Capitalism
Demagogues: The Rhetoric of Barbarism
The Guns of August
Miles Ahead and Born to Be Blue
Manon Lescaut @The Met
An American in Paris
What We Don't Know about Eastern Culture
Black Earth (book review)
Cuban Jazz
HD Opera - Game Changer
Film Treatment of Stolen Art
Stains and Blemishes in Democracy
Intersteller (film review)
Shakespeare, Shelley & Woody Allen
Mystery and Human Sacrifice at the Parthenon
Carol Fredette (Jazz)
Amsterdam (book review)
Vermeer Nation
The Case for Da Vinci's Demons


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