I wrote up a humorist piece (attempting to channel a bit of Melville) as a therapeutic way to bring myself some resolution after my rather harrowing three-thousand mile road trip when the malevolent tire that wrenched itself free from its axle and attacked my Fiat 500. I wrote this piece to be read/heard, and I read it at the Thursday Open Mic Night at the Golden Saloon here in McCarthy. It was well-received by some, but the venue wasn’t very suitable to read a long piece like this — but I had a good time. I thought that I would repost it here. It’s been written to be read/heard, but I think that it should fair fairly well on the page/screen. The greatest inconvenience will probably be that I italicized words or phrases that I wanted to emphasize, in the reading.
Activism is good for the soul. I want to change the world, like anyone else, but for me activism is also extremely therapeutic. It reminds me that there are other people who see injustices in the world and believe in their bones that things don’t have to be this way. That’s especially true of big activist events like the Women’s March. It’s kind of a beautiful thing, to be surrounded by smiling faces and to snap a hundred pictures of the explosion in creativity that surrounds us: all the catchy and colorful signs, the carefully crafted costumes, the music, the chanting, and the chalk art on the streets. Yet in the midst of this exhilarating experience of solidarity, opposition and hostility can sometimes come from unexpected places and from unexpected people.
I recently read a wonderful Op-Ed article that I thought I’d bring to your attention. It’s wonderful, not in the sense of being true; it’s wonderful precisely because of how un-true it is. In this case, the un-truth illustrates a typical strategy of the Establishment: to trivialize anyone who is challenging the power and privilege of the Powers-that-Be. One of those in the firing line, most recently, is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She has taken quite the volley of condescending fire from both the right-wing and from centrists and moderates everywhere.
Good reading in The Atlantic on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Green New Deal. It highlights one of the overarching differences in the political strategy of the old Democrats (Obama/Clintons) versus the new progressive/leftist breed. The difference isn’t so much about policies as it is about how these policies are framed. The new progressive wave is based more on story and narrative, and this makes it an exciting time to be on the left because the leaders of the movement are appealing to something that can inspire a movement. It’s an approach that could win, and that means there is hope.
“Whether the Republican establishment likes it or not – and more and more are actually perfectly happy with it – the Grand Old Party is now Trump’s Party. Their fate is intertwined with his. The old conservative Republican party is dead, for now. In the coming two years they will campaign as a radical right party, led by an omnipresent leader, who will define the Republican party for a whole generation of Americans.”
Trump is hitting the campaign trail, hitting it hard in the way that Trumpty Dumpty sort of way he has, and one of his repeated platitudes is some variation of “I’m not on the ballot, but I’m on the ballot,” also taking the form of “think of yourself as voting for me.” I haven’t been following this election as carefully as I should. I haven’t been well. I’ve been struggling with digestive/gut issues since last spring, and it’s taken its toll. My energy levels have been pretty low.
My time is winding down here in McCarthy, and so I’m trying to enjoy the last week of my time in Alaska, which isn’t hard to do with all the September sunshine, a welcome relief after an Angry August of rain and cold. It’s also easy to enjoy the time here because as more and more folks disperse in the annual Alaska diaspora, the bar empties out save for locals. Last night I was chatting with a local buddy at the bar. He lives in McCarthy now, but he’s originally from California. We started talking politics and culture, and eventually he began reminiscing about attending Iraq War protests, back during the Bush years. The protests seemed to have left a distinct impression on him, mostly negative. They felt a bit ineffective, quixotic even. He mentioned a certain festival type of atmosphere, with fire jugglers.
This summer I’ve turned more attention to blogging, and I’ve started phazing out Facebook. In the process I’ve been pleasantly surprised to cross paths with several new blogger friends, bloggers who are Christians, and they are Christians with whom I share key commonalities, a form of fellowship, so-to-speak. It’s been interesting to flip my mind back into theological mode, here and there. One perspective that I still share, that I still have in common with Christians is the sense that in some way there was a communion that was broken, that in some sense our original state of being is communion and harmony. So given that we are living in the days of rage, in a period of increasing cultural coflict, this idea of communion has come to take on greater meaning for me.
“I’m off the book,” says my friend Scott. We stand together on the porch of the Golden Saloon, drinking a few beers in the early evening. We’re a little buzzed, it’s a nice beer buzz without being completely swept away into intoxication. “Off the book,” I repeat. I’d never heard it put quite like that. “I like Facebook,” I say. “I really do. But I think I’m winding it down.” I’m still connected to the Book, I tell Scott. My Facebook account is still active. I just haven’t been checking it very often. It’s gone from a daily scanning to a weekly review.
It’s extremely weird, in retrospect, but in my evangelical circles no one ever really talked about Martin Luther King, Jr. Here was one of America’s most profoundly moral truth-tellers, a minister who spoke with authority and rallied the entire black church in the south, a prophetic voice if there ever was one — and he was more or less passed over in my evangelicals circles, or treated by way of a good-natured dismisal, some sort of feel-good tip of the hat to the guy that got America back on track and patched up “the race problem.” But the details of King’s life and struggle and activism and theology? It didn’t happen, not in my circles. This is because for the evangelicals that support Trump, the Gospel is construed solely as an individualistic affair: get things right with God and pick up your Get-Out-of-Hell Free Card.
One way that racism persists in America is that non-Whites are not permitted to interpret their own experiences. White America has always reserved for themselves the right to describe the nature of “America,” to define what America means and what it means to be an American — and if your interpretation doesn’t square with theirs, then it isn’t legit. If a non-White person says that their experience in America involves racism, White America cannot take that at face value, cannot engage in a simple act of listening. This brings us to the latest in the White America’s battle for the NFL’s National Anthem.
The Trumpification of the English language: “For instance, I went to Russia for a day or so, a day or two, because I own the Miss Universe pageant. So I went there to watch it because it was near Moscow. So I go to Russia. Now I didn’t go there. Everybody knows. The logs are there, the planes are there. He said I didn’t stay there a night. Of course I stayed there. I stayed there a very short period of time. But of course I stayed. Well his memo said I left immediately. I never said that. I never said I left immediately.” From recent interview on Fox & Friends
Marx’s 200th birthday was two days ago. With two centuries in the can, I’d be interested to hear what ole Karl thinks of the state of things, though I imagine it would take him a while to get used to life in the 21st century, what with our smartphones, Netflix, and talk of life extension and artificial intelligence. Even so, I’m sure he’d find that he nailed it, so far as the basics are concerned, those basics being his critique of capitalism. Class struggle is still with us, capitalism is still self-destructive, and we are still told that there are no other options, that capitalism is the only game in town. Or, to put a spin of humor on it, “capitalism is the worst system out there, except for all the others.” (Winston Churchill) The great importance of Marx for us, today, is not so much about adopting “Marxism” (as system developed by Marx’s followers) as it is in uniting against the system of capitalism.
Quite the fascinating article today by Chris Hughes, one of the group of plucky young Harvard students who founded Facebook. In response to the recent Facebook fracas, Hughes suggests not merely that we regulate Big Data companies like Facebook but that we find a way to share the revenue with the pubic, with the users. Here’s how Hughes puts it: “the principle underlying it should be clear: companies that benefit from the data we voluntarily provide should be required to protect it and to share that wealth with the people who made it possible.”