I was abused by my own preacher.
I’m promoting this political essay on the eve of 9/11 because since 9/11 our nation has been on a path that is still very much influenced by that event, because the greatest threat to the US is still from within, in the battle for the hearts and minds of everyday Americans, and not from some foreign group or ideology.
When I was in my mid twenties, long before I began a career talking politics or making videos & film, there was one voice that seemed to say everything I was thinking. I’d tune in to 1110AM in Charlotte, NC every day at noon to hear the opening beat from “My City Was Gone” by The Pretenders, and Rush Limbaugh’s voice would boom through my | Read More »
Both sides of my family migrated to Detroit in the first half of the 20th Century. Both of my parents were born there. It is the place where our history, our culture, our collective memory, the proof of our existence to the physical world emanates from. Some have left, many have died. Others have remained to witness the horror, the transformation of a great community.
There are newcomers, such as Liana, who’s home is here because of Write A House. Here is her blog about her experience in Detroit.
I now do most of my writing from an upstairs room that overlooks most of my street. The room is stark, with freshly painted white walls (Thanks Write A House crew), a wooden desk and an aluminum folding chair. I’ve kept it bare to minimize distraction and maximize output. I am easily distracted. I lose focus. I am not one of those writers who can write comfortably anywhere, at any time. To get a place of pure, magical focus and creativity, I have to expend so much energy. But even a minimally decorated, quiet room has not stopped my mind from wandering elsewhere.
It’s been 8 years since the epic Detective Comics based mega motion picture exploded into neighborhoods across this great land. Hardly seems like it. Yet the damage wrought by the creative carnage has spread like a malignant tumor into the very fabric of the American ethos. Spread to the degree that our political system sits precariously now, perched over a terminally ill cliff, with a diagnosis of death by self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Let me explain. When popular culture crowns a product with a tiara of success, it generally conveys some level of artistic achievement that transcends genre. Our addictive obsession with film and the cult of stardom which parasitically attaches to it pay homage to the idea that is espoused with the cliché ‘life imitates art’. So when $1 billion is earned in box office revenue alone, not to mention DVD/Blu-Ray and merchandising, consider that more clue than hint. When the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences changes its award eligibility criteria, take that as more coronation than concession. Multitudes of fanboys attending multiple theater viewings aside, both dinner debates in the homes of moguls and agent provocateurs, along with power lunches turned hushed lecture sessions in see and be seen west side eateries, speak to the level of penetration Filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s experiment had into the collective consciousness of Americana.
Hyperbole! You say. Allow me to add wax. What we have here is not a failure to communicate. Our society has done nothing less than exemplify a failure to educate, to motivate, to compete, to shake loose the bourgeois trappings of prosperity a priori obesity, to care enough about each other, our children and ourselves. And, for lack of a better phrase, to thrive. As a result our institutions begin to topple. Schools, private industry, the Congress, the White House, and SCOTUS, all frayed at the edges. Forget about apple pie. What happened to the foundation of our democrapitalism, organized labor? Ask a millennial to define pension. Don’t panic when you get a description of Orange is the New Black. Symptoms. Gotham City, USA has never looked so bad. There isn’t anyone left that matters apparently, who can compare current events with the 1930s or the 1860s. Are the recent 60s and 70s now thought of as the good old days? Great revisionist history, Batman!
Back to the Caped Crusader, as you were. Consider Bruce Wayne, with power nonpareil – as masked and armed – and financed the same. Does that bring to mind President Barack Obama? Then compare how our public is led to scorn the vigilante when he dares use his assets to do battle for the home team. Why, some want him prosecuted! Our hero. Don’t they realize his intentions are to act in the best interests of those he would protect? Metaphorically going halfway across the globe to rein in Wall Street villains in the persona of mob bagman Lau, he is thwarted by bosses Gambol, Sal Maroni, and the Chechen, when they take a contract out on him with The Joker himself, who we’ll call ISIS for arguments sake. Gambol aka public education, Maroni aka an intransigent Congress, and the Chechen aka the exodus of middle class wage careers, conspire against him to attack his Achilles heel, foreign policy.
While his attention is diverted by an old flame Rachel Dawes, none other than Hillary Clinton, he’s hit with one sucker punch after another; Benghazi, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Israel, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty negotiations with Iran. But who can blame him? Rachel has a new rival for her attention, Harvey, the real Donald J. Trump, Dent. He is the savior. The man with a plan. So easy, so easy, so easy, let me tell you. So quick, so quick, so quick. The Great White Hope, riding in on his white horse, is a stark contrast to our Black Knight. AND light minded PEOPLE BELIEVE HIM. Why he’s the legitimate offspring of E. F. Hutton and the most interesting man in the world.
But he’s not alone. Championing his cause as the true blue representative of the people is Coleman Reese, who follows the Joker’s lead and attempts to expose Batman for the fraud he is, not addressing the fact that we never learn anything about our Joker other than what he cares to share in his fable-like musings. Stunt doubles for Reese include the Sean Hannity lead Fox News Network, backed by the understudies Limbaugh and Coulter et al.
Smack in the middle of this standoff is The RNC or Gotham PD, helmed by Commissioner Gordon – Reince Priebus. Forced to carry the torch for Dent, Gordon, surrounded by corruption within the ranks, falls on his sword to save the convention ceremony and takes a bullet for the cause. Laid up, he is helpless to prevent Dent from revealing his two-faced nature long hidden beneath the surface. A latent xenophobic tendency which The Joker exposes with every hospital bombing and nightclub massacre. Yet Gordon’s fate is sealed when he makes a deal with the devil to perpetuate a lie so that the public is convinced of Dent’s integrity. Dent can’t be a fraud. Everyone knows the Batman is to blame. Don’t they?
In the end the Joker is defeated, and declared the loser. Or is he? At what cost to society was this victory purchased? Has the interim damage opened such a crack in the foundation that constructors will be forced to start over with new blueprints? Check back in November for the next episode titled: Doctor Strange. Pray to God that this time art imitates life.
A Sunday Morning Sermon For You
I’ve been getting pounded lately from Branch Trumpidians – the “Christian” sect – about Trump’s great relationship with God. He drinks the little bit of wine, eats the little cracker, etc… It’s no secret, and in fact, it is with a great deal of disappointment that many of us watched as the so-called evangelicals turned out in droves to | Read More »
With two rat terriers trotting at his heels, and a long wooden staff in his hand, J.R. Gavin leads me through the woods to one of the old swamp hide-outs. A tall white man with a deep Southern drawl, Gavin has a stern presence, gracious manners and intense brooding eyes. At first I mistook him for a preacher, but he’s a retired electronic engineer who writes self-published novels about the rapture and apocalypse. One of them is titled Sal Batree, after the place he wants to show me.I’m here in Jones County, Mississippi, to breathe in the historical vapors left by Newton Knight, a poor white farmer who led an extraordinary rebellion during the Civil War. With a company of like-minded white men in southeast Mississippi, he did what many Southerners now regard as unthinkable. He waged guerrilla war against the Confederacy and declared loyalty to the Union.In the spring of 1864, the Knight Company overthrew the Confederate authorities in Jones County and raised the United States flag over the county courthouse in Ellisville. The county was known as the Free State of Jones, and some say it actually seceded from the Confederacy. This little-known, counter-intuitive episode in American history has now been brought to the screen in Free State of Jones, directed by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games) and starring a grimy, scruffed-up Matthew McConaughey as Newton Knight.Knight and his men, says Gavin, hooking away an enormous spider web with his staff and warning me to be careful of snakes, “had a number of different hide-outs. The old folks call this one Sal Batree. Sal was the name of Newt’s shotgun, and originally it was Sal’s Battery, but it got corrupted over the years.”
Excerpt of Ken Burns Stanford Commencement Address
Our spurious sovereignty is reinforced and perpetually underscored to our obvious and great comfort, but this kind of existence actually ingrains in us a stultifying sameness that rewards conformity (not courage), ignorance and anti-intellectualism (not critical thinking). This wouldn’t be so bad if we were just wasting our own lives, but this year our political future depends on it. And there comes a time when I – and you – can no longer remain neutral, silent. We must speak up – and speak out.
“We must remain committed to the kindness and community that are the hallmarks of civilization.”
For 216 years, our elections, though bitterly contested, have featured the philosophies and character of candidates who were clearly qualified. That is not the case this year. One is glaringly not qualified. So before you do anything with your well-earned degree, you must do everything you can to defeat the retrograde forces that have invaded our democratic process, divided our house, to fight against, no matter your political persuasion, the dictatorial tendencies of the candidate with zero experience in the much maligned but subtle art of governance; who is against lots of things, but doesn’t seem to be for anything, offering only bombastic and contradictory promises, and terrifying Orwellian statements; a person who easily lies, creating an environment where the truth doesn’t seem to matter; who has never demonstrated any interest in anyone or anything but himself and his own enrichment; who insults veterans, threatens a free press, mocks the handicapped, denigrates women, immigrants and all Muslims; a man who took more than a day to remember to disavow a supporter who advocates white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan; an infantile, bullying man who, depending on his mood, is willing to discard old and established alliances, treaties and long-standing relationships. I feel genuine sorrow for the understandably scared and – they feel – powerless people who have flocked to his campaign in the mistaken belief that – as often happens on TV – a wand can be waved and every complicated problem can be solved with the simplest of solutions. They can’t. It is a political Ponzi scheme. And asking this man to assume the highest office in the land would be like asking a newly minted car driver to fly a 747.
As a student of history, I recognize this type. He emerges everywhere and in all eras. We see nurtured in his campaign an incipient proto-fascism, a nativist anti-immigrant Know Nothing-ism, a disrespect for the judiciary, the prospect of women losing authority over their own bodies, African Americans again asked to go to the back of the line, voter suppression gleefully promoted, jingoistic saber rattling, a total lack of historical awareness, a political paranoia that, predictably, points fingers,always making the other wrong. These are all virulent strains that have at times infected us in the past. But they now loom in front of us again – all happening at once. We know from our history books that these are the diseases of ancient and now fallen empires. The sense of commonwealth, of shared sacrifice, of trust, so much a part of American life, is eroding fast, spurred along and amplified by an amoral Internet that permits a lie to circle the globe three times before the truth can get started.
We no longer have the luxury of neutrality or “balance,” or even of bemused disdain. Many of our media institutions have largely failed to expose this charlatan, torn between a nagging responsibility to good journalism and the big ratings a media circus always delivers. In fact, they have given him the abundant airtime he so desperately craves, so much so that it has actually worn down our natural human revulsion to this kind of behavior. Hey, he’s rich; he must be doing something right. He is not. Edward R. Murrow would have exposed this naked emperor months ago. He is an insult to our history. Do not be deceived by his momentary “good behavior.” It is only a spoiled, misbehaving child hoping somehow to still have dessert.
And do not think that the tragedy in Orlando underscores his points. It does not. We must “disenthrall ourselves,” as Abraham Lincoln said, from the culture of violence and guns. And then “we shall save our country.”
This is not a liberal or conservative issue, a red state, blue state divide. This is an American issue. Many honorable people, including the last two Republican presidents, members of the party of Abraham Lincoln, have declined to support him. And I implore those “Vichy Republicans” who haveendorsed him to please, please reconsider. We must remain committed to the kindness and community that are the hallmarks of civilization and reject the troubling, unfiltered Tourette’s of his tribalism.
The next few months of your “commencement,” that is to say, your future, will be critical to the survival of our Republic. “The occasion is piled high with difficulty.” Let us pledge here today that we will not let this happen to the exquisite, yet deeply flawed, land we all love and cherish – and hope to leave intact to our posterity. Let us “nobly save,” not “meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.”
Let me speak directly to the graduating class. Watch out. Here comes the advice.
Look. I am the father of four daughters. If someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted, take it effing seriously. And listen to them! Maybe, some day, we will make the survivor’s eloquent statement as important as Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
Try not to make the other wrong, as I just did with that “presumptive” nominee. Be for something.
Be curious, not cool. Feed your soul, too. Every day.
Remember, insecurity makes liars of us all. Not just presidential candidates.
Don’t confuse success with excellence. The poet Robert Penn Warren once told me that “careerism is death.”
Do not descend too deeply into specialism either. Educate all of your parts. You will be healthier.
Free yourselves from the limitations of the binary world. It is just a tool. A means, not an end.
Seek out – and have – mentors. Listen to them. The late theatrical director Tyrone Guthrie once said, “We are looking for ideas large enough to be afraid of again.” Embrace those new ideas. Bite off more than you can chew.
Travel. Do not get stuck in one place. Visit our national parks. Their sheer majesty may remind you of your own “atomic insignificance,” as one observer noted, but in the inscrutable ways of Nature, you will feel larger, inspirited, just as the egotist in our midst is diminished by his or her self-regard.
Insist on heroes. And be one.
Read. The book is still the greatest manmade machine of all – not the car, not the TV, not the smartphone.
Make babies. One of the greatest things that will happen to you is that you will have to worry – I mean really worry – about someone other than yourself. It is liberating and exhilarating. I promise. Ask your parents.
Do not lose your enthusiasm. In its Greek etymology, the word enthusiasm means simply, “God in us.”
Serve your country. Insist that we fight the right wars. Convince your government, as Lincoln knew, that the real threat always and still comes from within this favored land. Governments always forget that.
Insist that we support science and the arts, especially the arts. They have nothing to do with the actual defense of our country – they just make our country worth defending.
Believe, as Arthur Miller told me in an interview for my very first film on the Brooklyn Bridge, “believe, that maybe you too could add something that would last and be beautiful.”
And vote. You indelibly underscore your citizenship – and our connection with each other – when you do.
Good luck. And Godspeed.
Text of Commencement address
Source: Who We Are – Better For America
America can do better. America deserves better.
The country deserves an independent presidential candidate who is better for America. Our mission is to get a credible candidate on the ballot, presenting the nation with a third party option who changes the historically bad choice we’re facing this fall. We need to unite around a candidate who will bring us together and lead this already great nation into the future.
Americans still believe that our country is capable of greatness and that our children deserve leaders they can look up to. They deserve a president who represents the dynamism, diversity, and deeply held virtues of the United States.
This election is a unique American moment. The electorate has shown historic levels of dissatisfaction with the two major party nominees. According to a recent poll, the majority of American voters (including 90% of millennials) want to see an independent candidate run. Nearly two-thirds of Americans said they are willing to support an independent candidate.
Here is a question I asked Jeff Pearlman and Amy Moreno based on her blog post explaining why she supports Donald Trump, which you can read below. In my question I basically imply that she never gave a tangible reason why she supports him!
Jeff, please ask Amy to answer this ONE question. I have seen Donald Trump speak in person during the primary. Why should I vote for him? I did not vote for Obama. He did not give me one reason to. Trump said NOTHING during the speech I heard to answer that question. He said two things: he would win, we had to unite the party…and, wait for it, he would win even if we did not unite. So his last words were essentially that he didn’t need my vote. Now, I paid a lot of money to see him speak in person. And that is all he said.
What perceived reality do you (Amy) have that explains why I should vote for him? Perhaps Obama wasn’t qualified. Perhaps Bush wasn’t qualified. Personally, I would never assume that Trump’s resume qualifies him for POTUS. If that is enough for Amy, so be it.
Jeff Pearlman has some strong arguments…
I have been thinking much about the rise of Donald Trump of late, but I’m tired of obsessing, worrying, fretting. So I just want to say something, and then I’ll try and (editorially) move on for a while. It won’t be easy, but—again—I’ll try. Because this isn’t healthy.
OK, here I go …