Happy Black History Month. This episode, I wanted to do something different, and celebrate the greatest musician the United States of America has ever produced. 2,000 tunes, 12 Grammy’s, and unmistakable style: Edward Kennedy Ellington, The Duke.
Material from: Rockin’ in Rhythm, by Harry Carney and Duke Ellington, performed by their orchestra.
Mood Indigo, by Duke Ellington, as played by Evan Christopher’s Django a la Creole performing in Montargis France in 2010
This post is not about politics; it’s about my best friend.
This is Walter. He is a relatively-tiny thing, less than 20 pounds. He was found after running away from a dog-fighting ring, where he served as a bait dog (no link, you may look it up if you wish, but please be warned that it’s a disturbing topic.)
He was starving and incredibly skittish around people when I met him. But after some medical care (where one of his legs was amputated) and love he’s gotten much better. Walter was not an important creature to anyone when we found him- in fact, at my most cynical I tend to draw parallels between the way the world almost ground him up and the way most humans these days are ground up by the depravity of late-stage capitalism. But regardless of how applicable such parallels are, it remains true that Walter is very important to me. He is a reminder of the difference a person can make for the small and forgotten, and of the power of mercy in a world obsessed with hyper-competition and worth-in-dollars.
He’s also a good boy who keeps me sane in a world gone crazy. Walter is 7 today; thanks for being born, three-legged friendbeast.
After a year of brutal and unrepresentative government by a Republican Congress and President, I want to take a moment to examine an aspect of our degrading society that is, admittedly, not the most important or direct consequence. It resides mostly in the minds of people, but also in the words they speak and the hopes they allow themselves, it is as real as any material deprivation. It is time for each of us to examine our politics, and banish forever the ideas that the stakes are low and reversible, that the only important thing is that we “restore sanity” to the presidency, and that our culture is not sick.
I speak of the despair and fear that millions of people feel- even if they are lucky enough to escape the direct and immediate consequences of radical-right policy. What the United States government is doing in some communities is terrorizing, pure and simple. When you begin rolling up convenience store clerks for the high crime of working without the proper documents, you don’t just create a climate of fear among the undocumented, but also their families and others who rely upon them. When Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers hang out at courthouses and schools attempting to spot people they can legally round up and throw into cages before sending them away forever, they aren’t just looking for marks on some report, but to send a message- Uncle Sam is not your friend if you aren’t white. He has no general welfare to promote among you, no interest in your pursuit of happiness, no interest in your access to justice or education. No, Uncle Sam is racist as hell, 14th and 6th amendments be damned, and he’s done even pretending to care. To hell with your citizen children or your ties to the community or the relationships you’ve formed or even your human rights- your new full-time job is worrying about him and his fascist thugs disappearing people from America.
I speak of the complete collapse of concern among the elite for legions of educated adults, both young and old, who followed the advice of their parents and popular wisdom and devoted themselves to obtaining a coveted middle-class slot in our economy through education. These graduates find themselves facing a society with no interest in the lack of slots available for them beyond a few lucky I.T. staff and software engineers, but an obsessive interest in making sure that every penny of student loan debt is repaid. Is it any wonder, finding themselves relegated to menial tasks and a subsistence existence, that they have concluded that the vision they were sold on is a lie? They want answers, a way to explain what is happening to them- and while some will rightly conclude that the problem is a rapacious and exploitative global capitalism, others will descend into despair, anger, and impotent resentment, and others still will be seduced by the easy explanations of racists and xenophobes.
I speak of my African-American brothers and sisters, who, in addition to dealing with the tangible and direct effects of Uncle Sam’s negligence and/or oppression, also have to live in a climate of consistently heightened awareness of the police- and also with the awareness that it’s entirely possible to do everything right and still lose everything. They teach their children to fear and obey without question men with badges in order to protect them, that they must be careful about crossing this street or that one into the rich, white side of the divide, that their dreams should be smaller and their focus should be survival.
If you’re thinking about politics these days, it’s these sorts of folk you should never allow too far from your mind. For these people, who must expend effort constantly looking over their shoulders, worrying about their futures or lack thereof, afraid of being shot during a traffic stop or put in handcuffs for not having a Social Security number, politics is not a matter of sport-like entertainment but often literally life-or-death. It is for these people and their sake that I avoid the luxury and indulgence of cynicism and false equivalence between our two major political parties, and have little patience for those who still do. Certainly much would be better off if Trump had lost rather than won. But it is also for their sake, those without the ability to simply spectate and offer commentary, that I refuse not to challenge the conventional positions of imminently-reasonable liberals, democrats and cable news pundits. Because the truth is, you shouldn’t have to be a perfect model-immigrant to live in this country in peace, freedom, and dignity. You shouldn’t have to sign yourself into debt peonage for the chance at an increasingly rare middle-class job with health insurance and non-insulting wages. Massive wealth inequality, much of which progressed without protestation among liberals, has led to this turning point in popular political discourse , where the neoliberal vision for America has very publicly lost popular legitimacy but an alternative has not yet been accepted. Time is running out for the Democratic Party to articulate a new vision based upon the universal human desire to live in liberty, peace, and prosperity, even if you’re not a veteran or small business owner or disruptive tech entrepreneur or college graduate. Here’s hoping they do- the future is socialism or barbarism, and one way or another we are doing away with American Dream of old. Will we become a country of oppression and the never-ending struggle just to get by, or one of cooperation, sharing, and ambition?
On this week’s show, I talk about shitty Al Franken apologetics, what people are missing about Sam Seder’s abrupt dismissal and rehiring by MSNBC, and the GOP’s plan to take us back to a simpler, better time, where the rich were idle and the poor were not. Share and enjoy!
Recently, internet-famous alimony-inspiration story and rape apologist Mike Cernovitch launched a manufactured campaign to get Sam Seder off of MSNBC, and it appears Sam’s contract will not be renewed:
MSNBC has decided not to renew its contract with contributor Sam Seder after an old tweet emerged in which Seder joked about Roman Polanski raping his daughter, TheWrap has learned.
Seder’s contract ends in February and he has no scheduled appearances between now and then, a spokesperson for MSNBC told TheWrap.
“Don’t care re Polanski, but I hope if my daughter is ever raped it is by an older truly talented man w/a great sense of mise en scene,” wrote Seder in the now deleted tweet from 2009.
The year was 2009, and the film community was in the middle of organizing a petition to allow Polanski, a child rapist, to return to the United States without facing arrest and prosecution. Referencing his own daughter was an obvious attempt to trigger some empathy in these activists, and his point that artistic brilliance doesn’t compensate for moral failure was and is both true and relevant.
Cernovitch’s ham-fisted and clumsy campaign succeeding is pretty unbelievable to me- as in, I literally don’t believe it. It seems far more plausible to me that the contract cancellation is about Sam’s thoughtfulness concerning late-stage capitalism and its accompanying political dynamics in our increasingly undemocratic system, as well as his willingness to host contributors with anti-capitalist views. People like Sam are a threat, because corporate media, even when packaged as “news”, has a hierarchy to maintain and an endless beast to feed with consumer spending. They don’t care about what’s true or fair, and some faction of suits was probably looking for an excuse to give him the axe. Cernovitch, useless piece-of-shit predator that he is, just provided them with one.
Tweet #IStandWithSamSeder. Contact advertisers you’ve heard on majority.fm and tell them you appreciate their sponsorship. Become a member at cucknation.org, if you can (haha, yes really). Donate an extra few bucks at majority.fm, if you can. And above all, remember: stronger than all the lisp-infused whining of an alimony baby is the solidarity of a peasant army.
A few months ago, as I looked out upon the hell-world that was taking shape in the United States of America, I was not feeling very good about much of anything. I did (and sometimes still do) blame my poverty on myself, frequently felt raw and emotional, and just generally felt like the only sane person in a sea of fascist insanity. None of these feelings have vanished entirely, and none of the problems plaguing my beloved country have, either.
And yet, despite the shorter days and longer odds for team democracy, I am feeling a bit better these days. And it’s not because my website and podcast are a hit (haha), or because Evan McMullin has finally led the #resistance to victory, or I’ve gotten any more charming or intelligent. I am feeling a better because of the community and relationships I’ve formed, and for that I need to say thank you.
If I make you laugh, thanks. If we learn when we speak together, thanks. If you hear me on The Majority Report and my bits make you smile, thanks. I don’t know what else to say other than thanks, thanks for letting me do something that isn’t mindless drudgery or unthinking primitivist accumulation or a futile struggle to escape personal serfdom through YET MORE education and job training.
Thanks for hanging with a poor peasant. If you want, you can help keep our hut nice and cozy this winter by chipping in here.
The podcast will be back next week. Stay dissident, serfs.
In this episode, we will talk with my good friend Claire (@claireliontamer), a teacher, UK Labour Party Member, and member of The Michael Brooks Show (@tmbs) about how things are across the pond, the monarchy, gun control, and Brexit, and (somehow) Game of Thrones!? Don’t worry, nothing spoilery.