Tuesday, November 25, 2014


I have nothing original to add about yesterday's grotesque grand jury decision in Ferguson, MO. Instead, I will just leave you with a few links from those who said these things first and better.

The first is a broadcast from a local public radio show called Strange Fruit. Yes, like the Billie Holiday song about lynching, appropriately enough. The program ordinarily looks at gay issues from the perspective of people of color, but this special episode focused on Ferguson. It distills many of the issues pretty brilliantly and explains how bizarre the legal proceedings were. (More on the later here and here.) The episode pretty much covers every aspect I can think of, so it is a good starting point. Give it a listen. It is worth your time.

And finally, some wise words from Tim Wise about white denial. He wrote it in advance, anticipating the decision. It gives a good summary of the events leading up to it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Quasi-Apologia

No doubt you have noticed my shameless book promotions. Rest assured, there is shame.

I am still uncomfortable in this particular aspect of being an author. I absolutely do not have the temperament of a salesman; but in the world of self-publishing, that is one of the many hats I have to wear. The author hat hates the sales hat especially. I am instinctively wary of anything that feel like advertising. They say "Write the book you want to read." And I did. But my own advertising makes me not want to read it because, well, it sounds like advertising. So I have already alienated my core audience.

For example, yesterday, I posted elsewhere a link to the product page with the caption "Annoyed with the election results? Try this possible tonic." It felt crassly opportunistic. Particularly since even political people are sick of campaigns at this point - probably more than most. For example, my inbox is totally bloated with email appeals. Please fuck off.

But here is the thing: My message was genuine. I know I am biased, but really think my book is necessary. We need to call out conservatives on their phony patriotism. That is, after all, why I wrote the book in the first place. I do not mean that we should mimic their McCarthyist tactics. But we do need to have an argument over what America is about.

I am not naive enough to call it a "dialogue" because I do not think it is possible at this point. The "elephant echo chamber" is hermetically sealed tight against reason. You can try arguing with your Fox News-watching father-in-law, but it is probably not the best use of your time.  But, hey, if you do go that route - perhaps for the edutainment of the spectators - my book has a lot of good rhetorical ammunition. Just saying.

But arguing specifics is difficult when your opponents have a whacked worldview. The most obvious and incontrovertible policy point goes ignored if it does not conform to the other person's central narrative. It just bounces off their mental force field. Faulty fundamental assumptions must be debunked if we are to kick the gibberish out of politics. And the elephant in the living room that we are all ignoring is what conservatism truly is - a viceral aversion to liberty, equality, and democracy.

Of course, conservatives won't listen to that conversation either. But I am not talking about conservatives. I am talking to liberals - liberals and undecideds. We all need to understand two inter-related realities:

The first is that politics is inherently adversarial. Obama does not get that. Bill Clinton didn't either. Most democratic politicians don't. And we are all quite literally poorer for it. I touched on this in my previous blog post, "The Importance of Ideology." Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 1936 Madison Garden campaign speech springs to mind. It is the one in which FDR famously said of plutocracy and privilege, "Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me - and I welcome their hatred." Oh, how I would love to hear Obama say that!

I am certainly not the first person to say this. But what I think I bring to the table is pointing out the obvious - but almost never acknowledged - conflict between conservatism and patriotism. That is the second thing. Combine that with a little fighting spirit, and we can win some stuff.

So, yeah, buy my book - or borrow it. And talk about it. Review it. Because I do think it is needed.