My new book, Mellencamp: American Troubadour, is now officially available from the University Press of Kentucky, and all book retailers.
Salon recently ran an excerpt, and it is already receiving high praise.
Part biography, part cultural and sociological commentary—with a touch of hagiography/fan nonfiction thrown in—Mellencamp is almost a new genre. Masciotra’s observations, contributions, and asides are apt and diverse. Both Mellencamp’s work and the man himself are deeper than they appear, and this book really shores this up. — Susan Compo, author of Warren Oates: A Wild Life
David Masciotra writes with the precision and integrity and humanity of a great journalist, one whose word you can trust. He knows his subject, and his prose and reporting are always informed by the lights of compassion and decency. — James Lee Burke, author of Wayfaring Stranger
For almost 40 years, John Mellencamp has been forging a path through the thickets of the music industry, meditating on the connections between rock, soul, folk and funk. In the process, he’s established himself as a major artist whose work is sometimes obscured by the shadows of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. In this detailed, loving book, David Masciotra shines the light of his critical intelligence on the connections between Mellencamp’s life, his music, and the commitment to a deeper understanding of our shared humanity. — Craig Werner, author of Up Around the Bend: An Oral History of Creedence Clearwater Revival
The new media company Fusion, a collaboration between ABC News and Univsion, requested that I write about some issues particularly relevant to my region.
In the first, an essay on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, I explain that the hideous and ridiculous anti-gay law was Governor Pence’s fumbling and bumbling attempt to ingratiate himself to the religious right for a presidential run in 2016. The entire controversy doubles as an indictment of the extremity of the Republican base, which rejected Pence’s predecessor, Mitch Daniels, from presidential consideration because of his comparably moderate record on social issues.
In the second, I offered an endorsement of Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in the Chicago Mayoral Race.
In a political reflection for Salon, I write about my trip to Selma, Alabama for the 50th Anniversary commemoration of Bloody Sunday. I went on a bus with staff and supporters of Rainbow/PUSH.
There were many beautiful and powerful moments that weekend, but my essay focuses on the political ugliness of widespread poverty and wicked inequality.
From the essay:
Washington, D.C., is the capital of American power, but the small town of Selma, Alabama, is the capital of American democracy. As long as one group of citizens could not vote freely and safely, America’s government, along with the idealistic claims it made, had no legitimacy or authenticity.
For its historical value and moral power, every American citizen should make a pilgrimage to Selma in an attempt to gain access to its inspiration and the courage of its martyrs and heroes. Such a trip would force Americans to confront the devastating disparity between Selma’s importance and its infrastructure. The disparity comes to represent the consistent American violation of its history, the betrayal of its people, and the inequality that undermines the victories of Bloody Sunday, and threatens to poison its future.
Read the rest at Salon.
For Patheos‘ feature on the 50th anniversary of the march on Selma – the real birth of American democracy – I interviewed Rev. Jesse Jackson about his Christian faith, the history of the religion, and how he applies his own spiritual devotion to his political activism and civil rights leadership.
From the essay:
The central problem of American politics and culture predates the country’s existence by nearly two thousand years. It is the same conflict at the heart of a close cousin to the American experience.
Sitting in the office of Jesse Jackson, whose political activism and civil rights leadership often cause people to forget he was first and is still an ordained minister, easily becomes a church experience when he launches into a sermon. All I needed to do was remind him of the topic of our interview (religion in America), and he transformed his desk into a pulpit and my chair into a pew, giving a homespun homily connecting religion with politics, theology with culture, and the past with the present.
Read Rev. Jackson’s profound insights and the rest of the essay at Patheos
In my latest essay for AlterNet, I expose how libertarianism is an exercise in conformity and childish delusions.
Rather that rebelling, libertarians conform to the worst and most dominant aspects of American culture. Rather than acting as a political movement, it is actually the expression of an anti-political impulse.
From the essay:
As much as libertarians boast of having a “political movement” gaining in popularity, “you’re not the boss of me” does not even rise to the most elementary level of politics. Aristotle translated “politics” into meaning “the things concerning the polis,” referring to the city, or in other words, the community. Confucius connected politics with ethics, and his ethics are attached to communal service with a moral system based on empathy. A political program, like that from the right, that eliminates empathy, and denies the collective, is anti-political.
Opposition to any conception of the public interest and common good, and the consistent rejection of any opportunity to organize communities in the interest of solidarity, is not only a vicious form of anti-politics, it is affirmation of America’s most dominant and harmful dogmas. In America, selfishness, like blue jeans or a black dress, never goes out of style. It is the style.
Read the rest at AlterNet.
Lulu, the collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica, is a brilliant and misunderstood masterpiece. Harsh reviews and poor sales would give people the opposite idea, but in the words of Hammett, much of the hatred for the album was “just people being sheep on the internet.”
In a fascinating conversation with Kirk Hammett, lead guitarist for Metallica, we discuss the origins of the album, the story behind its creation, and his reaction to the baseless bashing of Lulu, much of which began before the album’s release.
Given that due to Lou Reed’s sad death, it will now stand as the legendary singer/songwriter’s final record, now is the perfect time to revisit Lulu.
Read the interview at Salon.
Everyone interested in Metallica should anticipate the release of my 33 1/3 book on The Black Album in September. For that volume in the prestigious series from Bloomsbury, I interviewed Hammett, Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield, Jason Newsted, and Bob Rock.
Martin Luther King exemplifies real bravery in Selma...
In my new essay for AlterNet, I compare the conflicting notions of heroism and manhood playing out in the cinema between Selma and American Sniper and Martin Luther King and Chris Kyle. Then, with a little help from King, Gore Vidal, Paul Newman, Jim Harrison, and Bruce Springsteen, I also present a case for America to progress beyond its macho glorification of violence, and move toward a manhood that allows for tenderness, sensitivity, and compassion.
Read it at AlterNet.
In my new essay for AlterNet, I offer a wide ranging take on America’s history of racist, sexual oppression, using as a springboard, the brilliant book, Policing Sexuality by Jessica Pliley. Pliley is a historian at Texas State University, and her book should become mandatory reading for every high school history student in America.
From the beginning of my essay:
For anyone willing to look right in the face of America’s sexual repression, sexist assumptions, and racist fears, Policing Sexuality: The Mann Act and The Making of the FBI by Jessica R. Pliley, is at once a magnifying glass and flashlight. It is an indispensable history of all the American anxieties, hang ups, and priggish obsessions in one neat, little package.
Read the rest at AlterNet.
Historian Morris Berman brings all the analyses of America’s decline and decay in a violent and cruel culture of greed and selfishness to a “question of values.” Most liberals and leftists are rightly critical of American institutions – the avarice of corporations, the corruption of government, the ruthlessness of the Pentagon, and the idiocy of the media.
The detached abstraction of American dysfunction is how most critics also explained the Michael Brown and Eric Garner killings, and the subsequent release of the officers responsible without charges or trials. Everyone blamed “the system”, as if the system is a giant computer.
What most critics ignored is that in both cases, and many similar cases, grand juries of twelve Americans review the evidence, and coldly release the killers. The criminal justice system is structurally racist, but the system is powered by people. The values of the majority of the American people are dangerous. The sane minority protests in the street, while the silent majority of Nixon’s delight sits comfortably in their living rooms. The same silent majority supports war, approves of torture, and applauds the cutting of social services.
Those that do not actively promote the cruelty and violence of the status quo are disengaged and disinterested. According to a study from Newsweek, 70 percent of Americans cannot name a single part of the Bill of Rights.
It is the battle of the sane minority and the silent majority that is the subject of my new essay for AlterNet.
In my new essay for Salon, I react to the reaction my essay on America’s idolatry of the military. I expand on America’s indifference to the rape epidemic within the military. I describe my own personal connection with veterans (my grandfather, my father, and former students), and I analyze the meaning of the death threats and hateful campaign my article provoked. The poison of propaganda from Fox News and right wing media became clear, as did the hideousness of the social media sewer.
Most importantly, I write about the moving story of Fred John Boenig, and his son, Austin, who committed suicide while serving in the Air Force in Afghanistan. Fred and I spoke at length on the phone after the publication of my original essay on the military. His kindness and honesty moved me profoundly, and the journey of his son is worthy of mourning, but also examination from all Americans.
Read the essay at Salon.