One of the most talented, moving, and inspirational singers in American music is the phenomenal Ruthie Foster. More than nearly any other contemporary American singer, she expresses, exercises, and exemplifies what Craig Werner calls the “gospel impulse.” In my new essay for Splice Today, I write about the importance of Ruthie Foster’s music, and the deficit American culture suffers for not giving her a bigger platform to share with the world her unique and powerful voice and vision. Read it here. Ruthie Foster’s new single, “Singing The Blues.”
I recently had the pleasure and honor of spending Jesse Jackson’s birthday with the civil rights leader and his staff.
Following him from event to event at Chicago’s poor public schools, and discussing a wide variety of issues, gave a perfect demonstration of the layers of discrimination and obstruction that exist in American culture.
Jackson said that “we must have the courage to reimagine our struggle.” The reimagining requires that we see the layers at the lowest level, but also the highest level in corporate America and the world of high tech.
Easily, my most read and controversial essay is criticism of how idolatry of the military prevents American culture and politics from acknowledging and addressing the important issues of sexual assault within the military and a war friendly foreign policy.
Calling every troop and veteran a “hero”, and ending the conversation there, is inaccurate – even though some are heroes – but also irresponsible. The conversation must continue to include questions about the culture within the military that allows for one third of all women serving to suffer sexual assault, and the politics of the American government that, in the words of Gore Vidal, a World War II veteran, keeps us at “perpetual war.”
Thousands of people who sent me hate mail and death threats, along with the commentators of Fox News, attacked me, without actually reading the article, for “hating the troops.” Such a slander is pure nonsense.
My publisher, Bloomsbury, recently interviewed me about my upcoming 33 1/3 book on Metallica’s self-titled record, more commonly known as The Black Album.
In a new essay for the Daily Beast, I use the release of a new retrospective of Chomsky’s work as an opportunity to appraise his intellectual contributions and political activism. It is impossible to overstate the importance of Chomsky as a public intellectual, and his importance in my own development. The few criticisms I have of his analysis fall under the sizable shadow of his brilliance and bravery.
Recently, I wrote some critical essays for the Daily Beast. The first was on the comeback tour of Garth Brooks. I had the opportunity to interview Brooks for the essay. We discussed his music, his evolving role in country music, and music culture in America. Brooks was a boyhood idol of mine – my first musical love. While I still respect and admire him, I don’t have the same love for his music. That being said, I enjoyed his concert, and was thrilled to meet him. Read the essay here.
Shortly after interviewing Brooks, I had spoke with Sean Jablonski, the creator of the USA series, Satisfaction. Satisfaction, unlike much of American entertainment, intelligently and maturely deals with the complexities of adult sexuality. Jablonski and I had an interesting conversation about his show, sexuality, American culture, happiness, and his own Buddhist inspiration. Read the essay here.
I recently had the pleasure and privilege of enjoying a two hour conversation with a hero of mine, Jesse Jackson.
I told Jackson that the work he did, along with Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, and others, not only freed black people in the United States from a brutal system of apartheid, oppression, and exploitation (work that continues), but also saved me – a white man born in 1985 – from inheriting the role of occupier, oppressor, and executioner. Albert Camus wrote that people must aspire to live as “neither victims or executioners.” The “Parks-King-Jackson” injection of freedom and justice into American democracy empowered all people to enjoy such aspiration.
In my new essay for the Daily Beast, however, I do not write about the civil rights movement, but the electoral extension of the civil rights movement – the Presidential Campaigns of Jesse Jackson in 1984 and ’88.
Important and liberating, Jackson’s campaigns deserve much more attention and celebration than the Democratic Party – often ungrateful – and the mainline media – often stupid and destructive – gives them.
In my new essay, I’m happy to, I hope, begin the reversal of such an ignorant trend.
The website Music Tomes – an interesting online journal dedicated to covering books on music – recently interviewed me on my forthcoming book, Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky).
In my new essay for the Daily Beast, I provide the history and context for the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson by giving a quick tour of essential reading for anyone hoping to understand race based police brutality, two tiers of law enforcement – one for whites, one for blacks, and the institutionalized racism of a criminal justice more criminal than just.
The inspirational and instructional sage of history and ancestry teaches anyone willing to pay attention about the complexities of the present, while putting some wind at the back of those marching for justice.
In my new essay for the Daily Beast, I defend English Departments against the boneheaded belief that college students have no need to read narrative prose. In doing so, I also write about the techno-buffoonery and anti-intellectualism sweeping the country. The lowering cultural standards are particularly visible when major journals defend them.
As I begin the essay:
It is easy to observe the sad and sickly decline of American intellectual life, through the cultural and institutional lowering of standards, when prestigious publications promote the defense, if not the celebration, of lower standards.
Writing recently in TheNew Republic on the seemingly inevitable death of the college English department, James Pulizzi represents the shortsighted techno-boosterism and foolish progressivism that is rendering American culture increasingly superficial and frivolous.
“Within a few decades, contemporary literature departments will be largely extinct,” Pulizzi submits before predicting that “communications, composition, and media studies will take English’s place.”
Rather than expressing anxiety, or at least, worry over the impending destruction of one of the only mechanisms for introducing young Americans to a pillar of art, human history, and the Western tradition, Pulizzi credulously asks, “Why should college students read narrative prose when they get their fill of stories from television, cinema, and interactive video games?”
The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once famously indicted the cultural condition of “defining deviancy down.” As standards migrate from the mountain to the basement, the formerly vulgar, indecent, and stupid becomes the norm. One can easily see how eventually thinkers like Pulizzi will delete a few words from their rhetorical question to simply ask, “Why should college students read?”