New Interview at Salon: A Conversation with Historian and Social Critic Morris Berman

Morris Berman, American historian, cultural theorist, and sociologist, is a starry eyed realist whose grim forecast of American demise makes him alone even in leftist circles. In the brilliant trilogy of books on American decline — “Twilight of American Culture,” “Dark Ages of America,” and “Why America Failed” — he surveys the political dysfunction, economic disrepair and cultural decay of modern America. Unlike most social critics, he does not end his analysis with a perfunctory prescription for revolution. Such optimistic talk, Berman makes clear, is the delusional noise of sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.

After chronicling America’s birth as a “nation of hustlers,” and exhaustively mapping its mutation into a vicious playground for the rich and prison for the poor, Berman has turned his eyes and pen to the East. His new book, “Neurotic Beauty: An Outsider Looks at Japan,” is a bracing, fascinating and challenging exploration of Japanese culture, politics, and ethics. The product of a lifelong fascination for Berman, “Neurotic Beauty” not only examines Japanese history and contemporary culture, but also the relationship between Japan and America, the conflict between individualism and collectivism, craft traditions alternative to consumer capitalism, and the possibility that Japan might emerge as a “post-capitalist” model for economics and politics.

I recently had the pleasure and privilege of interviewing Berman about his book, and his forecast for Japan and America.

Read the interview at Salon.

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New Essay at Salon: The Military is Buying Patriotism

In a new essay for Salon, I analyze how America has become a garrison state and military economy by dealing with the recent scandal of the Pentagon paying the NFL to ceremoniously honor soldiers and veterans before kickoff and during halftime.

The essay examines America’s militarized culture in which it becomes easy to glorify war and condemn advocates for peace, but it also explores the economics of the American government, where half of discretionary spending goes to the military. Such a large percentage of every dollar leaves little room for schools, hospitals, libraries, public transit, infrastructure, and social services – the hallmarks of civilization.

Read it in full at Salon.

New Article at AlterNet: Interview with Stacy Bannerman

I recently had the privilege and pleasure of speaking with Stacy Bannerman, a true hero of American life.

From the opening of the article:

Stacy Bannerman is an elegant, but intense amplification of American conscience competing with a cacophony of cruelty and neglect. In 2003, her husband, a member of the Army National Guard, was mobilized to fight in the Iraq War. She summoned the passion of her personal investment, along with the knowledge of her education – a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations – to act as a board member of Military Families Speak Out, the largest anti-war organization comprised of military families.

Her advocacy for peace and veteran’s care quickly commenced a confrontation with the consequences that ensue “When,” to quote the title of her book, “The War Came Home.”

Bannerman has now become a leading advocate for the spouses and children of combat veterans. Thousands of women become casualties of America’s wars when their partners return from the battlefield, often with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury, and target them for assault and violence. Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs studies both demonstrate that rates of domestic violence are dramatically higher in homes where one parent served in a combat role, and the Army Times recently reported that since 2009, child abuse in Army families has risen by a staggering 40 percent.

In the words of Bannerman, “The veterans enlisted. Their families were drafted.”

The lack of attention politicians and pundits give to crises of abuse and neglect in veteran families is criminal. Bannerman has dedicated her life to bringing comfort and consolation to spousal abuse victims, and more importantly, fighting to convince the political establishment – at the state and federal levels – to allocate resources to assist and protect the women and children whose real combat begins when their family member in uniform receives his discharge. She has testified in front of the House and the Senate, and met with over 80 Congressional representatives. Stacy has argued for the passage of the Kristy Huddleston Act, a bill that she wrote and named after a close friend, whose combat veteran husband murdered her.

Bannerman continues the story she began with When The War Came Home in her newest book, Homefront 911 (http://www.amazon.com/Homefront-911-Veterans-Families-Wounded/dp/1628725699/ref=as_at?tag=thedaibea-20&linkCode=as2&) an important and insightful look at how war destroys the lives of military families.

I recently discussed Stacy Bannerman’s heroic work with her on the phone…

Read the interview at AlterNet, and learn about one of the most important moral and gender issues of American politics. It is an indictment of the feminist left, American government, and mainstream media that the threat military spouses face as a matter of routine does not receive more coverage and provoke more outrage.

Mellencamp: American Troubadour is Now Available!

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

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Commentary at Fusion – Anti-Gay Law in Indiana, Chicago Mayoral Race

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.

New Essay at Salon – America’s Third World: The Marchers Have Gone, but Selma is Still Mired in Poverty

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.

New Essay at Patheos – Religious At The Back of The Bus: An Interview with Rev. Jesse Jackson

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.
<> on March 25, 2012 in Sanford, Florida.

New Essay at AlterNet: Why Libertarianism is a Childish Sham

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.

New Essay At Truthout: A Day With Jesse Jackson and A Look At the Failures of American Capitalism

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.

Read it here.

New Essay at Salon: You Don’t Protect My Freedom

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.

Read it and find out yourself.