I was a 13 year old boy when I discovered the music of John Mellencamp. His songs were my usher into the world of writing, art, and creativity. A continual source of powerful inspiration in my work and life, I wrote my second book, Mellencamp: American Troubadour, about his music, and the ideas that surround it. The impact and influence of Mellencamp’s music on my life is so large that, without it, it is impossible to conceive of myself.
On Memorial Day, I had the incredible thrill and honor of driving to Nashville, Indiana to visit John Mellencamp in his recording studio. We sat for a long, fascinating, and fun conversation in the same room where he and his band have made so many of my favorite songs since 1983. Then, I watched he and the band rehearse for their upcoming tour, playing “Pink Houses” and “Paper in Fire.” To add to the pleasure and amazement of the experience, I also met the beautiful and soulful Carlene Carter, and had the opportunity to have a discussion with her.
Mellencamp’s first words to me were, “It is a good book.” That simple, but profound compliment is one I will always treasure (He was referring to my work of biography and cultural criticism, Mellencamp: American Troubadour).
Here is an amusing exchange from our conversation that did not make my essay: After Mellencamp explained that audiences have jeered and heckled him several times throughout his career, he added that, “not once has anyone said anything derogatory to my face.”
“Really, why do you think that is?” I asked.
“Because they know they type of person that I am. Would you say anything?”
Mellencamp laughed. “Well, I’m an old man now. So, you could probably kick my ass. Fifteen years ago, you would have kept your mouth shut.”
In my new column at Salon, I examine the idea of patriotism, comparing the liberal interpretation of American history with the right wing invention of it, and conclude that those who most obnoxiously wave the flag and shout love of country, are largely ignorant of American history and identity.
Clearly, I am in the minority. To express admiration for Hillary Clinton has become a radical act. While the accomplished public servant is not without flaw (her cynical support for the Iraq War is still infuriating), the level of hatred and hostility that exists for Clinton is clearly hysterical and paranoid; without any basis in the rational universe. She has become history’s greatest monster, even while a gruesome amalgam of stupidity, corruption, and bigotry occupies the Oval Office.
Bordo, as bewildered as I am by the odd animosity for Clinton, analyzes the 2016 election. With an emphasis on misogyny, Bordo presents a convincing case that right wing paranoia, double standards against women, and mass media mediocrity coalesced to poison the public against one of the most intelligent and qualified candidates for the presidency in the modern era.
The book has its weaknesses. Bordo never acknowledges that Clinton made massive missteps in her campaign, but more important, her argumentation is detached from the the actual lives of many voters, most of whom she admits do not pay close attention to politics.
The roots of misogyny are much deeper, and have a much more personal origin, than idiotic journalism or manipulative campaign tactics.
In my latest column for Salon, I examine how Republicans in government are incapable of governance. After having spent years mocking liberals as overly ideological, naive, and unable to make difficult decisions, conservatives have now drifted so far to the fringes of the right that they cannot implement or administer public policy.
The fiasco of health care reform is an illustrative example of Republican ineptitude.
In his masterful blend of biography and novel, Marilyn, Norman Mailer invented the word “factoid” to describe untrue ideas many people accept as real only because they have appeared in the mass media for many years. “It is possible,” Mailer wrote, “that Richard Nixon has spoken in nothing but factoids for his entire political career.”
Donald Trump, like no other president of American history (not even Nixon), is a factoid politician.
In my new column for Salon, I examine how the manipulation of Americans’ sympathy and “support for the troops” shuts down intelligent and important debates on US foreign policy, Pentagon spending, and scandals of sexual assault within the armed services.
In my new column at Salon, I explore the terrifying possibility that Donald Trump is not an insincere conman, but that he is genuinely paranoid, stupid, and delusional. The power of propaganda, from the right wing, has steadily warped the minds of millions of Americans. It appears that Trump is one of them. Imagine your crazy uncle as the most powerful man in the universe.
I began devouring Michael Eric Dyson’s work as a high school student, eager to learn about the world, and study the craft of essayistic writing. He quickly became inspirational and foundational to my intellectual and literary development. It is difficult to conceive of myself as a thinker and writer without the influence of Dyson.
Recently, I had the pleasure of spending a few hours with Dyson during the Chicago stop on his book tour. We discussed a new book, Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, along with a wide range of issues pertaining to race, culture, and politics.
In my new column for Salon, I appraise the high value of Dyson’s analysis and rhetorical style, and offer some of the most provocative and poignant excerpts from our conversation.
In my new column for Salon, I ridicule the sanctimonious and cowardly baby boomers who refuse to surrender their favorite hobby – demeaning young people.
My years of teaching experience at the college level have allowed me to meet many different students. I consistently find them smart, strong, and even inspiring. Studies of campus life demonstrate that “trigger warning,” “safe spaces,” and tantrums of “political correctness,” are actually quite rare, despite the alternative reality that boomers, and right wing media commentators, have invented.
I’ve had students who have survived cancer, recovered from the unexpected death of family members, lost their homes in natural disasters, and continue to work and study in the pursuit happiness, even while they suffer a financial burden for their education that previous generations never shouldered.
They are tougher, and better for the country, than their critics.