Weekend Column with Salon: “Real Americans” vs. “Coastal Elites” – The Truth Behind the Mindless Cliche

In my weekend cultural column with Salon, I unpack the idiocy of the popular juxtaposition of “coastal elites” and “real Americans.” Clearly, the term “elite” has no meaning if Donald Trump qualifies as an “anti-elite populist.”

All of the indignant talk about the evils of the elite is actually a disguise for anti-intellectualism. America worships wealth, but distrusts intellectual excellence. “Elitism” is code for expertise, not financial status, and “populism” is the celebration of intellectual mediocrity.

Read my explanation at Salon.

In New Role as Weekend Cultural Columnist with Salon, First Column Looks at White Flight From Reality and Trump’s Victory

Readers of my work are aware that for the past two years, I have written regularly for Salon in an unofficial, freelance capacity. I am now a weekend cultural columnist with the publication, where I will contribute essays on the arts, cultural issues, and politics.

In my first essay as weekend columnist, I react to the frightening and demoralizing electoral victory of Donald Trump.

Most national journalists and pundits reside in New York or Washington DC, and therefore, miss the on the ground reality of “soft racism” rampant throughout white America. I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago, and currently live in Northern Indiana. In my region, the powerful presence of racism is unmistakable.

My first weekend column for Salon, “White Flight From Reality,” draws on my own personal experiences and observations – witnessing white flight, constantly overhearing racist remarks, and noticing racial conflict as a consistency – to diagnose much of white America with “soft racism.” Soft racists are not going to burn crosses and tattoo swastikas on their forearms. They will treat their black and Latino coworkers with cordiality. They will wave to the Muslim family in their neighborhood. They will even discipline their children for using racial epithets, but deep down inside, they believe that people of color are inferior, and that the United States of America, by virtue of their whiteness, belongs to them. Often, they will vote accordingly.

By now, I have reviewed the data demonstrating that there was no “white surge” for Donald Trump, who actually received fewer white votes than Mitt Romney. Many clueless and oblivious analysts are using those numbers to argue that racism did not play a critical role in the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. Again, they miss the point. Reality, perhaps, is too painful and ugly for some Americans to acknowledge.

If white America was not full of racism, Donald Trump would have lost in a landslide. A man who called Mexicans “rapists,” advocated for the ban of Muslim immigrants, and amplified every stereotype to diagnose African American life as “hell,” would have had no chance against a brilliant woman who dedicated her life to public service. Just as, if sexism were not viral throughout America, a man who bragged about committing sexual assault could have never challenged the first woman nominee for president.

As I state in the essay, “The best defense available to a Trump voter, among a wide range of pathetic options, is to claim that he or she voted for Trump, despite his disrespect of Hispanics, Muslims, the disabled, African Americans, and women. Tolerance translates to the cold message: ‘Because your suffering and exclusion do not affect me, I’m going to vote for the guy who will cut my taxes, nominate anti-abortion Supreme Court justices, and isn’t a woman who used a private email server.'”

Read about my personal experiences in the Midwest, and how those experiences illustrate the hideous truth behind Trump’s victory at Salon.

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New Essay at Salon: Trump is the White Boomers’ Last Gasp – The Future Looks Bright Ahead

In my new essay for Salon, I explore an obvious issue of the current race, not receiving much attention. White male baby boomer nostalgia for their bygone era of cultural control has empowered the Trump movement. The mainstream media has given Trump a dramatic advantage by continually talking about how Americans are “angry” and “pessimistic,” and by broadcasting maudlin segments on the anxieties of the white working class. Studies and surveys demonstrate that blacks and Latinos are optimistic and hopeful about their own lives and American politics, while millennials are the most hopeful group in the entire country. Trump, with the media’s assistance, presents the disaffection of a narrow group – white baby boomers – as if it represents the mood of the entire nation.

Rapidly shifting demographics, and the increasingly liberal bent of Americans under the age of 45, should give everyone hope, even if the unthinkable happens, and Trump does pull off an unlikely upset. His vision is dying, and the story that he represents – the story of the conservative, chauvinistic white male baby boomer – is losing relevance with every day.

Regardless of the outcome on November 8th, the Trump campaign is the last gasp of the conservative white boomer.

Read the essay at Salon.

New Essay at Salon: Children’s Crusade – Trump Supporters and A Juvenile Fear of Democracy

In my new essay for Salon, I examine how the construction and maintenance of democracy is work for adults. The most motivated of Trump supporters have demonstrated a hatred of democracy and diversity, not so much for political reasons (they are politically unsophisticated and uninformed), but because they are deeply afraid of the responsibility and uncertainty that define democracy and diversity. Trump, an authoritarian buffoon, promises to “fix” all of their problems – and right all of the wrongs of the “rigged” system – and in doing so, assures his childlike supporters that they are no longer accountable for their own lives. Their problems are the results of Mexicans, Muslims, trade deals, and a massive conspiracy. Their solution is voting for him.

Read the entire essay at Salon.

New at Salon: Interview with Nathan Rabin on Donald Trump and The Insane Clown Posse

George Carlin once explained that when “you’re born you get a ticket to the freak show, and when you are born in America, you get a front row seat.”

Nathan Rabin, former head writer at the Onion A/V Club, cultural critic and author of “The Big Rewind,” has decided to test the veracity of Carlin’s theory with his new ebook, “7 Days in Ohio: Trump, The Gathering of the Juggalos, and The Summer Everything Went Insane.” Rabin is also able to offer insight into who the real freaks are: Are they fans of the socially stigmatized rap group, Insane Clown Posse, whom the FBI has labeled a dangerous organization and public threat, or Republican Trump supporters? At the risk of spoiling the fun, I’ll mention that the maniacs are not the ones wearing circus makeup.

In his equally amusing, fascinating and moving new book, Rabin chronicles his week in Ohio, attending both the annual Gathering of the Juggalos and the Republican National Convention. As if that were not enough to provide fodder for entertainment and journalism, Rabin spent the seven days with his long-lost brother, allowing him to further reflect on broken families, fractured relationships and the painful consequences of disconnection.

Rabin writes with his characteristic wit, but he also maintains an empathy that is staggering in its profundity and potency. As clichéd as it might seem, when I read Rabin’s account and analysis of Republicans, who frightened him, and Juggalos, who inspired him, mixed together with his own traumatic family history, I experienced the full range of emotional response — rage, laughter, tears.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Rabin over email.

Read the exchange at Salon.

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New at Salon: Interview with Award Winning Toxicologist on The Deadly Legacy of the Iraq War

In “Last to Die,” his protest song against the war in Iraq, Bruce Springsteen sings, “We don’t measure the blood we’ve drawn anymore. We just stack the bodies outside the door.”

When the U.S. government and the world’s most lethal military force subject an entire country to torture and torment, the wounds fester long after bored Americans direct their attention elsewhere, and explosions and bloodshed, thousands of miles away and across the ocean, fail to attract news cameras.

The American people and their politicians might have moved on from Iraq, but the American presence of violence and devastation still hurts and haunts the lives of Iraqis. As a direct result of the U.S. invasion and occupation, Iraqi children now have high levels of lead contamination, and pregnant women and the elderly population suffer from expensive and painful health problems. There is an epidemic of birth defects and disabilities throughout the beleaguered country, but much of the world, and especially the U.S., continues to ignore the health crisis and moral catastrophe.

The casualty count, even if the war is over, continues to rise. Bombs and bullets damage the lives of millions of Iraqi civilians, subsequent to their detonation, and penetration of human skin. In America, the war in Iraq is too often reduced to a “mistake,” but for Iraq it is a merciless reaper that will continue to visit the homes of innocent people for generations.

Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, winner of the 2015 Rachel Carson prize, is a toxicologist, author and researcher at the University of Michigan. Since 2004, she has organized research expeditions in Iraq to measure the contamination and pollution that’s causing widespread sickness and death. Her team’s conclusions should horrify any thoughtful and ethical person and galvanize the entire world, with U.S. leadership, to react immediately and aggressively to save the lives of Iraqi children. Just as America is responsible for the war in Iraq, it is responsible for its consequences.

I recently interviewed Savabieasfahani via email about her work.

Read the conversation at Salon.

New Essay for Salon: America’s Great Mistakes – The Stupid and Unnecessary Wars in Vietnam and Iraq

In a recent essay for Salon, I break through the cacophony of maudlin discussion of military “service” and “sacrifice,” to ask the taboo questions: Serve what? Sacrifice for what?

There is no longer any debate among reasonable people that the wars in Vietnam and Iraq were unnecessary, unjust, stupid, and destructive. Both wars created widespread death and devastation for reasons that remain painfully mysterious – The advancement of cold, self-interest that never materialized? The edification of cold war, and later, neoconservative theorists?

Read the entire essay on the fatal and permanent consequences of America’s imperial ambitions at Salon.

New Essay at Salon: Barack Obama Reclaimed Patriotism for The Left

In my newest essay for Salon, I examine how Barack Obama, making brilliant use of his own life as metaphor, confiscated patriotism from the reactionary right wing, and claimed it as property of liberalism. As central to the American spirit and story, Obama emphasized diversity, and the enlargement of opportunity and liberty. He injected Whitman’s poetry into politics, making it clear that America is full of contradiction, and that it contains multitudes.

Read the essay at Salon.

I will explore Obama’s transformation of patriotism from conservative vice to liberal virtue, among many other topics, in my upcoming book, Barack Obama: Invisible Man (Eyewear Publishing).

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New Essay at Salon: The Party of Myth and Nostalgia

One of the most nauseating aspects of the US Presidential election is its nostalgic focus on Baby Boomer issues of manufacturing employment and “abandoned factories.”

The maudlin litany of boomer reminiscence for “how it used to be” manipulates many people, because it implies that most jobs are lost to trade, when in reality they are lost to automation, and gives lazy thinkers the illusion that the jobs are “coming back.” The jobs are never coming back. The 1960s ended a long time ago.

Worse than the political manipulation is the cultural misdirection of focus away from imperatives of the future. Young people are not longing for the reopening of textile mills. They want debt-free education, job training, and easier access to home ownership and entrepreneurship. Pathetic and sentimental weeping over manufacturing gets them exactly nothing, and betrays the future in service of the past.

I write in greater detail on the subject for Salon.

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