New Book – Barack Obama: Invisible Man

I’m excited to announce that Eyewear Publishing, based in London, will publish my newest book in December, Barack Obama: Invisible Man.

In my forthcoming book, I will analyze and interpret the presidency of Barack Obama by comparing him to the unnamed narrator of the Ralph Ellison novel, Invisible Man. It is my contention that, although the American people elected him twice, the country was unprepared for the reality of a black president. His victory was traumatic for much of the American public, and the country is yet to deal with the full implications of a black man in a White House.

The right wing distorted Obama into a monster, judging him according to a paranoia standard, while much of the left, operating under the belief that his policies would have the same revolutionary impact as his symbolic victory, distorted him into a messiah, judging him according to a purity standard. Few Americans were able to clearly see Obama as Obama – a man of flesh, substance, and bone, rather than a symbol, and a president capable of greatness, but also, like any president, full of flaws. Through their respective manipulations of Obama’s image and leadership, both the hard left and hard right rendered him invisible.

Both political polarities also set him up for failure, but in spite of unprecedented political and cultural opposition, Obama can claim an impressive record of accomplishment on his presidential resume. He must also face accountability for his failures. My book will explore the highs and lows of his administration.

I will also examine the cultural legacy of Obama. More elegant, calm, and rational than much of American discourse, he attempted to elevate public conversation, but for a variety of reasons, could not succeed.

Eyewear will publish the book in December, just in time for Obama’s departure from the Oval Office. Check back here for updates on the book, and in the meantime, continue to look for my essays on politics and culture at Salon.

I will also have more dates for my Words and Music: American Troubadours series soon. American Troubadours gives a live and interactive tour, featuring the brilliant musical accompaniment of singer/songwriter Kev Wright, of the American songwriting tradition,  with a particular focus on the songs of Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and John Mellencamp.

Stay tuned for more updates. 2016 will end with excitement.

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Does the Right Wing Hate America?

Hostile opposition to immigration, mockery of diversity, advocacy of theocracy, and now the nomination of a man who routinely calls America an “embarrassment” and “hellhole,” has led me to wonder if the right wing hates the America that actually exists – a secular republic and nation of immigrants.

I offer my conclusions in my newest essay for Salon.

We Must Shame Trump Supporters

In my latest essay for Salon, I fend off accusations of smugness and snobbery (fine, whatever) by examining the racist roots of the Trump movement, and celebrate the social tactic of shaming as the only viable tactic to defeat the strange coalition of white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, and xenophobes who do not compose the entirety of Trump’s base, but are, without question, his most vociferous admirers.

Some naive leftists believe that the working class status of Trump supporters should immunize them against criticism and condemnation. There is no valid excuse or justification for bigotry, chauvinism, and ignorance. I will not defend or downplay racism simply because the racists are poor.

Read it here.

New Essay at Salon: Who The Hell Are These Trump Supporters?

In my new essay at Salon, which caught hell from conservatives and liberals, I review the data, and draw some logical and reasonable conclusions about Donald Trump’s supporters.

The conclusions are not pretty, but given what Trump has already done, and promises to do, to the United States, they are deservedly hideous.

Read the essay at Salon.

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 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 AlterNet: America’s Decay Into a Violent, Cruel Place

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.

New Essay at Salon: My Week in the Right Wing Lie Machine

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.