On June 16th, I was a guest on the WSLR Peace and Justice Report – an outstanding program on progressive politics, broadcasting live from beautiful Sarasota, Florida.
The hosts conducted a gracious and thoughtful interview, asking me questions about my book, I Am Somebody: Why Jesse Jackson Matters, an assortment of political issues, and the future of American democracy. The entire episode is worthy of your attention, but my segment begins at the halfway point.
One of the great gifts of my life is the development of a relationship with one of the world’s leading human rights leaders, and one of the United States’ leading dissidents, Jesse Jackson. The product of our six year conversation is my new book, from publisher I.B. Tauris,I Am Somebody: Why Jesse Jackson Matters. A blend of biography, political analysis, and journalism, I Am Somebody offers a bracing examination of Jackson’s momentous life, and a thorough dissection of American politics – from racial injustice to foreign policy.
In his foreword, Michael Eric Dyson calls I Am Somebody “brilliant.” Political scientist extraordinaire, Christina Greer, writes that it is “for anyone interested in presidential politics, Black American political history, and the link between the civil rights movement and modern political uprisings.”
James Felder, a historian and former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, argues that I Am Somebody belongs in “every home and library.”
The most moving and informative assessment came from Jesse Jackson himself. He said, “It is the best and most thorough thing ever written about my work.”
Jackson and I had a wonderful conversation for the How To Academy in London:
Jackson and I also appeared together on “N’Digo Studio,” a television program hosted by Chicago journalist and media pioneer, Hermene Hartman, who also interviewed me for N’Digo magazine.
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.”
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 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 at Salon, I continue to explore my love and enthusiasm for the magnificent work of the late and great Jim Harrison.
Harrison’s new book, a posthumous collection of essays on food, wine, pleasure, and art, acts as a manifesto for Epicurean hedonism. It is a joy to read, but also subversive in a largely Puritanical culture.
In my new column for Salon, I examine how entertainment values have corrupted the American political process, comparing Donald Trump to a pro wrestling character, and his admirers to frenzied WWE fans. The corrosion of civic virtues in the name of entertainment vices began long before Trump’s entrance into politics, but the new president-elect represents the culmination of it.
The late David Foster Wallace, one of America’s great writers, was obsessed with America’s addiction to entertainment, and how it would make the country weaker and dumber. His prophetic wisdom makes for the perfect predicate to my analysis of the presidential election circus.
In my newest column for Salon, I use the recent footage of Mitt Romney devouring his own soul for the amusement of Donald Trump as a predicate to examine America’s destructive culture of hustling. Historian Morris Berman has argued that hustling is all that occupies the center of the United States, and because hustling is philosophically and ethically empty, it has led to irreversible decline throughout the country.
The election of Donald Trump is the political manifestation of the hustling culture.