New Column for Salon: Vulgarians at the Gate

In my new column for Salon, I address how America’s increasingly vulgar culture will only coarsen under the influence of Donald Trump, a repugnant vulgarian himself. Sociologists often discuss the cultural process of “defining deviancy down.” Tolerance for the previously unthinkable is nearly impossible to reverse. It only creates room for further degradation of public standards.

Presidents exert as much cultural as political influence. Trump has and will continue to empower the crude and crass elements of society.

Read my entire examination of an unpleasant topic at Salon.

New Column at Salon: Donald Trump and The Hobbling of Shame – David Foster Wallace Warned Us about Reality TV

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.

Read the entire essay at Salon.

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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.

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 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.