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 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 the Spring, shortly after 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, and 2017 will begin, with excitement.

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Interview with Daryl Hall, and Follow Up Essay on Right Wing Insanity

I recently interviewed legendary singer/songwriter Daryl Hall for Salon. We had an interesting conversation about a wide range of topics related to his television program, soul music, his career, and the “backward idiots” who run the music industry. I also asked for his insight on the contemporary debate surrounding “cultural appropriation.” When Hall launched a ballistic assault on critics who cry cultural appropriation over everything from dreadlocks to pop music, I replied with the words “I agree with you entirely.”

The conversation then ended on a friendly note, and it is available here.

A few days later, the right wing social media mob created a weird and warped narrative, more indicative of their narrow worldview than anything else, that I attacked Hall with my neutral question, and that by giving an impassioned response, he “destroyed” me.

As much as I hate to get involved with the right wing insanity that occasionally breaks out after I write an essay or conduct an interview, this was too deranged and demented to ignore. I wrote a follow up essay for Salon, which becomes a reflection on the sad and fragile state of most Twitter users.

Read it here.

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 – America’s Third World: The Marchers Have Gone, but Selma is Still Mired in Poverty

In a political reflection for Salon, I write about my trip to Selma, Alabama for the 50th Anniversary commemoration of Bloody Sunday. I went on a bus with staff and supporters of Rainbow/PUSH.

There were many beautiful and powerful moments that weekend, but my essay focuses on the political ugliness of widespread poverty and wicked inequality.

From the essay:

Washington, D.C., is the capital of American power, but the small town of Selma, Alabama, is the capital of American democracy. As long as one group of citizens could not vote freely and safely, America’s government, along with the idealistic claims it made, had no legitimacy or authenticity.

For its historical value and moral power, every American citizen should make a pilgrimage to Selma in an attempt to gain access to its inspiration and the courage of its martyrs and heroes. Such a trip would force Americans to confront the devastating disparity between Selma’s importance and its infrastructure. The disparity comes to represent the consistent American violation of its history, the betrayal of its people, and the inequality that undermines the victories of Bloody Sunday, and threatens to poison its future.

Read the rest at Salon.

New Essay At Truthout: A Day With Jesse Jackson and A Look At the Failures of American Capitalism

I recently had the pleasure and honor of spending Jesse Jackson’s birthday with the civil rights leader and his staff.

Following him from event to event at Chicago’s poor public schools, and discussing a wide variety of issues, gave a perfect demonstration of the layers of discrimination and obstruction that exist in American culture.

Jackson said that “we must have the courage to reimagine our struggle.” The reimagining requires that we see the layers at the lowest level, but also the highest level in corporate America and the world of high tech.

Read it here.

New Essay for The Daily Beast: The Unsung Heroism of Jesse Jackson

I recently had the pleasure and privilege of enjoying a two hour conversation with a hero of mine, Jesse Jackson.

I told Jackson that the work he did, along with Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, and others, not only freed black people in the United States from a brutal system of apartheid, oppression, and exploitation (work that continues), but also saved me – a white man born in 1985 – from inheriting the role of occupier, oppressor, and executioner. Albert Camus wrote that people must aspire to live as “neither victims or executioners.” The “Parks-King-Jackson” injection of freedom and justice into American democracy empowered all people to enjoy such aspiration.

In my new essay for the Daily Beast, however, I do not write about the civil rights movement, but the electoral extension of the civil rights movement – the Presidential Campaigns of Jesse Jackson in 1984 and ’88.

Important and liberating, Jackson’s campaigns deserve much more attention and celebration than the Democratic Party – often ungrateful – and the mainline media – often stupid and destructive – gives them.

In my new essay, I’m happy to, I hope, begin the reversal of such an ignorant trend.

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New Column for The Indianapolis Star: Obama’s Policies in Conflict with King’s Legacy

I’m running late posting this one, but I will say that the most important point of my latest column for the Indianapolis Star – “Obama’s Policies in Conflict with King’s Legacy” – is not the obvious that the President is a lying fool whose war crimes and disastrous management of domestic affairs are shameful, but that race, as proven by scientific discover, no longer has any meaning. Identity politics are stupid and dangerous, and those who engage in them, deserve equally harsh and dismissive labeling.

All human beings are 99.9 identical in our DNA. In the post-genome age of human understanding, to stand against racism is to reject the separation of people according to race.

Read the rest of the column to see how I attempt to relate the sociologically relevant discoveries of biology to contemporary American politics.