On July 13th, I participated in a press conference with the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition in Chicago, addressing the Republican assault on voting rights and democracy. Chinta Strausberg, a reporter with the Chicago Crusader, interviewed me for her story:
“…Asked his opinion about the Republicans using Trump’s ‘big lie’ to pass hundreds of bills in 17 states that restrict access to voting for Black and brown people, Masciotra said, ‘If you study the history of any fascist regime in the history of the world or any autocracy, they are following that playbook.’
‘It’s happened recently in Hungary, in Poland where right-wing governments use lies, various forms of racism and hatred to demolish democratic norms, institutions and rights and take control with an authoritarian agenda,’ explained Masciotra.
‘What the Republicans are doing right now threatens the very foundation of the U.S., and our lives in his country.’
‘Reverend Jackson risked his life in the form of civil rights leadership. My grandfather risked his life as a veteran of WW II, and all of that is on the line right now. We all need to wake up and get involved with organizations, like the Rainbow PUSH, to stop this destruction of our way of life, of our Bill of Rights of our democratic system.'”
I had a big new essay at CounterPunch+ last weekend, examining how and why “democracy” is a hazy concept to most Americans, which places it in greater danger from the growing right wing threat of fascism.
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“Declarations that the United States has fallen into conditions resembling a ‘civil war’ have become hackneyed and cliched. That such an extreme condemnation of American culture and politics can transform into a bromide demonstrates how deeply institutional and social dysfunction trouble the world’s wealthiest country. Even more disturbing are those surveyors of politics and history who persuasively argue that, in many ways legally and culturally significant, the Confederacy has triumphed long after Gettysburg…”
I was recently a guest on the “Pause for Justice” radio program, broadcasting out of the University of St. Francis in Joliet, IL. Gracious and thoughtful host, Allison Heard, and I had a great conversation about my book, “I Am Somebody: Why Jesse Jackson Matters,” as well as related issues of civil rights and social justice.
Ms. Heard also gave me the opportunity to select the songs that would play during the broadcast. Here were my choices:
“Think” by Aretha Franklin
“What’s Going On?” by Marvin Gaye
“I Remember, I Believe” by Lizz Wright
“Peaceful World” by John Mellencamp with India.Arie
I have a new story at Salon. It is an interview with Alexander Laban Hinton, one of the world’s leading authorities on genocide and atrocity crimes. In a deeply disturbing but fascinating conversation, Hinton explains how the US is at risk of mass atrocity crimes from white power groups. His new book, “It Can Happen Here,” deals with the same subject. I was engrossed by our discussion, and am happy to share with you his important analysis.
I have a new essay running in the July 2nd, Weekend Edition, of CounterPunch. It compares the phony free speech panic (“Cancel culture!” “Wokeism!” The horror!) and the actual laws that suppress, penalize, and threaten the exercise of free speech from fascistic Republicans in multiple states. The right wing is now censoring and punishing educators and protestors who discuss topics and advocate for causes that they do not like.
It is a truly dangerous and frightening move that coalesces with the ongoing Republican effort to demolish voting rights, and limit access to the ballot for voters of color and college students.
American democracy is under assault, and my new essay describes a critical element of the problem.
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.
Early last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at length with former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. about his groundbreaking work and prescient ideas regarding voting rights, “states’ rights” racism, and democracy itself. Read my story on his meticulous dissection of the dangers facing American democracy, and his bold and imaginative proposal for rectification at Salon. You would be hard pressed to find this high quality of analysis elsewhere in mainstream discourse.
Pictured below is Jackson and me at the chart of Jackson’s making, which I describe in the story.
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.”
In my new column at Salon, I examine the idea of patriotism, comparing the liberal interpretation of American history with the right wing invention of it, and conclude that those who most obnoxiously wave the flag and shout love of country, are largely ignorant of American history and identity.