The Weeklings: Solutions for Oncoming Political Darkness

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In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.

–Bertolt Brecht

I –and my fellow editors and compatriots at The Weeklings— share thoughts about awareness, resistance and, yes, the ceaseless need to create and proliferate art. My contribution is directly below; please follow the link to see the rest of the excellent pieces.

 

The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

This immortal quote, from the always-reliable and never irrelevant George Orwell, is as important today as it’s ever been. Never mind the very real macro concerns about the environment, civil liberties, and crucial social programs, we are already witnessing despicable—and, let’s face it, heretofore inconceivable—signs of impending trouble, on micro levels. Every spray-painted swastika, each threat (uttered aloud or under the cowardly cover of social media) and every implied or explicit appeal to censorship is a sign, a lone holler seeking imitation to serve as oxygen. Intolerance needs collaboration to sustain it, like a carcass feeding maggots. As such, many of the simple acts of personal and artistic expression we’ve been fortunate to take for granted (particularly as whites, most especially as white males) are now likely to be scrutinized, decried and, if possible, curtailed. It goes without saying that any American with a functioning moral compass will confront acts of aggression and intervene peacefully but without compunction. As writers, it’s incumbent upon us to bear witness and engender solidarity, by any means necessary. Creativity in the face of repression is always indispensable, but on a fundamental level, every gesture of ill-will and ignorance must be met with an urgent refusal to countenance it. Retreating into the relative safety of silence (or worse, apathy) is not an option.

In a peaceful age I might have written ornate or merely descriptive books, and might have remained almost unaware of my political loyalties.

Orwell, again. We’re finding ourselves in a time where we can rely on neither the press nor politicians to inform us or inspire the better angels of our nature. This is a degradation of the American experiment, but it need not be a tragedy. History seems intent on recycling its ugliest examples, and we owe those who sacrificed, then, and those among us, now, who are most vulnerable, to meet this challenge with dignity and resolve. During times of darkness, our best artists have dedicated their gifts, if not their lives, to exposing duplicity and promoting enlightenment. Imitation of their audacity, in the days to follow, will be the sincerest—and most vital—form of flattery.

Read the rest, HERE.

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Obama’s Next Move

So, back in March 2010, the day after Biden –with his typical ill-advised, but beautiful candor– announced, within earshot of the mics “This is a big fucking deal”, I had a few thoughts about what had happened, what could happen, and what should happen. That long post can be found here.

This is how it begins:

Here’s how bad it’s gotten: David Frum, the dude who used to write speeches for the worst president we’ve ever endured, has written the most lacerating epitaph for The (Tea) Party of No, here. The entire thing is a must-read, and the closing paragraph demands to be quoted in full:

So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right: ours.

Here is the really ugly part: Frum is not Monday morning quarterbacking. He was practically pleading with anyone who would listen how (self) destructive this unified and unyielding obstruction would be in both the short and long term. In fairness, the G.O.P. had deluded itself into thinking that the fantasy they were spinning was gold, not shit. And there were plenty of cowards and co-opted folks in the media and inside the Democratic party who still hadn’t figured out how to stand up to bullies.

And then this:

Of course this problem was exacerbated in no small measure by Obama himself being way too cool and detached on the sidelines as the Fox News and RNC fear factories spewed out their garbage and took control of the narrative (and I’ll never forget, or forgive the cynical and craven Rahm Emanuel for folding like a shanty house in a hurricane the second Scott Brown pulled off his big upset in Massachussetts). Finally, at almost the last possible second, Obama joined the fray, inspired more by the need for survival than anything else.

Especially this:

As always, the so-called Liberal Media was about as useless as usual (and their general incompetence increases in direct proportion to the overall degeneracy of our political discourse). Obsessed with the trivial horse-race aspects of who won the most recent news cycle, and handicapping the odds and chances of whether some bill (any bill) might pass, they did less than a little to help dispel the truly hysterical talking points and outright falsehoods the right wing noise machine was expelling into the air.

And finally, this:

To the victor go the spoils, history is written by the winners, etc. But it’s more (and less) than that: just as the fairly hysterical media coverage post-Brown did not paint an accurate portrayal of what was really going on, or what was likely to happen, the surprise passage of HCR is not going to transform moderates into liberals. It doesn’t need to. Unless the bill begins rescinding peoples’ coverage because of pre-existing conditions or bankrupting families who can’t pay their bills (oh wait, that’s what is already happening), it stands to reason that HCR will never be more unpopular than it was last Saturday. After Sunday, the bill can only get more popular in direct proportion to the number of people who realize it’s not only not the end of the world, but actually a pretty swell thing. This transformation is already underway(not just the big shift in public opinion in recent polls); each day that goes by without any of the more outrageous Republican predictions coming true is another opportunity for T&R (Truth and Reality) to vanquish the hysteria.

All of this still applies. Only more so.

The Roberts ruling was unexpected, and frankly underscores how freakishly right-wing his compatriots have become. Alito, Thomas and Scalia are like the unholy trinity representing a genuine repulsion for anything resembling progress, equity or tolerance. They are appalling, repugnant human beings. It will be delectable to see the GOP turn on their golden boy, who has gone from icon to outcast in less than one news cycle. Welcome to the jungle, John.

Let’s break it down to brass tacks: Obama got a gift here; let’s hope he uses this to push harder instead of retreating to the “conciliatory” gestures that have served him so poorly thus far. First order of business: he needs to beat Romney with this 24/7 and begin laying out a new mantra: this policy is good for people, despite what you’ve heard, etc. And it was devised at the Heritage Foundation (yes ladies and gentleman, until very recently, this was a Republican idea and one that was enthusiastically endorsed until a Democrat had the audacity to hope he could sell it). And finally: Mitt did this in his own state. Make it impossible for him to continue his mealy-mouthed, intelligence-insulting retreat from both history and reality.

Next: messaging. Boy has this administration been lousy (and lazy) in terms of articulating some simple talking points, and defending its own achievements (despite the 24/7 noise from the Right Wing Machine, it’s ludicrous, to take one notable example, that so few people understand that Obama has consistently cut taxes, not raised them). The temerity and incompetence of his staff could be ameliorated quite easily. Hint: I’d do it for free. Here’s something off the top of my head:

I do not consider this a victory for Democrats; it is a victory for Democracy. This is not about defining my legacy; it’s about measuring our collective morality. I salute the Supreme Court for not yielding to the lesser angels of our nature, epitomized by partisan bickering, well-financed lobbyists and a media culture obsessed with horse-races and news cycles. Rather than celebrate my first obligation is to set the record straight. You all have heard a lot about death panels. No. This policy is to prevent the deaths of loved ones and people who don’t have access to simple care, or who are bankrupted by the out-of-control costs of basic treatment and prescriptions. Ultimately this is not about politics or even personal choice; this is about running the country in a fair and effective fashion and helping drive down debt and taxes due to a dangerously outdated system. And because we will at long last refuse to make profits off of our sick citizens. We are all God’s children and it’s the position of this administration that we can no longer afford –literally– to be the only major nation that has a for-profit health care system: that is outmoded and outrageous. No hard-working American should be bankrupt by the cost of his or her medical bills. No child or senior citizen should have life-saving medicine withheld because it’s too expensive. No insurance company should make obscene profits while our death rate escalates to third-world levels. To my partisan critics I offer this reminder: Social Security, Medicare and Civil Rights were all vehemently opposed and protested; now they are seen as natural and inevitable components of the American culture: our mission should be ensuring our society is more fair and the opportunity to prosper is a reality, not a dream, for more of our citizens.

This stuff writes itself. No, it won’t win over any useless idiots on the other side of the aisle (America has yet to identify an effective antidote for denial and willful ignorance) but it will slowly, steadily start to resonate. A different, better –and accurate!– narrative will emerge, and it will be increasingly difficult to argue against. It doesn’t mean that heavily-financed corporate interests and bought-politicians won’t try their damndest to tell it like it ain’t, but a funny thing has happened throughout our nation’s history: new ideas that frighten or threaten vested power structures are initially ridiculed, then slandered, then feared, then resisted, then pilloried and, finally, after too much time and money has been invested by the bad guys, enough citizens look around and see that their lives are improving, and the spin they were spoonfed was, in fact, erroneous. And getting someone to feel bad about something that demonstrably improves their life is something even corrupt judges and deep-pocketed slumlords have a difficult time doing.

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