Monday, January 29, 2018

On Attending the "We All Belong Here" Rally

On Friday, January 26, 2018 I attended the “We All Belong Here” rally and press conference called at noon in downtown Indianapolis in commemoration of the one-year anniversary of Trump’s Executive Order banning immigrants and refugees from six predominantly Muslim countries.  The rally/press conference was called to reaffirm Indianapolis support (at least from some sections of Indy’s population) for the rights of immigrants, illegal and otherwise; Muslims wishing to resettle in the U.S.; DREAMers; and refugees to come to and live in the United States, a nation built on immigrants.  I attended not only to affirm my solidarity, but, pointedly, also as an “oppressor” older white working-class male, a class of people that many Millennial leftists and advocates for social justice automatically write off as “racists,” Trump supporters, and irredeemably corrupted by “white, white male, and male ‘privilege.’”  Conveniently forgetting that when we Baby Boomers were of Millennial age back in the 1960s, early 1970s, we were written off as hippies and upholders of “anti-American values,” while also touted by the left of that time as constituting a—Revolutionary Youth Movement!

The rally/press conference was called on short notice, was publicized only on Facebook, and was sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee: the Muslim student group at local university IUPUI; local organizations defending the rights of immigrants and refugees, legal, illegal, and DREAMers; the Indianapolis chapter of Jewish Voices for Peace; and the ACLU, all of which had representatives speak publicly before the human wall of reporters, TV cameras, and other cameras and cell phones gathered in front facing the crowd and speakers’ podium.  The crowd was overwhelmingly young, and for Indiana (which is 84% white), racially and ethnically diverse, including several young Muslim women in hijabs. However, I’m proud to say, including me, my age and ethnicity cohort (white older persons of the left, 6d5 and older), five of us “racist oppressors” were present, gathered to also show our support and solidarity.  Pointedly absent, both in attendance and in sponsorship, was Central Indiana DSA [Democratic Socialists of America], which also emphatically supports immigrant and refugee rights.  However, only me and one other DSAer were in attendance, and DSA was notably not a listed co-sponsor.  Why, I don’t know.

And while the Jewish Voices for Peace spokeswoman did note that Jews themselves had been refugees, vaguely denoting those European Jews who sought refuge in the U.S. from the Nazis, many of whom were directly refused asylum in the U.S., she devoted most of her speech to upholding Muslim immigrants, and gave a only a vague but very non-nuanced account of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

I was proud to stand in solidarity with my younger, ethnically diverse, comrades on this issue.  For certainly do I support the rights of immigrants, DREAMers, and refugees.  However, I note as an “oppressor white male” that our “older white working-class privilege” is hardly deterring the Republicans from now gunning for our Social Security and Medicare, as they have already done in proposed legislation; Social Security and Medicare, which are emphatically not “entitlements,” but rights needed to be guaranteed for all, including all those Millennials who will someday be oldsters like me, and will need the Social Security and Medicare we receive, but which may not be available for them.  So, Millennials, Gen Xers, I address you:  I stood with you on your issues; will you also stand with me on my issues, Social Security and Medicare?  For truly, “An injury to one is an injury to all”!              


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Blues, Punk, and White Youth R&B

This book review-essay is one of my best music writings ever, discussing in a short, pithy way blues, punk rock, left politics, white youth, and alienation--GF 

[“Blues and More” column posted on the Bloomington (IN) Alternative,  December 5, 2007]

My First Time:

A Collection of First Punk Show Stories

Chris Duncan, Editor
Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2007

            Yes, a review-essay on a new book about punk rock.  So what’s that got to do with the blues?  Plenty, as you’ll see below.  This is exactly why my column is called “Blues and More.”  Because, just as with the review last week of the killer CD by the Killer himself, classic rock ‘n’ roller Jerry Lewis, I wanted to be able to explore far more that is relevant to the living soul of the blues than just genre-specific blues music itself.  And a good look at My First Time fits this format of doing blues—and more—exactly.
            My First Time is rich and intriguing, comprised of 43 retrospective vignettes of the contributors’ initiation rite of passage as young adolescents and late pre-adolescents into what they all regard as a positive life-changing experience, the punk rock scene from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s.  Further, the book is graced by 20 photos of key punk rock bands in performance and significant punk personalities, a photo of punk pioneer Joey Ramone’s tombstone, and four flyers of classic punk rock shows.  And also, biographical notes on the contributors, many of whom went on to become significant players in punk bands and writers and editors for punk zines, founded punk rock record labels, and were otherwise continuing participants in the “scene” up to the present.  Living proof that the punk rock scene was anything but a transient fad.  My First Time is saucy, irreverent, straightforwardly honest, and has an attitude—exactly like the music of which it is about!
            I was an eager aficionado of punk when it first emerged, absolutely blown away as a thirtysomething New Left veteran by the in-your-face directness of the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen”:

                                                            God save the Queen
                                                            The fascist regime
                                                            We have no future
                                                            We have no future
                                                            (The Sex Pistols,
“God Save the Queen”)

And I too had my initiation rite of passage as an adolescent and young adult when I discovered the music of my life, only it was 1950s rock ‘n’ roll and R&B; Bealtlemania, the British Invasion, and Bob Dylan’s surrealistic folk-rock of 1964-1965; and, as a freshman in college in 1965, the electric blues.
            And, in common with these young punkers twenty or so years my junior, I, too, was fleeing the “respectable whiteness” of “mainstream” social and cultural sterility, I, too, was an harassed pariah and outcast in the “mainstream” world in which I was forced to exist, but could never live in.  So well can I identify with the vignettes in My First Time.  For me, Jerry Lee Lewis was my Clash; Solomon Burke and Ray Charles my Sex Pistols; Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf my Ramones; and the early Beatles, Kinks and Who my Circle Jerks. 
            But that’s enough about me.  Let’s now turn to the contributors in My First Time and let them describe so tellingly what all this meant for them, and how, from these particular meanings, it crosses and encompasses generations for all of us “old enough” to never have abandoned our youthful ideals and dreams.
            Andy Shoup writes, “[H]ow you can think the world works within certain constraints—according to certain rules—and then all of a sudden, you are exposed to a new environment that makes you feel like everything you knew before can get chucked right out the fucking window, and from that point on, you want only to think about the New Way.”(14) And Jillian Lauren, “At least when I went home the next day, to the purgatory of the suburbs, I wouldn’t feel as alone as I had before.” (22) Anna Brown relates it to the political:  “The next morning my ears were ringing, I smelled like cigarettes, and I wanted more.  Not more drugs, but more of the feeling that I was in the right place for once in my life.  No one there expected me to look a certain way, to be happy or well adjusted.  You weren’t supposed to be happy.  Fucking Multi Death corporations ruled the planet; there were CIA-sponsored wars in El Salvador; animals suffered at the hands of factory farm butchers!!!  There was nothing wrong with me that wasn’t wrong with all of us.  Everyone’s parents were a drag and school sucked, but it was cool cause when you got to the punk show none of that stuff mattered.  It wasn’t our fault we were pissed off—it was practically our duty.  After all, I learned, society made us this way.” (45) Russ Rankin tells of how the legendary punk venue in Berkeley, the Gilman Street Project, personified “how a community of aware, like-minded people were able to create a space where a counter culture blossomed; where bands and audiences became one.” (50) George Hurchalla speaks of this community as an ocean where “the ocean would grow to be something even larger and more uncontrollable.  Into this is where we would throw our beliefs, no matter how half-baked or ill-formed, and watch them collide and mutate and sometimes break.  The best thing about the ocean was that it was ours.  We had a motherfucking ocean.” (77)
            Sto Cinders relates, [T]his was where I truly belonged—not on a sports team or in the math league or hanging out with the preps at their lame parties.  I was a punk and THIS was my family.” (127) Seeing the Ramones in Wisconsin shaped Steven Sciscenti’s life:  “I did indeed become a Communist and did my level best to be a faggot.” (92) And Joe Queer sums it all best in the ending vignette:  “It wasn’t a career move to be in a punk band then.  It was either ‘Welcome to Burger King, may I take your order?’ or punk rock.  No in-between.” (181)
            To be sure, the newly-emerging scene of the roughly a decade encompassed here wasn’t an idyllic youthful Arcadia.  Slam dancing and moshing could cause serious bodily injuries, the anger expressed by audiences and bands alike mixed genuine rage with disingenuous posturing, there was drug and alcohol abuse, and dangerous elements attracted to the scene as well, with Nazi skinheads as much a part of the punk scene as the idealistic, commutarian young I’ve quoted above.  But dystopia sidled with utopia in the youthful counterculture of the New Left and hippiedom I was part of in the 1960s.  My friend Joyce Stoller says it well about both the Movement, and all movements against the status quo:  “The Movement attracts both the best and the worst in society.”  Because we’re all drawn to it because we’re marginalized, outcast, despised and live as outlaws.  Idealists and psychopaths alike.  Nothing more—but also nothing less.
And the quintessential outlaw in U.S. society, both historically and to this day, is the African American.  The original Blues People of Black poet and writer LeRoi Jones, the Invisible Man of Black novelist Ralph Ellison, the heroic sociopath of white proto-Beat Norman Mailer’s alternately insightful and silly “The White Negro.”  (Alternately insightful and silly—a good way to sum up the recently deceased Mailer himself.)
Which brings us back to the blues.  It’s everywhere, among all peoples.  Robert Johnson is a punk, Wilson Pickett opens for the Clash, and we just as eagerly slam-dance to everything Black America created that made us little white boys and girls try to forget we were white by moving our feet and shaking our hips, be it Motown or Buddy Guy.  It’s there in the best of all music, and that’s why it makes no sense to be genre-specific about what is “real” and what is not.  If it’s good, no matter what, it’s soulful, and we can feel it.  Which is the essence of the blues.  And rock ‘n ‘roll and rock.  And jazz.  And classical.  And folk. And country. And ska and reggae.  And all of it.  That is the blues, and this is more than just the blues, this is what makes it more than just the blues.    Precisely because the blues everywhere is more than just the blues.  Precisely because it is the blues.                       

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Another poetic creation--this one on Christianity


The only good Christian
is a dead one!
Yes, there are exceptions
(few and far between
I might add), but—
it’s also true that
even a blind squirrel
finds an acorn sometimes!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Another poem of Politically Correct Liberation


O poor,
so nobly
in your
as you are
walked on
and spit upon
by men
(and some
women too,
who should
know better
of their own
structural oppression
under patriarchy).
But your day
shall come,
and you shall
be liberated
from being
walked on
trampled under
the shod
and even bare
feet of men
(and yes,
some women too):
when that
glorious day of the
Proletarian Revolution
and all oppressed
rise up
to reclaim
their stolen earth.
Including you too,
O noble,


A poem of Politically Correct Liberation

(originally posted in the Facebook group
“Human Rights for Every Tree—Check Your ‘Human Privilege’”)

If only I could be a tree,
Then indeed I could be free;
But alas I'm only human,
Which is really to be subhuman.
I would change, if only I could!
But what can I do but knock on wood?
But that would violate the rights of a tree,
And reduce it but to the level of me.
Oh what a wretched, disgusting fool I am
For having the temerity to be a human man!

Friday, September 1, 2017

It's time for me to run for office (a poem on my political plans)

I’m thinking of
running for Anti-Christ—
because twenty-one hundred
years of Christianity is
certainly more than enough!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Some "kingly" thoughts on Princess Di

I’ve never, ever had kindly thoughts on constitutional monarchies, such as Britain’s, which is not only an oxymoron, but a ridiculous anachronism.  And even less tolerance for absolute monarchies, which still prevail in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern Arab states, not to mention that de facto monarchy in the grossly-misnamed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), where its first leader, Kim Il-sung, was succeeded in power by his son, Kim Jong-il, and he, in turn by his son, Kim Jong-un—such regimes are cruel despotisms, medieval-style tyrannies in this, the 21st Century!  Nor for that narrow-based “electoral” monarchy, the Catholic Papacy, where the Pope is “elected” to succeed his predecessor only by a vote among the Cardinals, who choose one such from their small ranks.  To this diehard socialist and democratic republican, monarchies of any sort are just plain atavistic and stupid.  Period!  

Aesthetically, the last word on monarchies, especially the British, was stated by the seminal British punk rock band, the Sex Pistols, in their outrageously but delightfully snarky song, “God Save The Queen;” a notable protest song that , I’m glad to say, although written in 1976, the 25th Jubilee of the rule by Queen Elizabeth II, still outpolled the actual Queen’s 65th Jubilee by 3-1 among the British populace!   I’m proud to have penned a poem honoring the Sex Pistols, published in Indianapolis’s Flying Island literary journal in 2015, posted online at;
along with a link to a video of the Sex Pistols performing “God Save The Queen,”

That being said, I did (and still do) have a warm spot in my heart for that outrageous commoner, Fergie, Sarah Ferguson, who married into the British Royal Family and proceeded to turn it topsy-turvy; and also for that other commoner, Kate, now Duchess of Cambridge and baby-making factory, who’s so outraged the Queen on several times when, on official visits, the wind has accidentally blown up her skirt in public, showing a delightful pair of gams!  (See, as male, I’m automatically “sexist” according to Politically Correct feminist women—so I’ll just revel in it, as that’s the way I’m biologically hard-wired!)  And yes, of course, that member of minor British royalty, Princess Di, Diana, who ended up haplessly in marriage to Prince Charles; and who died tragically in an auto accident in Paris 20 years ago this year.

Despite her royal blood, and the surely humiliating ritual of being examined by Royal Physicians to ensure she was still a virgin at the time of her marriage, Di was affably down-to-earth in ways the Royal Family wasn’t.  Further, she delighted the tabloids by wearing skimpy bikinis, and by even having an affair during her loveless marriage with a young Lieutenant in the British armed forces.  According to a recent article in the London Times, because of these and other supposed transgressions and affronts to the arrogant royal degenerates, she was treated with “feudal cruelty” by the rest of British royalty—but was beloved by the British populace in a way the other royals were never so, and indeed, could never be.  I remember around the time of her death talking to a British customer at my job in a parking garage, who said the British people loved Di because she was so humanly affable, and who went on to describe Prince Charles as a “prig.”  Well spoken!  And even after her divorce from Charles, when she became a jet-setting celebrity, she still maintained that honest affability, that air of truly decent and touchingly human reserve, something so obviously foreign to those other constantly publicity-grabbing “celebrities” such as Kim Kardashian.  She found all this folderol a bother, even as the paparazzi insisted on commodifying her by constantly taking photographs of her to sell, denying her any privacy whatsoever.  And it was in a vain attempt to escape these prying paparazzi that she tragically died when the automobile she was in crashed.         

 Prince Charles stated once that he never loved Diana.  Certainly an appropriate comment from this priggish, shallow fellow who’s had nothing to do all his life, and no other purpose to his life, other than wait for the Old Bag on the throne to die!  That’s enough to almost (I say almost) make me feel sorry for the hapless Charles; who now has even been denied the chance to succeed her, as the 90-yeaqr-old Queen herself has designated William and Kate to succeed her as occupants on that useless throne.  Though Charles has had some minor accomplishments:  he once gave a socially- and religiously-conservative speech a few decades ago now that did draw favorable attention, and was a reasonable stab at actual thought; he’s also knighted several British rock and pop stars of far more merit than he, creating Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John, Sir Van Morrison, and yes, even Sir Mick Jagger! (Knighted December 13, 2003.)   And I do hope that, before he dies, he does have one final “honor” (which I’m sure will never happen), that of knighting, creating, Sir Johnny Rotten (aka Johnny Lydon), lead singer of the Sex Pistols and one of the most thoughtful men in rock, thus giving “God Save The Queen” the “royal” recognition it’s long overdue!

So, please forgive my “bourgeois sentimentality” here as I say a few kind words for Diana, which she does truly deserve!