Monday, September 3, 2018

Humpy-Trumpy


Humpy-Trumpy
sat on The Wall.
(But no, he couldn’t
get the Mexicans to
pay for it!)
Humpy-Trumpy’s
gonna take a
great fall…

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


IS IT TRUE?
 

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


COME THE REVOLUTION
THAT LIBERATES ALL
(EVEN THE SIDEWALK!)

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

 

A poem of Politically Correct Liberation


MENAGE À TREE
(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!