Breaking Up With the GOP. A White Boy’s Lament.

After the election we were determined to contribute something meaningful to the pantheon of political discourse in America. To inspire other white guys who wondered, “what the fuck happened to the Republican Party?”

After election season, sickened by the toxic atmosphere we soaked in during an endless campaign of lies and betrayal of our ideals, my friend Billy and I pondered over the demise of the Republican Party. Personally, I grew up a Republican, believing in the mythology of our two-party system and living under the illusion that American governance resembles democracy. There were Republicans all around and they seemed like lovely people, so I blithely went about my business believing that I was a Republican as well. Monkey see, monkey do.

Billy is far more cynical and savvy. A street smart kid from Brooklyn, he has a keen ability to read between the lines. He’s skilled at the art of pantomime, reading people like tarot cards and “calling bullshit” frequently. I’m more philosophical, and am skilled at the art of politics. I believe that politics is indeed a bloodsport and I’m game to play all day, every day. Billy believes life is bloodsport and he too is game. He indulges my ramblings on the death of empire, the evils of inequality and importance of civil rights and he makes me listen to the Afghan Whigs and Mos Def.

After the dust settled from the election we were determined to collaborate on an important political project. To contribute something meaningful to the pantheon of political discourse in America. To inspire other white guys who wondered either privately, or aloud, “what the fuck happened to the Republican Party?”

So we recorded what you kids would call a “rap.”

(My wife wrote and performed the chorus. She has regretted it ever since.)

Lyrics:

I’m a white man. I’m your prime demographic.
Used to vote “R” down the line, just out of habit.
But I started listening, then I started thinking.
How did we get so far from the party of Lincoln.

TEDDY ROOSEVELT! Rolling in his grave.
He’d be very disappointed in the way that you behave.
You pushed me away more than you realize,
Voted for Obama (TWICE!) cuz I’m disenfranchised.

You wanna bring together your church and my state?
When your church says deliver even in the case of rape?
Legitimate rape? There’s a difference?
Go sell your hate somewhere else and focus on your own sins.

Chorus:
Liberty. Democracy. Made for you and me. Oh say can you see.
Liberty. Democracy. Made for you and me. Oh say can you see.

This republic can overcome Republicans
who say the rights of a women ain’t equal to a man.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH! IT’S THE FREEDOM TO TEACH!
To reach out and speak out these truths that we seek.

And these truths? They’re self evident.
Two hundred thirty years now we got a black president.
THAT’S CALLED PROGRESS, SON. Overcoming race.
Content of character, not color of face.

Cash from the Koch Brothers, Citizens United
Yeah we one nation, NOW WE DIVIDED
Footsie with Monsanto, taking care of Big Oil
Loopholes and tax breaks on the backs of the poor. COME ON!

Chorus

White upper middle class Republican.
But now these feelings come to pass.
And Occupy she’s got a sexy ass
So now I’m looking down a different path
It’s time for me to let my old earth go
I grab my thoughts and then I’m out the door
My heart pump truth and needs to keep it real
With a party that cares how people feel
So one last time before I walk on out
Silent middle finger I don’t need to shout

CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL. Tyrannosaurus roamed the earth.
There was life on the planet before Jesus’ birth.
Locking up Latinos, yell “Illegal Immigration”
And conveniently forget this was an Indian nation. WE STOLE IT.

NOTHING GRAND ABOUT THIS PARTY
Yo, rescind my invitation.
I’ll take Elizabeth Warren.
Ya’ll can keep Sarah Palin.

 

 

 

#OWS: America’s Id

Those of us who believe America has been co-opted by greed and fallen victim to radical nihilism view the agitation of the 99% as the manifestation of our nation’s morality, if such a thing can possibly exist.

The police barricaded the corner of William and Pine streets in lower Manhattan, preventing the tributary of protestors who had broken off from the main throng from doubling back toward Wall Street. Cordoned off, several chose to sit in the street and accept incarceration in the name of civil disobedience.

It’s 9 a.m. on Nov. 17, the International Day of Action for the Occupy Wall Street movement. The arrests are just beginning.

I’m aware of the time because, for a moment, everything is eerily silent but for the sound of the bell from Our Lady of Victory Church tolling above us. The din of the helicopters overhead and the shouts of “Shame!” as protestors are dragged into the nearby NYPD van fade away while the bell rings for what seems like an eternity.

As the last chime echoes in the street, the cacophony returns as though someone is controlling the volume button to the soundtrack of dissent. Gradually, my eyes return to the scene unfolding in front of the church door, which bears a quote from Cardinal Spellman. It reads: “This Holy Shrine is dedicated to Our Lady of Victory in Thanksgiving for Victory won by our valiant dead, our soldier’s blood, our Country’s tears, shed to defend men’s rights and win back men’s hearts to God.”

How strange that a church, born during World War II and forged in blood, should serve as the backdrop for the nation’s symbolic struggle against the excesses of the neighborhood it calls home. America’s new Civil War is spilling onto the streets of cities throughout the country; and here, in this moment, it is raging beneath a monument to our spiritual and temperate selves.

Over the past few years, I have made no secret of my contempt for Wall Street and the insidious corporate interests that run this nation. Admiration for the Occupy Wall Street movement has gushed from my fingertips and poured onto the page, as I am perpetually amazed at the breadth and fervor of the burgeoning revolution. Being here, seeing it evolve and take shape so quickly, so dramatically, has influenced every corner of my mind. Those of us who believe America has been co-opted by greed and fallen victim to radical nihilism view the agitation of the 99% as the manifestation of our nation’s morality, if such a thing can possibly exist.

The question of morality is central to America’s struggle. We perceive ourselves as a good and righteous nation, purveyors of liberty. At times this has been the case. Often, however, our actions belie this view of ourselves, particularly during imperialistic periods of expansion. To wit, we spent the better part of the 19th century expanding our empire to its natural boundaries, squashing and annihilating the indigenous people of the continent every step of the way. Then we deified the likes of Andrew Jackson by imprinting his likeness on our currency, thus bestowing him with the greatest honor of a capitalist society. These are not the actions of a moral nation, but victories such as these in the name of Manifest Destiny have always served to rationalize our pursuit of omnipotence.

The first half of the 20th century held more promise. The country as we know it today was nearly assembled and America was finally recognized as a dominant player on the world stage. Our financial and military ascension gave weight to the Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary, which established complete hegemony in our hemisphere. Yet despite Teddy Roosevelt’s bellicose nature and hawkish views, his and most subsequent administrations tended toward isolationism. Between the great wars, which were seen as moral imperatives, there was work to be done at home. And during this time, America hammered out a legal, industrial and economic infrastructure that fully recognized our potential as a nation.

Internally, this approach also allowed us to focus on social issues such as equal pay and civil rights in the latter half of the century. Unfortunately, while the nation toiled away at crafting a system that recognized the rights of all of its citizens, we began behaving badly in the rest of the world. At precisely the halfway mark of the 20th century we became embroiled in the fighting in Korea. This conflict and the conjuring of bogeymen in far-off lands presaged an era of unprecedented immorality when we would conduct costly battles against phantom enemies. More precisely, it marked the beginning of the Military Industrial Complex.

In his book A People’s History of the United States Howard Zinn describes the dawn of this era as “an old lesson learned by governments: that war solves problems of control. Charles E. Wilson, the president of General Electric Corporation, was so happy about the wartime situation that he suggested a continuing alliance between business and the military for a permanent war economy.” Two million Koreans and 36,000 Americans perished in the formation of our newfound ideology, which continued into Vietnam and, most recently, in Iraq and Afghanistan. America has exported fear and death in the name of democracy but in the actual pursuit of oil and natural resources.

But our politicians did not go it alone. No one person owns these deeds. Over the past few decades the interests of Christian Fundamentalists, Wall Street tycoons, the ruling class and individuals of enormous wealth have gradually coalesced in the quest for a new world order. They are the 1%. They are the reason I’m standing almost nose-to-nose with a cop in riot gear, his club drawn and his eyes fixed on me as I chronicle the events by the church.

There are those who decry Occupy Wall Street as unpatriotic, misguided, or worse. These are understandable reactions to an uncomfortable reality.  The reality is that OWS is more than a movement to restore sanity to the financial markets and equality to our economy. OWS is a cry for help from America’s id. It is the realization that we have strayed not only from the optimistic perception of ourselves but also from what we strive to be as a country.

Ultimately this is a test of our commitment to the First Amendment. But it isn’t simply about free speech or the right to peaceably assemble. This is about the right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” As a free, democratic society this is the penultimate failsafe, the last opportunity before total revolutionary collapse.

So as the Occupiers continue to refine their message, our political leaders would be wise to listen carefully. This is not a dress rehearsal. This is a very real battle; perhaps the first battle since World War II worthy of the inscription at Our Lady of Victory.

The Graceland of Long Island

a_teddy_roosevelt-248x300Hearst had San Simeon. Elvis had Graceland. Jefferson had Monticello. Great places, all. But for this Long Island kid, there’s one place that puts them all to shame:

Teddy Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill. There is no better place for a political junkie and lover of this Island to plug in and recharge batteries than TR’s crib.

Last week my batteries were indeed in need of recharging as I continue to bang my head against this recession and face the challenges (opportunities) that lay ahead. Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t work very hard—I work a lot. There’s a difference. My job isn’t back-breaking and doesn’t callous my hands, but it does require a great deal of thought, patience and planning.

I walked out of the office in the early afternoon and caught the 2:30 p.m. tour at Sagamore Hill. A small motley crew made up of three home-schooled kids from Queens and their grandfather, an older couple from the RC (Rockville Centre) and I slowly walked through the home of the greatest public servant to ever hold the office of President of the United States. Our tour guide, Wayne, was knowledgeable and patient, taking time to quiz the children while giving a sly wink to the adults. Sagamore Hill and TR’s story are as familiar to me as an old pair of blue jeans and just as comforting. No matter how many times I visit, they never get old.

Comfort and inspiration were the great motivators behind this brief excursion as it is the season of my discontent—the time when political signs dot the landscape and poorly written campaign literature fills mailboxes. My tolerance pot simmers all year watching the buffoonery of our politicians; it comes to a rapid boil come the fall when they begin touting said buffoonery in their stupid ad campaigns. During the TR tour I found my thoughts wandering, imagining what would be different if Roosevelt were still here today.

The youngest man to hold the office, Roosevelt had a great deal of fight left in him after he exited office. But after being upset in a bid to reclaim the presidency in 1913, a taxing trip to the Amazon shortly thereafter and, finally, the death of his son Quentin in 1918, there was no fight left in “The Colonel.” Thankfully the place he called home and raised his remarkable family, and the place where he himself drew his final breath, has been preserved and maintained for us all. It’s the least we could do to honor the man who preserved more land than every other president combined.

I imagine he would be disgusted at the pace our government moves and how powerful the special-interest groups have become. Certainly he dealt with political acrimony in his day, but his power of persuasion and forceful manner provided cover for a mastery of compromise and negotiation. As an advocate for health insurance coverage in industry and worker’s compensation, we would have already had universal health care. The only difference is that it wouldn’t threaten to bankrupt the nation, because as the most famous trust-buster in American history he would have already broken the backs of Big Pharma and the insurance industry.

A prolific author, orator and raconteur, he would have been tickled by the surge in technology and would be tweeting and blogging like a madman. Sagamore Hill would be completely off the grid—geothermal, solar, you name it. Hell, the guy had his own windmill so he definitely would have upgraded to a turbine by now. I’d like to see the Town of Oyster Bay try and deny that permit.

Sigh. The great TR would have loved this age but feel dismayed and betrayed by the Republican Party of today. With so many conservatives holding what they call RINO (Republican In Name Only) hunts and eating themselves from within, he would no doubt confuse them with the Democrats. Now, more than ever, we could use a little more TR in the world. I’ll trade in RINO’s, donkeys and elephants for the chance to bring back the original Bull Moose.