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Let’s Hear It From Woody!

Born in 1912 in Okema, OK, this is the Centennial of Woody Guthrie’s birth.

It is uncanny to view the Guthrie tribute video on Democracy Now [] and recognize how very much like the 1930s our present experience is. In 1940, Woody was nauseated by Kate Smith’s ‘God Bless America.’ Irving Berlin may well have meant the song to be a kind of hopeful ballad of an immigrant Jew, but Woody saw it for the jingoistic anthem that it became and still is. That year he penned ‘This Land Is Your Land’ in response to the American exceptionalism expressed in the Berlin-authored anthem. Thus it was no accident that Woody’s anthem was featured at the last Obama inauguration. We can only hope that this next year’s second term event has a similar theme.

We are in a 21st Century McCarthyism again. History does indeed repeat itself, or at least keeps coming around in frighteningly similar guises. If ever a left that knows the lyrics of Woody by heart were needed, it is now. Woody showed little interest in or respect for family values; he did pretty much abandon his family when he went to New York 1940, but his real vocation wasn’t fatherhood, it was his populist poetry.

Prophets do not have to be good at everything. I don’t remember ever reading anything about Jeremiah or Isaiah or Hosea’s family life being exemplary. Well, Isaiah did give his kids weird names and Hosea did show a remarkable tolerance for betrayal, but other than the latter’s patience with Gomer, I see little in the Judeo-Christian tradition that makes the GOP ‘family values’ facade have much to recommend it.

In the 30s, the leading poets, novelists were, in no small number, Communists. That kind of radicalism won’t win many followers today, but it is well past time for those of us who have thought of ourselves as liberals to jettison all semblance of politeness, political correctness, propriety and some nostalgic allegiance to a two-party system and think outside the box. Real change has never been the option of the underclass and oppressed, it is us the bourgeois who have the time and substance for revolution.

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November 23, 2012 · 6:15 pm

Both Were Presidential And That is Scary

Governor Romney was so ready to agree with President Obama in last night’s debate, someone hearing them both for the first time ever might have thought they were running as a team. No doubt, Mr. Romney was trained by his handlers to feign restraint and thus to act like he was a monument to stability, ready to sit in the Oval Office. On nearly every position of the current administration, Romney reiterated ongoing foreign policy.

This morning’s pundits credit the President with a debate win. I guess it is because his bon mots were thought the epitome of debate performance. They were clever ripostes. ‘…air brushing history,’ ‘all over the place,’ fewer horses and bayonets’ did bring his cheering section a sense of ‘gotcha,’ but this wasn’t an encore of their recent performance to raise money for Catholic charity.

As one who has already voted for President Obama, I guess that I’d agree with the pundits that he ‘won.’ My problem with it all is that I really think that we the people are not winning. You and I are the losers of this Presidential race. Losers because it seems that neither candidate appears aware that we are on the cusp of a new kind of world where speaking softly and carrying a big stick is not going to be nearly so persuasive as is speaking effectively abroad and carrying on model reforms at home.

Yes, Mr. President, we now have ships that carry airplanes and others that actually travel under water but what seems lacking is any agenda that asks us to reach beyond the grasp of the ‘military-industrial complex’ or suggests that we can go deeper than the myth of American exceptionalism.

It was a very sad moment in a Presidential debate when one of the best positions came not from the incumbent I’ve already voted for, but from his less-capable opponent. It was Mr. Romney who put it best: we cannot kill our way out of this mess.

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October 23, 2012 · 8:13 am