Category Archives: America

The First Time I Met Pete Seeger…..

The first time I met Pete Seeger, I was far too young to remember it. I was, more than likely, an infant. Pete was an old friend of my parents’, having probably met my father in the 1950s or early 1960s. when they were both fighting fascism and oppression in their own ways, both at home and abroad. When weren’t they, really? In those days Joan Baez, Tom Paxton, Paul Robeson Jr., and many others were frequent visitors at our home and while I am proud to know this now, I’ll confess that this was not of primary concern to a small child.

One thing I do remember about Pete is that he was great with kids. Or at least he was with me. Picnics with Pete on the banks of the Hudson became a somewhat regular occurrence* and on one particular night in 1983 at dinner in the Hotel Nacional in Havana, Pete indulged a 12 year-old’s whimsy far more than he needed to.

I had recently learned to make wine glasses “whistle” by wetting a finger and running at around the rim of the glass. To my joy, I was seated next to Pete and at some point in the evening, I started getting bored (dinners in Cuba start late and can go very late) and so I started playing with my wine (water) glass. Pete claimed had never seen this (I suspect he was fibbing) and he and I proceeded to have some fun with the other tables in the dining room by making our glasses whistle and, when people would look around, pretending we were also looking for the source of the whistling. I’ve always thought that one of the true measures of an adult is how they relate to children.

My house was always full of music, despite no one in my family being able to play a lick. Classical and folk were the predominant styles and so many of Pete’s songs have been part of my life since I was a small child. Granted, I was an odd kid. I mean, how many 10 year-old do you know who know the words to “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” “We Shall Not Be Moved,” and “Which Side Are You On?” Much of the credit for that should be given to Pete.

The last 2 times I saw Pete were at memorial services. The first was for Mary Travers (of Peter, Paul & Mary fame) in 2009 and the second in 2005 at my mother’s service. Alas, the weather too bad for him to make it to my father’s memorial in 2007. One of the many drawbacks to the aging process is having friends, loved ones, and those we admire pass on. It’s a part of life, but one I have not yet come to grips with.

Pete was one of the bravest, kindest, and most principled people to ever walk the earth. He was one of a kind for so many reasons and I dare say we shan’t see the likes of him again any time soon.

He also had a beautiful falsetto!

*Possible inflation of frequency due to the passage of time.

Obama And Castro: The Handshake Heard ‘Round The World

Earlier this week, conservative blogs and the Twittersphere exploded over President Obama’s handshake with Cuban president Raul Castro at the funeral services for former South African president and overall legendary hero to billions, Nelson Mandela. And when I say exploded, I am not kidding. Senator John McCain even compared it to then-UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain shaking hands with Adolph Hitler. Seriously?

The vitriol was truly astonishing. A handshake is just about the most basic pleasantry that can be exchanged between two world leaders and, well, that’s just what you do. Especially considering it’s hardly the first time a US president has done something like this. Clinton shook Fidel Castro’s hand, Nixon shook the hand of Mao Zedong. It’s called diplomacy and considering they were at the funeral of a man who was able to reconcile with his former jailers and end Apartheid, I am happy that the spirit of diplomacy prevailed.

[Oh and Senator McCain? Douche. Why? That hypocritical fuck shook hands with Gaddafi! See hysterical and frustrating Daily Show clip below.]

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Rick Santorum, Bill O’Reilly Continue GOP Parade Of Morons

I know it was only a day ago, but in today’s short news cycle, maybe I should remind you…remember when I reflected a little bit about the racist language and stunning inability of some on the far right to understand historical context and to know when certain things are inappropriate?

Well, guess who’s putting their foot in their mouth, again. Yep, it’s the far right GOP’s #2 moron (Sarah Palin is always #1, IMHO) Rick Santorum. Speaking on The O’Reilly Factor (and following another incredibly stupid comment by Bill O), Santorum decided that directly after lauding the (very) recently deceased Nelson Mandela, it was the right time to draw a parallel between Mandela’s struggle against Apartheid and the GOP’s “struggle” against Obamacare and “the ever increasing size of government.”

*Face Palm*

Martin Bashir Should Never Have (Been Forced To) Resign

And here’s why…

I submit to you that what Martin Bashir says in the clip below absolutely pales in comparison to many of the things Sarah Palin and her ilk have said, repeatedly. Indeed, the very thing that sparked Bashir’s outrage, that the US national debt to China would be like being a slave, is worse than anything Bashir said by an order of magnitude. Hell, she even knows she’s going to get shit for it. She prefaced her remarks by stating that they weren’t racist! Methinks thou dost protest too much….

Let me explain my reasoning.

By equating being in debt to being a slave, by pretending that the two experiences are even remotely similar, Palin demeans millions of human beings and shows that her understanding of human experience is lacking to an extreme.

On the other hand, the worst that can be reasonably said about what Bashir said is that it was unprofessional. Perhaps it was even against some sort of MSNBC code of conduct and as such, a public apology, a suspension (without pay) may have been in order.  But for the man to lose his job because he expressed his opinion in the way he did, is shortsighted and unjust. It’s also hypocritical. Fox News personalities routinely spew the most hateful, racist bile and are never disciplined by that massive misnomer of a media organization.

This is also emblematic of the lack of critical thinking and subtlety that permeates American culture, these days. Bashir was not saying that someone should literally shit in Sarah Palin’s mouth. I am sure that if you asked him, he would agree that such behavior is barbaric and not acceptable, even as a punishment for those we revile. It was hyperbole. Bashir was outraged by Palin’s remarks and reacted in an emotional, colorful, and ultimately effective way. Is the right wing so thin-skinned that they can’t let it go? If I screamed for their head every time Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity said something offensive, I’d be permanently apoplectic and hoarse.

Here’s how this exchange would have worked in a reasonable world (and I am paraphrasing, of course):

Palin: “When we’re in debt to the Chinese, it will be like slavery!”

Bashir: “You’re an idiot, Sarah! Someone should shit in your mouth.”

Palin & Bashir, simultaneously: “I apologize. I used insensitive analogies and simplistic and hyperbolic imagery to express my anger at a situation. I apologize unreservedly to (Sarah Palin/Slaves).”

Bashir: “But you’re still a moron, Sarah.”

Palin: “Bite me, Martin.”

See? That way we keep our healthy left-right antagonism, yet realize that this particular brand of partisanship is all just a bunch of bullshit.

 

Ah, Irony. Too Young To Die….And At The Hands Of Wal-Mart

If any of you were hesitating to mourn irony, wait no longer. Wal-Mart has slain the giant by offering prints of Banksy’s print entitled, I shit you not, Destroy Capitalism. According to Salon.com….

According to the Huffington Post, the link has been removed, but still… this rivals the recent JP Morgan Twitter hubbub. There is no cure for corporate idiocy.