Category Archives: Politics

Nelson Mandela Dies At 95

Well, we all knew this was coming, but that doesn’t make it any less gut-wrenching. He had been in and out of the hospital for months with numerous infections, but after the life he led and all of the adversities he overcame, I bet I’m not the only one who had a little secret part of his brain where the idea of an immortal Nelson Mandela took root.

The 1986 Anti-Apartheid march in New York City was the first real political event that my father and I attended together and it was a galvanizing moment not just for myself, but for tens of thousands of others. I had just graduated high school, bound for a liberal arts school in Massachusetts and in the mid-late 1980’s, you were hard-pressed to find a campus without a home-made shanty, without divestment protests and without Nelson Mandela’s face adoring dorm rooms across campus.

Also in the 80s, Ska was making one of its regular comebacks dubbed (pun intended) the 2 Tone sound, it was rife with political and integrationist feelings, hence the black and white imagery. One of the songs that helped raise the profile of Mandela and the Anti-Apartheid movement was “Free Nelson Mandela,” by The Special AKA:

 

Mandela was one for the ages. An inspiration for countless millions, even billions and someone who achieved the rarest of heights: Worldwide recognition for all the right reasons. We will never see the likes of him again.

 

 

“The Invisible War” and the Ongoing Subjugation of Women in America

Congratulations to director Kirby Dick and producer Any Ziering for the pickup of their powerful new doc The Invisible War by Cinedigm Entertainment Group and New Video. I saw the film at Sundance and in addition to being a great film, it’s extraordinarily important in these times of increasing violence against and institutionalized subjugation of women. [Trailer and other videos at the bottom.]

In my wrap of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival I wrote of the film: “A heart-breaking and shocking look at rape in the military, Dick’s film details the pain, shame, horror and lasting damage caused by the attacks as well as the shocking hypocrisy and cover-ups endorsed by the military establishment.”

Some stats from the US Department of Defense:
20% of ALL servicewomen have been sexually assaulted while serving.
Women who have been raped in the military have a PTSD rate higher than men in combat.
An estimated 500,000 women have been sexually assaulted in the US military.
In 2010, according to the Department of Defense, there were 3,158 case of sexual assault within the U.S. military. It is estimated that more than 80% of those who are sexually assaulted don’t report it.

The film presents many more statistics, equally as disturbing.

While the subject matter is grim and at times the film is emotionally tough to watch, I will categorically say that this is a film everyone must see, especially educators. It’s a film that could potentially cause a sea change not only in the halls of Congress but in the high schools of America.

At the Q&A following the Sundance world premiere, a 17 year-old young woman in the audience stood up and said that while she had never been physically assaulted, verbal abuse was the norm in her school and she felt that every high school student needed to see the film because boys were not being raised to respect women. It was another poignant moment in the most emotional Q&A I have ever witnessed.

Continue reading “The Invisible War” and the Ongoing Subjugation of Women in America

Budd Schulberg and HUAC: Not To Be Forgotten

With the passing of writer Budd Schulberg there is the usual outpouring of hosannas and allelujahs to a great screenwriter and novelist and he was indeed a talented man who penned some excellent, enduring and quote-worthy works of art and therefore I feel neither the need nor the desire to add to said heapings of praise. Instead, I’d like to put on record one of the aspects of Mr. Schulberg’s life that is largely missing from these paeans.
Even the “Gray Lady” herself, the New York Times, glossed over the shameful fact that in the 1950’s Budd Schulberg and his occasional collaborator Elia Kazan both testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and thus destroyed the lives of many of their former colleagues including Ring Lardner Jr., Dalton Trumbo and Herbert Biberman. He named at least 15 of his close friends, helping to send many if not all of them to jail. As I have written before this is a shocking and despicable act and it must not be forgotten.
So far, only Carolyn Kellogg in the L.A. Times has run a piece about Schulberg and his betrayals and the testimony quoted in the article gives a pretty good idea of the kind of a man Schulberg was at the time. He claimed that he became disillusioned with the the Communist Party when Stalin signed a non-aggression pact and that the CP interfered with his work.
Both are valid criticisms (assuming the latter was true) and Schulberg was perfectly within his rights to leave the party, which he did. However, going on to name names and cooperate in one of the most horrific instances of government abuse in our nation’s history was going too far.

“Dalton [Trumbo] wrote one good novel and that’s it.” [Schulberg told Victor Navasky for the latter’s book Naming Names.] Most of these people never tried to write any social realism. I think maybe [they had some] guilt about making two thousand dollars a week and doing nothing. You could make it up by paying ten percent dues [to the Party], and maybe that made you feel better about being a hack. Most of them settled for being hacks.

These people, if they had it in them, could have written books and plays. There was not a blacklist in publishing. There was not a blacklist in the theater. They could have written about the forces that drove them into the Communist Party. There was practically nothing written.”

So according to Schulberg, even though his testimony led to the loss of his former friends’ ability to earn a living, it was their own damn fault because they either weren’t as prolific as he was or weren’t able to shift to stage plays and books, thus avoiding the Hollywood blacklist? That’s a level of ego bordering on narcissism. Of course Schulberg was also wrong about Trumbo’s output.
Please, save your “but he was a fantastic writer and deserves the accolades” responses. Of course he was a great writer and yes, deserves to be lauded as such. That said, when one does bad deeds, when one betrays long-standing friendships, when one does irreparable damage to the lives of that many people and their families, it must be included in any wrap up of your life. You don’t get to skate in death, just because you were a great artist in life.