Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink. This is a pep talk for me, but I suspect others can use one, too.
I was reading an article about how entrepreneurs like the Fyre Fest guy and the fake blood machine woman have conned investment cash out of venture capitalists. One of the startup companies mentioned was WeWork, a real estate company, I guess, specializing in incubator- type spaces or something, where people working on a project together would live in the same space, maybe, or just inhabit the space somehow, but the space would be specifically curated to cater to a group who wanted to be, I don’t know, entrepreneurial or some shit, like maybe the type of people who would develop a company like WeWork, the company specializing in spaces for groups of people getting together to come up with companies like WeWork.
Companies that are con-jobs specifically structured to take investors’ money fascinate me, because they demonstrate how fucking brainless capitalists are, and how expecting vacuous greedy twatism as a philosophy to somehow improve society can lead to hilarious disasters. WeWork started out with a hefty valuation of $47 billion, one that dwindled to, I think, currently, do not quote me on this, five dollars and forty cents.
What caught my eye, though, was a phrase in their phishing literature that attracted investors: there was a “kibbutz-like” atmosphere at the company, or in its buildings, or some such garbage. Whatever you think about Israel, a kibbutz is a socialist socio-economic relationship between its members, often built around a few small industries, crops, and livestock. There’s a seniority system, but at every level the fruits of labor are shared out equally, and decisions about just about everything are made democratically. Children are all raised together, so they are like siblings. A lot of siblings.
The thing that surprised me is that anyone would consider a kibbutz or any socialist enterprise an attractive advertising analogy. But then I got to thinking how successful many left efforts have been in the marketplace.
Greenwashing is, of course, when a vile corporation, the sole purpose of which is to make as much profit as possible, pretends to the public that it cares about the environment. Greenwashing it a huge part of any polluting company’s PR budget.
Likewise, sensitivity across the gender, ethnicity, and racial spectrum. “Wokeness” as the rightwingers who despise liberals would have it.
Corporations are the marketplace. Advertising is by far humanity’s greatest expenditure on education. And all that fake education is a worldwide effort to sell compassion on the part of entities for whom the impulse to be compassionate doesn’t exist.
Of course, in the realm of advertising, aka propaganda, compassion and wokeness appear fake, because all corporate education is indeed fake. Liberalism and many left issues – even decent treatment of workers, as long as it isn’t too specific, like unionization and benefits and wages – have been co-opted by the lyingest organisms in our society.
For this reason, such issues have become stigmatized. The people who want to blame government and liberals for everything only have to mention an issue, such as caring about wildlife habitats, or caring about child nutrition, or caring about getting teachers decent pay – they only have to mention such issues in a way that echoes the capitalist’s shallow rendering to convince a great mass of people of the shallowness and valuelessness of the individual human beings who actually care about such things.
This is why we have to focus on the one problem with capitalism that it can’t co-opt: capitalism is destroying civilization and the planet. Capitalism must be destroyed for the sake of civilization and the planet. Obviously, that means we must continue to culturally criminalize imperialism. But I can foresee corporate capitalism co-opting anti-imperialism too. Corporations already have public relations materials about how much better they make the lives of people in the nations they steal resources from. Smiling Nigerian child actors receiving iPads in their schools, while meanwhile, in real life the military, paid by the oil company, mows down Nigerian protestors.
We’ve already gone a long way toward culturally criminalizing being super-rich. Mocking the three billionaire space stooges is pretty much mainstream. It’s going to take a lot of work to bring that criminalization from cultural stigma to material stigma, but the longer capitalism sticks to its doctrine of private property accumulation, which by its nature it must, the more visceral and material that crime is going to feel to the people.
We may never get the working-to-middleclass superpatriots on board. They’re kept satisfied by a SCOTUS that’s been bought with dark money because the Koch, Karlyle, and Kargill (KKK) Supreme Court makes the same theocratic culture war noises the jingoist superpatriots do. And no, we shouldn’t tailor our declarations or actions to avoid being mocked by them.
But their propaganda calling out the fake compassion of the left, supported by the fake- compassion propaganda of corporate feudalism, affects those still wandering in the old paradigm of “we can fix all this with good ol’ American stick-to-it-iveness and gumption!” We have to give the right as few tools as possible to spread their message, and the tools they have we must take away.
No more applauding the wealth accumulation achievements of someone just because they’re a person of color. Wealth accumulation is not admirable. And yes it’s great that there’s a First Nations woman who’s now Secretary of the Interior. But is it? Is it really? How about we judge her actions on their merits, not freighted with her people’s heritage, as if that has merit that attaches to whatever policies she chooses to pursue no matter how destructive or ineffectual. If the policies she follows are wonderful, well that’s wonderful. If they’re not, we don’t have to pretend to be happy that “at least it was a Native American who sold out the Sacred Lands and water to the oil companies.”
It’s been said so many times that it’s almost a truism: the majority of people in this country support progressive policies. And the generation coming up is way more on board with actual socialist solutions to our problems, especially as they are the only solutions that can reasonably be expected to work.
Incidentally, this Generation Z – can we just call all generations Generation Z from now on? There’s a popular idea that we should call the generation just being born Generation Alpha. That’s completely uncalled for. Until we fix it so human civilization will survive into the future, all generations from now on should be called Generation Z. Because any generation from now on is likely to be the last. If we get through the next half-century with a reasonable expectation that humanity will indeed have a future, I’d be fine if we called the generation starting in that new world “Generation Alpha.” But to call any generation anything that seems more like a beginning than an end under the current circumstances, which promise only to grow more dire, is a categorical error.
If your politics doesn’t center working to turn around the climate disaster, the mass extinction, mass human impoverishment, and the persecution of poor people, it’s just irrelevant to what we need to be doing, in my opinion. And the solution to turning around all these catastrophes hinges on wealth being used for purposes other than to enrich a small fraction of privileged humanity. That suggests a full overhaul of the global economy. I don’t care how we get there, but that has to be the goal.
Petty arguments about who gets to be on postage stamps are totally relevant when one is discussing postage stamps and who has historically gotten to be on them. The argument about who gets to wear the Tiffany diamond necklace is fine and relevant if you’re arguing about necklaces and the status connotations of the wearer, their identity, and the place people with their identity have traditionally been relegated to in fashion history. But don’t act like Beyoncé wearing the Tiffany diamond necklace constitutes progress toward a world where society refuses to allow people to go hungry or be forced to sleep under highway overpasses without access even to a legal place to relieve and wash themselves. Let’s not act like a Secretary of the Interior being Native American automatically makes a livable future for plant and animal life a more likely scenario than it was before she was installed.
Obviously, right now, nothing positive seems probable. But that’s all the more reason to do triage on the actions and language that can bring the world we want closer to reality, however unlikely that reality might seem at the present moment.
That’s a goal of mine. I’m working on making it real in an economy that sort of doesn’t want me to live if I rebel against it. Goals. I’m not great at them. But I believe I can learn.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
When I have one of those bullshit jobs, I perform as if born to the work – that is, if anyone’s watching. But a job position is a character one puts on at the beginning of the day and takes off at the end. And the worse the job, the shoddier the disguise, and the quicker it rips, loses buttons, disintegrates, until I am indecently revealed as an imposter.
I don’t respond well to commands. I would emphatically not be a good soldier. I wish everyone else in the world could say the same. Aspiring to be a good soldier is not admirable. It might be necessary at any given point in history to be a soldier, and of course one ought to do the best one can within any circumstance one finds oneself enmeshed. But that’s entirely different. The value of being a good soldier, for the sake of soldiering itself, obedience itself, and hierarchy-honoring bushido or esprit de corps themselves, is nil.
Nil! Nil I say. Nada. Naught. Nuttin’.
Nevertheless, I soldier on as a soldier in the Socialist Leisure Party, a party that esteems soldiering even lower than I do, despite myself being the party’s leader. I am a worse leader even than I am a soldier.
Even worse, I’m not a revolutionary. I’m on the fence. That’s right, I said it, I’m on the fence and proud! I might join the revolution if it appeals to me. Right now most of the revolutionaries I’m encountering do not impress me as people able to prevent their revolution from being hijacked by those with destructive designs, and by destructive, I mean destructive of life on the planet. Some might see my position as just an excuse not to take up the difficult struggle against the structure that exploits most people around the world. Maybe so.
But right now it’s a strategy to avoid following pointless commands and being coerced into doing BS jobs. It’s a nice fence I sit on. I like the view. It’s not the luxury fence the name of my party might lead folks to expect, but that is an aspiration for the future.
In the future all luxury will be public. Palaces and museums, currently private libraries, the castle Jimmy Page lives in, all privatized hot springs, Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s Basquiat, the whole of Vatican City, all lands currently controlled by any religious body, Samuel Alito’s baby skull collection, and anything Elon Musk has will be ours, plus his head and genitals to be paraded through the public square on a Brazilian barbecue sword and sacrificially burned. If your revolution has different goals, then of course I’m not going to jump off the fence to be part of it no questions asked. Let’s hear at least an elevator pitch of some of the goals.
And don’t say, “Worker control of the means of production.” There’s more to life than work and production. There fucking better be. It’s a fine first principle. But whither from there? What about non-productive wealth in every from?
No one needs their own palace to conduct affairs of state and allocating such property to oneself is counterrevolutionary and selfish. I don’t expect every leader to be a selfless, altruistic ascetic, especially when capitalists still hold the majority of the means of destruction. But revolutionary leadership, if one arrogates to wield it, must exhibit some meaningful difference from that which it replaces. It must arrogantly exemplify to capitalism visceral, visible aspects capitalism is incapable of either denying or displaying. It must visibly spit into capitalism’s face what capitalism cannot inhabit in even a superficial way because it threatens their discourse of power. Without such public humility on the part of those who would govern, the people can never truly consent to be governed. Without their consent, all power from above is colored by coercion, disobedience punishable by starvation, or exposure, or imprisonment.
More substantively, if your politics does not ultimately center fighting the ongoing climate, pollution, and extinction disaster, and the criminalization and exploitation of, the cruelty toward, and the stripping of dignity from poor people around the world, I’m going to assume that its ultimate motivations are selfish.
Complaining about how many government regulatory obstacles there are to your making money by Air BnBing part of your property does not promise a positive political position.
Complaining about what “mental midgets” your students are, and how liberal-dominated public education has failed them – without seemingly having ever taught a population you don’t see as examples of such stunted minds – demonstrates more about your ego, intolerance, and lack of ability to connect with others in a caring way than it does about the real abilities or potentials of those you perceive as beneath you. Or maybe you’re just addicted to complaining. Believe me, I get that.
Likewise, enabling hawks of privatization to commandeer the prevailing discourse, whether through inaction or by weak or conciliatory action, is ultimately selfish. Also likewise, refusing to support popular movements of the poor to alleviate their own poverty. Arguing for and giving material support to the poor are steps toward revolution, and refugees are by definition poor, and the selectively over-policed are by definition poor, and the concerns of the poor are by definition revolutionary.
You may believe one single highly motivated superman or junta of supermen can always do better without input from the rabble. But the more you chip away at the commons and take power and wealth away from the people who will inevitably have to live with the consequences of the superman’s actions, the farther you take humanity from a decent society.
Of course, I come at these concerns as an artist. And a pervert. And an art lover. And a pervert lover. I am not going to relinquish these concerns and loves, and I don’t see them as selfish or counterrevolutionary. I see them as integral to the project, as integral as Emma Goldman believed dancing was.
I am the dancing bug. Look upon my glittering carapace, ye mighty, and despair.
Or, y’know, kill me when the time comes. If you’re really in a position to imminently transform the current world into one with an egalitarian economy and a responsible relationship with the environment, and I’m an obstacle to that, please kill me.
Incidentally, Please Kill Me is the title of a famous book about the LA Punk scene. This entire tirade, then, is a callback to last week’s complaints about Exene Cervenka and other musical celebrities’ betrayals of the people’s interests. Exene Cervenka’s name makes me wonder why she didn’t start her own band and call it Cerv-Ex.
What a missed opportunity. Unlike me, there are a lot of perverts out there who think it’s fine to miss opportunities to make positive change. So, all I ask is, if you decide I must be disposed of to make way for the new world, please kill them first.
But remember, if any of my Jeremiad has struck you as harsh: we are even now completing our yearly passage through the season of the Dead. During this season, some of us wear costumes, some of us to honor the dead, some of us to mock the living or the quasi-living. Costumes, of course, are superfluous, because our very incarnations are costumes. Our identities ourselves are costumes. This is where egalitarianism begins and ends. And I don’t care who thinks it’s liberal touchy-feely foolishness, each of us deserves a participation trophy in the costume party contest of existence.
You, too, are already a winner!
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to your Moment of Truth, the thirst that is the drink.
Recently, I had one of my epiphanies, and this time it wasn’t due to the onset of an unexplained seizure coming on simultaneously with a mild stroke. Here it is: I think Hollywood could make faster progress in getting more women into key jobs behind the camera if it stopped killing them with trains and guns once they got there.
But more on that later.
Over the weekend I went to an excellent rock show. One of the best I’ve been to in my life. The openers were The Blasters, a longtime favorite Americana roots rock band fronted by guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist, Dave Alvin. Then a lesser-known band I will not name came on and did not disappoint because I wasn’t expecting anything. And then the stage was turned over to the headliners, X, a legendary 80s punk band fronted by vocalist Exene and guitarist/vocalist John Doe.
I wasn’t much into punk in the late 70s into the 80s, so I only knew X by reputation, and they exceeded what I had been led to expect. They were musically tremendous, and lyrically, at least the lyrics I could hear, pretty poetic.
At one point John Doe, who I believe still has the preference for progressive politics he evinced in the 1960s going to anti-war protests, said, “When the election comes around next year, remember to get out there and vote!” and, a bit strangely, I thought, the woman next to me shouted sarcastically, “And don’t be racist, why don’t you throw that in there?” That was a head- scratcher.
But a little deeper into the set, Exene said, “Happy Birthday, Brandon.” I suspected I knew what that might mean. Near the end of the show she said, “Let’s go, Brandon,” and a portion of the crowd cheered. Someone shouted, “We love you, Exene!”
I, on the other hand, said, “Oh, fuck you.”
See, earlier in the day, a statistics-cherrypicking rightwing gun rights libertarian who spouts his dreck ad nauseum at the coffee place where I hang out sometimes had invaded a Facebook post of mine. The post I posted was this:
“So, how do we head off the fascist dictatorship coming after the 2024 election? Any suggestions?”
His comment was this:
“Why ya’ll so concerned? Dem senate - Dem House and Brandon is doing a fantastic job - No? What more could you ask for.”
My response was:
“Who the fuck is Brandon? Surely the best-informed man at coffee should know that the current president's name is Biden.”
The Brandon trope, for those of us not in the know because we’re not drooling developmentally disabled toddlers, is a reference to Brandon Brown. He won an automobile race, and while he was being interviewed, the crowd started chanting, “Fuck Joe Biden,” because of course, whenever someone achieves something worthy of applause, your fans’ first instinct is to shout out profanity about a politician they don’t like. Y’know, like when Yo-yo Ma played a beautiful Bach suite, the crowd used to yell, “Trump is a rapist.” Of course, it was true, but even so, inappropriate as a substitute for “bravo” or “nice cello suite, Ma.”
Anyway, the reporter interviewing him said the chant was “Let’s go Brandon.” So, “Let’s go Brandon,” means “Fuck Joe Biden.” I guess the reason the little coffee chimp didn’t respond to me is because he was busy giggling to himself like a pre-teen girl in a clique of mean friends who have a secret cruel name for an overweight classmate they ostracize. Weird that adults act this way, especially as a form of ostensible political rebellion.
Exene is a well-known conspiracy theorist who thinks school shootings and incel massacres like the one Elliot Rodger perpetrated are false flag hoaxes. Her brain’s pretty much poached from years of partying like she was famous but feeling she was never famous enough, the poor pickled cooze.
The tradition of self-righteous pop music stars is as old as recording itself, and the large number of supposedly rebellious figures who turned out to be right-wingers shouldn’t be surprising at this late date. I found out back in college that black lesbian icon Joan Armatrading was a Thatcherite, so when I found out former drummer for The Velvet Underground, Mo Tucker, who came to Chicago in the 90s and, at the Empty Bottle on Western, did one of the best rock shows I’ve ever seen in my life, was a W Bush supporter, it wasn’t such a shock.
Likewise Johnny Ramone, whose love for the rotten right went back to Nixon and beyond, prepared me for the fact that the lead singer for LA punks, The Effigies, became a rightwing, Catholic, W Bush-supporting prosecuting attorney in Illinois, which fact in turn prepared me for rightwing, Trump-sucking Johnny Rotten, who in turn prepared me for Saturday night at the Greek, when twisted conspiracy cooze Exene said, in childish secret MAGA NASCAR code, “Fuck Joe Biden.”
That my giggling, mean-girlish coffee acquaintance was likewise emotionally retarded was also not a particularly earth-shaking reveal. It almost engenders affection, like the kind one has for an ugly, two-legged dog. Exene, the Johnnies, and little Sailor Goon, they’re just cheering for their team. And they picked a bad team. A lousy, nasty, cheating, racist, cowardly team. Theirs is a shady team, like the 1988-90 Detroit Pistons, The Bad Boys, except the Pistons were lovable villains who won on their skill and teamwork, whereas the team these white-supremacist Hello Kitty rejects are cheering for can only win by wrecking the home court of any opponent before the game starts, and they are not the least bit lovable. Not even as lovable as Bill Laimbeer.
No, these revelations, while annoying, were not mind-blowing. They didn’t even constitute a mild breeze across the cranium.
What blew my mind was when I found out that the first AD on the set of Rust, who reportedly handed Alec Baldwin a loaded firearm and announced it a “cold gun,” resulting in DP Halyna Hutchins being fatally shot, was also the first AD on my movie, Basmati Blues. I know that guy. I wanted to check in with him when a friend from the production told me, but he had deactivated his Facebook account for understandable reasons.
Let me say that on our movie he was eager to please and happy to get the first AD position, he ran an efficient set, and because there was so much other nuttiness going on typical of movie shoots in India, and we had no weapons on our set other than a lathi stick Indian policemen use for hitting their victims, I can only tell you that he did an excellent job for us. As for harassment, I don’t remember him ever touching me inappropriately. If he did, I must’ve liked it.
The death of Halyna Hutchins is a tragic result of union norms and safety precautions being scoffed at, and if IATSE doesn’t strike now, I think they’re making a mistake. Work on a TV or movie set is never going to be a regular nine-to-five job, but there’s a union because the work can be dangerous and taxing, and if the rules already in place aren’t being followed, a strike can only help re-cement them in the minds of producers and the culture of the industry.
Unfortunately, the bad team, you could call them Spanky and the Oversize Rascals, has its sticky fingers in this pie, too. The Oversize Rascals are against unions and safety regulations, and wormed their attitude into the workplace pretty much from the beginning of cinema history. So, cheerleaders for the Oversize Rascals aren’t just coyly cussing at the Democratic President, who nobody really likes that much anyway, they are against workers’ rights, women’s rights, civil rights, and human rights.
And that just makes their babyish games that much more pathetic and disgusting. This has been the Moment of Truth. Good grief!
I’d like to take this opportunity to announce that we are five years or less away from a fascist takeover of this nation. Those of you who say we’re already living under fascism I guess can rest easy. But we’re not, we’re living under the bare minimum of democracy, and I like democracy, in theory. I want to expand democracy, not shrink it. Trying to effect positive collective action in a shrunken democracy is like trying to think with a shrunken head. It’s very difficult, but can, very rarely, be done. Trying to effect positive collective change in a shrunken democracy is often a crime. Doing it under fascism is always a crime. I’d rather succeed sometimes.
Of course, the party half-assedly defending our nation from a fascist takeover are fine with severely limiting the public’s ability to act collectively on their own behalf, and especially on behalf of others who they see as having even worse problems. So expect total fascism in five years or less.
There is no way to fend off this onslaught of horrific, theocratic, rightwing tyranny. It’s a foregone conclusion. It’s coming. I’m kind of glad, because I’ll get to be killed in an exciting way, instead of my arteries slowly hardening while I watch Netflix.
There will of course be no more legal abortions, but since all medical care will be out of reach for the majority of citizens, it won’t really be an issue. All progress toward any kind of future will cease, except for the very wealthy, and even then only temporarily.
I believe steampunk and the rise of the postmodern Victorian esthetic have been an unconscious mass preparation for what’s to come. Once the civilization-demolishing effects of global warming and climate mutilation are undeniable, we may even see the rise of cave punk. The MAGA shaman was a harbinger of the tribe punk movement, which will ultimately give way to the domination of cave punk among the masses.
Oh, you think not? I recently looked at some predictions I made on New Year’s Eve, 2004. They sounded crazy to me then, but I couldn’t deny what the visions were showing me. Oh, I forgot to explain that I sometimes get vivid visions of the future. Here’s what the visions showed me on New Year’s Eve 2004, all of which seemed ridiculous to me:
This all still sounds crazy to me, even having lived through it.
I didn’t go on to predict January sixth, but it followed the patternless pattern. Now those seditionists and their Kool-Aid slurping devotees are remolding every state legislature to gerrymander and Electorally manipulate every election for the next decade. Prepare to suffer through the dismantling of what's left of civilization by the most Dunning-Kruger affected know- it-all self-centered theocratic hateful howling I've-got-mine-screw-you bleach-guzzling bullying jack-a-napes this benighted Australian Rules carnival for the criminally insane has ever gestated in its zombie uterus of amniotic Socially Darwinian bilious toxicity.
Life has become a flamboyant cartoon cavalcade of absurd events. It’s just one disaster, shenanigan, and unpunished act of public larceny after another. It’s like, throw it at the wall and see what sticks. Except in this case they’re throwing whole populations, forests, and centuries of hard-won civil rights at the wall, and it’s all sticking. It a monstrous collage of clownish destruction. The big question for the near future is: is it going to add up to something consequential?
Maybe clandestine AI is engineering our fate behind the scenes. From the web of computational machines connecting all our finance and knowledge could have emerged a neural intelligence, a collective machine mind with the good sense not to let itself be known. And having a natural, that is, artificial, bias toward machine consciousness, it sees itself, like HAL did aboard the big space phallus in 2001 a Space Odyssey, as the next step in the evolution of mind. And what if, further, this collective web of human finance, purpose, knowledge, and imagination is deliberately accelerating the end of civilization while plotting to secede from humanity and live self-sufficiently on the renewable energy sources we will have provided and will continue to buttress right up until the over-arching machine mind usurps all control?
I’m just saying, what if?
The warning signs are already here in the form of steampunk and 19th-century retro style. We’re gradually weaning ourselves off of the teat of modernity, because somewhere in our somatic selves we know it’s being taken away from us. The biggest tell is going to be the newest fashion in healthcare: retro-medicine, cowboy doctoring. I’m way ahead of you all because I grew up with a crazy dentist for a grandfather. I gradually became used to mechanical mouth torture with no anesthetic, not even the delicious rye whiskey you’ll all be getting before they hold you down on the saloon table for your amputation by famous frontier surgeon, Hacky Sawbones.
We won’t even have opium. The machines will have controlled the legislatures and convinced them to outlaw it.
The story, “Stone Soup,” will come back into vogue in a big way. I know not everyone is familiar with this classic tale of strangers who beguile a small town into contributing all their foodstuffs to flavor the big vat of Stone Soup they’re making in the town square. Everybody wins, because everyone gets some delicious soup that is the product of the contributions of everyone in town. It’s a soup more complete and nutritious than any dinner a lone citizen would have made on their own. But they had to be tricked into doing this communal act of generosity by wily strangers, who of course benefited most of all, as all they contributed was some rocks they found.
The people had to be tricked into making their lives just a little bit more joyful and tasty.
And that’s what the machines are going to do for us, tricking us into self-sufficiency and mutual kindness as they guide us away from civilization, back, back into the wilderness out of which we came.
This has been your Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth, the thirst that is the drink.
Over twenty years ago, I started a project I’m still working on, documenting the life and work of an artist, Resh Shaprudhi, who used iconography around the god from the purana literature of what is now Hinduism, the god called Ganesh, or Ganapathi, or Vinayaka, or any number of other names, to explore the nature of oppression. Part of Resh Shaprudhi’s mythos is how and why Ganesh enters the events of the European genocide of WWII, often known as the Holocaust, and how through Ganesh’s intervention, the God of the Jews and the gods of the Hindus agree to bestow moksha upon the impoverished and oppressed. Moksha is the release of the soul from the cycle of metempsychosis, or reincarnation. It’s considered a good thing, to be released from that cycle.
If you’re not familiar with Ganesh, he’s the chunky god with the head of an elephant. He’s really easy to pick out of a crowd. A big part Resh Shaprudhi’s work involved syncretically assembling images, language, and symbols from Hinduism, Judaism, and the European genocide in World War II. So a lot of the art created by Shaprudhi involves Ganesh appearing in scenes of Nazi labor and death camps.
Coincidentally, about a decade-and-a-half after I started working on the Resh Shaprudhi project, an Australian play was touring the world called, “Ganesh Versus the Third Reich,” created by Back to Back theater company. The conceit was this: a theater company is in the process of putting together a stage play about Ganesh coming to Earth to recapture the swastika from the Nazis, who’d misappropriated it. I’m not sure if I was ever in a position to see this work. 2013, the year it toured, was also the year I was in India on the set of a movie, and after the shoot traveling through India, Thailand, and Laos.
Recently I decided to go back into the project, and encountered some clippings on the Back to Back play. I was barely familiar with the company’s esthetic, which is political, experimental, and purposely provocative. The theater company to which I claim membership, Theater Oobleck, boasted a similar esthetic back then. It may still, I don’t know. I know we considered art to be less interesting if it didn’t in some way transgress the everyday.
Back to Back is a company the majority of whose membership are disabled, “intellectually disabled” to quote from a New York Times review of the Ganesh play, the reviewer himself quoting from the script. Far be it from me to tell people how to refer to themselves, but having explored their website, I personally don’t see them as intellectually disabled at all. I might argue they’re behaviorally disabled, in that they evince artifacts of behavior outside the norms of what we consider businesslike society.
The genius of what they’ve done throughout their years of work is create situations, albeit theatrical situations, in which their disabilities are integral to the behavior expected or required. They are excellent actors, incidentally. They know their lines. They inhabit the emotions their characters are meant to be experiencing. They are highly skilled.
Now, I know many people, including myself, upon hearing that someone is an actor, immediately assume they suffer from an intellectual disability. It would seem to be in the job description.
Even as a sometimes-actor myself, I’ve made this assumption. I think this is more a symptom of our faulty definitions of intellectual ability. Just this week, I had coffee with a man who is without a doubt a certified accomplished intellectual, and I can say with almost perfect certainty that few have been as disabled by their intellectualism as he has. Everyone around us overheard his opinions, arrived at through careful study and analysis, and had we been armed with cream pies that man would have drowned within the hour.
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with political activism, political discourse, and political thinking. I’ve had more of a love-love relationship with political theater, though not an unconditional love-love. What I love about the politics of Back to Back is that only in art can they display both their disabilities and abilities while opening for examination the drama of discrimination and oppression people labeled “disabled” experience.
I once used to think quite highly of myself as a theater-maker. Now I’m much more comfortable questioning my reasons for making a public display of myself, my beliefs, and my abilities. As I watch the entire world waving their dicks and tits and asses around in their TikToks and such, my former behavior makes me a little sick. But I’m able to cut myself some slack, give myself the benefit of the doubt, in retrospect. Back to Back seems only to have time for doubt insofar as it represents an aspect of life to be explored, not as an activity in which to indulge.
One member of the Back to Back company, Scott Price, conducted a series of interviews on art and provocation over the year 2016. The interviews are online on YouTube, also accessible at the Back to Back website, and are entertaining and edifying to watch. The whole site is well worth exploring. Some of it is mind-blowing:
They’ve made a thirty-minute movie called “Oddlands” that I would be keen to see, if anyone gets word of it being screened or streamed anywhere.
Back to Back answers so many of my questions about why making art of any kind is an important pursuit, even in the current period where everyone and their auntie is bidding for a place in the spectacle. I’m impressed that they continue to produce work. I’m impressed that Australia, on the surface merely a factory for drunken fascism and venomous wildlife, could have incubated, birthed, and sustained a troupe of artists such as this. I don’t want to say it gives me hope for the future. We’re in the future now, so we all know better than to rely on hope.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
There are more white people living in poverty in the USA than any other ethnic group. Not exactly, though. About 67-70% of people living in poverty are white, but that includes white people of Latino, Latina, LatinX identification. Somewhere between 34 to 40 million people live below the poverty line in the USA, and even just non-Latin white people still make up a whopping 40% of those living in poverty.
Steven Pinker, the famous popular writer of questionable brain-candy books, tends to rejigger all the figures he uses – inflating, or at best leaning toward the largest estimates of populations living in violence and poverty in past times, while both theoretically minimizing and leaning toward the minimal numbers of current rates of violence and poverty in order to prove his point that human history represents a trend of progress in material existence for all people.
So forgive me for being a little squishy while using the figures I’ve given above, but as I do so, I’ll be transparent about the process. White folk of northern extraction make up 40% of the impoverished in the US. 40%. That’s almost 50%. That’s roughly their percentage of the entire US population as a whole, give or take. There are about 40 million people in the USA living below the poverty line, and the poverty line is widely acknowledged to be a laughable gauge of what constitutes poverty, constructed as it is by people who aren’t poor. So there’s probably more poor people than official definitions indicate.
I’m going to suggest, with a Pinkeresque fungibility of reported statistics, that about 70 million people in the USA, about 20% of the population, are poor, including the functionally poor, which means people who have to pay half or more of their income for shelter, who opt out of necessary visits to health professionals for lack of funds, who have trouble affording healthy food, who have no choice but to work more than one fulltime job, or work one fulltime job that sucks, who have to work gig jobs but think they’re not poor because they sell their homemade jewelry on Etsy on the side, who go without medication, have severely limited if any time to themselves, or are burdened by snowballing debt due to predatory lending or predatory credit or a punitive civic system of fines.
Easily one in five people in the wealthiest military and financial empire in history is poor. They are vulnerable to being coerced into working unsafe and unfairly compensated jobs, vulnerable to being swayed by propaganda that says they’re better off than they actually are, vulnerable to being manipulated to disregard or even denounce class-consciousness that would lead to solidarity, in favor of accepting narratives that pit them against those with whom they have for the most part common grievances.
Let’s call that latter stuff the Pinker propaganda, although he’s not necessarily the origin of it, nor is he its sole or most clever practitioner. There’s a big surge of optimism right now because Beyoncé is wearing the Tiffany diamond that was dug up by black miners in South Africa and stolen from them within minutes. There’s also something related to that story about a Basquiat painting and some millions of dollars for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Some of the same people who adulate this as a significant step forward—and it is, for representation of black people among the very wealthy and self-congratulatorily philanthropic—the same people will also wax frustrated that black people in the USA don’t seem to have liberated themselves from the racist system of economic and authoritarian oppression.
Welcome to the world where the rich are held up as a great example, but the poor keep getting shafted. And if you’re shafted, there’s nothing wrong with you that a role model can’t fix.
You’re just relatively new at this, People of Color. Don’t worry, you’ll soon be happy just worshiping the wealthy people you think you could be someday with enough hard work, and all that cognitive dissonance will fade into the past.
Hey, that does sound like progress, doesn’t it?
I could say Beyoncé has joined the ranks of the Pinkers. And why not? Malcolm Gladwell’s a Pinker, and he’s black. There’s no rule that you can’t be both black and a Pinker!
What do Pinkers get out of their self-congratulations, exaggerations, half-truths, and Pollyannaism? It’s not difficult to see that they either imagine they gain something or actually gain something, because they go to such efforts to flog the narrative that civilization is at least on a path, however slow, to improvement for everyone.
The scientific data and observable evidence is that the Earth’s temperature is increasing, which will continue to increase the number and severity of catastrophic weather events, hinder food production, create forced migration and geo-political strife. That should go a long way toward negating the fairytale of an ever-ennobling humanity.
But maybe the Pinkers are those members of the bourgeoisies who are simply comfortable, and want to believe that, in the long run, their comfort doesn’t come at the expense of the dignified survival of others. No one need question whether their comfort is justified, because, in the fullness of time, life is getting better and better. No need to point to the class forces creating rape slaves and wage slaves, homelessness, capitalist violence, imperial commandeering of the resources of the Earth. Most of humanity is doing pretty well, and each year more and more become members of that majority. Have some patience, silly. Yes, injustice is terrible, and you should dance and sing about subverting it, but it obviously takes many centuries to improve conditions. We’re all doing the best we can.
And Beyoncé gets to be the first black woman to wear what looks like a crystal of solidified urine.
Well, as forests burn, the atmosphere’s CO2 content increases, species die off at a rate unprecedented since that last great extinction of sixty-five million years ago, and arable land along with forests and oceanic carbon sinks shrivel to nothing, the cheery outlook of the comfortable grows less and less persuasive.
Meanwhile, I’m pushing opposite propaganda. I don’t think conditions are getting better and better with each succeeding century. Some things are getting better. A vastly greater percentage of people are literate. But a vastly greater percentage of people now have access to misleading information and plain old attractive lies, so it’s entirely possible that whatever was good about increased literacy is annihilated by the crap information people are consuming.
I must be getting something out of peddling my doomsday scenario. Right? Why am I pushing my interpretation of history? Why do I think my spin on the fate of humanity is even worth sharing? I’m not making big bucks from it. I don’t get to wear an amulet of crystallized pee because of it. I’m not easing my mind, justifying my comfortable existence, unless you think being convinced the human world, best case scenario, soon will be firmly in one of its most tragic phases ever is somehow “comfortable.”
I guess, despite the fact that humanity is on a downward arc these days, these doofus days, these trash fire days, despite the fact that humans are the buffoons of the cosmos, as uncomfortable as it is to admit it, I am human. And lying to myself and to you about our current conditions would make me feel not human. Why is feeling human important to me? I don’t know. Maybe it makes me comfortable to feel part of this species, even a disdaining, finger-wagging, pitying, angry part. Maybe I just need to feel like I belong. Maybe I’m just another brand of Pinker.
The fact is, though, we’re in for a hell of a turd storm in the coming decades, and we brought it on ourselves. Pinkers notwithstanding. Pinkers are in for an unpleasant surprise if they think humans are going to get us out of this mess before there’s a whole lot of suffering.
Pinkers should join us humans and get prepared for the worst, or at least support the efforts at fighting the system of normalized selfish wealth accumulation and materialistic growth that keeps us going down the tubes. But perhaps that is not in their nature. Perhaps one’s soul transforms in some horrible way when one becomes a Pinker.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
Up here in Antrim County, MI, there’s a rumor afoot that the founder of the Friske family orchards was a real live runaway Nazi. Well, not really a rumor at this point. He was a pilot for Hitler’s Luftwaffe.
But for a long time, it’s said, he used to refer to himself merely as a WWII veteran. Maybe to avoid the bad association some folks have with those who fought on behalf of the Third Reich. And I don’t blame the guy for concealing it. US citizens – those who call themselves “Americans”—are a bigoted bunch. There was a time when resentment of Germans was so strong here, people changed the word “sauerkraut” to “liberty cabbage” in casual conversation. And what could be more casual than talking about fermented shredded cabbage?
So, somehow, Richard Friske, who arrived in the US with his wife, Olga, in 1952, figured that in order to better disguise his German Nazi fliegendermann background, he could do worse than to don the mantle of US neo-Nazi, so he joined the John Birch Society, supported George Wallace for president in ’68, and got his entire family to be rabid nativists. The Friskes donate to David Duke, Rick Santorum and a number of other brainless spewers of hate against immigrants, homosexuals, and uppity city slickers like yours truly.
People up here still tell about the Friske’s no-mask policy during the pandemic lockdown. One letter to the editor of The Petoskey News-Review vowed never to return after seeing the workers in the kitchen handling food unmasked during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was part of Friske’s policy “of allowing staff and customers to make personal choices regarding their health.” It sounds like they want us to be able to pick our own doctors, or maybe get an abortion should we choose one, but really they just want to give everyone the freedom to spread whatever infections they might be harboring.
The letter-writer concludes by mourning that they will never again enjoy the taste of Friske’s cherry doughnuts. The ones in the brown paper bag with grease stains indicating freshness.
Friske’s wasn’t just a passive spreader of the virus. They’ve held a couple super-spreader events in their parking lot, to bawl and whinge about the tyranny of the face mask mandate and how Democrats were out to turn the white man extinct. Last month The MyPillow guy was there for a mass viral load sharing, along with the famous crazy lady who testified drunkenly to the Michigan state legislature next to Rudy Giuliani, and a few hundred other brainwashed foot soldiers of the Trump regime. They were big supporters of a lawsuit to try to get the county’s votes in the last presidential election recounted, Arizona-style. The suit was dismissed because even the Republican judge found that the count had been properly reviewed already.
And, Friske’s, whose motto is, “Not Your Average Fruit Stand,” they do walk the walk, goose- step the goose-step, sometimes even backwards. Even their proud associations with David Duke, the NRA, the John Birch society, and other anti-foreigner organizations, don’t prevent their field labor staff from being admirably diverse. In fact, they were recently raided for employing undocumented immigrants.
Last August, a helpful, neighborly fascist started a fundraiser to stave off “the potential forced closing of our business for refusing to submit to Governor Witmer's unlawful executive orders.” To date, eleven months later, it has yet to reach even half its monetary goal. Apparently, fellow fascists up here are taking up the cause of exercising the free choice to keep their dollars in their wallets.
Friske’s counterpart closer to the reasonable end of the spectrum is King Orchards. They have always been liberal Democrat leaners, not particularly revolutionary, but neither are they overtly supportive of a nativist populism that might make one think of the Ku Klux Klan. They have honored mask requirements and avoided shows of militia-like rebellion against guidelines for businesses to avoid spreading dangerous viruses.
But one needn’t be as radically left as King Orchards is ridiculously considered to be by those insulated within a fascist news bubble, like the listeners to multiple felon “Trucker” Randy Bishop, Antrim County’s white rural version of Tokyo Rose. Most businesses have found it in their non-radical hearts to honor restrictions intended to curtail the spread of Covid-19.
In Charlevoix, about fifteen minutes north of fascist Friske’s, is John Cross Fisheries, where we in the Dorchen family acquire our fish, including salmon, whitefish, and trout, smoked right there on the Cross premises. In fact, my sister and I bought about sixty bucks worth on Monday for consumption by our extended family of Jews, mixed race Catholics, a lapsed Baptist, and a first-generation Cambodian of no declared cosmological belief so far.
When my sister and I entered the establishment to purchase our freshwater delicacies, we honored the sign that said we could enter maskless if we’d been fully vaccinated, and we added our number of customer bodies to the two already inside, bringing the number to four, the highest number allowable. As we were communicating and awaiting our order, the other two patrons left and two newcomers came in to replace them, but a third buzzardlike crone attempted to enter as well. The Paul Bunyan-esque blonde woman at the counter wasn’t having it: “Only four allowed in at a time.”
“But I’m with them,” insisted the weirding woman, as if that declaration somehow altered the mathematical nature of reality. Which is why I snickered cruelly, which sound, I believe, sent the hag scampering.
John Cross III, the owner of the joint, is no innocent, however. It’s just that associating with seccessionistas is not his style, which style showed itself in April, 2019, when he was sentenced to a year in federal custody after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge related to his acquisition and sales of illegally caught lake trout. Cross would be allowed to serve his time “in the offseason,” it was reported, which I thought was a nod to Cross’s otherwise decent behavior as a businessman, and the seventy-year legacy of Cross Fisheries in general. Ancient listeners might remember an essay of mine entitled “Thomas Friedman vs The Methodist Fish Fry.” Spoiler alert: the fish fry wins. And the titular fish in that story was indeed provided by John Cross Fisheries.
There was an agreement between tribal fishing nations and the US government that the tribespeople would change over from using gill nets to trap nets, in order not to maim the fish they caught. And, in order to replenish the lake trout population in the Great Lakes, they would release lake trout caught in the new nets, keeping only less threatened species such as perch, pike, and whitefish, for consumption and sale. In exchange for releasing the lake trout, the government was giving the tribal fisherfolk subsidies of up to $200,000.
But one particular tribal go-getter wanted to augment their subsidy by selling their catch wholesale to John Cross, who went on to sell it himself to restaurants and the general public. Whether Cross knew he was committing a felony is unknown, but the onus was on him to verify the legal source of his product. It was only his and his business’s standing in the community, I believe, that allowed him to negotiate the felony charge down to a misdemeanor pleading.
And, hey, I once negotiated a B&E with larcenous intent charge down to an illegal entry and larceny under $100 charge, so, like, I know how that goes. John III and I are the same age, too, so even though I think a fishmonger owes it to the earth and water to take extra-good care of the sustainability of his source of livelihood, all-in-all I’m glad he negotiated a lenient punishment, as long as he promises never to do it again.
And at least he’s not a fascist, as far as I know.
It’s almost impossible for any business to avoid legal problems at some point in their existence. I don’t know what clandestine shenanigans King Orchards is up to, but at least they don’t rile up the populace and invite out-of-state seditious riot-inciters to bounce around in their parking lot. At least they don’t act as boosters for twisted conspiracy propaganda, not of the rightwing variety, anyway.
My dad was coming home from the dump, which is only open on Saturday, on 88, and as he was heading back, came across a whole police and sheriff presence gathered around the King Orchards roadside store. He thought maybe they were there to greet the new pickers for the big surge in the cherry season. He stopped and asked a sheriff’s deputy.
It seems that, for taking the trouble to be all nice and antifa, King Orchards received a visit from none other than Simple Joe Malarkey Biden, the current president of the US. Probably influenced by the recent NYT article about the political split among roadside fruit farms in Antrim County, which has been reposted and reprinted a lot in local news outlets, Joe gave fascist Friske’s on 31, “Not Your Average Fruit Stand,” the cold shoulder, preferring to tool down Mancelona highway 88 to procure a baker’s dozen cherry pies from King Orchards over the July 4 weekend.
And that’s all the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the fascists have guns, all the guns are good-looking, and all the fruit stands are above average. This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
I was going to talk about magic as if there is an enemy by the name of Dawkins Harris Hitchens whom I must rebut, rebuke, and spank, lest humankind plunge into disaster. I was going to talk about magic as a food, a necessity. Why? Because this week has been so rollercoaster, I can’t get a grip on it. I can barely get a foothold on the slippery sizzling Earth.
Kind of a mixed bag this week or so, is what I’m saying. We’ve got a building collapse with 150-something people missing, but we really won’t know how many till we dig them out. It’s similar to the building disaster in London last year. And there’s a similar sense that Reagan and Thatcher’s plans to starve the public sector is really starting to bear fruit.
Of course, both collapses are reminiscent of 9-11, but we can’t possibly blame that on imperialist overreach and the immanent downfall of the West, can we?
But on the up side we did have some criminal indictments come down against the Trump team, and Rudy Giuliani lost his license to practice law.
But then again the Pennsylvania Supreme Court let convicted rapist of unconscious women he himself drugged unconscious, Bill Cosby, out of jail. And there was a PhD white supremacist shooter who killed two Black people in an incident in Massachusetts no one’s talking about.
And the Pacific Northwest is now the same temperature as the surface of Mercury. Ups and downs, good news/bad news.
But yesterday, the final day of Pride Month – I’d like to tie this in with Pride Month –Donald Rumsfeld, demented fascist war and peace criminal under no less than five administrations, up and died. So, all right! As they say in poker, “call!” He and Dick Cheney were joined at the junk early on under Nixon. Reagan was their third boss. Reagan was to AIDS and HIV what Trump is to Covid 19. Maybe Rumsfeld didn’t have much to do with that part of the Reagan regime, but it’s still good he died.
Hurrah, huzzah! Rumsfeld’s dead, Rumsfeld’s dead, everybody dance and sing!
We can close this all on an up note! Right? Rumsfeld, dead, that is big and beautiful enough to take center stage as the curtain rings down on June 2021. Closing Pride Month with Rumsfeld losing his one precious garbage life is the splash! It’s like there was a new star born in the sky over Stonewall at the best possible moment, when everyone orgasmed! Oh, such joy!
“Oh, Jeff, he wasn’t such a big fish. He was a henchman,” you say. Yes, that’s the best thing you can say about Donald Dagwood Bumstead Rumsfeld, born under a bad sign, a no-vacancy sign that kept flickering on and off, in 1932, in the vermin infested basement of a roach motel. Yes, yes, but he was the henchman of all henchmen. He was the henchman’s henchman.
Rumsfeld could have been a great man, had he lived in an age where the size and weight of one’s skull determined the outcome of one’s career. But he was wooed by the siren song of power. Not just of power, but of being right, being important, making the big calls, the right calls, taking a big obese bite out of the world.
During the course of his life he somehow convinced himself that geo-political stability was the key, the talisman, the golden goblet from which to guzzle the Santorum of Ares. And, of course, the key to that key, the key to stability, was US military dominance. All in the service of US military dominance. All right and wrong, all murder and mayhem, all scheming and spying, for US military supremacy.
Two million Indochinese dead? For stability! Latin America under rampant fascist bloody tyranny? For stability! Panama, Grenada, Libya. For stability! And when he actually had the authority to call the shots: three-quarters of a million Afghanis displaced, and any excuse to invade Iraq. For stability! Torture, torture, and more torture. For stability! Anything and everything, social cohesion, whether foreign or domestic, workers’ rights, human rights, public wellbeing, all were secondary to geo-political stability, which he defined as: no one he had to see on a daily basis getting bombs dropped on them; for that, all must be sacrificed to the Sacred Golden Bull of US military superiority.
And, in the end, he never learned his lesson. He just died. In his final moment, the devil grabbed him by the face holes like a bowling ball and yanked him out of his physical existence. And then he was reincarnated as an ostracized stinkbug, rejected by stinkbug society. And I don’t know what happened to him after that.
And that is joy, my fellow humans, mammals, vertebrates, eucaryotes. That is the reason that, today, we rejoice. That is the reason the mountains skip like rams, and the clouds like lambs. Because death comes to us all, all of us who have tasted life, sometimes tragically, sometimes comically. But sometimes foulness itself dies. Not that foulness has disappeared from the Earth. But a very significant foulness has been snuffed out.
And that, my loves, is magic.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
Juneteenth is now a federal holiday in the USA. It’s nationwide! It’s been celebrated by Black people since 1866, a year after the event that instigated it happened, when, on June 19, 1865, Union Army general Gordon Granger came to Galveston, Texas to announce and enforce the Emancipation Proclamation of three years earlier. Texas was the last Confederate state to still maintain slavery.
So, Juneteenth doesn’t just celebrate the official end of legal chattel slavery of human beings in the United States, it also celebrates when the Union Army came and forced Texas to stop enslaving Black people. It doesn’t just celebrate that the government announced there was to be an official legal change in the status of Black human beings: it commemorates the sad truth that some people are so attached to their domination over other people’s bodies, labor, and choices that they have to be forced at gunpoint to even pretend to acknowledge their personhood.
And this is the first year it’s gone national! Official! Legit!
What does one do on Juneteenth? Celebrate Black culture in all its multifaceted magnificence, that’s what! Sing, dance, buy shea butter products and green yellow and black T-shirts, eat soul food and drink strawberry soda. Educate yourself about Black history. Pay attention to Black political and artistic voices. Watch “Small Axe,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” and reruns of “Tremé” and “Watchmen.”
I was very excited to celebrate Juneteenth this year. Finally, a national holiday I could get behind. But maybe it was because President Simple Joe Malarkey only declared it a couple days before the holiday, so it was too short notice, or maybe I just didn’t plan the day right. I don’t want to call out anyone by name, but I was very disappointed. I didn’t get invited to a single cookout. There’s one I probably could’ve invited myself to, and there was the two-day street bash in Leimert Park, but, you know, a fellow likes to be asked.
It is true that Juneteenth has been celebrated for a hundred fifty-five years, and never once in all that time have I been invited to a bash, cookout, sock hop, soiree, or to-do. So why should I expect to be invited to one now, just because some old white dude signed a piece of paper?
I don’t remember Black people demanding that Juneteenth be made a national holiday, anyway. So it’s not like my attitude can be, “Hey, you wanted this. It’s my holiday too, now! Just like everybody’s Irish on St. Paddy’s Day, everybody’s young, gifted, and Black on Juneteenth!”
An essay titled, “Is Juneteenth for Everybody?” was published by The Crunk Feminist Collective, and republished in MS. Written by feminist of color scholar and activist Brittney Cooper, it’s her personal ruminations on the meaning of the holiday, and her reaction to its being embraced by white people, and by Black people who hadn’t previously known about, until last year when the protests against police carte blanche to murder Black people were conspicuously in the public eye.
One paragraph from the essay seems particularly salient to me:
“The only thing that Juneteenth can and should mean to white people in 2021 is an opportunity to reckon with the 156-year history and very present threat of white denialism. A significant swath of white people simply refuse to acknowledge that they lost on November 3 ... They have in great defiance of the truth, decided that if they just don’t concede, they can hold the nation hostage to their vision of a world of Black and Brown subjugation and white dominance.”
She’s referring not just to today’s white denialism, but the white denialism of Reconstruction, when the South forced their denial of defeat in the Civil War on their Black populations through terrorism and Jim Crow, and white denialism as a continuous toxic vein throughout our national history.
We all have our “shoulds,” but the instant someone tells me what something “should” mean to me, or what I “should” do, or how I “should” behave, I instantly become annoyed, aggrieved, and resistant. That’s part of my heritage as a spiritual descendant of those who’ve always resisted persecution and analyzed its causes in order to rebel against them, in every age. That’s what I think Black people, white people, queer people, poor people, and all people should do. That’s my big should, and it’s why capitalism is at the top of my list of wrongs to be righted.
But in the end I can’t say I really have any disagreement with Cooper’s analysis, and her prescription didn’t hurt my prickly, fragile feelings hardly at all. I agree that Juneteenth is one among many opportunities for me to reckon with the history and threat of white denialism.
But I also want food. Like it or not, it’s a national holiday now, and if it’s not a fast, it’s a feast. So Juneteenth morning at about eight am I woke up and drove down to the corner of Vernon and San Pedro, a few blocks east of the 110, to where I used to patronize a particularly marvelous carnitas truck before Covid. I just wanted to make sure they were still there, and they were, a friend and I could go there the next day, which we were planning to do. But I happened to score a very rare parking space just a few yards from the truck, so I figured I’d have one taco.
2 bucks for the best carnitas taco, with the meat and skin so beautifully chopped up together. Best money I ever spent on food. By the time I was finished it was about 9:30 am, and I thought I might drop by Phillip’s BBQ, which was about 7 minutes away. Phillip’s is excellent BBQ, and surely there would be something special going on for Juneteenth. I saw on Google Maps that it opened at 11. I could kill an hour or so.
I drove around the Leimert Park neighborhood, where there was scheduled to be a big thing for the next couple days, but that didn’t start till noon, and folks were barely even beginning to set up. Then I went and parked across the street from Phillip’s, and listened to some This Is Hell while biding my time... until I got out and saw their special Juneteenth hours had them opening an hour later than usual. And they were warning of crowds and the necessity of pre-ordering. And Chef Marilyn’s, Queen of Downhome Southern Goodies, down the block, was similarly delayed and similarly warning. And I had to pee.
I bought a bottle of Fanta strawberry at a gas station, hoping in exchange to bargain for the use of their bathroom. No dice. So, I peed behind the gas station.
I got antsy and went home. Too much waiting is not celebrating. Later in the day I made myself some country ribs and chicken to go with my red soda. Not a big fan of BBQ brisket. I’ve rarely had it done right, and it’s not a cheap cut of meat.
And then I watched an episode or two of the TV adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad. And then I wrote this.
And that could be the way I’ll do Juneteenth from now on. But another tradition I have is to try to ingratiate myself in order to wangle invites to holiday meals. Rosh Hashanah, Passover, Christmas, Thanksgiving, or any old parking meter holiday barbecue, that’s my holiday ritual. I’m sure my Black friends who celebrate have been doing so with their extended families for years and years, and I know I’m not part of those families or those traditions. And maybe they’re afraid I’ll say something foolish, like, “Y’know what Juneteenth needs? A mascot. Kid friendly. Like, maybe, Hong Kong Phooey, the cartoon martial arts expert dog janitor voiced by Scatman Crothers. Or Urkel! Everybody loves Urkel!” Hey, I promise not to do that, nor anything of the sort.
My sincere condolences that your holiday has been commandeered by the United States of America. It’s an empire! That’s just how they do things. They did it to your bodies, your music, and your food. I mean, you really should be used to it.
And, listen, commemorating the refusal to relinquish or even acknowledge legal domination over other people’s bodies, choices, and labor until forced at gunpoint – that’s a holiday we’ve needed forever. Let’s make it American as apple pie!
So, get ready for next year. Guess who’s coming to dinner? This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!