Broken Turtle Blog

Broken Turtle Blog

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Are We Making Progress in the Culture War?

Since the midterm elections many with whom I've discussed the outcome have shared the dismay regarding the gains of the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party. My response has been that at least in our northern part of Delaware we seemed to have had better sense. As the results came in, I examined the voting trends by consulting those maps of Delaware provided by various media that displayed the red and blue areas of our state. Delaware was pretty much divided into a blue northern part of the state with a rim of red that ran across the arc that borders us with Pennsylvania where the wealthy live in chateau country, and a mostly red southern portion of the state except for an enclave in the vicinity of Lewes and Rehoboth where there is a large population of retired well educated professional people and artists.

Seeing this blue enclave in a sea of red downstate where I have a growing circle of friends in the burgeoning cultural community was heartening. It made me wonder if our efforts in the northern portion of Delaware with regards to our cultural activity over the past thirty years has paid off.

In 1984, when Ronald Reagan was reelected, I kind of saw the handwriting on the wall and backed away from the intense direct political activity in which I'd been engaged and sought a kind of cultural rapprochement. Part of the reason was connected to personal survival, but the major reason was to broaden the struggle into a larger social arena. That initial wave of extreme right wing lunacy seemed to be riding the crest of cultural initiatives that I perceived to have reactionary content.

In short, direct political activity might be good for winning the minds of people, but cultural activity might be better to win their hearts.

In general, I concluded that cultural activity added social value that both is ineffably valuable to the quality of our lives and comes closer to inherent truths within our individual selves. While the corporate and banking ruling circles in our country were using the ascendancy of the right wing to impoverish us economically, I felt it important to add cultural value to provide cohesion to those inherent truths of who we are and who we've been, and based on these, who we could become.

Considering all this, my conclusions still insisted on taking the form of questions during the course of reassessing my previous cultural activity. As far back as the late 1970s, when I became involved with Wilmington's Black press, I gained an innate understanding of the cultural component of a community and the value for social cohesion it embraced. This had been an important element in our efforts to undermined the Marshall machine and to begin to elect Black candidates to city offices and to pave the way to electing Wilmington's first Black mayor. After 1984, and after the ruling circles in Delaware conspired to crush The Delaware Valley Star, my writing in the local Black press reflected issues related more to social and cultural ones, like the effects of the "drug war," along with matters of music, literature and other aspects of local cultural history, and the social and cultural need for the ruling circles to pay reparations for the damage incurred by slavery and the institutionalized racism that has followed. But, to return to the subject, would the Black community at large have voted for right wing lunatic fringe candidates? I think not!

Nevertheless, questions of my work on behalf of providing cultural value to our local community persist. Has my work contributed to at least some people thinking more deeply, clearly and more critically about our environment? Has my work, under the aegis of the Dreamstreets project, on behalf of local literary artists, both from the past and in the present, improved our social and cultural environment? Has my broadcasting work on behalf of our local literary history and community, as well as our history of jazz artists, had an effect on protecting our ignored cultural history from those right wing lunatic fringe elements who would wish to belittle that legacy in order to gain some cultural hegemony based on Delaware's tired old legacy of cultural mediocrity, which serves the interests of the ruling corporate and banking circles that seek to control our lives? Have any of those who have joined in on performing this kind of cultural activity contributed even some small modicum of difference? I'd like to think so, even in some minuscule, intangible way so that people in this part of Delaware can think more sensibly about the political decisions made in the voting booth.

Even if I'm giving myself too much credit regarding my role in social and cultural progress, what matters most is that whatever it takes to counter the intent of the lunatic fringe from negatively influencing our lives is helpful. I don't intend on stopping. Never give the bastards an inch because they will take a mile.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Comments to Fear/Sanity Comments

To David:
I agree, and disagree. Yes, you deserve to be mad as hell that the world is as evil as it is, and that the Obama administration has meaningfully failed, and even betrayed, some of its campaign promises. But, what are you going to do, throw a tantrum? The pear is not ripe right now for revolution, even if you want one-- but only for sensationalist rebellion that hardens hearts to no good end. Acquiescence is not the only alternative. Old saying: Don't get mad, get even. Translation: Don't rage, get civil, and under that cover be crafty as a cheshire cat.

To Phillip Bannowsky:
All that I called the Fear/Sanity event was "good medicine," much humbler than "medicine for all that ails us," as you phrase it, which I don't claim. And yes, Stewart and Colbert are, finally, just centrist show-bizzers. But so what, if, as you say, it's up to the rest of us? I do not suggest we bow down before our tools, just the opposite. We should pick up all available tools to our purpose. These brilliant and sophisticated commedians are available instruments. I say avail.

To Anonymous:
You say he, Obama, needs to "start kicking some ass." I agree. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you're seeing the Fear/Sanity event (at least as I've portrayed it) as a self-defeating harmonizing with Obama's, as you put it, "transcendental coolness." Although I personally admire his professorial tone, I see how it fails in our anti-intellectual, wild west political culture. Picture Obama: "Now, class, let us all turn to page 34." So we do, except half of us tear page 34 out of the book, so we can't all be on the same page anymore. You're right, Obama is far too civil. But he is the President, and the rest of us are not. So, different rules. If little old me is going to kick ass in a land of already too many combat boots, it's going to have to be done with an old soft shoe.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fear and Sanity

What the?... Yes, my thought exactly on last weekend's Colbert/Stewart Fear/Sanity party on the Mall in Washington D.C. My wife and I attended-- attended?-- showed for the duration. And "show" is the operative term.

Well, it was the most populous D.C. event I've ever been to. I missed Obama's inauguration, but even the anti-Vietnam war Pentagon March of 1967 was out-populated. The train ride into town (we left our car on the outskirts) was so packed you could only have slid in more people horizontally against the ceiling. And yet the mood was fabulous. The crowd, mostly young people (My wife and I are in the old category now) laughed and joked, and frequently broke into song that infected the whole car, often songs from the '60's and '70's, songs popular decades before most of the singers were born. Who would have thought the spirit lives on?

When we got to the Mall we couldn't get on it-- too many people. We got only as far as the famously last-minute available batteries of port-o-potties. Spry youngsters climbed trees for a better view, but I doubt they saw more than head tops. So we never got to see-- or even hear-- the stage deal. All we got was: one another.

So I guess that was the point: it had to be, none other was available. We'd bothered to come to the Capitol for a show, and got one, ourselves. It was quite a party, and decked out with costumes and signs that were dedicatedly playful, politically a blearly crayon-scape, when political at all. Bear in mind the next day was Halloween, and the adult trick-or-treaters were testing out their equipment. Election Day to follow 3 days later. Who's your favorite ghoul? Vote with your candy.

Only later, at home, on TV, did we "see and hear" the official event. It was a pleasant and appropriate enough pop show, and after all it was finally just a theatrical event. Or, was it, despite itself? How can you ever, no matter how hard you try, not be everything you are? How can you not, even by brushing your teeth, tell the world what you care about? Jon Stewart made a terrific serious speech. My take is this: We are invited to enjoy the god-given right to be afraid, which implies the god-given imperative to be awake and alert; we are also invited to understand that sanity requires a no-pain no-gain grunt attitude, and that in our consumerist society sanity is not a luxury item, but one shelved next to the rice and beans.

But Jon Stewart already made this speech, and his was better than mine.

Did we do any good? I valued learning what I can only hope others learned also, that there are so many people of good will who "get it" that their numbers can crush you half to death in a wide open space, even in these politically ugly times. I valued seeing that this has not changed since 1967: Americans have the capacity to behave in a responsible and orderly way, even under stress and running amok. I almost feel sorry for the D.C. cops: they looked so bored.

The whole deal was good medicine, even if only in the sense that it did the patient no harm.