Historian Andrew Hartman visits the new Trump front of American culture wars of the 1980s and 90s (and 60s and 70s) - as longstanding divisions around class and identity remap themselves onto a new cultural and economic landscape in the decade after the 2008 financial crash, and increasing polarization presents both a challenge and an opportunity for the left.
Andrew wrote the article The Culture Wars are Dead: Long live the culture wars! for The Baffler.
John is author of the new book Trump Unveiled: Exposing the Bigoted Billionaire from OR Books.
"A long long time ago. I can still remember how that music used to make me smile." Don MacLean, singer/songwriter who penned the hit song "American Pie," knew that if he had his chance he could make people dance. So they might be happy for a while. Normally they were sad. It was, after all, February, 1959, and the newspapers had nothing but bad news in them. Not exactly sure what MacLean had to complain about other than the cold. The Cuban Revolution had just happened, ousting dictator Fulgencio Batista, which caused US-based mobster Meyer Lansky to flee Havana for the Bahamas. At least at that moment, the future of Cuba looked bright.
Down in North Carolina, four students had just staged the first Civil Rights sit-in at a whites-only lunch counter. Pope John the XXIII inaugurated Vatican II, the radical refocus of the church toward human rights and the needs of the poor, which has since been undone. Only now, 40-some years later, with the accession of Pope Francis, is the Catholic church beginning to bring itself back on course. True, the South Vietnamese government had used intimidation, bolstered by almost a billion dollars in US aid, to stage an election victory, but that should have come as good news to the white, innocent US citizens of the late 1950s.
Oh, that's right. Buddy Holly was killed in a plane crash. That was the bad news on the doorstep. That was the day the music died. It's worth noting that Buddy Holly himself chartered the plane, on which Ritchie Valens, rock 'n roll's first Latin crossover hit-maker, also died. And that's racist.
But I won't debate Buddy Holly's racist assassination of Ritchie Valens here. The man did a lot for white coolness. Elvis Costello would have had to dress in a denim shirt and cowboy boots on the cover of My Aim Is True if it hadn't been for him. Holly also helped launch the career of country music legend Waylon Jennings, all the while penning rock 'n roll standards that would give George Thorogood material to fatten up his albums.
The Book of Love and faith in God and the Bible were the values we lost that day, according to MacLean. He was a lonely teenage broncin' buck, but he was shit out of luck when that plane went down. I mean, his girl was dancing to R&B in the gym with another guy. Black music was just beginning its reign of terror.
Don MacLean said goodbye to those quintessentially American... read more
On this day in the year 410 – (1,606 years ago) – the city of Rome was occupied and sacked by a foreign army for the first time in almost eight hundred years. Alaric, king of the invading Visigoths, had previously fought alongside the Romans, losing thousands of his men in battle, but then had grown disenchanted with Roman rule. After leading raids and blockades through Greece and Italy, he and his troops laid seige to Rome and sacked the city. Then they moved southward down the Italian peninsula, reaching the town of Cosentia, now known as Cosenza, where Alaric suddenly died of a fever. Legend has it that his troops built a dam to divert the Busento River, buried their dead commander in the river bed with a pile of his Roman loot, then removed the dam, returning the river to its original course. Sixteen centuries later, Italian archaeologists armed with ground-penetrating radar and other high-tech gear are still searching the river for Alaric and his buried treasure.
On this date in 1883 – (133 years ago) – after a long series of increasingly severe tremors and eruptions, the volcanic island of Krakatoa in the Dutch East Indies (now known as Indonesia) finally collapsed in the most powerful explosion in recorded history. Four times as powerful as the biggest nuclear bomb ever detonated, the blast was clearly heard by people three thousand miles away, and the global shock wave was detected as far away as the English Channel. Two- thirds of the main island, along with several smaller islands nearby, simply disappeared. The explosion and its associated tsunamis killed at least 36,000 people, and some estimates go as high as a 100,000. The thick, soupy cloud of volcanic ash, four miles high, spread into the atmosphere, causing brilliant red sunsets and strangely altered weather patterns around the world for the next five years.
On this day in 1896 – (120 years ago) – the sudden death of the sultan of Zanzibar precipitated the Anglo-Zanzibar War, now known as the shortest war in history. The dead sultan had been supported by the British, who preferred that he be succeeded by Hamid bin Muhammad. When the sultans’ nephew, Khalid bin Bargash, seized power instead, the Brits assembled five warships in the nearby harbor and issued an ultimatum, ordering him and his troops to stand down. When the deadline passed with no response, the Brits... read more
Arun wrote the Alternet article Why Hillary's Neoconservative Foreign Policy Will Make The Problem of Islamophobia Worse, and is featured in the collection Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter from Verso Books.
Sarah's first book, Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt, is available now from Nation Books.
Kevan will be reporting on political and social upheaval in Armenia, Greece, Lebanon and Ukraine.
Julianne wrote the article HR Comes Last at Startups, and Women Pay the Price for Vice's Motherboard.
Henry's new book is America at War with Itself from City Lights Books.
Jeff told me this won't be like that episode where Dan and Roseanne smoke their old weed, in case you had your hopes up.
Here's what Chuck is reading to prepare for Saturday's show:
Why Hillary's Neoconservative Foreign Policy Will Make The Problem of Islamophobia Worse - Arun Kundnani [Alternet]
Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt - Sarah Jaffe [Nation Books]
HR Comes Last at Startups, and Women Pay the Price - Julianne Tveten [Motherboard]
America at War with Itself - Henry Giroux [City Lights Books]
On the origins, and persistence, of racist thought in America. - Ibram X. Kendi
Bright years of resurgence: The revolutionary potential of #BlackLivesMatter. - Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
Why the practice of racism itself produces and prolongs the illusion of race. - Barbara and Karen Fields