Free State of Jones: The First Honest Movie about Reconstruction

"Free State of Jones" is genuinely bold filmmaking in its refusal to romanticize a the violence and terrorism of war and its aftermath.

Free State of Jones is genuinely bold filmmaking that refuses to romanticize the violence and terrorism of war and its aftermath.

Americans really love their Civil War. In the popular imagination, the Civil War is the nation’s trial by fire; that utterly necessary event that determined if a house divided against itself could rise from the ashes and prove to the world that a nation “of the people, by the people, for the people” could survive.

Yet beneath the mythology of reconciliation is the reality of a war that endured long after the armies laid down their guns. Strip away the mythology and you’re left with what the eminent historian Eric Foner calls America’s “Unfinished Revolution,” a revolution defined by violence, terrorism, and a string of broken promises that stifled the march of equality for generations. This “Unfinished Revolution” was Reconstruction, and the film Free State of Jones depicts Reconstruction’s brutal reality better than any previous popular treatment.

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What in the Heck Does it Mean to be a Democrat?

The 2016 Democratic PArty ticket. I guess it's better than the End of the World.

The 2016 Democratic Party ticket. I guess it’s better than the End of the World.

On Halloween night, 1936, incumbent Democratic president Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave a riveting speech at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The United States was in the eighth year of the Great Depression, and FDR was fixin’ to tout his smorgasbord of government programs known collectively as the New Deal.

FDR acknowledged that Americans “wanted peace of mind instead of gnawing fear.” To offer this piece of mind, he promised to protect currency, ensure fair wages, reduce working hours, end child labor, and crush financial speculation. Moreover, The president directly addressed the business and financial interests and their Republican allies who opposed his administration: “Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.” Democrats used to talk like that. They ought to again.

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Trump’s Candidacy Reveals the Sham of American Exceptionalism

Donald Trump bends othe epublican PArty over and makkes it cry "Uncle" in Cleveland.

Donald Trump bends the Republican Party over and makes it cry “Uncle” in Cleveland.

Something smells foul in Cleveland, and for once, it isn’t Lake Erie fish die-offs, the polluted Cuyahoga River, or the Indians’ post-All-Star Break performance. Nope, the stench wafting above the city’s majestic brown and gray skyline came from the Quicken Loans Arena, where the Republican Party officially coronated its own version of a mid-20th century authoritarian Strongman on July 21, 2016.

Historically, America’s conservative party has been no stranger to political scare-tactics, but in his speech to officially accept the Republican presidential nomination, Donald J. Trump — he of the bombastic ego and even more bombastic roadkill coiffurelaid out an apocalyptic vision of America that was beholden less to Ronald Reagan that it was to Immortan Joe.

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Why America Always Has Been (and Always Will be) Divided

Protestors face off against Baton Rouge's heavily militarized poice force folowing the shooting of Alton Sterling.

Protesters face off against Baton Rouge’s heavily militarized police force following the shooting of Alton Sterling.

On the evening of July 27, 2004, during a steaming hot summer in the city of Boston, Massachusetts, the junior senator from Illinois took the stage at the Democratic Party’s national convention and delivered one of the most important speeches in modern political history. Though the convention’s focus was to anoint the hapless John Kerry as the party’s standard-bearer for what became a futile effort to boot President George W. Bush from the White House, the convention’s keynote speaker focused less on an uncertain present and more on a hopeful future.

That keynote speaker — future President Barack Obama — delivered an address squarely aimed at undermining the toxic national divisiveness that defined America during the Bush years. In perhaps the defining moment of his political career, Obama insisted that, “there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.” Twelve years later, in the twilight of President Obama’s second term in the White House, some think that America is more divided than ever.

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The Return of Nationalism in a Trump-Brexit World

Donald Trump talks ethnic nationalism in Scotland, seemingly unaware that Scottish voters opted to remain in the EU.

Donald Trump talks ethnic nationalism in Scotland, seemingly unaware that Scottish voters opted to remain in the EU.

Remember when the sun never set on the British Empire? Remember when political decisions made by dentally challenged limeys on some dank Atlantic island had far-reaching implications for the entire globe? Of course you don’t, but that might change in the very near future.

When the United Kingdom narrowly voted to leave the European Union on June 23, 2016 (a move popularly designated as “Brexit,” as in “Britain + Exit,” get it?! Yes, yes, very droll indeed), global markets shook, and badger-bouffanted blowhard Donald J. Trump went to Scotland to congratulate the Highlands’ heroic William Wallaces who “took their country back,” even though the Scots voted to stay in the EU. As he does about every world event about which he knows nothing, Trump has an opinion about Brexit, and like most of his opinions, it’s spectacularly wrong.

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Why Hillary Clinton is the Best Worst Candidate in the 2016 Election

Hillary Clinton has officially won the presumptive nomination for the less-awful-than-Trump party. Yay.

Hillary Clinton has officially won the presumptive nomination for the less-awful-than-Trump party. Yay.

Whelp, it’s over folks. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has made history by becoming the first woman to (officially unofficially) clinch the nomination for a major party’s presidential ticket. While I’ve been vocal in my support for Sen. Bernie Sanders over the former Secretary of State, Clinton’s nomination is nonetheless an awesome and historic moment in U.S. history.

Think about it: it took until two-thousand friggin’ sixteen for the United States to get a viable female candidate for the highest office in the land. That’s frankly disgraceful, but to paraphrase an apocryphal quote from Winston Churchill: Americans always do the right thing after they’ve exhausted all the other options.

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Did Donald Trump Destroy the Religious Right?

Ronald Reagan meets with the Rev. Jerry Falwell in the Oval Office, March 1983. They discussed whether or not Jellie Bellies were a "gay candy."

Ronald Reagan meets with the Rev. Jerry Falwell in the Oval Office, March 1983 to discuss whether or not Jelly Bellies were a “gay candy.”

There was a time in America, not so long ago, when thumping your dog-eared King James, warning about the threat posed by the queer-o-sexuals, and arguing that life began at the moment you noticed that glint in your girlfriend’s eye while watching Beach Blanket Bingo at the Podunkville Drive-In theater could transform you into a political kingmaker. From at least the late 1960s until the mid 2000s, presidents ranging from Richard Nixon, to Jimmy Carter, to Ronald Reagan, to George Dubya Bush ceremoniously kissed the totally not gay rings of Evangelical Grand Poobahs whose political clout ensured that so-called “Values Voters” would turn up at the polls to reclaim America for one VERY specific God.

But in the year 2016, America has a new God. His will is capricious. His hair is supernatural. And His wealth is so yooooge it would make King Solomon blush. This God is Donald J. Trump, and he appears to have rendered the once mighty Religious Right as impotent as a crew-cut Samson.

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Why the Triumph of Trump is Historic…and Totally Expected

Donald Trump is going to be the GOP nominee for President. But please finish reading this before you move to Canada.

Donald Trump will be the GOP nominee for President. But please finish reading this before you move to Canada.

Well, Republican America, you asked for it, and now you’ve got it. The Trumpocalypse is officially upon us. A certain Oompa-Loompa-toned, tumbleweed-domed, opulently pecunious, braggadocious real-estate developer, reality TV star, and one-time professional wrestling promoter will officially be the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in the 2016 general election.    

When Donald Trump crushed last-remaining GOP lizard man Ted Cruz in the Indiana primary, he breezed well past the required 1,237 delegates needed to clinch his party’s nomination. In the aftermath, every pundit in America who dismissed the Trump Train as the biggest political carni act in a generation that was doomed to fail worse than New Coke instead issued their confused mea culpas. The list of talking severed heads now stuffed into The Donald’s money bag includes New York Times statistics dweeb Nate Silver, University of Virginia political Nostradamus Larry Sabato, and pretty much everyone else who pays attention to the trillion-dollar sh*itstorm that is American politics.  

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Harriet Tubman, Andrew Jackson, and Making Change in America

Harriet Tubman will eventually replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill specifically for the purpose of annoying Donald Trump.

Harriet Tubman will eventually replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill specifically for the purpose of annoying Donald Trump.

Ever notice how a lot of so-called “controversies” in American culture aren’t actually controversies at all, but instead the externally manifested angst of conservatives who are highly skilled at snatching persecution from the jaws of privilege?

For example, you may have heard that the United States Treasury plans to replace former president, slaveholder, and Indian-wiper-outer Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with abolitionist and civil rights icon Harriet Tubman. The change to $20 notes won’t occur until 2030, but it’s the first successful result of a concentrated effort to get some female representation on U.S. currency. This is a welcome change that reflects intensely shifting racial, ethnic, and gender demographics in American society, so it stands to reason that some people would complain about it.

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In America, We are all Florida

The Florida Man Twitter feed is the most American thing ever, because Florida IS America.

The Florida Man Twitter feed is the most American thing ever, because Florida is the most American thing ever.

America is the place where people from all over the word come to live the American Dream. But in America itself, people move southward to live out something far more American than the American Dream: the Florida Dream.

Florida is where the runoff from America’s cultural stream settles into a fetid, stagnant pool of low taxes, cheap property prices, an endless supply of immigrant labor, cold weather-fleeing geriatrics, and trigger-happy right-wing politics. For decades, Sunshine State boosters have wrapped up the Florida Dream in a carefully marketed vision of an overly humid, sunburned paradise bolstered by an economic tripartite of hospitals, condominiums, and a gigantic, anthropomorphic mouse. And Americans can’t get enough of it.

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