Its American Thanksgiving today, so to celebrate, I wrote a piece for Salon. Go check it out!
Month: November 2013
The “Knockout” Game, Race, and Fears of Urban Crime in American History
Crime and cities have always been close bedfellows in America. The sense that cities, in contrast to the countryside, are havens of delinquency and debauchery populated by the worst kinds of morally deprived low-lifes is a longstanding notion in American culture that remains potent in the twenty-first century, even when urban crime rates are at their lowest point in some 40 years. But whatever the current level of crime in American cities, the denser populations of urban areas, when combined with the natural human proclivity towards delinquent behavior, has ensured that the cultural meme of “cities as havens of vice” has remained perennially popular.
The latest manifestation of urban crime fears is the viral panic over the supposed “knockout” trend that is currently sweeping the internet. Reports have emerged from cities such as Pittsburgh, New York, Philadelphia and others of the growing popularity of a depraved new game called “knockout” among groups of urban teenagers. As the New York Times reported, this game allegedly involves “young assailants…randomly picking unlucky targets and trying to knock them out with just one punch.” Essentially, the knockout game amounts to little more than a random, dangerous assault, since no reports of actual theft have emerged from these attacks.
Busting the Filibuster: Some History Behind the Senate’s Reactionary Procedure
Last week, Harry Reid, the Senate’s mousy, soft-spoken, bespectacled Mormon Majority Leader from the land of perpetual vice colloquially known as the state of Nevada unleashed his inner Incredible Hulk. The normally mild-mannered — but politically shrewd — Reid opened up the ultimate can of senatorial whoop ass by invoking the so-called “nuclear option,” a procedural act in the Senate that disregards a century of precedent by voting to end a filibuster with a simple majority rather than requiring the traditional votes of sixty senators. Reid justifiably dropped this bomb in order to overcome years of Republican filibustering of President Obama’s executive branch administration nominees.
On Liberalism: Its Faults and its Historical Necessity
If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I’m a political liberal. I make no apologies for this stance, and have spent plenty of time on this blog critiquing conservatism as a political theory. Simply put, I think that an examination of modern history supplies sufficient evidence to prove that liberalism, despite its many flaws, remains the best hope for individual freedom and small “r” republicanism in the modern world.
Liberalism, therefore, must be preserved and vigorously defended against the relentless conservative onslaught that, for decades, has sought to delegitimize it in the eyes of the American public. On many fronts, the Right has succeeded in doing just that, often with the unknowing aid of wishy-washy lefties who are quick to descend into hyperbolic pits of despair in moments when their ideas and policies falter. But this doesn’t mean that liberals shouldn’t critique their ideas in order to make them better and to justify why such ideas are superior to those of the Right in terms of extending freedom in America and across the globe.
Richard Cohen, Thomas Jefferson, and the Legacy of White Privilege in America
Richard Cohen, columnist for the Washington Post, understands something. He understands that white people have it rough. Or, at least they think that they have it rough. Some white people think that they’re losing their traditional privileges as the default ruling demographic in America. Their ensuing anger has, of late, once again lit the age-old fuse of white grievance in the United States, and numerous media outlets have spilled plenty of real and electronic ink trying to access the implications of this anger on American culture.
Richard Cohen is, like me, a white person, and he wants to understand a particular brand of grievance that motivates other white people and manifests most potently in the form of that drooling, reactionary blob of grammatically challenged rage, the Tea Party. In a recent column, Cohen pissed off a large chunk of humanity by attributing Tea Party rage not to racism, but to fear of change. Despite devoting portions of his column to mocking Tea Party rodeo clowns like Sarah Palin, many readers saw a particular paragraph in Cohen’s column as evidence of the author’s apparent sympathy for conservative white cultural dominance.
The real history of the “war on Christmas”
If you think that the idea of Christmas commercialism is something new, then you haven’t checked out the 19th century recently. Follow this link to Salon where I discuss why the “War on Christmas” is utterly bogus.
Horatio Alger’s Long Shadow: Blaming the Poor in American History
Have you ever been poor? Have you ever lived in a state of poverty where the basic necessities of life, such as food, water, shelter, and income security barely existed? If not, then count yourself lucky. Really lucky. Because being poor is awful. It’s not just damaging to every aspect of your physical health and well-being; it’s also psychologically damaging in that being poor tends to reinforce a sense of despair that leads to viewing poverty as an inescapable trap. In a column for Pacific Standard, Paul Hiebert recently reported on a new Harvard study that explains how poverty reinforces itself:
The Radicalism of Suffrage: Why Voting Matters in America
Voting is a radical act. That’s right, you heard me. If you’re one of the roughly fifty, to sixty percent of Americans who actually vote in presidential elections, then you’re a committed radical. If you’re one of the even fewer who vote in off-year midterm elections that decide boring stuff like congressional representation (you know, the stuff that actually matters), then you’re downright revolutionary.
Of course, the idea that voting is radical might seem ridiculous. After all, a good many Americans have, for a long time now, been convinced that their vote simply doesn’t count. They look at a political system that is infested with the wriggling worms of corporate lobbyists and “dark money” special interest peddling, and, understandably conclude that the vote of any individual Joe or Jane Six-Pack won’t make a dent in the system’s corruption-infused force-field.