The Road to My Political Destinations

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The very first car I can remember being in is my father’s Volvo. I’m not sure where we were. The thing about remembering is that memories very often smoosh together when trying to recall them later.

My parents had eclectic musical tastes. My father made tapes for our drives across Europe; I remember listening to Billy Joel and Michael Jackson, Earth Wind & Fire and Cyndi Lauper. I don’t remember ever listening to the radio. Talk radio was clearly out of the picture then.

My father did not vote. He had never registered. He also never discusses politics with me unless it is about poverty and the pervasive anti-Blackness in America. He does listen to a hell of a lot of music though, and reads voraciously.

When my parents divorced, my mother invited a family friend to move in with us to help with the bills and the rent. I’ll call her M. She was a friend of my father’s, I think. M was a military vet and was working for a rental car company, and then John Deere. She was tall and funny and masculine. (She passed away in 2010, of a very aggressive form of cancer.)

M listened exclusively to talk radio on WGAC 580 AM whilst driving. She was a chauffeur for mum and me, before I got my own car, and so we heard it all. I didn’t really know how vitriolic Rush Limbaugh actually was, or how toxic his language was, but his over-the-top conservative language was entertaining, at least, and Kim Kommando’s computer show was informative. I supported Bush, I think, probably because of my constant exposure to Limbaugh and his ilk.

When M didn’t feel like listening to AM radio, we listened to NPR/PRI, but only the BBC World Service and Rick Steves. Those were my first introductions to what I felt was America’s only unbiased news source (though that has changed somewhat now).

September 11th will be its own post in future, but talk radio reached a constant, interminable beat of war-drums after the attacks. I remember I wrote in my journal that it was ‘justice’ and not ‘revenge’ that were were seeking when we sent jets to Afghanistan. I regret this entry to this day.

When I finally got my own car, I remembered NPR had the BBC and put it on. I listened to it constantly, from the time I got into my car to the time I got out of it, even putting it on in my bedroom. I am not ashamed to admit that by the time Bush wanted to invade Iraq, I had become seriously disillusioned with Limbaugh’s bombast. I was too young to vote in 2000 (and would have probably voted for Bush), but in 2004 I sent in my vote from university. It was a proudly Democratic ticket, from the president down to the most ‘liberal’ propositions that my very conservative state had to offer.

I will not pretend to know why the things I listened to in the car had so much influence on my political life. It is probably just a bit of strange synchronicity, but I will not pretend that that early exposure to talk radio did not change me. And yes, I still listen to NPR exclusively in the car. The only time I hear Limbaugh is when he’s being played on various podcasts to be lambasted and torn apart–and good riddance to him.

Until next time, then. – SDM

Photo by Marek Kocjan

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What I’m reading this week: 29 January 2016

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I try to read articles from all around the world. Admittedly, I usually browse them between classes or at lunch. I get a lot of my news from National Public Radio; I try to avoid watching television for news. Yes, I read mostly left-wing publications. So without further ado, what I’m reading/perusing this week around. I hope to make this a weekly thing, if I can remember. Definitely fort-nightly, at least.

How Iowa Hijacked Our Democracy by Jeff Greenfield : I never knew why we picked Iowa of all places to kick off the grand democratic game of the US presidential election. I hadn’t realised that it’s a fairly young institution (1972). Iowa isn’t a great representative state, although it is an honest place, seemingly. There’s also an alarmingly low turnout rate, although there’s an alarmingly low turn out rate in the US elections, generally.

After reading such a negative look at Iowa, I thought, well what can we do, really? Thankfully, I found some ideas in a handy list form from Danielle Kurtzleben at NPR: No Way To Pick A President? Here Are 6 Other Ways To Do It. There were some really good ideas; my favourite was the rotating regional primary, wherein regions of states would vote together.

Continuing on my American politics read, I am a new subscriber to The New Yorker. When I lived in London, a friend would give me her old copies and I’d read them on the Tube during my commute. I was tired of getting that reminder that I had read half my monthly allotment so I just went in for an educator’s subscription. Hot tip: if you are a school teacher, just call The New Yorker direct at 1.800.825.2510 and you’ll get the discount!

I read two articles from The New Yorker, one about Bernie Sanders and one about Flint, Michigan. I really do like Bernie Sanders over Hilary Clinton, but it’s way too early for me to make that heavy of a decision! The article, Bernie Sanders and the Realists by John Cassidy was a very pithy look at Sanders’s actual chances, and how idealism works in such a cynical environment as the US political system.

And then I read The Contempt That Poisoned Flint’s Water by Amy Davidson and just got angry. How is this sort of blatant and utter corruption even still a thing in America? I should be less naive, I know, but it was disheartening nonetheless. Sometimes, I feel as though America is still a developing nation sometimes, no matter how sophisticated we pretend to be.

Onto world news, then. From Europe, I read Der Spiegel from Germany; The Guardian from the UK (along with the BBC and The Independent, though I don’t like the latter that much); Le MondeLe Figaro, and Le Libération from France and a few newspapers from Sweden and Spain when they pop up on my Twitter feed. I also read Al-Jazeera English when I remember I have the app!

In Der Spiegel, an article about the new refugee identity cards caught my eye; it was an article about how this new identity card would create a faster and more secure way of identifying asylum seekers and getting the help they need. [Article’s title: ‘Asylpolitik: Bundesrat billigt Flüchtlingsausweis’]

From The Guardian’s Simon Parkin, an article about Daesh and its mastery of pop culture: ‘ How Isis hijacked pop culture, from Hollywood to video games‘. It was a fascinating (and long!) read about how Daesh and many other organisations use pop culture in order to entice, indoctrinate and recruit new members.

Le Monde had an article about the proposed changes to Paris’s neighbourhoods, called arrondisements. Redistricting isn’t a super sexy thing, I know, but changing a century’s old system for voting purposes (seriously!) is something that is strikingly similar to American gerrymandering. Paris’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, says that putting together the first four arrondisements would create a larger, more fair voting bloc. To what end, I have no idea, as I am not a Parisienne, but it will be interesting to watch. [The article: ‘Tout comprendre aux vingt arrondissements de Paris’]

And finally, from Le Libération, I read an article by Jean-Manuel Escarnot about two brothers from Toulouse, former Catholics, who have become rappers/singers for Daesh; it’s entitled Les frères Clain, rappeurs catholiques devenus voix de l’Etat islamique. Like The Guardian article above, it shows how sophisticated Daesh is in reaching its audience, using voices from around the world to carry its message to the most ears possible. There is also a fifteen minute documentary about the brothers at Arte Radio that you can listen to here (it is in French).

Until next time. – SDM

Picture by Angelo DeSantis from Berkeley, US

Hello.

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It is always very difficult to begin from the beginning. One is always hoping to just hop into this blogging thing in the middle, when there are comments and readers and things like that.

So I’ve decided to do this A to Zed challenge. I’ve added people to my reading list so that I can furiously comment. It is up to me to figure out if the themes can carry me over for the entire month of April (which includes the blessed Spring Break).

Obviously, 2016 is a pretty advantageous time to start a blog about politics, especially living in America as I am. I hope the title tells you that I am also going to be looking outside this weird country to a more international scope, of political matters both great and small.

Thank you for joining me. Let us have a good discussion.  -SDM

NB: I’ll have a better introductory post later; I’m no good at talking about myself, though.