Kanye the Jackass vs. Taylor the Democrat

One of the first blogs posts that I ever read was written by my friend, Mike Cookman, from Chicago in 2009.  For the most part, Chicagoans are filled with pride when a local hero has succeeded in the world of politics(Barack Obama, Ayanna Pressley), movies(John Belushi,   Bonnie Hunt, John Cusack), and music(Mavis Staples, Eddie Vedder, Jennifer Hudson). Yet, it was a shock to me when seeing the posted headline of “The Jackass” in reference to local singer Kanye West, a young man whose music doesn’t mean much to me given that his name missing from the twelve-thousand songs on my iPod by various artists. I was directed to a video clip of the American Music Awards in 2009 when Taylor Swift was speaking at the podium after being given the award of Best New Artist; Kanye West interrupted the speech after jumping on the stage like a raving lunatic to express his disapproval for Taylor’s victory. So, where did the reference of being a “jackass” derive in its pejorative usage? It was from none other than the President of the United States, Barack Obama, who had been a resident for many years in Chicago’s Southside neighbourhood of Hyde Park. The president was disparaging a a fellow Chicagoan for unacceptably rude behaviour that could be attributed to someone who is either impaired from drugs/alcohol or a narcissistic personality; the latter is the case with both Kanye and the current president, who started a false rumour in 2011 that his predecessor was born in Kenya. I am feeling a bit like David Letterman at the Oscars of 1995 with the similarity of first names in Oprah(hey, she was a Chicagoan for many years!) and Uma Thurman. Kenya! Kanye!! Jackasses!!! The odd spectacle of Kanye West’s raving in the Oval Office yesterday was related to the fact that the orange, uh, white man behind the desk has a horrible history of racism that existed long before he claimed the the state of Hawaii in 1961 should be considered the third-world nation of Kenya; I am certain that President Obama’s white mother, Dr. Ann Dunham, would have insisted on her firstborn child getting better medical care in Honolulu instead of any impoverished village where his father fled in search of a better life through education(University of Hawaii, Harvard University).

The odd spectacle of yesterday reminded me of when Elvis Presley visited Richard Nixon at the White House in January of 1970 in his delusional and entitled search for a license as a federal agent for the DEA; the irony is that Elvis was visibly impaired from barbiturates while meeting with Nixon and wasn’t in a position to extoll the virtues of sobriety from any personal experience. Perhaps the strange meeting of West and Trump yesterday reminded more of the sad sight when James Brown had misguidedly endorsed Richard Nixon for re-election in 1972 with the claim that Tricky Dick was a “good man.”  Obviously, James was on the wrong side of history with his political opinions despite the greatness of his stage presence and music; he could have also been either using the same drugs as Elvis or engaging in the lapse in judgment associated with Kanye’s obvious narcissism(insanity?). I am obliged to comment on the recent political courage demonstrated by Taylor Swift with her endorsement of Democrats to win their election in November for her home state of Tennessee. Once again, Taylor’s music isn’t to be found on any of the twelve-thousand songs on my iPod; the same can’t be said for either Elvis Presley or James Brown. However, I know that Taylor has a strong influence on her female fans who love her songs about adolescent pain from relationships that end in heartbreak. On the topic of these songs, I must admit that I prefer the words and music of Jackson Browne(more so than James Brown!), but I know that Taylor deserves plenty of credit for her creation of original music by a songwriter who can only improve with age.  It was recently revealed that the burning of Taylor’s memorabilia has begun by angry Republicans(men only) who feel betrayed by an artistic woman rejecting a political party of sexists and misogynists who seek to control the reproductive rights of another gender….because God is opposed to abortion? God is merely a concept by which we measure our pain and a way for humans to alleviate their anxiety related to death and nonexistence in the future. The burning of Taylor’s memorabilia reminded me of when the Beatles faced a backlash in 1966 after John Lennon said that his band was more popular than Jesus Christ in England. As an American expatriate who resides in England, I can write as a devout atheist that the Beatles are exponentially more popular in my home than Jesus Christ. In fact, four of the multiple male authors(Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) who created the fictional character of Jesus Christ, based on rabbi Yeshua ben Yosef, will never be able to compete with John, Paul, George, and Ringo for both credibility and creativity. Regarding the midterm elections in the “Christian” state of Tennessee with its hypocrisy and suppression of women’s rights, all that I can think of writing as a secular humanist is: “Taylor saves!”  Kanye West is not a musical genius, and Donald Trump isn’t a “stable genius” either. However, the Beatles were geniuses for their simple message of “all you need is love.” It is also true that love is stronger than justice, especially in the “Christian” nation where injustice occurs on a daily basis as democracy dies a slow death.

October 9: Birthdays of John and Jackson

I didn’t plan to write on the blog today until I realised the date of October 9th on the calendar. If you’re as connected with both Twitter and historical dates as me, then you would be reminded that today is John Lennon’s 78th birthday; John lived here on earth long enough to celebrate only his 40th birthday in October of 1980, the remaining birthdays were wasted due to a psychotic asshole having easy access to a gun loaded with six bullets. John Lennon’s killer(his name won’t be included in my post) robbed the world of a great poet and peace activist in addition to a stellar guitarist and songwriter with the ability to inspire. In the five months after John was murdered, there were assasination attempts on both the president(Reagan in March 1981) then and pope(John Paul II in April). The fact that both of these men survived the attempts on their life confirmed my theory that only great men are killed when shot by a gun; George Wallace, Larry Flynt, and Senator Steve Scalise also proved that mediocre men will always survive in a manner that wasn’t the same outcome for John Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, Harvey Milk, and Congressman Leo Ryan. Yet, I digress when thinking about injustice associated with “God as a concept to measure our pain.”  I listened to John Lennon’s song, “God,” from 1970 while laying in bed last night as my girlfriend slept beside me. She had asked earlier in the evening if something was bothering me, and my sour mood was partly due to the death of democracy in my former home known as the United States; I was also feeling a bit of survivor’s guilt from having escaped Trump’s America for a land where his voters don’t reside. Yet, I couldn’t help but to feel a little sad that John Lennon wasn’t alive to celebrate his 78th birthday for today. As his song “God” informs the listener who has been told that John doesn’t believe in the Beatles and isn’t the Walrus anymore, he leaves these brutal and parting words: “So, dear friends, you’ll just have to carry on. The dream is over.”  The dream is over, but the dreamer is still alive. In fact, he is also celebrating a birthday on October 9th.

Before escaping from the USA, I was fortunate enough to experience my last film being a documentary of Mr. Fred Rogers entitled “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” while my final concert was Jackson Browne at the outdoor venue of Ravinia in Highland Park, Illinois. Jackson played two sets of his timeless songs about life/death, love, and politics. The first set contained three songs reiterating the major themes of Jackson’s work since 1972 with the first being an unreleased song entitled “The Dreamer.” The song traces the journey of a Mexican immigrant who traveled to the USA for employment and to escape the poverty of his hometown across the border. In a sense, I am an immigrant who escaped Trump’s America where there is a poverty of critical thinking, tolerance, compassion, and ethics in government. Although I am residing in England where two of my ancestors lived until becoming passengers on the Mayflower ship in November of 1620 to seek their religious freedom in a new land, my journey has been to seek freedom from religion in a nation that lost its moral compass. The “dreamer” of Jackson Browne’s song is my brother from another mother in the poetic sense; we are trying to improve our lives before death will inevitably occur. The second song to demonstrate Jackson’s lyrical themes was about death itself; “For a Dancer” was written in 1974 after Jackson’s young friend, Scott, was killed in an apartment fire in Los Angeles. I couldn’t help but to think about my mother who died from cancer on July 10, 2017 in Chicago. I mentioned to my cousin who sat next to me at the concert that it is only through someone’s death that I am able to start a new life. The experience of leaving for a better outcome of circumstances was expressed in the third song, “For Everyman,” that closed the first set of music from Jackson and his band. “Everybody who I talk to is ready to leave with the light of the morning. They’ve seen the end coming down long enough to believe they’ve heard their last warning. Standing alone each has his own ticket in his hand. And as the evening descends, I sit thinking about everyman.” I am thinking about John Lennon and Jackson Browne on their birthdays, and they’re both extraordinary men for writing the songs that allow us to think, feel, and dream. Thank you to the birthday boys of October 9th for their music and inspiring imagination.

American Execeptionalism From an Unexceptional Expatriate

I don’t claim to have any of the best answers for fixing everything that is wrong with the USA today. Actually,  the reading of stellar and credible journalism is imperative for American citizens to engage in critical thinking; this can’t be found in the form of reading a newspaper such as USA Today(hey, I ended the previous sentences with the same two words!). However, I discovered that leaving the USA was the best start for me. You wouldn’t guess from my Austrian surname, but I have maternal ancestors who were passengers on the Mayflower in November of 1620.  My solution to dealing with the former democracy known as the United States was created by reversing the course of my ancestors in righting an old wrong in honour of their lapse in judgment.  Yes, I am an expatriate who currently resides in England. Is this another example of American exceptionalism? Nope. I am an extremely unexceptional person who was lucky enough to have the option of leaving the USA for an upgrade. I was also lucky to find an Italian resident of England who loves me; this is an exceptional woman who is able to look beyond my lack of exceptionalism whether American or not.

Do you remember the scene in the movie Animal House(1978) in which four members of the Delta fraternity find themselves as White minorities in the African-American Dexter Lanes club?  A Latino-American patron says to the Deltas, after witnessing their dates were taken by male patrons of colour, a famous line: “If I was in your shoes, I’d be…’leaving. What a good idea!” The statement was completed by fraternity brother Boone before the man could finish his observation. In general and historically, leaving has been my solution to many problems experienced in life since childhood, as I am the “king of transfers.” I have been able to transfer every level of education that I attended; I transferred grade schools, high school, colleges, Master’s degree programs, and I thought about transferring from a doctoral program due to its immature and conservative students who annoyed me.  However, I find myself in the unique and fortunate position of having transferred nations of residence. Although it is true that England is a dying empire with its loss of power and prestige in the world since World War II, but it has accepted defeat with a combination of humility(humiliation?) and insanity(Brexit). The USA, on the other hand, is in denial about its position as a dying and ageing empire that experienced its heyday in the past. Who will become the world detest superpower in the near future? China. Despite its status as a communist nation, China has strengthened itself with vulture capitalism by lending money to other nations(United States borrowed billions of dollars to finance two wars in the Middle East in 2001 and 2003) with interest rates that produce an exorbitant sum of revenue. In order to be more exceptional as an expatriate, I will have to find employment at some point in the future when residence is established; this is despite the fact that my ancestors(Priscilla Mullins and John Alden) were once the resident of the Surrey county when I am currently residing. Alas, England can take comfort in knowing that I am not a vulture capitalist with the bravado of an American businessman. I am merely a failed musician and former psychologist who knows when to leave…a good idea, indeed.

Paul Haider, England