Book Mini-Review: Ballad For Americans

A Promised Land.

Barack Obama.

New York: Crown, 701 pp., $45.

I finally understand accept Barack Obama. When I was in elementary school in the post-Civil-Rights/Black-Power 70s, we were taught, and ultimately performed in a school assembly, a suite of songs called Ballad For Americans. Some guy with a real deep voice led the chorus on the record we heard, studied and copied (And on that starry morn…/Oh, Uncle Sam was born! [Some Birthday!]). Reading 44’s account, the first of two volumes, I felt the same energy and purpose in this wide memoir–one, like its subject, does the amazing trick of A-1 narrative lacking first-person emotional depth; the real Obama is somewhere within his first memoir Dreams From My Father and in the books of his biographers. What remains is an account for the future American believer, written by a champion of the American downtrodden, not the oppressed. In Obama’s world, only two choices exist: a) give up (cynicism); b) work within the system for change–change meaning incremental moves. The post-Ballad Paul Robeson–the one that got in what Obama hero John Lewis has popularized as “good trouble,” real good–can’t appeal to 44, because the Obama of this book sees his white grandmother’s reflection in the mirror. He’s the kind of person who, as a child, waved an American flag with his family for the Apollo 11 astronauts, a person who hypothetically believes that reason leading to common understanding one day will, to give an example not in the book, pull down a Confederate statue. (Obama is not the only “new” American on the scene: He is symbolically aping the Ballad Robeson, while Lin-Manuel Miranda imitated him more literally.) He admires the Tea Party’s radical organizing but refuses to commit to it himself: “I’d spent my entire political career promoting civic participation as a cure for much of what ailed our democracy. I could hardly complain, I told myself, just because it was opposition to my agenda that was now spurring such passionate citizen involvement.” The Trump-ish forces represented by the Tea Party, then, understood/stand they’re in a (racial) war for the future of America but Obama sees it as mere (angry) civics. Sadly, this explains a lot. So 44’s map to the immediate future is optimistic and very realistic–way too so, if you happen to think white supremacists are more than just controversially civic-minded. But this Captain America has no choice but to be this way because he long ago locked the doors to any other ideas, any socio-political imagination that comes from first breaking the mirror.

DECEMBER 2nd UPDATE: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/progressives-fire-back-at-obama-after-he-criticizes-defund-the-police-movement

Mumia Abu-Jamal November 16, 2020 Press Conference (With Call To Help Russell Maroon Shoatz)

NOVEMBER 18th UPDATE: I forgot to include my Medium article!

NOVEMBER 20th UPDATE: Here is a link to the text of the press conference.

An EXCELLENT Example of Newarkers Documenting Their Own History

https://www.aaihs.org/the-possibilities-of-black-power-history-in-newark/

Book Mini-Review: The Jackson Mine

I Am Somebody: Why Jesse Jackson Matters.

David Masciotra. Foreword by Michael Eric Dyson.

London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 198 pp., $27.

This time-shifting mini-biographical tribute to Jesse Jackson Sr. reminds us why he is so exasperating and inspiring to so many. In thematic chapters, Masciotra goes back and forth from the 1960s to 2020, reminding the audience that knows (50-plus) and the audience that doesn’t (under 50) that he’s been here all along, connecting the eras of Martin Luther King to Black Lives Matter, from Aretha Franklin to Megan Thee Stallion. Displaying a good understanding of how hegemonic mass media works, the author does an excellent job showing and explaining why the uncontrollable, indefatigable, undefeatable Jackson consistently doesn’t fit the MSM program and perhaps only will after he transforms into a series of sometimes-accessed, highly-edited film and video clips. Jackson’s service to humanity, his always-public witness to injustice and his full membership in 20th century and 21st century public memory are all unapparelled among the currently living, regardless of motivation or rumor of motivation. He is the ultimate insider-outsider and the remarkable half-century of history of world human rights struggle he brings to the table cannot be duplicated by this current army of Millennial and post-Millennial Ivy League-educated “social justice activists,” no matter how concerned and committed they want to be. They will never have Jackson’s nerve because that only comes through walking through America’s fire repeatedly and nakedly, of being unafraid to publicly be who you really are, mistakes and all, regardless of who publicly hates you and for how long. Masciotra shows the Rainbow/PUSH founder constantly at a table prepared for him in the presence of his enemies. The fact that he often seems to be the agenda he is looking for at any table doesn’t seem so negative here in his Winter, especially after you total up the psychological, spiritual and social cost, the steep price of destiny’s frequent-flyer ticket. He breathes, so he leads until he leaves.

 

An Important Article About 2020 Journalism

Glenn Greenwald, who resigned from The Intercept, an independent, investigative news outlet, on Thursday. He claims his editors censored an opinion story he wrote that was critical of Joe and Hunter Biden. His editors counter that Greenwald threw a tantrum when journalistic standards were imposed on the piece.

 

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 Matt Taibbi (below), a journalist I’ve admired for some time, does a fantastic job here of explaining the mechanics of how journalism is formed in the newsroom.