ain’t it fun
ain’t it fun
Every now and again, I stumble across an article so terrible that I can’t help but shake my head and look out the window, subconsciously wondering if I’d be one of those unfortunate random people who accidently survive an eight-story fall. On those days, I like to order a couple cyanide pills with my coffee. The baristas laugh and I look to the street, wondering if a sympathetic bus driver might do me a quick favor.
A friend from Oakland posted an article about how some girl had decide that she wasn’t going to pretend to be poor, no matter how much more acceptance she’d find in what must be her day-to-day interactions, and damn it, the article is hilarious in the most frustrating way.
Now, I can’t lie—she’s not the worst writer. In fact, she’s probably better than me. I could probably chalk that up to her expensive out-of-state education she so eloquently apologizes for, but that would be jumping the gun. It isn’t her writing that’s ridiculously offensive. It’s simply her main point in general and how she goes about making it.
To begin with, let’s skip the Mulberry bit and move right into the cashier’s glare. Somehow I don’t quite believe that the cashier is glaring at the author because of her extreme wealth as much as the cashier is pissed another person is in line. To loosely quote Randall from Clerks, “This job would be great if it weren’t for all the customers.” Beyond that, I wasn’t aware that Diet Coke was a clear-cut sign of class superiority, but I am glad that the author was willing to educate me on that one. From now on, every time I see someone refill a 64 oz. thermos with Diet Coke, I’ll know that I’m standing next to a deferential individual who should be treated as such. Of course, I won’t see that here in New York—we’re too class conscious. Moving right along…
So the cashier ignored the author huh? Who cares? She lives in the West Village. Has she ever walked around her neighborhood? Ignoring people is a way of life in New York. Deal with it. If I had a nickel for every time I’d been ignored, I’d be able to live in the West Village too. At least she walked out feeling like a turd, so that’s something.
From what I can gather, it was apparent that both the clerk and the customer in front of the author were being “that obvious.” If they’d known she had purchased her bag at 70% off, I’m sure they would have greeted her like an old friend. Instead they can, “fuck right off.” There’s nothing wrong with that. But if they can fuck right off, so can you, right? What’s the big deal?
“I am sorry that I was born into great financial circumstances and my father likes to provide for me.” We’re also very sorry for you. Feel better yet?
Next, she goes into a diatribe about how there’s a certain amount of tact you have to show around people who can’t buy expensive things. If there’s one thing that’s clear, this girl knows tact. Should we judge her for being able to showoff her wealth? Maybe not. Should she judge a cashier for not happily responding to her, “have a great day?” Maybe not. Instead she calls us “petty,” “bitter,” “unhappy,” and reflecting our own “misery” with our nasty glares. Nothing judgmental about that.
She then starts talking about how fortunate she was to be raised alongside billionaires before letting us know that her parents bought her clothes at Old Navy and food from McDonalds, which I assume is her way of trying to relate to the poor. I mean, she didn’t even know she was wealthy as a kid! But then she follows it up by saying she’s not, “one of those people who try to be poor to relate to people,” thereby rendering her statements about Old Navy pointless. She uses disgusting twice in the second to last paragraph, both times in reference to the behavior of those who vilify her financial status. I can’t argue against that. If there’s one thing poor people know how to do, it’s disgusting. Thanks for putting me in my place.
I’m not even going to touch the “damn fairy” line.
Finally, she reaches her conclusion: “What I’m saying is that it should not be made into a spectacle that there are differences in income.” Apparently she’s unaware just how different incomes are in this country. Is she aware that we currently have the largest income gap since the Great Depression in this country, and the trend is actually increasing the disparity? If we shouldn’t make a spectacle of it, what should we do? Smile and pretend that our lives aren’t quite as peachy-keen as hers?
Rachel Sacks, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. The thing is, pretending you were poor wouldn’t work anyway. You don’t know what it’s like, and how could you? You’re rich, game over. It’s like that song Common People from Pulp. “If you call your dad, he could stop it all.” Don’t act poor—I doubt you’re a good enough actress. But don’t give us shit for not giving a flying fuck about what you think, especially when you’re making a point of not giving a flying fuck about us. Good luck and God bless.
On what’s becoming more and more of a regular occurrence, I woke up this morning on Jon Larsen’s floor to the sound of Beach House on repeat. Jon has a hard time falling asleep without noise, and thus he’s in the habit of playing music rather loudly from the moment he starts yawning to when he wakes up at 7 P.M. Jon doesn’t like being awake. The only thing he hates worse is silence.
Groggily I got to my feet and checked my pockets for items I might have lost. All there. I looked over at Jon’s protracted body lying awkwardly on his bed and remembered my dream from the night before, a dream where I’d woken up to find Jon in the same position, only now dead. In the dream I called 911 and calmly told the dispatcher, “I think my friend is dead. There’s probably no reason to send paramedics but I imagine it’s customary for these types of things.” Afterwards I hung up the phone, grabbed one of Jon’s film cameras, took a photo of his now vacant face and put the camera down. Then, for whatever reason, I’d update my Facebook status. The fact that I was updating my Facebook in a dream after I found Jon’s dead body is fucked up. Social media is so invasive that I can’t escape it even in sleep. But that’s not the point. The point is, I obviously couldn’t write, “Jon Larsen is dead,” on my wall, as it’s become such an expected catch phrase that it might as well be copy-writed, and if I did write that, no one would bat an eyelid. Instead I wrote, “Life imitates art,” and kept it good at that.
So long Utah Jazz
Here’s the weirdest moment from this Easter (i.e., the best Easter ever). Mind you, the night ended with Fuckin’ Jeff and I eating meatloaf and edamame at an absent Mike Brown’s house while we gave loose commentary over a slideshow based around an encyclopedic slide collection I picked up from the library. It was a moment that never would have happened if Mike Brown wasn’t in Europe. (Otherwise, he’d have dominated in the front room with his favorite video game, Skyrim). I’m not kidding when I say I have a slide of everything. Pick a topic, I’ve got it. Very strange. But here’s the weirdest thing that happened on Easter:
I was with my dad at a random coffee shop. The fact that my family puts any weight into Easter is kind of bizarre, especially when considering my dad is Palestinian-Muslim. By the way, he’s very concerned with me. I have longish hair, a super shitty mustache, play in punk rock bands and write for publications that support all of that. Back when I was a weed dealer and making a good amount of money, none of that mattered. Now that I’m more concerned with earnestly putting words on paper (a habit that leaves me barely capable of bringing in enough money to stay fed, chronically broke and apparently in danger of ever becoming anything), my lifestyle is less okay. It’s a constant struggle between us. You see, cool dads hate watching their kids struggle, and judging by my dad’s response to the bullshit I deal with on a general basis, he must be super cool.
So we go get coffee. Out of the blue, he’s all, “I’ve been thinking about things. A lot of things. And I’ve been saving up–just in case something happens to me.”
‘Okay,’ I thought.
“I’ve been saving up,” he repeats, “just in case something happens. I want to make sure that you’re taken care of.” He paused. Dads love pausing. “I don’t know how much money I’ll have, but whatever it is, I’ll probably leave it in a trust, most likely in your little sister’s name. She would be a good administrator.”
“Okay” I said.
“I’m not going to leave it to you in a lump sum,” he said, “but I’ll make sure you get a certain amount every month.”
He paused again, this time in afterthought.
Why he said that was fairly indicative of what he assumes my lifestyle to be. I couldn’t help but ask a simple question.
“So you want me to ask my little sister for a cash allowance every month?”
He smiled before shuddering. You can’t make this shit up. My dad looked at me honestly and said, “I’m concerned about you on a long term basis. I don’t think I’m going to let you access it until you’re sixty.”
“Dad, what makes you think I’ll make it to sixty?” I asked with genuine interest.
“Why would you question that?” he responded with genuine confusion.
I thought about my lack of health insurance, shoulder that pops out at the command, previously broken spine, gnarly scars all over my scalp, freshly broken nose, overall shaky nerves, inability to find a job that supports me, country that hates me and an incredibly depleted savings account.
I summed it up succinctly with a, “Well Dad, the way things are going…”
“Most of your injuries were superficial,” he said, apparently convinced by his own tone.
“Dad. Do you remember the X-Rays?”
I reminded him of that time I had to learn how to walk again, which somehow didn’t impress him. My dad is the coolest.
Later on, my youngest sister and I talked about the whole thing. Apparently both my parents had brought it up to her a number of times, and she was worried about the responsibility they were forcing upon her. Maybe I’d care or something. Some people care when it comes to money, no matter how much, but greed has a lineage of its own and I’m far from a descendent, despite a perceivable desperation.
The thing is, my family isn’t worried about me for any specific thing, outside of being a lovable loser, but my father, who isn’t rich, does want to keep me alive as long as he can regardless of how miserable it makes me. They like me. Sure, they’d like me more as a Henry Miller-esque philosopher who had a full-time job, a wife and a picket fence, but they’ll take me as I am. Against his better wishes, my dad has decided to embrace the concept of the latter never becoming a reality, accepting me as this weird embodiment of something he’ll never understand.
And that makes me love him.
The fact that he wouldn’t have approved of a 2 A.M. alcohol-fueled artisan slideshow is completely irrelevant. I can’t wait to ask my little sister for a cash advance! The fucked up part is, I’ll probably never get the chance.
BEST EASTER EVER
It’s hard to understand polls. Where do they get their numbers from and why are they so different? They often vary drastically from one polling company to the next, with one having Obama ahead by 4 percent and another having Romney up 9 percent, all within the same state. Some polling companies are noticeably biased, others claim objectivity, and still others are simply clandestinely biased. The numbers swing so frequently that anybody paying attention is sure to develop a case of the spins.
The polls take on different formats to try to glean likely outcomes for the election. Popular methods include randomized phone calls, generally to landlines but increasingly to cell phones, with calls at different times of day. But whom it is they are polling and when they are polling them provide different results, and even the littlest difference in detail could swing the results drastically. Think Dr. Malcolm’s explanation of the butterfly effect in Jurassic Park:
“A butterfly could flap its wings in Peking and in Central Park you get rain instead of sunshine.”
At the moment, it looks like Obama has the slightest lead in a number of crucial states, and it appears he might be able to gather the 270 Electoral votes he needs to retain office. But what happens if he doesn’t reach the 270 mark? What happens if neither candidate automatically wins?
Welcome to another bizarre caveat brought to you by the Electoral College. According to the 12th Amendment, if no candidate receives a majority of the Electoral vote, the case goes in front of the House of Representatives. Each state delegation receives a single vote, meaning that although California has 53 representatives and North Dakota has 1, both states would effectively have a single vote to cast. If each state was a person, this could be considered straightforward democracy. But since each state has wildly disproportionate numbers of people living in them, it boils down to less individual representation than already given to us by the Electoral College.
But wait, there’s more. This is where it gets even weirder. Not to be left out, the Senate is responsible for choosing the Vice President, with each Senator receiving a single vote to throw into the pot. Since there is an even number of states, it’s possible that the House could wind up deadlocked at 25-25, so if no president is elected by Inauguration Day, then the Senate-elected vice president acts as president until the issue is resolved.
Now, it isn’t clear if this could create a situation where the House of Representatives could elect a president from one party and a vice president from another one, but constitutionally there’s no reason why this couldn’t be the case. How strange it would be to have a majority Republican House vote for Mitt Romney and a majority Democratic Senate vote for Joe Biden? I imagine the stock market might be a bit rattled by the concept of a Romney-Biden ticket.
Our voting system is filled with strange traditions that simply don’t make sense in this day of age. Take voting on Tuesday for instance. Why don’t we just vote on Saturday when more people have the day off?
Back in the mid-19th century, when we were a mostly agrarian based society, getting to a place to cast your ballot generally involved travelling by horse and buggy into town, many of which were a distance away from the farm. Saturday was seen as a workday and Sunday was off limits, as God wouldn’t want us doing our civic duty while we were supposed to be worshipping Him, and since it could take days of travel, Tuesday was selected as the most convenient day for voters. It’s very practical, but practical for the mid-19th century.
It’s all very strange. As if that wasn’t annoying enough, the Electoral College has produced presidential winners who didn’t win the overall popular vote three times. Remember when more people voted for Al Gore than they did George W. Bush, but how it really all came down to lawsuits over hanging chads in Florida? That was weird. The United States is the only country that elects a president via the Electoral College and the only one where you can win the popular vote and still lose. Despite the fact that it was never explicitly laid by our Founding Fathers, the Electoral College was part of the original design in the Constitution, so changing it would require an amendment. This shouldn’t be a problem, seeing as the 12th Amendment expanded voting rights, but for some unknown reason, no amendment advocating something other than the Electoral College has been successful. Thus we’re stuck with some bizarre, contradictory format that adds to voter discouragement. Somebody must be making a lot of money off that.
This brings up the obvious question: why wouldn’t they update the system to reflect the modern world? One could make the claim that the entire Electoral College system itself is antiquated, and that we would be better off with a voting process that saw every individual person’s vote count, not lumped into a sum overwhelmed by the majority of our state. Maybe we could vote on a day that was convenient for a mostly urbanized population in the 21st century. Is that too much to ask? When does practicality finally trump tradition?
When America demands tribal communities provide access to education to women regardless of the male-dominated traditions of those tribes, we’re asking them to turn aside convention and modernize for the good of their people. But when it comes to our own form of democracy, we drag our feet at best. A true democracy would mean every single person’s vote counts, and that’s what we should be going for. The fact that our politicians do not appear to be concerned with this should raise more than a few eyebrows.
So when you watch all the troubles at the polls on Tuesday, the long lines, the people being turned away, the Rick Scott’s of the system refusing to budge on helping voter’s cast their ballots, don’t be surprised. It’s the American way.
INTERVIEW WITH ROCKY ANDERSON
With all the insanity surrounding the battle between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, it’s easy to forget that this election includes candidates who are actually talking about things that matter.
Ross “Rocky” Anderson is a perfect example. The former mayor of Salt Lake City is currently running for president with the Justice Party, a third-party candidate on the ballot in 12 states. His campaign is based on the principal that justice—economic, social, and environmental justice—is vital for the wellbeing of our nation. He believes the current for of government is unacceptable, and that sticking with business as usual policies will likely lead to catastrophic consequences. Since I was stuck in Utah thanks to one of these catastrophes, Hurricane Sandy, I decided to take the opportunity to sit down with Rocky and talk to him about his campaign.
Why even bother running as a third party candidate?
“Because this country needs to be taken in a very different direction. Although we knew there was little or no chance of ever prevailing in the election, we could certainly prevail in helping to launch and sustain a broad-based democratic movement that will bring about change. That’s the only way change is ever brought about in this country. Those who are elected take advantage a very corrupt system that has brought us the plutocracy we have today. They will never be trusted to reform that system. It’s not unlike the situation before woman’s suffrage or the labor and civil right’s movement. There is so much inertia by our elected officials that it took people at the grassroots level organizing, mobilizing and making it clear that they were not going to let up until there was change. That’s exactly what we have to do now. Further complacency by the American people is simply going to sustain the status quo and exacerbate it. The mantle of leadership is really on all of us, and hence the call for an engaged broad-based citizens movement. So that’s what this campaign is all about, what the Justice Party is about. That’s why you’ll hear me talk so much about not just about this election but what needs to be done far beyond this election.”
How would you counter voter apathy in this country?
“We have to pay attention to psychological and linguistic research. For instance, people who are self-described conservatives are much more likely to hang on to their worldview regardless of the facts and the evidence. You can see that with respect to evolution, and certainly towards climate change. Our job is to keep paying attention to that research, and not keep rolling Al Gore out to talk about climate change. We need to utilize the religious leaders and the business leaders that can make the case within the context of a lot of people’s pre-existing views and value structures.”
It’s interesting that you’d bring up climate change. I watched all the debates and thought it strange that the topic wasn’t ever discussed.
“You didn’t watch all of them then, because in the third party debates, we certainly raised the issue.”
Fair enough. So why do you think climate change wasn’t brought up in the mainstream debates?
“Well, for one thing, the media was characteristically irresponsible, with the moderators failing once again to raise the most urgent and consequential issue facing our planet. The moderator’s neglect of climate change was simply a continuation of the corporate media’s irresponsibility towards the topic for years. But the reason the candidates don’t raise it is explained really well in the introduction to Al Gore’s first book on the topic, Earth and the Balance. Even back then, that long ago, when he tried to raise the issue in the primary debates when he raced against Clinton, he was completely dismissed. It was a sleeper issue for both the media and voters.
Unless a candidate has enough guts and a core set of values that would lead him or her to raise the vital issue regardless of political consequences, they’re going to leave it alone. They find other topics that are more politically advantageous. The reason you’ll hear Jill Stein [the Green Party candidate] and me raise climate change in all our presentations is because we’re trying to be honest, regardless of what the polls show, and we’re both completely concerned about the long-term global impacts on all of earth’s inhabitants. I think we’re leaving a shameful legacy and our children and grandchildren are going to look back and wonder what in the world we were doing by continuing with business as usual when all of the evidence is there, not only regarding the causes and consequences but also the solutions that can be undertaken now.
There is no greater national security issue than climate change. But the interesting thing is, there’s already been a lot of religious leaders and both national and multinational corporations who have issued very strong statements on the crisis and the need for urgent action. But the environmental and human rights community have completely blown it in terms of their messaging. Then of course there’s the misinformation campaign on the other side. Taken together, those two things are why we see in the face of even more robust science on climate, a decrease in public support for climate protection measures.
I just wrote an article on that very topic. I’m not going to be well liked by a lot of people in the human rights and environmental community.”
You were mayor Salt Lake during the 2002 Winter Olympics. What was your relationship with Mitt Romney like during that period?
“Our relationship during the Olympics was very positive. We had an incredibly constructive and friendly working relationship. We were very candid with each other and I frankly really admired his leadership and the very loyal and effective team he put together to pull off what was probably the best Winter Olympics ever held. I also viewed him as a very moderate, reasonable person and thought that he was the kind of person who could maybe return some sanity to the Republican Party by moving it away from the far right. That’s why I endorsed him and cut an ad for him when he ran for governor of Massachusetts. And he ran on a very moderate and reasonable platform, presented himself that way, or he’d never been elected in that state. It’s mostly a very democratic state.
But the Mitt Romney who has emerged during this presidential race is a diametrically different human being, a man who has no core sense of principles. He makes me wonder if I was fooled along with Massachusetts’s voters, because I can see changing your position on one or two issues, but not this wholesale transformation the day you decide to run for president. That’s exactly what you see with Romney. That lack of integrity is really troubling to me, because if a man is willing to do that to get elected, who knows what he’d do in elected office.”
What’s your take on the free market system?
“Well a truly free market system is catastrophic to the vast majority of people. To protect the health, safety and welfare of people, there must be reasonable protections in the form of regulations and enforcement, including civil remedies, but not as Libertarians would have it with only civil remedies. I think government is meeting its highest duty when it’s striving to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens. The free market has no regard for the health consequences of dirty air and dirty water. The free market has no consideration for abject poverty, for our brothers and sisters going out without essential health coverage. But what we have in the United States right now is a pretense of democracy, when in fact all of the strings are being pulled by a rapacious corporate community that has their way, simply because they have all the money. That’s what you get with a free market without the pretense of government protection.”
Why do you think people should vote for you?
I’ve got energy and passion behind bolstering and sustaining a broad-based movement. People in this country are being completely shafted by our government. It doesn’t matter which party is the majority, they’re all feeding at the same trough of special interest money and we, the American people, are suffering horribly from it. We’re in the midst of a new Gilded Age, with a greater disparity between income and wealth since the 1920s and the highest poverty rates since 1965. It’s as if all the gains of the war on poverty have disappeared. That along with our outrageous healthcare system, including Obamacare, results in incredible suffering, including the loss of tens if not hundreds of thousands of lives every year. We have the second highest rate in infant mortality in the developed world, and among fifty nations we have the highest rate in women dying in connection with pregnancy and childbirth.
People in this country want better. On most major issues, I actually represent what the majority of the people say they want, and Mitt Romney and Barack Obama do not. Whether it’s ending the war on drugs, ending the budget busting Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, providing single payer Medicare for all healthcare so everyone in this country has affordable access to essential healthcare, cleaning up our campaign finance system—all of these are things that I’ve talked about the Mitt Romney and Barack Obama don’t.
The majority of the people in this country want to see effective regulation of the financial industry. We’ll never see that under the Republicans and Democrats. They are bought off by Wall Street. It doesn’t seem to matter to these people that there’s been so many people who have lost their homes, student and former students who are living under crushing tuition debt that congress, at the behest of the banks, have outrageously made non-dischargeable in bankruptcy.
So the government is our enemy. When President Obama keeps saying that his formal duty is to protect the American people, the protection a growing number of Americans want is to be protected against our own government. This is the president now and a bipartisan congress that think the federal government should be able to kidnap any of us that are fingered by the president, imprisoned for up to the rest of our lives without charges, without trial, legal assistance or the right to Habeas Corpus… it’s astounding. It’s the most un-American subversive act ever by our congress or by a president. And yet, Democrats who would be raising holy hell if this were done during a Republican administration seem to just blindly fall inline and support this man who has taken on the role of a tyrant.
I say that without exaggeration. This is a guy who came in as president as was asked about legal accountability for war criminals, accountability for those who illegally spied on American citizens. And he said we should just move forwards and not look backwards? As if one person should ever have the right in this country to determine who is above the law? Our system of government is built on the major premise that nobody is above the law, and yet that principal has been overwhelmingly rejected by this president and by our congress. That’s why Wall Street bankers who gave record contributions to Obama four years ago are getting off scot-free after their massive financial fraud that helped lead to the economic meltdown from which so many people are still suffering.”
Yeah, that stuff really bothers me…
You know, you hear that slogan we’ve got to take our government back? It’s never needed to be applied with more force than now. The American people need to unify around these issues: corruption of government, the expanding imperial presidency, the shredding of our constitution, our outrageous foreign indentures including illegal wars of aggression, and toting to Wall Street and the financial industry. We need to stand up against all of that and say we will not put up for it anymore. If we don’t, it’s all going to get worse.
They’re mining all of our communications now, billions of communications, every single day. If you speak to somebody on the phone, if you email somebody outside of the country, the NSA grabs it. That was made illegal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act following the disclosures of intelligence communities’ abuses during the Cold War. Then what happened? When President Bush violated the law countless times, each of which is a federal felony that nobody has been held accountable. Then in 2008 when President Obama was still in the United States Senate, Congress, with President Obama’s affirmative vote passed an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act saying that government could go to the FISA court, and without showing any particularized need or identifying whose conversations would be subject to surveillance, get a blank check allowance by the visa court to engage in dragnet surveillance of American’s communications.
Absolutely unprecedented. Any yet we put up with this as American citizens? We put up with a president who targets U.S. citizens for assassination? Through his killing program, at least three American citizens have been assassinated in drone strikes, including a 16-year old boy from Denver, Colorado.
All of this spells a huge transformation of our nation, where we have a two-tiered system of justice and a two-tiered economic system, where more and more people are being left behind, where more and more people are subject to sometimes brutal criminal penalties, because they’re not part of the special class that gets exempted from the laws. President Obama showed his true when he was in the United States Senate and voted to grant telecommunications company retroactive criminal immunity for their federal felonies for cooperating with the Bush administration’s illegal surveillance program.
With national security letters, they could be tracking you. They’ve done hundreds of thousands of things. They could find out from the library what books you’re checking out, they could go to you web provider and find out to whom you’re sending emails, what website your accessing, and the recipient of a National Security letter cannot disclose to you that they’re provided the government that information, or else they’re subject to prosecution. What kind of country are we living in? This is like the KGB in the Soviet Union but so much worse because of advances in technology, where they can spy on so much more of what we do and what we communicate.
Like how Google knows exactly what to sell you…
Not only what they’re going to sell you. If you look for new sources, you type in Egypt, and somebody else who likes to travel and buy a lot of stuff at Nordstrom types in Egypt, you get very different responses on Google. So they’re feeding it. It’s like somebody who just watches Rush Limbaugh all day—they keep getting more and more Rush Limbaugh. Again, it’s very un-democratic and it results in such a degradation of our democracy when people don’t have access to trustworthy information.
Do you plan on running again?
“No. After next Tuesday, I’m looking forward to the flexibility to teach, speak, mobilize and write.
A lot of my friends feel like there’s no point in voting, nothing’s going to change. Why would you say it’s important that my friends and me vote?
“Young people should do a lot of things. They should be out on the streets, they should be organizing, mobilizing, joining and starting movements for real change. What Margaret Med? said about never doubt that few people working together can bring about real change, because they’re the ones that always do—it’s absolutely true. But you’re never going to see change if you just sit things out. When I hear John Mayer sing, “just sit back and the world will change,” that is the most immoral, irresponsible message, especially for young people who are going to face the results of all of this in the future. Most social progress movements in this country came about because of young people mobilizing and pushing. To remain complacent, to be cynical, be resigned to say, “Why should I bother because there’s too much money involved,” or, “it’s already too corrupt,” that is such an unbelievable cop out. People who don’t stand up and fight at every level to bring about change, they are the enemy. They are as responsible as the wrongdoers, because if you see wrongdoing and don’t stand up against it, you’re on the side of the status quo.”
Way back in the day when Fuck the Informer was going through Total Mass Destruction, we had this song called “Hit the Bitch Hard.” It wasn’t really about anything in particular, not advocating actually hitting anybody or anything, just some stupid song that we played almost as a stupid segue between one stupid song and the next. As was typical of us at the time, the lyrics were simple and repetitive.
“Hit the bitch, hit the bitch, hit the bitch hard… hard… hard…” and that was it.
Now, I’m pretty sure we wrote the song as a mix between the Dwarves song “Hits” and the Ramones “Beat on the Brat,” though I don’t think we consciously were connecting it to either of them at the time. That happens with music—you end up ripping shit off whether you intend to or not. Sometimes you do it on purpose, like we did for our song “Revenge,” which was a blend of two Aretha Franklin songs (You Better Think and Respect) dangerously sung over two abusive and driving chords. But in the case of “Hit the Bitch Hard,” we just wrote it in two seconds and played it that night. If you ever saw us, I’m pretty sure you’d agree we were the type of band that could get away with that. We didn’t have to worry about being sloppy because being sloppy was already written into the equation. It made it easier for us to care less, and for whatever reason caring less was the driving goal of the band. We could care less harder than any other Salt Lake band could care. Our band sweated lazy, and it was reflected in our song writing.
So anyway, we started realizing that “Hit the Bitch Hard” was turning into one of our hits. People could jump on stage and sing the twenty-seconds long song for us, and that made them feel special, which meant they’d likely buy us shots after the show. Jocks also seemed to like the song, and when you play in a band that tends to make people want to kick your ass, having jocks like something gives you a fragile layer of protection. We’d play the song at almost every show regardless of where it was or who we were playing with, twenty-seconds of gang vocals screaming “Hard!” guaranteed.
That is, guaranteed until somebody came up to us and told us how much he related to the song. It was at Burt’s Tiki Lounge after an especially lackluster performance. Some older guy walked up to us as we were loading our gear and was like, “Man! I love you guys! That song about hitting the bitch… man, loved it! Cause sometimes, you know, when your girl is mouthing off and shit, you gotta… bam! Put her in her place!”
Brian, Andy and I looked at each other uncomfortably before looking back at the guy. He was really, really excited, and there was no question in any of our minds that he was also serious. I mean, obviously somebody could make some sort of sarcastic comment along those lines while trying to be funny, and yeah, we understood that, but there was no way this was not one of those moments. Homeboy related to our song in the worst way, and if there was one thing we didn’t want, it was relating to him in any way.
Long story short, we never played the song again. Instead, we went on to writing more personally relevant songs like “Sex Offender” (which lyrics like, “Don’t try to label me, I’m not a monster, I’m a sex offender”), “Dead Hookers” (“I know how to keep it erect, and dead hookers are a side-effect”), “Oh No, Oh Yeah (“I met a girl in the checkout line, I asked her out, she said fine”) and “Too Much Personality” (“I’m gonna supe up my go-kart and drive it into the sun, just for fun, a supernova blasting off for everyone—you’ll be seeing sunspots baby”). You know, stuff we could stand behind. Of course we stuck to our classics too, cause if we didn’t play “I Killed Your Fucking Dog,” then what was the point of playing at all?
“I fucking killed your dog, I killed your fucking dog, I fucking killed your fucking dog… your dog.”
Right now there are thousands of Venezuelans coming from around the country to New Orleans in order to cast their vote in the Venezuelan presidential election. The old consulate in Miami has been closed for political reasons, so in order for them to vote, Florida residents had to make the journey west to the Big Easy. Opposition to Chavez runs high in this group, and it’s no surprise that the vast majority of them plan on voting for his opponent, Henrique Capriles.
Okay, great, but what does this have to do with Cuba?
Well, Chavez’s Venezuela is the biggest economic supporter of the isolated island, with generous oil subsidies provided to keep Cuba running, and these subsidies are crucial to the country’s current existence. Capriles realizes that it would be politically unwise to simply stop helping Cuba, especially considering the number of Cuban doctors currently acting as “guest workers” in the country, but he does not plan on continuing to support the island to the same extent Chavez does. Cuba, which is currently undergoing a series of economic reforms, could be up against a rock and a hard place if Capriles wins.
I’m sure what’s going on in the minds of Cubans is fear of an economic collapse similar to when support from the Soviet Union dried up over night, paralyzing the country and intensifying the effects of the U.S. embargo to a critical level. The blockade itself is more than partially to blame for Cuba’s reliance on Venezuela, so its continuation coupled with the removal of Venezuelan support could really fuck some shit up for the Cubans. It’s like how New Orleans must feel every time a major hurricane starts working its way towards the city. I mean, it probably won’t be as bad as Katrina, but dear god, what if it is?
It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. I’m critical of Chavez of course, but what worries me most is the fate of all my friends living in Havana. I know it might seem unimportant in the midst of our crazy election, but what’s happening today in New Orleans and in Caracas could really change the lives of millions of people in Cuba. It might sound weird, but that’s just the way it goes. Let’s hope that whoever gets elected will take that into consideration, because if there’s one thing I want, it’s for my friends not to suffer while I sip on martinis at Molly’s. Speaking of which…