God & The Pledge of Allegiance

Aquarian Weekly 7/3/02 REALITY CHECK

COURTS A-GO-GO

This was banner week for controversial court decisions. So let’s cut through the piles of crap and get to the brutal truth. The mandatory reading of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional.

This is the ruling of U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and with respect to those who disagree, I must concur.

The main crux of the decision focused on the monotheistic phrase “one nation under God”. For a myriad of reasons, many will find the rejection of God in anything outrageous, yet, once again, I must agree with the ruling.

This has nothing to do with political correctness. Anyone familiar with my work would never mistake it for anything approaching polite. It has everything to do with the reference to God.

God should not be mentioned in anything to do with the politics of humanity, its governments, its currency, its anthems, or especially the aggressive, violent behavior resulting from their existence. God is causing enough troubles among the radical loons, who are busy ramming airliners into office buildings.

A fairer argument against this ruling might cite the “one lone nut” theory, which I have espoused when soccer moms try and shut down the film or music industry because they’re too lazy to pay attention to the information seeping into their kid’s brain.

God should not be mentioned in anything to do with the politics of humanity, its governments, its currency, its anthems, or especially the aggressive, violent behavior resulting from their existence.

Ironically, much like the PMRC furor of the mid-80s’, one voice began this “pledge” hubbub. Michael Newdow, a Sacramento physician, used his daughter as a political football to promote atheism. In other words, he, and his layers, manipulated the court system to attack religious bullies, while he himself was, you guessed it, an anti-religious bully.

Newdow was “offended” by his nation being under any deity. His argument is specious. It is not his nation. It is not God’s nation. A nation, by definition, is “a large body of people possessing its own territory ruled under a unified government.” There is nothing in there about an omnipotent patriarch or any whining dipshits from Cali.

And, by the way, I’m not certain this is a unified government, or that there is “liberty and justice for all”. But let’s not quibble at this juncture. There’s a great deal to cover this week, so I shan’t wander.

The fact is a fellow by the name of Francis Bellamy plagiarized the Pledge of Allegiance. It was ripped off word for word from a socialist mantra. He put it together to reflect his cousin, Edward Bellamy’s political views. Bellamy, author of “Looking Backward” and other wildly silly utopian novels, introduced his cousin to the mindless oath to state above and beyond individual freedoms and personal choices of import, like, say, religion.

This is why congress decided to jam God in there during the height of the Cold War and the rabid idiocy of the Red Scare. It was far too close to the Russian creed, and certainly no God fearing nation could have a similar chant to that of a Godless horde.

Stay with me kids; the parade of morons along this long line of brainwashing garbage never seems to end.

Meanwhile, over at the Supreme Court, a ruling came down approving random drug tests for any public high school students seeking extracurricular activities. The defense of the ruling states that a schools’ interest in ridding their campuses of drugs outweighs an individual’s right to privacy.

This is beyond insane.

Now, not familiar with the modes of mental illness nor the state one has to be in usurp even insanity, there really isn’t a level of absurd reasoning that combines any part of the Constitution’s 4th Amendment with the idea that any institution, state run or private, can arbitrarily force anyone to be tested for anything just so they can play the Tuba or audition for the “H.M.S. Pinafore”.

And, once again, I implore those who pain over this high-level malarkey; any kid on drugs isn’t interested in hanging around for five seconds of extra anything near the school. It’s tough enough getting these youngsters to attend the appointed time. They would be better served testing those not interested in extracurricular activities.

Here’s the deal with this sack of nonsense. Because everyone went crazy-go-nuts over steroid use in high school football a few years back, the Supreme Court attempted to “save the children’ by instituting “random drug testing” for sports. Now, it seems, junior won’t be making the Chess Club without supplying a viable urine sample.

Perhaps now someone might understand why I froth at the mouth every time these legal jerk-offs try and censor anything to “save the children’. One minute they’re putting stickers on albums and leaning on Hollywood, the next they’re burning books at the 4th of July cookout.

This latest mess began when a court ruled against a former Oklahoma high school honor student, Lindsay Earls, who innocently competed on an academic quiz team and sang in the choir.

I propose we randomly test these mutants who continue to misrepresent American history as some kind of destined glory for rich white folk and pass it off as curriculum.

And I propose that calculus is better digested on heavy hallucinogenics.

And finally, this whole School Voucher thing in Cleveland cannot be anymore aggravating. I don’t want to fund anyone anywhere receiving a “finer” education, unless I am asked to approve the curriculum and set the standards for attendance and grading.

I also would like special parking privileges as a member of a school board. These people obviously do nothing, and I can get into that.

I have a voucher that says that the Catholic and public school systems failed me in ways that are best understood only when drawn out in several volumes with detailed graphics and charts.

And if televised evidence of a Cleveland Browns football game is any indication of the city’s level of intellect, they shouldn’t waste a dime on hall monitors.

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In Defense of the American Bully

Aquarian Weekly 6/26/02 REALITY CHECK

IN DEFENSE OF THE AMERICAN BULLY

According to a bizarre, but apparently all too true, report printed in Reuters this past week, the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates has decided to rile up a “bullying awareness” movement. The country’s largest doctor’s conclave plans on urging fellow colleagues to inform parents of this growing epidemic. According to the group’s extensive report, one out of ten kids are victims of bullying. Nearly 15% of children are bullies, and more than half of those have been, or currently are, being bullied.

Last year the AMA’s Council on Scientific Affairs concluded that without intervention, “bullying can lead to serious academic, social, emotional and legal problems.”

The push for a national campaign to “stamp out bullying” cites the rash of school shootings in recent years resulting from the relentless abuse of schoolchildren at the hands of each other. Extensive psychoanalyses studies of terrorized children have proven that a significant amount of mental afflictions are suffered by bullying, leading to gnawing psychological problems well into adulthood.

Now, as a diminutive runt, and a victim of years of chronic bullying, I am here to say that any such movement to end bullying in our time is capricious, arbitrary and wrong. It is against every law of nature and yet another example of doctors acting like some kind of supreme beings and jamming statistics wherever they might fit the latest cause.

Here at the Reality Check News & Information Desk, we have done our own studies, many of which were of a particularly painful and personal nature. In fact, in a column entitled, “The Truth About Willie & The Underground Sharks” printed in the 2/14/01 issue of this publication, the point was made quite clearly. It began as a response to a letter accusing a close friend, and a main contributor to my last book, Willie, for doling out a series of savage beatings in some downtown NYC rave club.

Following an unprecedented deluge of hate mail, even for this space, the below statement still stands:

“Many kids who gobble Ecstasy find a good beating a welcomed enhancement to the high. There is nothing better than breaking the chains of well-being and peace with a fine stomping at the hands of an anonymous madman whose only purpose in hanging around in the first place is to doll them out like Easter candy.”

Discovery is part of youth, and to discover verbal, physical and mental abuse from another kid is the right of every American child.

The crux of the sentimental piece is what I wish to revisit this week in response to the terrible glut of news coming out of the AMA.

You see, what minions of science can never understand is the natural order of God’s law. It is survival of the fittest and the predatory instinct of humanity to bully. Of course this has been broached here before regarding the freaks that pass themselves off as agents of the Lord to molest children. The real problem with these holy cretins is they haven’t taken enough beatings in their lifetime. The raw element of fear is absence in their hearts. To taste the lash is their wanting.

Face it; the bully holds a special purpose in the grand scheme of “growing up.” Hating another for no reason merely because you can kick them around is the right of the brute in society. Learning this at an early age is not only beneficial to our children, but also important to fuel other basic urges like vengeance and spite. The bully helps put these deranged emotions into perspective during a time in our lives when the only aim is to remain invisible, inconsequential, and hopefully unharmed.

The only harm in bullies is the continued coddling of them in order to come up with intellectual or emotional reasons why children pick on each other incessantly. They do it because the ignorant need an outlet. Discovery is part of youth, and to discover verbal, physical and mental abuse from another kid is the right of every American child. They have so few as it is, don’t take away the playground.

It’s ironic, but a few days before this report was made public I was telling my wife of my days as a Catholic School boy in St. Dominic’s on Van Ness Avenue in the Bronx, NY, and of some little shit heel named Troy who thought it fun to challenge me to a fight every friggin’ day for the first three years of schooling. This was his mistake, and my good fortune, because despite the fact that I was nothing more than a spit-shine momma’s boy with pressed slacks and gooped hair at three foot nothing, I eventually smote him.

You see what Troy did not realize, like most bullies, is that after awhile it really doesn’t matter what they do. There is a sense of “nothing left to lose” that wells up in the human psyche, even at age eight, and not too long into our after-school bouts I was routinely hitting him in the face. And in my extensive study, the only thing that really stops a bully is not a team of doctors, but clean shots to the bridge of the nose or square on the jaw. This produces the greatest stream of blood. My study also revealed that bullies hate that.

Sure, interventions and parental group therapy are nice, but a carefully placed fist to the temple sets the bully straight and gives a lifetime of hope for the bullied. I’ve had plenty of experience with bullies, and it sounds to me like the AMA is bullying us into robbing our kids of childhood’s most precious victory, the ass-whupping of the deserved. Life is about a series of defeating bullies; the sooner we understand it, the better.

It is quite Zen when you think about it. Without pain there can be no pleasure, and without defeat there is no victory.

I conclude with a quote from my 2/19/01 column:

“The underground is filled with natural-selection beasts like Willie, and so are politics and Wall Street and suburbia for that matter. He is the bully, the boogieman, the great equalizer reminding everyone that humanity is not the home of compassion, but the result of brutal evolution, where the strong and maniacal unleash their frustration on those who might live under the illusion that they are somehow more refined or “better” than the rest. We shouldn’t shun or fear them. The idea is to befriend these mutants, pull them close to your bosom and mother their intentions, or at the very least, bring a notebook and study their habits.”

Today I am five foot nothing and encounter bullies of every sort everyday, but thanks to Troy I still keep the notebook and study the habits.

Who’s your Troy?

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What Did Bush Know Before 9/11?

Aquarian Weekly 6/5/02 REALITY CHECK

THE BLAME GAME

Those who wish to blame the current administration for the abysmally horrid defense of this country’s borders on 9/11 are free to do so.

Go ahead. It’s fun.

You have permission from all of us here at The Desk.

Blame away.

It will not be taken as unpatriotic, nor will it be putting anyone or anything at risk during times and war and blah, blah blah, mucho bullshito! On the contrary, it’s the essence of patriotism. The federal government failed us on 9/11. Its primary purpose is to protect our borders. The leader of this government happens to be the president. The president happens to be George W. Bush. The Electoral College decided that two Novembers ago. The Supreme Court upheld it. I defended its decision. Therefore I defend the right of the people of this republic to blame its penultimate leader for the death of its citizens and destruction of its property during a full-scale terrorist attack.

The buck stops here.”

Harry Truman said that. It was not too long after he agreed to have this country take responsibility for massacring hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese to save hundreds of thousands of Japanese lives. Sound confusing? It is. This president thing is not an easy gig. In one of his final public appearances Herbert Hoover was asked about the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and blurted, “Why me?” He died with the stigma of failure and Hoover was in office for eight months when the crud hit the fan. By 9/11, Bush was in charge for nine months.

You see where I’m going here?

All you need to know about Bush’s conscience is that he refuses to allow an investigation on what went down on 9/11. And if he keeps up this firewall, he will be the first president to do so.

Captain Shoe-In wanted to be president. He sure as hell paid for it. So he must take the shit storm like a man and quit hiding behind Papa Chaney, flag-waving, 21-gun salutes and the quote of the week regarding “The Evildoers”.

All you need to know about Bush’s conscience is that he refuses to allow an investigation on what went down on 9/11. And if he keeps up this firewall, he will be the first president to do so.

In the wake of Pearl Harbor, it took all of nine or so days to get an investigation up and running. It was corrupt, misguided and discovered nothing, but FDR stamped it and we went about our business whupping Nazi’s and the doomed Empire of Japan.

Less than a week after the JFK assassination, there needed to be an investigation. You know, with all the silly commie rumors and Castro backlash. So LBJ gave it the go ahead and now we have volumes of the wonderfully crafted slice of fiction called the Warren Commission.

Even Richard Milhouse Nixon, having already turned his administration into a mockery of governance gone terribly awry, agreed to an investigation.

Oh, now I see, the buck stopped THERE.

So, let’s review:

A. Federal Government fucked up real bad. B. People minding the store have to answer for it. C. What took so long?

Yes, the President of the United States knew all about the attack. Members of congress knew all about the attack. And although it is getting painfully obvious that Tom Daschle is already running for president by making this belated mania a political demon hunt, the same way republicans grabbed the opportunity to chase Bill Clinton all over the place to advance their agenda and careers, he knew all about it too.

They all knew. Who are they kidding? The FBI knew, the CIA, the Pentagon, and those dark sorts on the payroll who are paid good money to funnel information on the “undesirables” and “suspicious”. These are multi-billion dollar a year organizations whose only purpose for existing is paranoia.

Thousands of terrorist and lone wolf plots were thwarted in the final weeks of the last century; the whole Y2K end-of-the-world, wrath-of-God crap. Remember that? Yes, our boys were all over those people, because the enemies’ list has grown leaps and bounds since the end of the Cold War.

And just as I wrote the day after the towers fell in this very space, there was ample warning in Africa and the on the high seas and through E-mail and wire tapping and late night cocktails with King Abdullah What’s-his-Name. For over a decade of Desert Storm fallout, those paid to know were all-but sure that some major target on the East coast was going to be hit.

But professional paranoia was apparently not enough.

Two weeks prior to the attacks I watched about three-quarters of a documentary on PBS trashing American airport and airline security systems. How people with no tickets or ID were prancing around waving pistols and passing high-grade heroin through customs. It was laughable.

Hey, I laughed.

And now that someone, whether it’s a hungry journalist or a politician trying to make the grade, we have a right to know who dropped the ball.

Big money people with big gripes had it in for the United States for some time. Bush Sr’s ridiculously irresponsible war on Iraq 12 years ago, and the resulting botched foreign policy mess conducted by the Minister of Fun during the roaring 90s’ escalated it all.

So the real blame is our collective ignorance and ego as a nation, citizens and public officials. We’ve been in the line of fire for years, whistling past the graveyard.

One more thing to chew:

I defy anyone to recall Al Gore and George Bush mentioning a possible terrorist hit on this country during over a year of campaigning for the job.

Asleep at the wheel, chief.

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The Ani DiFranco Discussion

Aquarian Weekly 5/22/02 REALITY CHECK

THREE DIMENSIONAL GIRL A Discussion with Ani DiFranco Part II (Part I)

i remember the first time i saw someone lying on the cold street i thought: i can’t just walk past here this can’t just be true but i learned by example to just keep moving my feet it’s amazing the things that we all learn to do -subdivision

jc: I’d like to discuss the song, “Subdivision” which begins with the line: “White people are so scared of black people.” That speaks to me as a writer. Hit them with something strong in the lead, and once you get their attention, then you can start spinning your philosophy. Is that where you were going there?

ad: Well, yeah, but that’s not usually my thing. I don’t usually lead that way. That was different for me as a writer, but I wanted to get people’s attention because I feel the great liberation from segregation is a lie. We’re still living in a segregated society. It’s not on the books, but defacto economic segregation is as affective, or more so, than any signs that you could put up over a restroom. And therein lies the very complex, radical systematic criticism. To look at a lie like “separate but equal” and say, well, okay, we attacked the “separate” part, but that wasn’t the problem. Thurgood Marshall and the Civil Rights leaders were unable to really approach the “equal” thing. There’s no fucking way with the amount of power involved.

jc: So just let us have the legal thing.

ad: Yeah, so attacking it on the separate side was about all they could swing at the time, and bless their hearts for giving us that much, but now we need to keep the pressure on, and keep looking at things like our evacuated cities, and applying words like “racism” to it. You know, “Where did all the white people go?” And how can you, in good conscience, set up a tax structure where the suburban tax bases are not one with the city. So the suburban schools are rich and full of computers and the city schools don’t have pencils.

jc: It’s a class system. Human beings sectionalize themselves economically. Well, human beings? I’ve written it time and again; women are not really responsible for these atrocities. Although I’ve found that as a writer you’re empowered not in the sense of “Take a look at me I’m a woman”, but “Take a look at me I’m a human.”

ad: It’s interesting, because since I started writing little poems my identity as a woman has informed my writing. Everything from how I perceive the world to the experiences I have, to the way I play the guitar; somewhat less linear. I hear music in circles and I feel power dynamics amongst people only as a woman can, and yet, like you say, I am writing about being a human and trying to re-connect us across gender lines, as we have been socialized to not do. But speaking to those gender dynamics has brought me so much defensive reaction over the years, so many of the “She’s an angry, militant, man-hater.”

jc: Well, of course. That’s how you deal with the suppressed, by defining those who speak their mind as pissed and subversive.

ad: Yeah, it’s interesting to me, that sort of knee-jerk reaction. I have seen over the years the media dictate to my audience: “This is chick music for the sea of screaming Grrrls.” And then I get up on stage and say, “No. They were wrong about us.” First of all, please stop screaming, because it will be much better for our dialogue. Second of all, just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I’m not a human and this is not about us and them. This is not a special interest group that I am speaking to or from. It’s the idea of women as being some kind of special interest group, that kind of pre-supposition that writers write from that they don’t even recognize. Where men’s experience is universal a women’s experience is…threatening. (laughs)

jc: (laughs) But you’re still speaking as a woman. You can’t separate it completely. ad: Absolutely. And consciously doing so. Admittedly doing so. I’m not going to pretend for you that my life is like that of a man’s, not even for the purposes of making nice-nice music.

jc: What are your overall thoughts about what happened on 9/11?

ad: Well, I was mid-town, so for me it was all the smoke at the end of the avenues and the exodus uptown and the ash-covered people. But one of the exquisite effects of that day for me was the immediate recognition; first in the city and then in the whole country, of us as one people. When that first building fell there was color blindness in that blinding flash of light that I found so beautiful. There were beautiful things that came of the ugliness, and that I think can still come; the more that we keep the pressure on, and keep talking about it and keep counter-acting the propaganda, the fear.

It’s the idea of women as being some kind of special interest group, that kind of pre-supposition that writers write from that they don’t even recognize. Where men’s experience is universal a women’s experience is…threatening.

jc: I still call it the “Gaping Wound on Wall Street”, because there’s a reason why those buildings were hit.

ad: It’s poetry in motion. And the genius to make that happen and the incredible arrogance and incompetence it reveals. It was obvious what the plot was a few years earlier. In that sense it should have been no surprise to any of us that they finally pulled it off. And now its time to turn our eyes towards our own government and not outward, because it’s the only way we can save ourselves, because it was obvious from that example that there is no amount “human intelligence” that could save us from such acts. It’s only true justice and global justice that are going to prevent that kind of rage and violence from activating populations of people. Of course, we’re talking about some crazy violent motherfuckers.

jc: But they don’t just become crazy out of nowhere.

ad: Yeah, and it takes a lot of people who are very pissed off and very poor and have been living among violence and oppression at the hands of this country for way to long to back those guys up. I was supposed to be flying in that morning actually, but I drove in the night before for whatever reason.

jc: Karmic.

ad: You know, there’s incredible possibility in those events that make us look at the brevity of our lives, at the mortality of ourselves, of the consecutiveness between us. And if we can take the energy that exploded in the city that day of oneness, and we apply it globally, the realization of it…

So, that’s what I’ve been trying to do; to let the smoke of that awareness billow forth, not the fear, not the us and them that George W. is trying promote.

jc: Or any president in his situation would probably have to promote, because he’s representing this huge conglomerate of countless years of failed expectations abroad to try to defend a country that should have been defended properly in the first place.

ad: Well, I guess, I don’t know if Gore was sitting in the office he was voted into I don’t know how different it would be.

jc: No different. I’m anti-Gore myself, not that I’m pro-Bush, but I never got over the PMRC thing.

ad: (laughs) Again, without systematic change we have no third party, without a third party we have one party. Not two, but one, somehow.

jc: (clapping) Bravo.

For a complete unedited transcript of the conversartion: Ani Dialogue

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Ani DiFranco Speaks With James Campion

Aquarian Weekly 5/15/02 REALITY CHECK

TALKIN’ REVOLUTION BLUES
A Discussion with Ani DiFranco Part I

I consider Ani Difranco a fellow soldier in these ridiculous, sometimes humored, but always-rewarding sieges on the elusively hidden truths of our silly human collective. Since the night this magazine sent me to an old theater in Portchester, NY to watch her perform nearly seven years ago, I’ve been a fan. That night she spoke to me like few other artists have. I’ve seen her play a half-dozen times since, and each one brings a new experience, always effusive and brutally honest.

Over 12 years and 15 records, her biting lyrics usually reflected my own well-crafted cynicism of a politically ambiguous world bloated with lethal doses of sweet propaganda primed to reduce us to merrily marching mindless hordes. But along with being a kindred spirit, DiFranco’s independence in the manipulative landscape of creative distribution has been a great inspiration for a young author butting heads with publishing icons. More than once I’d used her name as less noun than verb, as in: “These fuckers keep this shit up and I’m going to Ani this book”; to which I did, happily.

So when we met on a chilly, overcast spring day in the industrial pall of Poughkeepsie, NY, in the bowels of the Mid-Hudson Civic Center, set on the shores of New York’s famous river of simpler times when the folk singer might earn a cup of java from a passing stranger for spinning yarns of heartbreak, Ms. DiFranco and myself had ourselves a chat. Two admitted lunatics dissecting the greater good.

on a morning beatific in its indian summer breeze on the day that america fell to its knees after strutting around for a century without saying thank you or please – 9/11 poem

james campion: This stanza of the poem you performed so movingly at Carnegie Hall a few weeks ago hits home for me, because it succinctly projects what I’ve been writing about for years concerning the U.S. presence in the Middle East and our inability to fully understand the cultural, racial and religious issues that are prevalent there.

ani difranco: Except to exacerbate them. (laughs) Well…yeah. I really don’t have a mind for the hyper details of foreign policy, or of what the stupid white men are doing, but I feel compelled to express things like the United States exploitation of not just the Middle East, but also the “Third World”. Our capitalist selfishness in terms of using the world’s resources and labor and just manipulating weaker countries for strategic and economic reasons. That’s a very obvious and basic thing to say, but somehow I feel the need to keep saying it.

jc: You refer to yourself as a folksinger, which I find enlightening, because throughout the centuries folksingers or minstrels used music to comment on social mores or social wrongs of the time. So, as a folksinger, do you feel you can tap into those same things and not be sitting on CNN pointing the literal finger?

ad: (chuckles) Well, CNN would probably be an impossible place to tap into anything real since all of the information is completely co-opted and controlled by corporate forces. So, yeah, it is a much better venue to pick up a guitar and walk into a bar and talk to people one on one. I love my job; traveling and making art in very common, open spaces and feeling totally free to talk about political or social issues. Music is a very effective way to communicate and inspire.

I think that every room is a perfect venue for political change, whether it’s a theater with a stage in it or a whether it’s a classroom or whether its the halls of justice. I’ve been engaged in conversations recently where people ask me, “What do you think is more important? What’s more effective? What’s more legitimate statement: To make radical art or to try and get in the system?” And for me it’s Yes! Yes! All of it. Whatever you’re fucking good at.

I used to dance; I went to art school for years. I love to paint. But there was something about music and the inclusion of words, the literal communication through words that I really felt was my most effective way to make change, to inspire people, to become myself. But for somebody else it might be raising your kid to be a respectful, loving, thoughtful questioning person. There’s infinite numbers of ways we can change the world.

jc: Yes, but do you believe there is still a chance for grass roots movements?

ad: Ah! It’s happening as we speak. You know it. It’s all around us. I feel a new sense of optimism out there. We may even be surfacing from the 80s’, (chuckles) culturally speaking. Of course I have a bit of a slanted perspective from standing at my microphone, in terms of what cross section of young folks I encounter, but I am impressed and hopeful with the political will of the young people now. They recognize that they were born into…

jc: A fixed game.

ad: Yeah, an homogenized culture, and wanting to dissect that. We were probably born just early enough to know a time when you could actually buy a record at the local record store.

jc: You’re taking me back.

ad: Yeah, (laughing) I think that young people are beginning to question that sort of corporate super structure. You know, all of the protests in New York and Seattle and Prague. I find those all very inspiring.

jc: So, you’re optimistic.

ad: I am…optimistic.

jc: You’ve mentioned Ralph Nader at several of your shows these past couple of years. I voted for Ralph the first time around. I vote for people with no chance. I voted for John Anderson in 1980 and I’ve had high hopes for a third party candidate to arise for a long time. Do you have any confidence that politics is really any way to get to the crux of any issue?

ad: Absolutely, now more than ever. I think that is of primary importance. I was ten years old in 1980, so by the time I was coming to any kind of adult consciousness the political system was a corrupt, capitalist club of elite corporate CEO’s. The whole Reaganomics, and the whole Reagan/Bush regime we are still living under, and I think young people completely divested themselves from their government. There was such a disconnection.

jc: There’s a deep seated cynicism. I know. I’m there.

ad: Well, the cynicism is well founded. We’ve had our citizenship stolen and consumerism foisted upon us, and at this point, ironically enough, there is a reinvestment in the belief in government, a reinvestment of energy and involvement, and that is the only thing that can recreate or salvage our “democracy”. I just don’t see a lot of young people getting involved in party politics, trying to infuse themselves into the system if there is nobody to vote for. So, not only do we have to get out and vote; we have to get out and run.

I’ve been engaged in conversations recently where people ask me, “What do you think is more important? What’s more effective? What’s more legitimate statement: To make radical art or to try and get in the system?” And for me it’s Yes! Yes! All of it. Whatever you’re fucking good at.

I have a friend I was just talking to last night who spent the last week in D.C. meeting with all these representatives and senators about this Yukka Mountain in Nevada. They’ve already spent four billion dollars on nuclear waste all over the country, and they have this plan where they want to ship it all to Nevada and dump it in an Indian Reservation.

jc: (sarcastically) That’ll work.

ad: Yeah, and it’ll never leak and it’ll be fine. No problems. So, here is my friend Susan attending meeting after meeting after meeting with all these senators, and she’s trying so hard to get these people to vote “no”. And when I spoke to her last week she was saying, (dreary tone) “Okay, I’m going to D.C. and I’m fixin’ to get really disillusioned and I’ll probably come back as a car bomber…”

jc: (laughs) Into the mouth of the beast.

ad: (excited) But after days and days of meetings, she called last night and it was so great to talk to her because she was re-inspired at the possibility of one person to make a difference. These senators just vote on what their aids say they should vote on. You know how it is. But she felt that her presence really had effectiveness that week.

If people had any idea how much power they have, shit could really change. If we just started exercising it. There’s some kind of African proverb that says; “If you don’t think one person can make a difference, spend a night in a room with a mosquito.” So, yeah, I am longing for an inspiration of progressive young people to change the system, and really get inside the system, not just working from without.

jc: When you write in your songs and speak at some of your shows; it is from a humanist standpoint, politically. You have this artistic individualism about you. So how did you react to the whole patriotic fervency that we just passed through? Not to demean why people lean on the group dynamic, but sometimes individual thought can be sucked out by this conglomerate – “Unless you’re with us you’re against us” mentality that happens when a nation is wounded. Did you feel at all ostracized from the vox populi?

ad: Well, that’s nothing new. The day I stop feeling that way I’ll have to start questioning myself. (laughs) But yeah, it’s just so sickeningly sad the way calculated propaganda and these huge media outlets could twist the idea of patriotism. They’ve done it forever. Completely inverting it. Go back to McCarthyism and the House Committee on Un-American Activities? When it is the most American activity of all to express yourself, to fight the government when it’s wrong. Democracy is about, “If you don’t like your government, change it. If you can’t change it have a fucking revolution.” They wrote it right in the constitution.

jc: Ready your muskets I always say.

ad: (laughs) Yeah! There’s some quote, I wish I could remember which Founding Father said it.

jc: Jefferson’s “Let’s have a revolution every ten years.”

ad: Oh, I don’t know, that’s a good one.

jc: I’m paraphrasing, but he did say it.

ad: You see? There is always this, “hear what you want to hear – see what you want to see”. They can twist things like the constitution or the Bible into any kind of oppressive tool.

jc: But isn’t the Bible an oppressive tool?

ad: It depends on how you read it; same as any document. They are just tools to be used, they can be used against us as well as for us, but there are certainly many positive messages in the Bible. I think Jesus…

jc: Ah, love and forgiveness.

ad: Sure, I think reading any document literally, especially something like the Bible, which is all metaphor, is so misguided. I’m not really interested in Jesus as a “walking on water” kind of guy, but as a revolutionary, as a guy who was trying to free the slaves, fuckin’ A. There it is right in the Bible: “Slaves bad.” (laughs) “Love your brother!”

jc: They took care of that guy.

ad: But there was some quote I read somewhere recently, it might have been from Jefferson, that “to not criticize your government, especially in times of war, when your government is perpetrating violence on another people, to not be critical is an act of treason.”

jc: I think it might have been John Adams. Those guys were all maniacs. If you read about the Founding Fathers, and get outside of the textbooks, they were downright radical. When you discuss McCarthyism it was in the 1950’s, not the 1850’s. And that gets back to the original question about your art, because I believe the only true voice left is through free expression. Art may be the only thing not annexed in a fluent dialogue between people and ideas, but every once and awhile when someone gets close to the bone, so to speak, they try to manipulate their words or tear pieces of them away like a Jesus or a Gandhi.

ad: Right on.

Next Week: Part II

For a complete unedited transcript of the conversartion: Ani Dialogue

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

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Parenting 101

Aquarian Weekly 5/8/02 REALITY CHECK

INTRODUCTION TO PARENTING IN A PREDATORY ENVIRONMENT

Due to the rash of recent revelations regarding the systematic abuse, both physically and mentally heaped on children of several generations, we present the following public service announcement from the hard-working, well-meaning staff of the Reality Check News & Information Desk.

Its aim is to identify evil in several forms, and not the more obvious of the species like Nazis, pimps, thugs, terrorists, grotesquely obese rednecks, hockey goons, loquacious crack heads, a third of congress, televangelists, talk show hosts, people who thought it was a good idea to marry on network television, dope fiends on welfare, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, the Gore family, the greedy fuckers who kidnapped my cat, Bill Gates, Chuck Heston, Al Sharpton, the little known, but all-too frighteningly real Nixon clones, NIKE, the entire editing department at Maxim – especially that little chunky fellow who repeats “ya know” like a mental patient, telemarketers who do not understand the brutally frank language of a quintessential “death threat”, anyone who refers to anyone else as “dude”, the Academy of Arts and Sciences, OPEC, NRA, NOW, PMRC and those always peppy cretins who use the following for general murder and mayhem: God, Jesus, Muhammad, the Bible, a flag, a clever chant, a rousing anthem, creed or atavistic speech.

Due to space constraints and the odd bathroom break, the list has been truncated, but suffice to say, contains witless examples of humanity’s mistakes. But it is not the obvious that we look to expose here.

No, chances are quite good that anyone seen ranting on about “green men from Hector stealing his soul at 4:30 on Easter Sunday morning, 1978”, while wringing his hands around a four-day old pigeon corpse is likely to send you scampering to the other side of the street. Unless you cull paychecks for freelance journalism, and then you are obliged to stop and pretend to care about the gentleman’s plight long enough to bag a viable lead.

If you have a child, whether male or female, PLEASE do not leave in the care of anyone EVER. Perhaps only your own parents or possibly siblings may suffice, but only following painful scientific scrutiny, a full cavity search of their persons and several psychological exams. Any other option is simply egregious neglect on your part.

And this is why we strongly believe our extensive experience in the realm of the odd, degenerate, deviant, mischievous and downright rotten, allows us the exclusive privilege to speak freely about the following subjects. As a veteran of over twenty years of running wildly around the darkest corners of sub culture, and chairman of The Desk for the past five, I accept the duty of dissemination with a destined ferocity rarely equaled in the annals of the written word.

Those who have known me lo these many years will concur that I have had the unique pleasure to have seen things that no one should have to endure without the proper medication, weaponry or shock treatment. Some of the things I have written about in this space and beyond should, by all sober reasoning, have rendered me a jabbering loon long ago. Some may astutely cite it most certainly has done so. It is a wonder I ever leave my room willingly.

But alas, we digress, for the matter at hand is advice and wisdom and salient pointers about the evils of this world which fail to tote their own handy sirens. Certain clever aphorisms point to the fact that the least of the suspected evil ones are in the greatest need of our attention. So read carefully on if you are currently a parent, or believe that you shall one day procreate. But, fear not fellow myopists, just about anyone sucking air in the 21st century will benefit from our humble foray into “personal safety for loved ones”. It is all part of a series we hope to continue to investigate in future columns under the heading:

LIFE IS BEST WHEN EXPERIENCED THROUGH THE EYES OF PARANOIA.

Point One: If you have a child, whether male or female, PLEASE do not leave in the care of anyone EVER. Perhaps only your own parents or possibly siblings may suffice, but only following painful scientific scrutiny, a full cavity search of their persons and several psychological exams. Any other option is simply egregious neglect on your part.

Point Two: All members of an organized religion, teachers union or the ubiquitous weekend volunteer coaching sect are prohibited. If you absolutely MUST give your kid a modicum of spiritual guidance, a half-assed education or a slice competitive nature, PLEASE make sure that the moment they can reason you fill their tiny heads with mind-bending scenarios of potential mental anguish, rape and humiliation.

Point Three: Do not teach your children that people are bad because of their race, gender, culture, faith or political affiliation. People are bad merely by being people. You know damn well that you couldn’t begin to calculate the moments in your childhood when you should have been crushed, maimed, scarred or mangled in some horrid way if you hadn’t been one lucky bastard. And maybe you weren’t so lucky, or know someone who didn’t make it through puberty for one stupidly heinous reason or another. So…

Point Four: The television, radio, cd player, video game players and most filmmakers or sports celebrities are not equipped to provide your offspring with the proper foundation for reality in the areas of sexual conduct, personal hygiene, proper vocabulary, polite etiquette or anything resembling sane behavior. These are forms of entertainment and corporate cash cows, and exist solely to distract us from understanding what the fuck is really going on in the way of annexing our souls for a buck and a hearty guffaw.

Point Five: (and perhaps the most important of all) Ignore convention, obliterate traditions, abuse parameters and be very aware of those who use phrases like “That’s not how it’s done” or “You better let us decide for you”.

Our next few installments will include:

How to Arm Your Children Against Priests, Camp Councilors, Babysitters and Gym Teachers.

Try and Avoid Marrying Crazy Women Who Are Liable to Drown Your Kids in a Car or Murder Them En Masse After A Particularly Difficult Lunch Break.

Men Who Lose Their Keys Every Thirty Seconds Make Bad Role Models.

Do Not Take Advice From Pathetically Wordy Columnists Who Crank Out Meaningless Crap to Make Short-Notice Deadlines.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

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Ani DiFranco Interview

Aquarian Weekly 5/3/02

Ani Difranco Interview
Unedited Transcript Back Stage At Mid-Hudson Civic Center, Poughkeepsie, NY – 4/21/02

Photo by Albert Sanchez

I consider Ani Difranco a fellow soldier in these ridiculous, sometimes humored, but always-rewarding sieges on the elusively hidden truths of our silly human collective. Since the night this magazine sent me to an old theater in Portchester, NY to watch her perform nearly seven years ago, I’ve been a fan. That night she spoke to me like few other artists have. I’ve seen her play a half-dozen times since, and each one brings a new experience, always effusive and brutally honest.

Over 12 years and 15 records, her biting lyrics usually reflected my own well-crafted cynicism of a politically ambiguous world bloated with lethal doses of sweet propaganda primed to reduce us to merrily marching mindless hordes. But along with being a kindred spirit, DiFranco’s independence in the manipulative landscape of creative distribution has been a great inspiration for a young author butting heads with publishing icons. More than once I’d used her name as less noun than verb, as in: “These fuckers keep this shit up and I’m going to Ani this book”; to which I did, happily.

So when we met on a chilly, overcast spring day in the industrial pall of Poughkeepsie, NY, in the bowels of the Mid-Hudson Civic Center, set on the shores of New York’s famous river of simpler times when the folk singer might earn a cup of java from a passing stranger for spinning yarns of heartbreak, Ms. DiFranco and myself had ourselves a chat. Two admitted lunatics dissecting the greater good.

on a morning beatific in its indian summer breeze on the day that america fell to its knees after strutting around for a century without saying thank you or please

– ani difranco

james campion: This stanza of the poem you are working on presently, and performed so movingly at Carnegie Hall a few weeks ago, hits home for me, because it succinctly projects what I’ve been writing about for years concerning the U.S. presence in the Middle East and our inability to fully understand the race issues and religious issues that are prevalent in India, Pakistan or what is currently transpiring in Israel.

ani difranco: Except to exacerbate them. (laughs)

jc: Correct. So, I guess my first question would be; is this something you normally attempt to touch upon in songs, instead of blatantly, as in this particularly striking line in the poem?

ad: Well…yeah. You know I really don’t have a mind for the hyper details of foreign policy, or of what the stupid white men are doing, but I do have some basic ideas and feelings and impressions. I would make a very bad columnist like yourself. I write in metaphor and feel compelled to express things like the United States exploitation of not just the Middle East, but also the “Third World”. You know, our capitalist selfishness in terms of using the world’s resources and labor and just manipulating weaker countries for strategic and economic reasons.

Whatever, I mean, that’s a very, sort of, obvious and basic thing to say, but somehow I feel the need to keep saying it.

jc: As a folksinger, and you always refer to yourself as a folksinger, which I find enlightening, because throughout the centuries folksingers or minstrels used music and used dance to comment on social mores or the social wrongs of the time. So, do you feel as a folksinger you can tap into those same things and not be sitting on CNN with your suit and tie and pointing the literal finger?

“We’ve had our citizenship stolen from us and had consumerism foisted upon us, and at this point, ironically enough, there is a reinvestment in the belief in government, a reinvestment of energy and involvement that is the only thing that can recreate or salvage our ‘democracy’.

ad: (chuckles) Well, CNN would probably be an impossible place to tap into anything real since all of the information is completely co-opted and controlled by corporate forces. So, yeah, it is a much better venue to pick up a guitar and walk into a bar and talk to people one on one.

I love my job; touring and traveling and making art in very common, open spaces and feeling a totally free to talk about political or social issues. Music is a very effective way to communicate and inspire.

jc: Yes, but do you believe there is still a chance for grass roots movements?

ad: Ah! It’s happening as we speak. You know it. It’s all around us. I feel a new sense of optimism out there. We may even be surfacing from the 80s’, (chuckles) culturally speaking, a youth culture. Of course I have a bit of a slanted perspective from standing at my microphone, in terms of what cross section of young folks I encounter, but I am impressed and hopeful with the kind of political will of the young people now. They recognize that they were born into…

jc: A fixed game.

ad: Yeah, a homogenized culture, and wanting to dissect that. We were probably born just early enough to know a time before…

jc: I’m 39.

ad: (pointing to herself) 31. But, you know what I mean? There was a time when you could actually buy a record at the local record store.

jc: Wow, records.

ad: Yeah, records!

jc: (laughs) Vinyl? No way.

ad: (bold voice) You remember when there used to be records?!

jc: You’re taking me back.

ad: Yeah, (laughing) I think that young people are beginning to question that sort of corporate super structure. You know, all of the protests in New York and Seattle and Prague. I find those all very inspiring.

jc: So, you’re optimistic.

ad: I am…optimistic.

jc: You’ve mentioned Ralph Nader at several of your shows these past couple of years. I voted for Ralph the first time around. My mother was a huge Nader fan back in his wars against the BIG corporate lie, automobile manufactures and all. I never forgot that.

ad: That’s interesting.

jc: Sure…I vote for people with no chance. I voted for John Anderson in 1980. I had high hopes for a third party candidate to arise for a long time, but I have my doubts now. Do you have any confidence that politics is really any way to get to the crux of any issue?

ad: Absolutely, now more than ever. I think that is of primary importance. I mean, I was ten years old in 1980, so by the time I was coming to any kind of adult consciousness the political system was a corrupt, capitalist club of elite corporate CEO’s. The whole Reaganomics, and the whole Reagan/Bush regime, we are still living under, and I think young people completely divested themselves from their government. There was such a disconnection.

“I’m not really interested in Jesus as a “walking on water” kind of guy, but as a revolutionary, as a guy who was trying to free the slaves, fuckin’ A.”

jc: There’s a deep seated cynicism. I know. I’m there. My work reflects everything is more or less fucked in some irreversible way.

ad. Right on.

jc: But it’s actually refreshing to hear you be so positive.

ad: Well, the cynicism is well founded. We’ve had our citizenship stolen from us and had consumerism foisted upon us, and at this point, ironically enough, there is a reinvestment in the belief in government, a reinvestment of energy and involvement that is the only thing that can recreate or salvage our “democracy”. You know, I just don’t see a lot of young people getting involved in party politics, trying to infuse themselves into the system without…

jc: Like in the 60s’.

ad: Yeah. I mean, why would we begin voting again, first of all, if there is nobody to vote for? So, not only do we have to get out and vote; we have to get out and run. I have a friend I was just talking to last night who spent the last week in D.C. meeting with all these representatives and senators about this Yukka Mountain in Nevada. They’ve already spent four billion dollars on the nuclear waste all over the country, and they have this plan where they want to ship it all to Nevada and dump it in an Indian Reservation.

jc: That’ll work.

ad: (sarcastically) Yeah, and it’ll never leak and it’ll be fine. No problems. So, here is my friend Susan attending meeting after meeting after meeting with all these senators, because the Bush administration passed it and its going to go to vote, and she’s trying so hard to get these people to vote “no”. And when I spoke to her last week she was saying, (dreary tone) “Okay, I’m going to D.C. and I’m fixin’ to get really disillusioned and I’ll probably come back as a car bomber…”

jc: (laughs) Into the mouth of the beast.

ad: (excited) But after days and days of meetings, she called last night and it was so great to talk to her because she was re-inspired at the possibility of one person to make a difference. You know, these senators just vote on what their aids say they should vote on, and they’ve only been meeting with the Energy Commission, Officially Sanctioned Report. You know how it is. But she felt that her presence really had effectiveness that week.

Photo by Albert Sanchez

If people had any idea how much power they have, shit could really change. If we just started exercising it. So, yeah, I am longing for an inspiration of progressive young people to change the system, and really get inside the system, and not just working from without.

jc: That’s a huge leap from disillusionment to optimism; because I can tell you when I was younger I had this rabid anti-authority thing that was less anger than fear. And I think it was born from this fear of blind patriotism, because when I was a kid my mother was on the “If there’s a draft we’re moving to Canada” thing.

ad: (laughing) Yeah, right!

jc: My mother is a devout Catholic, and I went to Catholic school, but I never considered going into a room with any priest by myself. Anyway, what I’m getting at is when you write in your songs and speak at some of your shows; it is from a humanist standpoint, politically. You have this artistic individualism about you. So how did you react to the whole flag waving, “God Bless America” fervency that we just passed through? Not to demean why people lean on the group dynamic, but sometimes individual thought can be sucked out by this conglomerate – “Unless your with us you’re against us” mentality that happens when a nation is wounded like our nation was wounded on 9/11. Did you feel at all ostracized from the vox populi?

ad: Well, that’s nothing new. The day that I stop feeling that way I’ll have to start questioning myself. (laughs) But yeah, it’s just so sickeningly sad the way calculated propaganda and these huge media outlets could twist the idea of patriotism. They’ve done it forever. Completely inverting it. Go back to McCarthyism and the House Committee on Un-American Activities? When it is the most American activity of all to express yourself, to fight the government when it’s wrong. Democracy is about, “If you don’t like your government, change it. If you can’t change it have a fucking revolution. They wrote it right in the constitution.

jc: Ready your muskets I always say.

ad: (laughs) Yeah! There’s some quote, I wish I could remember which Founding Father said it.

jc: Jefferson’s “Let’s have a revolution every ten years.”

ad: Oh, I don’t know, that’s a good one.

jc: I’m paraphrasing, but he did say it.

ad: You see? There is always this, “hear what you want to hear – see what you want to see”. They can twist things like the constitution or the Bible into any kind of oppressive tool.

jc: But isn’t the Bible an oppressive tool?

ad: It depends on how you read it; same as any document. They are just tools to be used, they can be used against us as well as for us, but there are certainly many positive messages in the Bible. I think Jesus…

jc: Ah, love and forgiveness.

ad: Sure, I think reading any document literally, especially something like the Bible, which is all metaphor, is so misguided. You know, I’m not really interested in Jesus as a “walking on water” kind of guy, but as a revolutionary, as a guy who was trying to free the slaves, fuckin’ A. There it is right in the Bible: “Slaves bad.” (laughs) “Love your brother!”

“We’re still living in a segregated society. It’s not on the books, but defacto economic segregation is as affective, or more so, than any signs that you could put up over a restroom.”

jc: They took care of that guy.

ad: But there was some quote I read somewhere recently, it might have been from Jefferson, that “to not criticize your government, especially in times of war, when your government is perpetrating violence on another people, to not be critical is an act of treason.

jc: I think it might have been John Adams.

ad: Yeah, maybe I should shut-up.

jc: No, those guys were all maniacs. I love those guys. If you read about the Founding Fathers, and get out of all the textbook stuff we were taught as kids, they were downright radical, quite diverse. This country didn’t get to a point where you could speak freely for…I mean when you discuss McCarthyism it was in the 1950’s, not the 1850’s. And that gets back to the original question about your art, because I believe the only true voice left is through free expression. Art may be the only thing not co-opted or annexed in a fluent dialogue between people and ideas, but every once and awhile when someone gets close to the bone, so to speak, they try to manipulate their words or tear pieces of them away like a Jesus or a Gandhi.

ad: I think that every room is a perfect venue for political change, whether it’s a theater with a stage in it or a whether it’s a classroom or whether its the halls of justice. I’ve been engaged in conversations recently where people ask me, “What do you think is more important? What’s more effective? What’s more legitimate statement: To make radical art or to try and get in the system?” And for me it’s Yes! Yes! All of it. Whatever you’re fucking good at. I used to dance; I went to art school for years. I love to paint. But there was something about music and the inclusion of words, the literal communication through words that I really felt was my most effective way to make change, to inspire people, to become myself. But for somebody else it might be raising their kid and teaching him or her to be a respectful, loving, thoughtful questioning person. There’s infinite numbers of ways we can change the world.

There’s some kind of African proverb that says; “If you don’t think one person can make a difference, spend a night in a room with a mosquito.” So I think art and music are effective, but you know sometimes rock stardom has a lot of glory attached to it, you get this applause at the end of your working day.

jc: The immediate feedback, which you never get as a writer. (laughs) I’m envious of that.

ad: Yeah, I feel…I got a good job. But there are an infinite number of ways that are as important and effective and possible.

jc: Let me touch on the literal for a minute. I just read a piece, and I want to get to the thing you wrote in The Nation, but I know you had a problem with the David Letterman Show regarding your choice of song, “Subdivision”.

ad: (derisive chuckle) Mmmm.

Photo by Scot Fisher

jc: The song begins with the line: “White people are so scared of black people.” That speaks to me as a writer, because I feel the act of philosophy is to hit them with something strong in the lead, and once you get their attention, only then can you start spinning your philosophy. Is that where you were going there, or are you saying it literally?

ad: Well, yeah, that was it, but that’s not usually my thing. I don’t usually lead that way. That was different for me as a writer, but I wanted to get people’s attention because I just feel as though the great liberation from segregation is a lie. We’re still living in a segregated society. It’s not on the books, but defacto economic segregation is as affective, or more so, than any signs that you could put up over a restroom.

And therein lies the very complex, radical systematic criticism. To look at a lie like “separate but equal” and say, well, okay, we attacked the separate part, but that wasn’t the problem. I’ve read a little bit about the ending of segregation and how Thurgood Marshall and the Civil Rights leaders were unable to really approach the “equal” thing. There’s no fucking way with the amount of power involved.

jc: Just let us have the legal thing.

ad: Yeah, so attacking it on the separate side was about all they could swing at the time, and bless their hearts for giving us that much, but now we need to keep the pressure on, and keep looking at things like our evacuated cities, and applying words like racism to it. You know, “Where did all the white people go?” In Detroit and Buffalo, my hometown. And how can you, in good conscience, set up a tax structure where the suburban tax bases are not one with the city. So the suburban schools are rich and full of computers and the city schools don’t have pencils. Economic segregation is…

jc: It’s a class system, but you rarely hear it spoken directly that way. Again, I refer to centuries ago, how human beings sectionalize themselves economically. Well, human beings? I’ve written it time and again; women are not really responsible for these atrocities, these are men holding the oars on this boat ride. I call it the Big Dick God Theory.

ad: (laughs) Yes.

jc: Men perpetuate all these hatreds against each other and women have never really had a voice, which comes back to you. As an artist you’re empowered not in the sense of “Take a look at me I’m a woman”, but “Take a look at me I’m a human.”

ad: It’s interesting, because since the beginning, since I started writing little poems, of course my identity as a woman has informed my writing. Everything from how I perceive the world to the experiences I have, to, I think the way I play the guitar; somewhat less linear. I don’t think I’ve ever soloed in my life. I hear music in circles and I feel power dynamics amongst people only as a woman can, and yet, like you say, I am writing about being a human and trying to connect, trying to re-connect us across gender lines, as we have been socialized to not do. But speaking to those gender dynamics has brought me so much defensive reaction over the years, so many of the “She’s an angry, militant, man-hater”.

jc: Well, of course. That’s’ how you deal with the suppressed, by defining those who speak their mind as pissed and subversive.

ad: Yeah, it’s interesting to me, that sort of knee-jerk reaction to having something pointed at is uncomfortable for some people…Wait, where were we…? (laughs)

“I am writing about being a human and trying to connect, trying to re-connect us across gender lines, as we have been socialized to not do. But speaking to those gender dynamics has brought me so much defensive reaction over the years, so many of the ‘She’s an angry, militant, man-hater’.”

jc: (laughs) I’m reminded of your line “When I move it’s a women’s movement” or, and I’m paraphrasing, “What’s my hair color today? It’s my statement. What kind of shoes I’m wearing. That’s my new statement.” And of course it’s going to happen when you reach a certain level of pop stardom, or pop notoriety, not that you’re a pop star, but if you’re going to be on the cover of a magazine, there’s going to be this scrutiny about fashion for some kind of statement.

ad: Sure.

jc: Wow, you say that with such derision.

ad: Well, that’s a little sorry by-product of my job, to be turned from a three dimensional creature to a two-dimensional creature for the purposes of a magazine. Ugh! And expending a little too much energy along the way trying to counter-act that, trying to insist on being yourself against this sort of energy of oversimplification and projection, but I find if you just stick to it, after about ten years the stereotype doesn’t hold up next to the reality…eventually.

jc: You outlast it.

ad: Yeah.

jc: Which you’re doing now, I think.

ad: Yeah, I’m feeling as though I’m rising above it. I have seen over the years the media dictate to my audience, not just me, but also my audience: “This is chick music for Grrrls.”

jc: (laughs) Yeah.

ad: “There’s the sea of screaming Grrrls.” And then I get up on stage and say; “No. They were wrong about us.” First of all, please stop screaming, because it will be much better for our conversation, for our dialogue. Second of all, just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I’m not a human and this is not about us and them. This is not a special interest group that I am speaking to or from. (laughs)

jc: You’re not preaching to the choir, per se.

ad: It’s the idea of women as being some kind of special interest group, that kind of pre-supposition that writers write from that they don’t even recognize, where men’s experience is universal and women’s experience is…threatening. (laughs)

jc: (laughs) But you’re still speaking as a women though. You can’t separate it completely.

ad: Absolutely.

jc: For instance, your comments in The Nation about the media was quite biting, because of how you’re perceived. I always find myself defending the media, because it’s the first instinct to blame the messenger. I agree in part to CNN being a corporate run medium, like the New York Times etc. This is why I write for publications like the Aquarian Weekly, where they allow me to write what I want, and most of it is syndicated anyway, so I can get through the muck somehow and cheat my way into the mainstream.

However, you cannot be completely objective in any way. People are always crying for the media to be objective, taking the human side out of it. I spent time in the Middle East, so its difficult not to defend Israel’s right to defend itself. How George Bush can come out and decry Israel’s rights to defend itself in measured ways, when this country has gone halfway across the globe to char children is beyond me. So, if you cannot separate yourself from your outward experience, you certainly cannot alter the inward. You can’t separate your vision as a woman, if you’re looking at things through a woman’s eyes.

ad: And consciously doing so. Admittedly doing so. I’m not going to pretend for you that my life is like that of a man’s, not even for the purposes of making nice-nice music. And to speak on the fallacy of objectivity, if you believe in objectivity, then your reading of any kind of media is going to be misguided.

jc: Of course, you only see it from your own standpoint. (laughs)

Photo by Scot Fisher

ad: And if you don’t realize you’re listening to one person talking about themselves…(laughs)…as much as the world around them, you’re going to be mislead.

jc: Where do you get your news from?

ad: The Nation. I’ve got a subscription to the Nation. Ms. Magazine. You know, the progressive publications.

jc: Public radio?

ad: I don’t get it with radio so much. I live on a bus most of the time, and I steer pretty clear of the TV. I can’t watch TV. It depresses me or enrages me.

jc: (laughs) Thank God it does that for me.

ad: (laughs) Yeah, yeah, right.

jc: It has nothing positive, and for that I am grateful.

ad: No attraction there, whatsoever.

jc: The stress box.

ad: (laughs)

jc: Do you feel isolated “on the bus”? You mentioned it, so I was just thinking that…I mean, do you feel that you get to see America while you’re touring, or do you just see bus stops and hotels rooms and train stations and airports.

ad: Yes. I am very isolated in a way. Not only do I live on a bus, but I get off the bus and come into rooms like this and I spend the day here until I get on stage and then I come back here, and then I’m back on the bus. So touring was not like it was ten years ago when I was driving myself, sleeping on people’s couches and in people’s dorm rooms, you know that kind of scratch and sniff your way around the country.

The whole nature of touring has changed very much, but I travel further than I’ve ever traveled and even from standing on stages all over the country and all over the world I’m grateful for being acquainted with the people and the energy and the reactions of audiences, and I can feel the political climate and the cultural landscapes change beneath my feet.

I was on tour in late September last year when everyone else was canceling tours and locking their doors and it was fascinating to be standing onstage in a room full of unified thought, not literally unified, but where we’re all thinking about something, to feel the pressure every night to speak to it, to feel the hunger, to feel the fear, to feel the incredible catharsis of the audience to want to hear something other than the CNN-speak. So I do feel like I have a unique opportunity to have a finger on the pulse through traveling a lot, but through tiny vignettes. I see a lot of friends, but for very short periods of time.

jc: And of course that effects how you view the greater picture.

ad: Sure, sure.

jc: What are your overall thoughts about what happened on 9/11?

ad: I was here that day, well not here, but in New York that day.

jc: You were.

ad: Well, I was mid-town. So I was out of the line of fire, but for me it was all the smoke at the end of the avenues and the exodus uptown and the ash-covered people, and a few days later when the wind shifted, the acidic, choking smoke that engulfed all of the city, and the months and months of respitory problems; both the beauty and the tragedy of it.

One of the exquisite effects of that day to me seems to be the immediate recognition of people; first in the city and then in the whole country, of us as one people. When that first building fell there was a color blindness in that blinding flash of light that I found so beautiful. There were beautiful things that came of the ugliness, and that I think can still come; the more that we keep the pressure on, and keep talking about it and keep counter-acting the propaganda, the fear. The…the…the..I’m sorry.

jc: No, that’s okay. It’s tough to talk about it in terms of the city itself, for me. I know you lived downtown for a time, and write extensively about New York, especially in your earlier work in a glowing and critical way, but it’s the greatest city in the world and I couldn’t imagine being there when it was being wounded. I still call it the “Gaping Wound on Wall Street”, because there’s a reason why those buildings were hit.

“When that first building fell there was a color blindness in that blinding flash of light that I found so beautiful. There were beautiful things that came of the ugliness, and that I think can still come; the more that we keep the pressure on, and keep talking about it and keep counter-acting the propaganda, the fear.”

ad: It’s poetry in motion. And the genius to make that happen and the incredible arrogance and incompetence it reveals. It was obvious what the plot was a few years earlier. In that sense it should have been no surprise to any of us that they finally pulled it off. And now its time to turn our eyes towards our own government and not outward, because it’s the only way we can save ourselves. It was obvious from that example that there is no amount “human intelligence” (nervous laugh) that could save us from such acts. It’s only true justice and global justice that are going to prevent that kind of rage and violence from appealing to, and taking hold of, or activating populations of people. Of course, we’re talking about some crazy guys, some crazy violent motherfuckers.

jc: But they don’t just become crazy out of nowhere.

ad: Yeah, and it takes a lot of people who are very pissed off and very poor and have been living among violence and oppression at the hands of this country for way to long to back those guys up. But I think I said a whole lot in that poem about my immediate reactions to being there that day and that week. I was supposed to be flying in that morning actually, but I drove in the night before for whatever reason.

jc: Karmic.

ad: Maybe.

jc: Who knows why any of these things happen?

ad: You know, there’s incredible possibility in those events that make us look at the brevity of our lives, at the mortality of ourselves, of the consecutiveness between us. And if we can take the energy that exploded in the city that day of oneness, and we apply it globally, the realization of it… So, that’s what I’ve been trying to do; to let the smoke of that awareness billow forth, not the fear, not the us and them that George W. is trying promote.

jc: Or any president in his situation would probably have to promote, because he’s representing this huge conglomerate of countless years of failed expectations abroad to try, to hang onto something, to try and seem like he is defending a country that should have been defended properly in the first place.

ad: Well, I guess, I don’t know if Gore was sitting in the office he was voted into I don’t know how different it would be.

jc: Well, the cynic in me tells me, no different. Which is why any accolades or derision this guy gets as a result of this mess is unfounded in reality. I’m an anti-Gore guy myself, not that I am a pro-Bush guy, but I never got over the PMRC thing. It’s a personal thing between myself and those cheap whores who belittled Bill Bradley and…I should stop now.

ad: (laughs) Again, without systematic change we have no third party, without a third party we have one party.

jc: (clapping) Bravo.

ad: (Laughs) Not two, but one, somehow. But…(long pause) But nothing, I have no idea.

jc: (laughs) No ideas. That’s everything I came for and more.

ad: Oh, good.

jc: It was important to me to hear your personal, outside the songs, thoughts on some issues.

ad: I was ramblin’.

jc: Ramblin’s good.

*******************

jc’s Ani Reviews

Ani DiFranco/Capitol Theater 3/21/97

Ani DiFranco/Carnegie Hall 4/6/01

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james campion.com

Aquarian Weekly 4/24/02 REALITY CHECK

CURBING THE INSANE & OTHER SOBER JUDGEMENTS

Hoorah for the Supreme Court!

Its final judgment on repealing the ambiguous Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 is a victory for not only free speech, but also the precious freedom of expression promised to the citizenry of this wounded, often misguided, but always resilient country of ours. As stated ad nauseum in this space since its inception in late 1997, this “law”, along with so many others which slip into the national debate each year, is a dangerous seduction in governmental regulations of art. This cannot stand; no matter how neatly rapped it is in scare tactics, pugnacious rhetoric and volatile “save the universe from ourselves” puritan horseshit.

This was not a “law” based on banning child pornography. If that is all these freaks want from “laws”, then why do they muck them up with vague semantics and strangely worded phrases like ” a range of techniques” and “youthful looking adults” and the always fan favorite, “designed to convey the impression of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.”

Here’s a law we can jam through congress and send in front of the Supreme Court just to dare them to boot it: “Any use of actual humans under the age of consent as established by the state in which the alleged crime is being committed, in any form of art, film or dance routine, results in castration, general eye-gouging and public stoning. A raffle or a big lottery drawing will be arranged for the top ten people chosen to cast that first stone!”

This is just another example of how the concept of congressional politics, sequestered in its sliver-spoon, five martini lunch, kickback mania, can manipulate the loathsome language of our presently raging sexual deviances.

I apologize for the smoothed tone; it was the dreaded third draft. The first was closer to the bone and more direct, but even the enlightened sometimes bow to law speak.

But until which time we can get down to the crux of our “laws” we must be ultra-careful to watchdog what the hell the government decides is “youthful looking” and what “range” the techniques will achieve, and what exactly “conveys” anything. And let us not deem to understand the “impression” offered by anyone, least of all a designated area of “explicit conduct.”

Read that wording again. Now read Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” without blushing or running for your annotated Bible, with the bolded Leviticus chapters for extra “Wrath of God” goodness. “Oh, Jesus! Not Sir William! My Lord, where do we spark up the bonfire to burn that horrid ode to teenage lust?”

This is just another example of how the concept of congressional politics, sequestered in its sliver-spoon, five martini lunch, kickback mania, can manipulate the loathsome language of our presently raging sexual deviances. In other words, if someone hoists “ban child pornography” on any debate they are sure to get a rousing “YEAH!” from the clamoring constituency. This is tantamount to yelling, “Free Beer!” at a Hell’s Angel’s picnic or starting the obligatory “Boston Sucks!” chant in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium. You are assured of instant support and popularity, and that is so needed these days when most Americans view our politicians as the legion of Satan with a collective bad hair day.

Back in ’96, this was incredibly important to the Clinton administration, which was trying to draw attention away from the Willie Follies going on nightly in the Oval Office. Not to mention the FBI’s rabid cover-up of then attorney general, Janet Reno’s systematic murder of armed religious fanatics in Waco. Let’s face it, when your hosting “Friday Night Ass Slapping” in the West Wing, it’s hard to not at least claim you despise some form of pornography.

Remember, when this whole mess became concrete there was the silly idea that some right wing radical revolution actually meant something. We were all proud of our “Contract with America” and the sweeping changes in freedom it would provide to Johnny Six-Pack and his 3.2 tax relief. But that was before Captain Newt went to Princeton and tried to explain why God cheated women in the “strength of mind” sweepstakes and the freshmen congress fucked with the elderly. Yeah, it was fun while it lasted, and this annoying bit of legislation is its sad residue.

Now we have that lazy crackpot, John Ashcroft cramming CNN with cries that this ruling will prevent the FBI from rounding up the child pornographers and pedophiles running amok on the Internet. I think Johnny better stop looking at the Internet and begin trolling our churches and YMCA’s and Boy Scouts and all those sickening cretins who parade four year-old girls in juvenile beauty pageants dressed like Jodi Foster in “Taxi Driver”.

“Taxi Driver”? That was also in trouble under that atavistic act of 1996. But Jodi was only acting. You want to practice world class projectile vomiting, go to one of these beauty pageants. Yes, that is quite normal.

I have written volumes about this duplicitous type of government wrangling meant to satiate the weepy with mounds of paper trails, and I’m running out of space this week, so I think it is important to once again point out that thirteen year-old girls in jeans ads does not constitute child pornography. Neither does these silly machinations Britney Spears calls dancing. That may constitute subtler forms of child abuse, but let’s not go into that thorny category without mentioning the state of this country’s school systems, religious institutions or the pathetically poor state of parenting in the opening few years of this fancy 21st century.

Everyone knows what is child pornography. Let’s get down to combating that heinous problem, instead of creating new ones.

Meanwhile, without the complete and unadulterated freedom of expression and speech we are a doomed society. It is all we have left to us that isn’t cajoled, manufactured, bribed or compromised.

As always:

Fuck Law.

Use your brain.

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Cablevision vs. YES Network ‘s ode to greed.

Aquarian Weekly 4/10/02 REALITY CHECK

THE SCIENCE OF GREED

1-2-3-4 cretins wanna hop some more. 4-5-6-7 All good cretins go to heaven. – The Ramones

The latest furor over Cablevision subscribers being bilked by the new YES Network and their cable provider, resulting in fans all over Westchester, New Jersey and New York City area being shut out of the New York Yankees television broadcasts, has brought to light many disturbing things about the rapacious participants in this passion play. Not the least of which is Cablevision CEO, Charles Dolan and Yankees principle owner, George Steinbrenner. What you are about to read may shock, even dismay you, but I must first preface its stirring truths by revealing that I no longer live in the Empire State and happily receive the YES Network quite clearly at my current post in Fort Vernon. I am also a Yankees booster, born and bread in the Bronx and good friends with the general manager of the team. I have been nothing if not a Steinbrenner apologist, even back in the dark days when he turned the most revered franchise in American sports history into a poor man’s Nixon administration and the laughing stock of baseball.

Rich men trolling in the same business or geographic proximity is a dangerous paradox. It is nature’s way of presenting extinction as a survival impetus. Thus two men of equal pomp cannot flourish in close quarters, if so, the results are often severe.

You see, for eight years before George, the Yankees sucked. After George, they began to win and spend money and win and spend money and then lose in record fashion; and it got ugly, believe me. But, for me, George Steinbrenner will always be the man who brought Reggie Jackson to New York, and aside from murdering my family in cold blood or siphoning money from my check account to bankroll third world oppression, the man could do no wrong. On the other hand, Charles Dolan, for whom I have peripherally worked in a freelance broadcast capacity, is the scum of the earth. And this is not simply a derogatory observation; he is literally borne from the slime that coagulates below the planet’s surface, a sort of mutated quagmire that takes shape in human form. This is not uncommon among corporate moguls and/or politicians, child molesters or theologians. It’s scientific fact. Casey Stengel, a good baseball man and a world-class loon, always said, “You can look it up.” And I suggest you do. With that, I present evidence that the gorging of your entertainment dollar is alive and well in the distended bellies of these gluttonous power mongers. For the past five years, prior to the launching of the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network, Steinbrenner sank $300 million of his billion-dollar enterprise into the Madison Square Garden Network, owned and operated by Dolan. For Dolan, this included principle ownership of both the Knicks and Rangers and anything swinging through the Garden, like the Circus or Billy Joel or whatever political rallies reared its miserable head. To say the two of these guys made tons of dough for their prospective stockholders is an understatement. And to say there is any love loss between them is an outward misunderstanding of how these men function below the surface. There are more scientific findings which back the theory of chemical endorphins routinely released in the rich man’s muscle tissue. This affects the glands and motor functions, and finally, the brain. Rich men trolling in the same business or geographic proximity is a dangerous paradox. It is nature’s way of presenting extinction as a survival impetus. Thus two men of equal pomp cannot flourish in close quarters, if so, the results are often severe. Steinbrenner has the most envied of all financial sports franchise cash cows. The old adage about the Yankees being like U.S. Steel is laughable now. The Yankees are sports merchandising and marketing. Most teams have regional value, unless they are lucky enough to have a few years of a Michael Jordan or a Wayne Gretsky, but the New York Yankees are national, and even global in reach. The team could win a total of six games this year and still earn Steinbrenner more than half of Major League Baseball’s gross income. But this is a team coming off its best six-year period in the last half-century, and the owner knows it all too well. Meanwhile, for over two decades Cablevision has monopolized the cable viewing area of three million subscribers throughout the tri-state area. Charging for set-up and dismantling fees, upgrades, pay channels, including at one-time Sports Channel, which is now FOX Sports for people interested in the rest of the areas pro teams, movie channels, HBO, etc. This subscriber monthly fee is also subsidized by advertising fees, both local and national, and fees paid by stations on the basic package, which includes MTV, ESPN, CNN, The Food Channel, etc. Despite living in such close proximity and having the combined wealth of two Roman Empires and a Microsoft beach party, Dolan and Steinbrenner, the Yankees Empire and the Cablevision Reich had coincided, even prospered in their dysfunctional wake. The irony is that if the natural order of things were not involved these two men could have owned half of the free world in one long power lunch, but instead they have decided to use your hard-earned money and rabid love for sports and “The Sopranos” to treat you like their jail-call bitch. Woe is man, MSG no longer has the mighty Yanks, or their revenue or their powerful moniker, and Steinbrenner no longer has to feed in the same feces-addled cage as his sworn enemy because he has his lovely YES Network. And Dolan doesn’t have to allow Steinbrenner’s little experiment to rake in the dough without the proper groveling reparations. So people living across the street from Yankees Stadium cannot watch the team on television, because there will only be twenty of 162 games broadcast over free TV this season. The YES Network people tell you to bag Cablevision and buy a satellite dish and sign contracts and chop down trees and get apartment ordinances so you can watch baseball. And the Cablevision people tell you that you have to pay even more money to view baseball games. And somewhere in a smoldering cauldron of sulfur and brimstone, MLB commissioner Bud Selig tells you the sport is doomed to poverty. Play ball!

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Catholic Church Cover-Ups

Aquarian Weekly 3/27/02 REALITY CHECK

HOLY HELL FOR HOLY WEEK

It’s been another banner year for God and all of his servants in the cause of ugliness.

If it isn’t Islamic extremists ramming airplanes into buildings or seventy thousand choruses of “God Bless America” as fighter planes pile up the death and destruction in Afghanistan, then it’s the molesting of children and cover ups by the Catholic Church or the daily maiming and pillaging between Jews and Palestinians in Israel. The Hindus and the Muslims are ten minutes from annihilation in the Indian/Pakistani border war, and right now somewhere there is ethnic cleansing going on somewhere in the holy name of extinction.

The week we go to press with this one, it will be Passover and Holy Week for the Jews and Christians, and everyone will recall the Lord’s murder of innocent Egyptian children and the assassination of a Nazarene first century mystic. But no one seems to really know what any of this will do for the plight of humanity, except create more boundaries and kingdoms and ways for us to be different and feel better than each other.

We grew up in this twisted arena of misjudgment and fantasy wherein our stuff and our God were somehow more on the nut, and by subjugating our will and reason to reverence and superstition we reserve the right to belittle and castigate and kill and shove people out of their homes and countries and bury their traditions.

It’s funny. Every time I’d read some screaming headline last week about these revelations of child molestation by priests, I could not help but think of the night Sinead O’Connor tried to make a stand on Saturday Night Live against the Vatican’s cover-up of rampart child abuses in Ireland. And how anyone with verbal motor skills wanted her lynched and burned at the stake for it.

Before the singer tore a photograph of the Pope in half, she recited an a cappella version of a Bob Marley song infused with lyric about the church’s silence to the continued mistreatment of races and children, ending with the infamous statement, “Fight the real enemy.”

A victim of child abuse herself, O’Connor decided to use her art and freedom of expression to reveal the terrible secrets no one could admit, and it effectively ended her career for almost a decade.

That was ten years ago now. At the time I defended it as not only an act of compassion, but also a reasoned protest against the repeated violence in Ireland between Protestants and Catholics, ostensibly a religious war which had raped that country and taken countless lives for decades.

Little did I know. Little did anyone know.

One thing I did know, and have known for most of my adult life, is that anytime more than two people are gathered in the name of God there had better not be any sharp objects available. We are so evolved, us humans, you know. We conquer and invent and politicize and socialize and cram and jam and pursue that money. And we hang onto our stuff, don’t we? And sometimes we put labels on that stuff, like country or color or gender or God.

Yeah, God.

Because you know that it’s God’s will that our stuff is safe from the other stuff. And all the silly talk of what God wants and needs and what God told the other strange people, that’s just evil or wrong. We know what God wants. Can you believe that some of these other people don’t even have a God? They’re blinded by intellect and science and skepticism, and they blot out truths with power and greed and drugs.

Of course, that really doesn’t matter much, because we’re all screwed. Nothing we can do about that. We grew up in this twisted arena of misjudgment and fantasy wherein our stuff and our God were somehow more on the nut, and by subjugating our will and reason to reverence and superstition we reserve the right to belittle and castigate and kill and shove people out of their homes and countries and bury their traditions.

Manifest Destiny is the Inquisition is the Holocaust is the Potato Famine is Slavery is Tibet is fill-in-the-blank.

As a recovering Catholic, I think it is imperative to point out, especially this week, that all this self-serving, egotistical bullshit that is done and said and rationalized in the name of Jesus has to stop.

Will it stop? Of course not. Let me repeat, we’re already screwed, but it’s time our children get a quick lesson, or perhaps it will be your kid that’s too afraid of God and his handmaidens to ask why the soft-spoken man with the white collar keeps touching them down there.

And don’t expect these cretins who run this line of propaganda up the flagpole to blow any whistles. They have to keep the gravy train stocked with coal for the engines to chug along unimpeded with no one asking any questions or too bloated with fear to dare point any fingers.

Yeah, they know all about it, these big business religious hypocrites. They have a blueprint somewhere in the war torn corners of Israel, where the martyrs who tried to stop this mess are buried. They know all about what happens when you try and halt the cycle of hate and ignorance, for every Sunday there is the lifeless image of a man hanging from a cross above their heads to remind them.

And so we march on…

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