GEORGE CLOONEY ABOUT WHY HILLARY CLINTON LOST – THE DAILY BEAST

George Clooney Opens Up About Why Hillary Clinton Lost: ‘I Never Saw Her Elevate Her Game.’ The Oscar-winning actor-filmmaker-humanitarian spoke with Marlow Stern about his timely new film ‘Suburbicon,’ racism in America, and what happened with Hillary.


Written by:  MARLOW STERN  09.22.17 9:30 PM ET


INTRODUCTION

If the Hollywood powers that be ever endeavor to produce a Cary Grant biopic, George Clooney would be the perfect man for the job. Like Grant, he is possessed of an immense level of charisma with a pinch of playful mischief. It lends his best performances — Out of Sight, Ocean’s Eleven, From Dusk Till Dawn — a carefree insouciance.

The charm bleeds off-screen, too. When you chat with Clooney, he will regularly address you by name, and maybe even compliment your place of employ‍. But the 56-year-old has a serious side, too. For nearly a decade, he has been a UN Messenger of Peace; has served as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; and has done more than perhaps any U.S. civilian to shed light on the genocide in Darfur. In August, it was revealed that he and his lawyer-wife, Amal, had partnered with UNICEF to help send 3,000 Syrian refugee children to school in Lebanon.

On top of acting, humanitarian work, and starting a family, Clooney has found the time to direct (and promote) his latest film. Suburbicon, which premiered at this year’s Venice Film Festival, is a tale of two families in 1959 suburbia. On one side of the picket fence is Gardner (Matt Damon) and Margaret Lodge (Julianne Moore), a middle-class white couple prone to kink and murder; on the other is William (Leith M. Burke) and Daisy Myers (Karimah Washington)‍, a middle-class black family—Suburbicon’s first—whose arrival sets off a powder keg of racism and resentment. The white townsfolk’s suspicious stares soon give way to a full-blown lynch mob, as dozens of angry, torch-bearing East Coast “liberals” form a wall of hate around the Myers’ home, completely oblivious to the real villains across the way.

The Daily Beast spoke with Clooney about the film’s resonance in the wake of Charlottesville‍ — and much, much more.
I enjoyed the film. One of my big takeaways from it was that it confronted white liberal guilt in an interesting fashion—similar in some ways to Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. The notion of, “oh, you say you believe in equality but then don’t uphold those values when it comes to your doorstep.”

THE INTERVIEW

I remember the movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and, although not a perfect film, there’s something great about the idea of, “Yeah, I’m a liberal, but don’t marry my daughter!” And it was fun because, having grown up in Kentucky, when I see movies depicting any type of racism it always sounds like Mississippi Burning—hick accents and all. And when I was looking at the crisis of Levittown, these people sounded like they’d come from the East Coast and they were still hanging Confederate flags on houses and saying all these racist things. It’s good to remember that it wasn’t just the South that was fucked up. It played out everywhere.

You mentioned your home state of Kentucky. Did you witness any acts of racism in your formative years that really stuck with you?

‘BATTLE OF THE SEXES ‘ — IS TRUMP VS. HILLARY WISH FULFILLMENT? 

Sure. Look, by the time I was aware of things we were in the midst of a very progressive time in history. I was born in ‘61, so by the time I was really aware of things it was the end of the ‘60s. At that moment, we were all very hopeful. We felt like segregation—certainly in the South—had just ended, and things were moving in the right direction. So the way you saw racism was always in much sneakier ways. If you were going to a restaurant they’d say, “Oh, no open-toed shoes” or “No shirts without collars” but they would only enforce it with black people. There was pervasive implied racism. It took me a while to realize what was going on because most of us growing up at that time, we thought, “Oh, this is all fixed. Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X, they all died for a reason. And this reason is now coming to fruition.”

And what we soon realized was that we weren’t even beginning to exorcise our deep-seated original sin.

In Suburbicon, it’s an interesting juggling act as a writer and filmmaker, balancing the A and B stories—the white family and the black family—and giving each ample heft while managing the disparate tones.

Tone is always the trick, you know? And I’ve sometimes failed at getting tone right. It’s a tricky thing. But this one was interesting because, when we sat down to work on it, one of the things I talked to the actors about—including Karimah, who plays Daisy Myers—was that there’s somebody out there that would be the perfect person to do the African-American version of this story.

That’s not where my expertise lies, and probably where it shouldn’t lie, but I do have a fairly strong sense of white males worried about losing their place in society and blaming minorities. I grew up around that so I can speak to that, and we wanted to focus on that version of it.

And also, here’s the interesting thing about this: films never lead the charge. They’re usually reflective of a point in time.

So what we were talking about, when we started to do this, was less about black and white, although that’s something that unfortunately always comes up, and more about the idea of how I was watching a candidate on the campaign trail [Trump] talking about building fences, scapegoating minorities, and branding Mexicans, Muslims, or anyone who didn’t look like a seventy-year-old white guy as “the enemy.”

When we were doing this, I thought it was unique to see [the white community] building fences around a black family’s home and scapegoating them, while the entire time the white family’s doing everything wrong. I think that’s something that happened an awful lot—and can still happen. It was about white privilege and the fear of losing it, and the reason they think they’re losing it is because minorities are stealing it from them — when of course it has nothing to do with that.

On the topic of Trump, it’s interesting to think of him in the context of this film because the first time. Trump made headlines was in the ‘70s when he was sued by the Justice Department‍ for discriminating against Black applicants applying to live in his apartments.

Yup. And think about it this way: he got up and did that Boy Scouts speech, a nice political speech in front of twelve-year-olds. And in it he did a ten-minute riff on William Levitt and talked about what a great guy William Levitt was. How he was one of the richest men in the world and a brilliant man. He was probably a friend of his dad’s because they were both real estate guys on the East Coast at the time.

William Levitt, who created Levittown, was taken to court because he wouldn’t put Blacks in Levittown. And rather than integrate, he quit! So it just makes so much sense for Trump to say that this guy’s outlook is great. Yeah, it was great if you were a white, straight man. Otherwise, not so much.

QUESTION:

You mentioned the hanging of the Confederate flag on the black family’s windowsill during the film’s big riot sequence, with the white mob crowded around their home, some holding torches. On the heels of Charlottesville, it must have surprised even you how prescient those scenes were.

ANSWER:

Here’s the thing, Marlow. I do have a bit of a view into this. I grew up in Kentucky, around the Confederate flag, and although Kentucky was technically neutral during the Civil War, it was very much a part of the South.

I remember these guys would come into town and we’d do these Civil War reenactments, and you could choose whichever side you wanted. They’d bring you uniforms and guns with blanks in it, and you could play either a Rebel or Union soldier, and we’d do battle all around town.

We all wanted to be Rebels because it was fun—everybody wants to be a “rebel”—and we never thought twice about the Confederate flag; it never even dawned on me that that was a symbol of hate. And also, I was pretty young and wasn’t paying enough attention.

But as you get older, you see this was only a symbol of hate, and you remember that the Confederate flag was designed to be marched into battle against the United States of America in favor of racism. And they lost.

It’s important to remember all these things. It’s literally a symbol of hate that was designed as a symbol of hate. So OK, you can wear it on a T-shirt or a hat because that’s freedom of speech and you can do whatever you want. I don’t give a shit. Those are the rules we’ve made as the United States, and I believe in them.

But to have the Confederate flag on a statehouse paid for by African-American taxpayers? No fuckin’ way! That would be like going to the Holocaust Museum and saying that they have to pay for a Nazi flag hanging over it. It’s just ridiculous. I grew up in the South, and I know there are an awful lot of people who feel the same way which is, “Hey man, this is not the hill that we want to die on.”

PARAMOUNT PICTURES – Julianne Moore and Matt Damon in a scene from ‘Suburbicon.’

QUESTION:

Do you feel that President Trump is emboldening these white nationalists to step out of the shadows of the internet and into the light? And what do you feel is fueling these people? Because many of the (mostly) men who marched in Charlottesville were quite young.

ANSWER:

Well, think about it this way. If I was President of the United States and David Duke is praising me and the white nationalists were talking about how I was on their side, the first thing I would do is I would come out and say, “Fuck these guys. Anyone who believes this is not in my camp. I don’t believe it, and I completely reject it.”

Don’t play coy and claim that you don’t remember who David Duke is when you were actually running for president 25 years earlier and said that the reason you got out was because David Duke was in the party. That’s just a lie!

So what you’re doing is winking at everybody and saying, “It’s OK, come on over, because that’s my base.” Well, that shouldn’t be your base! It’s the simplest thing in the world in politics: “Nazis bad.” It really doesn’t get any easier than that.

Those associations between Trump and the “alt-right” seemed to be exacerbated by the fact that a person like Steve Bannon‍ was acting as Trump’s consigliere.

Steve Bannon is a pussy. Steve Bannon is a little wannabe writer who would do anything in the world to have had a script made in Hollywood. He wrote one of the worst scripts I’ve ever read—and I’ve read it. His fake Shakespeare-rap script about the L.A. riots. Oh, you’ve gotta read it! It’s just fuckin’ terrible.

But here’s the truth: if Steve Bannon had Hollywood say, “Oh, this is really great, and a really good script,” and had they made his movie, he’d still be in Hollywood writing his fuckin’ movies and kissing my ass to be in one of his fuckin’ films! That’s who he is. That’s the reality. It’s almost like someone in Hollywood should’ve given him a script—or approved one of his scripts—just to keep him out of the right wing.

QUESTION:

You explored the world of journalism in Good Night, and Good Luck., and your father was an anchorman. Why do you think Trump has targeted and tried to discredit the news media?

ANSWER: 

There’s a great documentary that came out a few years ago called Nixon by Nixon. It’s sort of the last of the Nixon tapes. It reminds us that not one fucking thing about this is new. We think it’s all unprecedented but it’s not unprecedented. It’s a little louder because there’s more outlets to see it, but it’s not unprecedented. You hear Nixon on the tapes talking about [Walter] Cronkite and [Eric] Sevareid and how they’re going to sic the IRS on ‘em and scare the shit out of ‘em. And you see Daniel Schorr, this wonderful reporter who had been doggedly chasing Nixon, in front of Congress testifying about how this administration has set about to delegitimize our news, because if you can delegitimize the news, you can do anything. It’s the exact same thing.

So when Robert Mueller comes in and says, “Hey, guess what? You did fuckin’ obstruct,” and people report on it, Trump can say, well, Robert Mueller has all these liberal Democrat lawyers and the news-people who are reporting it are all fake, when of course all you’ve really done is take the Russian fake news—which is a real problem—and applied it to help serve yourself.

Well, congratulations. I also really feel like the institutions are taking hold. I don’t know how you feel about this, but I think a good number of our institutions abdicated their duty in the run-up to the election. I feel they didn’t ask enough tough questions. If you turned on many of the news programs on television, there would be an empty podium with a message saying, “Donald Trump will speak soon.” That’s crazy.

Julianne Moore and Matt Damon in a scene from ‘Suburbicon.’

That’s the interesting thing about Trump’s attacks on CNN. CNN is the network—more than any other network—that perhaps helped the most in getting Trump elected. They had about eight Trump surrogates in regular rotation, and aired his rallies start-to-finish.

Certainly they were the network that enjoyed putting him on the air. But on the other hand, watch how good Jake Tapper has been, and watch how good The New York Times, Washington Post, and even The Wall Street Journal have now taken their jobs, and watch how the other arms—the legislative branch, the judicial branch—they’re taking hold, and I’m optimistic. I feel that, well, with the exception of the one thing the president can do by himself, which is push a button, the checks and balances are starting to take hold. And I’m excited by that.

QUESTION:

You held a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton‍ during the campaign, and she’s on her book tour right now. Do you feel like history will look kindly on Hillary Clinton? This election seemed, in many ways, like a referendum on women.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with George and Amal Clooney to talk about refugee policy on February 12, 2016 in Berlin.

ANSWER:

I think it was. Here’s what I see from Hillary. Hillary, for years and years and years, has been the presumptive nominee, and quite honestly, she was incredibly qualified for the job. But being qualified for the job does not necessarily mean you’re the right person to be president. Here’s what I mean. She was more qualified than even her husband was when he was elected president, but she’s not as good at communicating things. That’s simply true. When she got up and gave a speech, it didn’t soar. Now, that doesn’t mean that she wouldn’t have done a great job as president, and I supported her because by the time we did the fundraiser the primary was over at that point and it was time to get on with picking someone to move forward, and she was the right person to side with.

It was frustrating because I never saw her elevate her game. I never saw it. And I had a lot of liberal friends who were like, “She’s not good at this.”

I see that, and I understand it. I also think, though, that if it was a guy it wouldn’t have been so polarizing. I think the fact that she’s a woman made it a much harder uphill battle. They’ve had the “Arkansas Project” where for twenty-five years the Clintons have been accused of murdering Vince Foster and accused of tons of stuff, so I thought it was a raw deal. I think that she wasn’t particularly good at articulating the things that she wanted to do.

Unfortunately we live at a time right now where articulating what you want to do is more potent in the electorate than the other way around, obviously, when Trump only said he was going to “Make America Great Again.” Don’t you think the next Democrat who runs should just run with a blue hat that says, “Make America Great Again?”

That would be an interesting ninja move. Let’s go back to Suburbicon for a moment. I wanted to discuss the power of satire. When you talk about 2017 and the age of Trump, satire has really risen to the fore as a mode of communicating people’s anger and frustration—and brings with it a sense of cathartic release.

Satire was really important in the age of Bush Jr. That was a big deal. Between Jon Stewart and David Letterman, we had people out there who were really funny. And remember, Jon Stewart was the most trusted man in news for a period of time because of it. We needed his voice then, and I miss his voice now.

But Colbert has found his feet and been great, as has Jimmy Kimmel, and Samantha Bee. Television right now is very interesting, and fun to hear. Satire is potent. When they start to make fun of you is when you’re really in trouble. That’s some deep shit.

Trump has been stoking this culture war between “coastal elites” and Middle America—the irony of course being that Trump himself is a “coastal elite.”‍

Here’s the thing: I grew up in Kentucky. I sold insurance door-to-door. I sold ladies’ shoes. I worked at an all-night liquor store. I would buy suits that were too big and too long and cut the bottom of the pants off to make ties so I’d have a tie to go on job interviews. I grew up understanding what it was like to not have health insurance for eight years. So this idea that I’m somehow the “Hollywood elite” and this guy who takes a shit in a gold toilet is somehow the man of the people is laughable.

People in Hollywood, for the most part, are people from the Midwest who moved to Hollywood to have a career. So this idea of “coastal elites” living in a bubble is ridiculous. Who lives in a bigger bubble? He lives in a gold tower and has twelve people in his company. He doesn’t run a corporation of hundreds of thousands of people he employs and takes care of. He ran a company of twelve people!

When you direct a film you have seven different unions all wanting different things, you have to find consensus with all of them, and you have to get them moving in the same direction. He’s never had to do any of that kind of stuff. I just look at it and I laugh when I see him say “Hollywood elite.” Hollywood elite? I don’t have a star on Hollywood Boulevard, Donald Trump has a star on Hollywood Boulevard! Fuck you!

ORIGINAL ARTICLE ON “THE DAILY BEAST” TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 23, 2017

NOT IRRELEVANT – DAILY POST

FASCISTS, KLANNERS, AND WHITE SUPREMACISTS AREN’T ALONE

I had a major battle on Amazon about a book I said was racist. A lot of people said “No, it isn’t. The author is an avowed Boston liberal.”

I’m sure he said he was and he probably believes it’s true, but he wrote like a racist. Every time he mentioned someone of color, he referred to his or her color.

Tears never ran down their cheeks. The tears ran down their black cheeks. The didn’t have hands. They had brown hands or black hands. Not once were the Natives of the region — somewhere in or around Guiana, I think — ever mentioned without in indicating their race. Their name might be forgotten, but never their race.


That is racism. Call it whatever you like. It is what it is.

Passive? Probably insofar as those who feel that way rarely attend racist rallies or carry fascist flags. But these are the friends who would never visit us when we lived in a Black neighborhood because they were sure they would be mugged or shot by our neighbors — most of whom were police officers, one of whom was a guard at a city prison, and two of whom were Sheriffs.

We had less crime there than we had while living on Beacon Hill. Far less. No one broke into our house or vandalized our cars. No one stole our cars (both of which were stolen while we lived on Beacon Hill) or tried to swipe things from our deliverers. Racism isn’t only the white-hooded, marching and shouting kind. It’s an attitude. A belief that says that dark-skinned people are more violent, predatory, and criminal. Different in bad ways. Dangerous. Gun-toting. The kind of “passive ‘I’m really a liberal’ ” racism that’s so easy to pretend doesn’t exist.

Without significant attitudinal changes, it will never go away.

Racism runs deep in this country. North, south, east and west and without regard for ethnicity or political agenda. You’ll find it in your household, your neighborhood, your church. Your “liberal friends” who won’t go anywhere that isn’t known as a “white” neighborhood. These are the people who prevent non-white people from being promoted at work, from getting scholarships, from getting into management positions.

The ones who are constantly complaining about “equal opportunity” ruining their work are because dark-skinned people are stealing their jobs. The same morons who never consider they don’t get promoted because they don’t work hard enough and aren’t very good, either. The same people who bitch that “political correctness” is keeping them from calling people “n#gg#rs.” Who would use that word — with or without political correctness as a measure?

These folks are cops and judges. Office managers. Parole officers. Social workers. Teachers. They are your drinking buddies, the barkeeper, and the kids your kids play with. The first step to making this problem begin to go away is to figure out where you stand on this matter. Are you a racist? A nice, quiet, suburban racist?

Are you? Think about it. Get back to me on it.

BY THE PRICKING OF MY THUMBS, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES …

“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes …” — William Shakespeare,  Macbeth: Act 4, Sc 1, P 2


Trump refused to repudiate support from the KKK during his election. What makes anyone think he isn’t FOR white supremacy and racism? What makes you think he hasn’t always been in favor of it?


This is how he got elected and it is what “his base” is about.


It’s not about making America great. It’s not about improving economics or ending terrorism. It’s about crushing non-white people while freely allowing white terrorists to behave however they want. He is promoting his terrorists to do their worst … and don’t think for a moment that they won’t thrive under his leadership.

He got a hearty vote of approval from the KKK today. If you aren’t sure whose side he is on, that should be your answer.

Photo: Washington Post

Everybody has been carefully treading around a fundamental reality. We have a bigot and a racist as America’s president. While we’ve been not saying what is obviously true, this asshole’s “base” has been growing larger and getting stronger. When Hillary Clinton called them “deplorable,” she was right. And I bet you knew it, too.

Since when are we not allowed to call evil, “evil?” Do we now assume there is no evil? Maybe that all behavior is some kind of “mental disorder?”

If you don’t call a thing what it is, it gets worse. We need to call this what it is: our own, homegrown, American Nazi party.


Trump will NEVER be presidential.

He is not going to care about “real people” because he is the only “real person” in his world.

He is a bigot. A hater. He has always been a racist, as was his father before him.

I think if he has the opportunity, he will also become a killer. Watch your ass.


I was ashamed to call Trump president. Now I’m ashamed to have these people share my citizenship.

It’s just a prickle … so far …

And if you’d like another look at this, from a different voice: History Hiccups and Hiccups and Hiccups by Martha Kennedy.

MITCH MCCONNELL, JEFF SESSIONS, AND ELIZABETH WARREN – THE SENATORS

I’ve been getting messages from Elizabeth Warren. She is Massachusetts’ senator, so I get messages from her anyway. But I like her. Her perky, peppy style has always amused me, though I notice her perky peppiness has been a bit more strained in recent months. I thought I’d publish this one today as a reminder of what’s going on.

It isn’t only about President Tweets or the Russians. It’s also about the continuing battle to deal with Congress. At this point, our battle seems less intended to accomplish something and more to keep from having appalling things happen to us!

Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts

Six months ago tonight, I went to the Senate floor to speak out about Donald Trump’s nominee for Attorney General – Jeff Sessions.

Nobody wanted to talk about the fact that President Trump had nominated a man that both Democrats and Republicans had decided was too racist to become a federal judge in the 1980s. So I went to the Senate floor to read an old letter from Coretta Scott King. She knew about the way former US State Attorney for Alabama Jeff Sessions had intimidated and prosecuted civil rights workers for helping elderly black citizens to vote, and I wanted the Senate to hear what she’d had to say.

Mrs. King wrote of African-American families visited repeatedly by the FBI. Of people pressured to change their testimony. Of elderly black men and women herded onto buses and driven 180 miles to appear before a grand jury. She talked about fear and the toll it took on people. And she said that Sessions had “used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens.”

Every senator voting for Jeff Sessions and every person in America needed to hear that letter. When Mitch McConnell threw me out of the Senate for reading it, I was shocked. It wasn’t just my voice that was being silenced. No, Coretta Scott King was silenced.

And just to be clear: Mitch McConnell wasn’t the only person who tried to silence me that night. I appealed his decision, so the whole Senate got to vote. Every single Republican in the Senate chamber that night voted to censure me. Not one of them wanted to talk about why Jeff Sessions was a problem.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a problem – and I’m still talking about it:

  • He supported the Texas voter ID law – the strictest voter ID in the country, meant to stop African-Americans and Latinos from voting.
  • He reversed the Obama Administration directive to stop using predatory, for-profit private prisons.
  • He reinstated the failed “War on Drugs” with harsh mandatory minimum sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses.
  • He rolled back investigations of police departments that commit civil rights violations.
  • He announced a probe on college admissions programs to twist and distort federal civil rights laws.
  • He promised to withhold federal funding to cities with immigration policies he doesn’t like.

But here’s the deal: When Mitch McConnell and every one of his Republican colleagues kicked me off the Senate floor that night, he didn’t silence me, or Mrs. King, or anyone else. In fact, they made us louder. I went outside to the hallway, pulled out a phone, and read Mrs. King’s letter online. Over the next few days, tens of millions of people heard – or read– Coretta Scott King’s words.

I never expected anything that happened on the Senate floor that night. I never expected “Nevertheless, She Persisted” to become a meme, a t-shirt slogan, a tattoo, or a rallying cry for people all across this country who are tired of being told to sit down and shut up.

This fight isn’t about me – it’s about all of us. This is our moment in history. Not the moment we wanted, but the moment we are called to. Donald Trump may call us names. Mitch McConnell might tell us to sit down and shut up. But we will not give up and go home.

We will resist. We will persist. And we will win.

Thanks for being a part of this,

Elizabeth


Someone asked why so many people think Trump is a hero. The only honest answer I could give is I believe he is the bigot for whom so many have yearned. Maybe this sounds simplistic, but the spillover of everything Trump has done or tried to do is racist. It is far too obvious to ignore or call “coincidence.” I have heard some say “they felt ignored,” and so they voted for this thing we have in office. Maybe some of them did feel ignored, but how did feeling ignored morph into hating everyone who isn’t white? Did feeling ignored make them hate brown people? Muslims? Transgender people? People of any religion other than their own? Where’s the connection?

How, exactly, does “feeling ignored” become hate?

The answer is that it doesn’t. The Civil War may have ended up north, but it has apparently been going on for the past 160 years down south. Don’t believe that this mess is merely about what one bad president Trump can do. He is a very bad president, but he didn’t get here on his demerits. He got here because he gave a lot of Americans the freedom to come out of their closets and really HATE.

So for all of you who were worried that we were becoming too careful of our speech? Welcome to a place where anyone can say anything and it’s just fine because no more locking up hate speech. Now, it’s totally American.

I’m so ashamed.

NO MORE FAKE NEWS! I AM SAMOAN! – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I’m a Samoan. It’s something of an inside joke in local media.

Maybe you’ve heard it before and then again, maybe not. Back in the early 70’s, Boston was grappling with court ordered school desegregation and forced busing. It was a very ugly time for race relations in The Hub of the Universe. “The cradle of liberty” was under an international media microscope. Not pretty.

I was out covering the story and to my credit, everyone hated me. Black, white, and politicians — everyone thought I was on the other side. I was proud of that. It means (to me) that I was on the right side. One day, there was an incident in South Boston — also know as “Southie” — which was where all the action was taking place.

A bunch of white thugs had cornered me and my crew. They were screaming the usual epithets, throwing rocks and bottles. Moving in for a serious tune-up. It was then that I had a Mel Brooks moment. An epiphany. The angry mob quieted as I raised my hand for silence. I spoke calmly, in my best, soothing voice.

“Hey, I’m not a nig__r. I’m a Samoan!”  

My crew looked at me dubiously. Surely, no one could be that stupid. Besides, I had that infamous ironic smile on my face. The angry mob was still quiet and obviously somewhat confused. So I repeated it again, slowly and louder, so the crowd could read my lips.

“Guys, I’m not a nig__r, I’m a Samoan!”  

A brief pause and then … the crowd cheered.

“He’s not a nig__r. He is Samoan!!”  

They approached with broad smiles, offering handshakes. We got the hell out of there ASAP. Yes, they were that stupid.  To this day, many colleagues call me “The Samoan.”

Now, that was real news!!

“YOU’VE GOT TO BE CAREFULLY TAUGHT” – BY ELLIN CURLEY

There’s a beautiful and poignant song in the musical “South Pacific”, by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. It’s called, “You’ve got To Be Carefully Taught”. It opens with the lines “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year.”

I’ve been thinking about those lyrics recently. I was struck by a common statistic in both the Brexit vote in the UK and our election of Donald Trump. In the UK, the voters who voted most heavily anti-immigrant and anti-EU, were from areas that had few to no immigrants. The open-minded, pro-immigrant, pro EU voters were clustered in the areas with the highest volume of immigrants. Interesting.

The same phenomenon repeated itself in the United States. Trump supporters accepted, if not endorsed his xenophobic, anti-Muslim, racist rhetoric and dog whistling. His voters were concentrated in areas that were most heavily white, with the lowest number of immigrants and other racial minorities. The cities, where immigrants and minorities are concentrated, were across the board Democratic and anti-Trump.

It seems that if you have contacts with minority groups, or people not exactly like yourself, you accept them and don’t fear them. If these groups of people are total unknowns to you, you’re open to believing all the negative rhetoric about them. You’re open to seeing them as dangerous and destructive to you and your way of life.

At first I thought this was counter intuitive. But I realized that it makes perfect sense. When you live among a diverse group of people, you see that everyone, regardless of race, nationality or religion, shares your life experience. Most important, you see all other people as individuals. To you, they’re not, nor can they be seen as, a monolithic, mysterious blob of humanity, threatening everything you hold dear.

On a personal note, I grew up in New York City. Even in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, I saw different races and nationalities everywhere. I also went to integrated schools. When I was four years old, I had an eye-opening experience that I still remember. I’m a Jewish caucasian. My beloved Nanny was a Christian black woman.

To me, Ethie was part of the family. She was just like me in every way. The first time that belief was challenged was when something came up about her going to church. It suddenly hit me that Ethie wasn’t JEWISH! She wasn’t just like me, she was different in some ways. It still didn’t register on me that her skin was a different color. That didn’t even show up on my four-year old radar. I just remember grappling with the idea that Ethie was not really family.

She was not JUST LIKE US. She was, in some crucial way, different. I didn’t love her any less. I learned something that day. That I could love someone who wasn’t exactly like me. Different was okay.

So, I guess isolation from different religious and ethnic groups leaves you susceptible to hate and fear. Here are the rest of the words to that touching and oh, so true song:

You’ve got to be taught

To hate and fear,

You’ve got to be taught

From year to year,

It’s got to be drummed

In your dear little ear

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate,

You’ve got to be carefully taught!

FORSETTI’S JUSTICE- THE DARK RIGIDITY OF FUNDAMENTALIST RURAL AMERICA –

An Insider’s View: The Dark Rigidity of Fundamentalist Rural America. In deep-red white America, the white Christian God is king.

This post was written last November, shortly after the election. It’s a long piece, but worth reading. It is what many of us have been thinking: that we are not building our own party the right way. As intelligent, educated people, we need to be that. We can’t meet these people because it’s a bad place and it needs change.

Are we wrong to not try to ‘get down’ with the people who don’t believe in anything in which we believe? These are not people who will ever, under any circumstances, understand us. They believe what they believe because they believe it.

We can’t believe what they believe. And we don’t want to. We don’t think it’s a mere “difference of opinion.” We think they are terribly wrong in every way that matters to us. We need to go a different way, to do the right thing. Even if everything doesn’t work go the way we’d like, we need to keep trying. That’s who we are.

If we can’t be ourselves, what are we?


Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com / Shane Trotter

As the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump is being sorted out, a common theme keeps cropping up from all sides: “Democrats failed to understand white, working-class, fly-over America.”

Trump supporters are saying this. Progressive pundits are saying this. Talking heads across all forms of the media are saying this. Even some Democratic leaders are saying this. It doesn’t matter how many people say it, it is complete BS. It is an intellectual/linguistic sleight of hand meant to draw attention away from the real problem.

The real problem isn’t East Coast elites who don’t understand or care about rural America. The real problem is that rural Americans don’t understand the causes of their own situations and fears and have shown no interest in finding out. They don’t want to know why they feel the way they do or why they are struggling because they don’t want to admit it is, in large part, because of the choices they’ve made and the horrible things they’ve allowed themselves to believe.

I grew up in rural Christian white America. You’d be hard-pressed to find an area of the country with a higher percentage of Christians or whites. I spent most of the first 24 years of my life deeply embedded in this culture. I religiously (pun intended) attended their Christian services. I worked off and on their rural farms. I dated their calico-skirted daughters. I camped, hunted and fished with their sons. I listened to their political rants at the local diner and truck stop. I winced at their racist/bigoted jokes and epithets that were said more out of ignorance than animosity. I have watched the town I grew up in go from a robust economy with well-kept homes and infrastructure to a struggling economy with shuttered businesses, dilapidated homes and a broken-down infrastructure over the past 30 years. The problem isn’t that I don’t understand these people. The problem is they don’t understand themselves or the reasons for their anger and frustration.

In deep-red America, the white Christian god is king, figuratively and literally. Religious fundamentalism has shaped most of their belief systems. Systems built on a fundamentalist framework are not conducive to introspection, questioning, learning, or change. When you have a belief system built on fundamentalism, it isn’t open to outside criticism, especially by anyone not a member of your tribe and in a position of power. The problem isn’t that coastal elites don’t understand rural Americans. The problem is that rural America doesn’t understand itself and will never listen to anyone outside its bubble. It doesn’t matter how “understanding” you are, how well you listen, what language you use…if you are viewed as an outsider, your views will be automatically discounted. I’ve had hundreds of discussions with rural white Americans and whenever I present them any information that contradicts their entrenched beliefs, no matter how sound, how unquestionable, how obvious, they will not even entertain the possibility that it might be true. Their refusal is a result of the nature of their fundamentalist belief system and the fact that I’m the enemy because I’m an educated liberal.

At some point during the discussion, they will say, “That’s your education talking,” derogatorily, as a general dismissal of everything I said. They truly believe this is a legitimate response, because to them education is not to be trusted. Education is the enemy of fundamentalism because fundamentalism, by its very nature, is not built on facts. The fundamentalists I grew up around aren’t anti-education. They want their kids to know how to read and write. They are against quality, in-depth, broad, specialized education. Learning is only valued up to a certain point. Once it reaches the level where what you learn contradicts doctrine and fundamentalist arguments, it becomes dangerous. I watched a lot of my fellow students who were smart, stop their education the day they graduated high school. For most of the young ladies, getting married and having kids was more important than continuing their learning. For many of the young men, getting a college education was seen as unnecessary and a waste of time. For the few who did go to college, what they learned was still filtered through their fundamentalist belief systems. If something they were taught didn’t support a preconception, it would be ignored and forgotten the second it was no longer needed to pass an exam.

Knowing this about their belief system and their view of outside information that doesn’t support it, telling me that the problem is coastal elites not understanding them completely misses the point.

Another problem with rural Christian white Americans is they are racists. I’m not talking about white hood-wearing, cross-burning, lynching racists (though some are). I’m talking about people who deep down in their heart of hearts truly believe they are superior because they are white. Their white god made them in his image and everyone else is a less-than-perfect version, flawed and cursed.  (MORE)


PLEASE SEE THE REST OF THIS STORY AT: AN INSIDER’S VIEW on ALTERNET