Why Don’t You Just Blog About It?

It was hard to know what to write about this week.  Not because there wasn’t enough but because there was too much in too many areas.

This happens when you have a weekly column or, in this case, create a weekly column for yourself. 

Many people have asked me over the last ten years –

So Chair, why do it?  Why put this pressure on yourself?  And us?

Not a picture of me on Saturday night writing this blog… not at all

My stock answer is to quote Jim Harwood, my late colleague at Daily Variety, when asked what qualified him to review movies:

Because I have an opinion and a place to print it.

Glib as this answer was and still is, it’s only partly true. 

Discourse, disagreement and the inevitable didacticism it evokes, are how we survive. 

It’s how the world survives.  And, in turn, how it thrives.

This helps too

I never much liked the word didactic, probably because I feared it applied too much to me and wasn’t quite sure of it’s true definition.

To be didactic – meaning to be inclined to teach or lecture to others too much, and often in too boring a way, is not something to aspire to. 

Especially in a self-created weekly column.

When it’s an opinion you don’t want to hear or one with which you vehemently disagree, most of our knee jerk reactions are to feel talked down to and/or lectured to.  We want to turn the channel, scroll past or, more often than not, simply tune out and/or walk out of the room.

This energy… always

This isn’t good nor is it healthy for ourselves, our country or the world.

It’s a behavior that was enabled by the Reagan Administration when it did away with the Fairness Doctrine, which in many ways privatized the news business, stripping it of any real legal responsibility to be fair.

When you are not required to present opposing viewpoints in some way, shape or form, especially when speaking and writing about the events of the day, you are NOT being fair.  You are giving opinions that masquerade as news and getting people to believe you without knowing all the facts.

Still, it’s a start.

This is where writing a column, okay A BLOG, comes in.

Oh come now, the Chair ALWAYS has something to say #bloggingrightnow

None of what’s here could readily be classified as news coverage even though it does speak to what’s going on in the world during any given week.

Sometimes the goings on have to do with pop culture.  Other times it’s a treatise on bad drivers (Note: Everyone else) or the blissful simplicity of a plain white shirt.  And more than I realized in the last four years, it’s been a serious condemnation of racism, sexism and homophobia – in other words, a repudiation of Trumpism.

For this writer, and often the readers, it’s a way to externalize the internal emotions, often a mix of passion and anger, which drives one crazy to keep in.  An avenue to put it out into the world where it can be:

1. Identified

2. Seen

3. Discussed

And, most importantly –

4. HEARD

YES, YES, YES #merylwouldagree

To get all of the above is the jackpot and it doesn’t often happen.  The discourse equivalent of a singer who gets a four-chair turn during the blind auditions on NBC’s The Voice.

But you don’t need ALL FOUR coaches to want you on their team in order to win a singing competition.  Just like you don’t need everyone, or even the majority of people, to agree with you in order to ultimately win an argument and begin to change the world. (Note: Or at least make yourself feel better).

You just need ONE coach or ONE person to listen.  Then you continue to
“sing” and convince a few more.  And then more.  Until, well….you get what I mean.

It might not mean you’ll become The Voice but as they say in Oscar season, it’s a honor to be nominated.

Someday Amy…. Someday

Or at least on a list that was considered to be nominated.

I think of a blog, a column, or even the vocalizing of a song or a viewpoint as a way to sing a song that needs to be sung.  If this sounds a little 1960s, well, why not?

That was a turbulent time but an era that provoked more social change than any decade since.

For example, here’s what was churning me up inside this week:

– SEVEN mass shootings in SEVEN days in the U.S.  Yeah, there were TEN people killed in Boulder, CO at the King Soopers Supermarket on Monday, March 22.  This followed the EIGHT people gunned down, including SIX Asian women, at three spas in Atlanta on Tuesday March 16. 

But did you know that between those two days there were TWENTY-THREE more people shot, killed and injured en masse in Stockton, CA, Gresham, OR, Houston, TX, Dallas, TX, and Philadelphia, PA?

So…. continue to stay home?

And that almost all of the major mass shootings in US over the last several decades were done with variations of a single weapon –  the AR-15 rifle? 

– EIGHT white guy legislators, led by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, had a behind closed doors bill signing that SEVERELY curbed the right to vote statewide. Among other things, it is now a CRIME to provide WATER to those standing in line to vote.  The bill also removes the MAJORITY of drop boxes for MAIL-IN BALLOTS, sharply cuts back on the amount of polling places TO vote and DRASTICALLY reduces the number of hours the remaining polling places will be open, particularly in areas with majority Black and Brown voters.

Interesting enough, this PRIVATE bill signing was done under a PAINTING of one of the state’s most notorious SLAVE PLANTATIONS right there in the governor’s office.  And when Georgia State Legislator Park Cannon, a Black female, knocked on the governor’s door to witness said signing she was promptly handcuffed, arrested AND dragged away TO JAIL where she was charged with TWO FELONIES?

This this this this

– Elsewhere, a group of EIGHTEEN Republican members of Congress in HUNTING GEAR patrolled the Texas border armed with RIFLES, presumably for protection against an army of gun-toting drugs lords illegally entering the U.S.  In truth, that border overwhelmingly features unaccompanied CHILDREN floating via INNER TUBE to escape thugs in their native Honduras, Nicaragua or El Salvador trying to either kill them or make them their drug runners. 

– It now costs a whopping $19.95 to stream new-ish Oscar-nominated movies like The Father on platforms such as Amazon and Google because desperate theatre owners like AMC want to make up for all the business lost during the pandemic.  No, this isn’t earth shattering but it pissed me off nevertheless.

UGHHHH

Any one of these could’ve been the subject of a “column” and now, in some small way, all of them are.    What’s eating you and how can you get it out of your head?  Where do you discuss it?  Who disagrees with you and why?  Do they have a point?  What broader questions does this bring to mind and can you at least read about it AND the opposing opinion?

Before you know it, you’re not so alone in your thoughts and you’ve created a column of your own.  Or at the very least, prevented yourself from imploding.

And have the pressure of each week figuring out what else is on your mind.

#DoItForDemocracy.

You’re welcome.

Bo Burnham – “Rant”

Check out the Chair’s newest project, Pod From a Chair , now available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!

TWO PART EPISODE ON OSCAR NOMINATIONS NOW LIVE!

Selective Memory

By most accounts, George H.W. Bush seems to have been a very nice man who cared about his family.  He was able to leave differences with political enemies behind (Note:  The personal letter he left at the Oval Office for Bill Clinton, whose election famously denied him a second term, is a classic).  He even sporadically brought along his most famous imitator – Saturday Night Live’s Dana Carvey – with him to sporadic speaking engagements.

Can you imagine Alec Baldwin being brought along by ….

Only if it were in lock-up…

Okay, let’s not go there.  Yet.

Still, it is important to remember that no one is perfect and no president EVER is even close to being so.

In the case of George Herbert Walker Bush, a president I lived through as an adult, I felt nothing but relief when his reign finally came to a screeching, humiliating end.

Oh yes, I’m going there.

From a 1991 ACT UP protest in Washington DC #neverforget

We keep hearing this weekend about the wisdom of the first Iraq War, his adept handling of a crumbling Russia and the personal inclusiveness of the extended Bush family to so many friends and foes in the political world.

Let’s not debate the first two issues because it will become an endless quagmire of left vs. center (Note: Though I do hope one or two conservatives do read this).  Instead, let’s speak to the issue of inclusiveness.

Nothing about the Bush Sr.’s felt inclusive to so many millions of us during their reign.  In fact, it was one of the reasons he lost his re-election.  There was that famous moment where he looked at his watch during a presidential debate because he seemingly had somewhere more important to be.

And then another during the campaign where he seemed flummoxed at the sight of a supermarket scanner.

I need a price check for my EYEROLL

There was also his using racism and racial politics with a TV ad that wrongly linked his 1988 Democratic challenger, Michael Dukakis, to a darkly Black convicted murderer, Willie Horton, raping a woman during one brief prison furlough.   If you need any more historical references to contemporary white racist dog whistles, here’s one not to miss.

Still, that was merely a postscript for me.  From the moment Bush, Sr. was elected to office during the height of the AIDS crisis, it became crystal clear to me that he would NEVER address the hundreds of LGBT friends and acquaintances I saw dying around me at the time, some in the streets.

Complicit

With negligible funding increases in relation to the lethal, and at that time, quickly spreading pandemic, he began to be forever linked in my mind with his predecessor Ronald Reagan as the passively indifferent executioner of thousands who deserved better from a government they in part paid for with their tax dollars – a government they so very much needed in their moment of unimaginable emergency.

First Lady Barbara Bush eventually took a tentative step and hugged a baby with AIDS.  But where was the massive hug for my community?  It was never to come.

1989 #thetruth

Each year this is put into context on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day.  Now that there are drugs to ensure AIDS can more than likely be a chronic rather than immediately lethal condition in the developed world of the US (Note: That is if one can afford the drugs), it is easy to forget our recent past and knowingly cruel inaction of US executive leadership, particularly from the Republican side of the aisle.

An AIDS Prevention ad from 1987. Read the fine print.

Combine insatiable ambition and timidity at losing power with inbred prejudice against a niche group of people you don’t know and will provide you no upside in electoral matters, and you have a perfect storm of faulty decision-making in the eighties.  Add to that some real fear and lack of education (and interest) on medical matters and, well, you can read up and fill in the rest with statistics and facts.

This might all somehow remain in the horrible, regrettable past if for the last two years on World AIDS Day (Dec. 1) the US government did not advance its chief homophobe, Vice President Mike Pence, to speechify on the subject.

Several days ago Pence purposely failed to mention the LGBTQ community in his very public remarks even though this community is the primary group affected in the US (Note: 70% of cases).  This says nothing of the many tens of thousands who perished over the decades, remain infected and continue to contract the disease.

Needless to say, there was no mention the prior year either.

What Pence did do this year in his remarks was say the word faith 27 TIMES and significantly credit faith-based organizations with leading the fight against AIDS.  One needn’t be a historian to understand that through the eighties and nineties there were countless Christian institutions and religious families who not only didn’t lead but turned their backs on dying gay men, often allowing them to perish alone or, if they were extremely lucky, be comforted by the mercy of strangers. Here’s one story of an incredible woman from Arkansas you might take time to read. There are countless more stories, though most do not involve the type of ultra-Conservative Christian churches to which the vice-president belongs and/or refers to.

American hero, Ruth Coker Burks #thankyou

In fact, here’s another inconvenient FACT of history.  In a 2000 campaign speech while running for Congress, Pence once again made no mention of AIDS and the LGBT community.  What he did do was advocate a stop of federal funding to ANY organization that would celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus.

He even topped himself at the time by adding: Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.

In other words, conversion therapy.

I know I’ve used this gif before, but it feels right to use it again. #SOEFFINGMAD

If I were a certain kind of journalist/blogger I might relate here that there has long been talk that Pence himself has undergone conversion therapy, was said to have once collected muscle magazines in college that a roommate wrote were quickly gone after Pence returned from a long summer break engaged to his present wife, Karen, and, as a young adolescent was referred to as Bubbles, a nickname given to him by members of his immediate family.  Some say it might have even been his own Dad.

Well, these days I’m not sure what kind of journalist/blogger I am or how I feel about bitchy, idol gossip.  I only know when it comes to AIDS I have a memory like a selective elephant and am unafraid to fling dung in honor of the people I greatly loved and lost, none of whom even lived half as long as 94 years.

RIP #41.  And say hi to my friends.

Bruce Springsteen – “Streets of Philadelphia”