Welcome to Democracy (or a reasonable online substitute)

Edit: This will be the featured post on my Medium.com profile for awhile. So here’s an easy link to my recommendations page (which really should be the default profile page, c’mon Medium!) and I can also be found on Twitter, perhaps much too often. Oh, by the way, Spring IS coming.


I’ve had it.

For as long as I can remember I have been an addict - a conversation addict. I simply cannot get enough of people gathering together and discussing things. Whether in academic forums, public events or the dark corners of our beloved internet it doesn’t matter. I just love any space where people come together to speak their minds.

But not lately. Ah, turn out the lights and shutter the blinds ye who value sanity. Presidential campaign season is once again upon us.

The last time this happened back in 2012 the destruction of public discourse was so complete it reached near-cosmic proportions. The massive hurricane that ripped through the eastern seaboard in October of all times may well have been a manifestation of our own political break down. Don’t get me wrong, the right guy won (which is, to say, the one I voted for). But the process was miserable. Like Sandy it claimed many lives, thousands of homes, and the political viability of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Chris Christie of all people became a momentary hero. And nobody could whisper truth without the lie resounding back at them from the misanthropic ether.

Not until this year have I ever seen a time when disagreement from ignorance was more in vogue. It was months of two people, neither of whom had any idea of how Obamacare actually worked (or even what it’s actually named in many instances) screaming about why they did or did not support it, and why anyone who disagreed was an idiot, a dupe, or a stooge. Remember that? The whole thing was really quite a sight to behold.

And the instigators of this ignorance were all very, very well-funded.

Politics is the biggest growth industry in America today. It may well be the only. And like many a de-regulated industry before it, boomtown politics is having an overwhelmingly negative effect on its environment. This fact is worthy of sincere lamentation, for the natural-habitat of the political is our discourse, and our minds.

We cannot make good political decisions based on bad information. Partisanship is no justification for one policy or another when democracy itself is in such turmoil. No, our dialectic remedy must be pre-partisan, since without a functional democracy partisan contests decide nothing more than who will spend the next four years disappointing us.

Rest assured, on this blog I will not be a downer. Political discourse doesn’t have to suck. It can be celebrated. It can be worthy of celebration! And it often is, we just don’t see it. My purpose here is to present those instances from books, articles, blogs, podcasts, conversations at local delicatessens, and anywhere else where truth may appear for one shining instant before running back down into the world of chaos like Alice’s white rabbit.

I’ll also write, and present writing about film, music and other irresistible cultural loose ends when the mood strikes me (speaking of which I haven’t seen Delicatessen in forever).

However, for my first post - or second, after this introductory piece - I’m actually going to begin wildly off-topic. Because for all the hub-bub of the presidential races and all my commitment to fighting for democracy and the human rights that depend on it, I am still a Chicagoan. And there’s something that’s been on my mind for some time now that simply has to be addressed.