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I Just Wasn't Made for These Times | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

Well-chosen words on music, movies and politics, with the occasional special guest.

I Just Wasn't Made for These Times

My new "Think Again" column is called "Think Again: A Chronicle of Journalistic Malfeasance" and it’s about the kerfluffle over the coverage of Black studies at the Chronicle of Higher Education. You can find it here.

My Nation column is called "Jazz Fest and the Ghosts of New Orleans" and you can read that here.

Joan Walsh reviewed The Cause in The American Prospect at some length here.

And if you ask me, that kind of seriousness is one of the reasons that I strongly recommend that you read this plea from TAP co-founder Bob Kuttner and then perhaps cough up some bucks. 

I’ll be speaking about The Cause, and its foreign policy implications, at a forum sponsored by World Policy Institute and Demos on May 23 220 Fifth Avenue, 5th Floor from 6-7:30.

Alter-reviews:
Petey and I were among the fortunate few who got to see the Beach Boys at the Beacon theater this week. What a joy that concert was. I’ve seen Brian Wilson at least half a dozen times in the past few years and I thought I was doing about as well as one could insofar as Beach Boy songs performed live—he had a crack band—but now that crack band is backing Brian and Mike Love and Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston along with a guy named David Marks who was apparently a member of the band for a while and is a really fine guitarist and the effect was not only musically much more exciting but also quite moving. (So too were the songs performed with videos of Dennis and Carl Wilson.) Anyway, they played an amazing number of songs—at least 40 of them—with no filler and no break and only one of them from the new album, but even that sounded warm and wonderful. (And they dedicated it to Pete Fornatele, which was also nice to hear.) Started with “Do It Again,” ended with “Fun, Fun, Fun.” Heard one after the other, the awesomeness—I hate that word but still—of the band, and particularly Brian Wilson’s achievement—was a wonder to behold and impossible not to love. To be honest, when I read Jon Pareles’ review in the Times, I decided I couldn’t do better than these paragraphs:

“In the concert’s most touching moment Mr. Wilson sang “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times,” a song from “Pet Sounds” about being an innovator who’s universally misunderstood: “Every time I get the inspiration to go change things around,” he sang, “No one wants to help me look for places where new things might be found.”

The chords and melody climbed, lingered, fell back; Mr. Wilson stayed with them, fighting his limitations, as the Beach Boys sang harmony. It was an aching memory and a heartbreaking vindication.”

Read all about it here.

Now here’s Reed:

The Dog That Ain’t Barking for Conservatives Who Oppose Same-Sex Marriage
by Reed Richardson
Sometimes it’s the arguments your opponents don’t make that do the most to undermine their cause. So, when President Obama finally (and let’s be candid, a bit too carefully) came out in support of same-sex marriage this week, what was most striking about the all-too-predictable gnashing of teeth from conservatives was their complete and utter failure to mention the cornerstone of this administration’s, as they so crudely put it, “homosexual agenda”—the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Indeed, one could pore through the official statements, ominous op-eds, and angry tweets of every alleged family values organization and ‘pro-marriage’ right-winger over the past 24 hours and find nary a mention of something that, up until just six months ago, was being billed as nothing short of the ruination of our military. (If you think I’m exaggerating, I offer up this nicely compiled list of all their apocalyptic predictions.) Now, one would think that the similarities between DADT repeal and same-sex marriage would be a natural talking point for the right. After all, both, at their essence, are about allowing gays and lesbians to equally participate in an institution that has traditionally excluded them. And yet, from the right, nothing.

That the establishment media would miss this and other nuances of Obama’s ‘evolution’ is somewhat to be expected, I suppose. Day-one news stories naturally dwelled on the historic nature of a president endorsing this unprecedented position, especially since it came in the midst of a general election campaign and just one day after this regressive vote in North Carolina. (And while we’re talking about Tuesday, let me just say good-bye and good riddance to ‘moderate’ Republican Senator Dick Lugar, who folded like a cheap suit on DADT repeal.) Likewise, few, if any, in the press also picked up on the states rights’ dodge that Obama subtly pushed in his interview—a notion that is particularly troubling because it relies upon the same flawed, intellectual underpinnings that allowed state miscegenation laws to fester for nearly a century until the Supreme Court struck them down in Loving v. Virginia

Of course, the real reason the right has conveniently forgotten all about the repeal of DADT is because, six months later, it’s been such a clear policy success. All that wild speculation on the part of conservatives about servicemembers fleeing and recruiting shortfalls? Not happening. The dire predictions about the introduction of openly gay personnel corroding military culture? Nope. Even the Commandant of the Marines, who testified before Congress in opposition to the repeal has now come around. In short, conservatives were spectacularly wrong and gay rights supporters (and Obama) have been proven unquestionably right.

But allowing same-sex marriage is a totally different issue, one could argue. Except it isn’t. In fact, one can trace the newly evolved Obama from Wednesday directly back to the repeal of DADT. That’s because by granting gay and lesbian service men and women equal status under federal law, the government’s position vis-à-vis DoMA became untenable. Same-sex partner benefits couldn’t be both equal to heterosexual ones under the highest jurisdiction in the land and moot under another, lower one. Which is what led the Obama administration to take the perfectly logical position of abandoning DoMA’s defense on grounds that it was unconstitutional.

Even the bilious Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins backed into acknowledging this dialectic, although he was careful to leave out any mention of how the gays and lesbians in the military now openly defending his freedoms were the same people whose marriages Obama rightly decided deserve equal treatment under the law: 

The President's announcement today that he supports legalizing same-sex marriage finally brings his words in sync with his actions. From opposing state marriage amendments to refusing to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA) to giving taxpayer funded marriage benefits to same-sex couples, the President has undermined the spirit if not the letter of the law.

That “spirit” Perkins refers to is, by any other name, prejudice. As the aftermath of DADT has clearly demonstrated, the justifications for that policy and other ‘pro-marriage’ state amendments policies like it were and are little more than discrimination for discrimination’s sake. And though he’d never admit as much publicly, Perkins is essentially conceding this point by intentionally avoiding what should be the best test case for his same-sex marriage opposition but is instead the most powerful weapon against it. The silence, as they say, is deafening. Let’s hope more of the media begins to hear it.

Contact me directly at reedfrichardson (at) gmail dot com.

The Mail:

Frank Moraes
Santa Rosa

"Wehw!" I said, wiping the sweat from my brow with the back of my hand.

"When you weren't here on Friday, I thought you had abandoned me!"

"No grasshopper," Eric Alterman said. "I would never abandon my reading public."

"Even for a book tour?" I asked.

"Even for a book tour," he said.

And all was calm.

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