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Pop Goes The Political Culture Week of May 7

Pop Goes The Political Culture Week of May 7

A photo of dedicated MPU listeners watching their screens, waiting for a new episode to drop.

By Rebekah Kushmider, MPU co-host

We’ve had another week of groundbreaking hard news. From the release of hostages in North Korea to the release of Michael Cohen’s shady financial dealings, there’s all kinds of important stuff to discuss when we get to our recording session. But that’s days away and no one wants to wait, do they?

So in the meantime, here’s a taste of all the news that’s not fit to ‘cast!

Call 1-800-799-SAFE: If there has been a motto for women in 2018, I would have to say it’s “Fine. I’ll do it myself.” Podcast listeners have heard me say this before but I think there is a subset of women who walked away from the 2016 election with a new and clear awareness that no one is going to ascend to the top of the power structure and fix things for us. We don’t get our knight in shining pantsuit after all.

In response, many of us have pulled up our socks and said “Fine. I’ll do it myself.” From the Women’s March to record numbers of women running for office to the #MeToo movement to Emma Gonzalez standing silently on a stage in DC and daring us to deny the gravity of her movement, women are standing up for ourselves and each other in a more organized and determined way than we’ve seen in perhaps a century.

Podcast listeners have also heard me say that my hopes for the #MeToo movement are not that it takes down every prominent predator in America but that it changes behavior at the grassroots level. Today I saw an article that makes me think that’s happening and it’s happening hand in hand with the gun violence prevention movement having its renaissance right now.

According to USA Today, calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline were up 75% in 2017 over 2016. And in particular, calls about a violent abuser having possession of firearms was up dramatically, increasing to 12,000 in 2017 from 6,800 in 2016.

“Many survivors feel like they are alone,” Hotline CEO Katie Ray-Jones says.  “When they hear stories in the media, they see reflections of themselves and want to chat.”  Along with reporting threats to themselves and their children, women are “calling to say, ‘My husband may be capable of a mass shooting,’ ” Ray-Jones says. 

There is a direct connection between domestic violence and mass shootings. In the most technical sense, a mass shooting is defined as a shooting for four or more people. More than half of the mass shootings from 2009 to 2016 were family violence situations. Moreover, many shooters in dramatic cases like Las Vegas and Parkland have a history of domestic violence. We are learning that the person who harms his family can easily escalate to killing them or harming and killing others. These calls to the domestic violence hotline reflect that knowledge.

So thank you to the media for reporting on these serious issues. Thank you to the women of #MeToo and the #NeverAgain movements for standing up and speaking. And thank you to all the women calling the hotline to get help leaving your abusers. Thank you for learning that you’re not alone and gathering the strength to say “Fine. I’ll do it myself.” You are strong and you are brave.

Match Made in Cable News Heaven: Donald Trump Jr. is off the dating market again. Eight whole weeks after announcing his wife’s intention to divorce his elephant-shooting ass, leading real-estate wunderkind the heir apparent to the Trump fortune Ivanka’s brother has been romantically linked to FoxNews’ Kimberly Guilfoyle. No explanation needed for how the two met, honestly. I’m sure we can look forward to many photos of the two of them romantically standing over the bodies of slaughtered wildlife together. 

This Is America: If you have an internet connection, you have no doubt heard the buzz about Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino’s music video “This Is America”. The four minute film is a masterpiece of musical and dance styles. It’s also one of the most disturbing and unsettling pieces of art I’ve come across since the first time I saw a piece by artist Damien Hirst.

The video features Glover dancing through a barren warehouse, sometimes accompanied by teens in private school uniforms, as chaos seethes around him. There is violence and bloodshed at every turn but you have to force yourself to look away from the dancing in the foreground to see what’s going on just outside of the camera’s focal range. The rioting is blurry and sometimes indistinct but it’s also ceaseless and unforgettable.

Experts in dance, Jim Crow history, music, and history and pop culture have dropped legit knowledge about this video. I’m hesitant to offer my own thoughts on it because, frankly, I feel lost in the imagery and unable to take it all in. Watching it is like staring at the Guernica canvas. There’s too much to take in and, while you know that you’re looking at something with indisputable artistic merit, you also want to look away. But you can’t look away.

And given the message Glover is trying to send, you really shouldn’t look away.

Book Club: Anyone who knows me knows I am a voracious reader and have been since I was a little girl. The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder were my childhood favorites and I read them all over and over again. So the Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Wlider and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane is a perfect read for me. Prairies Fires by Caroline Fraser offers nostalgia for my favorite books, with additional details about people I feel like I already know, and incredible historical context for the stories of the lives of the Ingalls and Wilder families.

And then it offered this passage:

This discussion of aid for farmers came in the wake of four consecutive years of locust infestations that left entire regions defoliated. The bugs arrived in swarms so thick, they inhibited trains from moving. One of the infestations was literally the largest in humans history, resulting in damage to plants across one quarter of the United States.

But offering direct aid to farmers would be demeaning and contribute to “suicidal indolence” and “[weaken] the habit of sel-reliance”.

And here I thought Reagan had invented the idea of the Welfare Queen.

It’s shocking but not surprising to see that America has never been eager to offer unconditional aid to people, no matter how desperate their straits. In the years that followed these events, the country would start to cobble together different supports for farmers, realizing that they weren’t just rugged individualists but were in fact becoming the very life-force of a population that would turn from growing food to buying food, even if we never got quite good enough at giving food to the needy.

You can see all of this playing out again this year. The House Committee on Agriculture has a draft of a Farm Bill out and while it continues to support farmers, it adds a controversial and work requirement to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance for Families. In the words of Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN), “This really isn’t about training anybody. They’re going after the old Republican talking points that there’s a lot of lazy people,”

It is an old talking point. Older than probably even Peterson knows. It’s long past time to retire it.

There’s lots more to discuss in the news this week. Tune in to The More Perfect Union podcast to here what we have to say!

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One comment on “Pop Goes The Political Culture Week of May 7

  1. Sally Kuehne says:

    Excellent!

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