2021: Personal Politics: The Winter of America’s Discontent

2021: Personal Politics is a limited series blog that will focus on the aftermath of the 2020 election cycle and the issues that mold the incoming Biden Administration’s priorities–from the most local to the most global. The title comes from melding concepts together. Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill once said, “All politics is local” illustrating that a politician’s success lies in his/her/their understanding of constituent issues and service. It seems that we have moved farther away from that concept and more towards a national politic infecting the local, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for it to be so. The blog name also pulls from Carol Hanisch’s feminist essay “The Personal Is Political” in which she argued that a person’s experiences (particularly that of women) can be traced to where they fall within power relationships.

The lead up to and the aftermath of the 2020 election has been like no other in my lifetime. And now, in the waning days of the Trump presidency, instead of focusing on a peaceful transfer of power that has long been emblematic of our nation’s strength, we are mired neck deep in chaos, anger, frustration, and shock wrought by certifying the results of a lopsided election. This past week, with the victory of the two democrats in the Georgia senate run-off election, the violent rallies in Washington, DC on that same Tuesday evening, and a relatively peaceful rally that was whipped into a violent overrunning of the Capitol to subvert the counting of the Electoral College ballots on Wednesday morning should give many Americans a moment to hit the pause button and consider why they are so discontented.

This is politics of the most personal nature. People feeling personally disenfranchised and disempowered boiling over into protest and action–even illegal, violent, and deadly action. We’ve witnessed this over and over again throughout 2020 and now in 2021. It is difficult to not draw parallels between this past summer’s marches for social justice and police reform and the taking to the streets by conservatives who feel their votes have been stolen. The fact that these were protests is the only similarity though. We must take a deeper dive into what has and is happening–and it must be from outside our own echo chambers. Playing tit for tat and employing the hypocrisy card is not resolving this issue. We can no longer sit by and say, “But they did it!” We MUST dig deeper, look for root causes, discern, and solve these problems if American democracy is to survive. So far, our institutions have shown remarkable resilience, but their fragility has been exposed. Americans must work together to determine that right is right and wrong is wrong no matter what political label they choose to wear.

I do not hold the answers. I only know that I have seen bad behavior from both sides of the aisle this week–one side inciting and promoting untruths in order to enrage and achieve their means, the other side gloating over a senate victory and in the mass excommunication of President Trump and his acolytes from social media platforms. Inciting and gloating only further discontent and resolve nothing. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” (Strength to Love, 1963) We must find ways to work together, even in disagreement, if we Americans are to “rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed.” (“I Have a Dream” 1963)

I wanted to explore a few items I’ve seen circulating among people on my social media sites. These are from individuals who feel personally very passionately about the election and its outcome. I grew up and attended school with these individuals many years ago. I do not want to discredit their feelings. I want to understand them. But I must address the untruths and misrepresentations and implied messages in their statements before I can consider their message as a whole. This first piece, I will take in small chunks and respond to each item on the list.

The following piece (in italics) was posted by a former high school classmate. My response (in purple) follows each statement of the post. I find this post, which has been circulating since at least last November, to be riddled with myopic rhetoric that implies only President Trump has had negative press and demonstrators against him during his tenure in the Oval Office. This piece presents as a manifesto, a rationale, for outrage and further division; hence, it has grabbed my attention.

I tolerated 44 (Obama) for 8 years and kept quiet. Here is my issue with the whole, “let us all be a United States again” that we heard from Joe Biden. For the last 4+ years, the Democrats have gone and scorched the earth. You have salted the fields and now you want to grow crops. The problem is 75 + million of us have memories longer than a hamster.

My response: I too have a memory longer than a hamster. I remember tolerating GW Bush for eight years. He too was not a popular vote winner is term one. GWB had the unity of the nation in his hands after 9/11 only to fumble it in Iraq and with economic policies ushering in the Great Recession. I remember the protests to against the Iraq War and movies like Fahrenheit 9/11 criticizing the Bush Administration. To think that the Obama years did not feature scorched earth rhetoric and actions from those that opposed him is ludicrous as well. Divisive rhetoric is not new and its toxicity has infected our politics for decades. Strong group identity and group think has escalated throughout my lifetime–and not in a good way. I remember David Walters being driven from the governorship in Oklahoma in the mid 80s. I remember the toxicity of the Clinton years–accusations that they murdered Vince Foster, etc., culminating in impeachment proceedings about his lying about having an illicit affair in the Oval Office. I remember the National Review calling liberalism the L word with the vow to make it a dirty word. I remember Rush Limbaugh comparing a 12 year old Chelsea Clinton to the White House dog, Buddy. I remember birtherism and the delegitimizing of Barack Obama. This piece of calling out democrats but not republicans smacks of playing the victim. And to think that they have the only grievances to never forget…

We remember the women’s march (vagina hats and all) the day after inauguration.

My Response: I was one of those women marching annually in the Women’s March. And yes, I will call it a Pussy Hat. I live in the greater Los Angeles area, but I happened to be in Las Vegas that weekend of the first march. I marched in downtown LA the second year, and in my hometown of Redondo Beach thereafter. The first march is still considered the largest single day march in history with upwards of 4 million marchers. It started as a response to an incoming president with a history of misogyny who vowed to limit reproductive rights and bragged about grabbing women by the pussy. There were no arrests connected to this single day march and its sister marches. This march has become an annual event to highlight a number of issues. “The protesters who took part in the various Women’s March events voiced their support for various causes, including women’s and reproductive rights, criminal justice, defense of the environment and the rights of immigrants, Muslims, gay and transgender people and the disabled—all of whom were seen as particularly vulnerable under the (Trump) administration.” While the Women’s March will not be occurring due to COVID-19 for 2021, the organizers are still focused on grassroots organizing, training leaders, and developing activism. The movement is ongoing. It wasn’t a one day pot-shot to insult a president. And to speak of organized protests, I seem to remember the birth of the Tea Party during the Obama years. I was not offended by them so much as wary of their anger and fervor–the same anger and fervor that boiled over this past week in Washington, DC. Both sides had issues they wished to highlight. Both sides organized. Both sides held rallies and marches. So your proclamation of remembrance seems like it’s an incomplete thought. What’s the implied injury here? That someone holds different values or opinions to your own?

We remember the 4 years of attacks and impeachments.

My Response: As stated earlier, I remember 8 years of attacks and impeachments with President Clinton. I remember 8 years of birtherism, attacks, and blocked SCOTUS candidates with President Obama. Do not pretend that President Trump is the only president to ever be attacked. I know that folks who like President Trump wanted someone who would not act as government does. But they invited someone in who not only blew up the norms, but used the power of his office to enrich himself and his family through violation of the emoluments clause and nepotism. I do hope you remember the attacks. And I hope you remember the attacks against all of his predecessors too–earned or not. But keep in mind that sometimes criticism is warranted. And criticism is not an attack.

We remember “not our president” and the “Resistance…”

My Response: Again, this is not unique to President Trump. Just going back only to President Obama, we can easily find images of “not my president” and a resistance in the shape of the grassroots Tea Party organizing. So it’s okay if you do it, but not okay if those who may hold different belief systems do it? The “not my president meme has been around for a long while, but it is easy to find images in the past 20 years particularly. No one can claim the higher moral ground here. If we really want to explore the feelings behind a “not my president” proclamation, we have to look beyond the surface. If we look at the past three presidencies, two of those presidents faced legitimacy issues from not having popular vote wins, while one faced questions of legitimacy based on belief in the lie that he was not US born. Now President-elect Biden faces questions of legitimacy because of belief in the lies that the election was fraudulent and stolen. The one thing in common: questions of legitimacy have led to divisive rhetoric against every president to serve in the 21st century.

I have always acknowledged that President Trump was the President of the United States. Unfortunately he chose to represent a minority in this country. Representation and legitimacy in the role are two different things. Those that claimed President Obama wasn’t their president often pushed the erroneous narrative that he was born abroad in Kenya and was a Muslim aligned with the enemies we were fighting abroad. Images of his face morphed onto Osama Bin Laden–and called Obama Bin Laden–were commonplace. Billboards with anti-Obama messages lined American freeways as well.

As for the “resistance,The Tea Party and Indivisible/Resist used basic grassroots organizing to build messages around their issues. And both have had enormous impact on the direction of politics in the past decade. I contend that it is a good thing for citizens to be engaged in civic discourse–even pro-Trump “Patriots.” Where I happen to draw the line is sedition and insurrection.

We remember Maxie Walters telling followers to harass us in restaurants.

We remember the Presidents spokesperson being kicked out of a restaurant.

We remember a Trump top aid verbally assaulted in two DC restaurants.

First off, it’s Congresswoman Maxine Waters, not Maxie Walters. Second, she said, “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” She did not say to harass all Trump supporters. Third, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and then House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi slapped back at Waters’ calling her rhetoric “not right,” “not American,” and “unacceptable.” Where has President Trump fallen on the issue of harassing elected officials in the past few weeks as his supporters have harassed Senator Mitt Romney and Senator Lindsey Graham–both members of his own party, and one an ardent supporter who has defended him many times? Trump administration officials–namely those who have resigned–have spoken out about the heckling/verbal harassment, but not President Trump himself. Senator Mike Lee, Senator Romney’s fellow Utahan, said that this behavior is “not acceptable. We as a country need to be better than this.”

We remember hundreds of Trump supporters physically attacked.

We remember that we were called every name in the book for supporting President Trump.

My Response: It’s bad form to violently physically attack anyone for disagreeing with your beliefs. Period. Exclamation point! Regardless of political leanings.

Yet both sides do it. My biggest problem is that lists like this play Trump supporters out to be a bunch of misunderstood victims who are righteously indignant in their anger toward anyone who doesn’t stand shoulder to shoulder with them. For years, I’ve been called a libtard, a commie, a socialist, a lib, an Obama apologist, and a host of other names that aren’t as nice as those. Name calling, ad hominem, guilt by association attacks serve little real purpose other than to defame and inflame–defame the person and inflame others against the person. These tactics have been used for millennia. It certainly doesn’t make it right just because it’s been around forever. In rhetoric classes, these tactics are called logical fallacies. Words eventually turn to sticks and stones–as we have seen many times in the past four years. So words do hurt. And violent action hurts even worse.

Trump supporters are not only victims of hateful rhetoric, but also perpetrators of this violence. We must all acknowledge that violent extremists exist in both liberal and conservative circles and that political discuss is not served by this violent behavior. The Guardian recorded over 50 different Trump supporters committing acts of violence in Trump’s name between 2015 and 2019. The Associated Press released footage of Trump supporters being attacked after a San Jose, CA rally in 2016–four people were detained. So it happens on both sides. I haven’t seen reports of “hundreds” being “physically attacked”, but the fact that there are any on either side suggests we have a lot of work to do as communities. We have to make violent attacks (verbal or physical) unacceptable on both sides. We need to quit with the Grudge Wars and start looking at how to move forward. We detain and prosecute people who act out in violence. We hold people who incite them accountable. And we chart viable paths forward for Americans.

We remember Trump supporters getting Doxed, and fired from jobs.

Doxing is bad, illegal, unethical, and a form of vigilantism. And again, it is done by many people for many reasons. Trump supporters are not unique in their experience with this. Even democrats have spoken up on behalf of Trump supporters regarding alleged doxing. Trump supporters have acted as doxxers as well. In one instance a teen Trump supporter doxxed rapper Cardi B–dropping her address and encouraging people to set fire to her home. The question of whether listing publicly available information is doxing has become a hot topic in the past few years. Maybe we do need to take a deeper look at how we use and communicate public information. Ultimately, to dox is to drop private or identifying information. That is bad an should be prosecuted. But again, let’s quit playing the victim card here. We can all agree it is bad. We can all find examples of Pro Trump and Anti Trump folks engaging in this bad behavior. If we must “remember,” then let’s remember to protect those who have been doxxed and prosecute those who have committed the doxing–and determine how we view dropping publicly available information. This is a conversation worth having.

As for being fired from jobs–I’m willing to bet that in almost all instances something spurred the employer. As a union advocate who believes in workers’ rights and as a journalism/English teacher who firmly believes in the right to protected speech, I can see problems with a “you’re fired” attitude. This court ruling examined for human resources departments makes for interesting reading–and deeper understanding in the difference between public and private employees and what speech is protected. The first amendment protects us from the government, not from private employers or citizens. Workers’ Rights laws like the National Labor Relations Act and federal/state anti-discrimination laws typically prohibit discrimination based upon political affiliation. Many of the Trump supporters who have been documented losing their jobs have been connected to racially charged words/actions. And again, whether the person worked for a public or a private entity had a lot to do with whether they lost their position. When a bank in Alabama (hardly a bastion of liberal ideals) fires an associate for racially inflammatory language, the fact that she is a Trump supporter becomes secondary to the action that got her fired. As far as the Capitol stormers losing their jobs–wearing your work badge to a riot is probably not the best choice to stay employed. Nor is stealing mail from the Speaker’s office. Nor is taking her lectern. The fallout from last Wednesday’s storming of the Capitol is not about whether or not these folks were Trump supporters. It was about their alleged violation of the law. The same goes for Black Lives Matters supporters in the past four to five years–particularly in this past year. MAGA hats and BLM shirts/masks have been a flash point in these instances. Maybe we need to be having more conversations about workers’ speech rights instead of boo-hooing and laying blame on those who do not support Trump.

And yes, there have been anti-Trumpers who have lost their jobs as well. In 2017, a cyclist who flipped off the Trump motorcade lost her job. Her case for reinstatement was dismissed (note that she worked for a private company and was therefore an at-will employee with few job protections). The company dismissed her for violating its social media policy–not for her political views.

We remember “a comedian” holding up the President’s severed head.

We remember a play in Central park paid with public funding, showing the killing of President Trump.

We remember Robert de Niro yelling “F” Trump” at the Tony’s and getting a standing ovation.

My Response:

Bad is bad. Inciting anger and violence, using racially charged imagery, using misogynistic language–it’s all protected speech, but it does nothing to further the civic discourse in this country and only adds to division, hatred, misunderstanding, frustration. Need I say more?

We remember Nancy Pelosi tearing up the State of the Union Address.

My Response: I agree that Speaker Pelosi’s action was in bad form. I understand why she did it (he snubbed her and refused to shake her hand), but it was still bad form. Between him constantly calling her “Crazy Nancy Pelosi” and her clap and destruction of his speech, it’s sort of like watching playground politics instead of world stage politics–each working to get the one up on the other.

We remember the total in the tank move on the mainstream media.

We remember the non-stop and live fact checking on our President and his supporters.

We remember non-stop in your face lies and open cover-ups from the media.

We remember 95% negative coverage in the news.

My Response: You’ve bought into the notion that media members intentionally brainwash and lie. You’ve bought into the notion that none of the news sources you use do the same. You’ve bought into the notion that people are incapable of discerning and thinking for themselves. I’ve been called a sheep an awful lot this year. And I am no sheep. I’ve been told I watch too much CNN. Honestly, I rarely watch CNN, but I do visit their website regularly–along with many other sources. It is important to me to “lit review” topics through a variety of sources and to make up my own mind. I do not rely on one new outlet. Or even two. And these claims of bias from the media? Guess what? We are all humans and have implied biases. But good journalists work hard to bring information. When I leave a story with more questions than answers, that is usually an indicator of a piece that is incomplete or not doing its job. Fact checking serves an important function–not just in government, but in the world of journalism as well. Watchdog and advocacy groups monitor journalism outlets just as journalism outlets monitor our elected officials. And FYI, I’ve been following these watchdog groups and news fact checkers for nearly 20 years–looking up George W Bush, Barack Obama, John McCain, Mitt Romney and many others. News outlets did not create fact checking for Donald Trump (who has told/repeated false or misleading claims nearly 30,000 times during his tenure in the Oval Office up to Election Day according to the Washington Post).

Also, a few notes: small, local, independent journalism has all but evaporated in our capitalist corporate “greed is good” culture. News outlets have become increasingly condensed in the past 30-40 years. I recommend looking at CJR’s “Who Owns What” page for more information. President Reagan repealing the fairness doctrine hurt our civic discourse too, as many of its surviving provisions (such as ensuring that people who have been subject to editorial or personal attack have the ability to respond) have eroded or expired. It might be a worthy endeavor to revisit its provisions.

As for your 95% claim–I will have to find evidence of that high of criticism. And I would have to then buy your implication that a negative mention equates bias. This NPR article explaining a Pew Study of President Trump’s first 60 days in comparison to other presidents does show 5% favorable, but not 95% unfavorable and explains the method used to collect the reported data. Pew clearly states that left-leaning bias is not the conclusion to be drawn, but who the audience/readership is determines the numbers. The study also points out that most of those stories focused on personality over policy. The stories discussed his “character and leadership” as opposed to his initiatives. This is an interesting read if you really want to understand how this works. But if you don’t, you can keep your 95% anyway. Pay attention to the groups putting out the information and who pays for that information. Groups like the Media Research Center (who claimed the 95% this past summer) are funded by right wing groups and are conservative media watchdogs (groups like FAIR are liberal media watchdogs). I’ve seen a lot about the numbers on conservative news sites, but nothing about the methods used to determine positive versus negative, viewership representation, or whether criticism is caused by bias or response to issues. There’s no doubt that Trump has generated criticism of his actions in the press, but his lack of using his platform to promote the positive things his administration has done has hurt him as well. If anything, Trump knows exactly how to keep his name on chyrons and in headlines. He’s a master at marketing, so his public perception is of his own making.

We remember the President and his staff being spied on.

Um, not so quick…there’s still questions about that, but this is a pretty good run down of the players and what was supposedly surveilled.

We remember five Senators shot on a ballfield.

Um, not five senators: Congressman Steve Scalise (shot in hip), Capitol Police Special Agent Crystal Griner(shot in ankle), Officer David Bailey (hit by shrapnel–but fire the shot that disabled and killed the gunman), Tyson Foods lobbyist Matt Mika (shot in the chest and arm), and aide Zack Barth (shot in the calf). Congressman Roger Williams suffered a sprained ankle as well. This is a simple untruth that bleeds credibility from your grievances.

I also remember that 10 years ago this week (January 8, 2011), Jared Loughner shot Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in the head, injured 12 more, and killed six of her constituents including a 9-year-old girl. It’s not just republicans who are targeted by radicalized or unhinged gunmen.

We remember every so-called comedy show turn into nothing but a Trump hate fest.

My response: Hate fest? Really? All comedians play on the feds for good jokes. I will give you that Trump provided a lot more material than many of our past presidents, but I just don’t buy that everything was all about hating Trump. There are still Bill Clinton sex jokes–and now QAnon folks have turned those jokes into pedophile rings in pizza parlor conspiracy theories. Who’s more toxic? Think about that. Birtherism is no longer a late night punchline; it’s a toxic soup of seething hatred against a president who was never going to do anything correctly according to conservatives (I distinctly remember the brouhaha over Obama’s brown suit–really? Get a life, people!).

We remember riots, and looting.

My Response: We remember “good people” in Charlottesville (who killed one). We remember Proud Boys fighting in the streets. We will never forget the insurrection. So please spare us the implication that only liberals riot and loot. The only moral high ground is to follow the teachings of Dr. King and Gandhi–nonviolent resistance. So you can leave your AR-15 at home. It will not be necessary to petition your electeds to redress your grievances.

We remember the state governors asking and getting everything they ask for and then blaming Trump for their problems.

My Response: Maybe your states’ governors got everything they asked for. California’s governor asked for federal help to with the disaster of the record breaking fires and it took a lot of public shaming for the President to finally agree. His dislike of New York and California has left these two densely populated states, in particular, in the lurch.

We remember people banging on the Supreme Court doors.

My Response: I remember Trump supporter touting the thin blue line while beating cops. I remember Trump supporters bashing BLM while instigating unrest in the streets with social justice protestors. And why? I can only arrive at one reason–and it’s been around since the days of the Reconstruction–some folks feel threatened by equality for all, as if being equal means they somehow have less. So this really is about POWER and NOT about EQUALITY. Let’s quit kidding ourselves on this point.

And as to the SCOTUS, I remember Merrick Garland not even getting a hearing because 8 months was too close to an election, yet Amy Coney Barrett gets a hearing and confirmation only days before an election. This kind of craven abuse of power is why all of us have less faith in government to act on behalf of all of us instead of a tiny fraction of us.

We remember that Hollywood said they would leave after Trump was elected but they (unfortunately) stayed.

My Response: Um, who specifically are you referencing? Scott Baio? James Woods? Jon Voigt?

Or are you talking about George Clooney (who spends more time in Lake Como, Italy than Studio City, CA)? Or are you talking about Sasha Baron Cohen (who with his wife Isla Fisher moved to Australia to avoid raising their children in Trump’s America)? Are you talking about the Hemsworth brothers (who remain in their homeland of Australia)? Not every star lives in Hollywood. And not every star has remained in the country as they have the means for mobility. Ultimately, I remember supporters for both candidates saying they would consider leaving the US or their state if the opponent won prior to the November election.

But average Americans leaving the country did increase during the Trump Administration–many of them leaving because of threat of repealing the Affordable Care Act and overt discriminatory acts by Trump supporters (people proudly proclaiming to be deplorables).

This list is endless, but you get the idea. My friends will be my friends, but a party that has been on the attack for 4 long years does not get a free pass with me.

Copy and pasted from a friend because it is the truth, especially when this election is exposing the integrity of not only this election, but also future elections to come.

My Response: Well, welcome to the pity party. Do you really expect that this in-your-face, nanny-nanny-boo-boo list of myopic and bellicose grievances filled with sectarian rhetoric would garner any sympathy or converts? Or was your point just to say, “Suck it! We will never work with anyone who doesn’t love Trump as much as I do”? The things that I notice are missing: anger about lack of affordable health care during a pandemic, anger about jobs lost due to a pandemic, anger about the costs of housing/basic necessities, anger about the lack of living wages, and a host of other kitchen table issues. Instead I see anger about wearing masks, name calling, feelings of being dissed, and over the top rhetoric about “stolen” elections that weren’t stolen. If anything, liberals, who have lost two elections while winning the majority of votes have more to say about stolen elections and election security than you do.

Maybe we need to reassess what we are angry over in this country. And instead of thumbing noses and fostering divisions among winners and losers, let’s figure out what our country needs to thrive as the oldest democratic republic in history. Because this list doesn’t even touch on the real problems Americans face–it focuses on only one problem, feeling disaffected. And guess what? I’ve gotten that message loud and clear for four years and lived it for 12 of the past 20 years. If we are a nation of 330 million victims, than how will we ever heal enough to do what we need to do for our country? That is something you should ask yourself.

PS One thing I do agree upon–it was a LONG four years.

INDY REC: Brian Fennell

One of my colleagues introduced me to the music of SYML in January of last year. By February we were watching him perform live as an opener for Dean Lewis. By May I owned his first album. By August I was watching him live again as he sold out LA’s historic Troubadour. Now a year later he is touring again opening for Dermot Kennedy. I’m looking forward hearing much more from SYML this year and in the years to come.

But who is SYML? SYML is Brian Fennell, a musician/singer who hales from the Pacific Northwest. Brian is personable with his audience sharing about his life journey and answering questions from his audiences. With Welsh heritage, he chose the professional name SYML, which is the Welsh word for “simple,” a word that sort of defines the simple clean lines of his melodious and layered music.

Fennell’s first flirtations with musical fame was with his band Barcelona. He and his Barcelona band mates formed in 2005. Releasing their first album in 2007. They formed their own music label before eventually signing with Universal Music in 2008 and parting ways with them in 2010. Their last release as a group was in 2016 (yet the group still boasts over 128,000 monthly listeners on Spotify). That same year, Fennell released his first SYML EP. Fennell has amassed quite a following with more than 4.3 million monthly listeners on Spotify, more than 89,000 followers on YouTube, and nearly 14,000 followers on SoundCloud.

“Cure” by Barcelona, one of the band’s singles from 2014.

Fennell’s most famous SYML song is arguable “Where’s My Love.” The song’s haunting video has over 50 million views on YouTube. It was probably the first of his songs that I found and fell in love with. His cover of “Mr. Sandman” is a fan favorite as well. But my favorite song of his is “Wildfire.” For some reason, this song in its multiple versions, speaks to me. By the time I received his first album in the mail in May (I pre-ordered it at the February show), “Wildfire” was on constant rotation on my playlist (and still is).

SYML “Wildfire”

In the past few months, Fennell has released a few new singles, “Take Me Apart” and “Flags,” a song he wrote about battling cancer. To promote his new music and to keep sharing his heartfelt body of work, he will start his 2020 touring as support for Dermot Kennedy this Friday, January 24th. Take a few minutes and check out his work.

Image borrowed from: https://www.nolala.com/en/family/what-are-the-lyrics-of-debut-album-syml-about-brian-fennell-explains-the-meaning-track-by-track/

Jules’s Jukebox: A Pair of Gerry Cinnamon Belters

Over the past year and half, I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at newer artists and independent acts looking to break out. One of the things that stands out to me is just how thriving of a music scene the United Kingdom has. For a country with one fifth the population as the United States, the cultural influence of the UK is bar none. Many music acts are huge on the British Isles but not known at all in the US. The UK hosts many, many music festivals giving new acts a wide audience. One of those acts is Gerard Crosbie, better known as Gerry Cinnamon.

Thirty-five year old Gerry hails from Castlemilk, Scotland, and he performs acoustic blues. Many of his performances are just him and his guitar at a microphone. But his distinct accent and infectious energy have made him a huge festival fan favorite.

In 2015, he released the single “Kampfire Vampire” with B-side “Fickle McSelfish” before his sole album, Erratic Cinema, hit the airwaves in 2017. In 2019, he released a few new singles from his upcoming album,
The Bonny.

If you haven’t heard Gerry Cinnamon before, you should take a moment and give him a listen. The two songs for today’s Jukebox are “Belter”, probably his most well-known song, and “Sometimes”, the opening song to his Erratic Cinema album. Enjoy some Gerry Cinnamon:

“Belter”

“Sometimes”

Indy Rec: Mario Di Leva

I try to get out to see live music often, and I’m lucky enough to live in a city with a thriving independent music scene. Indy Rec is me sharing some of the great independent music acts that I encounter along the way.

One of my good friends (who is a bass player) introduced me to his son’s independent music projects. I’ve been avidly following his work for a while now. Mario Di Leva is a writer, producer, and musician who hales out of San Pedro, CA. The 25 year-old has grown up around music with his dad playing bass in a number of bands over the years. I have enjoyed watching Mario grow in this most difficult of industries.

Mario Di Leva. American Mile photo shoot. November 2019. Photo graciously borrowed from American Mile’s Instagram feed.

Di Leva’s first effort was 2017’s Greetings from Vinegar Hill. Vinegar Hill is a historic early suburb of San Pedro featuring houses built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The album artwork concept is a postcard from this historic area–as a tribute to Di Leva’s roots. All songs on the album were written, performed, produced, and mixed by Di Leva. He is joined by Haley Spence Brown on vocals, Ian Hubbell on drums, and Kyle Scherrer on guitar. His freshman effort is available for a listen on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, and other music services under the name Vinegar Hill SP.

After the release of Greetings, Di Leva played as a bassist for hire with a number of local bands and moved on to a new project, Edgewater Angel. Di Leva teamed up with K-Lee Marie to pen the EP From Me to You, which was recorded in 2018. The project’s new single, “I’ll Be Around,” dropped in November 2019. The Edgwater Angel project features Di Leva’s foray into more complex song constructions, more recently integrating a string section. Di Leva describes Edgewater Angel as alt rock meets 90s grunge. Judge for yourself:

While working on his Edgewater Angel project, Di Leva has also played as bassist for hire with the independent band American Mile. American Mile started as three brothers plus two musicians. They were on the fast track having recorded original work already, but when the lead singer (Jacob) left the band to pursue a solo career, brother Eugene stepped into the front man role. The band has spent the past year rerecording their music and playing live shows at small, intimate, cozy venues like the Los Angeles Farmer’s Market to large, flashy venues like the Idaho Potato Drop New Year’s Eve show. To check out American Mile, check out their Facebook and Instagram pages. If you happen to be in the Los Angeles area, you can check them out at their next gig on January 19th at the Viper Room.

American Mile playing Madame Siam’s in November 2019. Pictured is lead singer Eugene Rice and bassist Mario Di Leva. Photo by Julie Shankle via iPhone.

2020: Personal Politics–When I Do What I Criticize

2020: Personal Politics is a limited series blog that will focus on the 2020 election cycle and the issues that mold it–from the most local to the most global. The title comes from melding concepts together. Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill once said, “All politics is local” illustrating that a politician’s success lies in his/her/their understanding of constituent issues and service. It seems that we have moved farther away from that concept and more towards a national politic infecting the local, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for it to be so. The blog name also pulls from Carol Hanisch’s feminist essay “The Personal Is Political” in which she argued that a person’s experiences (particularly that of women) can be traced to where they fall within power relationships.

Civility in politics. Civil civics. Words that seem so incongruous, especially in today’s often tribal and highly partisan politics. Over the past few years, I have striven to change how I expressed myself politically. I find the politics of personal destruction repugnant, but I do still find myself falling into it’s trap from time to time out of pure frustration. It’s like being lured to the dark side of the force. Yoda, in all his wisdom, once said that “fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.” And I have never found these words to be more true than our current political climate–which permeates from the Oval Office all the way down to the school board dais.

As a leader in my local union, serving as an officer and representative to our state affiliate over the past 16 years, I meet regularly with members of our school board on a monthly basis–at least that is our goal as we have restarted the liaison program after two years of labor strife in our district. The strife came in the form of the district declaring impasses and imposing a contract rather than negotiate in good faith with us. We, in turn, elected a new majority to the board ousting three of the board members that voted to impose (the board voted unanimously 5-0 to move forward with imposition). We have spent the better part of the past year working to foster a relationship with our newly elected members while working to somewhat repair the remnants of any relationship with the remaining two (who have both declared that they are not seeking re-election). These liaison meetings have created an abundance of a-ha moments–understanding why they are doing what they are doing–but they have also provided much frustration and anger. And I’m sorry Yoda, I’ve had a hard time releasing my anger.

My first liaison meeting of the year, the board president referred to teachers as complainers, but meeting with them was part of his job. My second meeting of the year, with one of the newly elected members, he was 45 minutes late and spent the entire time arguing loudly with everything we said. It was so bad that we moved all future meetings to our office because we did not think his behavior toward our concerns was appropriate in a public venue (we usually pick local coffee shops or restaurants for our meetings). The next meeting, with the other two new board members (one silently listening, the other doing all the speaking) featured the board member who had been one of our members only a few short months before claiming that teachers’ chronic absenteeism was the cause of our district’s substitute teacher shortage (p.s. the shortage is in many districts–and it an actual shortage–and our district does nothing to incentivize subbing in our district as opposed to surrounding ones). Needless to say, our first round of meetings did not give us great hope for the second round.

My local’s board of directors took time to prepare for this first round of meetings–and we made appropriate changes in our process after the bargaining failures and disintegration of relations with them over the past couple of years. The changes include having written talking points that are shared with our membership and we are sharing out the school board members’ positions on each of the talking points. These are formal meetings with accountability for their positions to their stakeholders. This first round of meetings may have left a hole in our hopes, but we haven’t given up. We’ve instead made adjustments and reiterated our goals in the meetings. We know that we are doing what is necessary if we are to change the culture and build a different dynamic with our local board. It seemed that during the second round –which unearthed an entirely different set of frustrations–our intentions became clearer to the school board members.

In December, our liaisons were lucky enough to meet with all five school board members within a short expanse of two weeks. The frustrations that reared themselves this time had more to do with breakdowns in communication–school board members not responding to our emails or texts after repeated attempts and such. But we eventually resolved those issues and made it clear that as stakeholders and constituents, we expected to at least receive a reply. Even if it was an “I’ll get back to you.” Communication issues can be dealt with. Even a difference of opinion on the issues can be dealt with. What cannot be dealt with is a shutdown of communication and a dismissal of our issues. We believed we were teetering closely to the latter, but ultimately, we exited the year feeling slightly better. At this moment, we contend that it’s a split–we aren’t being shut out, but the school board members are negating what we claim to be issues that we would like to mutually work upon. This dismissal of our issues is all that we can report back to our members.

The one member of the school board that I feel I have been hypocritical towards is the outgoing president. He is a jovial, even likable guy. He’s a product of our schools, as are his children. He has this blustery personality and always makes off-color jokes at the wrong moment–which has led me to cringe on multiple occasions. But he is one of those Teflon types that somehow gets by with saying stuff I’d be roundly thrashed for saying. My biggest worries with him though is that he is driving a behind-the-scenes process on the sale/lease of school lands in a less than transparent fashion–and that he may need to recuse himself for business reasons– and that he prefaces all of his statements that this is his last year in office–as if it excuses him from doing the work that people elected him to do.

I have met personally with him twice since the start of the school year. At the first meeting, he called us complainers. At the second, he said that school board unity meant more than anything else to the district–and that he would support things he didn’t like if it meant the board of education was united. I informed him that I felt that was abdicating his duty to thoughtfully review and act on issues regardless of whether he was in the majority or the minority. We kept both meetings civil. Heck, our meetings are all about maintaining civility in the politics, even the most local of politics, so that “we the people” are engaged in the civic process. But in my report to my members, my frustration with his public guffaws and his continued writing off of our issues to preserve board unity, I fell into the dark side trap. I ventured, for a brief moment, down the dark path of tribal incivility by calling him a name publicly to my colleagues.

Afterwards, in a reflective moment, I thought how to better my actions moving forward. I thought that I needed to rise above the decade of frustrations in working with this school board member–the layoffs and furlough days that started our decade working together, the failure at the table and imposition, all the way to the clusterf*** of the sale/lease of district lands at the end of the decade. I can and should do better. Not just because I strive to be a better person everyday, but because if not I, then who will return civility to politics? It is incumbent upon all of us to consider and to reconsider before we act civically.

So one of my new year’s resolutions will be to restore civility to my local civic activities in every way that I can–to call out incivility when I see it, to not stand by or acquiesce when I see a wrong, to block or avoid online sources of tribalism that promote further dysfunction in our system. Too much is at stake, from the smallest of elected positions all the way to the top seat in the White House. I need to not do what I dislike and criticize
in others.

Jules’s Jukebox: What a Life!

As we barrel into 2020 full steam ahead, I picked two songs with “life” in the title…a bit of a theme about what life/love is as we live on in this new decade.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds “AKA…What a Life” from 2011’s Self-titled album

“Keep on chasing down that rainbow
You’ll never know what you might find
Over the sunset on the horizon
It may be a dream but it tastes like poison
I’m going to take that tiger outside for a ride

This video is interesting and embodies the choices we make in life…”fear, the anesthetic of bravery.” Russell Brand (one of Gallagher’s personal friends) is priceless.

Fun Fact: The video is the third of three video story line with the songs “If I Had a Gun” and “The Death of You and Me.” Another fun fact: Noel Gallagher does not drive. In the years after this video, he did take driving lessons at the insistence of his wife, but he has never passed the
driving exam.

George Harrison “What Is Life” from 1970’s All Things Must Pass

“What I feel, I can’t say
But my love is there for you any time of day
But if it’s not love that you need
Then I’ll try my best to make everything succeed”

George Harrison was my original favorite Beatle. And I have long been in love with his soulful All Things Must Pass triple album–his first post-Beatles work and the first triple album of all original material. He set the gold standard of how to move forward in life, even after a break-up or hardship.

2019–A Reflection on Anno Mutatio

This past year has given me time to pause on many occasions–to pause and reflect, to pause and consider a different path, to pause and savor, to pause and smile…2019 has been a year of change after 2018 ranking in the annals of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad.

2018 started with my work life in high stress mode–a teacher union leader under attack from the district working to impose rather than negotiate in good faith and undercut from a faction of my own board. It ended in much the same way, but I had turned a corner after the district imposed–and our teachers worked diligently to overturn the majority on the board of education. The month of November 2018 brought so much hope after a year of stress, stress, and more stress. Nationally it was a blue wave. Locally we overturned the board of education. And within the union, the undercutting faction fell apart. December opened the door to a time to rebuild. So that’s marked 2019 as a year of change.

My year of change hinged on much more than my work life though. My son graduated from college in May. We toured the United Kingdom in July. I traveled to spend time with family and friends. I changed my teaching assignment. I reconnected with my uncle. I saw a lot of great live music. I rescued a pair of the cutest black cats ever. Indeed, it has been a full year. It has been a full year of reconnecting with myself, moving toward change and embracing it. I look to 2020 to be full of even more change and promise.

Some of my year’s highlights:

My union colleagues and I gathered supplies for the striking teachers of LAUSD, a neighboring district. Red for Ed became a permanent part of our lives. So I wear red on Wednesdays and our TTA Blue on Thursdays. It’s almost like having a uniform–as Tuesday is college apparel day and Friday is school spirit day. Mondays are the only days I wear whatever I can cobble together.
My chicas and I participated in the local Women’s March. It was my third time participating, but my first time marching locally. The first year, we marched in Las Vegas. The second year, we were in downtown Los Angeles. It was nice to march with over 1,500 of our local women’s issues advocates. I look forward to participating again on January 18, 2020 for #womenrising2020.
I have had the luck to see Warbly Jets (one of my favorite live bands) multiple times in 2019. Samuel Shea, lead singer, is pictured above. I hope to see them again in 2020 along with many other bands. I’ve absolutely loved getting into local LA independent music in 2019. I’ve seen so many great bands, like The American Mile, Hembree, and Bloxx. But the Warbly Jets remain my most seen band. The year started with their song “Alive” being my favorite and ended with “Propoganda” from their new EP being my favorite.
I had the distinct pleasure of welcoming Zoey to the family. My brother and sister-in-law rescued this sweet little girl in January 2019. She loves squeak toys and kisses. And Auntie loves hanging out with her exuberance and energy.
February brought more live music–but of the more classic rock variety. We had a great time with Elton John on his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour. Sir Elton was not my first choice, but I’m glad I went. The company was great, and the performer certainly knew how to put on a show. And I got to hear “Crocodile Rock” live. So mission accomplished.
February was a huge month for my live music excursions. A colleague and I joined about 1,500 much younger girls when we went to see SYML (aka Brian Fennell) and Dean Lewis at the El Rey Theater. I fell in love with music from both of these budding music artists. I was so impressed with both of them that I went to see both of them again later in the year–SYML in August at The Troubadour and Dean Lewis in October at The Wiltern. They were both super nice and accessible–and on the verge of something so much huger than these small venues. My favorite SYML song is “Wildfire“, which I was lucky enough to hear in both shows. He has a couple of alternate versions of the song as well. And I love all of them. Dean Lewis actually asked me my favorite of his songs when I was lucky enough to be part of a meet and greet at his October show. He performed my favorite at both shows as well: “Half a Man.”
My baby boy is all grown up now! What a banner year for him–turning 21 and graduating from college all in the span of about three weeks. I’m lucky that he will still travel with me. He’s a great travel companion, and I’m lucky that he will share these milestones with me.
Celebrating education with members of our union board felt so much better than the strain of the previous year. We were all smiles and enjoying each other’s company while representing our local at the annual Education Foundation dinner.
My son is officially a graduate from university! While he still lives at home for the short time being, I’m thrilled with his success and achievements. I hope that 2020 brings many more milestones and successes for him.
Part of the change in 2019 is that I branched out into different social media outlets–yes, I played with SnapChat filters, laughed at Tik Tok videos, and chatted on Instagram. But I still frequent Twitter and Facebook–though I have had to address my own growing discomfort with their policies and moderation of their platforms. Overall, I do not look to these platforms as my only source of news. I actually subscribes to three major newspapers and two magazines this year to counter balance the misinformation that proliferates on social media. I also strongly recommend selecting social media posts with care. I used to post “Provocative Posts” on Facebook. That was my code speak that it was a political hot topic and that I wanted people to offer dialogue to stretch and explore the topics. I have given up posting much political matter and stuck mostly to education and unionism as my topics of choice, particularly on Facebook. On Twitter, I typically retweet rather than tweet. I’m expecting a bit of a change again as 2020 is a full blown election year–everything from school board to president being on the ballot. I’m thinking my political posts will come through a new blog. That is my goal for 2020–writing a new consistent blog. And restarting my Jukebox blog.
After we lost our Bagheera in 2017, we just didn’t have the heart to adopt another kitty for such a long time. But 2019 brought a change of heart. My son and I started frequenting the local shelter homepage and in June we pulled the trigger. Crash and Shadow are our D-Day Rescue Kitties (yes, I picked them up on June 6th, D-Day). Black cats are often the last picked at shelters. But we were lucky. We found two who get along, are curious, spunky, and full of all kinds of personality. Crash is the curious, clumsy boy. Shadow follows us like he’s our shadow. And even though they aren’t litter mates, they love each other, play together, and lead each other into trouble. I often wonder if they didn’t really rescue us instead of the other way around.
Some things change. Some things stay the same. Pembroke Castle is still a beautiful place to visit. And my son and I still are in love with the United Kingdom. Some of the changes we noticed though–a lot of talk about Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, a lot of headlines and questions from locals about private healthcare versus public. Some of the things that I still love about the UK: public transportation (we easily got everywhere we needed via tube, train, bus, or foot), the Tesco/Co-op £3 lunch deal (which we bought almost daily–I wish we had that here in the US), the interesting people (we met some nice folks in everyone of our stops, but I highly recommend staying with Guy and Kate at Number 27 Bed and Breakfast if you visit Glastonbury), and their love and preservation of their history (Portchester Castle in Portsmouth was a pleasant surprise and is an English Heritage site).
More live music…when my uncle came to visit at the end of October/beginning of November, we checked one of his bucket list items–to see Gary Numan live. And boy did we. We were front and center at night one of the Substance Festival in which Numan was the headline act. Even though Numan has been making music since the late 70s, I am a recent convert to his music thanks to my uncle. While most people know his song “Cars“, I fell in love with his song “My Name Is Ruin” from his 2018 album Savage (Songs from a Broken World). I highly recommend giving Numan a listen, especially if you are open to exploring old school EBM (electronic body music). Another pleasant surprise from the evening was the duo Xeno and Oaklander. I was transported back to the 80s listening to songs like “Sheen.”
A few weeks later, my brother and I traveled back to our hometown to spend time with our family. We were able to meet up with my uncle again. We joined a cousin that we hadn’t seen in decades. It was a nice change to visit with my brother as we had not visited home together since my son was a toddler. While I’ve always believed in family, 2019 brought about some reconnections and some real reflection on how to take the func out of dysfunction. I can only hope that 2020 will strengthen the ties that bind our family.
While I’m borrowing this image from a person I follow on Twitter, the snow capped mountains speak to one of the more memorable events of 2019. My son and I spent Thanksgiving week in Las Vegas this year. We wanted a change, to try something new. And all went smoothly until we were trapped at the top of the Cajon Pass for 12 hours straight sitting in our car waiting through a snow storm that had made the pass unpassable. We’ve had quite the winter so far with a couple of big storms shutting down all the mountain passes into and out of the Los Angeles basin. But the beaches have remained beautiful and clear. I’ve enjoyed walking at the beach the past few days with pristine views of Catalina Island and the Santa Monica Mountains. Despite the people on top of people out here in SoCal, sometimes the views are just amazing. I’m thankful I’m hanging enough financial to continue to live in such a beautiful place. Another of my goals in 2020 is to spend more time at the beaches that I spend so much to live near.

So 2019 has been filled with to the brim, and I look forward to a new decade and year to fill equally so. Happy New Year! Have a prosperous 2020!

Jules’s Jukebox: Out with the old…

As 2018 slides away and we welcome the exciting possibilities that the dawn of 2019 brings, here’s one last jukebox for the year–and a resolution to post with more regularity in the new year.

Tonight’s theme cannot be anything but a nod to the closing of one door and the opening of another. And no, you won’t find “Auld Lang Syne” here. These songs are looking forward and not backward–looking for an upbeat perspective at the prospects of our new year. The world might serve us some hard luck from time to time, but the new year is a time of reflection, yes. But more so, it is a time to find hope in upping the game and finding that new way to move forward.

“Hello Goodbye” by The Beatles, the backside to 1967’s “I Am the Walrus” and later on the Magical Mystery Tour album.

“Hello, You Beautiful Thing” by Jason Mraz from 2014’s Yes!

“And I know, I know, it’s going to be a good day

Hello, hello, you beautiful thing…”

“Hello” by Oasis from 1995’s (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

“We live in the shadows and we

Had the chance and threw it away

And it’s never going to be the same

‘Cause the years are falling by like the rain

It’s never gonna be the same

‘Til the life I knew comes to my house and says

Hello, hello (it’s good to be back)…”


Happy New Year!

Jules’s Jukebox: Making It Count

Note: For a number of years now I’ve seen the 30 Day Music Challenges that proliferate in meme-heavy platforms. So I decided to tackle one of these challenge lists.

Day Two of the list I chose says to pick a song with a number in the title. So being unable to pick just one song–I’ve selected two just to get my jukebox quarter’s worth.

“Twentyfourseven” by Kasabian from 2017’s For Crying Out Loud

I’ve had the distinct pleasure of experiencing this song live on the front row. I love Kasabian. They have such raw energy and power and fist pumping, mosh pit jumping songs. This song is no exception. Kasabian have spent this year touring festivals, but I long for them to return stateside. I can hardly wait to see them again. Tom and Serge and the guys sure know how to put on a great show–and the driving beats of their songs are perfect for the jumping and swaying festival crowds.

IMG_6098

Tom Meighan, lead singer of Kasabian, belts it out at the Wiltern, Los Angeles. September 2017. (Personal photo by J. Shankle)IMG_6127

Serge Pizzorno takes the mic for a moment during Kasabian’s Wiltern show, September 2017. (Personal Photo by J. Shankle)

“Not Nineteen Forever” by The Courteeners from 2008’s St. Jude

 

This song is The Courteener’s “Wonderwall” in that if anyone knows a song by them, it is this one. I enjoy this song quite often when I’m walking at the beach, along with “Fallowfield Hillbilly.”

The Courteeners are planning a tour this winter in their homeland, the UK. Sometimes I wish I was a Brit.

I can only hope I get to see The Courteeners at some point–but either way, I listen to both of these songs on a regular basis.

 

Jules’s Jukebox: Dog Days of Summer

Note: For a number of years now I’ve seen the 30 Day Music Challenges that proliferate in meme-heavy platforms. So I decided to tackle one of these challenge lists. Day Three of the list I chose says to pick a song that reminds me of summertime.

For this challenge, I’ve selected a pair of songs that may or may not have been released in summer, but they remind me of summer because of my associations and experiences. I’ve selected two songs that take me back to the summer between my junior and senior year of high school when my bestie and I swam at the local municipal pool every day. We were on a first name basis with all of the lifeguards–a few of whom I am still in contact today. These two songs are not necessarily favorites of mine, but they connect me to a time and place that is special to me at the swimming pool in those carefree summer days!

“If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” by Sting from 1985’s The Dream of the Blue Turtle

“Voices” by Russ Ballard from his 1984 self-titled album Russ Ballard