The Art of “Bang and Blame” – A Long Distance R.E.M. Dedication to Donald Trump

Friday, March 24, 2017.

House Republicans on Capitol Hill will be voting on Trump’s health care bill and it seems like Donald Trump may be facing a legislative failure in his first big legislative push.

And it set in motion a chain of interrelated thoughts.

First, there is this proclamation that came from one Donald Trump when he made his candidacy for president about his unique ability to make and seal the “deal.”

Art of deal

Interestingly enough, he used the word “art” in the title of the book that he never wrote, and ironically, it is the “arts” that he has specifically targeted in his budget proposal to boost military spending.

But Trump’s “art” really is not in making the deal. It’s in knowing when to take credit for himself and when to blame others when the outcomes of his actions, or lack thereof, create unpleasant results. And actually, it’s not an art as much as it has become a reflex practiced over and over again with the knowledge that he could always buy himself new opportunities.

CNN.com had a very interesting article called “Deal or no deal, Trump ready to cast blame” on the home page (3/24/17) and both Jeremy Diamond and Dana Bash stated,

Painting the President as a political neophyte who has only been in Washington for two months, the source said Trump has become “frustrated with his staff’s inability to get this done” and argued that Trump was misled by those staffers who urged him to tackle Obamacare head first and hitch himself to Ryan’s plan.

“He was talked into doing this bill first. It was not negotiated well on his behalf,” the source said. “He’s relied on his staff to give him good information and they haven’t. And that’s the problem.”

The source close to Trump described a president who felt bamboozled by Ryan and his own staff, duped into thinking that passing health care would be the quick victory he needed to make good on a campaign promise central to his election and push forward on other policy fronts (http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/24/politics/donald-trump-health-care-blame/index.html).

And then it occurred to me once again that there is an R.E.M. song that literally explains this whole ordeal and encapsulates the egotistical and obsessive will of the president to protect the thin, fragile, fleshy membrane that covers him: “Bang and Blame.”

REMBangBlame

The chorus sings through Michael Stipe’s original, unprocessed, thoughtful, and activist voice.

“You know that’s not my thing, you came to bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
Then blame, blame, blame.
Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
It’s not my thing so let it go, you
Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
Then blame, blame, blame.
It’s not my thing so let it go.”

Think of it. It’s not hard to come up with a multitude of synonyms for both “bang” and “blame” – both connotatively and denotatively.

Bang” – (from thesaurus.com) belt, blow, bop, crack, knock, rap, slam, smack, sock, strike, swat, thump, thwack, wallop, whack, whop; or (in slang terms) have sexual intercourse with

Blame” – (from thesaurus.com) allege, attack, betray, charge, cite, criminate, denounce, frame, impeach, indict, libel, pin-on, slander, slur, sue

It seems that much of what Trump says either objectifies and belittles women (Bang) or places culpability (Blame) on others.

CBSNews.com one time compiled a list of Trump’s “wildest” quotes, and you could actually classify most of these quotes under the heading of “Bang” or “Blame” as they are either attacking someone (particularly women) else or absolving responsibility and placing it upon others (http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/wild-donald-trump-quotes/) .

  • “I don’t think Ivanka would do that inside the magazine. Although she does have a very nice figure. I’ve said that if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I would be dating her.” – BANG!
  • “Donald J. Trump is calling for a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.” – BLAME!
  • “Women have one of the great acts of all time. The smart ones act very feminine and needy, but inside they are real killers. The person who came up with the expression ‘the weaker sex’ was either very naive or had to be kidding. I have seen women manipulate men with just a twitch of their eye — or perhaps another body part.” – BANG!
  • “Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.” – BLAME!
  • “@ariannahuff is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man- he made a good decision.” – BANG!
  • “I think apologizing’s a great thing, but you have to be wrong. I will absolutely apologize, sometime in the hopefully distant future, if I’m ever wrong.” – BLAME!
  • “You know, it doesn’t really matter what they write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” – BANG!
  • “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting.” – BLAME!
  • “While @BetteMidler is an extremely unattractive woman, I refuse to say that because I always insist on being politically correct.” – BANG!
  • “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” – BLAME!
  • “I’ve never had any trouble in bed, but if I’d had affairs with half the starlets and female athletes the newspapers linked me with, I’d have no time to breathe.” – BANG!
  • “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.” – BLAME!
  • “All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.” – BANG!
  • “Our country is in serious trouble. We don’t have victories anymore. We used to have victories, but we don’t have them. When was the last time anybody saw us beating, let’s say China, in a trade deal?” – BLAME!
  • “Heidi Klum. Sadly, she’s no longer a 10.” – BANG!
  • “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” – BLAME!
  • “I love women. They’ve come into my life. They’ve gone out of my life. Even those who have exited somewhat ungracefully still have a place in my heart. I only have one regret in the women department — that I never had the opportunity to court Lady Diana Spencer. I met her on a number of occasions.” – BANG!
  • “I dealt with Qaddafi. I rented him a piece of land. He paid me more for one night than the land was worth for two years, and then I didn’t let him use the land. That’s what we should be doing. I don’t want to use the word ‘screwed’, but I screwed him. That’s what we should be doing.” – BANG & BLAME!

And with an impending defeat in this first of legislative miscues that hurt the very people who propelled him into office, it may not be too hard to see why “it’s not my thing.”

rem-bang-and-blame-album-version-1994-cs

And how apropos is it that this particular image of a ’45 featuring “Bang And Blame” is complete with “Losing My Religion,” “Country Feedback,” and “Begin The Begin”?

Song #1 explains Trump’s method of operation as far as his “leadership” style is concerned.

Song #2 explains the disconnect of his policies and those of Paul Ryan with the tenets of the very religion they espouse.

Song #3 explains how people are starting to feel about Trump’s policies – the very people who helped to elect him and he seems to have ignored now while he is in “Ignoreland.”

Song #4 explains that this may be the beginning of something. Maybe?

But it is neat to see that three of those songs were recorded live for Greenpeace, which I am sure receives no love from Trump.

Nor does Sesame Street and PBS. But they do love them some R.E.M.

FurryHappyMonstersSong

“Bang And Blame”

If you could see yourself now, baby,
It’s not my fault, you used to be so in control.
You’re going to roll right over this one.
Just roll me over, let me go,
You’re laying blame.
Take this as no, no, no, no, no.

You bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
Then blame, blame, blame,
You bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
It’s not my thing so let it go.

If you could see yourself now, baby,
The tables have turned, the whole world hinges on your swings,
Your secret life of indiscreet discretions.
I’d turn the screw and leave the screen,
Don’t point your finger,
You know that’s not my thing.

You came to bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
To blame, blame, blame,
Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
It’s not my thing so let it go now.

You’ve got a little worry,
I know it all too well.
I’ve got your number —
But so does every kiss and tell
Who dares to cross your threshold,
Or happens on you way,
Stop laying blame.
You know that’s not my thing.

You know that’s not my thing, you came to bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
Then blame, blame, blame.
Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
It’s not my thing so let it go, you
Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
Then blame, blame, blame.
It’s not my thing so let it go.

You kiss on me,
Tug on me,
Rub on me,
Jump on me.
You bang on me,
Beat on me,
Hit on me,
Let go on me.
You let go on me.

“Exhuming McCarthy” – R.E.M.’s Song That Explains Dictionary.com’s Word of The Year

Since Donald Trump has won the presidential election and Brexit was approved, it seems only fitting that each has a direct influence on the 2016 Dictionary.com “Word of the Year” released today.

Xenophobia – noun: Fear or hatred of foreigners.

In a nation that was built on immigration it seems interesting that the word of the year would be so appropriate when it has such negative denotations and connotations. But the word “xenophobia” captures so much of what is happening in this nation and in other nations.

And the word of the year also shines further light on the fact that irony makes this nation and world “go ‘round.”

Consider the poem by Emma Lazarus, “The New Colussus”, that is affixed on the base of the Statue of Liberty near Ellis Island.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

How that poem and the word “xenophobia” can collide in the same sentence seems implausible, except we are talking about a country that just elected Donald Trump as president. And we are talking about a country that not so long ago immersed itself into a Red Scare led by the one and only Joseph McCarthy.

Just this past summer, Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, who hypocritically tried to impeach Bill Clinton for lying about an affair when he himself had ethical issues to answer for, offered one of the most McCarthyistic (yep, made that up) suggestions of the last fifty years when proposed that we deport all practicing Muslims.

As reported in The Atlantic by David A. Graham in the July 15, 2016 issue,

Newt Gingrich effectively called for the deportation of all practicing Muslims from the United States Thursday night. His suggestion, which would almost certainly be unconstitutional, represents perhaps the most sweeping call for a religious test proposed by a mainstream political figure over the last few years, which have seen a strong backlash against Islam.

“Let me be as blunt and direct as I can be. Western civilization is in a war. We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in sharia, they should be deported,” Gingrich said on Fox News. “Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization. Modern Muslims who have given up Sharia—glad to have them as citizens. Perfectly happy to have them next door.”

Of course, Donald Trump stoked those very fires that Gingrich continued to fan when he suggested that we ban all Muslims from coming into America. That, and he helped cement the word “Xenophobia” as the Word of the Year when he promised to build a wall on the Mexican border.

So in mock-celebration of the xenophobia being practiced in a country built on immigration that supposedly practices freedom of religion and freedom of speech and expressions, I offer another poignant R.E.M. song for the mix tape that is already dedicated to this next administration.

“Exhuming McCarthy”

 

You’re beautiful, more beautiful than me
You’re honorable, more honorable than me
Loyal to the Bank of America

(It’s a sign of the times)
(It’s a sign of the times)

You’re sharpening stones, walking on coals
To improve your business acumen
Sharpening stones, walking on coals
To improve your business acumen

Vested interest, united ties
Landed gentry, rationalize
Look who bought the myth
By jingo, buy America

(It’s a sign of the times)
(It’s a sign of the times)

You’re sharpening stones, walking on coals
To improve your business acumen
Sharpening stones, walking on coals
To improve your business acumen

Enemy sighted, enemy met
I’m addressing the real politic
Look who bought the myth
By jingo, buy America

“Let us not assassinate this man further, Senator, you’ve done enough.
Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

You’re sharpening stones, walking on coals
To improve your business acumen
sharpening stones walking on coals
To improve your business acumen

Enemy sighted enemy met
I’m addressing the real politic
You’ve seen start and you’ve seen quit (I’m addressing the table of content)
I always thought of you as quick

Exhuming McCarthy, exhuming McCarthy (meet me at the book burning)
Exhuming McCarthy, exhuming McCarthy (meet me at the book burning)

Loyal to the Bank of America? Check!
You’re sharpening stones, walking on coals? Check!
Look who bought the myth By jingo, buy America? Check!
Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency? Damn right –  Check!

Thank goodness that many high schools still teach The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s dramatic allusion to the Salem Witch Trials to give the next generation a look at what it means to target people based on circumstantial evidence at best. In fact, it’s what happens when we confuse logical fallacies with real logic.

Such misappropriation of knowledge and common sense allows for xenophobia to grow and take root, sweeping through isolationist mindsets like wildfires during a drought.

But of course, Trump and Gingrich may want those flames to be fanned.

It means more books will be burned.

Automatic For The People -An R.E.M. Mixtape For The Next Administration

When you grow up in rural Georgia in a small town like I did, then the radio can be one of the few windows to an outside world. That and a collection of cassette tapes that you purchased over time at Turtle’s or Record Bar in Athens, GA when you went to the orthodontist or the doctor. Why Athens? Greensboro, GA only had 3500 people and was the county seat. If you wanted to go somewhere that had “something” you had to travel.

However, I was sent to Athens to go to high school. A kid from the “country” drove 30 miles each way to attend high school in a college town that became the hub of alternative rock music and the college sound.

So what happened was that the cassette collection I had in my home in Greensboro became a home for bands like R.E.M. Many a summer day in a hay field had me with a Sony Walkman with an R.E.M. tape playing.

I wear three lanyards where I teach high school. Don’t ask; it’s complicated. One of them has an IPod Shuffle (1st generation). My students invariably tease me about such antiquated equipment. After I tell them that I control their transcript and ultimately their academic lives, I then explain that it has all of my R.E.M. on it.

This past spring, I met one of the more eclectic gentlemen with a passion for public school, a knack for the law, and the ability to wear life like a loose cloak. And he worked with R.E.M for years.

And he knows where Weaver D’s is. And like me, knows that Philomath is an actual place near Athens.

R.E.M. disbanded in 2011, but they never disappeared. Their songs were politically and socially charged and are still pertinent to today’s political terrain. In fact, maybe more so.

So I dedicate this post to Bertis Downs and dedicate this R.E.M. mix tape to Donald Trump and his new cabinet in hopes that maybe they would listen to the words that others say instead of speaking out loud to listen to themselves.

r_e_m__welcome_to_the_occupation_by_cheremhett-d9j2xup

  1. Welcome To The Occupation” – from the album Document

“Hang your collar up inside
Hang your freedom higher
Listen to the buyer still
Listen to the Congress
Where we propagate confusion
Primitive and wild
Fire on the hemisphere below”

With a President-elect and the most inexperienced cabinet ever assembled, I sincerely hope that Trump has some understanding of what he will be responsible for. If he’s worried about how many Twitter followers that he has, he will soon realize that there will be no need for Twitter to become the focus of the media and the world. The microscope that his life will be examined through will not be forgiving. His life is not his own.

  1. Can’t Get There From Here” – from the album Fables of the Reconstruction

“Hands down, Calechee bound, landlocked, kiss the ground
Dirt of seven continents going round and round
Go on ahead, Mr. Citywide, hypnotized, suit-and-tied
Gentlemen, testify”

“Mr. Citywide, hypnotized, suit-and-tied” might be one of the most appropriate phrases to describe Trump. But with all of his campaign promises and fiery rhetoric, he is about to realize that he can’t get there from here. At least some of us know where Philomath is considering that we can’t go back to Rockville.

  1. Cuyahoga” – from the album Life’s Rich Pageant

“This is where we walked
This is where we swam
Take a picture here
Take a souvenir.”

I thought it very ironic that the RNC Convention tok place in Cleveland, a democratic stronghold, but what makes this song so pertinent is the tribute to the original settlers of our country. This song also came to mind because I have not really heard Trump make comment on the North Dakota pipeline debacle.

  1. Everybody Hurts” – from the album Automatic For The People

“When your day is long
And the night, the night is yours alone
When you’re sure you’ve had enough
Of this life, well hang on.”

The video for this song is still one of the greatest ever. When I think of the lyrics, I am reminded that one of the promises made by politicians in seeking election is that they understand the plight of the average person. Trumo certainly played on those emotional appeals, but something tells me that while he may outwardly sympathize, he has no perspective to empathize.

There are too many people of varying race, creed, socio-economic background, and orientation who do not see the world as a friendly place. Trump has not done much to make them all feel welcome. This song preaches inclusion, not exclusion. It celebrates bridges (look at the video), not walls.

  1. Get Up” – from the album Green

“Life is rough, rough (get up, get up, get up)
I’ve seen you laying down (get up)
With the loving kind (get up, get up)
I know life is hard, hard (where goes your time?)
Where to turn? Where to turn? (get up)”

If you did not vote in this election, then Get Up for the next one.

  1. Losing My Religion” – from the album Out of Time

“Oh life, it’s bigger
It’s bigger than you
And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I set it up”

Life is bigger than Trump. Now that he will be president, he has many lives that are bigger than his. The term “losing my religion” has been explained to me as losing faith in someone or something. That makes sense when I think of the electoral college.

Besides, religion and spirituality are two different things.

  1. Orange Crush” – from the album Green

“(Follow me, don’t follow me)
I’ve got my spine, I’ve got my orange crush
(Collar me, don’t collar me)
I’ve got my spine, I’ve got my orange crush
(We are agents of the free)
I’ve had my fun and now it’s time to serve your conscience overseas
(Over me, not over me)
Coming in fast, over me (oh, oh).”

This song refers to the Vietnam War. And while Orange Crush is a soft drink from my childhood it is a direct reference to Agent Orange. My hope is that Trump and his cabinet will have enough spine to not insert our country into military action when not necessary.

  1. World Leader Pretend” – from the album Green

“I sit at my table and wage war on myself
It seems like it’s all, it’s all for nothing
I know the barricades
And I know the mortar in the wall breaks
I recognize the weapons, I’ve used them well

This is my mistake
Let me make it good
I raised the wall
And I will be the one to knock it down”

Walls. Waging war. Will Trump understand that the world does not follow him because he is himself?

  1. Finest Worksong” – from the album Document

“Take your instinct by the reins
You’d better best to rearrange
What we want and what we need
Has been confused, been confused”

Actually, now is the time to get to work.

  1. It’s The End of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” – from the album Document

Please. You need an explanation?