Empty Bread and Empty Mouths – Talk About The Lack of Compassion

Talk About the Passion

“Empty bread, empty mouths combien reaction.
Empty bread, empty mouths talk about the passion.”

Actually, talk about the lack of compassion. Among all of these loud professions of faith while people still starve and need help, look how much passion has really occurred.

Yesterday’s report by the Congressional Budget Office concerning the Senate Republican Health Care Bill predicted that 22 million more Americans would be uninsured by the year 2016 if the version currently being floated replaces the Affordable Care Act. Quibble as much as you might about the veracity of the report; there does not seem to be any way that it is totally wrong.

For a president who prided himself on the mantra “Make America Great Again” and ran on a platform of reducing fiscal shortfalls, Donald Trump has fostered an environment in this country that is exacerbating what is the greatest deficit that really stands in making America “great” for more people – empathy. Bills such as the one he is championing now in the Senate is but one example of this.

R.E.M.’s fourth song from the album Murmur has been described as a song about hunger. While the meaning of the lyrics of a song released over 30 years ago may certainly be spun to fit a mold to help explain the current social and political terrain, “Talk About the Passion” resonates now more than ever – literally and metaphorically.

It is hard not to picture a religious frame around this song. It is the latter part of the twentieth century. Falwell has brought evangelism into the forefront with the Moral Majority. Presidential candidates are courting religious leaders. The Cold War is still defined with religious undertones. It is the South, and if you are in the state of Georgia, you are in the buckle of the Bible Belt. Lots of talk about piety and all the while ramping up our defense systems for “enemies” we can and cannot see.

Billy Crystal even has a famous character on Saturday Night Live who says, “It is better to look good than to feel good.”

“Talk About the Passion” seems to speak about a physical and moral deficit of its time. People were hungry. Racism and sexism were rampant. Discrimination on many levels was overtly and covertly practiced. We were about to enter the AIDS epidemic. But damn, we were holy!

Fast forward to 2017 and we see a nation that is ever more divisive along political and social lines and it would be foolish to say that those lines were not being defined somewhat by religious bodies.

However, nearly 20% of our nation’s children are “food poor.” That’s a nice way of saying that they are hungry.

Ramming this version of the Senate Health Bill through would knock off many from needed insurance because of cuts to Medicaid. That’s a not-so-nice way of saying people will be sick and more likely suffer.

Yet we have a president who is by all media accounts getting fatter in the belly and in the bank who has spokespeople saying things like,

“We don’t see them as cuts, it’s slowing the rate of growth in the future and getting Medicaid back to where it was… Well you keep calling them cuts, but we don’t see them as cuts. It’s slowing the rate of growth in the future and getting Medicaid back to where it was. Obamacare expanded the pool of Medicaid recipients beyond its original intentions … When you get rid of these penalties, these taxes, when you stop the insurer from leaving and just hemorrhaging out of these exchanges…” – Kellyanne Conway to George Stephanopoulos about “cuts” to Medicaid on June 25th.

That’s just empty prayers that will cause more empty mouths because one sickness to a working family can literally cripple the financially and bankrupt them.

And this lack of empathy on the part of the government in order to give tax breaks to a few wealthy individuals who profit from the rest shows moral bankruptcy.

“Talk about the passion”

Again, it is hard to crawl inside the mind of a poet/songwriter and glean exactly what is meant by words and phrases of songs. Maybe the verse “Not everyone can carry the weight of the world” was meant to say that the world’s ills are too much for any human and that no matter what prayers are hurled (whether for show or sincerely), there will always be those who suffer.

Or it may mean that some people need more help in their carrying the weight of their parts of the world than others: the young, the sick, the hungry.

Interestingly enough, the video for “Talk About the Passion” ends with a clip of a massive warship on screen with the words “In 1987, the cost of one destroyer-class warship was 910 million dollars.”

We have seen massive cuts to the budgets for education, the EPA, CDC, and now possibly Medicaid to help finance tax breaks for the wealthy and for defense spending and for a wall and for a ban.

“Combien de temps”

So, how long? How long does this last?

Depends on how we deal with our empathy deficit.


“Talk About The Passion”

Empty bread, empty mouths, combien reaction
Empty bread, empty mouths, talk about the passion
Not everyone can carry the weight of the world
Not everyone can carry the weight of the world

Talk about the passion, talk about the passion

Empty bread, empty mouths, combien reaction
Empty bread, empty mouths, talk about the passion
Combien, combien, combien de temps

Talk about the passion, talk about the passion

Not everyone can carry the weight of the world
Not everyone can carry the weight of the world
Combien, combien, combien de temps

Talk about the passion, talk about the passion
Talk about the passion, talk about the passion
Talk about the passion, talk about the passion


What’s The Frequency, Donald? A Dan Rather / R.E.M. Jam

Frequency: noun  fre·quen·cy \ˈfrē-kwən-sē\
plural – frequencies

  1. frequent repetition Rain fell with frequency.
  2. rate of repetition She went with increasing frequency.
  3. the number of waves of sound or energy that pass by a point every second (Tune the stereo to receive a specific frequency of radio waves.) – Merriam Webster Dictionary / merriam-webster.com



So, what’s the frequency, Donald?

In a presidential tenure set on blaming the media for character assassination, Donald Trump’s penchant to gravitate to outlets that pretty much cater to his narrative is obvious. Simply follow the praise he heaps onto Fox & Friends on an almost daily basis on Twitter.

Look at his hiring of Steve Bannon of Brietbart as a chief strategist.

Look at his extolling the “service” of Alex Jones.

Fox & Friends, Breitbart, and Info Wars all reside on their own frequencies. Each resides in a select ideological range, a couple more extreme than the other. They offer Trump his amphetaminic drive, the one that allows him to tweet at all hours of the night. They are his Benzedrine. They allow him to drown out the rest of the frequencies on the dial of media and coverage.

Like any American, he has the right to listen to and pander to the voices that validate his narrative, but it does not mean those voices speak truth.

On December 4, 2016, a man named Edgar Maddison Welch from North Carolina entered a Chinese restaurant called the Comet Ping Pong in Washington D.C. with an assault rifle demanding the owners to confess to child sex trafficking, a false allegation perpetrated on far-right media. Welch discharged his weapon, but no one was hurt. He was caught and pleaded guilty in court. He will be sentenced later this month.

Welch had listened to the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory through a frequency of media outlets like Alex Jones’s Info Wars and allowed speculation to become gospel. He acted out based on an alternate reality and almost destroyed the actual reality of innocent people.

Interestingly enough another man from North Carolina committed an act of enigmatic violence perpetuated by a conspiracy theory back in 1986. Bill Demain explains the incident in Mental Floss, a rather fantastic periodical.

“At about 11 pm on the night of October 4, 1986, CBS anchorman Dan Rather was walking along Park Avenue in New York, on the way back to his apartment. Just as he neared the building’s entrance, he was accosted by two well-dressed men. One asked, “What is the frequency, Kenneth?” Rather replied, “You must be mistaking me for someone else . . .” With that, the man knocked Rather to the ground, and as he kicked and punched him, he repeatedly asked his strange question. Rather called out for help, and a moment later, as the doorman and the building’s super arrived on the scene, the assailants fled.

The police took a statement, but no one was ever arrested or charged” (http://mentalfloss.com/article/49147/music-history-20-whats-frequency-kenneth).

Dan Rather was at the time the face and voice of CBS Evening News. Later in the same article Demain explains that the man who committed that act of violence was caught:

“The incident was strange, but it got even stranger. In 1994, a North Carolina man named William Tager shot and killed an NBC technician, Campbell Montgomery, outside the sound studio of the Today Show. Tager had tried to enter the the studio with an assault rifle, and Montgomery died in an attempt to block him. Tager was arrested and reportedly told police that the television network had been monitoring him for years and beaming secret messages into his head. He apparently came to NBC looking for a way to block those transmissions.

Tager was convicted of murder and sentenced to 25 years in Sing Sing prison.

His story took a sci-fi twist when he told a psychiatrist that he was a time traveler from a parallel world in the year 2265. A convicted felon in the future, Tager said he was a test-pilot volunteer in a dangerous time travel experiment. If he was successful on his mission, his sentence would be overturned and he would be set free. The authorities in the future kept tabs on him via an implanted chip in his brain. During the examinations, Trager also confessed that he had attacked Dan Rather because he mistook him for the Vice President of his future world, one Kenneth Burrows.”

Apparently, Tager was trying to find the right frequency for his altered reception. What he believed was an alternate reality and acting upon that altered the reality for real people.

Michael Stipe is quoted as calling the attack on Rather “surreal” and “bizarre.” He said,

“It remains the premier unsolved American surrealist act of the 20th century. It’s a misunderstanding that was scarily random, media hyped and just plain bizarre” (https://redice.tv/news/strange-story-behind-r-e-m-s-song-what-s-the-frequency-kenneth).

Hence, came the song “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?”, the first song released from the album Monster.

And currently we have a lot of the same ingredients – media hype, bizarre stuff, unsolved American surrealist acts with Russian twists, and randomly scary stuff. Even Dan Rather is a part of it and this post is being written in North Carolina where surreal stuff has been occurring nonstop.

Trying to decipher the lines of the song without knowledge of the attack on Rather would still be quite the task in deconstruction.

“What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” is your Benzedrine, uh-huh
I was brain-dead, locked out, numb, not up to speed
I thought I’d pegged you an idiot’s dream
Tunnel vision from the outsider’s screen
I never understood the frequency, uh-huh
You wore our expectations like an armored suit, uh-huh

I’d studied your cartoons, radio, music, TV, movies, magazines
Richard said, “Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy”
A smile like the cartoon, tooth for a tooth
You said that irony was the shackles of youth
You wore a shirt of violent green, uh-huh
I never understood the frequency, uh-huh

“What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” is your Benzedrine, uh-huh
Butterfly decal, rear-view mirror, dogging the scene
You smile like the cartoon, tooth for a tooth
You said that irony was the shackles of youth
You wore a shirt of violent green, uh-huh
I never understood the frequency, uh-huh

You wore our expectations like an armored suit, uh-huh
I couldn’t understand
You said that irony was the shackles of youth, uh-huh
I couldn’t understand
You wore a shirt of violent green, uh-huh
I couldn’t understand
I never understood, don’t **** with me, uh-huh

But there is a quote by Michael Stipe in Genius that says,

“I wrote that protagonist as a guy who’s desperately trying to understand what motivates the younger generation, who has gone to great lengths to try and figure them out, and at the end of the song it’s completely f***** bogus. He got nowhere” (https://genius.com/Rem-whats-the-frequency-kenneth-lyrics?referent_id=555666#note-555666).

Now while someone may read this and think that it is purely an act of fanboydom, it is rather (pun intended) interesting how small this world really is and how intertwined paths really are.

We just experienced an acrimonious presidential election that saw a divided nation not popularly elect a president who plugs into only certain parts of the media for validation and shuns what others have to say. There was another older man named Bernie Sanders who seemed to vibrate on a different frequency that pulsated with a younger generation, galvanizing them into enough of a frenzy that Hilary Clinton’s ride to the nomination was much less smooth than anticipated.

And it may be safe to say that appealing to younger generation is what anyone who hopes to be in a position to run the country must have. The electorate is getting younger. Just ask the executives at Fox News when they look at the average age of viewers as they scramble to replace Megan Kelly and Bill O’Reilly.

That same growing Gen-X, millennial electorate thinks differently than the Baby Boomer generation. They operate on a different frequency. They certainly plug into a different frequency. Actually, they plug into many frequencies.

Ask Teresa May what frequency she was plugged into when she made the rash decision to create a special election to bolster her party’s majority in order to negotiate a tough stance on Britain’s exit from the European Union.

All of a sudden she no longer has a majority. Too many younger voters in England on a different frequency.

Didn’t Trump praise the Brits on Brexit? Didn’t Trump go on Alex Jones’s show to praise what he has done?

Since “Pizzagate” Alex Jones has offered a water-down apology for helping to spread the conspiracy theory that helped to lead Welch to almost commit an act of massive violence. More notably, Jones has been embroiled in a custody battle over his own children in a divorce case in which he “admitted” that his persona on his radio show was partially an act to boost ratings.

A fake frequency with an alternate reality that others take seriously and act upon in the real lives of real people.

Others like Edgar Maddison Welch.

Others like William Tager.

Others like Donald Trump.

Ironically, the link between Trump and Dan Rather is strong as Rather very much uses his voice to offer perspective on today’s political climate. Rather has taken to Twitter quite often himself to give his take on Trump’s actions and words. However, while he may provide pointed remarks at Trump, he usually deals with Trump’s inability to listen to different frequencies like when Trump alienates certain parts of the media or starts barking about “fake news.”

Going back to Stipe’s explanation of the protagonist of the song, a couple of words resonate loudly – “desperately” and “bogus.” This country has never had a president who so “desperately” wanted to make people connect with him, but rather than act on what others say or do, he reacts in response; therefore, there comes the eventual disconnect.

That disconnection is both figurative and literal. Look at the approval ratings for Trump starting to hit the mid-to-low 30’s with over 55% of people showing disapproval. That’s a disconnect. And look at the wall, the travel ban, the pulling out of the Paris Accord, and the disastrous trip overseas that cannot be spun enough and people see more disconnection.

Yes, Dan Rather is an old protagonist himself, but he doesn’t ask what the frequency is. He tunes into a multitude of them. He isn’t trying to figure out how to appeal to the younger generations; he’s protecting their right to know the truth and to be themselves.

Freedom of the press is in the First Amendment. And while there will always exist a great amount of spin in what we read, the need for a free press as a means of checks and balances in this country is greater than ever. It gives us a range of frequencies to tune into.

Dan Rather knows that.

Donald Trump is scared of it.

R.E.M. sings about it.

And if you want to argue that the media has too easy a time of being able to sway how people act and think, then it might be time to start talking about investing more in our public education system and teaching critical thinking skills rather than test testing skills.

Just look at Donald Trump’s budget for public education.



If Donald Trump Sampled R.E.M.’s “Nightswimming” Without Giving Credit


Instruments tuning in an amazing way.

Piano comes in like pushing aside the leader of Montenegro to get in front.

Begin singing.



Nighttweeting can happen any night.

The photograph in the cover of a book I never wrote
shows much less hair than I comb over now.
Every late tweet reveals a disconnect with what’s real
Still it’s so much bigly.

Melania slapped my hand while visiting the Saudis
Approval rate is low.

Nighttweeting comes in chaotic times.

I’m not sure all these people understand
It’s not like I’m trying to hide
The fear of getting caught
Colluding with the Russians.
They’ve taped me while naked.
Can these things just go away?
That’s why I fired Comey.

Nighttweeting, Remembering that night
When I got fewer votes
My thumbs are getting tired
And I only have these two
Side by side in twittersphere here on my own account
The dim tide of my mind
Could not stop my nighttweeting.

Thought that ruling the world
Would be easier
Than selling the Trump brand
Yet all laugh quietly
Underneath their breath


This phone screen reflects
Every pursed lip a reminder
It’s my diary.

The only thing I read.

REM nightswimming

Donald Trump, Jimmy Carter, and R.E.M. – Only Two of These Know the True Meaning of “Reckoning”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
-R.E.M. “So. Central Rain”

In the 2016 election, Donald Trump carried the state of Georgia.


And from the Peach State, he plucked two men for his cabinet: Sonny “Pray for Rain” Perdue as Secretary of Agriculture and Tom Price as Health and Human Services Director.

Price was at one time the representative of GA’s 6th district which is now in a special election runoff that was almost won outright by a 30-year-old democrat in a district that was strongly red. STRONGLY.

Today Tom Price was on the news circuit talking about the new AHCA.

The ramrodded American Health Care Bill that narrowly won House approval last week may be the most soulless victory known in national politics since Citizens’ United, but that hasn’t stopped Trump from trumpeting his victory. His surrogates will have to start to come to grips with having to explain a bill that no one knows all the particulars of…yet.

But little by little it is becoming apparent that this repeal and replace hack job is nothing more than a smokescreen for tax cuts for the wealthy.

Tom Price is an MD. Surely he knows that the actions a body takes now can have health repercussions later.

Because there is always a reckoning.

“Reckoning” is a rather strong word. Almost gothic in a way. Kind of like saying that “what goes around, comes around.” Or the “devil will get his due.”

Watching Tom Price defend an almost trillion dollar cut to Medicaid within this bill was painful. His interview with Jake Tapper on State of the Union is worth the watching and the reading of the transcript.


This is from the actual transcript at http://www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1705/07/sotu.01.html.

TAPPER: But the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, looked at the plan that passed the House, although there were some changes to it, and said 14 million people who are on Medicaid will no longer be able to be on Medicaid.   Governors from around the country, including these seven Republicans I’m about to put on the screen, they are on the record saying they are concerned about these cuts to Medicaid in this health care bill.  If you believe in sending this back to the states, shouldn’t you and President Trump be listening to these Republican governors who are on the front lines?

PRICE: Oh, in fact, we have listened, and we have listened very intently and had wonderful meetings with Republican governors. Remember that there are no cuts to the Medicaid program. There are increases in spending. But what we’re doing is apportioning it in a way that allows the states greater flexibility to cover their Medicaid and care for their Medicaid population.  This is incredibly important. And I know that the media loves to talk about the cuts that the CBO talks about. But, again, what the Congressional Budget Office measures is spending as if nothing changes at all, as if the program is doing just fine, thank you very much. The fact of the matter is, is that the program isn’t doing just fine. And so what the president’s commitment is, what our commitment is in Health and Human Services is to make certain that those individuals in the Medicaid population get not just the coverage that they need, but the care that they need. And that is what is important.

TAPPER: Are you actually saying that $880 billion in cuts, according to the CBO, however you want to talk about that not being a cut, that that is actually not going to result in millions of Americans not getting Medicaid?

PRICE: Absolutely not. And we believe strongly that the Medicaid population that will be cared for in a better way under our program, because it will be more responsive to them. These decisions will be made closer to them. 

And that word comes up again in this post writer’s mind– “reckoning”. Why? Because those comments made by Price will haunt him and Trump, and Paul Ryan.

While a man from Georgia may have tried to defend this excrement of lawmaking dysentery there are other Georgians who have explained to us that there is always a reckoning: President Jimmy Carter and the iconic band R.E.M.

Historians may forever debate Carter’s effectiveness as a sitting president, but it might be hard to find a former President of the United States who has had a greater humanitarian footprint on the world than Jimmy Carter. His Nobel Peace Prize is unarguably richly deserved and his role as negotiator and diplomat and sober voice in politics in the last thirty years is undeniable. In fact, he is really the antithesis of someone like Donald Trump.

Carter is a former navy man, farmer, former governor, and married over sixty years to the same wife. He at one time actually lived in subsidized housing. His work with Habitat for Humanity probably means that he has had a hand in building more houses than many people who are contractors for people who have no mean of paying for them. He still teaches Sunday School in his hometown church and probably says “second” instead of “two” when referring to II Corinthians.

And then there is Trump.

Carter also has written books. Actually written them. And poetry. Some of it well received.

And then there is Trump. He has ghostwriters and people like Price who speak for him.

Jimmy Carter once wrote a poem called “Always a Reckoning” from a book that bore the same name published in 1995. That poem starts,

“There always seemed to be a need
for reckoning in early days.
What came in equaled what went out
like oscillating ocean waves.”

Sounds like a karmic version of Newton’s Third Law of Motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

And there will be a reaction to Price’s explanation as well as to the ACHA debacle just passed in the House. Except that reaction might be stronger because of added momentum from this thing called “reckoning.”

Serendipitously, in 1983 David Letterman hosted an upcoming band on his new late night show in New York City to sing its new untitled song. That song was “So. Central Rain” from an album that would be called Reckoning.


Here is a link to the video. It’s worth watching just to see how young R.E.M. looked – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ykp0Vq77IBw.

Ironically, in the same city Donald Trump was starting to become a defendant in several lawsuits that accused him of driving out tenants forcibly in a 14-story building in near south Central Park (http://money.cnn.com/2016/03/28/news/trump-apartment-tenants/).

“So. Central Rain” and South Central Park. Habitat for Humanity and Eviction. Tom Price and Sir Isaac Newton. Actions and Consequences. 1983 and 2017.

If one really spent enough time at it, then one would see that it is easy for some diehard fan to mold the lyrics into an explanation of events that happen decades later like a self-fulfilled prophecy which only one person can seeand barely explain to himself.


If one looked at the lyrics of R.E.M.’s “So. Central Rain,” then a couple of things come to mind.

Did you never call? I waited for your call
These rivers of suggestion are driving me away
The trees will bend, the cities wash away
The city on the river there is a girl without a dream
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry

Eastern to Mountain, third party call, the lines are down
The wise man built his words upon the rocks
But I’m not bound to follow suit
The trees will bend, the conversation’s dimmed
Go build yourself another home, this choice isn’t mine
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry

Did you never call? I waited for your call
These rivers of suggestion are driving me away
The ocean sang, the conversation’s dimmed
Go build yourself another dream, this choice isn’t mine
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry

While Trump was too busy forcing people to “build yourself another home” and constructing policy on shifting sands unlike a “wise man” who “built his words upon the rocks,” it is worth noting that Carter actually built homes to safely house people for free and that in 1983, the band R.E.M. said “I’m sorry” exactly 12 times more than I have ever heard those words come from Trump’s lips.

Always a reckoning.

“Odd Fellows 151” and “The Right Child”

The first line from this news report should make the stomach of many a person churn.

“The Odd Fellows, a national fraternal organization based in Winston-Salem, is facing criticism after refusing to give a prize to an autistic Oregon boy who won a competition.”

It is from the headline story of the May 2nd edition of the Winston-Salem Journal entitled “Winston-Salem-based Odd Fellows faces criticism after rejecting teen with autism” and deservedly above the fold (http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/winston-salem-based-odd-fellows-faces-criticism-after-rejecting-teen/article_0a7dea28-5ee5-575f-ba55-af7be091d1cb.html).

Niko Boskovic, 15, of Portland, Ore., recently won an essay contest sponsored by the North Portland Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Niko wrote about the history of Ukraine and received letters of recommendation from his teachers.

David Scheer, the Oregon lodge secretary, said Niko was the clear winner among his competitors and he had earned the prize — a trip to the United Nations in New York City. He said lodge members raised money to cover all costs Niko and a second winner needed to make the trip.

After the national organization learned that Niko is autistic and would need a chaperone, it rescinded the trip offer.

How odd, out-of-line, off-base, strange, unrepresentative, and even bizarre for a fraternal organization that “never looks at people with prejudiced eyes or bases his judgement on outward appearances” (Odd Fellows website) to rescind an offer to a deserving young man who happens to have autism because they do not want to be burdened?

And then the parents had to literally beg for an explanation from the Odd Fellows Sovereign Grand Lodge on why the offer was rescinded. They really got nothing.

Except ignorance.


Later in the report it states,

“We can’t get any explanation in writing from them, but when I spoke with the gentleman who’s the board chair for the UN Youth Program, he said ‘we are not equipped to accept people with disabilities,’” she (Niko’s mother) said.

The national organization told the Boskovics that they have rejected winners in the past with wheelchairs too.

Sound like it just became a civil rights issue.

In a nation where the person in charge of America’s public schools blatantly proved she has no idea what the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) actually was, a House of Representatives that is about to vote for a healthcare law overhaul that makes being a woman a “preexisting condition,” and a president who believes a man who owned slaves and died years before the Civil War broke out could have stopped the bloodiest conflict our country has ever faced, it almost is no surprise that this has happened – literally right after National Autism Awareness Month.

And the fact that it doesn’t surprise me actually surprises me.

Ironically the mission statement of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows is:

“To improve and elevate every person to a higher, nobler plane; to extend sympathy and aid to those in need, making their burdens lighter, relieving the darkness of despair; to war against vice in every form; and to be a great moral power and influence for the good of humanity.”

And one of the “stated goals of Oddfellowship” is “The handmaid of virtue and religion.”

That conflict between what is said and claimed and what is actually done is hypocritical, even pharisaical. (Yep, that was a big word.)

As a Winston-Salem native this is yet another reminder that we live in a society that seems scared of itself and afraid to admit it. That fear breeds more fear.

Earlier this week CNN did a report on Winston-Salem called “’Folks don’t feel safe’ :In this North Carolina city, people on both sides of the immigration debate have one thing in common: fear” (http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/30/us/winston-salem-welcoming-city-immigration/index.html). Check it out. It’s worth it.

And then to know that the  Sovereign Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows is on Trade Street in Winston-Salem.

That’s in the revitalized Arts District in the Twin City whose moniker is also the “City of Arts and Innovation.” That’s the same street where one of the bigger P.R.I.D.E. parades and festivals in NC takes place in a state that had HB2 on the books for a while.

And then the irony gets thicker.

Early in their career R.E.M. came to Winston-Salem to work with Mitch Easter at his Drive-In Studio. They recorded “Radio Free Europe” there and the EP Chronic Town. It began a journey for music lovers like this post writer who grew up outside of Athens, GA and became a Winston-Salemnite because some artists seem to perfectly imitate life even when life happens decades after the art was produced.

Document was released in 1987. The last song (#11) is “Oddfellows Local 151.” It is supposedly about a liquor store and a drunken man named PeeWee who preaches the good word with an inebriated slur.


“Oddfellows Local 151”


Oddfellows Local 151 behind the firehouse
Where Peewee sits to prove a sage, to teach
Peewee gathered up his proof, reached up to scratch his head
Fell down and hit the ground again


Why do the heathens rage behind the firehouse
Where Peewee sits upon the wall to preach?
This boy and girl that gather pearls of wisdom
Falling from his mouth
Wash off the blood, wash off the rum


Oddfellows Local 151 behind the firehouse
Where Peewee sits upon the wall to preach
This boy and girl that gather pearls of wisdom
Falling from his mouth
Wash off the blood, wash off the 151


Ooh, ooh, ooh

And to think how drunk on religion and sanctimony some are that “allow” them to make say such strong claims as “relieving the darkness of despair; to war against vice in every form; and to be a great moral power and influence for the good of humanity” but then rejecting “winners” because they use wheelchairs or have autism.

There is something more than wrong with that. More than odd.

There is also a song on the Green album (that followed Document) called “The Wrong Child.” It might just be an even more appropriate song as the actions by the Odd Fellows have made some very deserving young people feel odd and in the wrong place.


“The Wrong Child”

I’ve watched the children come and go
A late long march into spring
I sit and watch those children
Jump in the tall grass
Leap the sprinkler
Walk in the ground
Bicycle clothespin spokes
The sound, the smell of swingset hands

I will try to sing a happy song
I’ll try and make a happy game to play

Come play with me I whispered to my new found friend
Tell me what it’s like to go outside
I’ve never been
Tell me what it’s like to just go outside
I’ve never been
And I never will

And I’m not supposed to be like this
I’m not supposed to be like this
But it’s okay

Hey those kids are looking at me
I told my friend myself
Those kids are looking at me
They’re laughing and they’re running over here
They’re laughing and they’re running over here

What do I do?
What can I do?
What should I do?
What do I say?
What can I say?

I said I’m not supposed to be like this
Let’s try to find a happy game to play
Let’s try to find a happy game to play

I’m not supposed to be like this
But it’s okay, okay

Makes one hope that this whole incident only strengthens the resolve of those who feel marginalized because if anything it makes those people on Trade Street who refuse to answer for their actions the “wrong” ones in this situation.

One of the redeeming facets of this report from the WSJ comes in the form of Niko’s last quote. He says,

“Not only was I willing to learn,” Niko spelled about the trip. “But I wanted to be an ambassador, of sorts. Really, these people are making this into a civil rights case.”

Just proves that he was the “right child” to win that competition.

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.”


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.”


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.


“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.


  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?