I originally planned for this week to be an interview with Norman Mailer in Provincetown, but at the last minute, he called to reschedule. When I asked why, he simply grumbled angrily. The only word I actually understood was Capote and it was said with clear hostility.

Then I understood why he was fucking with me. I had interviewed Truman before him. Damn lucky I haven’t yet done Gore Vidal or Norman would have refused my call. Okay, I get it, though I really won’t be pleased if he bails on me again. Hell, I have a DEAD PEOPLE INTERVIEW series to write.

So I was at loss for this week’s post until I began thinking about how many progressive petitions, donation requests, and single issue emails had flooded my inbox—this week, last week, doubtless next week and forever.. I’ve posted about this before in 2011,(, but after re-reading the column, I’ve come to a less humorous conclusion.

Fact is, I am bombarded by many decent organizations that care deeply about their particular cause. And,rightly so. But now I’ve got some serious questions—and complaints—about this “single issue” notion of change.

I hang with enough progressives in both my real and virtual life to realize there’s a great deal of antipathy about talking to people who disagree with our progressive programs and ideas. Personally, I think this is foolish. Of course, I’d love to change some hearts and minds, although I’m not optimistic about it. I do, however, think I can better understand how conservatives think about the society and world in which we live. And make no mistake, there’s a huge difference between honest conservatives and the right-wing jihadists who populate Congress and the Supreme Court. True conservatives aren’t about hating government per se. Though they do dislike much of the way our government functions.

Sound familiar, progressives? We dislike much of the way government functions.

Another group that progressives often shun is the 30 to 40 percent of the population that doesn’t bother to vote. This significant percentage includes many blue collar workers, working poor, and poor people—people who are alienated, apathetic, and flat out wary of a government whose programs seemed designed to aid everyone but them. (More about this later.)

And finally, if the emails I receive (DemandProgress.Org, Organic Consumers Organization,, ProgressivesUnited, Environmental Working Group, UsAction/TrueMajority, ActBlue, Democracy for America, etc, etc., etc.) are accurate, progressives aren’t even talking to each other! The problem isn’t the organizations’ causes—most are fighting for real and positive change—but rather their apparent willingness to go it alone. Maybe it’s because they fear that the amount of contributors and resources are too small to share. Or, perhaps the attitude is akin to the myth of individualism I wrote about in last week’s column on detective fiction (

Most of my progressive friends laugh out loud when I bring up Jesse Jackson. They call him a self-aggrandizing publicity hound willing to go anywhere to garner television appearances or newspaper coverage. I don’t think Jackson is funny at all. Never did. Does he have an ego? Yes. Who doesn’t? His willingness to work with any progressive action, be it unrelenting opposition to racist behavior, unswerving commitment to striking workers, or belief in economic justice, gay rights, and a healthy environment is unquestionable—whatever one thinks of the person.

What makes Jesse Jackson even more important to me was his efforts to build the Rainbow Coalition. While that attempt fizzled, I believe it was the road-map for creating a true progressive political party.

I know. At best the most lasting effect that third parties made in American politics was to have their ideas and issues co-opted by a majority party in diluted form. Yes, there was Robert M. La Follette, Eugene Victor “Gene” Debs, and Norman Thomas all third party candidates, but never a lasting legacy of a national progressive party.

That was then, this is now. Never in my lifetime have I seen dysfunction equal to our present political system. Never have seen the money spent on buying an election as I do now. And never imagined I’d be living in a country that has one right-of-center party and one that’s even further in that direction. Truth is, our political choices have boiled down to ugly or uglier.

Jackson’s road-map is an incredible opportunity to actually create a progressive party with national staying power. But—and there’s always a but—we have to begin by talking to each other to find the common causes that will bind us into an honest coalition. Whether it’s Save the Wolves or Occupy Wall Street, we must find ways to form alliances and commitments where the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts.

If we can do that, we might begin engaging those with whom we share some values (e.g., civil libertarian conservatives), and the alienated, apathetic folks who have simply given up on government. The prospect of reaching out with policies and programs that can truly mean something to those who have lost faith in politics is in our hands. These people are our constituency and, unless we make a concerted effort to create a party that speaks to them—we might as well kiss our political asses goodbye. Because if we’ve learned anything over the past fifty years it’s that Republicans and Democrats are only going to work for the rich and powerful.

“As individual fingers we can easily be broken, but all together we make a mighty fist.”  Sitting Bull

8 thoughts on “NORMAN FUCKED ME OVER

  1. With apologies, I’ve been sitting on my hands through your last few missives. I should thank Norman for snubbing you this week. Your words this week sum up my present circumstance. I’ve no compelling reason to comment on much of anything. Too much, too splintered, too narrow in cause and effect… with no portent of a larger movement on the underlying wrong-headedness that continues to drive its agenda.

    I must admit a certain level of admiration for the ringmasters of this ongoing circus whose only seeming plan is to maintain suffering and discontent below a threshold that might lead to unification. A situation in which nothing is ever decided or resolved except continuing the privilege and convenience of the worthy, entitled class.

    Our causes become insular and isolated despite their common core. Life has become a disjointed puzzle without instructions. Boldly going where few wish to go; just being dragged along by the swell of decades of wrong-headedness.

    Bone tired and brain weary, I’ve tagged out of the match. They didn’t listen to me. I hold hope that you will succeed. That someone or something will break free of the rut we’re in.

    Keep on Truckin’…


    • Bill:”Bone tired and brain weary, I’ve tagged out of the match. They didn’t listen to me. I hold hope that you will succeed. That someone or something will break free of the rut we’re in.Keep on Truckin’…

      Everybody is tired, my friend. Been tired for 50 years. The challenge is to figure out how to wake up. And for that, we both have to keep truckin.’

  2. I wholeheartedly believe that if those who are not active politically become so that we would have a revolution on our hands that would either lead us to freedom or great and oppressive tyranny. It would shake the seat of power so much that it would be forced to act. Would it fall in line with the people or buckle down to protect its power?

  3. A Progressive-Conservative “summit meeting” would be amazing to behold, and I think, genuinely constructive for both sides. No, there would be no one single third party come from it. But it wouldn’t just be a step forward–it would be a mighty leap.

    Question is, how would one arrange this? Who would moderate it? How can we all get in the door and find our seats without petty and meaningless arguments starting a riot at the door? Assuming we figured out THAT little problem, there is another which both sides would have to shut up about, accept, and then try to address.

    Time and time again I’ve seen and listened to arch-Conservative radio and TV talk shows, and uber-Liberal radio and TV talk shows, and a caller would phone them and say, “Well, I consider myself a liberal on many issues but conservative on fiscal policy and..” and then BOTH sides begin railing at whoever called in and said this.

    “No, no, NO! You MUST be XXX ALL the time in ALL your views! You’re nothing but a fence-straddler! If you held your convictions deeply and seriously enough you might help make a difference, but your namby-pamby outlook will get the XXX movement nowhere!” And then they hang up on them, generally.

    This is not only stupid, it’s ALARMINGLY stupid because most Americans are not single-issue voters. They have varying preferences for how they would like to see the nation take a new direction. In fact, there are many more like that than there are die-hard anythings.

    And which nitwit said that ONLY Liberals or Progressives can support a woman’s right to choose how to deal with her own body? What other nitwit said that ONLY Conservatives can own guns and enjoy target shooting and hunting? This list is practically endless. We are not all of one mind and never will be. Most would consider me a Conservative or perhaps even a Tea-Partier–but I supported gay marriage. Why? Because it’s none of my business what they do so why should they be held under the government’s thumb? What do you think Rush Limbaugh would have said to me about that? What would Keith Obberman say to me if I called him and told him I have a lifetime concealed weapons carry permit? Both would just begin screaming and not hear another word I had to say.

    And that’s a sure-fire way to make about one-half of the country change channels, because no one cares to be insulted for their beliefs. The Democratic and GOP platforms are a joke. Churches should teach Creationism, not schools, and I know a great many Conservatives who feel strongly the same way. We all want greater transparency in all government actions. We all want accountability. None of us like our government spying on us or keeping secret lists of this kind or that kind of person. We all want the Bill or Rights restored and made sacred again. Very few of us on either side (or all sides, which most of us really are) trust the government anymore and we all have many different reasons. All of them should be addressed.

    Any Liberal-Conservative summit needs to deal with this first. We have a bit of both in all of us. I’m sick and tired of being pigeon-holed and people thinking just because I support the 2nd Amendment that I have forgotten all the others, or that I probably believe the earth is only 6,000 years old, or that I feel there is absolutely no need for any form of gun control. I most certainly do NOT believe in any of that.

    I don’t like being pigeon-holed by those who would say because I support gay rights I must automatically be in favor of any of a number of things Liberals and Progressives hold near and dear too. Some, I do. Some, I don’t. Nope, that ain’t me either. In fact, neither side and neither party will ever know what I do believe in, and am willing to go to the mattresses for until they either ask me or allow me to have my say–my REAL say–in the voting booth. And neither side offers that today.

    A Progressive/Liberal–Conservative summit meeting would do one thing more valuable than all the hundreds of polls conducted daily–it would give a more clear “snapshot” of the nation as we are today and make a few die-hards realize they have solid and trustworthy friends on the other side of the fence, friends in people they never would have dreamed agreed with them on at least several issues. We are not a polarized people. We have BEEN polarized.

    And once both sides realized this, then real progress is possible. Have we all forgotten how to negotiate? How to compromise? Even how to speak without screaming? I think not all of us have lost those skills.

    Such a “summit meeting” is one of your Great Ideas, bro. I tip my hat to you.

    • Kent–“A Progressive-Conservative “summit meeting” would be amazing to behold, and I think, genuinely constructive for both sides. No, there would be no one single third party come from it. But it wouldn’t just be a step forward–it would be a mighty leap.” This is the only part I’m quoting because the rest of your comment speaks for itself. Welcome to my house as a new contributor. Gonna be a gas.

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