This is an interview I did recently with Nick Edinger, who describes himself on his blog Word Salad Spinner as an aspiring novelist currently studying at the University of Iowa. I got his permission to re-post it here for readers to get to know about my motivation for creating this blog a little better.
The interview originally appeared on MyTrendingStories.com.
- To start this interview off, Caleb, I’ll ask that you distill for the reader who you are, what you do, your general philosophy, and why someone who knows nothing about you should read this interview.
Well, I’m a 28 year old Louisianan who has acquired an inordinate amount of knowledge over the years regarding the history of the United States and how it relates to our current situation. I am not an “official” historian by any means though like any good historian I am constantly learning new things. One look around my blog and you will quickly find I bring forth a unique perspective, which is why I feel this interview is worth readers’ time. As for my political philosophy, I’ve never been entirely comfortable putting too specific a label on it, though I can say unequivocally that I can be accurately described as a Leftist.
- “Hypocrisy” is one of the most widely-used (and widely-misused) terms on the Internet. Do you follow the strict dictionary definition for hypocrisy when you decide which news stories to feature, or do you go by your gut? If you’re talking about a hypocritical politician, do you judge their falsehood by the values they profess to, or by the values of the nation they chose to serve?
I most definitely shoot from the gut. As far as judging someone’s hypocrisy based on their own professed values vs. the nation they represent, I suppose it depends on their position. In the case of someone like the President of the United States, it could really go either way. If we’re talking about someone like the Ambassador to the United Nations of the Secretary of State, then it would be according to the nation they represent. Whereas if it’s a politician running for office I’m more inclined to judge their hypocritical positions based on the positions they’ve taken in the past.
- In my personal experience looking at hateful websites on the Internet, I find maintaining that much negative emotion for so long to be exhausting, even if the commentators and I share a similar hatred. How do you keep your blog posts fresh and your energy consistent?
I’d be lying if I told you that I don’t sometimes have to take a step back and take a break from all the negativity. If you’ll notice, in the three months following the election of Donald Trump, new posts on my weblog have been a lot less frequent, similar to something that occurred here in the early months of 2016. However, every time I take a step back something will eventually occur that really sets me off and motivates me to get back to writing.
- In such troubling times, do you have any hope for the future of America? What could ordinary people do right now to get the country back on track?
Surprisingly I do have some hope for the future of this country. Unfortunately things are so bad right now, with extremely high levels of income inequality, the ever-expanding Police State, the Military Industrial Complex and an unprecedented level of mass incarceration, that I have very little hope for the immediate future. The coming generations, however, will be a lot more diverse (and won’t be the beneficiaries of white privilege), will be the most burdened by income inequity, and will be stepping into an economy that provides a lot less opportunities. Why should this give anyone hope, you might ask? They are going to be the generations that realize they have nothing left to lose, and will be inclined to bring about Revolution, tearing this unjust system down and hopefully replacing it with one that is more just.
- Was America ever in a more dire (or more morally-corrupt) situation than it was now? If so, how did they move on from that point in history?
Certainly the days of slavery and the high-point of the Indigenous American genocide will forever stand as the most morally unjust periods of U.S. history. To be completely honest, however much we’d like to think of those as being periods in our past the U.S. is constantly finding ways to reinvent these awful institutions. In the less than two centuries that have followed the ending of the Civil War, there was a horrifying convict-lease system in the South (which was akin to slavery and in some ways even worse for those who suffered under it), Jim Crow segregation, today’s outrageous mass incarceration, and a genocidal war in Vietnam. In this sense the U.S. is at its worst now because it is perpetuating such horrors on a truly global scale. So to answer your question, I do not think we have ever moved out of a morally corrupt place in history. Instead, we just keep on finding new ways to repeat it.
- I recently read a great book by Ian Bremmer called “Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World.” It outlined three possible foreign policy paths for America’s future: Independent (withdraw from foreign conflicts and focusing on protecting democracy at home), Moneyball (pick and choose America’s involvement in other parts of the world based on strategic planning and resource assessment) or Indispensable (be the world’s policeman, a policy that I don’t think you’d like). If President, which policy would you choose? What are the strengths and weakness of your chosen policy?
I am of the opinion that nearly everything the United States is currently doing in the world is being done with nothing more than its own self-interest (meaning the interests of the most wealthy and powerful who rule the economy) in mind, and that even the aid it provides to developing countries is being provided with ulterior motives involved. Remember that every war or conflict the U.S. has ever been involved in was sold to the public as being humanitarian in nature, even such blood-thirsty imperialist conflicts as the wars on Vietnam and Iraq. Until the U.S. ceases to be what it is in its present form, the world’s premier empire, it’s hard to envision it truly doing much good in the world. Even its role in the United Nations is generally to thwart progress, namely when it comes to Israel and Palestine. Do I believe the U.S. should completely shut itself off from the rest of the world? No, I do not. I do however think that outside observers might have a thing or two to teach us instead of the other way around. So I cannot choose between options 1, 2 and 3 specifically, though I can say that option 3 should most definitely be off the table as far as I am concerned.
- With so many news sites covering political topics, it may be hard for a blogger to keep information fresh, timely, and unique. What do you do for your audience that no other reporter does? How did you discover what to do in such a saturated field like blogging?
If I didn’t offer a perspective that I didn’t consider to be unique, I wouldn’t have much of a reason for blogging. The best way to answer your question is to say that I oftentimes point things out that not a lot of bloggers point out. Some of the best examples of this are in pieces such as “Much Ado About Nothing: Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong Un”, “Christopher Columbus: father of white supremacy”, “Stop Calling Bowe Berghdal a ‘Deserter’. He’s a Conscientious Objector” and “Double Standards for Accused ‘Cop Killers’ vs. Killer Cops”.
- Did you have a moment where you “woke up” to the idea that America wasn’t as wonderful as its citizens claim it to be? I’d like you to describe that moment in detail, if you can.
I’m not sure if there was any particular moment, but I do recall off the top of my head several incidents being with friends and witnessing some of the slights and indignities regularly heaped on them by white America. For example I remember leaving a club with some friends 10 years ago (the year was 2007) and we were followed by a gang of whites hurling racial slurs and abuse at them. As we drove out of the parking lot one of the young white men who’d been following us punched the window of the car we were in. Then nearly two years later, after the election of Barack Obama to the presidency, I recall being beyond disappointed and angry upon hearing the comments of many of the white people around me who went so far as to wish for the new president-elect to be assassinated before he even took the oath of office. Keep in mind these were young white millennials at the time, not their grandparents. The double standards they kept on subjecting the new President to in 2009 caused me to begin reading about the bleak history of this country that I hadn’t been thoroughly taught about in all my years of formal education, a history of racial caste systems and terrorism. Among the first books I read were “Slavery by another Name” by Douglas A. Blackmon and “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn. The book that had the most impact on me however was “The New Jim Crow: mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander, for it helped me understand how horrifying America is for millions of its inhabitants in the present. From there I branched out in my research to discover how truly global the genocidal tendencies of the Empire reach. I also owe much of my awareness to Mumia Abu Jamal, whose commentaries I first discovered on a documentary about the Jena 6 case that occurred in my home state of Louisiana.
- In the time since I first contacted you about this interview, Donald Trump won the presidency. This shocked a lot of people… but I imagine that someone like you didn’t think much has changed in Washington. I could be wrong, of course. Do you think Trump is unprecedented, or have there been more incompetent and more racist American presidents before him? How have your writing, your outlook on life, and your future plans changed after the 2016 election?
I believe that when it truly comes down to it, Donald Trump’s presidency is not a fundamentally drastic change in the way the U.S. Empire operates. He is but more of the same ugliness that’s been there since the beginning. True, his policies are certainly measurably worse in a lot of ways from his predecessor, be it his harsh anti-immigrant measures, anti-LGBT policies, even more extreme military budget, terrible healthcare bill, horrifying discrimination against Muslims, etc. Fundamentally he is still more of the same. After all, before Trump came along the military budget was already larger than the rest of the world combined, and the Obama administration had deported more people than any other administration in history. Police departments everywhere were receiving military-grade weaponry to use against poor and oppressed communities and Yemen was being droned to smithereens. What Trump does is put a much uglier face on what have always been ugly and vicious policies. Let’s not pretend that the U.S. wasn’t singling out the Muslim world for cruel and inhumane punishment long before Trump’s Muslim ban came into existence. And as far as incompetent and racist presidents go, let’s just say that incompetent and racist might as well be part of the job description for becoming a POTUS. You have the early presidents who openly supported genocide or owned slaves like George Washington and Andrew Jackson, and then there’s Lincoln’s successor Andrew Johnson who did everything he could to make sure life would be as difficult for newly emancipated slaves in the South as possible. But if I had to pick just one to single out as the most viciously racist it’d probably be Woodrow Wilson, who was a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan and went out of his way to segregate the federal government by race.
- You seemed quite positive of Fidel Castro in your obituary of the leader. For a guy who likes to point out the dark side of noble-sounding systems of government, your article glossed over some of the worst parts of Castro’s rule, such as implementing a one-party state, suppressing all political opponents, impoverishing the country, and generally creating conditions leading to a mass Cuban exodus. Yes, there’s the saying “No one is as good or evil as they’re made out to be,” and your obituary correctly pointed out the health care and literary rate successes of Cuba. I’ve seen no other article on your site so complimentary. Why is it your blog, which features an article about something stupid and racist Frank Luntz did, can’t say a single bad thing about a man with blood on his hands?
When it comes to assessing Fidel Castro, I always make it a point to separate who he was in actuality vs. the violent image of him that was constantly fed to us through the corporate anti-revolutionary western media, something that is often quite difficult to do. I think it’s important to take into consideration what Cuba was like when it was under the yoke of U.S. imperialism and the Batista regime. It was a country plagued with economic inequality, racism, illiteracy and exploitation at the hands of U.S.-based corporations. With the revolutionary party in power, illiteracy was all but eliminated from the island, universal healthcare and universal education were implemented, and the infant mortality rate is now lower in Cuba than it is in many “first world” countries, including the U.S. None of this would’ve happened had Cuba remained a vassal for American corporations. Everything Castro did, the decisions he made, he had to do in the face of a never-ending imperialist onslaught from the Goliath to the north which sought to steal his life and crush the Cuban peoples’ revolution. They even went so far as to impose what is probably the longest blockade in history on the island, which has had catastrophically negative effects on the everyday livelihood of the Cuban people and undoubtedly caused many of them to flee. Yet through it all Castro and the Revolution did the unthinkable – they survived and persevered without backing down. When Frank Luntz has even a third of that much weight to carry, maybe I’ll consider cutting him some slack.
- Finally, to end this, a light question. What are your New Years Resolutions?
While I am guilty of taking nearly 3 months to answer all the questions in this interview (sorry), I can say that my New Year’s Resolutions are the same. They are to move out of the state by year’s end and to become more involved in community activism.