Mourning as Minnesota Burns


by Roxanne Tellier

I’m only half kidding when I say that I’m pretty sure we’ve been living in an alternate reality since 2008, created by firing up the Large Hadron Collider. What else could explain this bizarre branch of a timeline we’re currently experiencing?   

Just when you almost get a little less uncomfortable with this new normal of a global pandemic, you get word that marauding monkeys attacked a lab worker in India, before grabbing and fleeing with the blood samples of four COVID-19 patients. Now, if that is not the premise of some next level, ‘ripped from the headlines’, straight to video, Planet of the Apes sequel right there, I don’t know what is.

But apparently nothing is ever going to make sense again, at least according to the mass murderer currently occupying the White House. The guy that has spent the last four years looting America’s treasury is not fond of those who only loot as a side gig. This weekend, as protestors surrounded 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, trump’s bull roars  alternated between cries of “Get off my lawn!” with “Release the hounds!”

America, desperately in need of a true leader to guide them through a unique moment in time, is instead saddled with an incompetent and increasingly paranoid madman, who is utterly incapable of handling any of the problems he brought upon himself by dismantling the nation with the zeal of a toddler eviscerating a butterfly.

America needs someone that can listen and attempt to understand the anguish of the people of colour who, along with the rest of the world, this week watched a New York City woman willfully attempt to summon triggered police to come to her ‘rescue’ from an African American male who dared to tell her to leash her dog.   

The nation needs someone who can pour enough calming oil on the current conflagration to begin to defuse the righteous anger boiling over in the streets as yet another black man is brutally murdered in broad daylight and in high definition video. Trump offers only more gasoline for the flames.

The country needs someone to begin the process of reuniting what was once the United States of America, lest they find themselves instead reliving the horrors of the first Civil War, in a second one in which a core group of the combatants routinely carry some of the deadliest weapons on the planet for a visit to their local supermarket or restaurant.

Instead of a steady hand on the tiller of state, the US has the misfortune of having elected someone who made it his mission to frighten the nation with tales of the boogie men that ‘he alone’ could save them from. Terrified and vulnerable, Americans were putty in his snake oil salesman tiny hands, and rushed to buy the hats that assured them that trump was the one who could Make America Great Again.  Like all rubes, they then discovered the bait and switch of trump’s vision for their future, which he had led them to believe was like a Norman Rockwell painting on a Life magazine cover, but that instead more closely resembled New York City’s mean and dirty streets of the nineties. Trump’s shell game substituted Shangri La with something more resembling a scene from Escape from New York. Bullies, bad guys, corruption, porn, graft, and petty-minded spite are the Special of the Day, every day, under this fast food presidency. 

In the absence of an official Consoler in Chief, Joe Biden is leaping into the breech, and starting to make an argument that Trump is literally attempting to kill the very people that elected him to the position of POTUS. From the disastrous mishandling of everything to do with controlling the pandemic, to his irresponsible and possibly fatal medical advice, to his jeering at those wearing masks to protect themselves and others, trump daily makes the case that his primary mission is not to lead his people out of the wilderness, but instead into the Valley of Death, with each member of his cult toting a Solo Cup of Lysol bleach with a hydroxychloroquine chaser.

Trump tweets his eagerness to sic vicious dogs on protestors, while he shoots a wink and a nod to the white supremacists and vigilantes answering his calls for violence in the streets. He craves the clamour of his rallies, where the spittle infused and unmasked cultists scream out his name as if his mere presence brings them to orgasm. They are his PowerPill, his magical genies in bottles, who are there to allow him to bask in their reverence. That’s how he gains his strength, and if getting tens of thousands of his minions together in one place means widespread transmission of a deadly virus, causing the supporters or members of their family to become ill or die, why, this is the price you must be willing to pay for having your savior so very close. At least, they console themselves and each other, we’re not ‘sissies’ like those lefty liberal mask wearers.

These trumpCultists have always had the sheen of weekend warriors, like Furries or LARPers, people that like to pretend to be something other than what they really are, if just for an hour or a day. Most of them are as cowardly as their leader, but revel in feeling like naughty little ‘despicables’ while they caress their AR 15s. Dying for trump would be a ‘badge of honour’ as he called it, the stigmata of a true believer.

(Try as I might, I cannot fathom why the “Right” would want to encourage the spread of a fatal disease amongst their own supporters. Oh sure, we’re starting to get a few mayors, governors, and even Shawn Hannity, who are encouraging people to keep themselves safe, but I just can’t understand how so many city and state leaders are so spineless that they’ll fail to protect their citizens in order to keep trump from howling his displeasure. It’s like they’ll never have to worry about people voting them back into office. Hmmmmm …do they know something we don’t know?)

Last week, the Lincoln Project released an anti trump advertisement entitled “Mourning in America.“ This week they’ll have enough footage of looted and burned out businesses across America to recreate “Mississippi Burning.” 

I’m tired, dear reader, I’m so very, very tired of this president, who constantly needs more attention than a new born babe, and will just not leave us alone for even a quiet hour of reflection. Instead, we must continuously suffer the drip drip drip of his venomous tweets, until he’s called on the carpet for disregarding site regulations, and immediately vows that social media will PAY for not licking his toes correctly. He can’t legally shut down Twitter or Facebook or TikTok or any of the other social media sites yet … but you can bet your best booties that it is one of the first things he’ll get done should he get a second term.  

And if I can’t get away from his looming influence, and I’m way over here in Canada, imagine how draining it must be to live under his depressing regime in any of the states, but particularly in any of the Red States that are slavishly subservient to trump’s every whim. It must be terrifying, made all the more terrifying if you are also a person of colour, where cries for help are met with callous indifference, and quite often, a brutal slaying by those charged with serving and protecting the masses.

In trump’s America, white, heavily armed protestors have free reign to storm the state Capital in Michigan, disrupting the legislators working inside it’s walls, because the white protestors are ‘exercising their constitutional rights.”

But in Minnesota, in the minds of these same officials, black protestors are rioters and looters, fit only to be met with tear gas and rubber bullets,

For a person of colour in today’s America, even the most educated, renowned and respected can never be certain if they, or their children, will survive an encounter with their local police.

“Do you want to prevent the kind of rioting, looting and arson we saw in Minneapolis on Wednesday night? Then stop police officers and racist vigilantes from killing black men, like George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. Stop treating African Americans like human trash and start treating us like citizens.   

I condemn riots, destruction, property theft and all manner of senseless violence. But I understand the feeling that animates these spasms. When I watch the video of officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, choking the life out of him and ignoring his cries of distress, I want to throw something. When I see the video of Gregory and Travis McMichael accosting and shooting Arbery, I want to throw something else. I can’t help but think of my own two sons and how, for either of them, a routine encounter with police — or a run-in with self-appointed sheriffs — could be fatal. I want to scream.

I feel this way even though I have status in this society, an income that allows me to live comfortably, and a megaphone — in the form of this column and my television appearances — with which to make my complaints and opinions heard. I wonder how I’d feel if I lacked these things, if I were powerless and voiceless. I wonder where my frustration and rage would find their outlet.”   

………….. Yes, Gregory and Travis McMichael — along with William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., who recorded Arbery’s killing on cellphone video — have been arrested and charged with murder. And yes, Derek Chauvin and the three other police officers who watched him kill Floyd have been fired, and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has called for criminal charges to be filed against them.

But if the only result is another couple of trial-of-the-century media circuses that produce lots of drama and controversy but no justice, then nothing will change.” (Eugene Robinson, May 30,2020, Washington Post.)

Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, and a native of South Africa, has the luxury of not being from the United States, and is therefore known to have a little perspective on the treatment of people of colour in America.

I’ll leave you with his very compassionate musings on these days of conflict.

It Is To Laugh!


samantha bee trevor noah.jpgIn a Salon.com article last week, Steve Almond accused Comedy Central of having “squandered Jon Stewart’s legacy” by appointing South African comedian Trevor Noah as host, over the then-incumbent Samantha Bee.

The author points to the success of Bee’s new show “Full Frontal” as proof that Noah’s lower key, outsider’s perspective, has damaged the credibility and political power of The Daily Show.

There’s so much wrong with that attitude that I barely know where to begin. Full disclosure: my conversion to political junkie is relatively recent, and as with most converts, I just can’t get enough of meaningful discussion on my new passion. I’m also an entertainer who studied comedy and acting for long enough to have a dispassionate overview of what I see on the screen – I’m not buying the physical over the intellectual. I watch for knowledge and to hear something clever that I hadn’t thought of myself.

That being said – there’s lots of leg room in the television/Internet world for a wide spectrum of opinions, and lawdy, lawdy, there’s a fan for every fanatical opinion. I dislike certain types of discourse; insightful commentary has no need to use scatology or childish insults unless justified in context. Those that shriek their thoughts are right off my list of viewing. So, that certainly leaves out the FOX News Network, and all Republican debates, no matter how ‘entertaining.’

But let’s just cut to the chase on why Samantha Bee declined the chance to succeed Jon Stewart.titans of late night 2016

I like how Vanity Fair leaned into the 50’s sexism of late night by making the photo Mad Men-themed’.

The ‘titans of late night’ sausagefest included Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien, James Corden, Jimmy Kimmel, John Oliver, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon, and token light skinned Trevor Noah and Larry Wilmore. Not exactly a cultural mosaic going on there.

vanity-fair-cover2

“What’s conspicuously missing from late-night, still, is women,’ wrote David Kamp.’How gobsmackingly insane is it that no TV network has had the common sense — and that’s all we’re talking about in 2015, not courage, bravery, or even decency — to hand over the reins of an existing late-night comedy program to a female person?

(You could also add “people of colour” there, but I’ll get to that in a minute.)

While I can appreciate the work of Conan O’Brien, James Corden, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, and Jimmy Fallon, I’ve never really taken to them. I’m just ‘over’ the late night formula, with its emphasis on rising or fading stars, and middle of the road, slightly risqué, rarely challenging patter. That was always the domain of older, white males, and still largely is. That’s more ” falling asleep in front of the TV” stuff, to me.

colbert thumbs upStephen Colbert’s defection to The Tonight Show, despite his best efforts, still landed him in that traditional format. While the move made great career sense overall and I do love his joyful, melodica playing, bandleader, Jon Batiste, Colbert’s brilliance is still best viewed in his political snipes, and thankfully, the cream of his wit usually wind up getting spun off into Internet clips and memes.

Trevor Noah only has to step on stage for the conservative dog whistles to start – he’s a young, black, South African, and an immigrant who’s taken an American’s job! A gentle, soft spoken and thoughtful soul, he is able to laugh at his own foibles and to marvel at American customs and culture. I find his often wide-eyed wonder refreshing – I too sometimes feel the same gulf between how Canadians and Americans think. Sometimes it’s just too wide a mental leap to span.

The contrast between the often brash, broad humoured and ultra-white Stewart and Noah’s more restrained presence can be jarring, if all you are looking for is what you’ve already seen. But Stewart himself knew that it was time to go – he’d accomplished what he’d set out to do. He saw that it was time to move on and let the next wave of young comedians have their shot. He subsequently signed a four year production contract with HBO, while continuing as executive producer of …larry wilmore

The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore – an Afrocentric look at America’s politics. Maybe it’s the humour of the damned and the resigned, but it’s also intelligent, truthful, often wise, and empathic.

A typical, if bowdlerized, user’s comment on the show: “they have almost no white people on their show at any point, and often just disrespect that person. It’s always a black panel, it’s always the same guys opinion, who is him? I’ve never seen or heard of him. He presents rather, off humor, if any of this is humor, which it’s not, it’s just a group of people acting out raged constantly”

people care about pets over poor blacksThe main take-away being, at least on the commentator’s part, not to see a chance to explore and try to understand a different perspective on the very real problem of racism in America, and how it’s dealt with, legally and individually, but instead a demand for more white faces to rehash white opinions on a series focused on black lives. And there you have your #allLifeMatters in a nutshell.

Stewart was also instrumental in launching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, a satirical look at news, politics and current events. Funny-sausage-principle-by-John-OliverOliver had the distinction of guest-hosting The Daily Show in the summer of 2013, when Stewart took a working sabbatical to direct his film, Rosewater. Oliver’s sardonic and exaggerated comedic ‘voice,’ was immediately acceptable to American viewers familiar with the work of British comedians in the Monty Python vein. Although his series airs only once a week, each episode is a little gem, with the bulk of the airtime focusing with laser beam intensity on a well-researched and timely item deserving of closer examination.

 

hollywood_reporter_bill_maher_coverStill a force to be reckoned with, is Bill Maher, of Real Time, and the late, lamented Politically Incorrect. The granddaddy of political satire and discussion, Maher is definitely polarizing. He’s a “love him or hate him” kinda guy. Perhaps that’s the attraction. At any rate, I’ve followed his career since the nineties, and even once seized the opportunity to be in the Politically Incorrect audience, just a week or two after 9/11. Though I can’t remember if that was the episode that got his multi –award winning show cancelled.

ABC decided against renewing Maher’s contract for Politically Incorrect in 2002, after he made a controversial on-air remark six days after the September 11 attacks. He agreed with his guest, conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza, that the 9/11 terrorists did not act in a cowardly manner (in rebuttal to President Bush’s statement calling them cowards). Maher said, “We have been the cowards. Lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building. Say what you want about it. Not cowardly. You’re right.””

Maher barely skipped a beat, moving from ABC to HBO in 2003, where his hour-long political comedy talk show, Real Time with Bill Maher, has flourished ever since.

Bill and I have been aging disgracefully – a world apart, but akin in spirit – for decades. We’re both still lippy, lefty, liberals – though I disagree with his pro-gun stance – with a sarcastic attitude, and a hate-on for bad politics, bought off politicians and mass media, inane bureaucracy, and rabid religionists of any stripe. What’s not to love? I’m positively dejected when I miss my Friday night fix of Real Time .

samantha bee on ScaliaBut circling back to Full Frontal with Samantha Bee… this new series airs only once a week. Like John Oliver, Bee touches briefly on current events, before diving deep into the murky waters of American politics. She’s funny, strong, relevant, courageous … even the show’s theme song, PeachesThe Boys Wanna Be Her,” asserts that “the boys want to be her, the girls want to be her.”

And I think that rings true to a young, engaged, non gender discriminating audience. Bee is cocky, unafraid to confront the staid establishment. Her interview with Texas Republican representative Dan Flynn, about writing the anti-abortion restrictions despite knowing little about the procedure, is typical of her style. “I speak with the authority of one who has a uterus,” Bee tells him, “and I guess that’s why I think that you’re the wrongiest, wrongheadedest wrong person.”

She’s exciting, she’s brave – and she’s Canadian! All of which allows her to comment and opine on wrongheadedness from the perspective of a country more known for acceptance than intellectual resistance. But we’re only four episodes in so far. It may seem longer, since that has encompassed four weeks, but we’re talking baby steps here.

By contrast, Trevor Noah’s been at The Daily Show since September 28, 2015, appearing four nights a week most weeks. Viewers have had time to decide on whether they like his shtick or not. Or have they? trevor noah w de Blasio

I recently watched an episode of Noah speaking with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. But this time, the episode that I watched was not the regular, clipped for time, segment normally shown in the time spot, but rather, included the ‘extended’ interview that is available only to those who seek out the episode on Comedy Central. There was an entirely different tone between the televised and the ‘only available on the Internet’ conversation.

In the first, commercially aired segment, there was a lot of polite banter and civility. But just as the conversation got started, it was cut short.

De Blasio: And look, a lot of people don’t feel the government’s treating them fairly. For years and years, a lot of – and this is especially why, as you know, I’m very involved in the issue of addressing income inequality. And, you know, it’s amazing, you see the national discussion – like, why are people angry? Why are they frustrated? Because they’ve been screwed. Because for decades they’ve seen their incomes go down. They’ve seen their economic reality decline, and they wonder if their kids are going to have anywhere near as good a life as they had. Would you be content? The anger and frustration are the natural way people should feel when they go through that, and then they take that frustration out on a government that they feel has let them down. 

Noah: That has let them down, especially when it comes to income inequality. It’s funny you bring that up, because you are big on income inequality, which seems like a Bernie Sanders supporter, and, yet, you’ve endorsed Hillary, which we’ll talk more about. TV time is up – we’ll be talking more on the web and on the app.

(the extended interview) http://www.thecomedynetwork.ca/Shows/TheDailyShow?vid=821779

Now, I can’t say that I’ve watched many of the extended interviews. However – a different Noah, a more confident, knowledgeable and willing to confront, Noah, appeared during the extended segment. And, in my opinion, that’s the Noah that viewers would prefer to the polished, safe, non-threatening, Noah they’ve been sold since his debut.

sense of humourBut really, in the end, our appreciation of comedy is personal, and only our opinion, as is our sense of humour. Everyone’s taste is different, and that’s a good thing – it speaks to our individuality. There’s room for all at the inn – pitting comedian against comedian is sophomoric and limiting. Let’s keep any nonsense austerity principles as far away from the distribution of art as we can.

Having a wide range of voices available for regular viewing is the essence of our freedom to choose, a real gift to viewers, and a paean to the right of free speech.

 

(first published Match 6/2015: bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/03/06/roxanne-tellier-it-is-to-laugh/)

Canadian ThanksGiving 2015


Canadian thanksgivingI love that our Canadian Thanksgiving is in October, a cold, clear breathing space before the run up to winter and it’s festivities.

I hate that companies like Sears try to ramp up their sales by aping America, calling upon a “Canadian Black Friday” to stimulate shoppers, and oh, by the way … Christmas is coming! Start spending now!

My stars … I haven’t even ignored Halloween yet!

Speaking of scary stuff, this holiday weekend marks the beginning of advanced voting for our October 19th election. The turnout has been fantastic; Friday’s advanced polls were up 26% over normal. It took a lot for Canadians to get off their duffs and care about who will steer Canada through the next four years. But it’s happened, and no matter which party is chosen, it’s great to see our nation galvanized.

I’m grateful for a lot of things, including those people who have raised their voices, be it in song or print, to help everyone understand the issues our country is facing. Not all voices or writers are equal in talent, but everyone who’s spoken their mind speaks from the heart.

(I also find it a little odd that no songs seem to have emerged savaging Trudeau or Mulcair. Hmmmm …)

http://ottawacitizen.com/news/politics/nsfw-more-anti-harper-songs-from-canadian-musicians

i want a CanadaI hate that I’ve seen and heard, on Facebook and in person, some of the most vicious and racist rhetoric I’ve ever encountered, during discussions on the niqab, and its apparent potential to obliterate Canadian democracy. I’m not gonna insult anyone by pretending that we’re afraid of that little bit of cloth. Of course, it’s the fear that, under that cloth, there is an ISIS warrior with a gun or a bomb, or some way to hurt our fragile flesh. But it’s never happened here. And it sure as hell is happening over there, which is why the refugees are running to safety. Making it all about the niqab has given the government license to sweep our compassion under the rug, and made it permissible for us to cast aside that image of 3 year old Alan, the little boy whose crumpled body washed up on a beach, in favour of demonizing those fleeing bombs and torture.

family reunion aug 2015I’m grateful for my family, all of ‘em, even the crazy ones (and we have our share, thank heavens!) I like that we encourage each other, touch base for no reason, and somehow manage to stay connected, despite the miles that separate us. I’m grateful for the many ways we can keep in touch, be it by phone, post, or internet.

I hate that miles separate us. Growing up in Montreal, my extended family would gather each week at one of the family’s homes, and we’d share a meal and good times together. Today, we’re all scattered across this great land, and seem to only physically reconvene in times of stress. But our loyalty, formed by years of forced conviviality … I’m kidding! I love you all!

crazy minion friendsI’m grateful for my friends, all of ‘em, even the crazy ones … maybe especially the crazy ones. Some I’ve known for decades, some I’ve met only recently, but with each encounter, my capacity to know and love the goodness that lies within people grows.

I hate that I’ve lost family and friends along the way, some to death, but many more to differing views on life. I’ve always believed that we don’t really change as we age – we just become more adamant about our beliefs. What we’ve lived through shapes us, for good or ill. Some maintain the child in their heart, others let her die.

its okay to change your opinionI am grateful that I’m still able to appreciate art, both new and old. I hope I never close my mind to ‘what the kids are up to,’ in any sphere, be it artistic, technical or social. Getting older causes some people to fear youth … something about their energy and vigor can feel threatening and dangerous. But the kids are our future.

I hate that so many in business, politics, and yes, the arts, cling to out-dated, outmoded, and obsolete business practices and theories, despite advances made and being made in every field. I’m not saying, “jump on every bandwagon,” but I am saying that continuing to sell buggy whips long after the horse is gone says more about you than your customers/voters.

I am grateful for the growing number of commercial, big buck comedy/news shows available. There are those who say, “I’d never get my news from a comedy show.” But you are, dear .. it’s called FOX News. Meanwhile, the Daily Show continues with new host Trevor Noah, I’m becoming increasingly respectful of Larry Wilmore’s work on The Nightly, and the best reason to watch the Tonight Show is the rapier wit of Stephen Colbert. And if you are not watching the incredibly well researched and up to the minute investigative journalism cut fine by humour of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which is available free of charge every Monday on YouTube … shame on you.

I hate that the conservative mind seems unable to understand humour, or at least seems unable to express humour in a way that lacks pomposity. There’s no self-awareness. Oh, you’ve got your Larry the Cable Guy, and Jeff Foxworthy, but guys like that tend to poke fun at people like themselves, not social issues or politics. Their humour begins and ends in easy targets. Maybe the answer lies in the reality that choosing any artistic pursuit puts you squarely against the principles most conservatives hold dear; you’ll probably work harder and yet make less money than your friends who chose a more conventional life course. Who knows? I just know that a preponderance of fart, racist, and sexist jokes, with an emphasis on crudeness and personal entitlement, doesn’t turn my or most liberal’s crank.

free speech conditions applyI am grateful that I can speak my mind, in person or on social media, and, at least for now, do so freely.

I hate that our world grows ever more fearful, causing those who DO know what’s going on, to be silenced by commercial interests.

(please note: the clip below is definitely not safe for work (NSFW.)

http://anonhq.com/british-reporter-absolutely-loses-his-temper-and-tells-us-the-real-news/

stupid famous peopleBut most of all, I am so grateful I’m not a Kardasian, even an honorary one, despite my long, black hair.

And I hate that we’ve put a lot of unworthy people on social pedestals for very little reason.

Get your turkey on, fellow babies! Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian peeps!

canadian-thanksgiving-meme-2

first published Oct 11/2015: https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/10/11/roxanne-tellier-love-ithate-it-thanks-giving-2015/