Useless Cold Meds on Your Shelf and Black Student Suspended for Black Hairstyle
Kareem's Take On: GOP Candidate Uses Flamethrower, DeSantis: No Vaccine for the Poor and Librarians Fired Over Autism Display
What I’m Discussing Today:
Kareem’s Daily Quote: I’ve gone super-sized today with a favorite monologue from The Newsroom that is one of the most rousing and insightful patriotic (but realistic) speeches ever.
GOP Candidate and His Pet Flamethrower. A couple of Missouri state senators gleefully use flamethrowers to “symbolically” burn books. One of them is running for governor!
Black Texas Student Suspended for Hair Style. They keep suspending him for wearing locs, which is protected by the state’s CROWN law. It’s the modern version of smacking left-handed students until they use their right hands.
Kareem’s Video Break. Learn the true meaning of compassion—from a cat and a puppy.
DeSantis Says He Won’t Support Vaccine Funding. If you’re poor, no vaccine for you. DeSantis’ sequel to The Expendables.
Librarians Fired for Autism Display Mistaken for LGBTQ+ Display. Prepare to shake your head in disbelief—and fear.
Have You Been Buying This Useless Cold Medicine? Oral decongestants don’t work, but we spend $2 billion a year on them anyway.
Jim Croce Sings. On the 50th anniversary of Jim Croce’s death, let’s listen to one of his classics: “I Got a Name.”
Kareem’s Daily Quote
I usually post short, pithy quotes that I find insightful and inspiring. You could write them on a Post-It note and stick it to the dashboard or refrigerator. But today’s quote is longer than usual—an excerpt, really—and therefore needs some setting up. It’s a monologue from the HBO TV series The Newsroom (2012-2014), one of the most intelligent, clever, and brilliantly written shows ever. The writer is Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing). The reason I included it here, risking readers taking one look at its un-Post-It-note length and skipping ahead, is I find myself thinking of this scene lately as the political injustices become more blatant and savage, the undermining of democracy more open and ruthless—and more blindly people accepting it.
The set-up is that Will is a famous newscaster who is known for being unwilling to express any opinions of his own out of fear he’ll lose ratings. The show starts with him on a panel with two aggressive commentators, one liberal and the other conservative. He is continually asked for his opinion, which he refuses to give, offering only safe, glib responses. A young student in the audience asks why America is the greatest country in the world. Will tries to avoid the question with jokes, but when cornered, some part of himself—long buried—rises up to give one of the most rousing speeches ever.
It's not the greatest country in the world, professor, that's my answer.
[pause] You're saying—
Let's talk about—
Fine. [to the liberal panelist] Sharon, the NEA is a loser. Yeah, it accounts for a penny out of our paychecks, but he [gesturing to the conservative panelist] gets to hit you with it anytime he wants. It doesn't cost money, it costs votes. It costs airtime and column inches. You know why people don't like liberals? Because they lose. If liberals are so fuckin' smart, how come they lose so GODDAM ALWAYS!
And [to the conservative panelist] with a straight face, you're going to tell students that America's so starspangled awesome that we're the only ones in the world who have freedom? Canada has freedom, Japan has freedom, the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, Belgium has freedom. Two hundred seven sovereign states in the world, like 180 of them have freedom.
And you—sorority girl—yeah—just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there are some things you should know, and one of them is that there is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we're the greatest country in the world. We're seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies. None of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but you, nonetheless, are without a doubt, a member of the WORST-period-GENERATION-period-EVER-period, so when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don't know what the fuck you're talking about?! Yosemite?!!!
We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right! We fought for moral reasons, we passed and struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world's greatest artists and the world's greatest economy. We reached for the stars, and we acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn't belittle it; it didn't make us feel inferior. We didn't identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn't scare so easy. And we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one—America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.
Yes, I’m aware of the lines “we acted like men” and “by great men” and wish they weren’t so gender exclusive. But that second paragraph so accurately describes America’s symptoms and diagnoses our main malady: we scare easily. He also offers the cure: be informed. Not by those who will tell you the lies you want to hear, but by those dedicated to actual journalism. You want to make America great again? Ditch the silly hat and start reading and watching a variety of news sources. Don’t be scared of the truth because that’s how we will get stronger.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a subscriber.
Republican candidate for Missouri governor vows to burn books after viral flamethrower video (Kansas City Star)
Please become a paid subscriber to continue reading the full article.