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The Idol Smasher

Posted on Dec 30, 2012
Illustration by Mr. Fish

(Page 2)

“One report from SUNY Buffalo has it that 90 percent of middle-class white women who were interviewed report being battered or witnessing their mothers, daughters and sisters being battered. Nicholas Kristof, who is on a world tour for the purpose of blaming black and brown men for cruelty to women, probably missed this report. So the white power structure, at least the Northeastern part, hopes having a black man as president will save the empire, just as the Germans, who were considered the underclass by the Romans, continued the Roman Empire until the 1800s, according to some historians. But they can’t sell this to the majority of white women, who voted for Romney, the kind of dated ’50s face and style that alienates the rest of the world, instead of a president who is actually charming to those who hate the United States. The president, whom I have both admired and criticized, is good for business. His face is more welcomed in many parts of the world than the usual white Yalie or Harvard person who hasn’t a clue about what’s happening on the global streets—the kind of people who constantly get us into international trouble and even wars because they can’t read the values of other cultures … while Obama can go to places and tell Muslims, ‘Well, you know, I have Muslims in my family.’ ”

“I hold up a mirror to our hypocrisy,” Reed said. “This is a tradition among writers that goes back to Nathaniel Hawthorne, who exposed the hypocrisy of the Puritans. In Haitian mythology there is a figure named Ghede. In West Africa he is called Iku. His role is to show each man his devil. He wears a top hat and smokes a cigar. That’s what I do. I show each man, woman, or institution their devils.”

“Satire is among many of the weapons available to me,” he said. “But when I took on the powerful white middle- and upper-class feminist movement, lampooning such extreme notions that Emmett Till was just as guilty as his murderers and that if, as Anita Hill says, ‘the woman should always be believed,’ what about Eva Braun?, I was left for literary roadkill, boycotted and censored. This was the best thing to happen to me because I decided that, unlike black male writers of the ’40s and ’50s—black writers of the 19th century were probably more independent since they self-published and were even more aggressive than the current crop, they even took on the country’s presidents, which could get you killed in those days—I would become a global cultural figure and never again be judged by the whims of a market dependent upon coddling whichever special-interest group is demanding that black writers exclusively render positive portraits of their constituency.” 

Reed plays jazz piano. He has performed at Yoshi’s San Francisco and at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in Manhattan as part of a series produced by Rome Neal, who has directed all of Reed’s plays. He has a CD out, “For All We Know,” and the band Conjure has been performing Reed’s poetry and songs since 1983, most recently at the Sardinia Jazz Festival.


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“My study of Japanese led to the creation of my novel “Japanese by Spring,” which got a lukewarm reception here but was praised by Japanese critics and even got me a trip to Japan in 1995,” Reed said. “The same book enticed professors at Beijing Normal University to invite me to China, from where my partner, the choreographer and author Carla Blank, whose most recent project was a collaboration with Robert Wilson, just returned. When I read from a song I wrote, at the Blue Note in Tokyo before it was sung, I couldn’t get past the first two lines in Japanese before I was interrupted with applause. The same thing happened in Nigeria. On the basis of my study of Yoruba, I was able to read a poem before an audience of Nigerian writers. People began to sing and give me gifts. That’s the way to reach citizens around the world. Learn their cultures. Communicating this way is superior to the old Eurocentric way of bombing those who are different from us.”

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