Sophomore year, my best friend and I had a piece of orange construction paper on our wall titled “Discoveries.” Whenever we figured something out, we would put it on the paper. Some were literal discoveries, like Harold, the small mouse that would run across our floor every so often. Others were theoretical, sayings or mantras we needed to keep in mind in order to keep going. I don’t remember the context, but one night I shouted “The squeaky wheel gets the cheese!!” I was in a slaphappy state and mixed up metaphors (something I love to do, so hold on tight), but Susan dug it, so we put it on the wall. Another one I keep revisiting is: “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.” On the “Discoveries” document I wrote it in the wrong order and had to write a numerical key next to it so that the sentence made sense. Perhaps the silliness of these two entries solidified them in my memory, but I think there’s a better explanation for why I keep revisiting them two years later.
I’ve been thinking about these two ideas (squeaky cheese & scary dreams) in the context of the U.S. presidential race. Donald Trump is a nightmare and a true squeaky wheel–one that should fall off the wagon, crash into a tree, and remain there until it rots, leaving behind nothing but a few golden strands of synthetic hair. And as expected, the media is rewarding him with a lot of cheese…White American cheese product, obviously. But what’s grosser than cheese product is that people are eating this nonsense, even though there’s some amazing Brie sitting in the kitchen just waiting and try’n to be served. But you wouldn’t know it listening to the news, because the media is spurting clips of Trump’s xenophobia and racism faster than blood from a punctured jugular. When it comes to the other wheel in this race, though, the media’s reading a dead pulse. That other wheel, who is the squawk to Trump’s squeak, is, of course, Bernie Sanders. Mainstream media refuses to make a big deal about Sanders, despite his tremendous success, particularly in Michigan’s primary. But that’s not surprising.
When you consider that 90% of American media outlets are controlled by just 6 corporations, referred to sometimes as “the big six,” it’s pretty easy to see why Sanders gets no air time. After all, why would a network that’s owned by a massive corporation want to give Sanders any cheese? He can’t even get a crumble of sweaty blue cheese, and the logic is simple. Bernie Sanders sees the strings that control the system, and has spent the last thirty-plus years pointing out that they look awfully similar to the strings coming from the hands of our nation’s best puppeteers <drum roll>…The big six and other similar (read: identical) corporations. While Sanders calls these behemoths on their bullshit, the other “democratic” candidate, Hillary Clinton, sustains herself on their lifeblood–money. Not sold? Take a look at Hillary Clinton’s top donors. Between 1999-2016, Cablevision Systems made her top 10 list, donating more than $300k in the last two decades; turn the clock back a bit further to Clinton’s whole career and you’ll see that Time Warner makes the top 10 for Hillary supporters, having donated nearly $600,000 to her political campaigns. While Bernie Sanders refuses PAC money, Clinton thrives on it. So, yeah, she’s “winning” in the eyes of the media.
Free speech may be our first constitutional right, but don’t be fooled. The media as many Americans know it is anything but free. The six corporations I mentioned (which, let’s face it, are all the same in everything but name) aren’t covering Sanders out of personal interest. The thought of a president who wants to upset the system terrifies the board members of these corporations. As it should. The system supports them; the system is the reason for their success. So of course they’re doing everything they can to keep Sanders and his success out of the spotlight. They have big money, which we all know can and does influence politics. That should terrify you. It terrifies me. Why? Because these corporate moguls aren’t just throwing big bucks at the candidates they want in office, they’re abusing their position as purveyors of “information” by deliberately skewing election-related coverage. They are giving Trump more air time so that people feel the need to vote for Clinton out of fear, because no one with two brain cells can stomach the thought of a Trump-(Palin? Probably.) presidency. And, if you’re watching mainstream media, you’re being told that Sanders is a risky, unelectable candidate, so naturally Clinton is the safest option. If you look at what’s actually happening across the nation, you would see Sanders is anything but. Independent media tells a different story, a story this author buys, or rather, doesn’t buy. Trump is scary. Corporate power is scary. We need to fall back into touch as a nation because the skewing of political news by corporate media isn’t just twisted…it’s criminal.
And while U.S. politics appears to be cracking,
Vietnam is falling into the sea. Yesterday we took a trip to Cu Dai Beach in central Vietnam. Located in Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage site, this beach draws a lot of tourists annually (2 million, maybe? Unclear. Just know that it’s a whole lot). The sun beat down on our group of thirty-one as we stood on a strip of sand not more more than 4 meters in width. Two years ago, this same site had a hundred yards of beach. A crab made its way through the crowd as our translator shouted depressing facts about erosion into a megaphone. People pointed and took pictures of the crab. A large wave crashed on the hair-thin beach, splashing the half of our group that stood seaside. My toes curled in the sand, my etchings were washed away, my shoes wet. But my eyes were not on the ground, or the crab, but on two chubby, white foreigners walking out of their hotel room. They were clad in bathing suits, seemingly oblivious to the destruction that lay before them, which they, in a round-about way, had contributed to. Which we all, in a round-about way had contributed to. Our translator mentioned that many tourists complained to resort staff; they said that the photos they saw online showed much healthier, luscious beaches and they were disappointed. The tides change quickly round these parts, and the web-designers can’t (and for good reason won’t) keep up with the rising tides. The local economy relies on tourism, so even if the sea continues to encroach on the shore (and it will), people will continue to draw tourists to Cu Dai Beach. So, sorry tourists, that your vacation included 95 less yards of beach. I’m pretty sure you’re going home to a La-Z-boy sofa, flat screen TV, and delivery sushi, while the natives of Hoi An and similar coastal towns try to figure out how to adjust to changing tides which impact way more than one’s ability to tan and play volleyball. I thought about these tourists rotund waistlines, Vietnam’s shrinking shoreline, the waves crashing, the crab crawling; it took every effort not to burst into tears. I wished the tide would take me with it. Some contradictions are too heavy to hold.
But I can’t end there…so let’s try for this: If there’s one thing that’s keeping me going, it’s this: physics doesn’t negotiate, but neither do revolutions. Bernie Sanders has sparked a revolution that’s exactly what a political revolution should be: by and for the people. Some people–those listening to corporate media–won’t commit to Sanders because they don’t think he’s serious enough. He’s too much of a dreamer, they say. He won’t get anything done with Congress. Well, to that I say, if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough. (And also, 435 seats are up for election in 2016, so get out there and campaign and vote). Bernie Sanders is a dream we can’t give up on. What’s happening in the U.S. is too big to ignore, and with any hope, too big to fail. When I fall asleep (five minutes from now), I’ll be dreaming of a nation that cares less about capital and more about community, of a world that doesn’t salivate over prospects of gold but strives to support social justice. In my dreams, I’m pushing back against Time Warner Cable and the South China Sea. Hope to see you there.
PJ’s listening for the week: