Talking About Politics



I have long wondered about the social taboo of talking about politics in American bars, taverns, & pubs, and I’d really like to know where or how this taboo started? A part of me can’t help but wonder if this taboo against talking about politics in bars might not be a conspiracy on the part of the elite? Think about it, who benefits from our silence on the subject of politics? And who is disabled or handicapped by not being able to discuss politics in perhaps the most common meeting place for American citizens? Tens of millions of Americans are illegally being foreclosed on by the Super Banks “Too Big to Fail” and we were forced to bail them out against our will but we’re not allowed to talk about it? There’s definitely something very wrong with this picture.


the second-rate actor who fooled America

Politics touches every aspect of our lives because politics is primarily about economics, money, wealth, & who has the power over that wealth. Communication is the essence of being human and even the most mentally challenged amongst us wants to communicate if only their basic needs of food, water, etc. I first got interested in politics when dear old Ronnie Reagan became president because he scared the hell out of me. I knew he was a habitual liar and that America was in for deep trouble when he made public statements such as “Limited nuclear war in Europe was a possibility.” And Reagan’s destructive deregulation spree sowed the seeds of financial ruin we are facing today but we’re not supposed to connect the dots. Ironically, Reagan was dubbed “the great communicator.” Yeah, that’s the reactionary right-wing’s idea of communicating i.e. you, the ignorant masses, just sit there silent and accept our truths (propaganda) as handed down to you by our T.V. pundits like Limbaugh, Beck, O’Reilly, etc. and that’s why these blowhard demagogues are paid millions of dollars because they are so convincing to the ignorant—those who simply don’t know or aren’t informed about how language can be used to manipulate us.


Like I mentioned earlier, I first started paying attention to politics when Reagan was elected and I have been reading, researching, writing, collecting books, magazine articles, etc. voraciously for nearly 30 years so can you imagine my sense of frustration when I’m told in many, if not most bars, taverns, & pubs around this land of the free that I must shut-up or be banned from entering the bar? Every now & then when I’m traveling or when a new bartender starts working at one of my old haunts, I will risk violating this taboo and I love it when I see people’s eyes light up because they are starved for serious conversation. People become very animated and are eager to share their views and once in awhile someone will tell me “Wow! This is the best conversation I’ve had in years!” And I too come alive because I have so much information & so many ideas that I want to bounce off others to get their feedback.


Freedom of Speech in America!

Moreover, those loud-mouthed bullies like Limbaugh, O’Reilly, etc. are so fond of proclaiming that America is the greatest nation on Earth and we enjoy the greatest amount of freedom, and our soldiers are fighting for our freedom yet we aren’t permitted to discuss or argue politics in bars? Where else in public are people likely to engage in discussions about such serious issues? Are you likely to open up a discussion with strangers in a coffee shop? Perhaps, but unlikely. Alcohol as they say, is a social lubricant and for people like myself who are shy, alcohol helps or gives me a bit of that false courage to risk striking up a conversation with a stranger. And the freedom to have stimulating political discussions is one of the reasons I love traveling in Europe. I have never noticed any taboo against talking about politics in European pubs and in fact, it seems to be commonplace. I love the long dinner conversations I’ve enjoyed many times in Europe as well. People there will take two or three hours dining and relaxing while engaged in conversations about subjects from politics to art to history, etc. While here in America, we wolf our food down while watching the boob-tube. And you wonder why Americans are so woefully ignorant about so many things?


FOX News 24/7

Continuing on, week after week, we learn of new scandals, more conspiracies & crimes committed by the financial institutions that brought us this worldwide economic chaos. People are losing their pensions, their life savings, their health care, their self respect and we’re suppose to just sit here in silence and pay our taxes while the corporate cockroaches not only don’t pay their fair share of taxes, many don’t pay any and even get tax rebates in the millions & billions even though we subsidize their industry. How in the Hell are we ever going to stem this tide of theft & destruction if we can’t even talk about it? The young people who came together in Zucatti park, in the belly of the beast, Wall St., were immediately silenced by the powers that be i.e. they weren’t allowed to use amplified sound because the power elite don’t want passer bys to accidentally hear some of the people’s truths. But the creative souls who gathered there were resourceful and used the people’s voice and shouted out and repeated each phrase a speaker said until all had heard it. I’m not sure but I bet the Tea Party protests are allowed to use amplified sound?


The Fear & Hate Mongers Millionaire Club

Furthermore, because the “mainstream media” has now been reduced to five or six mega corporate conglomerates, even when there are massive public demonstrations such as just before we invaded Iraq and there were hundreds of thousands of protestors across America and around the globe but the corporate media didn’t broadcast it so it was a non-event i.e. it didn’t happen! Again and again, we are silenced and as a result, Joe and Jane six-pack only hear FOX News, America’s version of Pravda and become indoctrinated into accepting the negative image of the Occupy Wall St. protesters as dirty, lazy, hippies who don’t want to work. I have cousins whom I’ve become estranged from because I couldn’t remain silent anymore as they regurgitated Limbaugh, Beck, O’Reilly, et al hate & fear mongering.


Yes my friend, it is very depressing and perhaps you can understand why I toy with the idea of a possible conspiracy? Not a grand conspiracy like the nut cases on the far Right or the far Left but a series of smaller conspiracies that just happen to collide and create this prison of silence, apathy, & ignorance? I have worked in the public education system in a variety of positions for over 20 years and while I don’t subscribe to a covert conspiracy theory regarding our public education system, nonetheless, our students are progressively becoming more and more “dumbed-down” to borrow a phrase from John Taylor Gatto. Mr. Gatto wrote a short book called Dumbing Us Down and he was a teacher for over 30 years and was named Teacher of the Year for New York City and New York State a few times as I recall? If you really want to have your mind blown, read his Underground History of American Education. In brief, he points out that at the local level, every school board across America is generally made up of local business people, who tend to be conservative, and often, Christian fundamentalists. Of course, we all know, or should know what the Christian fundamentalist agenda is for public schools e.g. don’t teach evolution but instead, teach Creationism, censor the humanities, etc. And if you read Gatto’s Underground History of American Education, you will discover that the Robber Barons had a hand in designing our public school system as well. Men like Carnegie, Ford, JP Morgan, & Rockefeller. Why do you think these master thieves would be interested in the public school system?

In conclusion, I was inspired to write this essay a few days back while watching the old classic film Fahrenheit 451. Obviously, the movie was about a future dystopia where books are banned & burned. And when you reflect on it, books are speech i.e. thoughts written down and totalitarian societies fear thought because people thinking and discussing poses a threat to their power. Isn’t it interesting to note how obsessed we are with sports in America and how televisions in most bars are constantly tuned to some game? I agree with Noam Chomsky that sports primarily serves to distract and divert our attention from more serious matters. Furthermore, I don’t buy the bullshit excuse or rationale that people are more likely to get in a physical fight because of a disagreement over politics. I’ve seen many fights in bars over the years but they were rarely over politics. And I’ve had many disagreements with people about politics in bars but when I saw that I wasn’t going to change a person’s mind and that his mind was closed or just too indoctrinated, I’d say something like “Well, can we just agree that we disagree and drop the subject?”

Here is an example of one of my barroom disagreements over politics that stands out in my memory. This was over 20 years ago in a simple tavern in North Hollywood, CA. I got into a political discussion with two young gals, and there was a black man sitting a few barstools down from us. I’d overheard the black man earlier talking to somebody else & telling them that he’d served ten years in the U.S. Navy and ten years in the U.S. Army. Well, as my conversation with the gals progressed, this black man was shooting daggers with his eyes at me. I guess I was feeling a bit mischievous and I asked the black man “Tell me this, if America is so wonderful, then why is it that after putting your butt on the line for 20 years in defense of America, you are still treated like a second class citizen?” He just glared at me and stomped out. That probably wasn’t a very polite or smart thing for me to have said but I didn’t feel like being silenced because he didn’t approve of my political point of view. And it’s sad when a fellow victim of this grand democracy of ours can’t see that I’m not the enemy and wants to punch my lights out but isn’t angry at the bastards who treat us all like slaves.

talk about Doublespeak!


Lastly, you might care to ponder this observation? With the overnight passage of The Patriot Act, which they just happened to have already to go even though it is several hundred pages long and was signed without even being read by the overwhelming majority of congressmen, I can’t help but think of George Orwell’s nightmare world that he depicted in his book 1984. Orwell described what he called the “thought police,” and several provisions of The Patriot Act are chillingly similar to what might be a de facto thought police come to life in present day America? Any of the government’s police, military, or surveillance agencies’ agents can kick in our doors in the middle of the night and haul us off to a secret prison without even telling us what we are accused of. We don’t have the right to a lawyer and our loved ones may never hear from us again and aren’t notified. The right to habeas corpus has been thrown out the window. Our phone conversations, our e-mails, the websites we visit, in short, every form of communication we have is open to spying by our government in the land of the free and home of the brave. The thought police even wanted librarians to turn over computer print outs of the books we check out of our public libraries but those beautiful and courageous librarians banded together and said no. Is this all much ado about nothing or are we asleep at the wheel? We will each have to decide that for ourselves but as for me, it’s a truly frightening time that we are living through and I, for one, will not be silenced and will continue to speak my mind in bars, taverns, & pubs whether I’m 86ed or not! 

Persevere!       P.S.  If you’d like to learn exactly how the corporate media manipulates public opinion, read or watch Noam Chomsky’s “The Manufacture of Consent” By the way, as George Orwell warned, “Those who control the past, control the present and those who control the present, control the future.” So, when school boards control what is taught in public schools & when the large textbook publishers censor & rewrite our history, they are controlling the past. And the corporate media controls the present by selecting what is news, how it’s slanted, and what it leaves out so the future is every bit as gloomy as Orwell depicted unless we stand up & speak out.

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