We started off discussing Monsanto on slightly damp benches. Dani’s disdain for the company’s careless disruption of the natural flow of things quickly shifted into the group’s deep appreciation for the deliciousness of ugly fruit, specifically blood oranges from earlier in the summertime. “GMO OMG.”, she recommended, “It’s on Netflix.”.
I ran into the Raleigh-based band at The Hopscotch Oasis, a day party for the festival hosted by Tactile Workshop. Perfectly comfortable, super sweaty, and thoroughly entertaining on the half-pipe stage, they let us know right off the bat, “we are an angry band.” Throughout the show they chatted openly with us about the festival, giving context to songs about catcalling, birth control, and white male privilege via Tinder. They also paid homage to the anti-HB2 banner displayed by Grayson and Tina Haver Currin and verbally harangued Gov. Pat McCrory. Everyone seemed to feel at home tucked away in the lush little backyard of Tactile Workshop, talking about real, impolite, human things. It was refreshing. North Carolina’s citizens, reputation, and economy remain marred by HB2, the discriminatory, anti-LGBT legislation passed with shady swiftness earlier this year. In the state’s capital, Hopscotch was a 3-day, 3-night invitation to explore music venues and vibes that felt worlds away from the North Carolina state legislature and wary of standing in its bigotry-tinged shadow.
At the Hopscotch Oasis that Saturday, Klay put it precisely – “Hopscotch is evil because they make you choose.” Hailing from Durham, I have spent a sporadic, limited time in Raleigh, and rarely spent it frolicking and Hopscotch was a great chance to bop around the city and its venues. I imagine it was that much harder to choose from this year’s impressive lineup while listed on it, to play three shows throughout the weekend. Pie Face Girls pulled through it, though. The band wistfully recalled Big Freedia and Erykah Badu, noting that in addition to favorites and legends like those, Hopscotch curates a strong, eclectic range of genres. Festival-goers could check out any artist for a solid show, and “it might push you outside of the zone that you anticipated,” Klay pointed out. Keep in mind, 40% of the 120-band Hopscotch lineup is local. Pie Face Girls made a point to shout out the experimental noise of Patrick Gallagher out of Carrboro, NC and all the artists they played with throughout the weekend, including Durham’s JooseLord Magnus at The Hopscotch Oasis. I missed JooseLord’s performance, but observed the mutual enthusiasm they had for a future collaboration following the show and immediately wanted to get to learn more about them both.
So, Pie Face Girls met me in Raleigh for an interview and as we discussed the challenges of navigating the vast Twitter community and the process of building ideas into action, we landed on a conversation about how the band are growing into themselves. Tiffany described this past year as the one where she realized that they could truly spread their reach and stand on their own, though “in the beginning, it was fun and games.” Now, they are looking to sustain themselves with what they love, acknowledging that it takes time.
Their straightforward statements, like those in “Fuck You, I’m Pretty” and the mantra, “Dick is Dead” really resonate with people – at The Hopscotch Oasis, it was like one big conversation. At the same time, Dani pointed out, entrepreneurship and marketing demand their own skills and are necessary for growth. Seeking that growth can feel farcical after years of creating and performing solely for the love of it. Surely, they do not want to sell out, but I’d assume that would be difficult for the members of Pie Face Girls – authenticity is part of their essence. Defiant honesty and self-knowledge course through their sound; their presence is a cool, collected indignation that reminds you, “if you’re not angry, then you’re not paying attention.”
They are definitely paying attention.
The group posted up at Ruby Deluxe’s NC Pride Dance Party in Raleigh to register voters a few days after we talked, and has played alongside NC Music Love Army to raise money for efforts against HB2. The Love Army performs in protest, and “in support of sane governance for North Carolina”. Proceeds from these shows go to community and advocacy organizations Equality NC, LGBT Center of Raleigh and Now or Never NC. Pie Face Girls recently played the Official Afterparty following Come Out and Show Them: A Benefit to Take Back Our State. The proceeds from that festival went to Common Cause NC, Democracy North Carolina, Southerners on New Ground and Come Out and Show Them’s efforts to keep activist artists’ shows in the state in order to redirect the funds for the work of repealing HB2.
Another way you’ll find Pie Face Girls in the mix could be a collective or record label for musicians in marginalized communities to come together – queer artists, trans and cis female artists and artists of color. North Carolina does not offer that in music production yet and the corrupt politics of this state only reinforce the need for such a space. As the idea grows, they are seeking collaborators that want to make a similar impact. Klay and Tiffany joked about whether they were included in the plans, and without missing a beat, Dani confirmed. At one point, she looked at them, then to me and said, “your fam is your support system.” They were quick to thank multiple bands, community members, and artist-activists for encouraging them from the beginning and as they’ve grown thus far, shouting out the staple Raleigh venue, Kings.
I had to ask, then, about the label on their ReverbNation profile from earlier on, “Do it your damn self”. It’s an empowering message, and at this point, it seems they are building on that spirit. that led them to record everything on their own in order to get their messages out into the world, then kept them performing and bettering themselves, but now with an explicit appreciation for collaboration. They are consciously taking themselves more seriously than ever and embracing the process.
Pie Face Girls take the impact of the craft beyond themselves as well, working with Girls Rock NC to guide young musicians as they lift their voices and build community through music. Dani helps to facilitate Teen Axn League, a team of female and trans youth, working year-round in conjunction with Girls Rock NC, to create safer spaces for teens in North Carolina, through organizing an overnight feminism and music summer camp every year.
When I asked about what is next to come, Dani stated, “as long as I can be an activist, I’m happy. As long as I can fight for the shit that matters in this world…because there’s a lot of shit to fight in this world.” Pie Face Girls’ raw yet inviting nature and open participation in activism come at a welcome time, when women’s rights and LGBTQ rights are threatened intensely at the state level, particularly in North Carolina. It is also a time when local policy implications are largely lost amongst the presidential election melee. Musical forces out there spending quality time with young people making their way, and encouraging the groups who fight hateful legislation and advocate for their communities and the voice of the people shouldn’t be taken for granted. Participation matters, especially in local and state politics, and at the community level.
“At the end of the day it’s about intention,” they stated in agreement – and I think that’s true for all of us. The volunteering we do, the creative statements we make, and the collaborations we are a part of demand we pay attention to the why of it all. Pie Face Girls are setting out to “reach as many people as we can… and get to the point where other people will load our gear,” Tiffany clarified with a laugh. They are working on tours through the South and the Northeast, and the logistics of an album set to come out in 2017. Experiencing the passion and talent they put into the music, and the way their engaging personalities drew people in after the show at The Hopscotch Oasis, Pie Face Girls are well on their way with some real, quality statements. Stay tuned.
October 14-15 Manifest Music Festival, downtown Chapel Hill
October 22 Jon Lindsay album release party, Kings Raleigh
October 27 Local Band Local Beer, Pour House Raleigh
A few weeks prior, my friends and I were discussing the then-forthcoming EU referendum and soon found ourselves mocking the unnerving anti-immigration, nationalist rhetoric that had dismantled any meaningful debate of the Leave campaign. ‘An hour for England’ we ironically jeered as we drank our Czech beers and Spanish wine, laughing at what we thought was a misguided minority stuck in the past.
Oh, the pain of being terribly wrong, for the masses have voted and we no longer belong. This is a strange despondence and in a way I feel part of the problem. The very real anger and frustrations of the working classes across Britain have failed to be addressed and the European Union and the issues of immigration have sadly been utilised as a scapegoat through a thinly-veiled xenophobia disguised as taking back control of the nation’s democracy. We are all responsible and we all must deal with the consequences. America, take note. The parallels with the Brexit campaign and Trump’s rise to prominence have been well-discussed, but what the results of the referendum show is that this is not a joke, this is not something to be laughed at, and it is your responsibility, the American public, to ensure similar events do not occur in the following presidential election. Take it seriously, because fear and hate is powerful, powerful enough to prompt Britain to disregard rational discussion and shoot ourselves in the foot, moving towards economic instability and a troubling future.
The morning of, I read several gut-wrenching statuses on social media from dear friends who just so happen to be of citizenship of another European nation, detailing a sense of no longer being welcome in this country, fearful for their jobs and family. With passion, I send my deepest love and support to you, but please do not descend into bitterness for you are not alone. It will be desperately challenging, yet we must fight together to ensure the rising tide of regressive isolation is overcome by even greater global cooperation, changing this despair into developing new visions of our future that effectively address the issues of our age. The EU has its problems and it is a devastating blow that the UK has decided to leave rather than to remain and work with the rest of Europe to resolve the many issues. However, might there be another possibility for Europeans, a new period of greater international cooperation through which the deeply-pressing humanitarian and environmental concerns are better met? We are moving into the unknown, but we must not fall into hate and we must not let perfection be the enemy of the good; instead we must look towards a focused and productive action to help create a new community of togetherness.
What does it now mean to be British? I used to feel pride for my nationality, proud of the National Health Service and pleased to be a part of a country that supported multiculturalism and diversity. I desperately hope this result does not signal the start of the erosion of the many things I hold dear. Brexit may lead the country to the implementation of further right-wing agendas given the lie that the nation has been sold: that leaving the EU will help protect the many pillars of our social democracy.
Nigel Farage, that slimy degenerate being – and prominent voice of the Leave campaign – has already come out and said that the supposed 350 million that we pay to the EU will not necessarily be used for the NHS. Comically, this was one of the main arguments for exiting the EU, yet I really can’t decide whether to laugh or cry at this hopelessly farcical reality. Thankfully, he is not an elected MP, for now. And let us desperately hope that Cameron’s resignation does not result in a blond buffoon taking his place, someone we so fondly smiled along with as we watched his embarrassing idiocies unfold on the international stage as London mayor. There must be a better alternative.
These are but a few words from a confused and disappointed soul trying to make sense of what has unfolded. I do not want to feel resigned to anguish and defeat. I want to feel hope, that despite this terrible outcome there is a better future to be found, one that is better for Britain, better for Europe, and better for the world. I say this with bated breath but that is all I’ve got.
In the loosely packed auditorium at the University of South Carolina, the crowd murmured anxiously as they waited for a glimpse of the headliner: Dr. Cornel West, radical black activist, a demi-god to some. He, with other local prominent leaders hosted a town hall in support of Bernie Sanders’ higher education and labor reforms. Although Sen. Sanders himself was not present, the crowd littered with educators, young professionals, pastors, bartenders, and all else in between displayed a fervor usually reserved for the man himself. The town hall was co-organized by the South Carolina Labor for Bernie Committee and Higher Ed for Bernie, and was sponsored by the University of South Carolina Student Government.
Dr. West stressed the importance of dignity within Sanders’ campaign, mentioning at one point that, not party alliances, but honesty, dignity and integrity were the most important factors in measuring a candidate. He even went so far as to refer to Sanders as a “moral and spiritual laxative” for America. In these vivid descriptions, Dr. West exhibits his true belief in what Sen. Bernie Sanders has to offer, especially to communities of color and young people. Much of the rhetoric surrounding Bernie Sanders’ campaign for presidency dictates that he will not succeed, unless youth who support him and his commitment to higher education and labor reform, turn out to vote.
When the speech ended, the floor opened for questions from the audience when a man asked why it felt as though the fate of civilization rested on these elections. After taking a moment to let those words sink in for both the speakers and the audience, Dr. West answered in such a way that you or I would: he commiserated, then went on to point out that, for most people of color and those living under oppressive systems, it feels that way every election, rather, everyday.
As I write on the cusp of primaries in my home state of South Carolina, I urge you, whoever you may be, whomever you may vote for, make sure you are registered, turnout, and make sure your vote is not wasted. Engage others through action; find a local campaign office and volunteer. Although civilization may not rest on this year’s elections, smaller fates do, and if you’re anything like me, you’re aware that yours is one of those smaller fates. I hope to one day join and flourish in this shrinking middle class. If I want that to happen, I must galvanize young voters like you, and myself.
And for those who ask the question, “What’s the point of voting?” your frustration is beyond understood, but not tolerated- apathy never sparked a revolution. If you’re still not convinced, John Oliver recently did a segment on Voter ID laws that threaten our voting rights. Check it out below:
Dr. Jill Stein is tireless, fearless and just won’t stop… watch video of the interview or scroll for the Q&A.
Are you tired from your trip throughout North Carolina?
“Well, it’s been like an unending trip for four or five months. I just have very little time in between trips, and I was just in Maryland. Before that, I was in Texas, and it’s been almost non-stop for the last…I did have like a week break a ways back.”
It sounds like you’ve had a very busy schedule.
“It is busy but it’s really fun. It’s very, very fun. When you’re doing campaign travelling, it’s not like you get to sightsee (laughs) or anything. It’s more just meeting with people but it’s been so exciting how there’s a real sea change going on right now.”
One of the things that a lot of people are very passionate about is voting for Bernie Sanders, but few of them have heard of you. They’re like, ‘Yeah, I agree more with Jill,’ particularly on your military policy, not giving money to Israel for weapons, but they’ll say that, kind of what you were saying, voting for Bernie is the lesser evil compared to Republicans. What would you say to them? Why would you encourage them to not go be trapped between those two parties?
“Yeah, in terms of Bernie, I think what Bernie is doing is great inside the Democratic Party and he’s really stirring up a hornet’s nest of discontent that was already there. He’s just really elevating that discussion and that’s really wonderful. The downside is that the Democratic party has a kill switch for rebellious candidates, and they’ve done this for decades ever since George McGovern managed to get the nomination since 1972. Democrats created Super Tuesday and Super Delegates, which are both things that ensure that the nomination will go to an insider, not to a reformer. So, it’s unfortunate that Bernie’s going to get knocked out, and you can see the resistance growing now, and Bill Clinton is recruiting the Super Delegates, which are basically delegates that ensure that Hillary has the margin of difference, if she should need it. So it virtually ensures that Bernie is going to be knocked out of contention. I think it’s great for people to support his campaign, but at some point they’re going to need a plan B, so that all their work doesn’t get dumped down the drain.
Bernie has already said he’s going to support Hillary when she gets the nomination and I think most of his really ardent supporters don’t want to go there. They don’t want to support the banks. They don’t want to support this–”
“Yes, Hillary, board member of Wal-Mart, and they don’t want to support the devastating foreign policies that have created failed states and have created ISIS to start with the blowback of terrorism from the beginning.
I think people with insight don’t want to go there, so people need a plan B with Bernie’s campaign, and I say go for it. Give Bernie his best shot. Fingers crossed that he gets it, but I wouldn’t hold my breath and if he doesn’t get it, you’ve got a place to go. So, I don’t feel like we have an argument with Bernie supporters. It’s a different strategy. So, I think your question had two parts. It was sort of, what’s our relationship to Bernie? And why not the lesser evil? Bernie aside, why should young people not support the lesser evil?
Well, one reason is that the lesser evil is not going to get them out of debt. The lesser evil, you know, Hillary is not really proposing free public higher education, which is what we’re calling for. Why is that? Because we shouldn’t treat the younger generation like a cash cow to squeeze maximum dollars out of. Young people should have a secure start in life, which is what a high school degree used to represent. Now, you need a college degree, so, in my view, that is the responsibility of the older generation. However, it’s an investment that pays for itself. We know that from the GI Bill, every dollar that we put into college education for returning soldiers following the Second World War. We get back seven dollars in return for every dollar we put in. So, this is not just like a nice thing to do. This is the really profitable and practical thing to do.
So, there is another reason why young people should not support the lesser evil. The expanding wars and the chaos that’s being created, that is blowing back at us in a very personal way. We’re not going to see that get better under Hillary. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, Hillary may be talking the talk. However, she has decades worth of walking the walk, and it’s clear what Hillary’s policies are. Hillary and her husband brought us NAFTA, that closed tens of thousands of factories and sent millions of jobs overseas. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is more of the same. Hillary might tweak something about it, but she’s a supporter of these corporate trade deals.
So, you know, if you want a job, if you want to get out of debt and have a future, and if you want to do something about the climate so that we actually have a planet we can inhabit, those are all reasons why you don’t want to settle for the lesser evil. The lesser evil is getting lesser all the time, and we say, you know, it’s time to forget the lesser evil and fight for the greater good.”
So in terms of the attacks in Paris, what do you think was behind Europe’s failure to close their borders or not recognize that these attacks were imminent and that they were a threat?
“It reflects how the security state totally misses the target. In this country, the security state has been challenged actually by a Congressional committee to exactly identify what terrorist threats have been aborted thanks to the security state, and they couldn’t come up with any. The NSA couldn’t come up with any examples of success. Basically, it creates a much larger haystack in which to try to find the needle.
So I think there are two points here, which is that, you know, we need old-fashioned intelligence but blanket surveillance, dragnet surveillance of everybody, is not effective and it’s extremely expensive. We’re barking up the wrong tree here. We should raise questions and investigate people for whom we have warrants, for whom there is reason to suspect that they are engaged in illegal or dangerous activity and who are actually threats. But to consider everyday citizens a threat basically annihilates the essential tenets of democracy, and we’ve seen that it makes finding the valuable information even more impossible. So, it’s a failed system.
But I think the other point here is that the answer here is not simply find the bad guys before they attack, but let’s actually pull the rug out from them to start with. We can dismantle ISIS. We created ISIS. We can dismantle ISIS and we can dismantle further, future security threats by undoing what is creating ISIS. So that means these horrific wars and massive slaughter of civilians, just the horror that just took place in Paris, is much like the horror that’s been taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan and Syria on a daily basis. That is the best recruiting tool imaginable for the terrorist groups.
So, our current foreign policy is our own greatest enemy right now, and, furthermore, our allies have been funding ISIS. So, we need to get the Saudis to stop funding ISIS. We ourselves have been directly or indirectly supplying arms to ISIS. The people that we train then defect and move over. Yes, they are the troops in ISIS. We supply 80 percent of the weapons to the Middle East, so we could lead an arms embargo to basically disarm ISIS. We can do that now. We can ask our friends, Turkey, to please close their border to the flow of militias to support and reinforce ISIS. We can ask our allies in Iraq to please stop buying the oil of ISIS on the black market and that is a pretty complete plan to essentially cut the legs out from under of ISIS and dismantle it.
To go in with more bombs and drones or special-ops, which are all in practice right now, is to ensure that we are guaranteeing the next ISIS. You have to ask, how much amnesia do these guys have on Capitol Hill? Democrats and Republicans, who are talking about doing more of what has been failing us since Vietnam, going in and shooting ‘em up when you’re talking about, you know, not your old-fashioned army that’s dressed in their red coats. That doesn’t work. You cannot assault a guerilla army using old-fashioned techniques. You have to stop funding them. You have to stop arming them. You have to stop allowing reinforcements to cross the border. It’s not rocket science how to do this. Unfortunately, we have a foreign policy, and that is to sell weapons.”
To wreak havoc.
“Wreak havoc and therefore sell more weapons for the weapons industry and likewise to ensure routes of fossil fuel, either supply or transportation. So between the weapons industry and the fossil fuel industry, we’ve got the wrong guys calling the shots in Washington, D.C. on foreign policy. We need a foreign policy that actually serves the American people.
Our plan for the Green New Deal basically ensures that wars for oil become a thing of the past. It ensures that we will have abundant, healthy energy resources here — wind, water and sun — by 2030. So it takes the momentum out. It takes the steam out from this disastrous foreign policy aimed towards total economic and military domination, which is blowing back at us madly, creating failed states and terrorism and massive refugee migrations, all of which is coming home to roost. So, we don’t have a choice now. We really need to stand up and do the right thing and join the community of nations that has been trying to do the right thing in spite of the hammer and the U.S. and the largest military — more than the next seven biggest all combined world-over — this hammer that we have been bringing down over the rest of the world that is destroying the climate, that is destroying any semblance of peace and security, and has also now rendered nuclear confrontation another real and present danger.
So, on the basis of those three really dramatic dangers, we need an about-face to a policy based on international law, human rights and diplomacy.”
What would you say to someone who’s thinking about moving? Why would you encourage them not to move? Or would you encourage them to move and be an activist from the outside?
“So, one thing I would say is that you can move away geographically but you cannot move away politically. The problems that are raging inside of America are really raging everywhere else and on the pathway that we’re on, you know, you have a multi-national corporate government, which is essentially taking over everywhere. If it’s allowed to continue, you’re not going to have free education around the world or healthcare. So, it’s not like you can leave this battle behind. This battle has dimensions that not go far beyond our borders. So, it’s not as though that’s even an option.
“But the other one I would say is really important, is, well, a couple of them. One is that we have to fight this battle here because the corporate predators, these multinational predators, are really coming out of America and they have to be conquered here in America. We have to regain human rights and end the usurping of human rights by corporate rights. We need to restore our rights and put an end to the rights of corporate personhood and, just the political battles that have to be fought anywhere have to be fought here as well. So, we need you here, and, furthermore, let me say this, you know, people have been brow-beaten into thinking that we’re powerless. In the words of Alice Walker, ‘The biggest way people give up power is by not knowing we have it to start with.’
One out of every two Americans now is in poverty or low-income, heading into poverty. 40 million young people are in debt, with no way out. One in three African-American men is held hostage by the prison state. Latinos and immigrants in general are facing the threat of deportation, and, yes, terrible mistreatment. Likewise, in the Black Lives Matter movement, police violence is an issue. You start adding these numbers up, and we have not just a quorum. You know, we have a majority here, potentially even a supermajority.
There are 40 million young people alone, if they get into their rebellious heads the idea that they can come out and check the green box to end debt, because there’s only one campaign in the presidential race that will put an end to student debt. 40 million young people is actually enough to take over the election. I can’t fault young people at all for apathy in a system that has basically thrown you under the bus, so why should people pay attention?
However, it’s really important to get the word out that you don’t have to get thrown under the bus, in fact you can take over the bus. You do not need to be under the bus. You can be in the bus. You can be driving the bus. You can own the bus. You have the numbers to do that and we want to get that simple message out to young people. Just come out and vote. Register to vote now. Register green because that’s where debt liberation is. Register now. It’s not only debt liberation. It’s free public higher education. It’s health care as a human right and it’s the right to a job, a full-time job and a living wage job. So, we can bring the decency and security that they used to have over in Europe. We can ensure that we have it here by standing up now because we have the numbers. This is a wake-up moment. It’s a transformative moment. This is the Hail Mary moment. We’re going over the waterfall if we don’t act now. If we do act now, we have the numbers and we have the solutions to actually make this work, on jobs, on the climate, on global peace and security, on education and health care. This is not rocket science. This is about standing up, forgetting the lesser evil, and fighting for the greater good.”
There was an article in the Syracuse, New York newspaper about when you were handcuffed when you attended the Democratic debate. Would you go into detail more about what happened to you?
“Sure, and this is what they didn’t want you to know, and this is why we were taken to a dark site and held there until the press had all gone home. They’re terrified that people should get word that they actually have a choice. We were at the Presidential debate. It might have been the last one. I think it was the last one. It was at Hofstra University on Long Island and my running mate and I attended with the hope of getting in to just be in the audience and bear witness because we should have been IN the debate. We were on the ballot for 85 percent of voters.
Voters deserve to know that they had a range of choices. They weren’t locked down to these two business-as-usual political parties that had minor differences around the margins. But if you listen to that debate, they basically agreed with each other on almost all counts, on warmongering, on more coal plants and pipelines. Obama was bragging about how many pipelines he built and miles of pipeline to wrap around the Earth, once or more, I don’t know. So we thought voters had a right. So, we tried to get into the campus to listen to the debate and we were arrested for trying to get in. They need to control their audience. They need an audience that’s going to cheer madly. So, they can’t, won’t, let any old member of the public come out and witness these debates, and certainly not a presidential candidate that represented another option.
So we were arrested trying to get in. We were handcuffed. We were taken by the security forces and Secret Service, actually, Secret Service and police, to a dark site and actually our campaign was able to find out by talking to undisclosed sources. They were able to track down where we were and they called a lot of police stations and found out where it was and they were able to sort of hone in on us. They showed up and they were told that they would be arrested if they didn’t leave the premises. They were not even allowed to stay in the parking lot or be anywhere near because they weren’t supposed to know where we were and they didn’t want anybody else to know.
So, we were taken to this dark site. There were approximately 16 Secret Service and police. It was a huge, converted police facility. It looked like an old gym or something that had been converted. My running mate and I were the only people there initially and eventually they brought in a reporter, a journalist and independent media journalist, who was supposed to be covering Chelsea Manning’s trial the next day. They arrested this journalist for taking pictures of Secret Service taking pictures. So, this journalist was taking pictures back at the spy state that didn’t want pictures taken, so they arrested him. So it was the three of us, basically political prisoners that were being held in this dark site. We were handcuffed to these metal chairs tightly for seven hours and we were released without cell phones, without jackets. We were basically turned out into the street without any way to contact anyone late at night in November out in the freezing cold, just sort of walking the streets until we could find some kind person that allowed us to use their cell phones for us to get back in touch.
That’s how scared they are that word should get out that people actually have a choice that is of, by and for the people.”
What did you say earlier about the press, like their mission, about the affliction and the oppressed? It’s to comfort the afflicted, and–
“Afflict the comfortable. Right. That is supposed to be sort of the moral mission of a free press. If a free press simply comforts the comfortable and afflicts the afflicted, that’s oligarchy. That’s aristocracy.”
“Really. A free press is supposed to ensure that the questions are asked to the powerful all the time. They’re not supposed to empower the powerful, but that’s what they do. So, that’s how, it’s not just independent campaigns that are locked out. It’s young people that are locked out. It’s African-Americans who are trying to walk down the street without being assaulted, or to drive a car without being shot. These are the kind of questions that should be asked, that, you know, where the press has given up the ghost, and when people say to me, ‘Isn’t it hopeless? Why are you bothering running?,’ I say, well, change the pronoun there.
It’s not me. It’s not me that’s at stake. What about young people who are at stake? Is it hopeless for them? You know, is it hopeless for African-Americans who want to end police violence? Is it hopeless for people who can’t afford health care, even through Obamacare? Are you telling us it’s hopeless? If you’re saying that, you are telling us that we do not have a democracy, which is reason for us all to rise up right now and fight against what you appear to be defending. ‘If you think it’s hopeless, Mr. representative of the corporate press, isn’t it your responsibility to make it hopeful by opening up this discussion?’
In terms of universities and colleges, even with the UNC system, we can’t even have a free press here. We’re pretty much under the grasp and control of the administration, and then colleges all across the country have corporate deals that are funded. It just seems like a twisted web of bureaucracy and money. What do you think has to happen in order for the system to be dismantled?
“That’s exactly what they want you to think. They want you to think that you are marginal, that your values and your vision is at the fringe, and that it’s hopeless. That is their game plan. Because if you’re hopeless, then you’re powerless. But the reality is to reject the lesser evil, to reject their propaganda, to reject the powerlessness and the hopelessness that they’re trying so hard to convince you of, because they are quaking in their boots.
When I was tricked into running for office for the first time, back in 2002, running against Mitt Romney for governor, we were able to fight our way into a debate and inside that debate hall, which didn’t have an audience — it was just the candidates and the moderator — I spoke up for the everyday public interest agenda: jobs, healthcare and education as a human right, cutting the military, greening our energy system, even back then, educating the whole student for lifetime learning, not through a standardized high-stakes test. Those ideas went over like a lead balloon, inside this debate hall, which were just the candidates and moderator.
But when we walked out, I was mobbed by the press for the first time and the last time. They have since been otherwise instructed, and what they said to me was that, ‘You’ve won the debate on the instant online viewer poll’ and that completely changed my thinking about this whole process. I had the sense I was doing this out of kind of my moral responsibility, but felt like, oh, it was pretty hopeless, and then I realized, oh my god, it’s not hopeless at all. We have won in the court of public opinion, which is the hardest place to win. We have two public relations agents that you could not buy for billions of dollars. One is the climate, and the other one is the economy and they have been persuading people to win them over to the right side of history, and people have been won over.
So, the fact that the political establishment works so hard to silence us is evidence of their fear and how powerful we are. In my view, this is all about communicating to each other, mobilizing each other. 40 million strong, we are unstoppable. 40 million is the number of young people who are in debt. If we can just get the word out to young people in debt, come on out. Have a party. Go to your voting booth. Cancel your debt by voting green and let’s have an afterparty, a victory party. If 40 million people come out, debt is over, free public higher education is around the corner and all kinds of other things. But we can win a three-way-race with a little more than 40 million votes. It depends on turnout. Normally it’s around 120 million, possibly a little bit more. So 40 million is sort of what it takes. Throw in 25 million Latinos that have learned that–”
The Democrats are not the party for them?
“Really. The Democrats are the party of deportation. Republicans are the party of hate and fearmongering. That’s 25 million Latinos who vote, and once students lead the charge, and students are always the ones who lead the charge, in a time of transformation and social upheaval. It’s always the younger generation that finds our way forward, which is why it’s so important that we liberate our younger generation from debt peonage right now because it knocks you out of political activity. Without the younger generation to re-envision and re-imagine our society and our future, all hope is lost. So it’s not good for the students. It’s good for all of us and it can actually win this race, and can change our political dynamics right now.
Starting on November 8th, we actually can have that political revolution. It won’t happen inside the Democratic Party, but it will happen because young people wake up to their power. It’s powerlessness that makes them indifferent. Once word gets out that the power is in your hands, we will see that turn on its head overnight.”
What is your position on banks? Would you bring back the Glass-Steagall Act if you could?
“And more. So the Glass-Steagall Act is a very important protection so that the investment bankers are not gambling with public money. Right now, they can do that and they can do all kinds of other abuses that are, well, they’re doing that. They’re doing that big time. In fact, the banks are bigger and more consolidated than they were before the crash in 2007. So, there’s every reason for us to bring back Glass-Steagall but not only that. We should break up the big banks right now. We need public ownership of the banks. We need banks in the public interest, not banks for the private interest. The same goes for the Federal Reserve, which needs to be a public institution, which is transparent and run on behalf of taxpayers and America, not on behalf of private banks and their profits, and we need to create those public banks, not only at the national level, but at the community level.
We need public banks which will be transformative in terms of our public budgets to basically reduce borrowing, essentially to the size of the loan and not have to pay enormous interest rates for municipalities, for public interests and state budgets. To be able to draw on our own banking system, not on a predatory banking system, will save us so much money and put dollars back into our budgets that enable us to meet human needs. This is a win-win. The Post Office used to provide this and there’s a movement now to restore public banking through the Post Office, which is one that we could get up and running right now.”
The Post Office has been kind of on the decline for a while. It’s really sad.
“Because it’s under attack. This is no failing of the Post Office. This was a specific attack by Congress to again privatize a public resource.”
If you were to say what the number one problem in America was, which one would you choose and why?
“I think we have two crises that come together. One is the climate crisis, and the other one is the economic crisis, and they are inseparable. Contrary to the mythology out there, you can’t just choose one, because you’ve got to fix them both. You can’t fix the economy without also fixing the climate and the ecosystems that the economy depends on and likewise, you can’t fix the climate unless you take care of the people and the economy, so they need to be fixed together. That’s what our Green New Deal is about. The Green New Deal basically creates 20 million jobs, full-time jobs, living wage jobs that green our economy to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2030.
That means declaring an emergency, as we did after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It took us six months to transform the economy to a wartime footing. In 15 years, we can transform the economy to a totally green footing, 100 percent. Phase out nuclear and fossil fuel. Decommission them safely, now, while it can still be done and before the floodwaters seriously start rising and detonate the nuclear power plants, or by way of drought. There are just so many ways that they can become another Chernobyl.
So, these are catastrophes that are all sort of bound up in this one issue of the climate in our energy crisis, which can be fixed through the Green New Deal, creating the jobs that move us to 100 percent clean, renewable energy, also, to a healthy, sustainable food system and public transportation. Those are three areas of focus and we include in that meeting human needs as well, so we have social services, child care, home care, elderly care, etc. We train people up and we provide the funding for that, and it turns out to pay for itself, and I’ll explain in a minute. But in one fell swoop we revive the economy, we turn the tide on climate change, and, more importantly, we make wars for oil obsolete by moving to 100 percent clean renewable energy.
There is no longer a justification or a rationale for these horrific, immoral, catastrophic wars that are blowing back at us. So this is many solutions rolled into one, and the windfall from this is that our health gets so much better the minute we end the use of these toxic fossil fuels and all of their derivatives and pollutants. That savings alone from sickcare we don’t have to do is enough to actually pay the costs of the green energy conversion. It’s actually rather staggering. This has been worked out in detail, both by modelling studies but it’s also in real-world development that actually happened in Cuba when their oil pipeline went down when the Soviet Union collapsed.They got so much healthier. Their death rates from diabetes went down 50 percent. Their death rates from heart attacks and strokes went down 25 to 35 percent. Their obesity rates went down 50 percent.
All these amazing things happened when they had to transform overnight to a healthy diet, a healthy energy system, and a system of transportation that allowed them to integrate activity into getting where they were going. Again, we can do all of that. It cost them zero dollars to have a health revolution we cannot buy. Three trillion dollars a year is what we spend. It’s not a healthcare system. It’s a sickcare system that we’re spending $3 trillion a year on.
So the Green New Deal, it’s many solutions wrapped into one. If I’d have to say there’s one crisis, that is it. It’s this economic, ecological crisis, a systemic crisis of a predatory system. We can change that to a system that puts people over profit, that puts the planet over profit, and peace over profit.”
The Divestment Coalition on campus is very much against the university investing in fossil fuels. They went to speak to the Chancellor during her open office hours, and they confronted her not in an aggressive way, but in a very cordial way and they proposed divesting and how it would be good for the school because a lot of the schools, particularly in Asheville, promote green energy. But, it’s kind of like a pseudo-campaign and she said that she could praise their work, but not publicly support full divestment. They were kind of discouraged by that, obviously, and said, ‘Yeah, I don’t know about our campaign,’ but after awhile, they got motivated again. What do you think it’s going to take for students to realize they have to fight for the environment at all costs?
“I think the name of the game is linking these issues, and, for example, in the Green New Deal, we link jobs and the economy with the climate and we also bring in the need to liberate students in debt, so that we can get to that place. So, it’s very hard for people to think about the climate when they can hardly figure out where their next meal is coming from, and how they’re going to stay off the streets. This is why this system right now of debt peonage for young people is so dangerous politically.
So, it’s not so much to activate students, but rather to liberate students. We need to liberate students from debt and then they can take on all kinds of things, and they will take on all kinds of things. So, I will be supporting your efforts on campus. In fact, we’re really encouraging campus efforts for the campaign that allow us to bring this message there, this message of empowerment to young people that point out there’s a solution, and it’s not very many months away.
We can actually end student debt on Nov. 8th. Come out and end student debt and then we can deal with a whole bunch of other solutions for these problems they tell you just can’t be solved. ‘Please go home. Go to bed. Be depressed. Don’t get out. Because, it’s hopeless. Please believe me. I’m a politician. Trust me. It’s hopeless.’
That’s kind of the line that they are feeding young people. That needs to be rejected.”
It’s like fast food.
“Exactly. That’s our motto. Reject the lesser evil. Fight for the greater good and we need to liberate young people in order to do that.”
Thank you so much.
“Thank you. Bring some of those apathetic young people and challenge them. The solution to apathy and depression is power.”
At football games, even, you sit in the seats and realize the power of people in numbers. They were shoving fast food in their faces and painting their faces different colors for the team. It was an energy beyond so many other experiences. If people could actually be fighting in these numbers for their rights…
“Well, you know, what’s really interesting, I mean, football is a really good example, because that’s how the University of Missouri just showed their chancellor and their chairman of the board or the president, I think, showed them the door after all these horrible, racist developments on campus and the failure of the administration to take racism as a serious issue. The students stood up and then the football team stood up, which really gets to the pocket book, and it’s very interesting that you bring this up, because we’re seeing on the ground mobilization of the African-American community on climate change, recognizing that it’s African-Americans that paid the price with Katrina, who still haven’t come back. 100,000 have not been able to come.
You know, this environmental racism is what’s going on with the climate crisis. I think to start a dialogue with the football team, that’s another aspect of racism that we need their help on, that we need to engage them in the fight not only against racism and police violence, but racism in the climate crisis that is coming down on the heads of the community of color all over the world, harder than anywhere else. That would be a wonderful dialogue to begin.”
Did you see the video of the journalist who tried to get into the Mizzou group that was gathering? It was supposedly a safe space. It was really interesting because there was a discussion about this in class. It’s the issue of free speech, and then Mizzou’s cause to protest against the racism, but it was such an intersection of different things because the press represents so much negativity for people of color. What do you think of that incident?
“You know, I guess I don’t know the details of that incident. The one I was aware of was an independent journalist who wanted the cover the confrontation and it was the administration that threw him out. They got security to take the press out because they didn’t want the press reporting on what was going on. So, I think the bottom line is that we need an accountable press. We need a free press. We have a name for the corporate press. We call them the ‘O-press’ or the ‘Re-press,’ if you know what I mean, instead of the real press, which is the independent press. But I think the larger point here is that we need a unified coalition for people, planet and peace over profit and when we get together, whether it’s football teams, African-Americans, the climate justice movement, the living wage movement, you know, you bring us together, we are an unstoppable force and on campus, we can bring together that coalition and, I think, to engage the dialogue between Black Lives Matter or the Moral Monday Movement and the climate movement and the student debt movement. This is where we become that unstoppable force that can take our future back and build the world that we deserve that puts people, planet and peace over profit.
We can create that now. It’s not just in our hopes. It’s not just in our dreams. It’s in our hands.”
Thank you for sticking up for our generation. That means so much.
“Oh my god. Well, it’s for all of our sake. It’s for your sake. We gotta do that, and make it happen right now and we could turn this around by Nov. 8th. But we’ll get the word out, and whether you actually win the election, or you win the day, by establishing that there is now an independent base of resistance from which we can build, then we’re on our way.”
Drawing upon, especially our generation, their tentativeness toward the two-party system and just toward our country, in general, there are so many people who…
“Who want to engage? Yeah, and they are staying home in record numbers and I think for people to know that whether we get five percent or 25 or 55, in a three-way race, technically, 34 percent can win the vote. So, I mean, there are all kinds of ways that we can win. But, you can even win in a rigged system. You may not win the vote count around first time, you know, and there are all kinds of ways it’s rigged. But, you can establish a base from which you then really challenge power. Richard Nixon gave all kinds of concessions to the movement. He was a very repressive, oppressive warhawk President, but he, you know, he brought the troops home from Vietnam, he passed the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act and established the EPA and OSHA, and we got the women’s right to choose from the Supreme Court. How do we do that? Not by the lesser evil, but by standing up for who we are and what it is that we believe in. Democracy needs a moral compass. Silencing yourself and allowing a corporate, lesser evil to speak for you is a prescription for disaster because people will not come out and vote for the lesser evil.
So, it’s either evil, or it’s good, and I don’t mean that in sort of religious terms, but as a practical matter, we’re told to support the lesser evil all the time and it’s an absolute disaster. We need to stand up for the public good. We need to stand up for the greater good. It’s us or no one. Democracy needs that moral compass. If we silence ourselves, we’ve basically thrown in the towel and said, ‘Here, corporate America, who runs the corporate parties. You decide.’
In the words of Frederick Douglas, ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand.’ It never has and it never will. We need to stand up and be that demand. Then, we can build on that demand, and whether we get five percent or 55 percent, we have won the day. Once we stand up and we stand together, we will be an unstoppable force.”
‘Ben Carson’s stance on abortion, like many other male politicians’ stances on abortion, is problematic in the fact that they seek to dictate female public policy issues.’
Ben Carson hails from a household headed by a single mother whose education stopped short at the third grade. His mother Sonya Carson bore the task of raising three children while juggling three jobs. Despite her efforts, she could not fully alleviate the poverty they faced.
Having the choice and safe access to an abortion or any other family-planning methods would have made the difference between Sonya being the mother of a successful son or a woman with the option of forging her own success.
Ben Carson’s stance on abortion, like many other male politicians’ stances on abortion, is problematic in the fact that they seek to dictate female public policy issues. Carson’s recent comments on abortion incite unease as he likens women who seek abortions to slave masters,seeking to do whatever they wish with their slaves.
“I’m a reasonable person,” said Carson in a recent piece published in the Huffington Post. “And if people can come up with a reasonable explanation of why they would like to kill a baby, I’ll listen.”
Carson’s fallacious reasoning in his comparison of abortion seeking women to slave masters is evidence alone that he is not in fact a “reasonable person.” He evades addressing women all together by substituting the word “women” with “people.”
Under pretense, Carson offers his ears to those “people” who can come up with a reasonable explanation for getting an abortion. But that isn’t the terminology he uses. Instead, he refers to an abortion as “killing a baby” which is an opinion without factual basing; therefore, inherently misleading information.
Given his mother’s struggles and sacrifice, it is disheartening that Carson stands where he stands on women and abortion. Rather than making it a priority to foster a nation that will allow for women to forge paths for themselves similar to his, it seems he is content with relegating them to a position without reproductive power, so that they may dedicate their lives to their possibly male children so that those male children may achieve as he did.
Carson pulled himself up by the bootstraps from inner-city Detroit to become a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins. Apparently, he did not intend on stopping his climb at Dr. Ben Carson. He is reaching for Republican President Ben Carson, and for that to happen, he must be palatable for the party even if that means putting a sour taste in the mouths of a female voter base.
Visit Ben Carson’s campaign site for more on his stances.