Wine, Women, and Revolution
Musical Activism with Ben Grosscup
In this episode of Wine, Women, and Revolution Heather interviews musician and activist Ben Grosscup. Ben bills himself as a labor troubadour following in the long tradition of merging song and protest, he also serves as the executive director of the People’s Music Network. They delve into some deep subject matter in this interview ranging from how neo-liberalism is actively committing violence on the world, to how capitalism can not react rationally to our modern global crises, to the “American Idolization” of our collective singing culture.
Ben Grosscup 0:00
So Love me Love me Love me. I’m a liberal.
Heather Warburton 0:17
This is Wine Women and Revolution with your host, Heather Warburton. Hi and welcome to Wine Women and Revolution. I’m your host Heather Warburton coming at you here on Create Your Future Productions. You can find us online at YourFutureCreator.com . Follow us on all the social medias and get us wherever you get your podcasts from. This is a guest I booked a little while ago and I’ve been really excited for if you follow me on social media, as you probably see me a couple of times share a video by this guy. And it’s the “Love me I’m a Liberal”. I think I first saw one that was the remake, he updated it for the Obama administration. And since then I’ve seen videos of him here and they’re updating it again and again. So first off, I just want to welcome to the show Ben Ben Grosscup.
Ben Grosscup 1:05
Heather, thank you so much for having me.
Heather Warburton 1:07
Yeah, it’s exciting. I was so happy that you said yes. I’m always still surprised when people say yes. Like I write these, you know, awesome people like you to be on my show. And when they say yes, like Yeah. So it’s very cool that you decided to come on the show. So I wanted to start right in. You’re kind of a labor troubadour I think I saw you refer to yourself as once. You take a lot of these classic labor and socialist songs and either update them or perform them. How did you get into the hat?
Ben Grosscup 1:37
Oh, my goodness. Well, you know, a lot of my journey through political music has actually been connected to this thing called “The People’s Music Network”. But that was starting in like the late 90s. And I’m actually starting in 2013, I became the executive director of the People’s music network. So as a teen, I was very involved in anti war activism. And by a teen, I just turned 39 yesterday. And so in 1999, I was very involved in the movement in Minneapolis, where I grew up fighting against the sanctions on Iraq, we understood that to be a real genocide imposed by the United States government against an entire population. And, you know, in the ferment of anti war, pro peace activism, you know, I got involved with some music, I had been in a ska band, a very apolitical ska band as even younger than, than that, like, I mean, 17. And so, and then, and then 16, and 17. And so and then, you know, shortly after I turned 18, I got involved with this group Voices in the Wilderness. And I actually went to Iraq on this delegation, with this pacifist organization that was trying to resist the sanctions regime being imposed on the people of Iraq. And then I came home and I was on fire, I was wanting to organize with people, do activism, go to demonstrations, put on demonstrations, and also wanted to do music. So I remember I mean, as a pretty, pretty young person, you know, I actually produced a CD, that was a benefit CD. I mean, this is like 1999. So people still did this. And it was it was a variety CD of songs from songwriters about the sanctions on Iraq. And even though I wasn’t, I didn’t go to any in person gatherings. At that point, I did find through email members of the People’s Music Network. And through those networks actually found people around the country who were making songs about a topic that I felt very passionate about. So it wasn’t until 2005, you know, after college and everything that actually showed up in person to it to a PMF event. You know, I had I had like a modicum of musical skill as a teen. I was very politically involved. I started writing songs, even though I think, you know, the early songs, I look back on them as kind of mediocre, but you know, that’s okay. You know, and I’ve even put the mediocre songs on the CD with some of the really fantastic songwriters, and some of those people are people I still work with today.
Heather Warburton 4:39
That’s very cool. So you’ve really kind of started young in this, it wasn’t just a later in life thing that you got into you’ve been involved in activism and organizing and music for kind of your whole life.
Ben Grosscup 4:54
Yeah, yeah. I would say you know, it’s been it’s been a journey for sure. You know, moving from Minneapolis as a teen, you know, I was, I had a kind of an unusual path, I ended up at this school up in Vermont that was kind of a radical institution dedicated to education that was called the Institute for Social Ecology, it actually still exists. There’s a lot of interesting kind of historical things about the Institute for Social Ecology, and the green movement, various political splits, and disagreements and agreements and so forth. And that’s what brought me out to the east coast. And then I’ve been living in Massachusetts, you know, since since 2003, when I came down to Western Mass for college. And throughout that, that process, you know, for me, it’s been an exploration of political philosophy, political movements, and political songwriting, I would say, like, in the last 10 to 15 years of my life, you know, I haven’t sort of kept up an active scholarly life in the way that I did, or, you know, like, in my early, mid 20s, but as an organizer, as a leader in my organization. And as an artist, you know, I’ve I’ve taken some of those insights, you know, about what is the crisis about liberalism as a political philosophy, and tried to make some fun with it, you know, and tried to give that to people in a way that I think, leavens the conversation a little bit.
Heather Warburton 6:33
Right, your remake of “Love Me, I’m a Liberal” is a it’s funny, you want to make people laugh, and you try to tailor it a little bit to your audience. But you cover a lot of really serious topics, like I was going through your catalog, you cover things from climate change to Palestine, not just labor, and socialism, are these all things that you’re really passionate about?
Ben Grosscup 6:54
Absolutely, and, you know, I think that to sort of contextualize it a little bit for me, you know, I really see myself as kind of coming out of a tradition of a musician who dedicates their craft to the social movements that they are a part of, you know, I look at artists who I have really looked up to, and still look up to, like, David Rovics, you know, who is very active currently, and has been for a very long time. He’s writing songs, I mean, and he’s very prolific too, you know, and so in a lot of his songs are ones that I cover, frankly, because they’re effective songs, you know, if you if your goal is to bring your craft to the movement. So why does the movement need you is, I mean, one question, like, you have to interrogate that maybe they don’t need you. But, if they do, they might not need you specifically. But so you got to take the ego out of it a little bit. But the movement does need song, which doesn’t mean they need you, but it means they need song. So if you can, as an artist, sort of like make an alliance there, where it’s like, you need song, why do you need song? Well, people are able to digest this indigestible reality we live through differently. A comrade from Minneapolis, who, once kind of likened my music, I really liked this, to a digestive aid, if all the crap food that we’re getting from, you know, living in this derelict and decadent society, that is so inhumane, so irrational, in it some practices ecologically. So authoritarian, so racist, and sexist, we need a digestive aid to deal with the kind of shit that is before us. And so music can can perform that function a little bit like a probiotic.
Heather Warburton 8:56
Nice. I mean iart and music and what you’re doing and what I do with my art touches a different part of your brain to than just trying to have a rational discourse with someone. So you can stay in a whole different part of somebody’s psyche, with art and with music to help get those messages much better than maybe sitting down and quoting Marx at them might do, for example.
Ben Grosscup 9:19
Yeah, that’s absolutely true. And I think that ability to sort of touch another part of the brain is certainly one of the reasons why I like to use music, because I like to sort of bypass some of the other things. I mean, we should just also be clear that like, that’s why lots of right wing forces also want to use music, right? So that’s the it cuts both ways. You know, it’s not an all good thing that people do that. I mean, you know, singing the national anthem to just, I mean, for regular old standard nationalist patriotism and so forth. I mean, that that has an effect on people’s political consciousness. You know, Pete Seeger was always talking about the importance of singing together and peace. Seeger looms large in my organization, the people’s music network, because, you know, he was a co founding member of the organization, he was by far our most prominent member for a long, long time. And again, you know, his, Pete’s very last time showing up to a PMN gathering was the very first time that I showed up to one. So, um, you know, just to 2005 was the year ,but so we can, we were kind of like ships passing in the night Pete and me but, I know the history a little bit. And he really believed in this power of singing as as a transformative sort of, sort of thing. And, you know, I don’t know if I’m interpreting it right or not, but sometimes when I do try to like, try to understand what I think Pete was saying, I kind of think he might have had a slightly overly optimistic point of view, actually, on this question. I’m trying to make this sort of precise distinction here. I embrace the group singing the way that makes people feel the way it changes people’s brain chemistry, and part of my craft, as an artist is to do that. I don’t think that it is enough by itself. I think that, that you need philosophy. You need hard political conversations, you need self interrogation and a lot of other things. And I think that sometimes music, even in the Pete Seeger tradition, the critical thing I had to say about sometimes how I see it playing out, is that if it’s not sort of, encased in like a more like, like a political philosophy that is a little more demanding, you know, intellectually that it can, it can sort of go the way of overly simplistic political ideas encased in song. And then we’re sort of talking about simpler political concepts when there’s actually something a little, a little gnarlier that we have to get into.
Heather Warburton 12:05
Okay, you’ve triggered all these people’s brains. Now, what’s the next step? What are you going to do with them now that they’re receptive, now’s when the organizing has to come in and now is when you actually make something happen, other than just stimulating some chemicals in someone’s brain? Like the real work, you’ve opened the door, then the real work has to start?
Ben Grosscup 12:24
Yes, it saddens me that more people can’t experience this. I mean, it let’s talk about the pandemic for a second. I mean, especially now, you know, but because especially its physically sort of dangerous right now to have to do this experience. But even before the pandemic, you know, I would go to rallies, and I would be trying, you know, through the best, I know how, not that I’m the expert, not that I can do it, as well as Pete did it or anything like that, to the best I know how trying to create a situation where a crowd could sing along together. And I just had this insight that the not maybe one of the limitations was like my own skill as an artist. But then there was another issue there too, which was people’s readiness to want to sing together in the first place. So I’m, mourning, and I’ve written a song about the American Idolization of song, which kind of is mourning the loss of this kind of cultural idiom with people can sing together. But on the other hand, you know, once we get to that point where we can sing together, you know, what is it? Is that giving us a sense of unity, and then unity behind what? Is it unity behind the Democratic Party, is that unity behind sort of, like some kind of Manichaean political concept where there’s sort of like the good people in the blue states and the bad people and the red states or something. And like, that’s the way we’re going to create social change. To me, that’s, that’s where I see a lot of politics going in kind of the liberal world. And I think that some of this sort of singing tradition is sort of, sort of very much politically tied in with a sort of political liberalism. That is a dead end for for us as a people. And so I think the artist has to make some pretty discerning choices, frankly, about what is my role politically, when I’m using this powerful tool of song to unite people? What am I uniting people for?
Heather Warburton 14:25
Oh, absolutely. I think they’ve got to make these choices. But obviously, since we’re both on the show, you know, we’re not veering into the liberal lane so much that we’re more actively engaging and being challenging capitalism and those sorts of topics are what we’re trying to engage with. And I mean, you’re obviously I think people that listen to your songs, get sort of the lane that you’re in, you’re not just commenting, you’re just pointing towards the solution is not liberalisms.
Ben Grosscup 14:55
Heather Warburton 14:58
But I mean, you know, if you think about music like and how the synergy of music and activism, like the WW song book, like that’s a classic right? And IWW was deeply or still is deeply involved in organizing.
Ben Grosscup 15:13
Yeah, and you mentioned that I sometimes go around calling myself a labor troubadour, which is true because I mean, you know, I am consciously trying to, to draw from those wobbly traditions as a lot of people. You know, I mean, I think that there’s a wonderful event that happens in Washington DC called the Great Liberal Arts Exchange. It’s sponsored by a friend of the People’s Music Network, a friend organization. We’re actually friends personally as well, but our organizations are friends, to, they because PMN and Labour Heritage Foundation have both existed for about 40 years. So that’s, that’s a community where I think some of these wobbly singing traditions really come alive for me, you know, in my experience, and, that idea of taking a familiar song. This has been repeated many times you Utah Phillips has talked about it. David Rovics has talked about it. You know, Charlie King has talked about all these these incredible singers. Anne Feeny you take a familiar musical idiom, maybe maybe it’s, it’s what the Christians are singing, you know, in wobbly time, right, you know, early 20th century,what the Salvation Army Band is singing a song to try to like, get the workers to sort of be sort of, you know, accept their lot in life, you know, be okay with with sort of what the capitalist is giving them and such. And then and then you take that melody, that’s very familiar thing, and you turn it right around on them. And you give it a political bite that now gives a spark to your movement to increase its confidence in its willingness to resist what the the capitalists are doing to them. And not in my particular case, you know, I have been most I’ve probably developed the most connections over the years with with nurses unions, because I just have some material that is about nurses and like the specific situations, I mean, it could have been teachers. It could have been janitors. It just happened to be nurses. It’s I don’t I mean, I’m not a nurse. I’ve just learned some things about it. And so yeah, and then and then a comrade of mine from Corvallis, Oregon. Paul McKenna and I did a song earlier in the spring, about the pandemic and about nurses on the the frontline of the pandemic called “We Just Come to Work Here, We Don’t Come to Die”. And that was borrowed from not not not precisely a parody. It’s kind of kind of a repurposing of a song because the original song was by Harry Stamper, the longshoreman. And he was talking about workplace safety. And here we have a situation where nurses are really on the frontline of an incredibly unsafe work environment, made unsafe by the neglect of their bosses, by the neglect of the federal government. And I’ve played that at a few rallies now for nurses, you know, socially distanced with masks and all that kind of stuff during the pandemic, and, and it’s gone over pretty well. And a few online events as well.
Heather Warburton 18:15
Yeah, I think that also would apply to teachers. So you know, saying it could have been any union working with that same song probably would apply to teachers right now as well, who I do a lot of my organizing with his teachers. And they’re saying the same things like you’re sending us off to die to promote capitalism, because people don’t have babysitters for their kids like, so they can stay home and learn online safely. You’re sending teachers in as a sacrifice. So it’s the same thing that’s a lot of these public sector unions are facing.
Ben Grosscup 18:42
Very true. Yeah. And I’ve noticed a lot of the similar political circumstances of teachers and nurses. And then, you know, so I think, if my job was sort of, like, broad analysis of the labor movement, which it kind of isn’t, you know, like, I would, I would focus more on that, but I think it’s sort of like, how do you get the the connections made with the organizations? I mean, if you want to have music, at an event, I mean, there’s this very, super practical kind of question I think about all the time is like, where do people get together? There’s a lot of unions where the members don’t get together with each other. And so how you gonna have music then, you know, like, you’d have the union Spotify playlist.
Heather Warburton 19:29
Hey, that maybe isnt a terrible idea.
Ben Grosscup 19:35
You know, and, okay, I have my playlists to, right, just like anybody but okay, but let’s just be real, if that’s the way we’re interacting with music, that’s a very individualistic way to interact with it. So it might lift our spirits, but it’s gonna, make the playlist lifts my specific spirits, according to what my specific thing is. And this is the is a way that that sort of, so we’re not necessarily accomplishing all the goals that we want to accomplish sometimes with music, if that’s the way we’re interacting with it. And I’m just acknowledging all this stuff has gotten more difficult under the pandemic, because it was difficult enough with the destruction of sort of collective singing cultures before the pandemic to try to make the this connection happen. And I think it’s just the, there’s, there’s some things exacerbated by it. So I mean, what we’re trying to do with people’s music network is try to actually create a regular vibrant online space where members of the network can actually get together and share their songs. And then we have kind of a circle of appreciation where the person like, here’s the the artists before them, you know, and most of the songs are pretty political. So whether you agree or not, with what you know, was said, and it’s all kind of within a progressive left wing sort of context, but like, you sort of listen and sort of say, you’re encouraged them to sort of comment on the artists who just came before you. And then create this circle of appreciation, where people are actually listening to each other in a deeper way, because so much of our music performance spaces in terms of like participatory things are like very, like going to the open mic and playing. I mean, this is pre pandemic, sort of like playing to the crowded bar where the conversation is too loud, it’s not that satisfying. You kind of got your chance to sort of sing, but then, you know, who was really listening to so I mean, I think that the performance venues that are more interesting to me, and, and the sort of participatory performance venues like open mics, and song swaps, and so forth, that are more interesting to me is where there’s actually an intentional desire to create a listening environment. And you do that, I think, partly through politics, because if people have a shared political purpose, they have a reason to want to listen to each other. Whereas if, if you’re just, you know, talking about your love life, and I’m just talking about my love life, and we just I need, or my anxiety and your anxiety, I mean, what, what’s the basis of unity there, we need to build a basis of unity, and then write songs around that basis of unity. And that is going to be a lot more powerful in terms of connecting people
Heather Warburton 22:24
Can people check out these song swaps, even if they’re not members of the network.
Ben Grosscup 22:28
Yes, definitely. I mean, it’s all live streamed for free on People’s Music dot ORG, through our Facebook page and YouTube page. But then, and we often invite non members to participate, you know, just to check it out. Because, you know, you might not want to join, you might want to join, but it’s easy to join. But it’s, you know, we’ve got, you know, the advantage we had coming into the pandemic was that there was 40 years of history behind us trying to organize people in these politically intentional artistic spaces. And then, once enough of us kind of made the transition to learn some of the technology, maybe a few of us needed to upgrade our equipment and whatever. Because the quality of the microphone makes a difference in terms of like, the listenability as just even though you’re kind of like in your desegregated, you know, isolated space of listening, you know, in your home and whatever. But having that makes difference, for sure. And we just do the best we can with whatever equipment people have, and then kind of create an interesting social experience that I’ve never had before. What we’re doing now,
Heather Warburton 23:49
That sounds really cool. And I definitely want to check them out. When do you do them? You said you do them every week?
Ben Grosscup 23:54
Yeah. And we try to do at different times a day and different days of the week. The other thing you can do is you look at our archives, you know, look at all the different people who come in all the different names that show up on that archive page is quite a diversity. And sometimes we do special events, you know, so we got the open song swaps, but we also have special events, where people will be focused on indigenous peoples day music of indigenous peoples day, or artists against racism, using hip hop music against racism, various fundraisers, and just things like that, you know?
Heather Warburton 24:29
So check out the website, basically.
Ben Grosscup 24:31
People’s Music dot org. There’s a lot going on there. Yeah.
Heather Warburton 24:34
Very cool. So aside from yourself, obviously, who else are you listening to these days? What other artists and musicians are you checking out?
Ben Grosscup 24:42
Well, I mentioned David Rovics. I mean, you know, the thing about David that I think just stands out to me is he is an artist who reads, I mean, I think he really reads history, you know, and he writes songs about history. You can literally sign up for this guy’s podcast and he says here’s the song for today. And you can, it’ll be literally like, Okay, On this day, you know, December 14, you know, 200 years ago, this uprising happened in this place.
And he’s got a song about it, you know, it’s amazing.
I just never seen an artist like that, who, who uses song in a way that really brings you right down to earth, right down to the hardest struggle, and then just just gives it to you in this totally novel way. I just never seen somebody do something like that before, where he’s got like, this day in history, and he’s got literally a great song about this thing that happened.
Heather Warburton 25:47
Yeah, that’s very cool using it as an educational platform as well, too. Which, I mean, that reminds you kind of like, when I was a little kid, like, They Might Be Giants, you know, you’re singing the Istanbul song or any of their music and using it, you know, music as a way of educating people. So it’s very cool to see like the adult version of Yeah,
Ben Grosscup 26:08
Yeah. Also, LowKey is a hip hop artist from the UK, who I think is just incredibly moving. I mean, just great production. This guy. I think he’s Arab. But he might be Palestinian, I can’t remember. But he’s British, right. And he’s got these just absolutely heart wrenching songs about imperialism, that people should just listen to. I mean, he captures something about the the violence of the system, in his songs in a very moving way. And he, you know, as an individual, he’s been very successful with his music. So I mean, I think it’s a common trope in hip hop that people are like, accounting for their own success, if they reach this, like he has. So you know, but then, he’s just seems like, like a person who just has the sensitivity and depth of emotion to his music, and it’s just just musically beautiful. But the content is, is really getting people to face just the incredible violence of the imperialist system. And, and we just can’t lose sight of that. And having artists like Lowkey in the UK, it just really helps people to, I think, remember?
Heather Warburton 27:30
That’s great. I have to definitely check him out. I haven’t even heard of him. So I’ll definitely be checking him out after this as well. I’ve got maybe two more questions before you’ve agreed to do a song for us. I have maybe two more quick questions that we want to get to get through before we move into that song, which I’m really looking forward to. One of which was anyone throughout history, a musician that you could collaborate on a project with? Who would that like that to be?
Ben Grosscup 27:58
Can I tell you instead about a collaboration that I did do that was really exciting to me. Okay. Okay, I know it was a little bit of a fudge, but there’s an artist in in the Bronx named Dilson Hernandez and he’s he’s a multi genre artist who sings great songs does amazing spoken word poetry and he’s a recording artist. And I’ve got a song called no more sacrifice zones, which is a inspired actually by Chris Hedges book from 2012 “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt”. And in the song is telling about the ways in which this capitalist system just grinds the land and and lives of people in different communities into to a sacrifice some into dust, and what’s left behind all this, this extraction from places that are geographically centered, you know. So this term sacrifice zone has come up in a number of places around ecological issues, as well as sort of police violence issues, how the black community in many configurations, particularly poor black communities, are systematically sacrificed by the economic system we live in. So it’s got like four verses about different places and so forth, where this kind of pattern plays out. And so Dilson had this just we did a show together a few years ago, and to make the show happen, he came up with a spoken word piece that actually weaved the spoken word verses in with a song verses. And it’s just as a solo artist who doesn’t often get to do that level of artistic thing and political kind of conversation because what we ended up with is like this co written piece where he did the spoken word. And he just did such a brilliant job, I think of like, emphasizing in the spoken word verses what was being pointed to in the verses that I wrote to sing. So I am. I’m just very excited about that collaboration that we did.
Heather Warburton 30:20
Is that on your YouTube page?
Ben Grosscup 30:21
Yeah, it is. So people can check that out. No More Sacrifice Zones with Dilson Hernandez and Ben Grosscup.
Heather Warburton 30:27
Alright, and here’s my final question that if you follow me, you know, I asked a lot of people is, Do you consider yourself an optimist?
Ben Grosscup 30:35
No, I don’t consider myself that. I think that, on this on this level, I feel more in line with Chris Hedges. I mean, I think that he understands that societies can collapse. I mean, I’m not against hope, necessarily. But I don’t necessarily indulge in what I think is kind of a cultural obsession, about hope. I think it becomes kind of a a palliative to living in a society that is really, in deep crisis, we have to then have like a political understanding of how we got to the situation that we’re in, what why are things so perilous? Why is it that we’ve known about the climate catastrophe for so long, but have had no way to act adequately to address it? And, you know, it’s it’s not because there weren’t enough people recycling? And it’s not because there weren’t enough people putting solar panels on their roofs. It’s because we have an irrational economic system that can’t respond to reality. So in other words, we are living in a perpetual state of illusion, in the illusion, that technology will save us the illusion that billionaires will save us. There’s a lot of illusions like that, you know. On the right, you got the illusions that like, the enemy is, you know, thescapegoated, generally brown population, right. So there’s a lot of illusions out there. And so I think one has to sort of root whatever their politics are in reality, and react when reality is really rough. You sort of have to not tell yourself lies about how things are going to get better through means that are not real. Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t sort of hold out some hope for Well, if we did do the following things, if we really did fight with all our might for Medicare for all, if we really did create a socialist system that meaningfully address the the kinds of life and death issues that that face us which capitalism cannot do. It can’t act rationally. It has to constantly grow, so it can’t act rationally, then, we have a chance. So you have to cut through all the bullshit about why we can’t do this, why we can’t do that, you know, we can’t take a real stand on Medicare for All because then, you know, it might threaten Nancy Pelosi, I just been reading about this controversy recently. I think we should definitely be pressuring AOC and all the other progressives to withhold any kind of vote for Nancy Pelosi as the speaker until she allows a floor vote on Medicare for All I mean, that’s a minimum, that’s a minimum demand, but like a good demand, I think we should be supporting that. That kind of courage, you know, could give cause for hope. But this bullshit stuff about oh, you know, we’re gonna get more co sponsors and just wait a little longer. Come on, people are dying right now on this pandemic. I mean, I just think that sort of wait and see attitude is is so so transparently bankrupt. And so I don’t know if that leaves me as a strict pessimists. I think that that can get a little problematic, but am I an optimist? No, but I think that I try to only limit the things that I have hope in to things that are based in reality.
Heather Warburton 34:47
Okay, yeah. I can totally see where you’re coming from. And, you know, as far as expecting any politician to save us, that’s not going to happen. They’re not having a floor vote because they don’t have the votes. Probably and they want to protect their members. That’s something we see, at least in New Jersey politics. Like, as long as I’ve been involved in New Jersey politics, they just don’t call a floor vote because they know that’s not going to pass and they want everyone to still be able to have that illusion of Yeah, we’re working on it, when really yeah, they don’t support it.
Ben Grosscup 35:16
Yeah, and right. Because to do that kind of thing to, to fight for a vote that you are going to lose. It means sacrificing, right? It’s like short term sacrifice, you’re going to have a short term sacrifice in order to serve a longer term goal. And that’s one of the things that this culture of neoliberalism and compromise and unprincipled political behavior, unwilling to do. Absent, so you have a whole class of political operatives who just don’t have really principles, you know, and so they can’t really be trusted. And that’s what we have running the Democratic Party. And that’s what we have running a lot of the sort of standard organizations out there that say, even the ones that are say they they’re organizing for justice is like, you really have to have, I think, a very thorough going and critical attitude toward, you know, is this person really willing to, to sacrifice it’s like, if I’m going to, in perilous times you’re faced with difficult choices? Like that’s the thing about being in perilous times, which we’re in, you know, I mean, I don’t know. It’s like, I look at my own life. Things have been kind of easy for me. You know, I’ve had a What do they call it? What’s the opposite? Tailwind? I’ve had a lot of tailwind. headwind is when things are more difficult for you, tailwind is when things get a little easier for you. So, you know, I don’t mean to say this just for other people to think about, it’s like, well, what am I willing to sacrifice? That’s also the way that you kind of have to approach a question like that. But I, you know, I’m not gonna sit here and try to pump myself up, say I made all these amazing sacrifices, but I’m just saying, sacrifice is part of what gives you integrity.
Heather Warburton 37:13
And integrity is so very important. But we’re gonna run over time, a little bit here. So I want to give you a chance for a quick last word, and then let’s hear your song.
Ben Grosscup 37:22
This has been a lot of fun, Heather, I really appreciate you doing this interview and inviting me on I’ve enjoyed talking with you. And I feel like we’ve gotten into some really interesting stuff. I’d love to show you this song.
Heather Warburton 37:33
Ben Grosscup 37:35
So Phil Ochs actually wrote this song “Love me, I’m a Liberal” in 1965. And he sang it at this demonstration organised by the Students for a Democratic Society against the Vietnam War. And in this demonstration, you know, like any demonstration, you know, you had your music and you had your speakers. And so one of the speakers was IF Stone and one of the singers, as I mentioned was Phil Ochs. So Phil Ochs started, he’s sang the song a biting sardonic takedown of the liberal elite of the 1960s. And then he was followed by IF Stone. And now the the accounts that I have read about this is that there was a conflict with a little bit of a fractious because IF Stone was not impressed, frankly, with the political position that was expressed by by the song “Love me, I’m a Liberal”. And I think that IF Stone he was he was a hero of the anti war movement because he was actually highlighting the crimes of the US government in Southeast Asia. And people were relying on that reporting to understand their own opposition to the Vietnam War. But then IF Stone took exception to the dismissive sort of attitude that I think Phil Ochs was taking toward liberalism. And, you know, I although I’ve heard this challenged, you know, my understanding was that IF Stone at some level considered himself a liberal, although I actually have met people who knew IF Stone who said he didn’t really think of himself as a liberal. But I mean, you know, that there is the way I explain that a little bit is there is this category of kind of the honest liberal, who sort of still believes that, like, in the end constitutional values will sort of save us and everything. But when it comes down to like the crimes of the US government, we’re going to tell the truth about them as IF Stone did and we’re going to face the reality as I was saying earlier, you know, face the reality is very important. But anyway, that so the frac has happened, I think IF Stone said something to the effect of, Oh, you know, I’ve seen these Marxist Leninist punks come and go, you know, but here in Washington, DC it’s difficult being a liberal because, again, he sort of was trying to use the instruments of liberalism as as a tool to, to to organize against the war so, so the song has been controversial for a long time is the ultimate point of this story. And this is my effort to keep it current.
I am mourned the Tiananmen martyrs whose free speech was so brutally quelled. And I cheered when Mandela walked freely, after so many years in a cell, but Mr. Assange can rot in prison. Those secrets were not his tell. Love me, love me love me. I’m a liberal.
I attend sensitivity training. And I leave feeling so reassured. I love Oprah, and Magic and Foreman. It’s great to see blacks become entrepreneurs. We’ve got diversity up to the White House. Revolution would just be absurd. So Love me Love me Love me. I am a liberal.
I cheered when Obama was chosen. My faith in the system restored. And I’ll never forgive Ralph Nader for the race he stole from Al Gore. And I love hard working Latino, as long as they don’t move next door. So Love me Love me Love me. I’m a liberal.
Something’s wrong with working class voters who disgraced America’s name. Someone’s controlling the way that their minds work. And Vladimir Putin’s the man who’s to blame. But if you think you can win single payer, you must be completely insane. So Love me Love me Love me. I’m a liberal.
I listen to all things considered. I consider anyone’s views. I watchColbert and Rachel Maddow. Hi, you use irony in everything I do. But when Trump set his sights on Maduro, there was no one more red, white and blue. So Love me Love me Love me. I’m a liberal.
I vote for the Democratic Party. They’re strengthening NATO command. I saw Bono at the Live Aid concert. I buy anything endorsed by his brand. We’re gonna make Poverty History. I’m on Facebook, taking a stand. So Love me Love me Love me. I am a liberal.
Sure, once I was young and impulsive, I wore every conceivable pin. I fought for a socialist future, which I actually thought we could win. But I’ve grown older and wiser. And that’s why I’m turning you in. So Love me Love me Love me. I;m a liberal.
Heather Warburton 44:40
Thank you so much for that. That was really a pleasure to hear. And to my audience. Thank you so much for joining us here today. We would not be here if it were not for you. We try to be the voice of underserved ideas, underserved people and underrepresented communities. And let’s be honest, corporate sponsors are not lining up to give me money. For some reason for doing that, so I do have to keep asking you if at all possible, go onto my website, click on the donate tab, you can donate, you can support me on Patreon or donate through PayPal. And I appreciate everything you do to help us out. The future is yours to create, go out there and create it.
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