Danny Duncan Collum, a Sojourners contributing writer, teaches writing at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, Kentucky. He is the author of the novel White Boy.
Posts By This Author
The Iron Curtain of Secrecy
Winston Churchill's metaphorical Iron Curtain between East and West may be lifting in these days of glasnost, detente, and other foreign phrases.
The ad line for the new Oliver Stone-Eric Bogosian film, Talk Radio, gets my first nomination for The 1989 William Jennings Bryan "Cross of Gold" Award.
Rap in America
Eyes & Ears
Growing Terror and Limited Rights in Northern Ireland
With the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland, terrorism, as human tragedy, media sensation, and political catch-all, is back with a vengeance.
Twenty-Five Years Later
As this is written on November 22, 1988, the pop-cultural atmosphere is a-swamp with remembrance of things Kennedy.
The Shock of Recognition
In the waning weeks of 1988, a wave of shocks hit the Middle East. The source of the shock wave was not an earthquake or, for once, an aerial bombardment. The earth, in fact, stood still.
The State of the Union: Perspectives on the Post-Election Political Terrain
An Opening for Populism
A Red-Letter Year
The 1987-88 pop culture season was definitely a red-letter year. And the letter was Hawthorne's scarlet "A." That's for adultery, in case your high school lit is rusty.
Ronald Reagan, it is said, has run America's first cinematic presidency, often taking his ideological cues and policy prescriptions from his familiar world of the silver screen.
Hussein's Middle East Gambit
The revealing nature of America's closest friends in the Arab world
Perhaps the last thing anyone would have expected to happen during the Reagan era was a renewal of interest in the idea of legalizing drugs.
Poland: A Test for Glasnost
Solidarity is back. That was the message from Poland this spring. For seven years after the December 1981 imposition of martial law, Poland's independent labor movement survived as a clandestine organization. And despite its low public profile, it survived as the symbol of Polish society's material, democratic, and nationalistic aspirations. It has continued to represent what Poles call "the civil society" in its confrontation with an oppressive and unpopular state.
In 1987 Solidarity began to emerge from the underground and work openly to challenge the state-controlled unions at the shop-floor level. Last November Solidarity called upon Poles to boycott a referendum on economic reform. The boycott resulted in the first electoral defeat ever acknowledged by a Communist state and confirmed Solidarity's prestige in Polish society.
This spring Solidarity was again at the forefront of world attention with a wave of strikes around the country demanding wage increases and relegalization of the independent labor movement. As it was when Solidarity was born eight years ago this month, the Lenin Shipyard at Gdansk was at the forefront of the struggle this spring, and once again Solidarity leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa was in the occupied shipyard hatching strategy and raising spirits.
The news reports had an aura of deja vu. But a lot has changed in eight years. This time the band of workers occupying the Lenin Shipyard was much smaller and mostly very young. In 1980 the Polish authorities were afraid to use force against the strikers. This spring riot police and a so-called anti-terrorism unit recaptured a Krakow steel plant with clubs and percussion grenades.
The Days of the Drug Legalization Debate
On the subject of drugs, as on so many others, American culture tends toward Utopian extremes of hedonism and puritanism. Twenty years ago the voluntary alteration of consciousness was celebrated by some otherwise intelligent and noteworthy Americans as a new inner frontier—the spiritual equivalent of outer space lying in wait for human exploration.
In those days, the legalization of various psychotropic chemicals was proposed as a psychic Homestead Act, opening new territory for the great American experiment in liberty and the pursuit of happiness. More traditional liberals of an ACLU bent may not have bought the drug culture's religious fervor, but many of them supported legalization as a freedom of conscience issue.
As the song says, "Those days are gone forever." And good riddance. The people who are usually wrong about the '60s are mostly right about the negative effect of the drug culture. A contemporary rock and roller and student of Americana such as Bono of the Irish rock band U2, who is usually right about the '60s, isn't far from the mark when he blames the collapse of that decade's idealistic promise on drugs in general and LSD in particular.
But now the famous pendulum has swung. These are the days of "Just Say No," when prominent persons, including the president of the United States, go about claiming to believe that the ancient human interest in blurring, sharpening, or colorizing consciousness actually can (and should) be eliminated from the culture of this particular city on a hill.
The Case of Edwin Meese et al.
As this is written, U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese is still hunkered down in his bunker on Constitution Avenue, desperately defending his position as the nation's top law enforcement official against mounting charges of corruption.
Good Times and the Common Good
After the great revival of conscience-laden rock events in 1985, it might seem today that the search for good times and the common good must again be carried out at the margins.
Remembering the '60s
Way back in the early '80s, singer-poet-activist Gil Scott Heron rang in the Reagan era with a titanically sad song called "Winter in America." As usual, Scott Heron was on the money.
Jesse and Pat: Making America's Choices Clearer
When the Sojourners editorial staff sat down last fall to map out our coverage of the 1988 presidential campaign, it was clear that the old theme of "religion and politics" would again be part of the story.
In Search of the New South
Jesse Jackson Breaks Common Ground
Race and Sports
The recent triumph of Washington Redskins quarterback Doug Williams, the first black quarterback to win the Super Bowl, points out once again the central role of sports as the forging ground of America's racial myths and symbols.
The Harsh Soil of Occupation
The Palestinian uprising in the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank has raged for two months, with no signs of abating in the near future.