Now playing on the Otherppl with Brad Listi podcast, a conversation with Jared Yates Sexton, author of The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore, available from Counterpoint Press.

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I’ve been pretty worked up about the government shutdown, and more so now since it appears that we’re headed for default. Yesterday I let loose some thunder from the pulpit of my church about Republican lawmakers who had gummed up the works for everyone, yet still managed to pass some legislation, a bill that slashed funding for food stamps, knocking 3.8 million poor people off the rolls, mostly children and their mothers. (Republicans were captured on camera high-fiving one another after they managed to pass their bill.) I know some of these moms and children. I’m pretty sure they’re not going to get a magical visit to Wegmans from John Boehner or Ted Cruz when it comes time to go grocery shopping. I tried to moderate my remarks in church, stopping short of the Old Testament fury of the prophet Isaiah when he railed against “the powers that be” in his day:

So I’m at the gym and one of the TVs is tuned to Fox News, which I choose to watch because the other options are all reality TV shows about the hardships of blandly pretty rich white women, and at least the blandly pretty rich white people on Fox have the theoretical potential to talk about something important, and anyway I don’t need to justify this part of the decision. It was on. I was watching it.

There are exactly two ways you can react to things. You can either react sincerely or politically. For example, if I’m listening to a Chicago Cubs game in 2012, and a Cub hits a grand slam to win it in the ninth, I’ll probably shout “yes” and pump my fist. That’s reacting sincerely. If someone were to ask me what I think of the Chicago Cubs’ 2012 season, one in which they’ll finish well out of the playoff race, I’ll probably say something about how the rebuilding program they’re undergoing will lead to them fielding a competitive team for years to come. That’s reacting politically. Neither of the these reactions is untrue, they’re just two different ways of being true. Reacting politically always involves contrivance. Reacting sincerely, never. We tend to trust those who react sincerely and mistrust those who react politically.

This summer I sojourned to the Mt. Hood Wilderness Area in Northern Oregon. Over a span of four days I hiked nearly 40 miles and in the process endured soaking rains, too-little food and water, poisonous plants, venomous spiders, blood-sucking flies, and the possibility of an attack from bears, cougars, or perhaps even Bigfoot. At the end of the ordeal my feet were blistered and sore, my legs and back aching. In such a state was I that the meager prospects of a gas station sandwich and a Motel 6 seemed downright epicurean.

For many, this type of willful deprivation from modern comforts amounts to little more than masochism. As far as I’m concerned, such suffering is sheer joy when compared to the pain visited upon man by his fellow man. Concomitant with deprivation from society’s riches is deliverance from its ugliness.

All cultures have their own particular concept of “limbo,” purgatory, or some other form of antechamber to paradise. The word “limbo” itself comes from the Latin limbus, meaning an “edge or boundary.” Used as proper nouns, Limbus describes the edge of Hell, and Limbo is a place for the souls of unbaptized infants and patriarchs who died before the coming of Christ, to wait for Christ to be born and pardon them. Once pardoned, they are in effect “saved” and become de facto Christians, and are finally granted access to eternal paradise. But the Messiah doesn’t seem to come around very often, so they sit around like millions of undocumented immigrants, waiting for the next mass amnesty.

Purgatory, by comparison, is like the express line at the US-Mexican Border, the one for people with spotless backgrounds, or diplomatic cover.

What is the number one thing you learned about America from your trip?

I was surprised to find out how many Americans were hesitant to define themselves as a Republican or Democrat. More people than I could have possibly anticipated defined themselves as independents and seemed almost embarrassed to claim either political party. It was shocking to me and I think says quite a lot about the extreme partisan politics in Washington right now.

(781): Yes. The answer is no. Shoot, I’m gonna be hurting tomorrow.

(717): I explained that they couldn’t leave the town hall until someone told me how long I’d been unconscious.

(540): Last time I use the word affordable, I can assure you of that. Why is my mouth so dry?

(202): I was at that stage in the evening when I couldn’t tell whose non-connected committee was supporting me.

(910): I told him I felt like keeping my tie on until I was good and finished.

Seth Greenland is the author of the novels The Bones and Shining City and was a writer-producer on the Emmy-nominated HBO series Big Love. His play, Jungle Rot, was the winner of the Kennedy Center/American Express Fund for New American Plays Award and the American Theatre Critics Association Award. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, and the journal Black Clock.

Greenland’s latest novel, The Angry Buddhist, is a scathing satire of American family, marriage, and politics, situated at the intersection of the Old Testament, Penthouse Forum, and Elmore Leonard. I love Larry David’s blurb:

Jurgen Fauth has written a terrific new novel called Kino, the story of a silent film director in Nazi Germany and his granddaughter’s quest to redeem him. With a cast of characters including Joseph Goebbels, Fritz Lang and Leni Riefenstahl, Kino raises important questions concerning the nature and purpose of art at the intersection of politics and culture.

Jürgen Fauth is a writer, film critic, translator, and co-founder of the literary community Fictionaut. He was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, and received his doctorate from the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. He lives with his wife, writer Marcy Dermansky, and their daughter Nina. Kino is his first novel. Follow him on Twitter at @muckster.

I did it this morning. I threw away the “Smith Family Reunion: We’ve Come This Far by Faith” T-shirt, which I wore for years despite not being a Smith and not having any faith. Into the bathroom garbage also went an “I’m Cuckoo For Cocoa Puffs” T-shirt, which I wore as some kind of ironic comment on corporate marketing to toddlers. Old, holey, too-small, rock T-shirts of concerts I never attended—gone. Even my beloved baseball cap that read “Gooseberry Pie” found its way into the pile of discarded floss.

Tear gas, for the uninitiated, really does make you cry.

And not in the gradual fashion of an organic cry, with the palpable build-up of liquid emotion that your body ultimately can’t contain and spills out onto your cheeks, your shirt, your lover’s shoulder.

It was the summer of 2004, and like most liberals, I was absolutely steaming out the ears about George W. Bush.  Unlike most liberals, though, I had taken it upon myself to write a novel about it.

Looking back, I’m not sure what exactly I was thinking.  Even if I had completed the book in three months, it would never have reached an audience before the 2004 elections. But regardless, there I was, sitting in hipster cafes on Portland’s Alberta Street, writing a novel about a preacher who had gathered together an odd bunch of bicyclists and zinesters and strippers, and who was preaching to them about the evils of the Bush Administration.

 

Unclear about all of this?  Over at the Washington Post, Ezra Klein cuts through the static and offers up a comprehensive breakdown of this week’s Supreme Court review of the Affordable Care Act.

Health reform opponents contend that the decision not to do something — namely, not buy health insurance — is economic inactivity, rather than activity, and therefore not a behavior the federal government can regulate. Health reform supporters argue that the decision to not purchase health insurance has an economic effect. An individual without coverage, for example, may not have the money to pay for an emergency room visit, sticking hospitals or taxpayers with the bill.

Lists.

We all make them.

We couldn’t verily live without them.

Things we need from Rite Aid.

Demands we want met before submitting to a lie detector test.

Questions we don’t want to forget to ask our parole officer.