January 19, 2014 | 8:00am
Randolph Bourne died in the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918. He is a hero of mine, a disabled, disfigured genius truth-teller. Robert Scheer, another heroic journalist, activist, articulator of the truth, was born in the Bronx, as he is fond of reminding the snotty upper-class assholes with whom he spars (and always carefully demolishes) every darn week on KCRW's excellent "Left, Rich and Center." Oops, I meant right, or wrong. Scheer, who has no doubt done well for himself as they say (books, celebrity, a successful career) still needs to remind these gals and guys of Trickle Down War-World that he is the son of a poor single mother, benefited as so many from public assistance, attended public schools and universities, and that the banksters and corporations whose spokespeople dominate the media discussions and spin-a-thons are not you and me, thanks very much. It's called a class analysis.
Bourne, whose writing was careful but provocative, honest and also an advocacy journalist of his time (thank goodness),
famously wrote that war was the health of the state, an axiom woefully undersharpened, except by Scheer and a few other brave truth diggers. Scheer also has to remind the reliably annoying Clinton apologist Matt Miller over and over and over again on LRC about the illegal ones, the covert ones, the cold ones, the atomic ones, and so on when he is not reminding everybody that the so-called left-wing Obama administration bailed out a bunch of big money crooks and did not prosecute any of them and that we are in war, war, war, by drone and gun and flying bomber and wiretaps, all of which takes food out of the mouths of poor children, not to mention cripples our education, infrastructure, regulatory agencies. Don't get me started. Or do, by all means!
For all of that we should all be grateful, and celebrate Scheer's return to Orange County (he used to live here) on the occasion of the Orange County Progressive Summit 2014 on Saturday, February 1 in Santa Ana, at which he will be the keynote speaker. Ask him about Randolph Bourne maybe. Better yet, ask him anything you like. He knows, he's been there, he's a terrific storyteller and easy teacher. The founding editor of the legendary mid-'60s Ramparts
magazine and editor of the now-legendary and essential Truthdig
, frequent voice on KPFK sans
Miller - where listeners don't require so much center and right as, it seems, NPR - author of nine books and veteran Los Angeles Times
writer and commentator, a guy who has interviewed every president since Ike and, even better, been there to comment on and support every peace and social justice movement, offering an analysis based on asking the right (left) questions. That's his CV.
Bourne died too young, in the 1918 "Spanish" flu epidemic. He was what would today be called a disabled or differently-abled person, a figure who still captures the imagination, at least mine. But writer Floyd Dell eulogized him in The New Republic in a way which also helpfully describes Robert Scheer: "It was the quality of this mind which gave him this place among us, the range of his sympathies, the clear force of his thinking, the candor and vigor of his expression, but more than all, the happy union of these traits in an intellectual personality which had for all its force a singular and captivating charm." Sweet.
Because this is the official commemorative weekend celebrating Dr. King if not his actual politics, which were Socialist and revolutionary and anti-war, too, economically more radical than is explained to little kids and dumb grown-ups, I'll weigh in, heavily, a la Bourne and Scheer. Friends, the "dream" story might by now reasonably be expected to include some elements of King's anti-imperialist, anti-war and militarism, anti-capitalist positions. Thanks to the Los Angeles Sentinal
for printing this this article
, which includes the famous if mostly ignored "Ten Commandments on Viet Nam" notes found in MLK's pocket at his death, or so the story goes.
Orange Count Progressive Summit, Saturday, February 1, :30 am - 6 pm at the Delhi Community Center, 505 E. Central Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92707. Admission 20/$10 students. For more information: http://ocprogressivesummit.org/
Andrew Tonkovich hosts the Wednesday night literary arts program Bibliocracy Radio on KPFK 90.7 FM in Southern California.