60 YEAR (Political) REALITY CHECK
Shock of Sudden Reality Setting In – That I Don’t Belong There
I was given tickets to the Oakland Speakers series to see author Michael Lewis of Money Ball and The Big Short fame. I always wondered about Lewis, not being a big fan of Money Ball and always wondered how that got made into a movie along with The Big Short, another movie I felt was over-rated.
So, what the heck- it might be interesting to hear this hometown (Berkeley via New Orleans) author expound on the current state of baseball, the economy and who knows what. The lecture was April 4, 2017 at the beautiful, restored Paramount Theater in Oakland.
I made sure to get there early as tickets state that your seat will be given away to a person who couldn’t afford to pay regular price if you’re not in your seat by 8 pm. Sure enough the empty seat next to me was filled by a young, impressionable-appearing student. But even before sitting down I was struck by the parking fee of $20 for the hour lecture. I’d never paid more than $10 for various Param,ount events, including some very recent ones.
I did notice, the people coming in to the lecture appeared to be older, well-healed white folks.
White Liberal Speakers In A Black City
I also noticed that all the featured lecturers in the lecture series brochure were extreme liberals such as Madeline Albright, Paul Begala, Ayaan Hiri Ali, Alan Alda, Michael Beschlos. I wasn’t too sure about Michael Lewis’ bent – or if he had one – but I thought it odd to have all liberal speakers rather than a mix of politics and maybe people with no political leaning.
Before I go any further I will say that I was impressed with the message from Lewis’ most recent blockbuster, The Big Short, which talks about the corruption on Wall Street and how the banks made out big selling sub-prime mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them – and that Lewis’ book and subsequent movie did result in changes in the banking system.
Michael Lewis Darling of the Left, Obama
That said, Lewis’ first answer to the first question from moderator Joan Ryan ended up castigating our current President. The question dealt with former President Obama and how Lewis had somehow garnered a private audience with the President, not for one moment but for weeks, off and on. Lewis, who appears quite aggressive in his fast-talking, animated style spoke about emailing Obama’s secretary one night after several glasses of wine . Lewis got an answer back that he could phone the President, which he did, but that Obama didn’t seem very interested in having an author come in to see what it was like to be President. After several more calls to the President, Lewis was given an audience with Obama which Lewis calls a high point of his career. Then, in jest, he went out of his way to knock current President Trump, saying that he would probably have no interest in visiting him, that the only thing they would have in common is golf and tweeting, after which the audience went hysterical. Lewis would also admit that it wasn’t all roses during his time with Obama when he had a ‘dust up’ because Obama didn’t necessarily agree with all the Wall Street/Banking corruption Lewis wrote about.
Lewis Spent More Time Bashing Trump Than Reflecting About His Books
During the program, Lewis was sure to drop Trumps name several more times, and never in a positive way. At one point he said about Trump , ‘ I would like to bring him down.’ After that strong statement , the moderator n ow very hyped with the rest of the crowd after that statement , asked Lewis how we would try to bring Trump down. Lewis said, ‘ I can’t tell you now but I’m working on it,’ which garnered another big roar from the crowd.
It wasn’t just Trump bashing but Lewis appeared to be against anything Republican. He told a story about how his daughters had trouble dealing with the parents in more conservative towns like Rohnert Park when they played softball against them. Lewis said he was spending 30 hours a week coaching his daughters’ teams and would travel and see what he considered hostility from the other parents. (As an aside, one wonders how Lewis finds time to write when he spends 30 hours a week coaching.
‘Narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets’
By now, I am wondering what I am doing at this place with rabid fans of Lewis, who has but two or three big books and obviously hates the president only 60 days into his term. Probably always hated him and always will. I was really surprised to hear all his Trump bashing as his books, for which I came to hear Lewis speak, were purportedly about baseball and the economy. As a registered Democrat myself, I grew up believing the company line that Democrats were open-minded and Republicans the closed-minded. Though, in reality, I have come to the honest reality, later in life, that it’s just the opposite – that republicans are the nicer, fairer ones as we are learning in corrected histories that show how democrats were actually the ones more instrumental in the slave trade of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, that Lincoln broke down the doors of slavery, etc.
The lecture atmosphere at the Paramount felt like that of a club or fraternity to which I didn’t belong. Why was Lewis so popular anyway. He sounds like any number of aggressive activists from Berkeley. Lewis may be as good or better a marketer than a writer – and having his liberal pedigrfee certainly helped him get in the Hollywood film door, ala Michael Moore and others.
Quite frankly, even if I agreed with Lewis’ ‘hate speech’ it wasn’t worth the $50 price tag (not to mention the parking, which, apparently well healed Oaklanders and Berkeleyites will pay) to hear a few of his personal stories and limited info about the books he wrote for which I believe most people came to hear – with the possible exception his ‘political groupies’ there more to vent and be seen. But, apparently, it’s part of ‘the plan’ for all those Oakland and Berkeley hill people. Perhaps it’s the Democrat version of a Trump rally, where people can vent not at the lecturer (unless it’s Trump) but WITH the lecturer.
No longer the Same Oakland I Grew Up In
I grew up in Oakland not a political animal. But, I don’t think politics ever played as much a part of urban life, at least in Oakland, as it does today. It’s sad to see how people have become so hateful.
Looking back to when Obama was first elected, though I didn’t vote for him, I was impressed to give the first black President a chance to lead – at least 100 days worth of chances, which few if any Democrats seem to be giving Trump. I’ve never enjoyed going to concerts where musicians use their name and place to harangue a political cause. This night author Lewis was doing just that. Had the night been billed as ‘Michael Lewis Hate Speech’ I wouldn’t have come out.
It was also interesting to note that there wasn’t a black person in the crowd of several thousand liberal whites in Oakland, a town who’s population is nearly half black. It was a crowd of baby boomers, perhaps still living the late 60s and at least giving the impression that they really cared about the poor even if they were living now, mostly in bedroom communities such as Montclair, Kensington, Orinda through Walnut Creek. It’s interesting that perhaps the majority of the crowd lived OUTSIDE of Oakland.
Never before in my 60-plus years living in the area did the political divide hit me so hard. I have my own theories for the widest divide in memory, which I won’t go into right now. But now, suddenly, I understand while I stopped feeling welcome in Oakland, including my own church of many years. I’ve even felt the disparity more than ever , of late, among my own friends and relatives.
I once was a big supporter of Oakland and remember our family staying there while many of our friends opted for ‘white flight’ to the suburbs during the 1960s. (My family did eventually move to Montclair, still within the Oakland line, in 1968 , so my brother could go to a ‘better school’ than the one in the flatlands where I went. Eventually, something told me to move out of Oakland and now I’m glad I did. I see Oakland and similar urban areas as less friendly to all groups than they were in the 1960s growing up. True equality doesn’t really exist among all peoples (including segments of the white population and religions). The divide is now among all lines, religion, race and economics as the middle class disappears and America comes closer to being a socialist country, what with people like Bernie Sanders, who nearly won the presidency.
Sadly, I will not be attending any more of the Oakland Lecture Series at the Paramount until they offer an ‘equal opportunity’ for speakers of all political bents and races (only one black speaker in the series and zero Republicans.
60 YEAR (Political) REALITY CHECK