Stories We Tell, Part 2

Being told by your mom that you’re a child of violence is unsettling. Then, learning that it happened when you were still a baby on a blanket, which is to say having just learned to sit, though not walk, talk, or crawl, is distressing. For me, it was even more so because my two sons are the exact number of months apart as I was from my older sister.

In a rage of sibling rivalry, my sister threw me through a pane of glass, and out the window to presumably the fauna and flora of my mother and father’s rented home in Santa Barbara. My mom said she didn’t know what to do. So she picked me up and dusted me off, noting that I was perfectly physically fine. When my father came home from his dental office and she related the events of the day, including this, he was livid.

My father explained that when he was a boy, his two brothers put him in their father’s only-for-emergencies dental chair in the basement and tried to shock him. They did, and came close to electrocuting him fully dead. He lived.

I didn’t know this story until I was 38 years old in Metuchen, New Jersey, having pried it out of my mother after she kept telling me not to leave the 23-month-old with the infant, even to take three strides down the hall to the kitchen. “You must have the baby with you at all times,” she implored.

My mother had been experiencing short-term memory loss. She did not have Alzheimer’s or any other specific disease. Later we would know she had TIAs (transient ischemic attacks) — or mini-episodes that are strokes but can’t be stopped. These didn’t happen, though, for a full 4 years later or more.

As one very clever friend put it, it’s not that I have trust issues (I do trust), but I certainly have loyalty ones. In my head, I often give people a so-many-strikes-you’re-out situation. If it’s a white man, telling me I’m “full of shit” (when it’s my field and my expertise and they are ignorant of the field or the education), it can take one or three — depending upon who they are. Did they have a terrible mother? Do they have a great, long-suffering wife that I can cling to so I can shimmy away from them when they inevitably lose their temper and intimidate women and children (especially one of my sons)?

Sometimes I tell myself, Hey, you survived and perhaps learned to try to turn back before you get chucked, and so it’s less likely to happen — and hopefully in the nick of time. Or, hey, you have so much with your family, your friends, and your career, you can certainly lose the disloyal ones without your social calendar or that of your families sustaining a dent.

Intergenerational violence is a known thing, especially among storytellers and in family folklore, especially for those families that are extended and notable and close to the land (read farmers, oil, and natural gas).

My mother stayed with me and my family for a bit more than a good two months, arriving before my second son was born. She came for an extensive stay when my first son was born, and I loved having her around to help. We had fun strolling with the carriage, going for a coffee, and watching my son and then sons start the longest epistemological journey of their life. In the first year of life, she had always told me, a person learns so much. It’s vital.

So when my youngest was born, and came within minutes of dying of a viral infection, we were so lucky she was there. I tried convincing her that my two sons’ experience could be different from mine. My oldest was a joyous boy. We had arguments of logic all the time. One of his favorites was when I would balloon my full skirt during my second pregnancy and say, “Here’s your brother,” and he would get that mischievous gleam in his eye and challenge me: “No, Mom: kitty.”

I have more than one photo of my oldest meeting his younger brother, and you can see how fast he ran to jump up to the bed and start testing him out. Rolly polly.

My youngest was happy when strapped into a bouncing chair or tucked in a bassinet. His older brother, being so joyous about the arrival of a “baaaby,” as he called him, would dash up the stairs after nursery school and literally dance around his brother, whose eyes twinkled as he constantly observed him.

The nursery-school teachers told me that, though barely out of diapers himself at 23 months, my son took to hanging out at their diaper-changing station for fun.

To reassure my mother, I tried really hard not to leave them for a moment. I’m sure I did run to the kitchen to answer a phone. But I never came back to the little one crying and the big one looking recalcitrant or having disappeared under a bed or sofa somewhere.

Worse, I did not know that my mother’s own anxiety from violence came from events in her family. Not her brother, or a sister, or mother, but a father who committed something heinous in Weedpatch, CA, and would be rewarded greatly for it — by Kern County as well as the state and the nation-state.

It’s taken me decades to understand my own intergenerational violence and what trajectory it would take upon me and my family — hence this serial exploring 385 years of history of the women in my family, going back to Penelope, the first one to arrive and be traumatized in 1641, standing loyally by her “man,” her husband who was scalped and left for dead. She was scalped and impaled and left for dead, but didn’t die. It was the Mohawk who did the initially scalping and the Lenape who healed her slowly and traded or shipped her back to the Dutch across Sandy Hook to Gravesend, where she got to be one of the first 400 New Netherlanders (New Yorkers) before fleeing back to Sandy Hook with her burgeoning family. She married not one but two Englishmen.#

RPM Mug Sep 2011
“SECURITY ALERT: Description: · White Male · 57 y/o, DOB 11/18/53 · 5’10” · 170 lbs. · Brown Hair · Blue Eyes · May be wearing glasses. ~ If University of Delaware Professor Rudolph  P. Matthee attempts to enter the Graduate Center, he should be  stopped and asked where he is going.  The lobby desk officer will confirm the event or appointment and then notify me. FYI, Mathee may try to enter by showing University of Delaware ID, a Delaware drivers license or a New Jersey drivers license.  FYI, there is no threat of violence and this should be handled with tact and professionalism.  Please inform all officers under your supervision.  Thanks.  ~ Director of Security & Public Safety 365 Fifth Avenue”
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Todd the Train Wreck – Why Meet the Press Is So Feeble

Train wreck? It’s CHUCK TODD* again — and I’d like to put a red circle with a slash on top of him. He says his friends, etc. . . . as both guests (who cares who they are, almost since they are proxies or tiny Tweedledees and Tweedledums) turned this “debate” off. And here’s the kicker — the self-interested claptrap — he’s trying to figure out WHO this helps?

This is not anything other than American Politics 101. Civics that should be taught in 4th grade. When people get turned off they stay home. They do not vote — @chucktodd, is that distinct enough for you? It’s called apathy. And apathy does not breed ignorance; it is what happens in the history of American elections — people don’t vote as they are afraid to vote, too disgusted to vote, too overwhelmed with life too vote, knowing that the effort and time to get to polls — not COVID polls — is not worth it.

2024 will still have a Chuck Todd, a GOP Trump, and a Democratic Biden. Change the faces, but we can’t change the system — not just the racism in the system. It’s called sliding supremacies — whoever controls 2 of the 3 branches ensures we’re never going to address systemic oppression.

For me it’s easy. My sons don’t have to tell me White Supremacy is a Democratic and a GOP issue. The debate was akin to 1924 — the 2 main parties having platforms that were supporting white supremacy. Back then, it was the KKK on both platforms.

This time, Joe has backed away from his past — his segregation, and he’s from a former Confederate state (so presumably someone in his family has a “historic” flag, even if he’s from PA). My point is that we’ve progressed no further — so where are those so-called Progressives that took their name from the turn of the 20th century progressives?

Neera Tanden knows, maybe? Say it is so, Neera. @CenterforAmericanProgress

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Todd

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Post Process

I alter between 4 platforms rather than scheduling things since I like spontaneity – real time commentary.

Here  are all my platforms and for the authors too that publish in my two book series in addition to all my static links.  Publishers and editors aren’t always tagged 🙂









https://press.princeton.edu/series/the-public-square https://www.linkedin.com/in/ruth-o-brien-3115167




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Mananlyzing in Stereo: Land, Localization of National Politics, or Should I Call the Feds for an Eviction?

American Political Development is history at its worst.  At least, that’s what some historians who reside in the United States and teach in American history might say about our field — it’s “presentist.” We throw in any American teleology, or pull any trajectory into reverse.  But is it reverse engineering?

As we start from the present and move backwards, digging and delving into all those institutional nooks and crannies, tracing, mapping, and locating the so-called origins of any public policy that spans the United States, from the laws establishing the defunct ICC to the EEOC, are we really being presentist, or are we “institutionalists”?  (The damn autocorrect makes me put this in quotes.)  It’s not a search for APD; it’s a search for the American nation-state, or at least that cozy social-welfare policy state, which today seems like magical thinking, or (heaven forbid) what the so-called conservatives call the “nanny state?”

In fact, though, it’s not the search for the American nation-state, nor the American states.  It’s closer to home than that. And aside from “manalyzing” with David Waldstreicher in the course we’re team-teaching this semester, I’d say Trump has managed to localize the nation-state — for me, that is.  It’s the localization of the State — the Sovereign, not the states.

And it only makes sense, if you study corruption.  From Papi Trump (the German?), to Papa Trump (the Swede, haha), and now baby Trump (not Donald J., but the one with the comb-over hair), they all bribed politicians in the states, as well as serving the State, let alone all the neighboring municipalities in greater New York.  So it comes as no surprise that Penn Station would house all those lobbying the nation-state, foreigners and domestic lobbyist no matter.

After all, how did robber baron Cornelius Vanderbilt have so much money after receiving so much public land? The business of America has always been business. That said, we have to remember that Trump is a developer of “real” estate (i.e. physical property). There’s no other eviction that hurts so much as what a landlord can do by making one homeless. So why do so many liberals believe Congress could ever evict Trump out of the White House?

More later. But for now, David?

“Manalyzing” in Stereo by Distinguished Professor David Waldstreicher, team teaching American Political Development 2020

As the historian in this manalyzing duo, of course I feel less responsible for the limits of the field of American Political Development, more excited about how it might help compensate for some of the foibles of historians….

Yes, the lesson of Trump is that it’s corruption all the way down, corruption as  a multigenerational (American Political) tradition, yet on a spiral that makes it somewhat different each time. The grandfather was all about railroad towns and hotels (brothels), and land, exploiting his fellow immigrants. The father about urban segregation and (un)creative destruction.  The grandson about the simulacrum of luxury, leveraged gloss, and televised publicity as ponzi scheme. Party politics had to be the endgame because it undergirded the possibilities of profiting from infrastructure all along.

Alas, as the trigenerational story suggests, the other continuity in the Trumpian spiral appears to be the reliance on whiteness, which is why Trump so repeatedly doubles down on it, why he seized as no one else on the notion that Obama could not have possibly been born in this country. The surprise at the daily untruth or tweet covers over the primal lie of his politics, and the willingness of 40+% of voters to accept it so as not to have to accede to the other party’s kinder gentler corruption. After all, the system constantly tells us, in a democracy, origins and history don’t matter. The question is always, which of two sides are we on?

It’s funny today to hear both the president and allies trumpeting party loyalty against (Bain capitalist) Romney, when Trump ran against party and the establishment. Only a long-term approach to American politics can capture how he has recapitulated the Jacksonian art of turning from antipartisan outsider to enforcer of more party loyalty than ever, in just a  few years. Partisanship relies on, feeds on, putative outsiders, sometimes  in order to contain the real insurgencies. Part of Trump’s appeal is to perform and capitalize on American ambivalence about the problems that result from the normal workings of the system. It is tempting to conclude, for the moment, that he fits all too well into institutional patterns even as he shatters norms. We’ll see — and we’ll study…..

Posted in Blogs 4 Class, Gender, Race and American Political Development 2020 | Comments Off on Mananlyzing in Stereo: Land, Localization of National Politics, or Should I Call the Feds for an Eviction?

Caught— Maddow Features David Cay Johnston’s Trump Taxes Find

David Cay Johnston does it again. That is, he investigates hard facts that someone will have to “alter” (make fake again). It must be exhausting for Kellyanne Conway, the most powerful woman in the United States. Trump’s income taxes came over his transom, or Trump’s taxes were dumped in David’s box. What a leaky, leaky White House.

Watch Rachel explain it all.

Bottom line: He paid a 24% rate, not the 35% rate for the wealthy. Trump should have paid not $38 million in taxes, but about $55 million. Meanwhile, whenever Trump is strapped for cash, he finds somebody to buy something from him. Guess who.

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He Who Recuses Himself Accuses Himself

My family and I don’t communicate with our realtor. Does this mean the realtor won’t get us a marketable — what the market won’t bear — price?

Neither, he tells us, does Jared Kushner talk with anyone at his family business. This recusing business is not very surprising, though the logic of it, in terms of thinking they are fooling the public, is confounding — so confounding that it makes Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon roll over. Why didn’t he think of this when he worked for Presidents Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover? He survived the Teapot Dome scandal, Silent Cal, and Herbert Hoover’s engineering corporatism, all on his one-dollar-a-year salary?

At least Jared does appear to be catching his dad-in-law’s aging rays, as he is getting that raccoon look. Time to hit the slopes, or at least the tanning salon.


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Seminar Descriptions for Spring 2017 @ GC

 4 Simages-5EMINARS for Spring 2017, Political Science Program, Mondays (with exception of Short Course on Wednesdays)

1. American Political Development – 35248 – P SC 82210 – 0
35248 CRN

Graduate Center Campus


SEMINAR DESCRIPTIONAmerican Political Development, more properly titled Neos, Isms, & Information Imperialism, is an American Politics and Women’s Studies seminar that crosses political-science disciplinary divides and approaches political history by relying on ‘political development’ as a comparative-politics and international-relations good-governance methodology with two analytical axes: the role of ideas, and hybrid institutionalism in the increasingly horizontal global social sphere. The seminar is also informed by Women’s Studies literature, given its emphasis on difference as the United States built a relatively strong nation-state and became a global hegemon. It pays particular attention to masculinity and misogynistic nation-building by focusing on what I call neotribalism – intersections in inequality, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and bodies in re-volt (volt refers to the energy derived from creative difference), who resist despite our president who may continue waging the ‘war on women.’ This course will help prepare American Politics students for the first exam by covering the standard texts and approaches that the subfield expects on the exam.


2. Blogging & the Public Intellectual – 35247 – P SC 72310 – 0

Levels: Graduate School

35247 CRN

Graduate Center Campus

Seminar Schedule Type

SEMINAR DESCRIPTION: This seminar is about blogging and the gendered role of public intellectuals, or better yet, web writing in an era of lying.  What is already established is: Few public intellectuals in the United States are women. Even fewer come from the American academy. As the American Political Science Association reports, “political science has long been, and remains, a male-dominated profession.” This seminar practices experiential epistemology, or what is called in common parlance a practicum, or “learning by doing” to explore the dearth of non-SLAM and non-SCAM voices in the blogs sphere. It explores the unique, constructive, responsible role that academics who are not male and/or heterosexual can play as public intellectuals, given their gravitas in the global social sphere of blogging in the new age of lying. The primary question Web Writing asks is: Who are the most active and influential American public intellectuals who had an impact on the presidential election in 2016? Or, to put it more plainly: What happened, given all the boasting about groping and misogyny? Did the G.O.P.’s tales of sexual exploits and other forms of sexual humiliation fragment women? How did liberal heterosexual men help and/or hinder the discussion?  Will the election bring feminists together, especially highly educated mothers and grandmothers like Hillary Clinton voters, or will it create the momentum necessary to unify feminism(s), and all non-repressive isms? This course is part of the Political Science Writing Politics Specialization offerings.



3. Teaching Political Science – 35659 – P SC 77904 – 0

Levels: Graduate School

Status: Active

35659 CRN
Graduate Center Campus

SEMINAR DESCRIPTIONAll first-year doctoral students in our program whose fellowships entail teaching on the campuses are strongly encouraged by the EO to enroll in this class. All other students, doctoral or M.A. from political science or any other program, who are interested are also welcome to enroll.  Teaching Political Science is teaching power & teaching 2 power & includes the power 2 teach.  While the EO assigns you to your campus — from Hunter to Brooklyn or beyond, in our wonderfully engaging, diverse, and democratic CUNY system, it is your campus chair who sets your specific teaching course assignment.  Indeed, the EO gave me the privileged assignment to teach you about teaching power & teaching 2 power & power 2 teach, which is a course I introduced to the Political Science Program 20 years ago that has been running ever since.  Now more than ever this seminar is indebted to Pedagogy of the Oppressed so that   you can teach your students how to resist repressive intersectionalities and latent cultural supremacies. Such supremacies could soon boil over as the American president-elect overtly represents the humiliation and disrespect of women, LGBTQers, immigrants (documented and undocumented), and persons with dis-abilities in our classrooms. We will view these groups, and their intersections, in terms of both who is teaching and who is learning as we discuss how to supplement the Socratic method with Aristotelean ethics. I will also help you integrate your scholarly research — from any field — into your first teaching assignment.  Critical-thinking pedagogy and research-in-the-classroom notwithstanding, we do not neglect the practicum or “how to” aspect of teaching (i.e. writing syllabi, prepping lectures, grading practices, using CUNY1st Blackboard, and mentoring students.) Appropriate guests will be invited from management and the PSC to address Chancellor Milliken’s recent directives, ensuring how you, the instructor, and your students, can gain the most from your experience. http://www1.cuny.edu/sites/news-chancellor/2016/11/a-message-from-chancellor-milliken-3/


Getting Grants: Short Course – 35663 – PDEV 79401 – 0

Levels: Graduate School

Status: Active

35663 CRN

Graduate Center Campus

Lecture Schedule Type

Getting Grants: A short course (5 sessions) on how to write grants for your individual research, following my success in securing grants for the Graduate Center (Fulbright; Andrew Mellon; private donors et al.). Feedback and personal guidance on grant proposals will be offered, and guests will be invited.



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Let’s Look at It as Presidents in Mirror-Opposite Conversation

thPutting aside the Democrats’ reassessment — or the irony that it’s not the GOP that has to open its tent — and putting aside that we’re no longer a polarized nation . . . and that a realignment of sorts occurred — a more dramatic realignment than most, since it sweeps into power the GOP on every level, the most important one arguably being their clean sweep in the states, as well as the municipalities . . . federalism organized under one party has not been so powerful since the Civil War.  Bracketing all that — another way to look at the polarization/realignment/Democrats as donkeys now all braying is — in conversation, or as a binary.

As President Barack Obama’s politics and identity politics — or the universality of his identity-less politics — put him in the position of being betrayed by many American people, or should I say demonized — denigrated — as the Antichrist, as a boy, as an illegitimate president given the Birther controversy — it’s only fitting that Donald J. Trump (DT) was in conversation and was given Obama’s warm seat.

DT not only participated in the Birther movement, and led it to some extent; he embodies the exact opposite of our sitting lame-duck president, Barack Hussein Obama.  As one friend noted, 9/11 has now been replaced by 11/9 — the day DT got proclaimed president(-elect).


Posted in 2016 Presidency Race, Election 2016, NeoTribalism Media Moments, Obama Lame Duck Presidency, President Elect Donald Trump (DT) | Comments Off on Let’s Look at It as Presidents in Mirror-Opposite Conversation


Puck112188cPolitics is all theater. Aristotle could have told me that had I not been ignorant about his writings in high school, when I had the good fortune (I thought back then) of interviewing Ronald Reagan, who was running for president.

Seeing him, and seeing how few folks attended his talk at the local Hilton in Reagan neotribal territory in California, showed me how bankrupt the mainstream media is. Forget left/right or liberal/conservative; just give us the numbers (and I don’t mean the poll numbers).

No one mentioned how few people there were, let alone the purple hue of his Grecian Formula hair, making Reagan look like a long-lost former governor.

It’s not for nothing that all politicians complain (i.e. whine) about the established media’s unfairness to her or him — and the airing of the GOP debates, with the public whining of these politicians, hit a chord with the public.

This is where social media comes in. If the media won’t tell us how many people attend the candidates’ pep rallies, will it be on the Twitter feed? (Though who has time to collate all this data, not 538.) I’m tired of not understanding the context (people per candidate) and then hearing the “surprise” at the results of the primary.

The media needs to finance itself, but at our representational democratic expense? Why were the airways constructed as public then? Just give us the specs, please. The non-poll numbers — tell us how many people are in the theater or attended the Cruz show (not just the Trump circus).

Posted in 2016 Presidency Race, Election 2016, Mainstream Media | Comments Off on MEDIA, MATTERS: WHY NOT TAKE CONTEXT (ATTENDANCE), PLEASE


iuDonald J. Trump is redefining things — and not just the race for the Republican nomination.  As a celebrity centrist, Trump told one of the Sunday shows that he plans on changing the lines.  “The lines,” he repeated.  Instead of repealing Obamacare, Trump plans on nationalizing it (not single-payer, mind you).  By lines, he means federalism.  Well, that’s a first for well-being.  Trump will trump Obama in nationalizing health care, which means taking it away from the states.  Hmmm.  Wonder what Chief Justice Tax Mandate Roberts thinks about that.  Trump is cruz-ing for a bruising; he’s the anti-Cruz of this campaign, trumping HC in his radicalism.

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