Talk Radio – What’s Not to Love?

We have been listening to a lot of talk radio lately AND WE LOVE IT! What a delightful and responsible way to educate people about America’s virtues! And it happens 24/7. And incredibly the hosts never run out of things to say – perhaps because they repeat themselves repetitively and then attack others for not repeating what they have said multiple times. No doubt – it is a winning formula and America is better for it. As Alexis de Tocqueville states in his semenal work Democracy in America: Love It or Leave It, “talk radio is why America kicks Europe’s flatulent ass every single day of the year.” (Can’t find the citation right now). He then notes how talk radio has enhanced the marketplace of ideas by teaching Americans (i) to be judgmental without using good judgment, (ii) to disagree disagreeably, (iii) to be knowledgeable without being factual, and (iv) to be immodest while pretending to be modest. (Citation to be provided at a later date).

Here are some other lessons from talk radio that de Tocqueville extols:

1.  don't piss of sponsors,
2.  don't whisper when you can shout,
3.  don't use 3 words when you can use 20,
4.  your opponents are never mistaken; they lie,
5.  the host is never mistaken; his comments are taken out of context,
6.  people who disagree with the host are evil,
7.  the host should never hesitate to promote himself, even if he doesn't like to do so (fortunately, he likes to do so),
8.  if the host has any flaws (and he doesn't), he should never admit them - or acknowledge any doubts (because he doesn't have any - duh), and
9. don't piss off sponsors (here at Pungent Sound, we don't have any sponsors - need to work on that).

Sorry - got to go.  The commercial just ended.

Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans.

Homeland Elegies – When do You Qualify as American?

Ayad Akhtar’s Homeland Elegies is several things. Part memoir. Part economic treatise. Part fiction. All of it is factual, but the reader is left wondering how much is fictional. For example, the narrator and the author have the same name. So are they the same person? Did the author’s father (a doctor) actually treat Donald Trump (as the narrator’s father did) for heart problems in the 1990s? Or is that simply a metaphor for a presidential administration with heart problems? Does it matter? Did the author actually have syphilis (as the narrator does)? We’re just asking for a friend on that one.

While we do not know the answers, the uncertainty over what is fact and what is fiction, which runs throughout Homeland Elegies, is one of the essential queries of our times. It also drives a compelling story. But be careful of your conclusions, because (as Mr. Akhtar informs us) “interpretation has more to do with the one interpreting than the one being interpreted.”

There are two homelands in the novel: Pakistan and the United States. Both have problems. The narrator’s parents left Pakistan as young adults and immigrated to the U.S. And the book is filled with many other characters who immigrated from Pakistan, with each having varying degrees of trouble assimilating. As the narrator’s mother states, “[i]t’s not our home. No matter how many years we spend here, it won’t ever be our home. And maybe this brings out things in us that were never meant to be brought out.” Now a natural response for any American, whose family has lived in the U.S. for more than two generations, is go back to where you came from, you ingrate. And that would be one of the more polite renditions. However, Homeland Elegies makes clear that anyone whose family has lived in the U.S. for more than two generations should just shut up when it comes to opining on how easy it is for immigrants in this country. We don’t know what we’re talking about – and we should be thankful for that. Even the narrator, who was born in the U.S., has trouble considering himself American – and that is in no small measure related to how people react to him after the attacks on 9/11.

The author/narrator (again, not entirely sure there is a distinction) is several kinds of American, including Muslim-American and Pakistani-American. The question is this. Is he American-American? And that question (wonderfully) is not answered until the final sentence of the book. And even then the answer is not definitive. Throughout the book, Mr. Akhtar is concerned about how the majority of Americans perceive him. At times his physical safety depends upon it. “If all this sounds somewhat paranoid, I am happy for you. Clearly you have not been beset by daily worries of being perceived – and therefore treated – as a foe of the republic rather than a member of it.”

We can tell this is a serious book that demands being taken seriously because the narrator quotes the 20th century’s seventeenth most famous sociologist, Norbert Elias. “The established majority takes its we-image from a minority of its best, and shapes a they-image of the despised outsiders from the minority of their worst.” So what does that mean? No idea. But perhaps white Americans should stop pretending that we are all like Abraham Lincoln – just better looking.

Finally Homeland Elegies also makes clear that it doesn’t matter whether you are Muslim-American, African-American, Irish-American, or Obnoxious-American. If you are Thinking-American, there is cause to be concerned about the current state of our country.

Alison Wonderland, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans