Maybe if you’re not at war with reality, you’re not focused enough: Bernie in Brooklyn

My eight-year-old daughter Carol and I went to hear Bernie in the park today. We went with our friends Greg Grandin, Manu Goswami, their daughter Eleanor, Manu’s mom Toshi, and thousands of others.

Three highlights.

First, New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams, who’s a former student of mine, stole the show. For me at any rate. He gave a great opening speech for Bernie (see the 8 minute mark here). After quoting a Daily News editorial that accused Bernie of being at “war with reality,” Williams responded, “You’re goddam right!…Maybe if you’re not at war with reality, you’re not focused enough.” Perfect. And then Williams added, “So all we’re asking is: The people who say that it cannot be done, please move out of the way of the people who are doing it.” Exactly.

Second, Bernie’s biggest applause line came—after he talked about how drugs and drug addiction should be treated as a medical problem, not a criminal offense— when he said, “We’re going to revolutionize mental health care in this country.” You could hear all of bourgeois Brooklyn scream with joy at the thought of “free psychoanalysis for everyone.”

Third, someone had two mock street signs. The first said “Liberty Avenue,” the second “Ambivalence Boulevard.” The person was holding them up as if they were an intersection. I wondered aloud what that was all about. My daughter offered: “They’re both good things.”


  1. robert kircher April 17, 2016 at 6:42 pm | #

    I think Carol could safely be answered that the signs are a good thing, but that they’re a question as much as a statement: which is the best path to take? The answer should be obvious.

  2. LFC April 17, 2016 at 7:06 pm | #

    You could hear all of bourgeois Brooklyn scream with joy at the thought of “free psychoanalysis for everyone.”

    I’m glad Corey is able to poke gentle fun at both his preferred candidate and the place where he lives. Freud would no doubt have found that a sign of a well-integrated (or whatever the right phrase is) personality.

  3. Ra April 18, 2016 at 2:25 am | #

    “Similarly, ‘Justice—What Should Keep Us Awake At Night,’ serves as an excellent introduction to ideas that Sen elaborated in his 2009 book, The Idea of Justice. He writes,

    the idea of justice links closely with the enhancement of human lives and improving the actual world in which we live, rather than taking the form, as in the most mainstream theories of justice today, of some transcendental search for ideal institutions.

    The distinction between niti, the policies of justice, and nyaya, the actual delivery of justice, is characteristic of Sen’s approach. He draws from theory to consider what actually takes place in the world. He is, if you will, a scholar of the possible, rather than the ideal.”

    “So I am humbly asking for your support on Tuesday. I’ll work my heart out for you again. And together, we won’t just make promises we can’t keep. We’ll deliver results that will improve the lives of the people in New York and in America.” –Hillary in Brooklyn

    • Lauren April 18, 2016 at 9:41 am | #

      oh please. “I’ll work my heart out” for Wall Street, Israel, big pharma, big oil, arms manufacturers, the Clinton Fdn and any chance to bomb a lot of people & flex US muscle for regime change. Those are her priorities.

    • Warren Ingber April 18, 2016 at 1:12 pm | #

      In response to Ra:

      The Clinton quote brings out quite a difference between her and Sanders. Here, all too often, when Clinton says “we” she means her professional party establishment. We — you and I — are on the receiving end, and the message is, “Ask not what you can do for your country (aside from voting for me). Ask what your country (as you find it) can do for you.”

      When Sanders says “we,” he includes his fellow citizens. He has turned JFK’s saying right side up again. His stump speech sings the praises of past activist movements and builds up to the theme: change comes from below, not from above. It’s a big part of his message, maybe the biggest part.

      And this difference has nothing to do with real versus abstract justice, between understanding the world and changing it, though it’s true that we need to understand more than Clinton would have us do in order to get Sanders’s point. The difference is that for Sanders the people set the goalposts and work toward them. It’s not up to the powers-that-be and it’s not a spectator sport.

      Further, anyone who thinks Sanders is not addressing the world as it is hasn’t been listening to him. In Sen’s terms, Sanders is a nyaya guy. But in his own terms, he’s a tikkun olam guy, a phrase that refers to a real world in need of real repair.

      It’s the “world” part that gets to Clinton. Sanders’s aims are just too big to take up within her parameters. People like Sanders belong in sackcloth and sandwich boards and should stay off the sidewalks where the very serious people go about their business. She’d like to look down her nose at Sanders. His success having made that impossible, she’s taken to accusing him of being a false prophet. If she hadn’t rejected the prophetic tradition for Niebuhr, she’d be in a better position to tell true from false. But she’s not alone: many in her camp just can’t tell Sanders from Trump.

      Sanders is also a tzedaka guy. At a “Jews for Bernie” meeting in Manhattan a week ago yesterday, the rabbi who spoke from the podium highlighted Bernie’s Jewishness by pointing out what most of the audience already knew. In English we call it “charity,” a word derived from “care.” But the Jewish word comes from “tzedek,” justice.

      In the above quote Clinton says she cares, with all her heart. I assume she means it, really does feel our pain and wants to abate it. She is very charitable. Let’s grant it. But how long would it take before called it a day? How soon would she figure she’s appeased her conscience? A lot sooner than an administration in pursuit of social justice, I’d wager.

      This has to do with more than just policy positions. These differences mark a divide between liberals and progressives and between managerial and movement politics in terms of who is treated as a change agent, in terms of breadth of approach, and in terms of what kind of sentiments are mobilized.

      It’s one thing to see all of this and still be for Clinton over Sanders. I can understand that. It’s another not to see it and to accept an easy dismissal of what the Sanders campaign has been out to achieve.

      • Ra April 19, 2016 at 1:50 am | #

        Dear Warren,

        As a grad student in religion, I have always marveled at the human capacity for interpretation and the distortion thereof by its own agent. In the context of Hillary’s rallying cry — “I’ll work my heart out for you again. And together, we won’t just make promises we can’t keep…” — the syntax flows simply enough. A plain reading would unmistakably yield that “I” plus “you” equal “we”. At least that’s how my immigrant family and I understood it when we cheered at the television set the other night. But alas, this election season is anything but plain, isn’t it? ‘Tis the season for uprising and prophecy, not unlike the previous seasons of Game of Thrones incidentally. “The One True King,” hails Melisandre; “The One Good Man,” replies our realm’s own red-haired priestess of luscious zealotry, Susan Sarandon. Thus it has come to pass that preconceived notions of who she is — a corporate whore, as Lauren has all but charitably called her — have for the thousandth time altered the meaning of such otherwise banal platitudes. A philosopher king is rare enough, but a prophet king? No wonder Stannis Baratheon is dead (spoiler alert), as will your good, decent, well-meaning candidate soon enough.

  4. michael caplan April 18, 2016 at 1:36 pm | #

    Reading a lot into the street signs: liberty and ambivalence – a crossroads, though I suspect they are nearly parallel roads, think a long and narrow ‘X’. I’ll argue it is hard work to maintain liberty; ambivalence would make it difficult to pursue liberty (e.g., why am I doing this anyway, I like where I am without all the bother)

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