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This Book Will Change Your Life - I Am Somebody: Why Jesse Jackson Matters by the David Masciotra.

· Books,David Masciotra,I Am Somebody,Jesse Jackson,America
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In a year when I didn't, couldn't read more it seems fitting to at least finish with I Am Somebody: Why Jesse Jackson Matters by old friend and Vidalesque public intellectual David Masciotra. This year more than ever left me questioning how it is that the American experiment can be so broken and fragile to the touch. I am a beneficiary of Obamacare and not so far removed from losing my long-time job with no obvious recourse or appropriate response. I am aware of how much privilege I possess as a cisgender, hetero, white male in a world created to benefit those with the very qualities I was born into and didn't earn. And yet, it still took this pandemic and the subsequent Presidential election, as well as the George Floyd murder (and countless others just like it) to underline for me the great chasm that exists between the very few haves and the countless have nots, those underserved, ignored and forgotten in terms of job security, health insurance, and the institutional racism, homophobia, misogyny and xenophobia that has been built into all corners of our purported Democratic society. This is not a mea culpa. It is a personal embarassment however and something that calls for personal action, changes in behavior, concrete steps that support efforts to provoke change, hope and opportunity. Which brings me back to Jesse Jackson. Full-disclosure, I've always loved Jesse Jackson, though it may be I loved the idea of him. Which is to say, my feeling about Jackson dating back to his presidential runs in the 1980s, is that he always strove to be on the right side of history, that there was a capacity to embrace all who wanted to be embraced and that his clarion call was about the ongoing inequality of this great nation, and the inability to address, much less, heal the scars left by slavery and the building of this country on stolen land by men, women and children of color. I've also felt that history was passing Jesse Jackson by, that somewhere along the way he missed a turn, the narrative shifted, and Jackson was someone now thought of less than. That he somehow hadn't done enough already or that what he was doing somehow didn't matter. I Am Somebody did little to disabuse me of any of these beliefs. Instead, and as all great biographies do, it enriched what I knew with the actual stories, accomplishments, failures and numbers. Jesse Jackson is both greater than I remembered in terms of those epic presidential runs. Jackson profoundly affected, and altered, the American politic. He embraced the full diversity of what makes this country its best self. He never stopped fighting for the forgotten. And he is treated as less than by history, following calculated efforts by both political parties to make it so. As I read I Am Somebody I wondered if there has truly been a greater American hero in the recent convulsive history of the nation? We are all indebted to Jackson for trying at all costs to make us be what we ought to be and to Masciotra for his ongoing holy roller, yet still sober, assessment of America's soul. Will this book change your life? Hell yes. Do we all need to do more than watch others seek to make the changes that need to be made? Fuck yes. All that and onward to 2021.