"We are all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing." ~ Charles Bukowski
More money than many Americans make in their entire lifetime. That’s what Congressional Republicans are voting to give me as a tax break.
That’s right: If Republicans in Congress get their way, I just saved a couple million dollars on the change in the inheritance tax alone. What about you?
Our government already spends more than it takes in, and this tax giveaway will make it worse. But that plays right into Congressional Republicans’ strategy to shrink the government: First, they cut taxes by $1.5 trillion (mostly benefiting the rich). Then, to balance the budget, they’ll claim that the only solution is to gut programs (such as Social Security and Medicare) designed to protect America’s poor and working class.
I once asked my Swiss friend Olle, “How can you Swiss people be so docile about paying such high taxes?” Without missing a beat, he replied, “Well, what’s it worth to live in a country where there’s no hunger, no homelessness, and where everyone — regardless of the wealth of their parents — has access to quality healthcare and education?”
I believe a national budget is a moral document. It declares who we are as a nation. Decency requires compassion and help for our poor. Stability requires a healthy middle class. The Republican economic agenda both hurts the poor and further weakens our middle class — all to give wealthy people a windfall of cash they don’t need.
So what am I going to do with all of the tax revenue Congressional Republicans want to save me? I’m choosing to provide, as an individual, what European societies would provide collectively: housing for otherwise homeless single mothers and their kids (www.ricksteves.com/about-rick/trinity-place), helping to build senior centers (http://myedmondsnews.com/…/rick-steves-announces-2-million-…), and paying the rent of our local symphony orchestra (https://blog.ricksteves.com/blog/arts-center-donation). These are basic services — not extravagances.
While Republicans might argue that I’m proving their point — that charity from the wealthy will come to the rescue — I believe that such services should be paid for not by the odd millionaire who doesn’t have a taste for golf clubs and yachts, but collectively, through progressive taxation. While lowering my marginal tax rate from 39.6% to 37% will have no impact on my privileged standard of living, it will ultimately have a huge impact on millions of struggling people.
As a proud American and a student of Europe, I care deeply about the cost to the fabric of our society that this windfall for the wealthy will bring. If you believe you’re being represented by a Republican Congressperson who votes for this plan, you are mistaken. It costs them a lot of money to convince you to vote for them, and this tax bill is their way of paying off their major donors. And if I lived in your district, I’d raise bloody hell.
(By the way, our Christmas fundraiser for Bread for the World was a huge success this year, raising more money than ever. Thank you to the 2,376 who contributed, collectively raising $311,700. With my $250,000 match, together we raised $561,700 to empower Bread in its work — to speak up for those who don’t have private lobbyists driving our government to re-write laws in their favor.)
Arrives arrives under the same circumstances as my Bush 5£ pound note art piece, released in 2004 to a frenzy of controversy. You can read an article about that art piece at the following address. http://reviewermag.com/press/2016/12/22/the-bush-note/
The chaos of a possibly mad President elected to bring about “balance”. The Fake News Trump note is a reflection of America’s obsession with Trump. Though it is controversial to state the fact that his placement into office came about as a result of a series of incomplete promises and expectations dropped by previous administrations.
Everything is Trump, Trump Trump, certainly I would assume that it has become public knowledge that Trump gets paid each time a media institution mentions his name on air. Correct?
The story of the Fake News Bill begins 30+ years ago. When I was a child my father, artist, William Pleasant, Jr, use to take me to Atlantic City frequently between the period 1986 -1991. There a I wandered the casinos for hours looking for video game arcades as my parents gambled away through the day until nite and then back to morning again. During my adventures as a minor wandering Atlantic City alone I saw first hand the early beginnings of the Trump empire. A world made of glass and light, sparkling in the most insincere but impactful way. Phoney and oppressive was that world of neon, gleaming of the most distracting vivid colours.
As a young artist I was moved by the sheer emotional impact of so much light and sound. It was overwhelming in a way that I could only compare to my visits to The Magic Kingdom. A kind of adult Disneyland Atlantic city was. I visited the Taj Mahal as well as the Trump palace casinos. Walking through those environments I encountered a world made just for narcissists. “Me” culture was at an extreme everywhere. My young impressionable mind gazed up to see a portrait of Trump pasted up in just about every corner. Easily projecting him as The Lord and master of money. I could not help but assume that this representation presented him as the epitome of capitalist “success”. Was Trump the model from which all people should model themselves on? Was Trump ‘Success’? Was I walking through the “American Dream”?
Little did I know that Trump would one day come to rule over an entire nation that has been bought and sold on the same principles that created Trump the Brand. The utter consumption of life itself and an endless obsession with the self has become the American ideal. In the facebook era, is it a shock really that Trump is President? I read often and have become quit fond of an author named Chris Hedges. A fine writer who has passionately documented his life experiences as a war reporter with the New York Times. His critical essays on American life, politics and government inspires much thought. I attended a comic book convention with my fiancé, comic book artist, writer Dame Darcy. Who is represented by Fantagraphics alternative comic book company. Fantagraphics also represent Joe Sacco, illustrator for Hedge’s book titled, Wages of Rebellion. At the convention I spoke with Joe briefly about his travels to poverty centres like Camden Nj and other locations documented in the book (Wages of Rebellion). Joe illustrated in his signature art style several depictions of the level of environmental and social fallout being reaped onto American society through a system of economic and social inequality.
As a small boy walking through those Atlantic city casinos amongst all of the raging light and colour. It was impressed upon me that all I had to do in America was work hard, to give it my all and “success” would be due to me as a result of my own self determination. And for that brief moment I believed the hype, for one moment I took what I thought was the first step towards believing in the “American Dream”. It was news to me. I trained myself in technology, science and fine art. I saw myself as a sort of renaissance man. Thinking that with superior ambition it would lead to great success. A ‘Trump success’! How could that be Fake news?!?
Not through a sense of entitlement but through hard work I believed in the dream, the Trump dream. Later in life when I reach New York City that dream would be shattered. My childhood glass walls built of memories of the Trump Taj Mahal came crashing down. No other period of my life will ever compare to those moments in nyc when I watched as my creative concepts were appropriated and ended up in Whitney Museums, Moma’s and other galleries, all with white faces attached. When my best was denied with the most outrageous excuses. The American dream at that moment became only a myth, an option only for a select few, who certainly didn’t look like me. I was too black, too male and too ambitious, as it was even once explained to me.
As a black American artist & designer who has contributed to the world of IT and emerging technologies, of which there is very little black male representation. I could relate deeply with many of the subjects presented in Hedge’s literary works. Being consistently kept on the outside fringes of the tech and “art world”. Every now and then I have received a few crumbs. Far more than most men in my position receive. However though as a result I have been able to witness from the inside a system of blatant exclusion in which women (of a specific body type and appearance), ethnic minorities and those of various orientations are denied equal access. Often as a result of the personal biases and even outright discrimination by directors (the gatekeepers) of galleries and various institutions of historical and artistic preservation. Even popular institutions, like those located in cities like Minneapolis, publicly pride themselves on having “female” curators, are often silent when questioned on things like their lack of black male representation, whether it be on their staff or in their halls of exhibition.
From San Francisco to New York City to London. The story is the same, the denial is the same. In the era of Elvis, a white face was given to a series of black dancers and musicians. These were black faces that would never be marketed in a nation that was not equipped to receive them on stage engaging in movements that could stir emotions. A white face danced their dances and performed their songs. The so called art world is the much same way. A thin woman in tight clothes or a white face will always be more marketable than an ethnic majority. How can someone market them? It isn’t Fake News!
For me personally the childhood dream of success built on Trump’s brand was shattered in my adult life, the moment I watched a gallery owner in New York City dump my cv and portfolio into the trash. Just as I walked out of the door following his declaration the he would archive it for future consideration. This followed by many similar experiences. Where the hope of success was overshadowed by the reality of the American nightmare.
Though I had some successes prior to breaking out of the system, the gold coin was always out of reach. Broken and saddened I left New York City for period of time. I left America in search of myself. I spend many years building on myself and trying to stay one step ahead of the monster who chases me.
The ‘monster’ being the black rage and anger over a life of subtle and blatant injustices. I worked hard to focus my thoughts and work on critical analysis and thought versus blame and anger. I have always been very moved by the life and work of Vincent Gogh. It was the wish of my father, who in his moment of twilight, the night before he died, in 1997, urged me to visit the Netherlands. He explained to me that though I harboured great sadness in my heart over the dejection and exclusion I experienced in nyc. He challenged me to, “seek out the Dutch man”. He explained that, “the Dutch man is fair”. And that I would “find some hope in that land”. Those comments were inspired by my dad’s overwhelming positive experiences with the dutch people following his time in Holland after World War 2. Later in life I arrived into the Netherlands and immediately sought out the arts. I delved into the life and art of Vincent Gogh, visiting many of the places that he frequented in his life. I wanted to understand the process of finding compassion and love in one’s art through the sadness and anger of emotional trauma. I searched for balance and found parts of myself by escaping the clutches of the system of exclusion. A journey that I continue to this day.
I carried the memories of ‘fake news’ with me for many years. The fake news that if I worked hard enough that I could overcome institutional systems of oppression and exclusion. It was all Fake News then, just as it is now. The truth is that no matter how many tokens are selected, no matter how many times a single individual is held up as an example of “success”. There are countless others who feel the sting of exclusion and denial. Their stories are drowned out and their hopes and dreams are Unknown to so many people. Who would rather reject the notion that there are forces at play in this world that keep things just as they are. As the United States and western world spiral towards the cataclysm of rampant narcissism, consumption and socio-economic irresponsibility.
Figures made in the image of Trump’s shall continue to populate government, industry and society as a whole. In the age of facebook, the culture of ‘me’ dominates. Mystical thinking takes precedence over fact and the culture of anti-knowledge takes hold of young minds who believe that history is irrelevant. Trump is a reflection of the current state of affairs, much like a mirror. We can not blame Trump for being what he is, as much as we as a society should blame ourselves for allowing things to spiral this far down. We allowed ours culture to become insincere, selfish and irresponsible towards the whole of humanity and the life. The arts too have become a cesspool of commercial nonsense dominated by the monopoly man, Recycled slogans, white “urban” Artists from Dusseldorf, who take the place of latino and black artists from America’s inner cities, Token blacks, exclusive white only art fairs. That in many cases exclude white people who find themselves denied access based on their own economic and or physical qualities or lack of. Though this is still very different than the systematic process of exclusion and exploitation that affects ethnic people on a wide-scale basis. Once a staple of progressive thought, the arts have been successfully engineered and watered down into a competition over crumbs and rampant exploitation of other people’s social and economic realities. Cultural appropriation is at an all time high these days! Now is that Fake News!?
I am currently making a feature length film about this subject, it is titled: The UNKNOWN, Battle Against mediocrity.
Many youth today are taught that their ideas, opinions and creative accomplishments are without value unless endorsed by a corporate entity or “gallery” representation. Popularity without substance. Art without meaning all revolving chasing the Trump dream of look at me. Trump’s success is everyone’s success. It’s all Fake News. What better way to epitomise the idea of the Fake News of American success than with a fake $5 TRUMP bill. It’s all Fake News to me. Just like the Presidency and all of the media nonsense surrounding it.
My art journey has been long, though through all of the heartbreak, the joys and the travels. I began to see life through the lens of satire. Pleasant Art is not always Pleasant. However it is sincere in calling out life as I see it. Pleasant art walks a fine line between satire and social commentary. The solutions to injustice are to be found in our sense of self and ability to self realise our own potential without the validation of external forces. We define for ourselves, our own success by creating our own standards. In that context, realities like racism and sexism lose a bit of their power. When we focus less on people like Trump and more on the mechanisms and circumstances that made his presidency possible. We then begin to unravel the strands that bind this society into the very thing that has reaped a sense of hopelessness and suffering on so many who have lacked access to that dream.
It was Fake News anyway.
The Limited edition Pleasant TRUMP ‘FAKE NEWS’ Bill is a satirical art print created from mixed media methods that consists of digital and hand ink illustration, photography and colourisation. The art print features a front and back design and can be easily removed from it’s frame for up-close viewing.
Visit www.pleasantart.com to order today. Obtain the original ‘Fake News’ Bill before the Art ‘Brands’ steal it (As always) and goto the Whitney Biennial. The Original Pleasant Art, Underground, Eastside, NYC.
With less than three weeks to the swearing in of the new president, below is a panel from cartoonist Dame Darcy (Fantagraphics Press) that describes the artist’s hopefulness that the apprehension regarding Donald Trump’s inauguration will at least provide a bright side with a new fashion movement. ~Editor
documentary, director Sebastian Dehnhardt, 2011, with Wladimir & Vitali Klitschko, Lennox Lewis, Emmanuel Steward, Shannon Briggs, Larry Merchant, in English, from Corinth Films, 111 minutes
by Bob Yunger
If one wants to better understand the tumultuous world of Ukrainian politics and by association Russian society in general one might want to find this 2011 documentary about the boxing career of rock star fighting brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko. It might give you an idea about the direction things are going in the neighborhood of Russia. They might be deploying sattelite killing spacecraft now. While the U.S. idolizes pop music personalities in Russia heavyweight boxers are media darlings. Brother Vitali was a Ukranian Presidential candidate and now he’s mayor of Kiev. You may remember Kiev, marred by the deadly early 2014 Maidan Protests riots. So in a nutshell that’s how they do it now in the Russian sphere. They elect spys and professional boxers as polititians, while here in the USA we acsend lawyers and sometimes actors and comics. But hey we’re still richer.