“When that cop killed Michael Brown, and when George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, they were killing Barack Obama”

bonomo-marcusGreil Marcus is a critic of music and culture who has helped redefine the job description. Known for his books like “Mystery Train,” “Lipstick Traces” and “The Old, Weird America” (on Dylan’s “Basement Tapes”), he’s forged a personal brand of criticism that blends traditional close reading with the styles of Leslie Fiedler and Pauline Kael, as well as deep, almost free-associative mediations on American history…

We spoke to the Berkeley-based Marcus from New York, where he is teaching this term…

Anyone who studied music history or American history knows that this country has a complicated and, at times, tragic, relationship to race, but it seems that even with that background, the last few years has been particularly fraught. It seems at times like the nation has sort of flipped out. I wonder if you noticed this, and if you have any sense of what’s happening. It strikes me that the Civil War has never really been settled.

Well, that’s for sure. It’s not even over…There has been a breakdown in decency in this country over the past number of years to the point where, just this weekend, somebody showed up at a Vikings game where Adrian Peterson, their running back, had just been suspended or not suspended…

Anyway, don’t let me go on like this. But, yeah, yeah. And when you look at the things … when you look at the murder of Trayvon Martin, when you look at the murder of Michael Brown, when you look at those situations, it’s not unrelated to Obama being president, but it’s more the way in which the country has reframed itself or rewritten itself since his election, with all kinds of people saying to themselves, maybe never putting it into words, just feeling it, “There’s a fucking n—er in the White House? Well fuck you, n—er, whoever you are.” And an inchoate loathing and hatred that seeks out its targets.

I’m not a psychiatrist, I haven’t sat down and interviewed George Zimmerman or the cop who shot Michael Brown, I don’t know what their motives are, I don’t know what kind of people they are, what kind of childhood traumas they have experienced. But I don’t think it’s nuts that in a certain way, when that cop killed Michael Brown, and when George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, they were killing Barack Obama…

Share