Wristband

wristband

 

There may be a few Republicans who summer on Martha’s Vineyard, but if they do, I am sure they keep their mouths shut. Herewith is an insight into how the American ruling class works, from the pages of the Manchester Guardian. As with all carefully observed insider appreciations, this portrait is beyond caricature. The article is based on the leak of Hillary’s campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails.

This genre of Podesta email, in which people try to arrange jobs for themselves or their kids, points us toward the most fundamental thing we know about the people at the top of this class: their loyalty to one another and the way it overrides everything else. Of course Hillary Clinton staffed her state department with investment bankers and then did speaking engagements for investment banks as soon as she was done at the state department. Of course she appears to think that any kind of bank reform should “come from the industry itself”. And of course no elite bankers were ever prosecuted by the Obama administration. Read these emails and you understand, with a start, that the people at the top tier of American life all know each other. They are all engaged in promoting one another’s careers, constantly.

Everything blurs into everything else in this world. The state department, the banks, Silicon Valley, the nonprofits, the “Global CEO Advisory Firm” that appears to have solicited donations for the Clinton Foundation. Executives here go from foundation to government to thinktank to startup. There are honors. Venture capital. Foundation grants. Endowed chairs. Advanced degrees. For them the door revolves. The friends all succeed. They break every boundary.

But the One Big Boundary remains. Yes, it’s all supposed to be a meritocracy. But if you aren’t part of this happy, prosperous in-group – if you don’t have John Podesta’s email address – you’re out.

The mood is captured by a brilliant song on Paul Simon’s latest CD, “Stranger to Stranger” which features a catchy little tune called “Wristband”. Simon goes out the backstage door for a break and is locked out. He has to go around the front to get into to the theatre where his band is playing, and is stopped by a bouncer six feet eight inches tall in a snappy suit, who says “you have to have a wristband.” It quickly morphs into a much larger message, and prefigures why Trump is close to winning.

I stepped outside the backstage door
To breathe some nicotine
And maybe check my mailbox
See if I can read the screen
Then I heard a click
The stage door lock
I knew just what that meant
I’m gonna have to walk around the block
If I want to get in a…

Wristband, my man
You got to have a wristband
If you don’t have a wristband, my man
You don’t get through the door

Wristband, my man
You got to have a wristband
And if you don’t have a wristband
You don’t get through the door

I can’t explain it
I don’t know why my heart beats like a fist
When I meet some dude with an attitude
Saying, Hey, you can’t do that…or this
And the man was large
A well-dressed 6-foot-8
And he’s acting like St. Peter
Standing guard at the Pearly

Wristband, my man
You’ve got to have a wristband
If you don’t have a wristband
You don’t get through the door

And I said, Wristband?
I don’t need a wristband
My axe is on the bandstand
My band is on the floor

The riots started slowly
With the homeless and the lowly
Then they spread into the heartland
Towns that never get a wristband
Kids that can’t afford the cool brand
Whose anger is a shorthand
For you’ll never get a wristband
And if you don’t have a wristband
Then you can’t get through the door
No, you can’t get through the door
No, you can’t get through the door

© 2016 Words and Music by Paul Simon

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