Author: Charlie Bertsch
Charlie Bertsch lives in Tucson, Arizona. A founding editor and regular contributor to one of the world's first online magazines, Bad Subjects: Political Education for Everyday Life, his work has appeared in numerous publications since including The Oxford American, Punk Planet, Phoenix New Times, Cleveland Scene, Tucson Sentinel, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

It felt like a rock concert. Security was tight. Fans were so desperate to attend that the ones who had failed to get tickets before they sold out were streaming into one of the biggest rooms at the University of Arizona to watch a live feed of the event with each other, even though it was being simulcast over the Internet. (More…)

“It’s a way to pass the time while I’m waiting.” That’s what I had told a friend in his seventies recently, when he asked me how I managed to keep up with social media. And that’s what I was doing recently during the ten-minute break between my first and second classes, scrolling distractedly through my Facebook feed, when I was suddenly brought up short. (More…)

Even now, long after Donald Trump has ascended to Republican frontrunner for the presidency, people are still talking about him the way they did a year ago, when his candidacy seemed more of a sideshow than a serious threat to politics-as-usual. It’s a state of affairs the man himself seems eager to perpetuate, promoting his brand at the expense of traditional propriety. (More…)

Sometimes, when you get distracted from your distraction, it can all seem like a cruel joke. You have paid a lot of money and will no doubt be paying more, once you factor in souvenirs and sustenance, to pass most of your time standing in line. And you are supposed to be celebrating this purgatory, because this is Disneyland, the self-proclaimed “happiest place on Earth.” (More…)

Sometimes hardship leads to serendipity. Since I came down with a bad respiratory infection a few weeks ago, my voice has been reduced to a scraping sound. This has forced me to modify my teaching, finding as many ways as I can to avoid talking. It’s why, instead of explaining the rise of the Khmer Rouge to my freshman seminar, I showed them a video instead. (More…)

Even amid the incessant coverage of the Republican and Democratic campaigns for President, the crisis surrounding the water supply in Flint, Michigan has stayed in the news. While the sheer it-should-not-happen-HERE horror is the primary reason, the story’s staying power also attests to the fact that so many people can use it as evidence of what is wrong with the American political landscape. (More…)

In the week following David Bowie’s death, a period my friend Ann Powers referred to as “sitting shiva”, my social media feed was dominated by content related to his career. Personal reflections on his impact, pieces about his career and countless links to clips testified to his cultural significance. At times, this collective outpouring felt like a desperate attempt to assert that we all still had something in common. (More…)

It wasn’t the best of times. And the news frequently made it feel like the worst. I spent all but a few days in a fog of exhaustion. I had little time for movies and even less for books. I attended fewer concerts than in any year since 1988. Even sporting events I always used to watch live were experienced through my DVR. But I’ll still remember 2015 fondly. (More…)

After the latest spate of mass shootings in the United States, I tried to engage NRA supporters in reasonable debate. But I struggled to comprehend their way of thinking about risk. Defending easy access to assault weapons, one of them argued that, “If I put one in front of you when your family is under attack by a mob, you wouldn’t blink an eye.” I wasn’t so sure. (More…)

Ever since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, the word “fascism” has made periodic appearances in American political discourse. Critics of the Patriot Act invoked it as a way of warning against the dangers of prioritizing security over liberty. President George W. Bush later described the nation’s primary enemy in the War on Terror as “Islamic fascists”. And conservatives even labeled Barack Obama a fascist. (More…)

In a few short months, Donald Trump has metamorphosed from a carnival sideshow in the American political circus into the headline act under its big top. With polls now showing this master showman, not only with a comfortable lead over his many Republican rivals, but also every leading Democrat, he is terrifying political insiders on both the Right and Left. (More…)

When most people think of history, they still focus on the material they were forced to learn in school. Until a few decades ago, that meant memorizing the dates of major events and the personages deemed responsible for them. More recently, curricula have expanded to include broader social and cultural trends. But there are still subjects rarely considered to be properly “historical.” Food, for example. (More…)