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.

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…)

How do people cope with the sheer amount of information that bombards them every day? So much of the world seems to be in grave peril. Many are depressed to the point of paralysis. How, then, can we still “speak for hope, as long as it doesn’t mean suppressing the nature of the danger? Social media provide some important clues. (More…)

Until Bernie Sanders decided to run for President, Democrats in the United States were resigned to an exceedingly dreary campaign. Without being pressed to articulate a vision for people already inclined to vote for her party, Hillary Clinton would have moved farther and farther to the Right, hoping to win over that small but crucial portion of the electorate classified as “undecided”. (More…)

I’m not sure why I kept watching after Bill Clinton had finished his victory speech back in November, 1992. People don’t usually care what the future Vice President has to say. But something in Al Gore’s manner compelled me. Six minutes in I found out why: “It is, symbolically, an expression of the reality that sectional wounds of the past are finally and irrevocably healed.” (More…)

Today is the 130th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty’s arrival in New York Harbor. To celebrate, Google has offered up one of its “doodles”, in which a disproportionately huge rendering of the bronze lady dwarfs the ship that is bringing her to the United States. She appears to be tipping over, as if she were about to fall into the sea. It’s a strangely resonant image. (More…)

Like many Americans, I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about David Letterman’s final shows. But it wasn’t until the past few days that I actually watched them “live”. Aside from sporting events, I almost never watch television in a traditional way anymore. So when I finally managed to tune into our local CBS affiliate at 10:30pm, it felt almost like time travel. (More…)

For my birthday last week, I received three T-shirts featuring Walter Benjamin. It’s hard to imagine a better example of “long tail” marketing. I was delighted. But one of them made me uneasy. Playing off the now-ubiquitous religious slogan, it asks, “What would Benjamin do?” The truth, though, is that few thinkers have been less invested in getting things done. (More…)

Sometimes, you can’t tell how much a book has moved you until many years after you first encounter it. This past October, I took a trip Flagstaff, a town I’d somehow managed not to visit in fourteen years of living in Arizona. After a mostly sleepless night of coughing, I forced myself to drive north towards the Grand Canyon. That’s when I remembered Tony Hillerman. (More…)

When my family moved to Maryland in the summer of 1979, I was only eleven years old. Yet I already knew enough American history to be intrigued by the prospect of living south of the Mason-Dixon Line. I had absorbed enough from family vacations to have a pretty clear sense of what that would have meant in a state like Georgia or South Carolina. Maryland, though, confused me. (More…)