John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Startling Wisdom from 16-Year-Old Artist/Song Writer

Posted on January 3, 2014

Song of the Year


The song of the year came from a sixteen year-old Kiwi who calls herself Lorde.

But as she points out in the song, she is not exactly from the Royal family.
“I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh/I cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies/And I’m not proud of my address/In a torn-up town, no postcode envy”.

The frustration for Lorde, whose actual name is Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O'Connor, is that the music that she and her friends listen to her is simply unrealistic, given their station in life.
“But every song’s like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin in the bathroom/ Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin the hotel room/We don’t care, we’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams//But everybody’s like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece/Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash/ We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair."

The best part of the song is the chorus.
“And we’ll never be royals (royals)/It don’t run in our blood/That kind of luxe ain’t for us/We crave a different kind of buzz/ Let me be your ruler (ruler)/You can call me queen Bee/And baby I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule/ Let me live that fantasy."

Like just about any thing that attracts media attention these days, Lorde’s song has attracted some controversy.  An abortion rights extremist, Veronica Bayetti Flores (who interestingly is not black), called the song “deeply racist” because it seems to focus on hip-hop culture.

You know you have made it in the world when your biting social commentary about the limits of materialism is condemned for being racist.

That’s the kind of year it has been in America.

Duck Dynasty, George Zimmerman, and Paula Deen


We ended it with the Duck Dynasty controversy, but don’t forget that we started it with George Zimmerman and Paula Deen.

Zimmerman was the Hispanic neighborhood watch vigilante who got in a brawl with either an angelic teenager or a pot-smoking thug (depending on your point of view) and ended up shooting him, either in self-defense or in cold murder (once again, depending on your point of view).

Paula Deen, the corpulence-enabler, got in a nasty legal dispute where it was suddenly revealed that she used the N-word.  She said that yes, she used that word when a black bank robber put a gun to her head when she worked as a bank teller, among other times.   But her explanations weren’t good enough to keep her out of trouble.

I would note that the person who sued Deen on racial discrimination ground, Lisa Jackson, isn’t black, which is why the lawsuit that got her in so much trouble was eventually dismissed.

Both Paula Deen and Phil Robertson made a very good living in the niche marketing world of cable television.   The Robertson family has become famous on the A&E Channel, while Deen helped to make the Food Network a ratings winner.

Deen proved expendable, though, when she ran into her controversy and her contract with the Food Network was cancelled.  It is unclear what will happen to Duck Dynasty, although they just announced a new line of Duck Dynasty duck hunting guns.

I betcha they make more money on the guns then they ever would have made with A&E.

Pope Francis


Talking about the limits of materialism, the Catholic Church made the hire of the year when they brought us Pope Francis.

Francis has shaken things up at the Vatican, and God knows that the place needed to be shaken up a bit.

Francis has higher approval ratings than anybody, higher even than Rush Limbaugh.

I know, amazing, right?

But that hasn’t stopped Rush from calling him a “Marxist.”

Nothing will stop Rush from saying anything that comes into his mind.  He can get away with stuff that would have banned Paula Deen and Phil Robertson from cable for life.

But Rush doesn’t count on the kindness of your typical corporate sponsors.   So somehow, he can continue to offend all kind of groups and not worry that much about a backlash.

That’s called job security.

Pope Benedict


Talking about job security, you would think Francis would be a bit worried about having his predecessor hanging around.  It is rather odd to have two Popes still being alive at the same time.  That’s hasn’t happened for 600 years.  But we live in interesting times.

Benedict is more conservative than Francis, and seems a lot older than the mere 9 years that separate them.

The new Pope is better than the old Pope, unless you are a traditionalist, and then you most likely think the new Pope is a lot worse than the old Pope.

Common Ground for Free-Market Capitalism and Its Limits


But none of this seems to faze Francis in the least.   He is going to keep doing his thing, attracting more people back to the Church, showing compassion for the poor and talking about the income gap and the limits of free-market capitalism.

Some conservative friends of mine have take exception to the Pope’s comments on trickle-down economics.   They point out, quite rightly, that the free market has done more from the poor than socialism has ever done.

There is room for common ground here.

We should all acknowledge both the empty appeal of extreme materialism and the dangerous consequences of vast disparities in wealth.  And we should understand that that the income gap is not simply an issue of economics, but also an issue of values and habits.

The Prosperity Gospel is a heresy.  You don’t get rich by praying real hard.  But you do build wealth by living by a virtuous life.  For example, don’t get divorced or have kids out of wedlock.  Don’t abuse drugs.  Avoid the seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride). Don’t blow your Social Security check at the Casino or on the Home Shopping Network.

I was reading the New York Times series that followed the travails of the folks who lived in the New York underclass.  It was meant as a way to condemn Mayor Bloomberg, but I think it really showed how really bad habits and really bad choices of parents can make life really, really hard on kids .

The parents of the 9 kids who lived in terrible conditions in a shelter had enough resources to have a flat-screen television amid the pile of debris and clothes that were strewn about their small flat.  But they couldn’t find an apartment they could afford.

And yes, that is a function of a rental market that has gone out of control, but it is also a function of people who have made a series of very, very bad choices.

They had drug addictions, and terrible, terrible habits that made life needlessly difficult for the children.

How do kids thrive when their parents’ bad habits won’t let them?

Why should employers pay employees who may or may not show up to work, and when they do show up, don’t do the work they are supposed to do.

Yes, the rich have to do their fair share to help the poor, but this not simply an economic dialectic at play here.

There needs to be more of a discussion of the responsibilities that come with parenting and how we save kids from hopelessly bad situations brought on by incompetent parents.

“Royals” Video


I loved the video that accompanied Lorde’s “Royals” chart-topper.

It showed her singing into the camera, interspersed with two bored teen-age boys/men, screwing off, watching television, kickboxing one another, living lives of quiet desperation.

These kids had no motivation, yes, no-post code envy, but also no real prospects.

Lorde herself said in an interview that she wanted to point out that most kids her age are mostly just really bored.   They live mundane existences.

How sad is that for them?

Life is such a gift from God. It shouldn’t ever be boring.

That is one thing I love about this new Pope.  He is never, ever boring.