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What can we do? How can we do it? With whom? What tactics should be used? How should we define a strategy that is accessible to everyone, including a general public that has reached levels of depoliticalization that can make atrocities seem acceptable? What is our vision? How can we make sure ‘we’ are talking to ‘everyone’? How can we catalyze and connect sustainable, cross-border, and radical movements? These are the types of questions that many activists ask themselves on a daily basis, questions that are anchored in the present and will shape our future.

It is easy to feel discouraged and simply let go. There is no shame in that. We are, after all, engaged in a struggle that seems, if we look at it using a mainstream political framework and through a mass media prism, unwinnable. On the other hand, if we take a step back, look at things from a broader angle, reflecting on what is happening all over the world and the history of struggle, the history of solidarity movements, it becomes clear, sometimes even obvious, that seemingly indestructible forces can be, thanks to people’s will, power, sacrifices, and actions, easily broken.
I picked up the latest from Angela Davis a few weeks ago (pre-inauguration) and I cannot recommend it enough. It is a very quick, accessible read and well worth your time. Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement is a collection of interviews and short essays and you can read it in an afternoon.
It is going to take a coalition to turn the tide of what is happening. Some people are going to punch nazis and break bank windows, start fires, others will march and chant, and make art, and food, and write, and fact check, and offer spaces, and have difficult conversations with family members. It is important to collectivize and act together and hold each other accountable; but rather than grapple for the top position on the moral high ground, we would do better to examine our foundations and make sure that our collective struggle is rooted in the same ideals.
Literally everything has become political. Somehow people have come away with the Super Bowl feeling like election night. I just saw a bunch of ads championing the same neoliberal ideals of individualism through narratives of consumption and “hard work” and people are reading them as subversive because shit is so fucked up right now.
I welcome my newly radicalized friends to the fold, and I encourage them to critically engage with these feelings and examine their own relationships to power and privilege and articulate what it is precisely that has them so worked up.
I know you’re against Trump and fascism and racism and sexism; but what are you for?
I worry about what gets lost when we focus only on a common enemy and do not take the time to examine and work through our relationships to each other along the way. Trump’s administration is only the most recent and, arguably, most urgent enemy we face; what comes next?

I’ve been having some thoughts about some things, so I’d thought I’d write some down and share them with you, because lately I’ve been weighed down by a feeling that I’ve been too quiet too long on too many things, and maybe if I hadn’t been so quiet for so long, things would might be a little different now.

There’s really fucked up shit happening right now that’s going to get a whole lot worse in the very immediate future if we don’t do everything we can to reverse it right fucking now. I feel this with profound certainty.

My outlook on the 2016 Election was this:

If Clinton gets elected (likely outcome) we get four more years of status-quo; continue the slowish march towards The Inevitable Turning Point; start a war in a new country; and prepare for the inevitable backlash having a female president creates. But! At least get to enjoy HAVING A FUCKING WOMAN IN THE WHITE HOUSE HOLLAAAAAAAA! Young girls get to grow up seeing they could be the president. More Kate McKinnon being 100 on SNL! And maybe even some very real advancement for women — maybe even all women, if we can find a way to hold her accountable! But mostly: status quo, known quantity, with a potential upside.

If Trump gets elected (ew), wow we are further down the timeline than I thought. We will get to The Inevitable Turning Point sooner, probably. Democrats will have to actually stand up for something. Alignments will begin to shift on both sides; fence-sitters will have to choose. Confidence that Trump and Republicans will fuck up so spectacularly that Dems win back Senate and House at midterms and keep things from getting much worse until someone decent gets elected in 2020 and we can start to fix some shit. It’ll be a long, frustrating, embarrassing four years, but we survived 8 years of GWB and we won’t make that mistake again. Potentially upside: maybe he actually goes a little renegade and does some stuff that’s surprisingly good. Maybe he does “drain the swamp” and that somehow turns out ok! Things could get interesting!

I didn’t realize that Trump getting elected was actually The Inevitable Turning Point I had been waiting for. I clearly hadn’t been playing close enough attention, because I super did not realize we needed to be worried about nazis. Very aware of white supremacy; very unaware Trump was a nazi-puppet. Was very aware of the gaslighting, very mad at the media for not calling it out, continuously frustrated with our education system that fails to teach people how to read and write and interpret facts and make connections and draw conclusions. Was concerned about the threat of fascism, deeply so with every new development in our security apparatus (I can prove it, I wrote a paper about it in college in 2008; A+). Expected it to knock at the door soon; did not realize it was already inside.

There’s still a part of me that doesn’t quite believe everything that’s happened since Election Night is happening. I mean, it’s so absurd! These cabinet picks!? Are you serious!? But it is happening. It’s very much happening. And it’s going to keep happening if we don’t stop it from happening. The Muslim Ban flipped my switch. My internal monologue on this whole situation went from “I should do something, I should do something, I should something” to “I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING RIGHT THE FUCK NOW, AND SO DO YOU, OR WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE”.

So that’s where I’ve been and that’s where I’m at. This is fascism, and we have to resist it, or we’re going to die.

We can’t have a president in the white house ruling by executive order, lying to the press, undermining democracy at every possible turn, undoing decades of progress in seconds. We can’t allow it. We can’t just go along with it. The rule of law has completely collapsed with DHS ignoring judges blocking the executive order. The judicial branch is being completely ignored. Morally bankrupt republicans are rewriting rules to undermine democracy in the executive branch. We do not have even the illusion of a remotely functioning democracy without checks and balances. We cannot think that things are just going to magically be ok. We have to resist. We have to break the rules, because the rules no longer apply. This is completely beyond politics, this is morality. The future is at stake, people’s lives are at stake.

The only upside to this is that whatever is on the other side is going to be better. Or we’re going to be dead.

 

[Contains spoilers.]

I’ve gone way out of my way to try to find something to like about Twilight. I saw the first movie last year and was actually completely flabbergasted at how bad it was. Not just bad in the obvious uppity queer feminist ways, but bad in terms of  film and  narrative. I thought Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson had absolutely no chemistry (which shocked me) and I couldn’t find anything likable about any of the characters, besides Jacob and Carlisle. I just didn’t get it. Usually I get it. I find something to like. I find myself understanding why so many people like it, even though it’s horrible and regressive. But, watching the first Twilight movie left me in an utter state of confusion. Even though the two leads are attractive, they spend so much of the movie making weird pained faces at each other I couldn’t even enjoy the gaze.

Then, I read the first book. Film adaptations are usually lacking, so I figured the book had to be better. Because the characters lacked chemistry so much in the movie, I found their actions, for the most part, completely baffling. I thought the book would, if nothing else, lend some “deeper” insight. And it did, a little. The book was better than the film. But not much better. I mean, Stephanie Meyer’s writing is atrocious. Bella’s narration is grating; and her penchant for clumsy recklessness notwithstanding, she’s an empty shell of a character. I found myself skimming/skipping entire pages. Maybe even entire chapters. I was hoping to at least find some quirky dialogue; something endearing. Bella’s supposed to be this awkward outcast character, and aside from being an idiot with no self-preservation instincts I don’t understand why. And more importantly, I don’t care. And if I can’t find anything to like about the character whose every thought drives the narrative, what the hell am I supposed to do?

Then, last night, I watched New Moon. I went into viewing New Moon with a lot of preconceptions. I assumed this Team Edward vs. Team Jacob nonsense meant these were two distinctly different characters. I assumed this was a “bad boy” vs. “nice guy” scenario. I was decidedly Team Edward (as I almost always side with the “brooding bad boy”) until I read the book and found out Team Edward was Team Stalking Domineering Douchebag and defected to Team Jacob. Upon watching New Moon I discovered Jacob is Edward, just younger, buffer and warmer. He’s equally if not more controlling than Edward, probably more selfish (if that’s even possible), and also struggles constantly to control the monster inside that endangers Bella (though to a lesser extent than Edward, who desires to literally consume her every moment since they’ve met). Both make it their personal mission to “protect” Bella because they “love” her. What confuses me most about all this (more than why an author would create two almost identical characters for any reason other than utter lack of creativity) is the fact people even see Jacob as competition for Edward. Sure, he stands in as a potential love interest, but at no point did I get the feeling Bella was even remotely close to “choosing” him. After making his feelings known and clear several times, she rebuffs his advances without fail. It’s only when he has her backed against the kitchen sink that he gets even remotely close to making what I see as unwanted lip contact.

Somehow, I think if I can find something to like about the Twilight Saga, it’ll bother me less that it’s so completely indicative of the anti-feminist climate in which we currently live. If I could say that Bella is a strong female protagonist, or that there’s room to read something subversive into the character relationships or the story (a point I still think may still be plausible with the Jacob arc, if I really really stretch). But instead, the deeper I look, the more I find the same romanticization and reenthrenchment of patriarchal values that validate and promote violence against women.

I categorize this as “in progress” because I intend to continue to engage with the series.

Everyone else is talking about Avatar, so I want to talk about Avatar, too. What follows is my spoiler-tastic response to the film as well as several other people’s reactions. Since I spend several hours of my work week scouring the Internet for things to read, consisting almost entirely of critical analysis and cultural commentary, I’ve read someone’s take on Avatar almost every [work] day since the film came out; about how it’s just the latest manifestation of the white guilt narrative, about how it’s not just the latest manifestation of the white guilt narrative, how it’s the new Ferngully, the new Pocahontas, etc.

In my opinion, these interpretations are all valid, but attempting to boil down the main thrust of the film into merely a cautionary tale against imperialism, or ethnocentrism, or capitalism, or colonialism, or overconsumption, or militarism, or etc. could be to the detriment of all the other fruitful readings. This is why my post is going to be so completely exhaustive, reflexive, and at times, contradictory. And, I’ll probably still manage to get a lot of things not…quite…right. [Most likely as a result of fatigue, caused by taking too long to finish and wanting to move on with my life–no excuse, but an explanation.] So, bear with me, this is what I saw.

I had planned to forego the synopsis but realized it would probably be incredibly frustrating for anyone to read this who hadn’t seen the film to manage to follow it. While I’d like to take for granted that everyone has a general awareness of what it’s about and who’s who to save myself the laboriousness, it’s rude. So, here we go:

We find ourselves on a moon of distant Earth-like planet called Pandora in a not-too-distant future following young, white, presumed heterosexual, working class, paraplegic, American Marine named Jake Sully. He is taking his recently deceased twin brother’s place in the Avatar Program. The Avatar Program, created by Dr. Grace Augustine is a privately-funded, scientific-anthropologic-military endeavor where humans are more or less plugged into avatars, or bodies created from both human and Na’vi DNA. The Na’vi is the “humanoid” indigenous population of Pandora who happen to live on top of a plentiful deposit of “Unobtanium”, a precious mineral that an American corporation has been mining on Pandora and shipping back to Earth with the security help of the US Marines. The Avatar Program seems to be just latest in a long line of colonialist attempts to reach out to them such as: setting up schools, teaching the Na’vi English, offering them medicine/technology, etc. Thus far, these efforts to “win the hearts and minds of the natives” have done little more than stoke tensions, resulting in casualties on, presumably both sides but, definitely the human side. Jake is given three months to infiltrate the Na’vi, become one of them, and provide military intelligence as to how to get the Na’vi to “move”. His already hefty paycheck is then sweetened by the promise of Colonel Quaritch to “get [him his] legs back”; a procedure that is entirely possible on future-Earth, but far too expensive for a working class Marine. In essence, Jake is given three months to avert what is, judging from the trigger-happy military presence, an inevitable massacre, and he gets to walk around while he’s doing it (in his avatar) AND afterwards back on Earth! It sounds like a win-win; all he has to do is manage to convince an entire race of beings to move from their homes, entire way of life, sacred everything, so that the humans can gut their land. What Jake does instead is not only fall in love with, but “mate” with Neytiri, the “warrior princess” of the Na’vi as she teaches him their ways and he ascends their ranks to become a legit warrior member of their tribe, but not without ruffling a few feathers. Naturally, Neytiri is betrothed to Tsu’tey, the distrusting and aggressive “warrior prince” of the tribe who always seems to be waiting around for Jake to meet his doom. When it comes time for the Na’vi to move or be moved, Jake rushes back to warn “his” tribe, but Neytiri is less than enthused to find out that her life partner was sent to spy on her people, so she screams at him. And then ties him and an avatar’d Grace to a stake with a front-row seat to the decimation of the Na’vi’s “home tree”. He narrowly escapes death when the queen, Neytiri’s mother and the spiritual leader of the tribe, cuts him loose. Eventually, Jake, a few renegade scientists, and a renegade pilot defect from Plan Genocide and help Jake return to lead the Na’vi in a counter-offensive against military forces before they effectively wipe out every living thing on that side of the moon. After much bloodshed on both sides, what’s left of the Na’vi declare victory as what’s left of the Earthfolk pack-up shop and fly back to “their dying planet”. Jake stays with Neytiri and the Na’vi, presumably as their leader, where he feels he truly belongs.

I don’t know if the poignant metaphor could be more thinly veiled, but apparently people think it’s up for debate.

Anyway, while I think there are certainly elements of the white guilt narrative present, I think that narrative as we have come to recognize it is disrupted (at best) by a couple of elements. First, the fact that Jake is paraplegic and working class; and second, that Jake does not maintain his white privilege, or even, arguably, his whiteness in the end. Jake’s disability should not be taken for granted. While he’s representative of the hegemonic white male figure, his disability and class status render him a devalued and in fact, othered embodiment; a fact which is made abundantly clear for the first hour of the film when he is first slighted by other military personnel (because of his disability) and then condescended to by Grace and the other scientists (for not having a PhD, like his brother). When he first encounters Neytiri it is because she saves his life in spite of her first inclination to kill him (her mind is changed by a sign from Eywa, the Na’vi’s deity), and she proceeds to tell him he is “like a little baby”, and it is Tsu’tey’s personal mission to constantly remind Jake, as well as Neytiri, that he “will never belong”. A feature of the white guilt narrative is the that the guilt-feeling white in question is a hegemonic, and therefore, valued member of their world; the unmarked, the holder of power, the privileged. Jake does not float easily between “his” world and that of the Na’vi, nor is he exiled from his own into the open arms of the Na’vi. He works to be respected by his Earthly counterparts, a desire made tangible by the colonel’s promise to “get [him his] legs back” and abandoned when he realizes he belongs with the Na’vi; a revelation brought on less by guilt, or even any sense of morality, and more by his own selfish desires. Although he has fallen in love, the rest of the Na’vi are not altogether very welcoming. He makes his choice based on his feeling of belonging with the Na’vi, in a Na’vi body. Although he goes on to live a hybrid identity, having been born and raised on Earth, he gives up any and all privilege attached to that status when he elects to stay on Pandora, in a Na’vi body, as everyone else that recognizes him as what he is/was returns to Earth.

A moment ago, I said, “He works to be respected by his Earthly counterparts, a desire made tangible by the colonel’s promise to “get [him his] legs back” and abandoned when he realizes he belongs with the Na’vi; a revelation brought on less by guilt, or even any sense of morality, and more by his own selfish desires.” This irked the crap out of me and I couldn’t figure out why. My derision at Jake’s motivation for liberation opened my eyes to another means of understanding how this deviates from merely a white guilt narrative–clearly, not a lot of guilt was happening in Jake’s heart. Rather than taking a moral stand against oppression, exploitation and genocide of which he had been an instrumental part for a few months, Jake takes the actions he does, arguably much too late, because he sees Pandora as his home, his land, as well as that of the Na’vi. He does nothing at the end of the film to prevent the people of Earth from doing exactly the same thing to somebody else. He’s content to prevent total destruction of his new home and live happily ever after in his untouched utopian paradise in his new body with his Pocahontas.

Speaking of Pocahontas… I’d like to discuss Neytiri as Jake’s necessary love interest/object. Another feature of the white guilt narrative is the romanticization (and simultaneous erotization) of an “untouched” indigenous population living in utopia. When Jake meets the tribe, it is clearly a two-sex system led by a “mated” couple in which the man is the warrior leader and the woman is the spiritual leader. Incredibly obvious and salient traditional gender roles aside, Neytiri isn’t just an updated version of the beautiful, indigenous woman we’ve come to expect. Or is she? We aren’t given the opportunity to know much about the individual tribe members outside of the four I’ve already described (there is actually no scene in the film, that I can remember, in which we see the Na’vi talking to one another outside of Jake’s presence), but Neytiri is the only woman I noticed that had the warrior training and duties like the men. This fits in perfectly with a Western ideal (or hegemonic utopia!)–we still have a rigid two-sex system, in which members of opposite sexes mate FOR LIFE and divvy up responsibilities (and probably have lots and lots of babies), but we conveniently have Neytiri, who we can measure as Jake’s equal because anything he can do, she can do [better] (except ride that big bird thing). Neyteri is the embodiment of the “liberated” Western woman in a supposedly egalitarian society. Oftentimes appearing enlightened, “civilized” and well-spoken (she does speak English, afterall), but on more than a few occasions resembling a completely feral cat–especially when she assumes the “woman scorned” role and begins screaming/hissing/crying at Jake after it’s revealed that his initial mission was to more or less spy on her people. The lines between man/woman, white/colored, civilized/savage, human/animal, rational/spiritual, dominant/submissive are constantly reified through Neytiri’s actions and interactions with Jake.

Jake and Neytiri’s early interactions do much to illuminate another feature of the white guilt narrative: the part where those oppressed are responsible for educating their oppressors, and more importantly, the oppressors feel completely and utterly entitled to this education. In this way, it becomes the oppressed peoples’ fault that the oppressors are ignorant, and therefore, not responsible for their actions and complicity. Although Neytiri never blatantly explains to Jake that by pillaging and occupying their land his people are destroying their entire way of life (maybe that’s why he misses that point in the end!), it is through their teaching/learning relationship that Jake is able to empathize with the Na’vi (being, quite literally, in their shoes). Obviously, it is not necessary to live as someone else to have an awareness of their suffering, and conveying the message that only through adopting a way of life completely different from one’s own can they truly grasp the concept that obliterating such a way of life is wrong is ridiculous and completely obliterates responsibility and undermines the role of agency in one’s actions. It’s called willful ignorance.

Although the film attempts to shed light (via metaphor) on past, present and future atrocities perpetrated and perpetuated (and continuously obscured, if not entirely erased) by Western imperialistic ideals, we see individualism triumph again. Jake’s not only the main character, but most of the time seems to be the only character. There is no scene in the film in which he doesn’t either appear on screen or in narration (that I remember). Not only does Jake pretty much single-handedly (despite the support he receives from the geek squad) succeed in assimilating into the Na’vi and then saving them from certain extinction (for now), he fails to do so with any consciousness of or regard for 1. the long and bloody histories of exploitation, cultural erasure and genocide on his home planet; 2. why and how this continues to happen; or 3. a desire to keep it from happening anywhere ever again. Rather, he is content to send the humans packing and live out his personal life happily ever after on Pandora with his new boo. Everything Jake does is motivated by his own highly individualized desires, and he is rewarded time and again for acting on them.

What happens in Avatar 2: The Empire Strikes Back? They still want that Unobtainium and the violence that’s just occurred against “hardworking Americans” (or whatever) provides a (backasswards) “reason” for a retaliative nuking of the whole fucking planet. The film ends with the imperialists returning to “their dying planet”, as far as Jake knows; but we all know what really happens is they return home for more firepower and fresh warm bodies, or, they abandon Pandora entirely (one can only hope?) and move onto the next mineral-rich astronomical body and do the same thing all over again–maybe they send PeaceCorps members first in an attempt to influence their belief systems and create trade markets. Jake does nothing to “win the hearts and minds” of his fellow Earthlings and, in fact, effectively tells them that the way to definitely not get what they want is to send one of their guys in undercover, because they’re just gonna “go native” and stage a revolt! FREEDOM FAIL, JAKE.

I should probably sit on this for another few days and add more and actually conclude it and read over it a million times to make sure everything makes sense and that I didn’t misuse the word “hegemonic” or overuse the word “oppressed”, but I feel like if I do all that like a responsible, opinionated person should I’ll never get this posted, so here goes!

Some links to things I hotlinked and some I didn’t:
In Which We Teach James Cameron a Thing or TwoThe Recording
Avatar, Surrogates, Posthuman Blackface – Theory Friction Practice
The Measure of a Man: What does Avatar tell us about Masculinity, Wounded Soldiers and Disability? – We Are Respectable Negroes
When will White People Stop Making Movies like Avatar? – i09
Avatar: Totally Racist, Dude – The Moving Image
Avatar and the Genocides We will Not See – CommonDreams.org

Activism is the courage to act consciously on our ideas, to exert power in resistance to ideological pressure–to risk leaving home. Empowerment comes from ideas–our revolution is fought with concepts, not with guns, and it is fueled by vision.

-Gloria Anzaldua (2001)

I don’t know why I’m bogging myself down even discussing this. It’s not as though I voted for Obama, or ever genuinely extended any sort of hope confidence in the notion of him being a progressive candidate. I think the words “democrat” and “progressive” are mutually exclusive terms in our democracy-for-sale. But, regardless, I find myself increasingly infuriated by his back-peddling.

A few days ago I was irked to discover Hillary would be his Secretary of State. Then, I looked over the list of his other appointees; a long list of pro-free market Clintonian warhawks

In the words of Vice President-Elect Joe Biden, “that’s not change, that’s more of the same.”

Then, this evening I read about how Obama has stated he will not be repealing Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% (at least right away), due to the financial crisis. Huh? As far as I can gather, the offered “logic” for this seems to be that, due to the financial crisis, expected incomes have decreased (duh) so revenue will not be as high (duh), so there won’t be as much to tax, so the government won’t get enough money to cover the tax cuts Obama has promised to the middle and lower-class. I’m not sure who’s teaching these fellows math, but from experience I think most people can tell you some money is better than no money. 

Obama has also expressed that despite promises to withdraw troops from Iraq he now intends to keep some forces there to counter terrorism, which is not at all surprising. 

 

“Changes and progress very rarely are gifts from above. They come out of struggles from below.” -Noam Chomsky 

I have this rant categorized as “in progress” because I’m sure over the next 4-8 years I will find plenty more to add.

I’m happy to return to my more radical politics, but we’ll get to that later.

A few days ago, a 52% majority of Californians eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry by passing Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment defining marriage as that between one man and one woman only.

Discrimination is officially written into the California Constitution. Thousands just lost a right many consider to be fundamental, along with many of the [heterosexual] privileges that come with it.

Many of the queer community have responded by scapegoating the Mormon church (and the entire state of Utah) who spent millions of out-of-state dollars on a Yes on 8 campaign of lies and deception [and hatred]. Their campaign propagated the lie that same-sex marriage  would be taught in schools (and with it, acceptance of homosexuality as normal), to children as young as six. Also, that religious facilities, and by extension their affiliated charitable community organizations, that refused to perform same-sex marriages would lose their tax-exempt status. They used backwards and confusing slogans such as “Prop 8 equals less government” and “Prop 8 protects families”. They purposefully decontextualized statements made by politicians, namely Obama. They ran radio and tv advertisements on every available time-slot and station. They blanketed communities with signs and bought internet ad space on every website they could. They did all of this in multiple languages, and they did so subtly [and then not-so-subtly] for months.

It’s understandable why some people have reacted with overt hostility towards this group, but it is a displaced and inappropriate [and embarrassing] response.

It’s also confusing. Frankly, I don’t understand why, under separation of church and state, any religious organization is exempt from paying taxes. Granted, many of these organizations provide invaluable resources for their communities–charity made necessary by the shortcomings of state-run social support [funded by TAXES], but the vast majority do so while pushing their faith-based agenda. This not only allows them to alienate [if not discriminate against] those who may not share their views, or those who may not enact them just so, but also allows monies that could, and arguably should, be going back into the government to be funneled into campaigns like this.

Although the Yes on 8 campaign mystified the issue for some, it did not do so for the whole 52%. The Yes on 8 campaign worked because it tapped into the homophobia that the majority was already harboring. Homophobia and the system that perpetuates it is the scapegoat, not the Mormon church. If people were not homophobic, they would not care about their children learning that the marriage of two people of the same sex is equal to that of two people of different sexes.

Many queers have also chosen to scapegoat the Black community for the passage of Prop 8. Blacks turned out in record numbers to vote for Obama this year, and unfortunately, they also voted “overwhelmingly” yes for Prop 8 (70% voted Yes). The Latino vote, also, has received similar recognition (52% voted Yes).

The failure of one group to recognize the struggle of another is staggering, but not uncommon, nor unforeseeable. Is it really any wonder that a group traditionally mobilized from within the church turned out in favor of Prop 8? I don’t think so. Is it also surprising that some members of a group whose oppression in this country began with slavery and has yet to see an end (despite President-elect Obama) don’t consider the desire of some gays and lesbians to gain access to marriage a legitimate struggle?

Perhaps the failure of the gay and lesbian movement to include, if not at least reach out to, communities of color until the week before the election, all the while co-opting the struggle of the civil rights movement, specifically the politics of interracial marriage played a role as well. Comparing the assimilationist struggle of same-sex couples to gain access to marriage to a racial caste system, the effects of which still remain to be seen in white suburbs and urban ghettos, may have rubbed some the wrong way. Yes, they are similar, insofar as most of us alive today think it’s completely outrageous that two people couldn’t get married based solely on skin color, and at least 48% of us think it’s completely outrageous that two people can’t get married based solely on gender. But, queers were not enslaved, or disenfranchised (McCarthyism notwithstanding). The second-class citizenship of those of queer identity is not the result of American imperialism (although it is arguably an illustration of American fascism).

The plight of gays and lesbians is unique. The “queer community” is arguably the most diverse imaginable. Sexual orientation cuts across lines of class, race, gender, background, ability, citizenship, location, religion, age, sex, politics. In a lot of ways, queers are an invisible minority. In some ways, re-framed, queers might actually be the majority. And yet, the struggle of this immensely diverse group of people is framed around the struggle for access to an oppressive patriarchal institution rooted in monogamy, heteronormativity, gender normativity, reproduction and capitalism. Because, for many, marriage is the means through which people access healthcare and like services, acquire and transfer property, start and raise a family. We live in a patriarchal system, and marriage is how we participate in it.

This is so because we allow it to be. We’ve allowed the separation of church and state to be little more than a myth in this country. We’ve allowed a religious morality to permeate every facet of our government and its institutions at the cost of equality. The only reason I can’t marry the person of my choosing is because other people’s religion has shaped my government. And the only reason I’d want to, is to gain access to things I should have anyway. We need to abolish marriage. We need serious structural reorganizing before we can start talking about equality in any sort of tangible way. We need to demolish the patriarchy.

And in the meantime, queers need to stop vying for things that are not solutions to our problems. Gaining access to marriage won’t stop homophobia. And gaining access to marriage won’t guarantee anyone healthcare. Queers certainly need to stop spewing hatred at religious groups, and need to resist the popular urge to fall back on blaming the Blacks for something (because, seriously, it’s old hat).

Our differences need to stop dividing us. We’re not all the same, but we all deserve the same.

We need to funnel our anger and frustration and momentum into making real change.

“When a theory is transformed into an ideology, it begins to destroy the self and self-knowledge. Originally born of feeling, it pretends to float above and around feeling. Above sensation. It organizes experience according to itself, without touching experience. By virtue of being itself, it is supposed to know. To invoke the name of this ideology is to confer truthfulness. No one can tell it anything new. Experience ceases to surprise it, form it. It is annoyed by any detail which does not fit into its world view. Begun as a cry against the denial of truth, now it denies any truth which does not fit into its scheme. Begun as a way to restore one’s sense of reality, now it attempts to discipline real people, to remake natural beings after its own image. All that it fails to explain it records as its enemy. Begun as a theory of liberation, it is threatened by new theories of liberation; it builds a prison for the mind.”

-Susan Griffin

the most dangerous thing about ideology is that it fails to change with the times while it continues to permeate and influence so many aspects of life. I think one of the most important things we can do is keep conscious of the fluidity of everything at all times, to remember that things change, and not resist. to learn, and grow, and change with them.

First word: NO!

Ok, now more words:

For those of you that have managed to remain unaware (hopefully the you in question is not Californian, or at least not of voting age), Proposition 8 is a ballot measure for this 2008 presidential election that would AMEND the California constitution to ELIMINATE THE RIGHT of same-sex couples to get married, thus making the only marriage recognized in the great state of CA that between one man and one woman. Same-sex marriage was legalized by the Supreme Court of California back in May, and marriages started being performed in June. so, if this passes with a MAJORITY VOTE it will TAKE AWAY RIGHTS of thousands of people.

Beliefs about marriage and queer rights aside, I do not understand how anyone could possibly vote yes for any measure that would remove someone’s RIGHTS. I do not understand how someone would do this in good conscience. I do not understand how anyone could do this without pause for what it means tangibly for their own rights. I just do not understand. This measure goes beyond conservative. It is reactionary and one of the most blatantly oppressive things I have lived to see in this country. If this passes, it paves the way for others to have their rights stripped from them; rights people may take for granted, such as the right to a family, or the right to own property, or hold a job, or occupy a residence. This is not a measure grounded in public safety or social order, it is one of oppression, ignorance and hatred.

and now some words about marriage:

I believe marriage as an institution to be an oppressive tool of patriarchy used to elevate some while subordinating others. I do not believe this will change inherently just by granting same-sex couples the right to engage in one. I believe it will continue to function as a structure that excludes many from the “privledges” of marriage; “privileges” that, in my opinion, belong to all families, not just ones that follow a nuclear model. For this reason, I think marriage should be taken off the table and that there should be radical reform so that ALL families are protected with regards to taxes, healthcare, property rights, ownership, child support, guardianship, inheritance, ect. I acknowledge that marriage has a place in church, but I also acknowledge that it has a place ONLY in church.

All families have the right to be protected. Baby steps have been taken to extend some rights of the privileged to others and we cannot allow them to be taken away by a majority vote. We like to pretend we live in a democracy. We also like to pretend we live under a government that protects minority rights. When are we going to stop pretending? When is the government going to be held accountable? Majority rule? People’s rights are about to be taken away. Do you think it’s going to stop with monogamous same-sex couples?

THINK. and VOTE.

My feelings about The Progressive (progressive.org) go back and forth. I find most of the articles published on their site to be a little too narrow in focus and not as critical as they should be of wider trends. Basically, I accuse some articles of The Progressive to be guilty of the same things many accuse most mass media of; distracting from larger issues by getting people riled up about narrow issues that won’t be affected by anything less than major changes.

With that said, I’d like to discuss an article I found today entitled “Where is the Black Outrage Over China’s Involvement in Darfur?” (http://www.progressive.org/mp/whyte080408.html).

The article revolves around what the writer identifies as African-American athletes’ apathy (as indicated by their involvement in the Olympics currently taking place in Beijing) regarding not only the genocide in Darfur, but the fact that China is a major importer of Sudanese crude oil (80% according to the article) who has failed to apply political-economic pressure to bring about a resolution to the conflict.

I can get behind this as an issue. The whole, China not using their economic power to apply pressure on Sudan to resolve the conflict thing. It’s horrible, but not surprising.

Most of my issues with this article stem from the opening statement; particularly the phrase “the racial injustice of China’s support for Sudan”.

1. I, for one, hardly find China’s “support” of Sudan to be because the Chinese have it out for Blacks. I think anyone intelligent would recognize that if a country is getting 80% of one of its most crucial resources from one place, it does not cut ties. It’s business, first and foremost, and it’s politics, pure and simple. It’s ugly and horrific, but no less true. Where else is China supposed to get its crude from, the Middle East? And get into a huge mess that’s been in the making for centuries with the Europeans and the Americans? Doubtful. Speaking of, at least China hasn’t taken decades to destroy the civilian infrastructure of Sudan in order to steal their oil. At least they’re doing business in a civilized fashion and merely staying out of the countries affairs in return. If you compare China to the US, who’s more diplomatic?

2. I find it hypocritical for any American to point fingers at the Chinese for continuing to import oil from Sudan while America continues to import oil from the Middle East given the atrocious human rights record of that region as well. While China imports oil from Sudan, China also exports weapons to Sudan. This arrangement sounds, for lack of a better word, identical to America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Where is the Black outrage to China’s involvement? The same place as everyone else’s; hanging out with everyone’s outcry to pull-out of the Middle East and stop arms trade with Israel.

3. I also find it hypocritical for any American that purchases anything manufactured by an outsourced American company in China to point fingers at China’s involvement with Sudan. To act as though America’s economy isn’t deeply reliant on China’s is ridiculous, ignorant and irresponsible.

Let’s expand my issues section to the rest of the opening sentence now that that’s out of the way; “African-Americans are greeting the Beijing Olympics with a deafening silence when they should be denouncing the racial injustice of China’s support for Sudan.”

It’s unfair to single out African-American olympians as the individuals responsible to speak out against the conflict. The situation in Darfur is not a race issue. It’s a human issue. The writer of this article repeatedly demands that African-Americans take a stand for their African brothers and sisters and asserts that, with the lousy treatment Blacks have historically received in America, they should feel more inclined to do so. The writer speaks of all African-Americans’ feeling of lineage to the continent, something I find to be a gross generalization of what are complex attitudes of a highly diverse group comprised of millions of people.

I also feel the writer is underestimating the potentially huge diplomatic steps that can be taken from an event as multinational and tremendous as the Olympics. In a post-Bush world the US is substantially lacking in friends. It may be more advantageous for Americans to not denounce the dirty dealings of a country they are visiting when the country they are representing has equally (if not more) reprehensible activities going on. Americans are known internationally for being hypocritical when speaking about other nations’ wrong-doings due to ignorance of their own country’s political and economic activities.

Now, while I have expressed my issue with the racialization of this article, let’s do discuss racism in America for a moment.

Ideologically, African-Americans are only allowed to be positive models of success in three ways; 1. as a comedian; 2. as a musician (R&B and Hip-Hop only, please); and 3. as an athlete. If you boil it down, that’s really just one way: as a performer. They can be models of success, but not positively: as a gangster. And, they can be positive models, but not of success: in the church (because ministers don’t exactly rake in the big bucks, but these are highly influential leadership positions). With the options so limited, is it enough to just make it to the top, to succeed in becoming a role model, in the face of such social adversity? Or is one obligated to speak out against social injustice whenever they see it? How does one become more obligated to do so just by virtue of being successful?