Victoria Falls

Should the UN intervene?

What about Mbeki’s proposal for a “unity” government led by Mugabe?

Why is South Africa choosing not to participate in meetings with other African nations?

While COSATU is boycotting Zimbabwe, the ANC says the following:

“Any attempts by outside players to impose regime change will merely deepen the crisis.

“It has always been and continues to be the view of our movement that the challenges facing Zimbabwe can only be solved by the Zimbabweans themselves,” the statement said. “Nothing that has happened in the recent months has persuaded us to revise that view.”

This, in truth, strikes me as sensible. Given Mugabe’s vocal condemnation of imperialism, invoked as the justification for every act of violence and repression, and given Tsvangarai’s unabashed advocacy for neoliberal “market solutions,” UN intervention seems likely make things worse.

But can be the same be said of African intervention? It seems unlikely that we will find out.

Instead, “leaving it up to Zimbabweans themselves” means that Mugabe will go ahead with this “election,” opponent-free. Hopefully, the fact that he is the only one running will reduce his need to employ roving bands of thugs to genderate “support.”

In other news on the topic, I cant find a print quote, but WBAI’s Wake Up Call quoted my president, Cynthia McKinney, in a statement on Zimbabwe. Her comment focused on the land question in a way that could be read as implicit support for Mugabe’s campaign of terror and anti-democratic repression. I understand, politically, why that would be her position, but….ew.

While “what next?” remains a swamp of least-worst and worst-worst options, tomorrow I’ll focus a bit on how Zimbabwe got here in the first place.

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Hope in Days of Silence

April 30, 2008

On this day in 1939, the New York’s World Fair opened with the theme “The World of Tomorrow.” The fair was attended by tens of millions, and was seen as a beacon of hope for internationalism, peace, prosperity and progress.

On this day in history, six years later, Adolf Hitler shot himself in the head in a Berlin bunker, pushing one of the most violent, nastily nationalist periods of history towards closure.

Which might seem like a depressing start to our morning in blog land, yes. But to me its not; its a reminder that history and social life can change very fast and that “the world of tomorrow “can be a very different one than the world of today, in ways that seem totally improbable and unlikely.

Today, I’m specifically holding out hope that our world of tomorrow will be one in which Black American men have no reason to fear random death-by-firing-squad at the hands of “peace” officers, and for a world in which eighth-graders have no reason to fear violent asassinations delivered by their homophobic classmates.

I find it encouraging that I am not the only one who hopes for these things. It appears that 5,000 schools had participation in this years Day of Silence aimed at drawing attention to the harassment and abuse of LGBTQQ students and in honor of Lawrence King.

And while the rally I recently attended in protest of the legal whitewash of Sean Bell’s murder (incidentally, not at all far from the site of the 1939 fair), was disappointingly small, I find it encouraging that this injustice isn’t going unnoticed–not in New York City classrooms, not in discussions at work, not in activist circles and, despite what NPR thinks, not in communities affected by police brutality.

Two reactions to the trial made me hopeful, each for different reasons:

1) Cynthia McKinney’s statement on the verdict does a great job putting Sean Bell’s murder in context, but also linked it to a call for all of us to imagine something different, and better.

2) I heard an announcement from the Queer Justice League of New York City on the radio yesterday, making connections between police harassment of queer people and police violence in communities of color. I looked up their website, and while I really know nothing about this organization, except that they have an awesome name, that also gave me hope.

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Really, its mostly the name that gives me hope. Like this postcard of the 1939 Fair’s Lagoon of Nations, the fantastical super-hero ring of “Queer Justice League” reminds me of the sometimes secret, sometimes shame-faced connections between a hopeful left-wing politics and the realm of utopia, imagination, and fantasy.

Because, of course, behind all my emphasis on hope this morning lies the stark reality that the present moment gives us little to hang our hope hats on. The movements for Black Liberation, Queer Liberation, Women’s Liberations and Workers’ Liberation are at low tide, to put it mildly. The US economy is in a world of shit, and empty rhetorical cover for a right-wing neoliberal agenda is what passes for a politics of “change” around here these days.

That’s why hope requires a different, more imaginative, engagement with the fourth dimension. I’ve previously alluded to the significance of reflection on the past and past hopes. But maintaining–building–hope, much less any communities or movements rooted in it, requires imagining, often detailed imagining of not only the past and the present, but the future as well.

This is what left-wing activists, queer communities and sci-fi geeks sometimes share–imagining a wholly different kind of economy, and/or new and liberating configurations of ‘family’, and sometimes all of the above on a yet-undiscovered planet.

Doing that can make you unpopular, yes. Perhaps it is slightly insane. And uncool. But, I am compelled to argue, its nowhere near as insane and uncool as accepting a total lack of alternatives.

Getting Played

April 17, 2008

These WWI soldiers were sent “home” to scenic, segregated Houston.
Their unwillingness to acquiesce to Jim Crow street cars and policing erupted into the “Camp Logan Mutiny” of 1917.

Yesterday, on the A train, I was squashed next to a man who was absorbed in a book entitled “Blacks in America’s Wars.” While I was trying to read the name of the book’s author, i noticed that the man was turning pages right to left, rather than left to right, and that when he paused, his eyes darted around the page, resting on a word here an there.

There were only two possible explanations for this that I could think of: 1) He cant read, but he’s trying anyway. Or trying to look like he is reading for some reason.

or 2) He’s read this book so many times that he’s flipping through the book and reminding himself of well-loved sections or ideas contained therein.

In either case, it seemed high time for me to bother strangers, a favorite activity of mine. Ironic, I know.

Artb213: “That looks like an interesting book.”

Man on the train: He holds up cover, so I can see it, “Its about wars.”

A: “Is it any good? I’ve read a different book on the same topic and I learned a lot of things I didn’t know.”

M: “I’m a soldier, so I already knew a lot of it, but yeah, its an interesting topic. Its a played topic. This shit is getting played.”

A: “Yeah, you’re right. It can seem like its the same thing over and over again. One thing I learned in the other book that I didn’t know was that Black vets from WWII came home pissed off and started the Civil Rights movement. I hope that part happens over again.”

M: (Looks at me like I’m a little crazy) “Well, people are pissed off. I’m pissed off…I’m getting out here. Have a good day!”

A: Have a good day!

Food Fight

April 15, 2008

the global economy is making me crazy

The global economy is making me crazy

Its not good, people. High gas prices not only trapped me in the scenic Airports of the American South for the better part of last weekend, they appear to have sparked a spate of food riots from Haiti, to many parts of Africa, the Philippines and Indonesia. *Updated to add Mexico, and a whole bunch of other places according to Democracy Now! this morning; apparently 15,000 garment workers are on strike in Bangladesh, protesting high food prices and slave wages.* The main South African federation of trade unions, COSATU, is warning that SA could be next.

Food crisis happening in these countries because they already have high rates of inequality and poverty, and because they are net importers of food; increasing gas prices increase the cost of food production and the cost of food transportation.

This is, of course, only the most immediate problem. For a deeper explanation, we’d have to look at the impact of fossil fuels, global warming and history of colonial and post-colonial land ownership on food production. But those are not really points best made in blog format.

Instead we will talk about what the problem is NOT. The problem is not a lack of food in the world. There is enough food in the world.

Brief interlude for a vignette;

When I was a younger, equally smart-assed anti-capitalist, a teacher, (who closely resembled Monica Lewinsky, during a historical period in which that was a serious social detriment) once explained to me and the rest of the class that “Capitalism is the Most Efficient System”

“Efficient,” I loudly wondered, “at what?”

She was baffled, but a future salutatorian answered my question: “Efficient at distributing goods and resources!”

Ahhh. Now it remains my turn to be baffled. This assertion, whenever I see it repeated, strikes me as egregiously illogical one. Or, at least, as a pure declaration of faith in a premise with very little evidence to support it. Many of the ideas in the human cultural cannon, ideas often considered the epitome of antilogical faith–say animism, or belief in magic–have a much longer and more successful empirical track record if all of human history is taken into account. Food riots are endemic to this crap system and they always have been.

And despite the category I’ve stuck this post in, rising food prices aren’t just a problem for Africa or for island nations dominated by US military and economic imperialism; food is a global market. Price pressure at the pump is likely to hit us in the pantry, and I’m worried it might be soon.

This food thing makes me even more nervous than the housing crash, especially given that they can’t be taken in isolation. See, in the earlier half of this century, in the US, food prices were substantially higher (relative to wages), but housing prices were substantially lower. Wages, in the US have been stagnating since the 1960’s or so, but this arrangement has been sustained, in part, by falling food prices.

The housing crash hasn’t made rent cheaper. Its just resulted in a lot of people losing their highly-leveraged houses. So now we have a situation where we have stagnant wages, rising food and housing costs and credit markets drying up.

Tasty!

*updated again to add: More at Rachel’s Tavern.*


Is America Ready?

April 4, 2008


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“Are we there yet?”
“Is America Ready?”
This phrase has been bouncing around a lot lately; “Is America Ready for a Woman President?,” “Is America Ready for a Black President?“…“Is America Ready for a Pregnant Man?”
I mean, clearly the answer to that question, no matter what the second clause contains, is pretty much “no”. But why doesn’t this question get more play where it really counts, when it would really matter? Imagine the many key interrogatively formulaic stories we never read but should have:
Is America Ready for Adjustable Rate Mortgages?
Is America Ready to Kill Hundreds of Thousands of Iraqis for No Legitimate Reason at All?
Is America Ready to Dismantle our Entire Public Education System?
Is America Ready for the Backdoor Draft? How About A Private, Mercenary Army?
Is America Ready to Watch as A Major US City is Demolished and Its Citizens Left for Days to Drown?
This could go on for a while, but you get my point.

obamahillarywinmcnamee.jpg

“Fancy meeting you here!”

 

 

Waiting in the airport at five am for the first flight out to Atlanta, my brain is not generally in top form.  That is my only excuse for how quickly and completely i was sucked into CNN’s rendition of todays campaign non-event.  In addition to hearing the rumors that Clinton told Bill Richardson that “Obama can’t win,” I leaned several things. 

 

1) Through the thick fog surrounding my consciousness, I believe that I heard the phrase “CNN means politics.” I found this concept and tagline unexpectedly terrifying.  If this is politics, I’m the Tooth Fairy.

 

2) Obama’s candidacy has been a major boon to Black commentators willing to denounce Obama. Also, it has been a boon to black commentators who support Barak Obama. About 70% of the commentators who talked about Clinton’s statement were Black, even if none of the hosts were.  This had the effect of both making me notice how white TV normally is and of making me suspicious that CNN is trying to pass off the false notion that Black people are divided on the the question of whom to support for the Democratic nomination. They are not.

 

3) A super-delegate from my district, the not-infrequently-sleazy Ed Towns,  is supporting Clinton, despite the fact that the district, which includes the first or second largest urban concentration of Black people in the country (Atlanta is the other one), and possibly outside of Africa.  Brooklyn (and Queens) went overwhelmingly for Obama, but our reps are backing Clinton. There have, it seems, been protests.

 

If you are regular reader, you are aware that I am not an Obama supporter. I may have even said “I don’t even really give a shit about Obama.”  This remains strictly true. While Obama is cute, and a capable of writing his own speeches (a skill that impresses in the realm of presidential candidates, but is the minimum standard for entry into world of high school debate), nothing about his neoliberal economic program, aggressive imperialist posturing nor his tactically demonstrative support for apartheid in Israel warms the cockles of my anything.  

 

Further, I believe that anyone with politics to the left of Richard Nixon is completely wasting hir time considering or trying to redeem the Democratic party as something other than cleverly organized surrender of any social forces for progress (the working class, the Black, Chicano, Feminist and Queer Movements, etc. ) managed by a rotating team of the most unbelievably spineless lickspittle lackeys. 

 

Which is to say that I like HIllary Clinton even less than Barak Obama.  It never ceases to baffle me that some of my favorite  feminists  believe that a victory for Clinton will be a feminist victory.  I disagree; a victory for Clinton will be a victory for the oligarchy and a return to the antediluvian patriarchal practice of rule by kinship.  If Hillary Clinton is feminism, Eva Peron is the Tooth Fairy.

 

But none of that is really the point of this post.  My point is that if I were the among the leadership of Democratic Party and intent, as I would be, on encouraging people to hang on to the last shred of suspended disbelief they have in the notion that they live in a democratic republic which has at least one democratically organized major political party, I would not, I repeat, not, try to game the system to thwart the Black vote. Nor would i let anyone else engage in this foolish behavior. 

 

I say this , in part, because the last two elections have had major instances of of Black disenfrancheisment through fiat, through legal technicalities and through outright cheating. The last two instances of this were atrocities, but Republicans were clearly most responsible ( even if it is also true that Al Gore, John Kerry and John Edwards were amazingly willing to sacrifice their own personal interests to those of ruling class–and white–solidarity).  A third round of this nastiness, taking place inside the Democratic Party, and requiring the complicity of large portions of the Congressional Black Caucus seems like a bad strategy fo mobilizing a tired, overworked, beaten-down but temporarily hopeful base.

 

Mrs. Clinton, whatever else you may be, you seem to be a very saavy woman. I ask you; You think Barak Obama can’t win? Ok. I have my own fears about the depth of American racism, its true. Maybe white voters really can’t go there. That would be tragically blatant but unsurprising.

 

But can you win?  No. Not a chance, I suspect, if you have to throw over Barak Obama and the democratic will of your party’s rank-and-file and Black voters to do it.  

 

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On an obliquely related note, today is the 40th Anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  While King was just one man, and part of a larger movement, the aniverssary his death has a lot symbolic resonance. It seems like a good time to reflect on the real meanings of “Hope” and “Change.”  King died supporting the struggle of Memphis’ Black sanitaiton workers, planning a Poor People’s Campaign and denouncing American Imperialism in Vietnam.  He never got to finish all that and we never got to it either.

 

The good guys have been mostly losing ever since; the Democratic party has become increasingly conservative, and we all work a whole lot more for less money. Its high time we turned that around. Barak Obama deserves to win the presidency, if any of them do, but even if he does, he’s not going to do any of that for us.  

 

Kinglorraine 

 

 

Pop Quiz!

March 24, 2008

homer_simpson.jpg
Who’s The Husband?
If I was smarter, I would have anticipated this little kink of life as part of a girl/girl couple, but I didn’t. People, people who knew me as a straight girl, people who’ve known me a long time, people whom I’ve just met, other queer people–all kinds of people–have lately asked me: “Who’s the husband/boyfriend/butch?”

The best answer I’ve come up with so far is : “Are you asking me about who does what in bed?” ‘Cause, you know, you are. Ewww.

But just in case you, yourself, have been wondering the same; here’s a clue. If you have to ask the question, it might be because the answer is that there *isn’t* a boyfriend. Or because its none of your beeswax.

Nevertheless, being on the receiving end of this particular inquiry has been food for thought. I mean, to me, I haven’t changed. I’m still pretty much the same pushy broad I was when I busted out of the womb six weeks early. But when my nearest and dearest answer that question themselves (which they generally do, if I let them), the answer is always the same; Its me.

I’m the butch.

Except I’m not. I’m still the kind of girl I always was. Cute, short and with a taste for shoes, underwear and red wine. Plus a sizable personality. I like to think of it as ‘direct.’ And brainy. Maybe ‘challenging.’ On a bad day, crass, mean and with a mouth like an angry truck driver. (I, personally, love angry truck drivers, but thats another post.)

In any case, these mildly gender-contradictory traits, in the context of an apparently straight lifeplan produce no cognitive dissonance whatsoever in the audience; they are merely cute quirks that up until recently reinforced my essential femininity. Now, suddenly, without a Dude to back me up, the same qualities apparently reveal me as essentially mannish.

It seems to me as though there is an unstated equation; you can go this far and no further with your gender non-conformity without crossing some kind of line. Heels+lipstick+ boyfriend+ major ego and incredibly logical mind= femme but if you change one variable the whole picture is in question.

Alternatively, the only real concern of these friends and comrades with regard to my gender is that (possibly, as far as they can tell,) I might not be getting (properly) fucked, and that is the single definitional requirement of femme-ness and femininity. I’m not sure, because I’m not in your head.

But I’m curious. Which is it?

I Bore Easily

March 17, 2008

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Originally, I started this blog with intent to follow through on a very specfic project. My goal was to blog about the sexism that I encountered in the course of my every day life–in school, on the street, at work, or anywhere else. I wanted to document the sheer volume of this crap, look at it directly and offer it up to an audience as a kind of proof that my anger and occasional moments of rage are in some way justified.

What I discovered is that there is a reason that, as a rule, those of us on the receiving end of this kind of crap don’t actually want to confront the sheer volume of the assault. Its psychologically damaging to sit down at the end of a long day and count up a long series of injuries and abuses. Not to mention, its kind of repetitive and …boring. I found myself only bothering to remember and share with you the notable, or the amusing; a tiny portion of my intended catalouge.

This has made for more entertaining blog posts, but sparse posting. To supplement my content, I also found myself adding to my personal experiences with more standard blogular fare, like commentary and other musings beyond the 1st person.

In any case, all of this is to say I intend to continue as I have, but now without the guilt. I have decided that the flaw lies my original intent, rather than with my execution. As it turns out, I can only keep my mind off the abstract for so long. The ‘about’ page will be updated when I feel like it.

Carry on.

Dear Mom

February 29, 2008

momhat.jpg

Too bad it’s pink.

Sorry. You are not a bummer. I love you. I’m sorry I dont want to talk to you very much right now.

I mean, you are a bummer. Totally a bummer to talk to, anyway. But its not your fault that people are dying and getting into trouble and that they happen to be important people to you and to me. And its not that I dont want to hear about it and help. I do. Thats what I want. But I just don’t know how to help you and take care of myself at the same time right now. I don’t know how to let you take care of me a little bit. And I don’t want to add to your lengthy list of worries.

I think I have to figure that out pretty soon.

steinem.jpg

That’s Gloria Steinem, apparently protesting US Imperialism and women’s oppression in Iran. Photograph, apparently not recent.

In further violation of my usual obsessive focus on my own daily problems, I feel that I must once again rant about events taking place in the world outside my own tiny universe.

Much blogspace has already been spent criticizing feminist icon Gloria Steinem for her recent oped in the New York Times which made the argument, after Obama’s Iowa victory, that Clinton lost because “gender is probably the most restricting force in American life.” No more needs to be said about the article’s bizarre leade in which Steinem argues that because a fictitious Black woman (Carol Moseley Braun? Shirley Chisholm?) would have a harder time being elected to the presidency than Obama, that this somehow tells us something about whether Clinton’s gender is more of a political problem for her than Obama’s race is for him. I’ll leave such thoughtful, non-violent, reactions to the commentators linked above, and in the capable hands of a Princeton professor below.

In response to the controversy surrounding the piece, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! hosted an on-air debate between Steinem and Melissa Harris-Lacewell. Harris-Lacewell is a professor of politics and African-American studies at a fancy Ivy-league school, and Steinem, as you know is a founder of Ms. Magazine. Go listen to it.

Frankly, I’m surprised Harris-Lacewell didn’t punch Gloria Steinem in the face. I wanted to. I would have, I wasn’t decidedly too distant from the “firehouse studio” to make it down there before my rage subsided into persistent heartburn.

Because, at first, when you listen to this debate, you feel sorry for Gloria. Because, it seems, she kind of just doesn’t really get what she is being criticized for. Kind of like how your old, sweet grandma doesn’t understand it when you tell her you never want to have children or that you actually prefer red wine when it is not stored in the fridge between pours.

But then you realize. Gloria Steinem has been doing politics for nearly four decades. She wrote her op-ed with a political strategy in mind for the Democratic primary. She has probably met all of the authors of your favorite books on feminism, and all your historical heroes who fought to link women’s oppression to the greater project of human liberation, and probably all at the same party. A party at which she probably told them they are all completely ungrateful and wrong, and then returned to calmly sipping Chardonnay.

You imagine this and then you realize, Gloria Steinem is not stupid. And yet she seems to be stupid. You think; Gloria Steinem is not stupid, she is merely pretending to be stupid.

Gloria Steinem. Is Pretending. To Be Stupid.

Gloria Steinem is pretending to be stupid.

And then you want to punch her.