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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For its a jolly good person! I will mis hir.

DLC PDA: “Quick-I’ll find something shiny to throw over a fence while you figure out how you are eventually going to duck that thing about permanent bases in Iraq.”

You can listen here

1) Obama is taking cheap shots to “play against type.” Makes me wonder if running for President constitutes absentee parenthood?

2) Confidential to Ralph: Thank you for running in 2000. You made me excited about my first ever chance to vote in a presidential election. You are the only candidate whom I have ever endorsed for the office of President of the United States of America.

In that spirit of loyalty, I just want to point out to you that in THIS election, John Kerry is NOT running against you. That was last time. I know. It seems recent to me, too.

3) The Progressive Democrats of America, while still seeming to largely miss the point about the Non-progressive Democrats of America, do at at least appear to have a handle on what it is that Kerry is running for this time around. The fact that their acronym is “PDA” never ceases to crack me up.

How do you get a reverse-bikini-tan-line sunburn? If you would like to try this at home, email me for further instruction.

What’s next, people? Marrying dogs?

As the boys say, “unless you’ve been living under a rock” you know that the gay marriage ban in California was overturned last week. Here in my home state, marriage has snuck in under what CNN called a “loophole,” a hole looped by my all-time favorite, Governor Patterson, that orders state functionaries to honor MA and CA marriages here in NY, regardless of our own locally segregationist marriage policies.

Perhaps it is too soon to say, but it looks like the days of orientation-segregated marriage are numbered.

To tell you the truth, it makes me a little nervous. I don’t like marriage, and to be honest, its not entirely transparent why. Back when I was straight, I limited my engagement with this institution to the city’s back-of-the-bus vehicle for gay partnership, because, really, what kind of person buys into segregated institutions, on purpose, from a position of privilege? Plus, I didn’t–and don’t–think rights like health care, pensions, living wages, education, free movement across borders, living wages, and parental rights (etc) should be allocated on the basis of people’s love lives.

Well, that and the consumer-fest of wedding showers and the specter of adult women playing candy-penis-based games at bachelorette parties make my skin crawl. I suspect I won’t like it any better when the tradition is “transformed” into “pin the boobies on the (other) bride”, and vulva cookies instead of penis Popsicles. I love looking at naked people, but truly hate going to strip clubs. Particularly with (my) blood relatives. Gay strip clubs seems likely to only make that kind of scene more awkward.

I don’t like going to church. I hate posing for pictures, and I despise matching dresses, except in the context of vintage Motown. And, any open bar that I have to pay for seems to entirely defeat the purpose.

It appears that marriage, or at least weddings, just may not be for me.

I could just live an let live, and leave it at that. But, Mattilda has been arguing high and low that the evolution of gay marriage as the number-one demand of the movement was a strategic mistake and an example of the worst kind of right-wing, assimilationist politics. This argument strikes me as essentially correct; universal health care would have been a better demand to focus on in the early nineties. If the queer lib movement had done that, the 2008 elections might be somewhat different, and have more actual political content.

Mattilda makes a good case, but not one that tells us much about gay marriage, the issue at hand; things didn’t go her way a decade and a half ago, so here we are.

Where is that again?

A lot of people are worried that gay marriage will fatally maim “gay culture,” further stigmatizing things like hook-ups, sex work and public sex while undermining the political economy of kinky subcultures and all-night dance clubs. If that happens, it will make me sad, but not in an intensely personal sense; I’d feel the kind of dread one might experience as their favorite island paradise is transformed into a hell of matching condos, but not the kind of identity crisis inspired by losing ones physical or spiritual home.

That’s because my preferred mode of sex and romance looks, on the surface, a lot like traditional, monogamous, boring-old marriage. I can take or leave public sex, promiscuity and kink, but I really like partnership, and the intensity and interdependence of two. I like to be someone’s special someone. I like being proud of my partner, becoming part of a family, commitment, cooking dinner and spooning. I realize these good-for-me things are not necessarily tied to monogamy or pair-bonding, much less to marriage. I’m just pointing out the resemblance to popular, romantic view

Which makes it seem like I’m nitpicking on this marriage issue. As my mother constantly asks me, while I mercilessly dissect every latest piece of potentially hopeful news, “Why can’t [I] just be happy?”

Because, thats why. I think underneath my sense of ambivalence, lies a serious flaw in the “new,” supposedly gender-neutral marriage. Namely, the new institution will still be segregated. Inherently so. Expanding marriage is expanding social inequality. I hate that.

Honestly, I wouldn’t really miss house music, if it didn’t make it into the brave new world. And if we think about “gay culture” in those terms, the the ill-effects of gay marriage seem to mostly affect the boys; the political economy of public dyke culture has long been comparatively tenuous at best.

But, if we look deeper, we can see that gay marriage may, in fact, undermine core feminist principles, reinforcing ideas of domesticity and adulthood that feminists have been battling since domesticity was invented. This expansion of marriage will segregate the gay world in a way that the straight world has long been segregated, dividing us into ‘single’ and ‘married.’ It will expand the reach of a social logic into a sphere once carved out to oppose it, further legitimizing a series of social assumptions that make people’s lives worse, and whch stigmatize the majority of us that don’t meet the marriage–and parenthood– norm. For example:

“Single people would rather be married/are social failures“; Gays “bachelors” and single women have long been stigmatized as lonely, mentally disturbed, socially unsuitable and sexually dangerous. We are cat ladies and pathetic men with tiny dogs. Sex In the City may signal a decade-long extension for women on the marriage imperative, but it’s by no means an amnesty. Everybody wound up hitched, in the end, right?

It’s okay. Don’t tell me how the movie turns out. I don’t want to know. I’m just afraid that adding the choice of gay marriage to the pre fixe menu of adulthood options will only make this worse.

“Single people would rather be married to one person:” The fight for gay marriage makes it hard to talk about families based on mutually supportive romantic relationships between more than two people. When even Dan Savage can’t come out and say that he has your back, you know you are being thrown under the bus of socio-sexual normativity.

“Single people are social children”: Surely I’m not the only one who has faced demotion to the “kids table” upon finding myself single or arriving at family events partner-free? Only to have someone ask when I’ll be “settling down?” More marriage will make us even weirder at Thanksgiving, glaring enviously as our married lesbian cousins are offered more wine, while the singles smile and convince small children to stop throwing soft food.

“Reproduction and parenthood truly gives life meaning–especially for women”: Opponents of gay marriage have been making the rounds arguing idiotically that gay marriage is wrong because children deserve two parents. Personally, I think children deserve at least four parents, but that is another post.

My point here is that these right-wing asswipes assume that the purpose of marriage is to create infrastructure for childbearing and parenthood. One walk around Park Slope and I quickly begin to worry that gay marriage aficionados disagree only in the details.

I think children can be great, but I hate to reinforce the idea that having children is the highest purpose that women–or other adults–have in life. Writing books, doing fantastic plumbing, making art, teaching, being a great friend, aunt or conversationalist also strike me as worthy goals.

Gay parenting, at least in part, also depends particularly heavily on a social structure that systematically separates children in oppressed nations (domestically and internationally) from their families. My thoughts on adoption are much longer than we have time for here, and in no way amount to a blanket condemnation, but it is worth worrying about the degree to which increased heteronormativity among the gay upper-crust can create “demand” in a market for human babies. To the extent that this happens, its a great example of how the heteronormative “success” of some is dependent on the normative failure of others, particularly poor women.

“Friends are nice, but not very important”: We all have priorities. But state-and-culture sanctioned marriage vastly elevates a single relationship above all other relationships we have in life. Fidelity and honesty are the least common denominator for human decency in the context of marriage, but fucking over ones friends is much less stigmatized in society at large that cheating on a spouse. When you “break up” with a friend, few will ask “what happened!?!” or offer condolences. Its my opinion that we’d all be happier with rich social lives filled with significant relationships. Straight culture doesn’t have much time for that perspective; will the gays go the same sad way after marriage?

“Extended family is nice, but not very important”; Marriage has, at various times and places, operated as a kind of treaty between extended families and clans, but in our world reflects the formation of an autonomous, nuclear unit. Stigma against, for example, single mothers, discounts the value of supportive extended family networks and is usually based in the belief that there is one, and only one, right way to go–two parents and one or two kids.

For queer people, “family” can mean a non-biologically based version of this extended family model. As the gay version of the nuclear family becomes more socially valued and–likely–more popular, can both models co-exist?

If not, I know which side I’m on.

“Working class and poor people, and Black people are not responsible or successful”; Related to the assumptions above, its already the case that the straight ideal of marriage and the nuclear family is heavily class-biased and much more difficult to attain and maintain under economic duress; for example, in situations where where workers are forced to migrate long distances away from their families, in circumstances where large percentages of a community are in prison, or where unemployment is high. These days, all over the world, we are talking about a lot of people.

Failure to meet these family/marriage norms used to be something that queer people shared with this majority, helping, I think, to contribute to a left queer and liberal gay political spectrum; what will happen (has been happening?) to queer politics as the elite minority of gay people get hitched, fit in, and lose any vestigial sense of connection to other oppressed people?

Sorry. That was rhetorical question.

In any case, you can play this game at home. There are many more oppressive and divisive assumptions that marriage–even gay marriage–help to reinforce. Feel free to contribute–I live for participatory rants. In the mean time, I’ll wrap this over-long post up by suggesting that this kind of (il)logic has always been oppressively applied to gays in the straight world, and to some extent even within the queer sphere. But gay marriage further entrenches this normative logic in a realm where it was once seriously contested. Part of me is glad that it looks like people who want to get married will now be able to, but, as a woman who, in all likelihood will never be a mother, and a human who hopes for liberation not just for the elite, these developments also make me feel a little like dressing up in a sequined mini and heading out for fabulous karaoke rendition of Nowhere to Run.

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.

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