Just a thought.

“Most heterosexual men who attack lesbians and gay men do so not because of moral or religious conviction but because they feel threatened and uneasy over the mere existence of people whose sexual orientation and relation to women raise questions about their own.”
– Allan G. Johnson, Privilege, Power, and Difference, p. 62

It’s well past the time we all got comfortable with the questions.

“I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

This morning I was reading further into a biography of Frances Perkins*.  For those who’ve never heard of her (like me before someone recommended the biography), Perkins was FDR’s Secretary of Labor.  She was the heart, soul, and brains behind most of what came to be called the New Deal.  For all her uncredited accomplishments, and for all the obstacles she had to overcome and sacrifices she chose to make, I was struck by two things.  First, that the New Deal wasn’t some attempt at creating a left-wing, working-class utopia.  It was a very sober campaign of creating institutionalized safety nets and long overdue regulatory regimes, and it was only made possible by the catastrophic global failures of the capitalist systems that had been allowed to run more or less rampant through the first quarter of the 20th Century.  In other words, Frances Perkins wasn’t some wild-eyed progressive visionary; she was a pious, very conventional middle-class Protestant with an almost apolitical sense of fairness and justice.  In a sense, only she had the intellect, and the appropriately liberal sensibilities and somewhat conservative social orientation, to gather in the compromises necessary to make the reforms of the New Deal possible; this was why FDR leaned so heavily on her and gave her so much authority.

The second thing that struck me was the part I got to this morning, wherein Frances Perkins became instrumental in setting up some of the bureaucratic mechanisms that eventually blossomed into the McCarthy anti-communist witch hunts.  Kirsten Downey makes clear that Perkins found the whole process distasteful and ripe for abuse (even before McCarthy and his ilk got deeply involved), but her own anti-communist sensibilities possibly outranked her sense of fairness.

I’m left thinking about Chris Hedges’s indictment of what he labels “the liberal class.”  The McCarthy witch hunts were neither the first nor the last campaigns of organized political purges of leftist activism in the U.S.  According to Hedges, over time the liberal class– academics, theologians, and even some politicians– sold out the communists, socialists, anarchists, and other political and philosophical radicals who’d been the most energetic and creative opponents of the capitalist excesses that had kept the majority of U.S. citizens struggling to stay out of poverty and degradation.

If even one of the most effective liberal policy makers in our country’s history– Frances Perkins– couldn’t leave off or take a solid stand against the commie-bashing that was a flimsy cover for gutting the left of its heart, soul, and spine, then perhaps the liberal class’s fate was inevitable.  Perhaps this was never really a progressive liberal nation, at least not in the way ostensibly envisioned by the sort of liberals who have supported the likes of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.  Perhaps all the liberal hand-wringing over ‘Republican obstructionism’ and ‘holding Obama’s/the Democrats’ feet to the fire’ is irrelevant.  This not a progressive country; it’s a reactionary liberal one, at best.  The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can strategize how to move beyond it, if such a move is possible.


*(I suggest you find a copy of Downey’s book and read it.  Her apparently centrist liberal viewpoint was a little annoying to me at first, but the information she very capably lays down is invaluable.)

Fetid, toxic grapes

I’ve had a little trouble articulating my post-election mood, such as it pertained to the election.  Perhaps I’ve had trouble because of the nature of the feeling.  It was in such an odd place, somewhere near the intersection of cynicism, apathy, disgust, and amusement.

The feeling was recently bathed in a defining light, however, by the recent Israeli onslaught on Gaza, or, more accurately, by the collective yawn from the liberal blogosphere (and the occasional liberal pro-Zionist apologias I’d been seeing on Facebook) about the same.

Chris Floyd articulates my feelings about that specific issue here.  Arthur Silber hits them even harder here.

After watching dedicated volunteers work hard to put a solid Green presidential candidate on the ballot Illinois, and after helping an excellent Green get on the ballot in my U.S. congressional district, and seeing both those candidates fail to make more than a tiny dent in the vote totals, and then seeing a huge swath of the country celebrate the reinstallation of a shameless mass murderer as president, I suppose I could best describe my feeling as similar to how Lot must have felt just before he fled Sodom and Gomorrah.

‘You know what, Lord?  I did the best I could to convince these assholes.  They’re incorrigible.  Burn away, Lord.’

Another thought about the alleged scourge of ‘third-party’ voting (vis-à-vis human nature)

I just read a fascinating quote at the blog of the charming and erudite Aunt B., and upon following the link to the source I found an excellent and thought-provoking blog post.  Therein I got stuck rereading the following passage, which I will present without further comment:

That was the story’s nastiest take-away, the buried contempt in Jackson’s refusal to make Tessie in any way admirable or special. There’s no-one that we’re allowed to identify with in order to reassure ourselves that we’re good people: No idealistic young townsperson pointing out that, gosh golly gee, these Lotteries are killing people, no Katniss, no virtuous Christ getting nailed to the cross. These Lotteries are our values, they’re what we do. Participating in the Lottery is being a good person, isn’t it? Anyway, the only person who ever objects is the one who’s getting their skull crushed at the moment, and we don’t listen to them; it’s just a bunch of screaming. It’s always fair and right, until it’s you, is the intensely obvious message here, and it’s harsher for the fact that we know Tessie’s killed plenty of people, and never saw a problem with it until the first rock hit her.

My thoughts on a proposed boycott of the 2012 election

The aforementioned thoughts take the form of analyzing a post from the Proletarian Center for Research, Education and Culture.

You need to let those around you, especially members of the establishment, know that you have made a conscious choice to abstain from voting because you know that the political system is entirely corrupt, rigged – even ridiculous.

“Members of the establishment,” unless they are suffering from a mental break, are fully aware that “the political system is entirely corrupt, rigged– even ridiculous.” How is electoral abstinence intended to affect them? Furthermore, if the purpose is to call attention to the system’s lack of viability, then what is the next step? Is there an alternative system being proposed? If not, then to what is the boycott supposed to lead?

You know that we live in a dictatorship – not even very cleverly disguised if you just open your eyes and pay attention.

If this is true, then isn’t an organized effort to call attention to this fact inherently redundant?

Let’s put out the word that we’re not going to be complicit in our own exploitation or the murderous schemes of imperialism!!

So this boycott will be accompanied by a tax boycott as well? Will it be accompanied by a call for nationwide mutiny by the armed forces and by law enforcement? The electoral abstinence of x number of citizens will have zero effect on domestic or foreign exploitation, at least while the revenue streams still exist and the exploitation has enough willing agents.

Whereas third parties have no possibility of winning the Presidential election due to corporate control over the electoral process and the media…

This is factually untrue, inasmuch as it confuses possibility with probability. Jill Stein, for example, is on the ballot in more than enough states to capture sufficient electoral votes. If she fails to win the White House, it will be because an insufficient number of voters selected her, not because she ‘didn’t have a chance.’ In effect, the problem here is not the system, or even the wealthy interests that have abused the system; the problem is the voters. (The same can be said at the congressional and local levels, where Green candidates who do the hard work of getting on ballots are almost completely ignored.)

I would be willing to accept as sound the assertion that the U.S.A. has become too large, too populated, and too unwieldy to govern under the system set forth in the Constitution. If the system itself lacks legitimacy, then it is largely because the system can’t function (to its professed intent) on such a scale, and can only be perpetuated as a thinly veiled sham. The Boycott Manifesto implies awareness of this perspective, but it falls short for lack of a key element: relevant action.

Can legitimacy be restored to the system? If not, then with what shall the system be replaced? A verbal disavowal of the system, accompanied by physical electoral abstinence, may offer ephemeral moral satisfaction, but then what? The system roars right along unchallenged, because, as the language of the manifesto clearly illustrates, the voices of the voters (participating or not) are irrelevant.

An electoral boycott, unless accompanied by some other concrete action, is by its very nature an exercise in irony. Attach to the manifesto advocacy for something constructive– dissolution of the union in favor of several smaller, more manageable republics, for example– and it gains meaning.

This is not an advice column, but…

I must remind you, dear reader, that this is the Church of the Bad News.

That said, this one’s primarily for the ladies, and only, perhaps, a small number of you of child-bearing age.  You have one child, or you have no children.  You have tried all you can to have children and have been unsuccessful, or you don’t want children, or you don’t want any more children.

Whatever the case, you know it’s going to happen, and it’s probably already happened more times than you care to count.  Someone is going to ask you when you plan to give your little Brooklynn or Connor a sibling.  Or someone’s going to ask you when you and your partner plan to bring your own bundle of joy into the world.  This questioner may know you well, and they may even have some idea about your financial or medical situation as it may influence your decision to procreate.  You may even have answered this question several times before to the same person.

Whether or not the person asking is aware of the reason for your decision, or even whether or not you’ve made the decision, you don’t need me to tell you that the question is reprehensible.  So I’m here to offer you a template for responding to such a question, one that gives the inquirer an answer that they would deserve.

The next time you are asked the ugly question from a smiling or perhaps cloying face, just smile warmly in return and say something like the following:

‘Well, you know, there are already 7 billion human beings crowding the planet, tearing chunks out of the earth and soiling the biosphere.  Why would I want to add yet another rapacious, landfill-packing consumer?

If the questioner doesn’t immediately turn away from you in confusion or disgust after that, feel free to continue:

‘Of course, I don’t have anything against reckless procreation, per se.  Even though my uterus isn’t a clown car, I can see where my ego might get a nice boost from pushing out a few more randomly sequenced iterations of my DNA and then spending massive amounts of time and energy nursing them out of the longest period of helplessness of any in the animal kingdom.  After all, when our teeming masses of self-indulgent parasites finally destroy the planet’s ability to sustain our species, at least the bigger, stronger children will have something to eat, and they won’t have to face their dismal, agonizing ends on empty stomachs.’

In advance, I say, you’re welcome, sister.