Wednesday, November 9, 2016

some tentative (and likely unpopular) thoughts on the election

Some tentative (and likely unpopular) thoughts on the election.

1. I honestly never thought Trump would win. But he did. In some ways, he's the festering boil of centuries of white supremacy, racism, sexism, colonialism, and patriarchy coming to head. But in a strange, reactionary kind of way, he's also the embodiment of a populist distrust of the government. This is the reality we have to live with, and what we do in response will make all the difference, which will have to include defending those who'll almost certainly be targeted by discriminatory policies and possibly even violence (e.g., women, immigrants, people of colour, the LGBTQ community, etc.).

2. I feel deeply sad for everyone who voted and campaigned hard for Clinton. This was a tough and shocking loss for nearly half the electorate, for gender equality, and for our political future. And among the biggest seeds planted for that loss, in my opinion, are the DNC picking an establishment candidate over a populist, moderately revolutionary outsider, the media for essentially creating this reality TV star turned politician and fostering his image as an off-the-cuff Washington outsider ready to shake things up, and our out-dated, winner-take-all political system (including the electoral college) which ultimately elected him.

3. I know emotions are high right now, and the fear and anger many people feel are real and justified, and I'm sorry for my part in this. I know a large number of my friends will be angry with me for not blindly supporting the Democratic Party because it, and many Democrats in office, cross too many moral red lines for me to support, economically, environmentally, militarily, etc. That said, no matter what the election, people aren't assholes merely for not helping someone else's candidate or party to win if they genuinely don't support them. People have a right to vote for whom they actually agree with and support. And if you hate Trump and his conservative stance on the issues, hold his large number of supporters to task for their support while maybe starting a dialogue with them to let them know how this is going to negatively affect all of us. Plenty are surely intolerant and difficult to reason with. But not every Trump supporter is a racist, sexist, xenophobic bigot. Many of them are simply people who feel alienated by the system and have sided with an anti-establishment reactionary because of that. Instead of further alienating them, we should try to engage them as well as strengthen solidarity amongst the opposition, creating a more united front. We're stronger together than we are divided into warring factions.

4. Unfortunately, this is going to cause a huge backlash against third parties and independents, partially because I think it's easier to blame them for the loss of relatively unpopular candidates or the weaknesses of a flawed system that takes incredible amounts of both time and effort to change. They're an easy target, but they're a scapegoat. If you support democracy, or at least the idea of third party alternatives in a two party, republican system, don't attack them for your party's/candidates loss. It's not their job to get your party/candidate elected. I get it. Trump won and liberals are pissed. But they can't have it both ways. Either they're for democracy and people having a voice, or they want to do away with third parties. Right now, third parties are the only alternative we have to the capitalist two party duopoly that currently steers our political system. But they're struggling every election to break the 5% barrier, which is important in terms of gaining easier ballot access, qualifying for federal funding, and having access to things like presidential debates, all of which is insanely difficult to do when both parties, but especially Democrats, always say that this year is too important for a 'protest vote' and that 'third parties and their voters spoiled the election' whenever they lose any race, meaning that it's never going to be the right time in their minds to vote for anyone outside said established party. They pay lip service to the idea, of course, but only want people to do it when it doesn't matter (i.e., when their candidate is assured the win), defeating the very purpose of having an alternative party in the first place. I'm not sure they understand that.

5. The small hope I have is that this loss will encourage more active resistance to the status quo, and push those within the Democratic Party to move the party back towards the left. For many Democrats and progressives alike, there's almost nothing any Democrat can do to lose their support; and for all the people who say they side more progressive and even revolutionary candidates, they'll never vote for a third party candidate unless they are better on the issues and more electable (which is almost impossible under our current electoral system), albeit without their prior support—and they call this 'pragmatic voting.' While pragmatic from one point of view, this is precisely how the Democrats can so easily be pulled right by the Republicans (because they know they have the majority of the progressive vote no matter what), and it makes other alternatives difficult to organize because progressives won't support them until they get electable, which they can't do without the help of progressives in the first place. We have to work harder to make it easier to have alternatives without disenfranchising huge cross sections of the electorate (e.g., pushing for the implementation of a more proportionally representative system rather than our current winner-take-all system). And part of that is building these alternative parties up, because they're never going to be able to legitimately compete in our electoral system unless we do.

6. The best response I've seen so far is, "Don't mourn, organize," a paraphrase of something IWW labour activist Joe Hill wrote to Big Bill Hayword prior to his execution. Sometimes we go backwards, but we can't stop trying to move forwards. I know it's easier said than done, and political activism can really burn you out when you're working full time, a student, etc.; but simply engaging in electoral politics (i.e., voting) isn't enough to change the system on its own:

a. We live in a predominately capitalist political-economic system.

b. Capitalism is a process in which money is taken to produce commodities (e.g., goods, services, etc.) that can be sold for a profit (M-C-M).

c. This process leads to capital accumulation (i.e., the accumulation of wealth) on the part of capital as opposed to labour due to their ownership of the means of production and finance.

d. Money, as a representation of value and medium of exchange, is a form of social power.

e. Money is considered constitutionally-protected free speech within our system.

f. Money is a driving force in the political process (which now allows unlimited campaign spending by corporations and other collective entities).

g. The more money one possesses, the more influence one potentially has in this system.

h. The capitalist class, then, logically has a disproportionate advantage within our system, especially when it comes to influencing and shaping our representative form of government, than the working class and poor.

i. Those in power make the rules (i.e., laws and loopholes) and tend to do so with a view to their own preservation and well-being.

j. Their own preservation and well-being depends upon serving the interests of capital and finance.

k. It follows, therefore, that substantive changes in the political-economic arena that benefits the working class and poor rather than capital and finance needs to come from the bottom up, not the top down.

l. This form of political-economic opposition requires the working class and poor to expand their class consciousness, unite in common cause, and use their superior numbers and indispensable place in the capitalist mode of production to offset the disproportionate (and essentially undemocratic) influence of monied interests.

m. The greater the solidarity amongst the working class and the dispossessed, the greater the potential opposition.

n. The greater the opposition, the greater the potential for substantive, systematic change that favours the majority of the citizenry (the 99%) rather than the wealthy, ruling elite (the 1%).

o. Radical change, then, necessitates a concerted, working-class mass movement, particularly one geared towards more fully democratizing our economic system and institutions. And that process includes being more politically and socially active, doing things like donating your time and money to the people and places who help those who are the most likely to be negatively impacted by a Republican president and congress (e.g., Planned Parenthood, NARAL, Black Lives Matter, etc.).

7. If my politics make you angry at me, I'm sorry. I started off thinking that I was a Democrat but quickly realized that I was a lot more left-leaning. I looked at the political big picture from a historical POV and decided that I wanted to work towards more radical change than the Democratic Party offered, or really even allows among its rank and file. As such, I know that my general lack of support for the Democratic Party and capitalism in general rubs many people the wrong way. But I'm passionate about politics and those are my convictions. I'm dedicated to them until such time as they change. If you can accept that, awesome. I'm still with you on a lot of issues and will continue to add my support to those issues and people within the Democratic Party I truly think add a progress voice and policies to the mix. And if you can't, I understand.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

re: new leaked audio, clinton has it backwards

Recently leaked audio from a political fundraiser for Clinton:

Hacked Audio Reveals Hillary Clinton Sees Herself Occupying “Center-Left to Center-Right”

Personally, I think that Clinton has it totally backwards. It's not some vague, naive Millennial mindset that's affecting their politics; it's the economic realities of their actual lives that are affecting their politics.

Clinton jokes about politically-naive Millennials living in their parent's basement and working as baristas, lamenting their less-than-upwardly mobile job prospects. But it's not because they're lazy or naively idealistic; it's because those kinds of jobs are all that many can get, and Millennials are struggling to make ends meet and pay off their student loan debts while trying to find places to live in rental markets that are getting increasingly out of control, many just a single paycheck shy of becoming one of the growing numbers of the working homeless. I spent three years working in the food court of Portland State University, and can attest to that fact myself.

Clinton also jokes about not getting the idea of Bernie Sanders' 'political revolution,' and I think that's partially due to the fact that she's part of the ruling class. For one, the idea of a political revolution challenges the very status quo that she's a part of. In addition, her economic reality is very different from that of most Millennials. She possesses a level of wealth and social power that many don't. She isn't burdened with tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt. She isn't struggling to find a decent paying job in an over-saturated job market or a place to live in an over-inflated rental market. And when it comes to the young black Millennials she mentions, I don't think she gets their POV because she's speaking from a place of relative privilege. Yes, she's a woman. But she's also educated, white, and from a successful, suburban, middle-class family who's likely unfamiliar with the racial discrimination and inequalities faced by people of colour.

And finally, she doesn't get it because of her politics, which has always been decidedly conservative. It's well known she was a young Republican who volunteered for Goldwater back in 1964; and she admits as much by saying that she occupies the centre-left to the centre-right and criticizes the idea of achieving things like universal single-payer healthcare, universal higher-education, etc. like they have in Scandinavia. It's all about the idealization of hard work, not the socialization of opportunity.

Certainly she's progressive when it comes to many social issues, like women's reproductive rights and more recently same-sex marriage, but the rest is moderately conservative neoliberalism through and through. Hawkish record and rhetoric when it comes to foreign policy; opposition to things like universal single-payer healthcare and universal higher-education; past support for welfare reform that's hurt the most vulnerable; rhetoric about the mythical job growth in the 90s that was, unfortunately, built upon a shaky foundation that would eventually give way and cause the 2008 crisis from which we've yet to fully recover from, etc.

That Millennials are struggling with debt, limited job opportunities after college, and a spreading rental crisis while looking beyond neoliberlism for a solution isn't the result of some naive idealism, but of concrete, material, economic realities. The fact is, Millennials aren't as naive and entitled as older generations make them out to be. They're highly educated and hardworking and the beneficiaries of amazing technological innovations which give them access to the world and the world of ideas that we couldn't have dreamed of 10-20 years ago. And part of that is being able to see beyond the rules and limitations of capitalism and neoliberal ideology.

The greatest obstacle to real political revolution isn't Millennials lack of experience or political savvy, but the unbridled individualism that keeps working people of all generations from seeing the unity of their interests over that of capital and the state.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

rivka

Rivka. She was the most beautiful person I'd ever seen. I don't say that because I'm shallow, but because it's true. She was beautiful on the inside as well; but even before I got to know her, I was in love, I think. And the more I did get to know her, the kind of person she was, the more that love grew, until my heart was swollen to the point of bursting with thoughts of her. Unfortunately, when I met her, I was in a long-term relationship. Things weren't bad between Anya and I per se, but they weren't especially good, either. We were comfortable, complacent, used to each other's company. But there was something missing, or maybe it'd be more accurate to say that we simply weren't as close romantically as we once were. Whereas my love for Anya after ten plus years was deep and still, like a tranquil lake, my love for Rivka was passionate and intense, like a whirlpool of emotions—the kind of love that borders on ecstasy and madness. The thought of hurting Anya and abandoning her was hard to bear. Even so, my heart continued to yearn for Rivka. She was shy and quiet, yet there was something inside of her that at the same time frightened and captivated me, a kind of fiery hunger that threatened to consume everything in its path if set free. I saw a glimpse of it once, and I wanted it to consume me, body and soul. But I was also afraid and shied away at the last moment, afraid of losing myself as much as doing something she might later regret. I tried to be 'chivalrous.' And in my folly, I was too timid and waited too long to win her heart. In the end, I fear it was my own cowardice that kept me from such a wonderful fate, and now I fear that that regret will haunt me for quite possibly the rest of my life.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

ecliptic

Something happened that night—
a supernova
of verboten emotions exploding in my chest,
awashing my body and soul in painful longing.
A longing to be so perilously
close.
I stood, leaning against the wall,
with your arm gently around my waist,
like a dream,
like it had always belonged there.
One touch,
a force of nature that I was powerless to resist.
And yet.
I stood there,
too afraid to look into your eyes,
afraid of falling into them,
afraid I'd never escape their gravity—
two mysterious black stars floating in oceans of green,
outshining all other heavenly bodies and
threatening to pull me into their terrifyingly beautiful
depths.
The words I wanted to say that couldn't be said;
the things I wanted to do that couldn't be done,
all lost in that silent eternity,
like so many amorous comets
adrift in the empty void of space,
never to be seen by another living soul
and far from the light of
your face.
Only the memory remains
frozen forever in an enduring now of
contentment.
Or maybe that's just how I'd like to remember it—
the dawning of a dream not meant to be.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

jane: an abortion service

Last night, I got a chance to see Jane: An Abortion Service at the Clinton Street Theater, which was being screened as a part of their ongoing reproductive justice film series.

The film itself is a documentary from the mid 90s focusing on a group of young women in Chicago who formed a feminist collective that helped women, particularly poor women with limited options, get abortions before Roe v. Wade legalized the procedure. Women who, for whatever reason, weren't ready to have a child were desperate for help. They were being pushed by social pressures to have children when they weren't ready and to marry people they didn't necessarily want to be with all because they got pregnant. They were treated like pariahs and had few places to turn.

Jane, a collective of young women in Chicago, saw the need for these women to have access to safe abortions and created a service that (illegally) met this need from 1968-73. The movie, while a bit dated, was extremely moving and educational. Parts of it made me uncomfortable, while others made me appreciate anew the struggles of women the many ways they've met these challenges head-on, tying into broader struggles against things like racism and economic inequality.

As an added bonus, Judith Arcana, a writer and 'Jane' featured in the documentary, was there for a Q&A at the end.

While many people have moral objections to abortion, especially at later stages of pregnancy, I believe in a woman's right to choose when to have a child. A fertilized egg/embryo is, for all intents and purposes, a part of a woman's body, and no one should have the right to tell another person what to do with their own body.

Also, having abortion be legally available and easily accessible makes it safer for women. Without it being so, women who aren't ready to have children, are impregnated against their will, etc. will either be forced to have unwanted children, which isn't good for them or the child, or else have to rely on alternative and often unsafe methods of terminating pregnancies, e.g., herbal abortifacients that may be toxic; illegal and unsafe 'back-alley' abortions (which result in an estimated 70,000 deaths per year worldwide); etc.

Another major reason I support a woman's right to choose is that, for centuries, the dominant ideology has been that a woman is essentially a walking womb and her place is the home, and anything that gives women the ability to share equally in public life and pursue things like education and careers is anathema to that. It's no surprise, then, that the majority of those who are against these things are the ones who have the most to lose, older white men.

Ultimately, it's about power. Allowing women (and men) to use contraception and decide whether they want to have a child if pregnant, not to mention having those things be safe, easily accessible, and covered by insurance, takes away what little power patriarchal institutions still have over women, which is why I fully support women's reproductive rights, as well as anything that gives women an equal share in the sphere of public life.

Although this 'right' was recognized in 1973, there has been a great deal of pushback erodding access. From the Hyde Amendment to the numerous state laws restricting providers and forcing women to endure unnecessary and even humiliating treatment/procedures (e.g., mandatory waiting periods, sonograms, and counselling that's often biased and designed to frighten women from having an abortion), women are finding themselves in a similar position as they were pre-1973. As of today, about 88% of all US counties have no identifiable abortion provider.

As a man, I don't have to worry about becoming pregnant before I'm ready and having to make such a difficult decision, which is a relatively privileged position. But as a person committed to gender equality, I feel it's my duty to listen to women about what they want and need and give them the space to make their own decisions about their own lives.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

transgender day of visibility

I went down to Pioneer Square for the Portland Transgender Day Of Visibility in support of the transgender community, and ended up doing a little canvassing for NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon in the process.

One of the things I took away from many of the speakers is that, if you care about equality in whatever form, it's important to be vocal about it. In the struggle to dismantle the oppressive systems that serve to keep us separated from one another, we must also help to create connections with, and safe spaces for, those who find themselves the 'least among us' and marginalized in this neo-colonial, white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal society.

Being vocal about supporting transgender individuals is especially important because so many are targeted for physical and sexual harassment and violence, not to mention all the issues trans individuals face with employment, insurance, mental health (due to things like harassment, rejection, and violence), and housing. It's not just about being 'open-minded,' it's about changing societal attitudes towards LGBTQ people and helping protect them from the alienation, ostracization, and violence they face every day.

And when it comes to gender equality, I fully support organization like Planned Parenthood and NARAL because women are still perceived as walking wombs; and allowing women (and men) to use contraception and decide whether they want to have a child if pregnant, not to mention having those things be safe, easily accessible, and covered by insurance, takes what little power patriarchal institutions still have over women, which is why I fully support women's reproductive rights, as well as anything that gives women an equal share in the sphere of public life.

In the end, all these struggles are connected because the roots of these various forms of inequality are the connected and reinforce one another. And it's only by joining together in solidarity that we can uproot them and create a better world.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

excerpt from an existentialist's diary

An existential malaise has fallen upon me of late, with its feverish yet indescribable woe and melancholy. Truly, how does one put into words the terror of reality and its semblant meaninglessness? How does one express the despair of existence when all pretenses are dropped and the chaotic banality of our frailty and suffering become so apparent, so oppressive? How does one look at the face of death and its unquenchable emptiness and then turn around and describe it to another? How does one communicate the anguish of their hopelessness or the infinite sadness of their loneliness to another any more successfully than a shade can impart their innermost thoughts to the living when each is separated by an insurmountable divide? How does one confide these things when the coarseness of words fails us, when we're unable to peer into one another's hearts and read the subtle language of the soul? They say that the eyes are a window into the soul, that pneumatic void. And what would that soul say if it could speak, that deep, dark abyss that lies at the heart of our individual beingness? What secrets would it share that our lips are incapable of divulging?