What if the fatties of the future are a logical, rather than hateful, representation? (Wall*e reconsidered)

Wall*e came out on DVD a while back, and I viewed it again with a particular eye for how bodies and genders are represented in order to reconsider if I feel my previous reviews still stand (see previous posts here and here). In sum, I think they do. I still think the film perpetuates heteronormativity, unnecessarily relies on normative gendering of the robots, and propagates a fat-phobic message. However, one of the people I viewed the film with disagreed mightily. He and I got into a rather lengthy debate after watching Wall*e, particularly in relation to the ‘fatties of the future’.

“Can’t you lose the reactionary feminist response for once? You are so anxious to see ‘wrongs’ that you refuse to see how logical having the humans be fat is! Of course they would be fat! As the movie explains, they have lost bone mass. It’s nothing to do with being anti-fat; it is merely a realistic representation of what would happen to the human body in such a situation.”

Although the “reactionary feminist response” comment was really annoying (why is it people are always so quick to use the F-card when they disagree?),  I can see his point. Yet, when we have a general cultural hatred and fear of fat, such a representation, even if it is logical in ways, is still problematic.  If we lived in a culture in which all bodies mattered, the fatties-of-the-future narrative thread would not so easily illicit disgust – a response that the film effortlessly promotes via showcasing the fat future-ites as lazy, oblivious, and not-too-bright. If fat was not code for dumb, lazy, and gross, the narrative would have had to work much harder to establish the future humans as such. But, by relying on fat as a culturally negative sign, the film (lazily) uses a shorthand symbol – and one that perpetuates bias towards particular types of bodies.

Further, while the representation is explained within the narrative framing (in the short sequence that shows the bone mass of humans shrinking and the flesh expanding), there are so many other representations the film could have chosen. For example, the future humans could have been so obsessed with their virtual screens and other gadgetry, they could FORGET to eat – they could have been skeletal creatures plugged into their techno chairs that could have doubled as a sort of life-support system with a feeding tube. Wouldn’t skeletal future humans who cared more about consuming technology and things than taking care of and nourishing their bodies also have been a logical representation?

The fat card was an easy one to play, a lazy one to play. And while I still see merit in the film, I see this as a major fault. It may be a logical representation, but it is also a hateful one.

What if we refused to feast on the sugar-coated version of Thanksgiving? (Reconsidering Thanksgiving, part 3)

For most people I know, Thanksgiving is not about celebrating Pilgrims or acknowledging the history surrounding the holiday. Rather, it is about spending time with friends and family, being thankful for loved ones, for having the day off work, and, of course, about stuffing oneself silly.

Yet, even though many do not intend to celebrate the historical underpinnings of the holiday, they nevertheless allow patriotic, racist lies to continue UNLESS they at least acknowledge the true history of the genocide upon which this nation was ‘founded.’

Thus, while I often gather with extended family on this day, I do not call it ‘Thanksgiving’ any longer – even the name is abhorrent to me now. For lack of a better term, I call it a ‘holiday,’ as it is, for those of us lucky enough to have jobs (and jobs where we get such days off) a holiday. However, ever since my kids have been old enough to talk, we have spent the day discussing the true history of Thanksgiving and the fact that this country’s bounty comes at the expense other peoples and nations – as it always has done. This is not enough, and this pains me. Yet, ‘traditions’ are hard to break – and perhaps more so when one has young children in the house.

I lived out of the country for many years, and thus Thanksgiving was a non-issue. However, when I returned to the US, it soon became a thorn in my side – as soon as, in fact, my children entered pre-school. The way our education system teaches this holiday is detestable. The books and songs, the color in a Pilgrim/Native American handouts, the activities of making Pilgrim/Native American headwear, the potluck feasts — all of these work to perpetuate the historical lie that we should be “giving thanks” for our history. In one book my daughter read in her early school years, the Indians (the term the book used) were “so happy” when the “nice Pilgrims” arrived. This lie is widespread in our refashioning of the Thanksgiving narrative; it is the lie put forth in Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving (as noted by Renee at Womanist Musings) as well as via virtually all pre-college curriculum.

As an aside, I offer each year to visit my children’s classrooms to teach a non-sweetened history of Thanksgiving and/or to talk about Native American history – my offer has yet to be accepted. I make a similar offer when my kids study the California missions. Again, no teachers have taken me up on this. This refusal to incorporate the true history, the ugly, reality version of history, helps to, as Robert Jensen argues, maintain our tooth-decayingly sweet American mythos:

“Obscuring bitter truths about historical crimes helps perpetuate the fantasy of American benevolence, which makes it easier to sell contemporary imperial adventures — such as the invasion and occupation of Iraq — as another benevolent action.

History does matter, which is why people in power put so much energy into controlling it. The United States is hardly the only society that has created such mythology.

History can be one of the many ways we create and impose hierarchy, or it can be part of a process of liberation. The truth won’t set us free, but the telling of truth at least opens the possibility of freedom.”

In Jensen’s framing, learning and spreading the truth of history does not absolve us, but at least it obfuscates the trend we are in now – that of genocide, warfare, enslavement, and empire repeating itself.

As a reminder of this endless repetition, in a fairly recent Thanksgiving travesty, GW Bush showed up in Iraq for a photo job, fake turkey in hand. In Mitchel Cohen’s estimation, “in one fell swoop, the new Conquistador had tied to history’s bloody bough the 511-year-old conquest of the ‘New World’ ­ whose legions smote the indigenous population in the name of Christ ­ with last year’s bombardment and invasion of Iraq and the torture-detentions of prisoners of war at U.S. military bases.”

The linkages between our present acts and past acts convey that we are still a country guided by the white supremacist notion of manifest destiny, and whether those in power are perpetuating the killing of Native Americans or Iraqi civilians, their aims and motivations are similar: power and greed. GW Bush is merely a modern day pilgrim, a born again one, who similarly uses his religion to justify persecution.

The occupation of Iraq, the genocide in Darfur, the rampant levels of human enslavement globally, all of these are history repeating, in endless iteration, the mistakes we have yet to learn from…

So, what would a socially just response to Thanksgiving be? Well, Jensen argues for “a truth-and-reconciliation process that would not only correct the historical record but also redistribute land and wealth.” Yet, he also accedes that given our immersion in white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, that this is unlikely. Given this, he argues that “the question for left/radical people is: What political activity can we engage in to keep alive this kind of critique until a time when social conditions might make a truly progressive politics possible?”

His answer is that we must speak truth to power and his writing suggests we must do this with everyone we meet – whether it is the well-wisher at the grocery store or to our own grandmother. Yet, Jensen realizes this is no easy feat. However, as he notes, “we need to help each other tell the truth, even when the truth is not welcome.” This part of his answer is something I think those of us who would like to resist the historical grounding of the holiday are able to do, in ways both small and large. We can speak the truth, write the truth, whether amongst our own friends and family or via more public venues.

And, as PetPluto over at Art at the Auction in the post “Why I like Thanksgiving” muses, we can attempt to separate the historical origins of the day to how we personally celebrate it. PetPluto uses the analogy of marriage, and how it has changed as an institution to frame this argument:

“I think we should all be aware that the modern marriage is a relatively new invention, and that sometimes what came before was less than pleasant. But since the modern marriage is, generally speaking, a different animal all together, there is the ability to celebrate it when two people decide that they do want to tie that knot. Same thing with Thanksgiving. The modern Thanksgiving is less about the historical event of breaking bread between Native Americans and Pilgrims and more about family.”

I agree with this sentiment, but, as with the institution of marriage, I am growing more and more critical of the supposed ‘good sides’ of these societal traditions. Perhaps I am growing more radical as I age…

PetPluto further suggests that the historical remembering is a job for us as a nation, rather than a burden that should be taken on by the holiday itself: “It is our job to remember how we got here as a nation – both the good and the bad. But it is Thanksgiving’s job, and holidays like it, to remind us that what we get in return for being part of a family – blood or made –  for being thankful and being giving…”

I like this idea, but unlike PetPluto, I am not able to put aside “liberal guilt about this one day.” Yet, as I learned from Peggy McIntosh, guilt does nothing to change things. Guilt is a pointless emotion unless it spurs one to take action. So, what will I do with my feminist/progressive guilt?  Well, for this year I am writing about it (and in previous years I have taught about it), which certainly isn’t much. But, for next year, who knows… As my family and I gather tomorrow and discuss the non-saccharine version of history, I will ask two people who always give me very honest advice how we should change our observation of this day – my nine year old daughter and my twelve year old son.

As we work through this conundrum together, I hope to instill in my kids a yearning to know the real history of our world and, moreover, to yearn to change the world so that holidays CAN be just – so that they can be celebrated without guilt. Yet, I will keep Jensen’s reminder that “We don’t define holidays individually — the idea of a holiday is rooted in its collective, shared meaning” in mind. For, if this reconsideration of holidays is not done by the wider culture, not too much will be gained.

However, I disagree with Jensen’s contention that “When the dominant culture defines a holiday in a certain fashion, one can’t pretend to redefine it in private. One either accepts the dominant definition or resists it, publicly and privately.” I don’t agree with this either/or construction. My family’s private redefinition is not “pretend,” it is the beginning of resistance – a resistance that, if enough people start to similarly resist, has the potential to create a cultural shift.

I do not mean to suggest that this would be enough to ‘make up’ for the genocide of indigenous people that founded this nation. Nothing would be enough. Yet, an attitude of rectifying the wrongs of the past, of refusing to swallow the sugar-coated version of history, of not blindly ‘giving thanks’ for one’s own privileges would at least be a start.

In an earlier piece, Jensen reasoned that “As Americans sit down on Thanksgiving Day to gorge themselves on the bounty of empire, many will worry about the expansive effects of overeating on their waistlines. We would be better to think about the constricting effects of the day’s mythology on our minds.”

This too is something those of us who are reconsidering the holiday can do – we can endeavor to be aware of how the holiday affects not only our individual psyches, but the collective psyche of our culture. And, while arguments may be had over who does the cooking and who sits and watches football, over the patriarchal carving ritual where men are honored (and often photographed) for their knife skills while female’s hours of work in the kitchen oft are expected rather than lionized, while many will comment on their ‘overweight’ bodies, what most will NOT do is consider the constricting effects of this celebration of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy on their minds…

At my house, we will certainly consider the “constricting effects of the day’s mythology on our minds.” We will also look forward to the day when we truly live in a post-colonial world, when imperialism has been eradicated, and when conquests such as those of the white intruders on this land, what is now called the United States, no longer take place. This will be a time for a true thanksgiving celebration.


Addendum: Before a final read through for errors, I took a wee break and went to catch up on some much needed blog reading. At Don’t Do That, I came across this great link to a piece on “Deconstructing the Myths of ‘The First Thanksgiving.'” Check it out!

What if Thanksgiving was not about happy Pilgrims sharing turkey with industrious Natives, but about giving thanks for a successful massacre? (Reconsidering Thanksgiving, Part 2)

At the outset, I would like to note that I have relied on many useful scholars and writers to put together this post. The pieces I cite throughout the piece are as follows:

I would also like to give a nod to my anthropology professor of years ago, who, when I was a sophomore in college, was the first person to truly begin to open my eyes about Indigenous History. That semester, we read Changes in the Land. My feelings towards Thanksgiving, and US colonization, have been radically altered ever since.

To begin with a speculation, I would hazard a guess that probably 95% of Americans do not learn that there were at least two ‘first Thanksgivings.’

The story most of us know is of the day in 1621 when Pilgrims and Native Americans supposedly shared in a harvest feast. For what really happened at this time, I defer to Dr. Tingba Apidta. He notes that

“According to a single-paragraph account in the writings of one Pilgrim, a harvest feast did take place in Plymouth in 1621, probably in mid-October, but the Indians who attended were not even invited. Though it later became known as “Thanksgiving,” the Pilgrims never called it that. And amidst the imagery of a picnic of interracial harmony is some of the most terrifying bloodshed in New World history.

The Pilgrim crop had failed miserably that year, but the agricultural expertise of the Indians had produced twenty acres of corn, without which the Pilgrims would have surely perished. The Indians often brought food to the Pilgrims, who came from England ridiculously unprepared to survive and hence relied almost exclusively on handouts from the overly generous Indians-thus making the Pilgrims the western hemisphere’s first class of welfare recipients. The Pilgrims invited the Indian sachem Massasoit to their feast, and it was Massasoit, engaging in the tribal tradition of equal sharing, who then invited ninety or more of his Indian brothers and sisters-to the annoyance of the 50 or so ungrateful Europeans. No turkey, cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie was served; they likely ate duck or geese and the venison from the 5 deer brought by Massasoit. In fact, most, if not all, of the food was most likely brought and prepared by the Indians, whose 10,000-year familiarity with the cuisine of the region had kept the whites alive up to that point.”

The fact that the hospitality, the sense of community and inter-humanity is what kept the whites alive is lost in the stories we learn in the US education system. So too is the savagery of the Pilgrims – yes, the Pilgrims were the savage ones, not the indigenous peoples. As Apitda notes, “Any Indian who came within the vicinity of the Pilgrim settlement was subject to robbery, enslavement, or even murder.” Yes, gotta love those happy, God-fearing Pilgrims.

What is also conveniently left out of our historical (un)consciousness is the fact that in the years following that unhappy meal, the majority of Indigenous peoples were either murdered firsthand or else secondhand via the diseases of white folks. As Eric Vieth of Dangeorous Intersection reminds us, “hepatitis, smallpox, chickenpox and influenza killed between 90% and 96% of the native Americans living in coastal New England.” As Vieth further elucidates, the governor of the Massachusetts Bay colony called this plague “miraculous.” This was the lovely religion practiced at the time – a belief system that saw death of the indigenous population as a miracle, as something to be praised.

This brings me to another myth – that Pilgrims and Puritans (P/P) were God-worshipping people who merely sought religious freedom (rather than power, land, and wealth). In fact, as Mitchel Cohen points out, these peoples who supposedly only desired to worship how they saw fit, used their religion to justify the persecution, enslavement, and murder of indigenous peoples. And, they were not amiss in the persecution of their own either – the gender and class stratifications meant that there was a P/P elite and an oppressed P/P underclass.

Speaking of persecution and murder brings me to the 2nd ‘1st Thanksgiving” – the one of 1637 that occurred near the Mystic River and involved the slaughter of at least 700 Pequot Indians. This is the real 1st Thanksgiving –  the one that was named as such by the leader of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

As Mitchel Cohen relates (emphasis mine):

“Thanksgiving, in reality, was the beginning of the longest war in the U.S ­ the extermination of the Indigenous peoples. Thanksgiving day was first proclaimed by the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1637, not to offer thanks for the Indians saving the Pilgrims ­ that’s yet another re-write of the actual history ­ but to commemorate the massacre of 700 indigenous men, women and children who were celebrating their annual Green Corn Dance in their own house.

Gathered at this place, they were attacked by mercenaries, English and Dutch. The Pequots were ordered from the building and as they came forth they were killed with guns, swords, cannons and torches. The rest were burned alive in the building. The very next day the governor proclaimed a holiday and feast to “give thanks” for the massacre. For the next 100 years a governor would ordain a day to honor a bloody victory, thanking god the “battle” had been won. [For more information, see Where White Men Fear To Tread, by Russell Means, 1995; and Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian Hating and Empire Building, by R. Drinnon, 1990.]”

This 2nd Thanksgiving is the day which was actually recognized as such by the rulers of the time – and what they were giving thanks for was their massacre of indigenous peoples! Yet, in our sweetened version, we learn of the day in 1621. And, even this version is bent so far from truth as to be fiction – there was no turkey, no happy exchange, no ‘sharing’ between Pilgrims and Indigenous Peoples. Rather, Indigenous Peoples GAVE, Pilgrims TOOK.

It is the sweetened 1621 version that President Lincoln harkened back to when declaring the day a national holiday. As Glen Ford notes, “Lincoln surveyed a broken nation, and attempted nation-rebuilding, based on the purest white myth. The same year that he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, he renewed the national commitment to a white manifest destiny that began at Plymouth Rock.”

This ‘white manifest destiny’ is yet another piece of the imperial puzzle that we sweep under the rug. What all too often goes unspoken in the historical renderings of this time is race – is the fact that we are talking about not merely Pilgrims or Puritans, but about WHITES, and a white supremacist ideology thought sought to enslave and/or eradicate all peoples of color. The “white man’s burden” as analyzed infamously by Rudyard Kipling was not only a project of India and Africa, but also of the US – even though when “colonialism” is studied, the colonization of the US is often left unexamined. According to most curriculum, the US was not colonized, but settled (even though, hint hint, they called them colonies!).

Another bit of historical amnesia is the linkages between the genocide of indigenous peoples and slavery. As Dan Brook pointed out in his 2002 Counterpunch piece “Celebrating Genocide,” “1619 marks the first year that human beings were brutally “imported” from Africa to become slaves in America, if they happened to survive the cruel capture and horrific Atlantic crossing.” And anyone who knows the true history of Columbus knows he attempted to enslave indigenous peoples from the get go. Each of these atrocities was precipitated by the same thing: greed. Each was justified by the same ideology: white supremacy. Each translated into a CAPITALIST system shaped by racism, sexism, classism, and heterosexism.

Thus, with Thanksgiving, as Brook argues, what we are in effect giving thanks is “for being the invader, the exploiter, the dominator, the greedy, the gluttonous, the colonizer, the thief, indeed the genocidaire…” We are giving thanks for what bell hooks terms “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.” (For a great video link of hooks analyzing this paradigm, see here.)

As Glen Ford argues,

“The necessity of genocide was the operative, working assumption of the expanding American nation.”Manifest Destiny” was born at Plymouth Rock and Jamestown, later to fall (to paraphrase Malcolm) like a rock on Mexico, the Philippines, Haiti, Nicaragua, etc. Little children were taught that the American project was inherently good, Godly, and that those who got in the way were “evil-doers” or just plain subhuman, to be gloriously eliminated. The lie is central to white American identity, embraced by waves of European settlers who never saw a red person.”

In yet another astute reconsideration of the holiday, Robert Jensen asserts that “Simply put: Thanksgiving is the day when the dominant white culture (and, sadly, most of the rest of the non-white but non-indigenous population) celebrates the beginning of a genocide that was, in fact, blessed by the men we hold up as our heroic founding fathers.”

And the US certainly didn’t stop its genocidal practices once 95 to 99% of the indigenous peoples were killed. Rather, the US has supported and facilitated genocide in Indonesia, East Timor, Cambodia, has sat idly by genocides in Rwanda and Darfur, and has carried out military actions leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in Vietnam and Iraq (just to name a few).

When an indigenous person was FINALLY asked to speak truth to power 350 YEARS AFTER the invasion by bloodthirsty, savage Pilgrims, his speech was deemed unacceptable. As detailed at the cite United American Indians of New England:

“Three hundred fifty years after the Pilgrims began their invasion of the land of the Wampanoag, their “American” descendants planned an anniversary celebration. Still clinging to the white schoolbook myth of friendly relations between their forefathers and the Wampanoag, the anniversary planners thought it would be nice to have an Indian make an appreciative and complimentary speech at their state dinner. Frank James was asked to speak at the celebration. He accepted. The planners, however , asked to see his speech in advance of the occasion, and it turned out that Frank James’ views – based on history rather than mythology – were not what the Pilgrims’ descendants wanted to hear. Frank James refused to deliver a speech written by a public relations person. Frank James did not speak at the anniversary celebration.”

To read what Frank James had planned to say, go here.

The silencing of Frank James serves as one specific example of the silencing of indigenous peoples and their history that has occurred since the colonization of the USA by the white killers (no, not ‘settlers’). This is why, as Jacqueline Keeler, a member of the Dineh Nation and the Yankton Dakota Sioux, puts it (rather mildly) “For a Native American, the story of Thanksgiving is not a very happy one.”

Keeler’s account of the Dakota view of giving is particularly telling:

“Among the Dakota, my father’s people, they say, when asked to give, “Are we not Dakota and alive?” It was believed that by giving there would be enough for all — the exact opposite of the system we live in now, which is based on selling, not giving.”

Keeler also reminds us that “Nearly 70 percent of all crops grown today were originally cultivated by Native American peoples.” Do we, as we feast on the 4th Thursday of the month, even acknowledge this fact? Heck no! Our crops come from Costco!

This brings me back to part one of this post, and the capitalist lover that argued the holiday is really about celebrating “capitalist production.” Sadly, she is right on many levels. Our system does not celebrate giving, nor does it promote being thankful.

As those who are privileged by race, class, and other normative social positioning feast on this day, they often give thanks for their bounty. When I go to my mother’s for the holiday, her practice is to ask all in attendance to share something they are thankful for. Yet, rarely does this giving of thanks involve any historical awareness, let alone an analysis, of what the day stands for – both then and now.

According to Glen Ford,

“White America embraced Thanksgiving because a majority of that population glories in the fruits, if not the unpleasant details, of genocide and slavery and feels, on the whole, good about their heritage: a cornucopia of privilege and national power. Children are taught to identify with the good fortune of the Pilgrims. It does not much matter that the Native American and African holocausts that flowed from the feast at Plymouth are hidden from the children’s version of the story – kids learn soon enough that Indians were made scarce and Africans became enslaved. But they will also never forget the core message of the holiday: that the Pilgrims were good people, who could not have purposely set such evil in motion. Just as the first Thanksgivings marked the consolidation of the English toehold in what became the United States, the core ideological content of the holiday serves to validate all that has since occurred on these shores – a national consecration of the unspeakable, a balm and benediction for the victors, a blessing of the fruits of murder and kidnapping, and an implicit obligation to continue the seamless historical project in the present day.”

Thus, when we ‘give thanks’ for our bounty without also acknowledging at what costs this bounty has been made possible, we are accomplices to this “seamless historical project,” we, whether consciously or unconsciously, are giving thanks for genocide, for slavery, and for an imperial project that marches ceaselessly on.

Yet, as Robert Jensen of AlterNet laments, even radicals and liberals resist critiquing and/or rejecting the Thanksgiving holiday. Relating that the most comment argument went like this:  “we can reject the culture’s self-congratulatory attempts to rewrite history…and come together on Thanksgiving to celebrate the love and connections among family and friends,” Jensen counters that:

“The argument that we can ignore the collective cultural definition of Thanksgiving and create our own meaning in private has always struck me as odd. This commitment to Thanksgiving puts these left/radical critics in the position of internalizing one of the central messages promoted by the ideologues of capitalism — that individual behavior in private is more important than collective action in public. The claim that through private action we can create our own reality is one of the key tenets of a predatory corporate capitalism that naturalizes unjust hierarchy, a part of the overall project of discouraging political struggle and encouraging us to retreat into a private realm where life is defined by consumption. “

What can we do instead? Well, my thoughts on that difficult question, with further reference to the wonderful 2007 piece by Jensen, well be posted in part 3 (either later today or early tomorrow, depending on how much  grading I get done)…

What if you would like to give thanks for capitalism? (Reconsidering Thanksgiving part 1)

If you are looking for a reason to give thanks this Thanksgiving, how about this: give thanks for capitalism! I came across this nifty idea when searching around the internet for “alternative ways to spend Thanksgiving” (as I am one of those crazy radicals that has problems with the holiday.) Anyhow, in so doing, I came across an article that must be read in full to be believed.

If you have an empty stomach, go here to read the full piece, entitled “An American Holiday: The Moral Meaning Behind Thanksgiving.” If your stomach isn’t empty, I would wait to read the piece, unless that is, you want to be cleaning vomit off your keyboard… (Or, if you are one of those troll-types who believes in the American Dream and clings to the idea that Native Americans were ‘savage’ and capitalism is the bees knees, well, you can read the piece anytime and, as you do, you can nod in agreement that yes, you, DESERVE to celebrate.)

Anyhow, the Ayn Rand worshipping author of the piece, Debi Ghate, encourages us to celebrate our ‘bountiful harvest’ of  “the affluence and success we’ve gained… the cars, houses and vacations we enjoy… the life-saving medicines we rely on, the stock portfolios we build, the beautiful clothes we buy and the safe, clean streets we live on…the good life.” Granted, Ghate’s piece is from November 2007, and thus predates our current economic meltdown. Even so, it is wildly myopic in its vision of America as “the land of plenty.”

So too is Ghate a tad wrong about American history.  According to her, “This country was mostly uninhabited and wild when our forefathers began to develop the land and build spectacular cities.” Yeah, if you call 10 to 15 million indigenous inhabitants “mostly uninhabited.”

These “forefathers” (uh, do you mean genocidal, power-hungry maniacs?) used “the American spirit to overcome challenges, create great achievements, and enjoy prosperity.” Yeah, if killing, enslaving, and raping is what you call the “American spirit.”

As a proponent of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, this author proclaims “We alone are responsible for our wealth. We are the producers and Thanksgiving is our holiday.” Does she mean, “we are the corporatist bastards who exploit the world’s people and destroy the planet, and Thanksgiving is our day to celebrate this gluttony”?

Now, if you feel a tad bit squeamish about celebrating the wonderful “forefathers” and the glories of corporate capitalism, Ghate has the answer; she insists you DESERVE to celebrate and greed is GOOD. She laments that “We are scolded not to take more than “our share”–whether it is of corporate profits, electricity or pie. We are taught that altruism–selfless concern for others–is the moral ideal. We are taught to sacrifice for strangers, who have no claim to our hard-earned wealth. We are taught to kneel rather than reach for the sky.” Yes, because why should we share the planet? Why should we care about other humans? Damn it, this world is MINE and I don’t give a shit about anyone else. Furthermore, I am eating the whole damn pumpkin pie so screw you! Wow, what a great philosophy. No wonder why the Ayn Rand Institute is so popular.

Ghate continues “morally, one should reach for the sky. One should recognize that the corporate profits, electricity or pie was earned through one’s production–and savor its consumption. Every decision one makes, from what career to pursue to whom to call a friend, should be guided by what will best advance one’s rational goals, interests and, ultimately, one’s life. One should take pride in being rationally selfish–one’s life and happiness depend on it.” Rationally selfish??? Oh my, the ways capitalists find to make their greedy machinations sound moral…

Ghate closes her piece with the claim that “It’s a time to selfishly and proudly say: “I earned this.” Sadly, this is the true, though NOT moral, meaning behind thanksgiving. Thanksgiving truly is a holiday where we rather selfishly celebrate personal bounty (if we are able to do so) while ignoring the historical costs, as well as the present costs, of our individual as well as national bounty. In the posts to follow over the next few days, I will further consider the historical costs as well as the present costs of “US bounty” and how we might better frame the holiday so as not to dishonor the atrocities of the past, condone similar carnage in the present, or perpetuate such myopic, selfish celebrations of US imperialism in the future.

What if the governator (with Chancellor Reed’s help) VOLUNTARILY terminates the CSU system?

Here in California, Governor Schwarzenegger promised that 2008 would be the year of education.

Apparently, the former actor forgot a key part of his line – that this would be the year of education CUTS.

His 2008 budget proposal called for 5 billion in education cuts, including $312 million in proposed cuts to the CSU budget.  This would translate into an $875 drop in per-student spending. These cuts will almost definitely result in course reductions, increased class sizes, reduced student services, faculty hiring freezes, and the turning away up to 10,000 eligible students from the CSU system.

As the picture below clarifies, Arnold is woefully impervious to what is going on around him. This picture, taken during the devastating fires in San Diego last October, shows Arnold checking his bicep heft as he stands in the burned remains of someones home. Talk about insensitive. This photo serves as a disturbing metaphor for his attitude to the CSU system specifically, and education more generally. While the CSU system goes down in flames, he seems more intent on flexing his own power as he sidles closer to the white house.

Arnold lifts weights at cite of San Diego Wildfires 07
Arnold lifts weights at cite of San Diego Wildfires 07

While he makes bank and smiles his tanned smile at press conferences, the California Faculty Association and various CSU newspapers work to expose him as terminating the education system in our state. CSU Student Newspapers from around the state have taken issue with Arnold’s budget in particular. For example, Cal State Long Beach paper called Arnie an “Educ-Hater,” As the paper claims, Arnold seems to indeed be an educ-hater when it comes to students, faculty, and staff.

However, Arnold does not ‘hate’ education executives as he has yet to propose curbing spending at the top of the education ladder (say, for example, a cut in Chancellor Reed’s 374,500 salary – plus over 300,00 in ‘perks’ each year).  Instead, the governor recommended another 10% student fee increase (which would be the 6th in the last seven years).

The suggestion that raising students fees is the best solution while ignoring the top heavy salaries of university executives reveals a distinct lack of concern for those who can least afford fee hikes – the students.

Failing to mention that salaries for CSU presidents have been on the rise for years in spite of tight education budgets, the governor instead expects students and faculty to bear the brunt of his cuts. This is hardly surprising coming from a man with a net worth of 100 to 200 million who can easily opt out of his 206,500 governor salary because he doesn’t need it (which, by the way, is less than the typical annual salary of a CSU president!).

The governor’s healthcare plans show a similar lack of awareness that not all Californians have deep pockets. For example, his budget eliminates many benefits for the 6.6 million Californians on Medi-cal such and cuts adult dental care, optometry care, and psychological care. As Julia Rosen puts it at Crooks and Liars, “Sorry poor people, no more access to therapists, dentists, or ophthalmologists.”

Thus, as when Arnold talked himself up as an environmentalist while owning 8 Hummers, his claims that he cares about education and healthcare ring false.

rnie, with his empty rhetoric, tanned visage, and plastic grin has also skirted consideration of the fact that California already spends below the national average on education and recently got a grade of D+ in a national ranking of state education systems (see California Progress Report).

Also handily left out of Arnie’s feel good speeches are the high poverty rates in California and the fact that over half of California students come from family’s that are struggling financially.

Yet, in spite of his 9 billion in proposed cuts to state services, which contradicts the goals of affordable education and healthcare he claims to support, Arnie is enjoying a 60% approval rating among registered voters.  Is it the star power that still has people blinded or that ultra white celluloid smile? Does the stale “I’ll be back” line still sprinkled in his speeches and the plethora of Governator merchandise peppered throughout the state bring back enough fond memories of Arnold movies to help our Hollywood saturated state forget about the disservice our governor is doing to those who, unlike him, can’t afford healthcare let alone college?  Why are people not appalled with his lack of concern for the racial and class stratifications that plague this state?

The fact that the Walton’s, founders of Wal-Mart, are some of his biggest backers, should concern those of us who believe in a state budget that does only cater to corporations and the rich (see “Wal-Mart flexes, backs Gov. Arnold,” October 31, 2005, CNNMOney.com). After all, how likely is a budget remotely concerned with equity and justice for all Californians that comes from a man who is widely reported to support various tenets of fascism? (See, for example, “Hitler on Steroids: Nietzchean Roots of the Governator.”)

This budget directly cuts the very social services that non-privileged Californians (who, due to the structural racism of this country are disproportionately people of color) benefit from.

The CSU cuts are a case in point – as a system that was designed to offer affordable education for ALL Californians, the CSU system has a long history of being the higher education system most diverse along lines of race, class, gender, and other markers of social difference.  It is also, apparently, a system Arnold sees as undeserving.  As his is well-documented history of sexual harassment, racist comments, and lust for power attests, Arnold doesn’t care about those disenfranchised by the system and, in fact, claims that ‘Ninety-five percent of the people in the world need to be told what to do and how to behave” (Fantastic: The Life of Arnold Schwarzenegger, by Laurence Leamer).

This, along with his use of sexist phrases such as “girli-men,” and his assertion that “If you gave these blacks a country to run, they would run it down the tubes” shows that his often quoted claim “My relationship to power and authority is that I am all for it” (planterymovement.org) leaves out a few of his key beliefs – it should read, “My relationship to white male power, wealth, and authority is that I am all for it.”

As for Chancellor Reed, he VOLUNTARILY gave back 31.3 million of the CSU budget without a word of complaint, as reported by the California Faculty Association. In addition to willingly giving away desperately needed funds, Reed went on a hiring and raise spree – for, guess who, university executives like himself. For example, he hired nine new vice presidents, some at $225,000 year. He gave raises to those at the top of the university ladder, or the presidents and chancellors that NEVER TEACH A SINGLE STUDENT. For more details on these sickening hires and raises in these times of budget crisis, see the story by Jim Doyle at the San Francisco Chronicle here.

Chancellor Reed
Chancellor Reed

As those at the top enjoy hefty raises, university lecturers and coaches lose their jobs. In my teeny department of nine, five lecturers were not assigned any classes next semester. I have heard similar stories campus wide. Those being cut are, as per usual, at the bottom of the academic rank – those without tenure, the ‘temporary faculty,’ some of whom have been “temporarily” teaching at our campus for 14 years!

At the big-wig meeting in Long Beach last week, the head honchos decided to cap enrollment, which will mean denying admission to 10,000 eligible students for the 2009/10 academic year. Reed blamed “underfunding,” failing, unsurprisingly, to make any mention of the hires and pay rises at the top of the pyramid. The Board of Trustees has not considered an executive salary freeze, a hiring freeze, or layoffs (or even salary reduction). The chair of the board, Jeffrey Bleich, claimed “”That’s always a last resort, and we haven’t got there yet.” Yes, cutting THEIR OWN salaries is a last resort. Cutting student access to classes, raising student fees, and cutting faculty comes first! If anyone was still questioning whether the CSU system has become a corporation, here’s your proof!

All of this news turns my stomach. I went into this profession starry eyed, thinking academia was a moral profession that, at its core, aimed to make the world a better place via education, research, and philosophy. I believe in the power of education to change not only individual lives, but entire societies. Sadly, those in charge of the 23 campus system here in California seem most concerned with lining their own pockets.

Moreover, they do so in hush-hush fashion and only those following news from the California Faculty Association and other ‘whistle blowing’ cites realize what is happening. When discussing these latest atrocities with students last week, many wanted to know what can be done. Here, taken from the CFA website, is a list of what you can do:


With the Thanksgiving holiday fast approaching, CFA encourages faculty

members to take action now to keep our message in the news and in front of

lawmakers, who return to the Capitol December 1st to begin a new session with

many new members.

Below is a list of actions you can take to help ensure proper funding for the CSU.


Send a message to the governor to let him know why budget cuts to the CSU are

a bad idea! CFA will collect the faxes and send them when the new legislature

begins in December.

Fill out the form at the following address and return it to your campus CFA office:



Send in your own example of how Cuts Have Consequences for the CSU’s ability

to deliver education. Please write us at CutsHaveConsequences@calfac.org

and we will help you get your own message out.


Send email to newspapers editors and to radio and TV news programs that have

published or broadcast stories or commentaries this week. Explain to them why it

is the wrong policy to cut public higher education during a financial crisis, and

encourage them to continue to cover the consequences of cuts to our state


For instructions and email addresses, please see



To learn more contact your campus CFA office:


Also, for a video of last Tuesday’s inspiring protests in Long Beach, see here. Then, do whatever you can to voice your protest, for, if Arnold (and other white males in power such as Chancellor Reed) have their way, the CSU system will terminate the futures of many eligible students, as well as many professors, lecturers, coaches, and staff. Meanwhile, Reed and co. will laugh all the way to the bank.

What if you rape someone while sleepwalking?

Well, no problem! How could we blame you? You were asleep, after all.

Come on, how many of you have sex while sleeping? Raise your hands!

Ok, now how many of you have accidentally and unknowingly raped someone while sleeping? Not too many of you?

Well, that doesn’t mean that the poor guy in the UK who was cleared of rape in a recent trial on the grounds he was sleepwalking doesn’t deserve to be pardoned.

I mean, it can be very easy to accidentally find a sleeping woman when you are yourself sleeping, to become accidentally and unknowingly aroused,  to accidentally rape her, and then to wake up with no knowledge of your criminal behavior whatsoever.

Come on hetero ladies out there, how many men in your lives sleep-walk around the community with hard-ons and (ooops) rape people while sleeping? It’s an easy mistake to make!

So, why all the fuss about this guy being cleared of rape charges? We can’t BLAME him for something he didn’t knowingly do.

We might, however, blame the woman who was raped – what was she thinking being there in her own home, in her daughter’s bedroom, fast asleep, all ready and willing to be raped? Boy, the ways in which women ask for it never seek to amaze me!  As if having a vagina is not asking for it enough, she had to actually be asleep too? How could we blame the poor sleepwalking guy given these facts?

Are these the kind of thoughts that went through the judge’s head in this recent UK case? Through the jurors? How in the F*** can someone be given the “get out of rape free” card on a sleepwalking defense?

Now, I admit a penis is not one of my bodily accoutrements, but from my experiences with those of penis privilege, sex takes a bit of focus – it does not seem something easily carried out while sleeping. Now, erotic dreams, (wet or dry) are one thing, but actual sex while asleep? Sounds pretty unlikely.

If sex while sleeping is unlikely, rape while sleeping seems damn near impossible. It also belies the imagination that people can violently assault, stab, and even murder in their sleep. Yet, the sleepwalking defense has been used in many such cases.  For example, in May 2008 a 28 year old Florida man was cleared of sexually molesting a 12 year old girl after using a sleepwalking defense.  Further, in 1999, the sleepwalking defense was used by a man who stabbed his wife 44 times then drowned her in the family swimming pool.

While I am no sleepwalking expert, I find this defense extremely problematic – and most definitely so in this recent UK rape case. For one, the man who has been acquitted, Jason Jeal, has NO MEDICAL HISTORY OF SLEEPWALKING. His lawyer suggested to the jury he should be cleared of charges as he was sleepwalking, noting that people do crazy things such as “going to the toilet in the wardrobe” while asleep. Hmmm, so dreaming of walking to the bathroom and accidentally peeing in your closet is equivalent to passing out in your friend’s home and then RAPING her as she sleeps next to her nine year old daughter? Unbelievable.

Worryingly, two other recent UK cases allowed “sexsomnia” to be used as justification for acquittal.  Kenneth Ecott, 26, was not charged with raping a 15 year-old-girl as he was supposedly asleep. James Bilton, 22, was cleared of three counts of rape on a sleepwalking defense in 2005.

Jane McKenna, the woman raped by Jason Jeal, has waived her right to anonymity as she is concerned about more attackers using the sleepwalking defense.  She notes, “These people should not just walk free – they should either be given a prison sentence or medical treatment, otherwise we could find more and more people finding this defence on the Internet and using it.”

Indeed, it seems just about anything can get you acquitted of rape these days. What’s next? The “hard-on defense”?  “I had a hard on, judge, it wasn’t intentional. My boner made me do it.”

According to UK law, a defendant is guilty of rape only if the attack is intentional. Forgive me for my naiveté, but I think being able to claim sleep as a defense is whack. How is it that much different from “I was drunk. I don’t remember. I didn’t do it on purpose.”  How is “not remembering” (Jeal’s defense) because one is supposedly asleep different from “not remembering” because one was intoxicated?

How would these cases be different, I wonder, if it was women doing the rape, murder, and sexual assault? I somehow doubt they would be handed the “get off scot free” card quite as easily…

Rape and sexual assault is a product of patriarchy (as this post at Womanist Musings clarifies). Yet, colluders such as Helen Mirin still use the “she was asking for it” card. When Mirin claims that women are “animalistic” and “sexually jealous,” she entirely forgets the ways in which patriarchy CONDONES and PROMOTES and even ENCOURAGES rape – does so, to such an extent in fact, that now men can pull the “I was asleep” card and get off rape charges with NO PUNISHMENT, NO COUNSELING, NO MEDICAL TREATMENT, NADA!  Absolutely disgusting.

What if you are speaking at a Prop 8 Rally?

I hope that many of you are Joining the Impact today and working to promote love and equality in your area!

Every single state in the US is taking part, as are several countries around the globe.

I am off to a local rally myself, where I will be speaking to a (hopefully) very large crowd of supporters. For those of you who are taking part virtually, or who are reading before or after taking part in this day of LGBTQI activism, I have included my speech below:


Here in the United States we have a long, ugly history of oppression. We are a nation built upon the backs of those we deem inferior.

The racism and sexism that has plagued our nation is similar in scope and reach to the homophobia that plagues our nation.

Discrimination is discrimination, regardless of its motivation.

Discrimination against one group hurts ALL groups.

We are not “special interests units” in competition for justice – rather we are one race, the human race, and all of us will move towards social justice, or move away from it, together.

We do not all begin life at the same starting line in this human race of ours – some of us start out in front due to various privileges while some of us our barely on the track due to being marked by the color of our skin, the anatomy of our bodies, or the ways in which we love and desire.

Yet, if we are to move our human race further toward the finishing line of social justice, we all must join together in a marathon effort that calls for tremendous strength and stamina.

We will not win this race if we fall prey to the divide and conquer tactics used for millennia to keep oppressed peoples from banding together.

We must resist these tactics that color the landscape now, the voices that place blame on African American and Latino voters for the passage of Prop 8.

We must resist the tendency to blame religion because blame is not a strategy for change.

Positive change has come about historically in our nation through, to paraphrase Margaret Mead, small groups of thoughtful, committed people working together to change the world.

In the words of Alice Walker, change happens when “we begin to distinguish between the need, singly, to throw rocks at whatever is oppressing us, and the creative joy that arises when we bring our collective stones of resistance against injustice together.”

In these past few weeks since the passage of Prop 8, we have begun to witness this type of creative joy arising as we refuse to accept defeat.

Yet, we must not waste our energy throwing stones at those who oppress us.

Rather, we must bring our collective stones of resistance together to build a better society, to forge a path on which we can all walk, equally, towards the finishing line of justice.

The change we are working towards now is about honoring all types of love and all people, about recognizing that we are one human race, regardless of how or who we love, regardless of the color of our skin or the anatomy between our thighs.

Prop 8 at its core aims to make the world a less just place. As such, it aims to make the world a more hateful place. As Cornel West puts it, “Never forget justice is what love looks like in public.” In contrast, Prop 8 is what hate looks like in public.

Let us continue to unite together to resist this public hate.

Let us not stop with this march, or with the next, but let us collectively unite to build a society that looks like a just society, a society based on love.

Let us not stop here but continue working to make our entire nation look like what we have here today – a group of thoughtful, committed people working for a just society. Here today, we are showing the world what justice is, that justice comes about via a love for all humanity and all expressions of love. The Repeal of Prop 8 will be our love for justice made public.

What if God hates heterosexuals?

I am not a believer in the big bearded white guy in the sky touted by my Catholic school upbringing. However, many in the USA subscribe to this belief.

Prompted by all the H8 (hate) circulating in the California air, I would like to hypothesize about God’s supposed hatred of homosexuals. (And, you Yes on H8ers, don’t even try to claim that you are not homophobic – that you ‘have a gay friend’ or ‘support civil unions for gays’ or any other flap-trap. I am sick of your sad little excuses for prejudice and your sorry attempts to cover up your H8.)

I think if there is a God, and if this God had to hate (which seems to be a requirement judging by how often religious people refer to what or who got hates), I think God would be far more likely to hate heterosexuals. They cause all sorts of ruin on this planet… Wasn’t that whole “fall” thing caused by a hetero couple? Don’t heterosexuals start all the wars and commit the majority of the world’s violence? Aren’t they the furthest from the golden rule – Prop 8 being a prime example?

And, quite a bit in the bible actually indicates a certain bent, shall we say, towards same sex love (especially of the male variety). What price, for example, did David give to Saul for his first wife? 200 foreskins! What kind of straight guy would go with that present option? And what group of people makes it into God’s heavenly choir? 144,00 male virgins not defiled by women! (Revelation 14:1-4). Sounds like a gay man’s paradise to me.

So, for a minute, let’s imagine that God hates heterosexuals. What might a website devoted to spreading this news include? (This idea came about in part due to the abhorrent website godhatesfags.com, headed by Fred Phelps, and NO, I will not link to it.) According the logic of Phelps’s brand of homophobic Baptism, homosexuals can be blamed for just about everything. Groups like his, in order to further their agenda of hate, take biblical passages out context and give no historical framework. Sections of the bible that have nothing to do with condemning homosexuality are skewed into a “God hates homosexuals” and “homosexuality is a sin” dogma.How would heterosexuals like it if the bible was used to condemn their sexuality? To accuse them of being damned? To blame them for all the ills of the world? Well, in order to turn the tables, let’s flip some of the often used claims about homosexuality around by condemning heterosexuality and proving that heterosexuals are sinful:

Heterosexuals defy Jesus by loving their families! As Jesus proclaims in Luke 6:22″If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters…he cannot be my disciple.” Heterosexuals flaunt their love for their ‘traditional’ families in direct defiance of Jesus!

God punishes heterosexuals with eternal war! God protects Homosexuals from fighting with the crafty “Don’t’ ask don’t’ tell” policy! Praise to our Homo loving God!

God punishes heterosexuals with natural disasters! Tornadoes are God’s punishment for heterosexual sin! Alaska, thanks to its recent homosexual denunciation of the demon heterosexual Sarah Palin, has been spared!

Heterosexuals are overpopulating the planet by sowing their evil seed and producing demon hetero offspring! They are the cause of climate change! They are the reason fires rage in Southern California! They bring God’s wraith upon the sunshine state.

Adultery is a sin!!! The chosen people – Homosexuals –  cannot commit such a sin – this is why God has blessed them by keeping them safe from the twisted institution of marriage.

Fred Phelps, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson… These heterosexuals, with their H8ful acts, spread the sin of heterosexuality throughout the land. God will smite them with hurricanes, meteors, and terrorists!

Heterosexuals are rapists! Their only hope for salvation is to attempt to lead a homosexual lifestyle. They can be cured! Those who refuse salvation should lead a celibate lifestyle. Help save the heterosexuals among you!

These all sound preposterous of course – but they are just as preposterous when similar claims are made about homosexuals.

And, when the bible, or any sacred/religious text is used to denounce entire segments of the population and to spread hate, well, doesn’t that go against what most people claim is good about religion? If religion gives people a moral compass, as so many claim, it seems the compass is out of whack for quite a few believers.

Further, what about homosexuals of faith? Can we quantify the damage done to LGBTQ folk who are taught their desires are sinful? That who they are is ‘against God’? As Alice Walker* so beautifully puts it, “It is fatal to love a God that does not love you.” Walker writes this in the context of  her “inherited religion,” of growing up in a faith where it seemed God did not love her for at least two reasons – because she was female and she was black.

Noting that “We have been beggars at the table of a religion that sanctioned our destruction,” Walker elucidates how oppressed peoples have often furthered their own internal colonization via their religious belief practices – or, they have learned to ‘not love’ themselves via their religions, to internalize the belief that they are not worthy, not chosen, not equal in the eyes of their God. Yet, “All people deserve to worship a God who also worships them,” Walker claims.

Put in the context of today’s religious fueled fights over LGBTQ rights, many people believe that not all people are deserving of God’s love, that not all people deserve to worship God, that God has a ‘special’ place for heterosexuals and their type of love. How is this any different from the days when many churches were claiming “God doesn’t love blacks”? How is it different from the times when women were not allowed to speak in church?

For my own part, I do not believe in nor love the traditional Christian God so popular in the USA –  this God seems to me selfish, judgmental, sexist, racist, homophobic, and cruel. This God is much like a Troll who won’t stop leaving inane, infuriating comments and who somehow draws other crazy trolls to him!

If I were to believe in or love a God, s/he damn well wouldn’t hate homosexuals – rather, s/he would be spreading the love on November 15th, a national day of Protest Against Prop 8, blessing all those who see fit to fight the scourge of homophobia that blights our land.

*Alice Walker, Anything We Love Can Be Saved, 1997.

What if you were Obama? What cabinet would you build?

While there is definitely good news regarding items on Obama’s presidential “to do” list, most of the news about the cabinet so far is worrying. Sexist Larry Summers??? Anti-Palestine Rahm Emanuel?? Anti-education Arnold Schwarzenegger? Nooooo!

The supposed short list of other candidates for the cabinet is not encouraging, populated as it is by sexists, extreme Zionists who bow to AIPAC rather than the populace, Hummer drivers, and those of white penis privilege. As Jill over at Feministe notes, “I can’t help looking at his list of advisors, and his growing list of White House staff, and think, ‘Huh. That’s a lot of dudes.'” I can’t help looking at the list and thinking “Huh. Looks like one party government as usual. What about CHANGE?”

If I were Obama, my list would be much different. First of all, I have a cynical mistrust of most politicians, so I would look to fill my cabinet with activists, humanists, feminists, womanists, academics, and artists… My cabinet list is obviously a “dream cabinet” rather than a reality based one… But, if this cabinet were to exist, think of how the world might change…

Without further adieu, my cabinet choices are as follows:

Chief of Staff – Cynthia McKinney

Who else to give the highest cabinet position then to my FIRST CHOICE for president. (Yes, I voted for McKinney.) She wants to end the Federal Reserve System, she is critical of Zionism, AIPAC, and other imperialist forces that aim to keep power in the hands of the few. She is not beholden to lobbyists or the interests of PNAC. She has an excellent stance on immigration and on other key issues – see here for proof!

Attorney General – Angela Davis

Longtime activist and founder of Critical Resistance, who better than to lead the department of justice? Plus, how cool to have a former member of the “FBI’s most wanted” list as Attorney General!

Secretary of Homeland Security – – Cindy Sheehan

She may not have evicted Nancy Pelosi from the house, but she sure could make our global home a more secure place for us all through her de-militirized, anti-imperial, pro-peace and justice stance.

Secretary of State – Maya Angelou

Her wisdom and vision would certainly serve us well in matters of relations with other nations.

Secretary of Agriculture  – Vanadana Shiva

OK, so if she would be willing to move stateside for awhile and serve in the US cabinet, this Indian ecofeminist extraordinaire would be my first choice.

Secretary of Commerce  – Barbara Ehrenreich

Best known for Nickel and Dimed, her understandings of wealth inequality and worker’s rights, along with her incisive, humorous voice, would make her a fabulous edition. Plus, an adventurous streak like hers is most definitely needed in any cabinet.

Secretary of Defense – Karen Kwiatkowski

A woman who believes that “We have a Congress that failed in every way to ask the right questions, to hold the President to account. Our Congress failed us miserably, and that’s because many in Congress are beholden to the Military Industrial Complex” most definitely would be a good choice.

Secretary of Education   – bell hooks

A passionate advocate for “Feminist Education for Critical Consciousness,” hooks would remove biases in the curriculum and work to create a mass-based educational movement for EVERYONE.

Secretary of Energy –  Maxine Waters

As an advocate for women, children, people of color and the poor, and as the founder of the “Out of Iraq” Congressional Caucus, Waters could surely uses her experience and intellect to advocate for a sustainable, eco-friendly, socially just energy policy.

Secretary of Health & Human Services – F.R.I.D.A.

The more dedicated activists in the cabinet the better! These disability rights activists would rock the way we approach health and human services while shredding ableist bias.

Secretary of Housing & Urban Development – Dolores Hayden

We need professors in the cabinet too! The author of “What Would a Non-Sexist City Be Like?”, Hayden could work towards non-sexist housing and development.

Secretary of Interior – Winona la Duke

As a Vice Presidential candidate with Nader (who endorsed Kerry during her campaign), la Duke is a “hellraiser” of the best kind.

Secretary of Labor – Dolores Huerta

This  labor movement leader and co-founder the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez would be the best Secretary of Labor eva!

Secretary of Transportation – Jennifer Schumaker

Who better than a woman who walked 500 miles along highways and byways as our Secretary of Transportation? Plus, as a mom of 4, she has expertise in ‘reality transportation’ – or , how to get 4 kids all the places they need to be with one car and no decent public transpo system… Anyone who has dealt with similar transportation conundrums, knows that a person with ‘parent taxi’ experience would be a great choice for managing the transportation needs of the nation.

Secretary of Treasury – Echidne of the Snakes

The cabinet must have at least one goddess. I can think of no better goddess for the Treasury position than a feminist economist goddess.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs  – Ann Wright

Wright resigned in protest of the Iraq War. She works tirelessly towards eradicating war crimes as well as ending military violence against female soldiers and civilians. With 13 years of active duty experience and 16 years in the army reserves, she is critical of the US failure to resolve the Israel-Palestine situation, the illegal occupation of Iraq, and the lack of sound policy regarding North Korea.

Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency – Sarah Palin. Just Kidding!!! Susan Griffin

As one of the matriarchs of eco-feminism, Griffin could put her vision of “placing diplomacy and cooperation before aggression and violence, for the good old fashioned morals our fore mothers and fathers celebrated, not as in we’re going to invade your private life and tell you who you can marry, but as in, we don’t torture and we don’t wage unprovoked wars” to great use in the EPA!

Director of the Office of Management and Budget – IAFFE

Our budget and economy are so messed up I think we need more than one person to solve these problems. I nominate the crew at The International Association for Feminist Economics.

Director of the National Drug Control Policy – Julia Sudbury

Author of Global Lockdown: Race, Gender and the Prison Industrial Complex, Julia Sudbury gets my vote for many reasons – one of them being that she calls GW Bush a “global hangman.”

U.S. Trade Representative – Janie Chuang

Chuang advocates for the inclusion of human rights protections for trafficked persons. She works for international human rights. What a concept – someone who works for the rights of all the globe’s peoples – not just those within our borders!

Joint (not) Secretaries of Feminist Affairs – Gloria Steinem, Ellie Smeal, Andrea Smith, Cherrie Moraga, and Patricia Hill Collins.

Ok, so (BIG SURPRISE!) the Department of Feminist Affairs does not exist. But these are just SOME of the people I would appoint to this MUCH NEEDED department. In keeping with the collectivist tenets of feminism, of course they would have to equally share power and we would come up with an alternative term to the gender-biased ‘secretary’…

Following the wonderful Angela Davis’ insight that What this country needs is more unemployed politicians,” I would like to remove most existing politicians from the government payroll. The first two to go would be:

Nancy Pelosi – for so many reasons:  for ok’ing torture, for ok’ing surveillance and other Orwellien/Patriot Acts, for putting impeachment off the table

Joe Leiberman – yeah he must go, he supports surveillance and illegal wire-tapping, wants to invade Iran, he supports anti-choice licence plates (!) and sucks in so many other ways…

Others chimed in with their recommendations.

Jennifer Schumaker noted “I would have a professional philosopher, versed in the philosophical traditions of the entire globe, not just the Greco-Roman to modern Western strains.”

And Minority Militant, far more of a realist than I, listed his as follows:

Chief of Staff: Rahm Emanuel (Love it, actually my congressman now) – Done
Press Sec: Robert Gibbs (Perfect) – Done
Sec of Def: Prefer John Kerry or Chuck Hagel
Sec of State: Prefer Gov. Richardson or John Kerry
Sec of Treasury: Steve Jobs or Paul Volcker
CIA Director: Move Adm Mullen here (Sailors are the best intel folks)
Joint Chief of Staff: Put Gen. Petraeus here
Attorney General: Hillary Clinton (So what?)
Fed Chair: Keep Ben Bernanke (I know, I know, but he doesn’t like hype. I like that.)
National Security Advisor: Eric Shinseki
Need one or two declared republicans….
Sec of Trans: Any Repub would do (Trying to be bipartisan)
Sec. of Labor:  Some Republican
EPA: Robert Kennedy Jr.
Sec. of Ed: Mike Honda

What cabinet would you build, dear readers?

What if hate crimes got equal coverage? (Prop 8 and/as hate crime)

HR 1592, or the “Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act,” is the 2007 legislation sponsored by John Conyers that constitutes hate crime a federal offense.  The legislation defines hate crimes as “a violent act causing death or bodily injury because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability of the victim.” The bill does not rank the motiviations for commiting such crimes. However, according to recent coverage of Prop 8 in San Diego, the SD news media ranks crimes based on actual or perceived religious belief as WORSE than crimes based on actual or perceived sexuality.

For example, notice that in this story, violence against a Yes on 8 person is foregrounded in the headline and the opening. The story notes that:

Proposition 8 supporters, who are fighting to overturn gay marriage in California by changing language in the state Constitution, describe …”a wave of intimidation and violence up and down the state.”

According to Chip White, Californians from around the state have reported being harassed by people who are against Prop. 8. Among the incidents he related were: verbal harassment of Prop.8 supporters on the freeway, including obscene gestures; the theft of yard signs; and a woman in Riverside, California who had her garage sprayed with graffiti. [Catholic News Agency]

Notice there is no mention of a “wave of intimidation and violence” against No on 8 supporters. Notice also there is no quote from any agency that places violence against No on 8 as just as, if not more, ubiquitous. Notice also that the DAILY violence, harassment, and intimidation targeted at the LGBTQA community are given no mention. Rather, violence against the No on 8 community is framed as a “teen prank” via the fact that the ONLY story we are given about violence against No on 8 is as follows: “it was reported that a neighborhood teenager burned No on 8 yard signs. The teenager was taken into custody for a 72-hour psychological evaluation.”

In this story, about the march in West Hollywood, the choice of words such as “snarling” and “noisy” is telling, as is the fact the story finds it necessary to point out that “The event did not have a permit or approved march route.” The story also covers arrests and incidents of violence while failing to focus on the more positive messages of togetherness and equality that the march conveyed. Moreover, the story capitalizes on spreading hate, making a point to include a comment where a gay man blames African-American and Latino voters for 8’s win. (For a great post on this ‘blame the blacks’ trend, see Womanist Musings here.) And, yet again, the violence against the Yes on 8 crowd is framed as far worse than against the No on 8 crowd. Or, as this story tells it, Yes on 8 people throw eggs, while No on 8 people surround cars, rip up signs, and beat people.

Another story, from San Diego’s North County Times, reported the burning of a Baptist church in Vista. The fire is being treated as a suspected hate crime. Michael Hoffman, the spokesperson for the U.S. Bureau of Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is reported to refer to “heated confrontations between supporters and opponents of Proposition 8 down the street from the church in the weeks before the fire.” And, while “Authorities have no suspects or motives in the case,” the story clearly points the finger at someone opposing Prop 8. Television coverage of the same event at San Diego’s NBC news (channel 7) suggested the church burning was a vendetta carried out by a No on 8 supporter although there is NO EVIDENCE to suggest this is the case. Local San Diego activist Jennifer Schumaker responded to the story as follows: “We’ve been ignored, and now they are going to try to highlight anything that even LOOKS like it might be vengeful and point to us, evidence or not!”

Here is yet another story of No on 8 supporters committing violence. Yet, when I searched for stories detailing violence against No on 8 supporters with the phrase “violence against No on 8 supporters” what came up was stories about the No on 8 side supposedly calling for violence against Yes on 8 supporters! Stories such as “‘Gays” Call for Violence Against Christian Supporters of Prop 8″ (here) insinuate that all the violence and hatred is coming from the No on 8 side and, in particular, frame No on 8 supporters as perpetuating hate crime.

In these and so many other examples, the No on 8ers are framed as committing hate crimes. Yet, hate crimes against the LGBTQA community are rendered invisible and/or framed as relatively harmless (i.e. as ‘egg throwing’ and taking signs).

Another way these stories are being framed in the media paints No on 8 supporters as anti-religion and, in many cases, as perpetuating and even calling for hate crimes based on religious bias.  Interestingly, the number of religious bias hate crimes and sexuality biased hate crimes were almost equal in 2007 accoring do the FBI’s hate crime statistics. Or, more specifically, there were 1,477 religious bias hate crimes reported, and 1460 sexuality bias crimes reported. Yet, if one gets their news from the MSM, it would seem as if those in the LGBTQA community are only perpetuators of crime rather than victims of it.

In fact, some who opposed HR 1592, the hate crimes prevention act, did so via claiming that ‘elevating’ homosexuality to the level of ‘normal’ would pose a danger to race equity and freedom of religion! For example, a senator from North Carolina urged the congress to oppose the act claiming that HR 1592 would:

*Elevate homosexuality and cross-dressing behaviors such as drag queens, transsexualism, she-males, etc. to the status of federally-protected minorities. These behaviors will be considered equal to race under the federal law.

• Fund anti-Christian curriculum for children K-12, through the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice to promote homosexuality and cross-dressing as normal behaviors

Oh, the horror! Making homophobia on par with racism???? Teaching that homosexuality is NORMAL? What is this world coming to?!? Wow, with senators like these, maybe we should renaim the USofA, the HSofA – or the Homophobic States of America.

To find stories of the violence and attacks against No on 8ers, one must go outside the MSI (mainstream internet) and look to more progressive cites and blogs. To find stories of all the positive work being done AFTER Prop 8 passed, including marches, rallies, candlelight vigils, etc, one must also go beyond the right wing, biased news sources such as NBC, The North County Times, and The San Diego Union Tribune.

For coverage of the march that took place in San Diego today, which drew thousands of No on 8 supporters, see here (note that while this story puts the number of marchers at 2,000, other sources report the number was closer to 10,000).

If you would like to take action to support No on 8 or to make your voice heard regarding media bias, here are a few options:

  1. Go to www.InvalidateProp8.org and donate to the legal fight to overturn the proposition.
  2. Write to President Elect Barak Obama and encourage him to support, in word and deed, full equality (including marriage equality!) for LGBTQ folks.
  3. Read and sign the petition to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger calling him not to allow Prop 8 to pass into law. (This petition debunks a bunch of the myths/lies spread by the Yes on 8 camp.)
  4. Thank the Los Angeles Mayor for his support of No on 8.
  5. Review the petition to remove the tax-exempt status of the Mormon church here. Whether or not you agree that their tax-exempt status should be removed, the petition is worth taking a look at for the arguments it makes regarding the fact that organizations with such status cannot focus their activities on influencing legislation.
  6. Call NBC San Diego at (619) 231-3939 to complain about their biased news coverage of Prop 8.
  7. Visit Queers United here for a listing of upcoming protests and rallies. Get out your rainbow and go support No on 8!
  8. Go to one of the nationwide protests against Prop 8 on Saturday, November 15. To find an event in your area, see this post for more info.

If you wish to read more about homophobia and hate crimes, a good source is Beyond Homophobia, a website maintained by Gregory Heck editor of Hate Crimes Confronting Violence Against Lesbians and Gay Men. Also, in case there are any HDP’s (heterosexual privilege deniers) reading this post, I encourage you to read the “Heterosexual Privilege Checklist” here.

Proposition 8 in and of itself comes all to close to being a hate crime. While it may not directly cause “death or bodily injury” to LGBTQ folks, it most certainly will indirectly do so. The LGBTQ community already has a high suicide rate, depression rate, and poverty rate. Might not legislating further disenfranchisement exacerbate all of these? Might Prop 8 not also suggest that it is ok to be homophobic? Or to take it further, that it is ok to commit hateful acts (sometimes violent) against this “dangerous” group that “threatens” religious traditions? Prop 8 is not only unfair and wrong, but its passage, if you ask me, would be a hate crime carried out by the government of California and endorsed by 52% of voters. Scary.