Zillah Eisenstein

My writings, thoughts, and activism.


The End of Men? Really?

Recently published at AWID.org

Zillah Eisenstein

September 13, 2012

 

dr. zillah eisenstein

distinguished scholar-in-residence

prof. of political theory and anti-racist feminisms

ithaca college

ithaca new york 14850

u.s.a.

http://faculty.ithaca.edu/eisenste/

http://us.macmillan.com/author/zillaheisenstein

http://www.zedbooks.co.uk/book.asp?bookdetail=4324

 

Hanna Rosin titles her book : The End of Men.  David Brooks of the New York Times agrees.  I wonder, really?  Exactly what supposedly has ended here, and which men are they thinking of? What might their color, race, sexual identity and class be?   The last I heard we have two men running for President and two men for VP as well.  Three are white and wealthy and all are heterosexual as far as we know.

To me, if it really is the demise of men, then their power and privilege should be lessened—at least in relationship to women–and this does not easily seem to be the case.  Most men still enjoy their masculinist privileges, even if there is inequality amongst them in doing so.  As for women, some have more power than they used to, others have less—that is, in relation to men.  Even though there have been extra-ordinary changes in women’s lives too many women have not gained much, or enough.  The old stuff still burdens us: too much labor of every sort is expected alongside the lack of day care, the low waged jobs, and the unequal pay.

Interesting that amidst the so-called demise of men there is also an organized assault on women.  This “war on women” is led by the Republican right wing which is largely made up of white men.  Maybe the two—the demise of men and the war on women— are connected.  As traditional forms of men’s lives begin to shift and white working class and middle class men find it harder to find good paying jobs, women need to be better controlled in traditional “mommy” form.  This strategy actually makes little sense but not much of misogyny does. There is more to think about here.

Attacks on women’s rights to her reproductive body are commonplace today.  Thousands of initiatives on the state level have attempted to make abortion impossible to get, or just simply unavailable.  Todd Akin and Rush Limbaugh, and Paul Ryan seem to think that women are not really “legitimately” raped nor should they get to decide about needing an abortion no matter what the context.

I wonder about this particular need to curtail women’s rights at this moment.  Women have simply done what they always do which is to work extremely hard in both the home and now more readily in the workplace.  Maybe the particular assault is against young sexually active girls and women as they move into new arenas of the labor force, sometimes more readily or handily than men.

Let me connect another development here, a new kind of epi-genetics that alerts us to “Why Fathers Really Matter”, September, 2012, NYT.  The study discussed suggests that the male—what he eats, his age, his income, his health habits, can affect the baby, like a mother.  It is noted here that the health of the potential father matters to the fetus.  Maybe this new “man” with his new “gender” will look more like a mom, and less like the usual male worker.  Gender construction shifts yet again but its power-filled meanings remain more unchanging.

I still ponder how if men are in major transition, or “ending” so-to-speak, why more is not said about “women ending”.  Gender is relational, more than it is biological. Genders do not exist in a vacuum from each other.  The choices are not biology or culture? Or nature vs. nurture? Or environment before genetics.  It is always a bit of both.  Gender is “man”made—and therefore can be changed in any which way. None of this is static and pre-given.  Historical and economic needs define gender as much as the sexed body does.  Given the new structures of cyber labor across the globe, traditional gender divides obviously matter less.  There is a power grab in order to control these new flows and morphings.

There is much that has changed today among all kinds of men and women.  At the recent Olympics there was lots of talk about women’s successes and even their dominance.  Hillary is the U.S. secretary of state, although, actually not President.  And 100s of thousands of women fill our military. But exactly what is changed?  The power and privilege of men or their particular place in the public/private gender divide? It is still 77 cents to the dollar the last I heard.  Women in the military suffer sex harassment and rape at outrageous levels.

Women have never been slouches.   They have been recognized as the movers and shakers of their families and nations, more than men.  The World Bank has for decades said that investing in women means you are investing in the country in a way that does not compute with men.  As well, supposedly women are more adaptable, men more traditional and conservative and slow to make change.  Rosin says that women will thrive better in this new global economy.  I wonder if they will just be working harder.

The more power you have, the less adaptable you are.  Supposedly women are better at adapting, and doing with less, and changing their trajectory—they are more flexible and therefore more viable in an economy that changes a lot.  Women are said to be doing better everywhere—in Rwanda post-genocide and in China as well. Forget for the moment that infanticide is often practiced in China to rid the parent of a girl-child.

Maria Shriver has called the U.S. a woman’s nation because for the first time in history there are a majority of women in the U.S. labor force.  Women are then said to be the new men.  But most of the jobs waiting for women are nursing home health assistants, child care workers, and jobs in the food preparation industry. Many of these jobs do not have a living wage.  Women do not seem to be in charge of much of anything given these opportunities.   They simply become responsible for both domestic and public labor.

I do not see a power shift here although I do see genders morphing and re-aligning. In part this is a rethreading of patriarchal and misogynistic gender in new form.  As long as these newly complex gender structures exist as part of the privatized global capitalist market benefiting a few, these changes can hardly be seen as libratory. Patriarchies—and there are several forms—are brilliantly flexible and are changing according to the demands of the global economy.  These are unsettled times—new anti-woman stances, and new misogynies—and, yet new genders, and new anti-racist feminisms can become promissory of progress.

Men and women are coming in new forms today. Yet, Michelle remains “mom in chief” and Ann Romney embraces all women who are first and foremost “mothers” as an attempt to assure the nation that not too much is changing.  And although black women in slavery were hardly seen as any kind of mother by their master, but rather a breeder with no rights, there is a harkening back to traditional life that does not compute enough for most people trying to get by today.  Single parents dominate the familial landscape.  And moms in the labor force also do.

Let us be clear.  Nothing is ending here…not men or women although an end to the gender divide would be great.  Instead, gender is doing what it does best: shifting and changing in the hopes of keeping the power structure and those privileged in it agile and protected.   Those of us who are not benefiting from the old and new regimes of polarized/homogenized gender must push for a destabilizing of global capital by mobilizing a full multiplicity of sexes, genders, and races for democratic practices.

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The Elephant in the Womb

“The Elephant in the Womb”; Sex, Moms and G.O.P. lies

Zillah Eisenstein

Ithaca New York

September 3, 2012—In honor of Labor Day and Shulamith Firestone

Where is the feminist outrage at the G.O.P no matter which kind of feminist you might be—liberal, neo-con, radical, gay, trans, black, white, Latina, socialist, Islamic….whatever? The choices, happily, are endless today. Yet the Republicans natter on at their convention as though “we”—the big we live in the 1950’s. Everything for and against “women’s rights to their bodies and their labor” has been said and re-said for at least the past four decades. If we keep addressing their hackneyed ideas and politics there is little room to go forward with the world that we presently inhabit.

What in the world could the Republicans be thinking? Really, what in the world? Shortly before the Convention there were Todd Akin’s outbursts. He sounded so vile and idiotic about gays, and rape, and women’s bodies that I half thought this all was some kind of internet hoax. But then Clint Eastwood had his tortuous dialogue with an empty chair and droned on about the good old cowboy days. Really? I thought Republicans were trying to NOT depict themselves as old white men. Is this really the best that you got?

Let me just say, before I actually begin my reasoned rant that: How dare anyone tell a raped woman what she can or cannot do with a pregnancy that she might face in the aftermath. After the total violation of her body and her right to control it, or define it, she gets to do whatever she thinks is best for her and the fetus. What planet do you live on that you think you have any rights at all to tell her anything at all?

The convention opened against the back-drop of the Republican “war on women”. They were supposedly set to re-claim women and their votes by telling us they love us. But it did not take long to realize that the women the Republicans are addressing are a very particular sort, and that their war continues against any female who is sexually active and thinks she has a right to the decisions about her bodily rights.

The phrase “war on women” was chosen in part by reproductive rights activists to depict the continual Republican assaults against women’s rights to abortion and health care more generally. Public funding of abortion or contraception was targeted throughout 2010 by Republicans. After the mid-term elections 1100 provisions restricting women’s access to abortion on the state level were initiated.

Mandatory Ultrasounds were discussed in Virginia, Iowa, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and Alabama. Catholic Bishops led an assault on health care provisions in the Affordable Care Act that would require contraceptives to be paid for by insurance companies. An all male panel was convened by Darrell Issa to consider the validity of contraceptive mandates. The Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke was disallowed from speaking before the panel. Rush Limbaugh called her a slut and prostitute and suggested that contraceptives are necessary for women who just want too much sex. The federal funding for Planned Parenthood was once again fodder for right wing anti-abortion activists and this even invaded the well known breast cancer Komen foundation, supposedly dedicated to women’s health. The Akin fiasco continued and rekindled the sense of war and women under siege.

But exactly which women are under siege here? Single young women in particular are under siege. Unmarried women are also. Sexually active women of all ages are also targeted. Any female body that is sexually active and not domesticated within motherhood and traditional hetero-patriarchal family life is fodder for the mill here; as are women of all colors and particularly poor women. In other words, almost all women but post-menopausal women and anti-abortion women are particularly targeted here.

The word “woman”—which has been a nemesis for feminism and also its glorious idea of a collectivity— is both too inclusive and not inclusive enough in this war of words and deeds. If feminism of any sort matters in this instance it is that women and girls get to decide about their bodies as independent selves. But the Republicans evade this discussion and instead put forward an anti-government stance toward health care and choose to protect their kind of family–from encroachment.

So when Ann Romney in her convention speech told women that she loved them I couldn’t help but wonder which women exactly she loved. Of course, if Michelle Obama said that she loved women she would be accused of being a lesbian. But no matter. Ann told the audience that she salutes women and sings her praises. And, that she knows that women do not expect things to be easy and they therefore know how to take care of themselves and their families. Maybe she forgot that earlier in the week she told a group of “Mom’s for Mitt” that women needed to stop complaining and “equality is detrimental” to women’s true interests. Or, maybe not.

Ann Romney as well as Chris Christie focused on moms—women are mothers and for them, a mother is a wife and married. And for Ann, moms do not work outside the home. Of course this is an easy choice for her as a multi-millionairess but less so for the millions of women who labor multiple jobs to make ends meet. Christie said his mom was the driver in his household, and his father was a mere passenger. There were celebrations all around for all that women as moms do.

Most of the audience was white and the white women loved Ann back. And Condoleezza Rice was sitting near the front, clapping and smiling and approving—though she has no husband or children. I wondered if Ann were Michelle would these women let her love them, and would she love them back? And, what was Condi thinking? That she got where she is today by herself, without the civil rights and women’s movements and bravery of Black women’s struggles who came before her? She celebrated our (U.S.) “exceptionalism” where she could have been born into the segregated south in Alabama and grow up to be Secretary of State. She celebrated a country that does not care where you start but only cares where you are going. She believes we are a country of limitless horizons. It is all too amazing. Republicans seem to truly not approve of most women and yet Condi is their forceful mouthpiece at the convention. It is too strange: a Black woman defending a white man’s party; and actually a white rich man’s party. It is enough to make you (almost) hopeless.

Female bodies are the coded rubric for a right-wing take-over of political discourse, once again. Remember Ronald Reagan in 1980. The Republicans are no longer and have not been for quite awhile even neo-liberals fighting to privatize the public sphere. Instead the right-wing wishes to destroy the very realm of public responsibility and leave most of us with their mythic family. There is to be no safety net, no assist, no help, no subsidy. If you fail, Paul Ryan is sure that you have not tried hard enough to succeed at work, or to fend off a rape—or whatever.

Privatization and the glorification of the market economy are swathed in familialism and family becomes a booster form of momism. Both the economy and traditional marriage are teetering on the edge which is why life is so hard for so many. And the government that the G.O.P will leave standing invades the bedroom and serves the rich. They are not really anti-government, just anti-assistance for choices they do not approve of. And, there is truly a hostility towards poor people, regardless of race and gender.

I think you might get my gist by now. The Republicans say there is no war on women because they love some women, like Mitt loves Ann and his own mother too. Mitt talked about how his mother ran for the Senate, and spoke of his love for Ann who raised his boys, and then proudly noted how he appointed many women to work as part of his administration when Governor of Massachusetts. He praised “the sanctity of life” and the “institution of marriage” as God intended them to be, which is not gay. The hetero-patriarchal family rules. Once again, there was no mention of “working moms”—gay, or straight, or bi. This is all a bit too worn and weary. Makes you love Hillary even if you do not.

No matter how gender may be becoming more fluid as races become more mixed as well, the focus on the vagina or the uterus keeps females the same. And this fixation keeps women victimized. The G.O.P. both balks at and denies the changing lives of women, and men as well, and simply restates the old. It has handed this election to the Democrats if the Dems decide to take women’s lives, in all their new complexity and difficulty, seriously. If Obama wants “the” women’s vote(s) woo us with serious policy: affordable and good day care at our work sites and elsewhere, affordable and accessible health care, the continued right to and access to abortion and contraceptives, and throw in equal pay and the ERA, and you have us. Hands down.

It is repeatedly said that women don’t vote these issues. Really? When have we ever been given the chance to show that we would, and can.

Right wing Republican momism loves a certain kind of woman who exists less and less. The rest of us are in danger. Because the war is specific and particular and does not apply to all women Mitt and Paul can still say they love us. It is circular and vacuous and also a little bit true. The term “woman” becomes a kind of gender decoy for the Republicans which mis-represents the diversity of women. Even though they don’t like or love the rest of us, they still want us to dumbly vote for them. They should take the advice of what any good mother knows: love means caring and respecting the person who does not agree. Don’t love me because I do what you want me to do.

It seems tragic that in 2012 that the narrative about our economy and families is so anachronistic. It is time to vote our interests: as independent sexual beings who also labor hard as moms, if we are moms, and in the work force as well if we can find a job. Women, whatever kind of feminism we subscribe to, must stand against this egregious assault on our bodies and our lives. I am thinking very much about my 27 year old daughter as I write, and these reactionary times. She just so happens to be a first year medical resident in social medicine at Montifiore hospital, totally committed to girl’s and women’s reproductive rights and freedom.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan et al need to be shut down—and get the elephant out of my and our womb(s).


What I Wish Michelle Would Have Said

Recently published at AWID.org

Zillah Eisenstein

Ithaca New York

September 5, 2012

Wishing that Michelle gave another kind of speech at the Convention is not to say that I expected one, or thought that a different kind of talk was even possible in the present political climate. So, I am not saying she should have spoken differently, or could have spoken truth to power, but given that I am not constrained as she is I can have another voice. So, “would” and “could” and “should” are not even part of my critique of her, but they are part of what the rest of us need to do.  What I offer is a bit of dialogue for the day after….

There is little room for complexity, or nuance, or honesty; or the poor, or homeless, or feminism, or socialism, or single payer health plans in convention speeches.  Silence usually wins out over directness.  The middle class, who actually has always been a working class as well, and which is shrinking in droves, shoves out everyone else.  One in five children in this country is hungry and yet fantasy familialism dominates.  Misogyny parades as ignorance and nary a mention that “rape is simply rape”, no adjectives allowed.

Michelle looked gorgeous. She spoke gloriously. She perfectly rallied the convention on behalf of her husband and the president, Barack Obama. She reminded everyone that she and Barack’s beginnings were humble.  That her parents sacrificed for her and her brother and of course their success is totally in view.  The theme of American exceptionalism was repeatedly intoned as the promise of opportunity and success.  She assured us that Barack and she started out differently than who they have become and are humbled by this.

Although they were poor, and now rich, this “dream life” is truly under assault for too many Americans. The American Dream has never included enough people to begin with but today this is more and more the case, and quite impossible if one thinks about the planet as a whole.  The U.S. needs a new dream not just different players in the old one.  There are not enough jobs that pay a living wage for people anywhere/everywhere, let alone in the U.S.  New opportunities will have to be invented if Michelle’s life is to have possibility or probability.  Foxconn, the giant company producing Apple products in China has just ordered one million robots for their factories there.  Even Chinese labor has become too expensive for the rapacious one percent.

I wonder if the millions of people who are out of work, or who are underemployed, or who are working several part-time jobs really buy the whole exceptionalism theme these days. Or, are these people not even listening to the politicians these days?  And for most of the women who head single parent households on one income does Michelle’s “mom-in-chief” really compute?  Most mothers love their children as much as Michelle loves hers even though most of them cannot afford private schools, and nannies, and a domestic support network.

I would feel more trusting if Michelle told us that her husband believes that a woman has the right to choose a safe, legal abortion rather than the more elusive bodily rights.  Is being Barack’s wife and “mom-in-chief” the best you got? This is a bit too close to Ann Romney for my liking.

So, although Michelle is smart, and beautiful and totally formidable she is constrained by her duty. I am not, so I will wish and dream and push for: a single payer non-profit health care system for us all; a challenge to misogyny and racism and patriarchy in all its anti-woman forms; query and indict the ethics of capitalist greed; turn our attention to remedy global warming and climate change; end the Afghan war and not start another one in Iran or Pakistan; resolve the Palestinian crisis, and demand social justice for the billions of people across this globe.

Remember I said at the start that I am not saying that Michelle could, or would or should have said this.  But we should and must.

 


Rethinking: INSIDEOUT

Recently published on Portside.org

Written to share with the people at Centro de Estudos Socials, at Universidade de Coimbra, Portugal, October 18, 2012

Dedicated to the anti-austerity activists in Portugal and Spain

October 4, 2012

Zillah Eisenstein

Distinguished Scholar in Residence

Prof. of Anti-Racist Feminist Theories

Ithaca College

Ithaca New York

Let me clarify my grounding, a kind of genealogy of sorts.  All the moments mentioned here took place within a week of the first presidential debate between Romney and Obama, October 3, 2012.  Immediately after it concluded Mitt was declared the victor and I thought victor of what except maybe telling lies, fabrications, and creating deceit.  And Obama? I thought how could he not mention anything at all to save a bit of democratic life here?  Not even a whisper against the “war on women”, the “war on the 47 percent”, the absolute right to health care.  How dare he not say more that mattered to save “us” and this planet.

Romney was said to be an energetic doer, Obama, a plodding (academic) thinker. The entire election appears as a charade that is different than saying that the outcome does not matter.  Elections have always been about endorsing power brokers but I am not sure that they mean exactly what they used to.  As the nation state has changed, as the global structure of all economies become more complex, as the president pretends to rule over our discrete nation, economy or racial and gendered structure as we once knew it, the election façade soothes and makes us dumb(er).  The transnational state and global capitalist economy has relocated power and the shifts are not all that clear to most of us.  The new locations need deciphering; as does the very contours of where power lies.

I cannot critique this election by simply talking about it—because then I am limited to its lack of agency and urgency.  So I have to begin differently.  Too often it is almost impossible to think beyond the limits of our surrounds and power divides and either/or choices.  It seems like it has almost been forever that the reform/revolution divide has stunted the way that we can think really newly about radical possibilities.  People are depicted as doers or thinkers; actors or critics; authentic or frauds when I think we are more usually a bit of both.

Romney and Baines Capital protect the new economy of transactions rather than production. [1] Obama speaks more of bringing production back without much mention that robots will and already do much of the work.  Production and its factories no longer mean lots of jobs for a middle class.  Apple product maker FoxConn in China has just ordered one million new robots for their factories.

No wonder that facts are not abundant today.  Instead there are more readily available fantasies and untruths.  There are small differences to choose between and with them small promises and small hopes.  This is the other side of a vicious and cruel world where punishment replaces understanding.  Yet, we must live making choices even if they do not matter as much as we wish they did, or whether they only reflect small differences.  Acting and thinking have effect even if not enough and even if not in the way we wish they did.

Obama does not matter enough, but he matters for some enough to matter to the rest of us.  Nelson Mandela did not matter enough to the destruction of racial apartheid in South Africa, but he mattered.  Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky tells an important story of sex trafficking throughout South East Asia and Africa and yet it is not insurgent enough.  I am beginning to thread a method here so stay with me.

Sometimes things just happen at close hand to each other and they begin to whisper a narrative.  There is also the connection that just occurs simply through simultaneous time frames or geographic location and they then matter to each other even if randomly.  Maybe these events/moments arise because similar conditions put them in view, or pull them to the fore.  Any string of events/moments constitute a day and reveals a significant array of power events.

I recently visited the “Rise and Fall of Apartheid” exhibit at the International Photography museum in New York City and thought about the ending of legal racial apartheid and the beginning of post-legal economic racial apartheid.  Each and both are intimately woven into the normalcy and abnormalcy of life.  Apartheid law reminds me of post 9-11 security protections—new enemies and others; sabotage and terrorism written both places.  I return to Ithaca and see the film Dear Mandela about the continuing poverty and homelessness of Blacks today when each was promised a home by the ANC (African National Congress) of the new South Africa.  Still in 1994 the Slums Act is passed and I see a sign along the road in the film that used to read free mandela and now reads hang mandela.  I just happen to be reading Medical Apartheid that traces the racist history of medicine to the complicit arrangements between doctors and slave owners in the early years of U.S. history.[2]

Life today has become more difficult for many, or differently difficult for some—more complex and differentiated.  Classes run through races and Blacks can now oppress Blacks.  Homogenous races and genders are more differentiated into heterogeneous races and genders and although a majority of Blacks may be poor, they also have the promise of becoming rich.  This is similar for a woman of any color although the color will distinguish one more fully.  There is a legal sexual apartheid in places like Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, and Saudi Arabia although the completeness of the homogeneity of class is not the same as in the legal apartheid of racial slavery.

Half the sky, the new documentary film based on the best selling book by the same name, shown to much fanfare on PBS just two evenings before the first presidential debate—also produced to much fanfare—exposes the sex trade of young girls as unacceptable and actionable. India, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Afghanistan et al are put on notice for the unfair treatment of girls and women as prostitutes—women’s bodies are supposed to be their own, to control and determine.  The promise of education and opportunity are seen as solutions and offerings.

Interestingly enough women in the United States have been “victims” of the Republican right-wing tea party attack on women.  Women’s bodies are not their own when it comes to the right of abortion.  Endless attempts at the state level seek to enforce vaginal ultrasounds and other restrictions on contraceptives and reproductive rights.  As for the globe, Kate’s breasts are exposed to all and the Royal family sues.  Women’s bodies are at issue everywhere—because they are key to all things economic.

Half the Sky is about doing, acting, making a difference when some critics wonder whether the difference Kristof and WuDunn and their crew make is not enough.[3]  The story of rescue is said to be self-serving—individual girls and or women are saved from the forced prostitution that they have been conscripted into.  As one of Kristof’s aides says: its not enough to help just individual girls when the problem is so big, but to the one girl that has been rescued it is all the difference in the world.

There is not much emphasis on the big picture—the problem of global capitalism and its tourism that nurtures prostitution and is its life force.  There is no criticism of the capitalist initiative to turn all things, including humans, into commodities for sale for profit.  There is nothing said of the deeply embedded racism of the global first world/third world divide.  Instead these are silenced givens and normalized as such and WuDunn focuses on the need to create opportunities for these girls, especially education, so that they can escape from prostitution.  But “opportunity” exists within the structural requisites of misogyny, patriarchal labor and its roots/routes in capital.  Half the Sky is a rescue for individual girls in a systemic abyss.  Yet, it has begun an expose that can be radicalized.  So let us radicalize it rather than dismiss it.

The undermining of traditional female cultural practices by global capitalist needs has led to a ramped up prostituting of young girls.  Enlarge the expose to the commodification of human life and the exploitation of the 99 percent across the globe.  Misogyny is not simply cultural, it is transnational and polyversally true. Afghanistan may be an extreme, but let us dismantle our own right wing Tea Party forces here at home first.

The imperial gaze is more complex and mixed today than pre-1970.  Colonialism was built with more separateness and therefore more homogeneity—empire/colony; legal/economic; white European/other colors.  Today imperialism iscomplexly both inside and outside each locale.  Geographies are more mixed and fluid—the third world is here; and the first world is in the third world. Imperial acts, though still punishing and powerful, is more nuanced and complex.  The radical democratic promise of individual choice and freedom is an important critique against misogyny but the misogyny must be recognized as structurally necessary.

Reforms are not simply complicit.  Revolutionary reforms are needed as are reformist revolutions.  Radical aspects of liberalism especially when it comes to feminisms of all sorts must be embraced. You never know when you might be making a revolution.  I have written many years ago about the “radical future of liberal feminism”—that feminisms cannot be contained by individualist imaginaries although they are often started there.  Feminism in and of itself requires a sharedness in view, and without the seeing of the collective of women—no matter their variety—there is no understanding of feminisms.  So the very notion cannot be contained by its origins in the case of liberal feminism.  Today it is important to find and then act on the tensions found between feminisms, liberal individualisms, and imperialism and it is in these in-between spaces that radical meaningful change starts and mobilizes a new radicalism.

Progressives need to find and demand a really democratic vision of democracy that is not based on the exclusion of any human being from wherever they are migrating.  No one will be abandoned—the mentally ill, the hungry, the poor, the middle class, the child who seeks comfort, the person who dreams of total completeness.  We will end the cruelty of the one percent. The first step is to hope for this—then to speak it—then to build it forward together.

This is the new in-between that locates us inside and against simultaneously; recognizing both and all instead of either/or; inside/against.  So let us make a radical politics by recognizing and acting on the limited choices that exist but moving beyond them to their structural connections. Immobilized by either anger or doubt we stagnate and the cruelty simply grows.

If you have ever attended public school, driven on a federal highway, received unemployment benefits, been assisted by FEMA after a flood or hurricane, utilized water from a federal dam or visited a federal park, or used an airport you have received an assist from the government that is bigger than simple individualism.  If you have ever received veterans benefits, Medicare, student loans, used the GI bill, received medical disability or food stamps or a farm subsidy or an NIH grant you are one of many many people who have received an assist even if it is not enough.

And so I will vote for Obama.  And all the while I will also work alongside anti-austerity activists at home and abroad, and inside/out for a more decent world.


[1] Nicholas Lemann, “Transaction Man”, The New Yorker, October 1, 2012, pp. 38-51.

[2] Harriet Washington, Medical Apartheid (New York, Anchor Books, 2006).

[3] Melissa Gira Grant and Anne Elizabeth Moore, “Nicholas Kristof: Half the Sky, All the Credit”, http://democracyguestlist.wordpress.com