politics

Eventually the Pendulum Swings

Greetings from the Left coast. It’s been quite a while.

I’ve had an entire day now to mull over this Trump victory— I mean, really let it sink in before speaking out—and I find myself now compelled to publicly share my thoughts.

I’m so happy for you Mr. Trump.

Congratulations. You won.

I mean, not the popular vote, which is why there are so many protests occurring, but hey, electoral vote, so what does it matter because you won, right? (except it does matter because, as I’ve just said, half the country is outraged, and it’s not some kind of sore loser outrage, but rather more of a “WTF, howthefuck have my rights just been compromised” type of outrage)

It was pretty clear that pretty much everyone here in California yesterday was walking around in a haze. In a complete, WTF-induced haze, trying to make sense of it. But as one person said to me yesterday, out of her shock and disbelief, “Yeah… I’m just trying to make sense of this… But you know what— I’m from Ohio, so I do get it.”

And for better or worse, so do I. My own father voted for Trump. Which in and of itself continues to baffle me. (Like, dude, you adopted a brown baby [me] who was born of one “illegal” parent from El Salvador) But I digress…

We’ve all been sitting here wondering how we could go from electing the first Black president to the man who questioned his very eligibility because of his race. We’re wondering how we could go from Black Lives Matter to electing a man endorsed by the KKK. We’ve all been wondering how we could go from potentially electing our first female president to a man who has condoned sexual assault and spouted hateful misogyny over and over again.

Here are some reasons why:

  1. Hate Votes, meaning that so many people have been so disillusioned with the government, and were so angry with the choice of candidates, and henceforth our very “democracy,” that they just wanted to vote “anti-establishment.” Enter Trump. Many of his supporters were not as much for-Trump, as they were against-Hillary.
  2. Economic policy has trumped (pun intended) equality, social justice, and common decency. People care more about his economic ideas and potential business acumen than the horrible things he has said. Racism, sexism, and downright bigotry are being overlooked and pushed aside because, you know, he’s going to “make deals” and that’s more important.
  3.  Going back to #1: Eventually the pendulum swings.

It’s almost a game of two steps forward, two steps back when it comes to our political climate and presidential elections. After eight years of Obama—after eight years of any president, mind you, the same happened with George W.— often, if not always, people want change. A striking change. And Trump offers the most striking change of all.

But you know what? This is what is going to keep the optimistic political fire inside me burning bright.

Eventually the pendulum swings.

Bernie may not have won the presidency or even the democratic nomination this time around, but his impact has been undeniable and indelible nonetheless, and he underscored a major movement going on in this country. We have been shown, to some extent, just how far we can go. Even if it wasn’t all the way, there is room for progress and we are going to create even more room. Those of us that declare Trump as #notmypresident are only further revved up in our political fervor and social activism. I know I am.

I am heavily disheartened by the intense apathy and disregard for racism and sexism demonstrated by this election, let alone the very active role both have played throughout the Trump campaign. I am horrified at the potential Supreme Court nominations to come. And I am beyond saddened and beyond disappointed by just how insidious and endemic sexism is in our country that this candidate— THIS person, of all the possible candidates out there— won over Hillary. I have zero doubt, and firmly believe, that if it was Donald Trump versus a “Hal” Clinton (i.e. another man), Trump would not have won. That is just my personal belief, but I know I’m not alone.

Notwithstanding, this means that I am only going to continue to fight even harder than I have in the past. A friend of mine asked me yesterday morning, “Where and how do we fight back?” I’ve thought really long and hard about this question. It’s a great question, and I think one a lot of us are asking ourselves, as well as each other, right now.

This is what I’ve come up with so far… Do take into consideration that this is coming from someone who is a reproductive justice worker, political activist, and in the process of obtaining a Masters in Social Work. I am no political strategist, nor am I even some kind of amazing community organizer *ahem* but nonetheless, here are my thoughts:

  1. As a reproductive justice worker who helps low-income women of all ages, incomes, and ethnicities obtain access to reproductive healthcare and services, I am going to fight even harder for this access. In a country in which, yes, we do have the right to choose, such a choice is not always so easily accessible, even here in California. There are still women who have to travel hundreds of miles for abortion services, women who may not have access to a car or even very much money. There are women afraid to seek out aid because they may be undocumented, a minor, or in a domestic violence situation. These issues are part of our everyday reality, and part of why reproductive justice— not just choice, but reproductive justice— is so crucial. Although Roe v. Wade still stands, the Republican party’s way around this is to chip away at access, and create further barriers for women. I think it’s crucial for us to do what we can in the way of protecting and increasing access, as well as paying attention to state and federal policies encompassing such things as insurance and immigration. If you can volunteer somewhere, great! If not, at least pay attention to state and local elections and use your voice!
  2. On this same note: I am currently helping to push the EACH Woman Act, sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (as we like to say here in the Bay Area, “Barbara Lee speaks for me!”), which leads to another important mode of engagement: Find out who your congressperson is and pay attention to what they’re doing!
  3. Similarly, let’s keep our eyes on these women.
  4. Finally, let us remember: eventually the pendulum swings. Seeing as I’m playing the long game here, let us take these next four years to work even harder at our activism, to pay greater attention to House and Senate bills being penned by our elected officials, and create an even bigger space for progressive ideas and policies. This is the time for us to find one another and work together, and work very hard.

There are a lot of protests going on right now and a lot of people don’t understand why. Well I do understand why, but I also think it’s important to take that angry, frustrated energy inside of us and put it into useful, meaningful, productive action. This is why I’ll be paying close attention to Trump and the policies and actions he will be attempting to make over the next few years.

Because I am going to be a part of the counter-action.

And when the pendulum swings, I’ll be ready.

 

Please feel free to leave comments with further ideas on how to engage in meaningful and productive action

“I Don’t Have To Tell You Things Are Bad, Everybody Knows Things Are Bad”

Last night, a friend of mine posted the following on Facebook:

“I want to say KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. But I think that’s not very good advise [sic] for anyone right now.”

I immediately thought of this extraordinary scene from the Oscar-winning film, Network. The first episode of The Newsroom also reminded me of this notorious monologue. It just always seems to be relevant, no matter which decade we are in…

 

HAWAI’I: An Exploration of Relationships, Cultural Dissonance, & Catharsis

Hawai’i

(pronounced ha-vai-ee)

Hawai'i ("The Big Island")

A beach on the “Big Island”
Original photo taken by yours truly

As some of you may or may not know, one month ago I had my wedding reception, followed by a week of work, then 16 days in this tropical paradise within the U.S. we call Hawaii.

A few interesting factoids about Hawaii:

  • It is the only state in the U.S. made up entirely of a chain of islands
  • It is one of only two states in the U.S. that do not observe daylight savings time
  • It was the last state to join the U.S. in 1959

A couple of particularly interesting facts about that last point (taken from wikipedia):

  • [One] factor against statehood was a strong possibility of a non-white senator and their opposition to Racial segregation.
  • In March 1959, Congress passed the Hawaii Admission Act and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law.
  • On June 27 of that year, a referendum asked residents of Hawaii to vote on the statehood bill. Hawaii voted 17 to 1 to accept. The choices were to accept the Act or to remain a territory, without the option of independence. The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization later removed Hawaii from theUnited Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

*bold and italics added by me for emphasis

For most of us here in the United States, we will learn about colonialism throughout primary and/or high school (i.e. K-12) as historical fact— something that happened in the past— which is, of course, true. However this does not preclude the possibility of extant colonialism. This does not mean that we live in a post-colonial world. Far from it. I believe Hawaii to be a demonstration of that fact. After all, one of the former Big Five powerhouses (what some would call the former oligarchy of Hawaii), Alexander & Baldwin,  still oversees sugar cultivation in Hawaii, is still one of the largest landowners in the state, and owns dozens of income properties in Hawaii as well as the mainland.

My husband and I spent the bulk of our honeymoon (13 days) on Hawaii’s “Big Island” (the island actually named “Hawaii”). It’s the largest and least touristy of all the islands, which can also mean a higher local to tourist ratio. It was so interesting to be in a U.S. state where English was not the dominant language. Over the loudspeaker in a grocery store I heard Hawaiian. Between vendors at the farmer’s market I heard Hawaiian. Walking down the street, (usually only between local adults but not so much with the children) I heard Hawaiian. We rented a car so as to be able to travel all around the island, and naturally, I wanted to listen to the local radio station instead of the ol’ regular pop/rock you hear everywhere else (“Hawaii’s native island music” as they announced on the radio) and guess what I heard….

That’s right! A lot of great music. But also— yes— many songs sung in Hawaiian. Even more interesting were the many songs I heard that sang of Hawaiian history: songs about King Kamehameha, Queen Liliuokalani, the history and tradition of respecting their land with the utmost reverence, and how they lost their right to the land due to the power and influence of the Big Five.

As one DJ said at the end of a certain song [of one of these historical ballads], “That was [musician’s name] with [song name] singing about King Kamehameha… and yes, as __________ said in that one right there, let us ‘never forget, never forget’…” While I did not encounter a single unfriendly person, local or otherwise,throughout my vacation, hearing this on the radio definitely gave me that unmistakeable feeling of being a tourist on foreign land, perhaps somewhere I wasn’t meant to be.

In addition to this contrasting language and music, there is also the overall difference of lifestyle, values, tradition, all that constitutes the very fabric of culture itself. People there will call friends (or even customers…?! I observed this in a radio shack store between a salesperson and very elderly customer) “uncle” or “aunt/auntie” as a term of endearment. (Which is also, oddly, much like Spain where people call one another “tia” or “tio,” Spanish for aunt and uncle, respectively)

Hitchhikers also abound on the Big Island. When my mom first told me that she picks them up once in a while (she has what I call a “hippie shack” over there- solar powered, no plumbing, grows a lot of her own food) I flipped out, naturally. She said, “Oh but everybody does it. Everybody hitchhikes, and everybody gives them rides. It’s fine. Besides, I always have them sit in the bed of the truck back there.” Needless to say, this did not assuage me. I told her to knock it off and that if she’s going to do that she had better at least have some pepper spray or mace on her. She gave me the “ok, but sheesh you really just don’t get it” look and that was it. Well by the end of our 13 days there, seeing hitchhikers almost on the daily (and quite frankly, yeah, they all looked harmless) I got it.

It’s about community and trust.

I thought about reading the U.S. Constitution side by side with a Native American tribe’s constitution for a class at Berkeley (sorry, I can’t remember which tribe, it was 4 years ago). The stark difference between the two, other than the central issue of property, was trust. Ours was based on an implicit lack of it, while the Native Americans’ was based on an implicit understanding of it. Hawaiians, I believe, are culturally operating on a similar level: everybody hitchhiked, and everybody picked up hitchhikers, because their culture is one of trust, and let’s not also forget, one of respecting the land and only using what is necessary, thereby making hitchhiking actually quite conducive to environmental values as well.

Such thoughts would, on occasion, bring me back to why I was there in the first place.

I was on my honeymoon.

I had never been on a trip outside of 4 days tops, in Las Vegas, with my now husband. We were now on an island, with just each other, for 16 days straight. Of course it was fun and amazing and all of that, but it was also a learning experience (and not just sociologically speaking). It was like an exercise in team-building. And having to really, really, confront where you may be falling short on this team, then figuring out why, and then figuring out how to go about fixing it. An implicit understanding of trust is an important thing, both socially and personally.

Even more important is knowing when and how to trust yourself.

Sources:

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN!

The Magnificent Seven, by The Clash

(a.k.a. “the only band that matters”)

This song is from the album Sandinista!, the title referring to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, with its catalogue number, ‘FSLN1’, referring to the abbreviation of the party’s Spanish name, Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional.

One of my Cal professors once said they made this album as lengthy as they did— it contains 36 songs, effectively containing 3 albums in 1— because they wanted it to be an album for the working class (i.e. an album for those that probably didn’t have a lot of money to use on leisurely expenses such as music), and they aimed to piss off their record label (which they indeed accomplished, selling what could have been 3 separate albums for the mere price of 1—What record company wouldn’t be miffed?!) According to Rolling Stone magazine, “The triple-LP package was a deliberately anti-commercial gesture. It sold for less than most double albums, and Columbia took the loss profits out of the group’s royalties and tour support funds.”

This album was:

– Recorded in Jamaica, London, and New York.

– Released in 1980.

– Voted album of the year by the Village Voice.

– And contained the first ever UK rap record, The Magnificent Seven.

The Magnificent Seven was inspired by the growing hip-hop scene in the U.S. and Joe Strummer actually wrote the words on the spot. One of my most favorite lyrics (probably of all time) besides “Italian mobster shoots a lobster,” is “Vacuum cleaner sucks up budgie!,” which apparently came from an actual news headline in England around the time this was recorded. Read more about these *MAGNIFICENT* lyrics here.

 

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN:

Don’t you ever stop
Long enough to start
Take your car out of that gear

Don’t you ever stop
Long enough to start
Get your car out of that gear

Ring! Ring! It’s 7:00 A.M.!
Move y’self to go again
Cold water in the face
Brings you back to this awful place
Knuckle merchants and you bankers, too

Must get up an’ learn those rules
Weather man and the crazy chief
One says sun and one says sleet
A.M., the F.M. the P.M. too
Churning out that boogaloo
Gets you up and gets you out
But how long can you keep it up?
Gimme Honda, Gimme Sony
So cheap and real phony
Hong Kong dollars and Indian cents
English pounds and Eskimo pence

You lot! What?
Don’t stop! Give it all you got!
You lot! What?
Don’t stop! Yeah!

Working for a rise, better my station
Take my baby to sophistication
She’s seen the ads, she thinks it’s nice
Better work hard – I seen the price
Never mind that it’s time for the bus
We got to work – an’ you’re one of us
Clocks go slow in a place of work
Minutes drag and the hours jerk

“When can I tell ’em wot I do?
In a second, maaan…oright Chuck!”

Wave bub-bub-bub-bye to the boss
It’s our profit, it’s his loss
But anyway lunch bells ring
Take one hour and do your thanng!
Cheeesboiger!

What do we have for entertainment?
Cops kickin’ Gypsies on the pavement
Now the news – snap to attention!
The lunar landing of the dentist convention
Italian mobster shoots a lobster
Seafood restaurant gets out of hand
A car in the fridge
Or a fridge in the car?
Like cowboys do – in T.V. land

You lot! What? Don’t stop. Huh?

So get back to work an’ sweat some more
The sun will sink an’ we’ll get out the door
It’s no good for man to work in cages
Hits the town, he drinks his wages
You’re frettin’, you’re sweatin’
But did you notice you ain’t gettin’?
Don’t you ever stop long enough to start?
To take your car outta that gear
Don’t you ever stop long enough to start?
To get your car outta that gear
Karlo Marx and Fredrich Engels
Came to the checkout at the 7-11
Marx was skint – but he had sense
Engels lent him the necessary pence

What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!

Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi
Went to the park to check on the game
But they was murdered by the other team
Who went on to win 50-nil
You can be true, you can be false
You be given the same reward
Socrates and Milhous Nixon
Both went the same way – through the kitchen
Plato the Greek or Rin Tin Tin
Who’s more famous to the billion millions?
News Flash: Vacuum Cleaner Sucks Up Budgie
Oooohh…bub-bye

Magnificence!!

FUCKING LONG, INNIT?

 

Sources:

theclash.com

wikipedia

rollingstone.com

the F-word

Feminism. Why is it seen as such a dirty word?

Image

It seems to me that most people simply do not know what the fundamentals of feminism are. Or, perhaps most likely, they are still operating under the extant influence of the feminist backlash of the 1980s. As a matter of fact, this more than anything else probably reveals just why feminism is greeted with sideways glances and caustic comments, whether designated with jocularity or not. Moreover, it even serves as an explanation for the overwhelming unawareness of just what feminism truly is in the first place.

The intricacies of this socio-political movement are detailed in Susan Faludi’s book, Backlash, a masterfully detailed as well as highly comprehensive analysis of the American political and cultural landscape that functioned to derogate feminism during the 1980s. I won’t bother recounting the particularities of the book here, but I assure you- the evidence is all laid out, and a critical analysis of all aspects of American life in the 1980s really does reveal how the many anxieties revolving around feminism were deployed in strategic efforts to counteract the feminist movement. The long and the short of it is that in the sixties and seventies the feminist movement broke lots of ground, opened many doors, and made many gains- in effect, helping lots of women across the U.S. secure greater economic, cultural, and political standing. When Reagan came into power engendering a largely right-wing hegemonic governmentality, the socio-political tides turned and the “backlash”, as it came to be known, ensued. Suddenly women were shown to be unhappy with their independent (and often “single and lonely”) lives, and their liberation via the feminist movement was targeted as the culprit of this unhappy demise. Feminism wasn’t helpful at all, as one’s right-wing milieu began to tell them- it was actually harmful…

And if it wasn’t this picture being promulgated by the mainstream media, (although I assure you, it most definitely was) it was that of the angry, man-hating feminist who declared all men as evil and desired a society devoid of all penises- hence, the beginning of the term “feminazi.”

Suffice it to say, I find both of these images problematic and ridiculous, not to mention sincerely hurtful and misrepresentative. The reality is, feminism did accomplish many wonderful things for women, then and now; And the truth about feminism, regardless of which form you take into consideration- indeed, there exists many forms of it- is that it overwhelmingly stands for equality and freedom of choice. That is what feminism is truly about.

Sometimes, within a certain kind of conversational context, I find myself telling someone that I am a feminist (in case they didn’t already know- not the most likely scenario, to be sure) and I am either reciprocated with a bit of a snicker or an honest inquiry as to what exactly that means. I am always tickled at the latter response.

I proceed to give them the general, sweeping phrase I have just stated above:

it means that I am in favor of equality and freedom of choice for all.

“Equality” meaning equal treatment, equal opportunities, equal social, economic and political standing, and “for all” meaning people of color, the disabled, the LGBT community, women, and men. “Freedom of choice” pertaining to job opportunities, which religion you choose, freedom of reproductive choices, your political affiliation, etc.

Obviously, this is by no means an exhaustive list, nor is it fully representative of the various feminist ideals and theories that I personally hold. Nor am I able to fully explore in detail the many benefits gleaned through feminist advancements over the past few decades in one short article. Nevertheless, I find it important to first dispel the myths and lies about feminism and affirmatively state, feminism is not, and should not be considered, a dirty word. It is with pride and certainty in my firm convictions that I say I am a feminist, and it is from this perspective that I write.