BroadSnark

Thoughts on politics, religion, violence, inequality, social control, change, and random other things from an autonomous, analytical, adopted, anarchist, atheist who likes the letter A
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Anarchy, Disability, Purity, and Doubt

June 07, 2010 By: Mel Category: Anarchism, Inequality

I’ve been thinking about the Americans with Disabilities Act and about a conversation I recently had about social security.  You would think that, as an anarchist who wants a stateless society, I would be against both.  That would be the ideologically pure position, no?  To be honest, I’ve had a bit of cognitive dissonance on this issue.

The need for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and for social security is real.  My aunt grew up with cerebral palsy (CP) in a time when people hid their relatives with disabilities.  She lives in a private home.  The home was started by a woman whose child had CP.  She started the home knowing that, when she died, there would be nobody to take care of her kid.  This valiant effort by one individual has provided a home for many people.  But it would not survive if the people living there, many whose parents are no longer alive and who have no children, did not receive social security.

The kids I helped at Camp Challenge were sometimes trapped in their houses most of the year.  The profit driven market has no interest in starting an accessible transportation company for one kid in rural Tennessee.  There is no profit in that.  The market does see profit in at-home care, but only for those people who have an extra $2,000 a week to pay for it.  And eventually those kids’ parents will be gone and they will need a place to go and a means of support that they can count on.

Saying the market will take care of them, in our present circumstances, is absurd.  It is true that there is coercion involved when people have money taken against their will and redistributed to others.  But it is also true that we live in, and help to create, a society where differently abled people have virtually no freedom at all – that the freedom to not help them can be directly in contradiction to their freedom to leave their house, get around, have a job, communicate with people…Doesn’t their freedom count?

I pointed out in my previous post how Rachel Maddow gave the government credit for integrating Woolworths, rather than giving credit to the everyday people that actually did it.  And that is true.  But it is also true that my aunt could not march over to Woolworths and insist that they lower the counter to accommodate her.  She needs someone to dress her and feed her.   She needs a wheelchair.  She needs ramps to get out of her building and into Woolworths.  She needs people who have the patience to listen to her as she struggles to get out the words.  She needs people who can see past her chair and drool and speech impediment and who will listen to the brilliance of her thoughts.

We all need to take responsibility for ourselves and the people around us.  But we also need to acknowledge that some of us face obstacles to taking responsibility that others don’t.

So I see a need, in our present circumstances, for the the ADA and for social security.  But I also see how these things are part of the problem. It isn’t just about some idea of freedom or the free market.  It isn’t just about some principle against coercion.  The home that my aunt lives in is run by grossly underpaid, African American women.  Having an anonymous government bureaucracy deal with the details makes it so much easier to keep those women (and the people they take care of) out of site and out of mind.  I can just file that tax return and never have to think about the whole lousy system – until I end up in it, of course.

The worst part about supporting government programs is knowing that I am helping to feed the machine that causes so much destruction.  The machine that is supporting my aunt is murdering people in Afghanistan and incarcerating millions of people who have done nothing wrong.  That machine uses a few token programs to bolster its legitimacy so that it can continue to exploit and oppress at will.  Every small bit of good it does comes at someone else’s expense.

So where does that leave me?  It leaves me with a moral dilemma.

My instinct is to try and resolve that dilemma with some neat philosophical jujitsu.  But every practical bone in my body fights against it.  And, if I’m being honest here, every selfish bone in my body fights against it too.  If I were going to be ideologically consistent, I wouldn’t rely on the state at all, right? I would tell my mother and aunt to stop collecting social security.  I would give up my job and my life.  And I would try to find some way of supporting them and taking care of them myself.  (No idea how I would have a job and provide 24 hour care for my Aunt.)  But should I really be expected to give up any freedom I have?

The truth is that sometimes there are no good choices.  And I am going to have to live with some moral ambiguity.  That bothers me.  But not so much as it bothers me when people pretend that everything can be wrapped up in a nice package and that these issues don’t pose any moral dilemmas.

Our world was designed by and for a very limited number of people during a very limited portion of their lives.  An anarchist world would be a very different place.  A world designed by all people – all ages, all abilities, all backgrounds, where everyone has a seat at the table, where all can express their own needs and desires – would not have these contradictions.  But we don’t live in that world.

I know that the system can never be the solution to a problem it helped to create.  But I also know that I cannot snap my fingers and have magically appear an all voluntary non-coercive method of dealing with the problems of real people.  In the time between now and then, real people have real needs that need to be met.  Too often, we anarchists get so caught up in philosophical discussions that we forget that.

It is, I believe, a real weakness to pretend these moral dilemmas don’t exist.  It delegitimizes our arguments in the eyes of people who experience the obstacles we too often ignore.  And it constrains our strategies in trying to imagine a new world and how we might get there.

In short, what I am trying to say is that I think we should embrace the doubts, ambiguities, and moral dilemmas that are inevitable with the world as it is being so far off from the world as it should be.  Rather than having litmus tests for authenticity or trying to pretend that we are all ideologically consistent, we should admit that it is impossible and give each other room to breathe.  By allowing for the ambiguity, I suspect we will find ourselves better able to reach out to people who find our beliefs somewhat alien.  And I suspect that we might find ourselves better able to come up with creative strategies for getting from here to there.

Liberalism and Disempowerment

May 24, 2010 By: Mel Category: Change, Inequality, Politics

By now you have surely heard about Rand Paul’s interview with Rachel Maddow.  Paul slimed around for twenty minutes trying not to admit that he does not support the provisions in the 1964 Civil Rights Act that made it illegal for a private business to discriminate.

On Rachel’s next show, she had a segment on why Rand Paul’s views were so important to get out in the open.  You can watch it here.

Around minute 6, Rachel made the claim that the civil rights act “ended, for example, Woolworths lunch counter practice of only serving white people.”

Actually, no it didn’t.  Four college students – Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond -  took it upon themselves to take that lunch counter.  And a whole lot of other people sat at that counter day after day until Woolworths changed their policy.

You can watch a segment about the Woolworth protest here (excuse the hokey, travel channelish soundtrack).

It wasn’t government action that integrated Woolworth’s, it was direct action.

One of the most frustrating things about the liberal narrative is that it gives presidents, congress, and the supreme court credit for things that they have no business getting credit for.  Elites did not lead the way.  They did things kicking and screaming, if they did them at all, after massive mobilization by everyday people.

And the worst thing is not even that people like Ezell A. Blair, Jr., Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond don’t get credit for what they do.  The worst thing is that the liberal narrative makes it appear that our only option is to vote every four years and spend the rest of the time screaming at our television screens.

It makes you feel powerless.

But we aren’t any less powerful than Ezell A. Blair, Jr., Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond.  They didn’t wait for the government to ride in on a white horse and save the day.  They didn’t sit at home watching Tweedledee Democrat and Tweetledum Republican play political ping pong.  They made it happen.

Want jobs?  Take over a factory.  Neighborhood school an underfunded prison that isn’t teaching you shit?  Start your own damn school.  Pissed that banks are raking in millions while they foreclose on people’s houses?  Put your body between those houses and the sheriffs trying to evict those people.

And the next time someone tries to tell you that those benevolent politicians swooped in and saved black people, remind them who the real heroes are.

Left, Right, and Wrong

September 10, 2009 By: Mel Category: Politics

You ever get the feeling you’ve been had?

I’ve been watching our health care “debate” and marveling at the lunacy of it all.  I got into an argument last week with a woman who insists that, despite everything he says and writes, Barack Obama is some sort of far left fanatic.  There are birthers and deathers and tenthers and now someone who thinks the government is trying to set up concentration camps.

Much like Rachel Maddow in this clip, I was taking some comfort in the fact that the side I most closely identified with seemed a lot less crazy.  But are democrats really debating policy as Maddow contends?  True, democratic congresspeople are not accusing their republican counterparts of having been born on Mars.  But most of the coverage I have seen has pitted democrats who say “we need to do something” against republicans who say “no.”  That isn’t a policy debate.

While the right has been busy playing on fears of black panthers, revolution, and reparations; the left has been playing on fears of racist militias and assassins.  The media, of course, just eats it up.  They don’t want to talk policy.  They want controversy.  They want to find the extreme and put that on camera.  So Van Jones is turned into a cop killing black panther and any conservative who doesn’t trust the democrats is turned into David Duke with rabies.

Meanwhile, as Matt Taibbi points out in his must read article:

they gave away single-payer before a single gavel had fallen, apparently as a bargaining chip to the very insurers mostly responsible for creating the crisis in the first place. Then they watered down the public option so as to make it almost meaningless, while simultaneously beefing up the individual mandate, which would force millions of people now uninsured to buy a product that is no longer certain to be either cheaper or more likely to prevent them from going bankrupt. The bill won’t make drugs cheaper, and it might make paperwork for doctors even more unwieldy and complex than it is now. In fact, the various reform measures suck so badly that PhRMA, the notorious mouthpiece for the pharmaceutical industry which last year spent more than $20 million lobbying against health care reform, is now gratefully spending more than seven times that much on a marketing campaign to help the president get what he wants.

In other words, many democrats have been quietly selling us out to big money yet again.  One can’t help but think that the birthers and deathers and tenthers aren’t such a bad thing for democrats.  The dems get to rally their base against the crazies without their base actually paying much attention to what is going to be in the bill they are rallying around.  On television we see the extremists, but how many Americans just don’t trust democrats to do the right thing and don’t support reform for that reason?  That’s not such a crazy position.

Our democracy cannot function if we don’t stop seeing each other as caricatures through the lenses of politicians and media personalities.  They keep raking in the money and favors.  We keep getting screwed by the same execs and stockholders.

Let Texas Secede

September 02, 2009 By: Mel Category: Politics

If you haven’t heard, some Texas secessionists had a rally the other day.  Rachel Maddow had this lovely video.

Truth be told, I felt a bit like seceeding after those lunatics voted for George W. Bush the second time around.  And I’m not the only one.  I know this because Sam Schechner posted an article on Slate called Could the Blue States Secede?.

O.k., maybe we were kidding (sort of), but I’ll bet I’m not the only one who was checking immigration info for Canada and Brazil.  And when Puerto Rico or Hawaii or the Lakota Sioux push for independence, I’m sympathetic.  So, for the sake of consistency, I support the crazy Texans.  I think we should join their campaign for a referendum on Texas secession.

No really, hear me out.

McCain won Texas, but Obama received 44% of the vote.  That’s three and a half million Texans who voted for Obama.  According to Gallop, Texas is officially competitive for democrats.   Perhaps I am overestimating Texans, but it seems unlikely that a referendum would pass.

The most likely outcome is that a significant majority would vote against it.  The kooks would have to shut up about it, or at least redirect their anger towards their fellow Texans.  Politicians would not be able to use the issue to fire up their base, because they would specifically be advocating for something the majority of their constituents clearly do not want.

Granted, a close vote would be a problem.  It would give the secessionists a new lease on life, but the chance of that is so slim.  And if they do leave the union there are all sorts of benefits for the rest of us.  We get rid of tons of right wing, racist loonies who are helping to screw up our government. We would never have another president from Texas. Most of the sane Texans would undoubtedly immigrate to the U.S.  We would have to reroute Highway 40 and so would no longer have to drive through stinky Amarillo on our way across country.

It could be really great.


Obama Bursts Black v. Gay Narrative

December 20, 2008 By: Mel Category: Inequality

Barack Obama picked Rick Warren to speak at the inauguration. When I heard it, I was appalled. And what rational, compassionate person wouldn’t be pissed that a man who compared homosexuality to pedophilia and incest was chosen for this honor. Take a gander at Rachel Maddow’s take on the issue:

But while I am still pissed about the choice, I do find one thing rather interesting. Just a short while ago, I found myself writing a post to try and dispel the myth that African Americans were to blame for the passage of Proposition 8 in California. And I still keep hearing people blab about how African Americans are more homophobic than white people.

So isn’t it ironic that it is the black religious leader at the inauguration who supports gay rights and the white guy (from the oh-so-liberal left coast) who is the homophobe?

The benediction is being given by The Reverend Dr Joseph E Lowery. Not only is the Reverend a respected civil rights leader who has come out in support of gay rights, he has also been supportive of the leftest of the lefty causes (like showing up to lead prayers for Camp Casey peace activists).

Watch him speak at Coretta Scott King’s funeral. Watch the crowd go crazy when he says that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Note how he points out King being against homophobia.

Can people finally shut up now about how black people are so homophobic?!

Thanks to dmac and Pam’s House Blend for bringing this story some coverage.

Prop 8: Direct Your Anger Where it Belongs

November 22, 2008 By: Mel Category: Inequality, Politics, Religion

Immediately after Proposition 8 passed, the blame game began. And while it is perfectly legitimate to try and understand who voted for it and why, it is perfectly counterproductive to vilify those individuals and give them up for lost.

The blame in this case has been, by many, placed squarely on the shoulders of the black community, a larger percentage of whom voted for the measure than any of the other groups in California that people keep track of.

One of the first discussions I heard on the subject was on the Rachel Maddow Show. Maddow had Princeton professor Melissa Harris Lacewell on to talk about why so many African-Americans voted for Prop 8.

To their credit, both Maddow and Lacewell point out that the vast majority of people who supported Prop 8 were white. Lacewell argues that the people against Prop 8 never made effective arguments to the black community. Watch it and see if you can spot the glaring hole in their discussion.

Where is mention of the people who are both gay and black? Where are their voices in all of this? Where is someone like greling supposed to turn when confronted with hate from all directions?

I had been eagerly awaiting a response from my new favorite blogger, Monica Roberts at TransGriot. She was insightful as usual. In addition to pointing out the glaring lack of attention paid to the African American community during the campaign, she brings up the much larger issue of how invisible black GLBT people are within the GLBT rights movement.

It seems the GLBT rights movement has some of the same frustrating problems that steered me away from the feminist movement and frustrates the hell out of me working in nonprofits. Everyone talks about being “inclusive.” At best that usually means “consulting” with a few supposedly representative minorities. Until people from all backgrounds – racial, ethnic, religious, socioeconomic, whatever – are core voices in these movements and organizations, they will never succeed.

Perhaps more importantly, as Monica so wisely pointed out, the blame game is part and parcel of the usual divide and conquer strategy. When women, African Americans, Latinos, GLBT, and all the rest of the people who have been screwed to varying degrees by the current hierarchy get together – we can accomplish something. The only reason people like Dick Cheney still have power is that they have kept us mistrusting and fighting each other instead of them. Time to tell them to F-off with that strategy.

And here’s something interesting. A study of public opinion actually found that black Americans were more likely to support job protections for homosexuals than white Americans. So why is the black community supportive of job protections, but not marriage equality? The same reason the white community doesn’t support gay marriage – religion.

Another fascinating study (thanks for that Monica) is Say it Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud. In it, when GLBT respondents were asked about their experiences with black heterosexuals in four areas – families, friends, black heterosexual organizations, and religious institutions – only religious institutions showed more negative than positive or equal experiences.

Rather than create divisions between Americans or schizophrenia in those people who don’t neatly fit into some arbitrary groups, lets focus on the real problem. The movement for Proposition 8 was led by religious organizations. The support of Prop 8 in communities, black and white, always had religious justification. Just check out the commentary to this article on Black Voices. The problem is religiously based intolerance.

Now anyone who knows me knows how I feel about religion. I find it hard to belief that religion ever does anyone any good. But I grudgingly admit that religious organizations were crucial in the civil rights movement and in bringing support and services to poor communities.

People should never forget that the same bible that Martin Luther King took his strength from was also used to justify slavery. Conversely, Martin Luther King took a bible that had been used to justify slavery and turned it around to compel people to do the right thing. If that kind of change in attitude is possible, then so is a change in attitude towards GLBT rights. Now, play this video of Wanda Sykes, get riled up, and do something.