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Frankly, It Isn’t My Feminism

Frankly, It Isn’t My Feminism

Reflections on Al Franken

H. Bradford

I haven’t weighed in publicly on the Al Franken sexual harassment debate.  I don’t have the time to engage in internet debates and I don’t want to alienate allies in the Democratic party, who feel very personally hurt and confused by his resignation.  At the end of the day,  all feminists must work together to end sexual harassment/assault.  Further, as a Marxist feminist, I am in the extreme margins of feminism.  I feel that my opinion means little to most people or that my opinion is a quaint anachronism that is tolerable so long as I do my best to work well with others.   Still, I do want to share my opinion, as I feel very frustrated by some of the ways this debate has been framed.   Thus the following is a laundry list of my Marxist feminist “pet peeves.”

1: Al Franken was a feminist/ally to women


Many people have expressed a sense of grief, loss, disappointment, anger, etc. because of the argument that Al Franken was an ally to women.   I fundamentally disagree with this statement.  He supported the Iraq war in 2003, he has supported airstrikes in Syria, voted for increased sanctions against Iran, approved the national defense budget, voted in favor of PROMESA, he supported Israel’s 2014 attacks on Gaza, against closing Guantanamo Bay, etc.   I have said this many times, but internationalism is central to my feminist beliefs.   US foreign policy is based upon promoting US interests in the world.   The US has violently exerted its power in the interest of profit making.  This has been done through countless coups and wars.  What benefits the continuation violent US hegemony does not benefit women, does not benefit working people, does not benefit oppressed nationalities, does not benefit people of color, does not benefit the environment, and does not benefit the vast majority of the world that lives in poverty.  It does not benefit our own people, who fight in these wars and who pay for these wars (at the expense of social spending towards education, health, jobs, environment, etc.).   Supporting Palestinians is a feminist issue.  Supporting Puerto Rican independence is a feminist issue.  Supporting the end to US wars is a feminist issue.  Politicians who support the status quo of US foreign policy- that is, those who do not question our right to play world police or the assumed moral superiority that nationalism grants us the right to starve, bomb, or destabilize other countries… is not in my opinion a feminist.  Women happen to live ALL over the world.  American women are no more important than women in Syria, Palestine, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, Afghanistan, North Korea, or Iraq.

This woman in Gaza matters, along with thousands of other people who were killed/injured in Gaza in 2014.  (Image from International Business Times).

 

2. It isn’t Fair that He Stepped Down

The “it isn’t fair” that he stepped down while worse Republicans remain in office is weakest, least morally courageous argument I have heard.   If someone does something bad…something that has hurt women…isn’t the morally responsible thing to do …is take accountability, step back from public life, and quietly work to rebuild trust through atonement?  It doesn’t matter if someone is worse, has done more, or others are not taking accountability.  The “grown up” thing to do when a mistake is made is admit it, apologize, bravely face the consequences, reflect on what happened and how to prevent it again, and work towards remedying the offense.  Yes, it certainly stinks to get in trouble for something when others are evading the consequences of their actions- but if a person truly believes that what they did was wrong, then the punishment of others should be of little concern.   This could have been an opportunity to set an example of how to gracefully, genuinely handle the serious issue sexual harassment.  Instead, Al Franken’s unapologetic resignation made him look like a petulant child- the same sort of behavior one would expect from Donald Trump.


3. Victim Blaming

One of the grossest things throughout this ordeal is the amount of victim blaming.   Despite photographic evidence of Al Franken groping Leann Tweeden, her credibility was attacked because of the bawdy nature of comedy, her conservative interests, her history with Playboy, etc.   Victims who have not identified themselves have even been blamed for not having the courage to reveal themselves- which implies perhaps they are not credible.  Worse, some people bemoan the fact that Al Franken was SUCH a good politician.  Why, he might have had a chance at becoming president some day!  Oh my!  Well, Brock Turner was SUCH a good swimmer!  That pesky sexual assault got in the way of such a promising athletic career.  When people bemoan “what could have been” it blames victims for ruining the careers and futures of offenders.  It is true that groping a sleeping woman is not the same as raping an unconscious woman.  However, there has been a great deal of minimizing Al Franken’s behaviors.   Eight accusations of unwanted touching and kissing IS a big deal.  And yes, Trump’s pussy grabbing and Roy Moore’s grabbing, dating underage women, forcing an underage woman’s head to his crotch, and other allegations of nastiness also matter.  ALL of this matters.  Everyone should resign.  Everyone sucks.  But please, believe victims!!


 

4. Get a Woman into Office!

Another pet peeve has been that the solution to all of this should be the appointment or election of more women into office.  Indeed, the socialization and social position of women in society has not lent itself to the same kinds of oppressive behaviors.  Women are more often the victims of sexual harassment and assault because women it is a method of social control of all women, this keeps women in their place, men feel entitled to women and have historically been entitled to women, women are not socialized to be sexually aggressive or exert control over men in this manner, victims historically and currently are not often believed, this behavior often goes on without consequence, etc.   However, this argument is troubling for a variety of reasons.  For one, it reifies gender.  That is, men and women are different, women are naturally better or less violent/gross/terrible, and the solution must be to include more women in power.  I think that this oversimplifies the problem while reinforcing the gender binary.  It assumes that there is some evil kernel within all men that makes them sexually harass/assault people.   This also ignores transgender, gender queer, gender fluid, or the many other ways to express gender and that these individuals are ALSO often the victims of sexual assault.  It also makes the issue a matter of who is in power rather than a matter of power itself.  Returning to the first point, women in power can be just as terrible- if they are promoting capitalist interests.  The world does not need more Condoleeza Rices, Madeline Albrights, Angela Merkels, Margaret Thatchers, and Hilary Clintons.  Yes, these are women, but they all promoted policies that have hurt women.  While it is less common, men can also be victims of sexual assault and harassment.  Women can sexually harass and assault each other in same sex relationships.  So…this argument is very base to me.  It does not tackle some fundamental issues of power or broader issues of feminism beyond sexual harassment. Image result for madeleine albright starved iraqi children


Beyond this critique, this is a disempowering message to feminists.  This message says that the best thing we can do is hope for a female politician to save us!  Gross.  We should be out in the streets.  Every night should be Take Back the Night.  We should be blocking roads and walking out of our work places in protest of sexual harassment/assault.  We should make power FEAR US.  We should not accept that power should be replaced by a female face.  We should take back power.  We should become power.  Politicians of both parties should fall over themselves to resign, because they fear the rage of millions of mobilized men, women, gender non-conforming, queer, trans, etc. people in the streets demanding  not only accountability….but the destruction of patriarchy itself.   This is a great opportunity for building a mass movement against the machinery of sexist oppression.  A woman will not save us.  We must save ourselves….and this planet.  The politicians will scramble to follow our lead.  If we are smart, we won’t give them the luxury of promises.


Conclusion…

I am sure I could go on, but these are some of the main “peeves” that have angered my socialist sensibilities.   I know that everyone is struggling with these issues.  I know that activism is a path- there is always room to grow and change.  I don’t wish to shame my fellow feminists.  I just…feel like I am alone in the wilderness sometimes.  I am not a Republican or a Democrat.   I don’t have any skin in that game.  I want a new game, with new rules, and new players, and a lot more winning for everyone.  I’m tired of playing Monopoly or Risk.  We are ALL losing.  We will ALL keep losing if we can’t change the discourse and step out of the realm of elections and politicians and into the realm of building the power of mass movements…and labor movement.

A Feminism that Fights Power

A Feminism that Fights Power

H. Bradford

2/6/17

 

Today, at a feminist meeting, we were asked what we hoped for in four years.  I felt very emotional when asked this question.  I angrily said that I hope that in four years both parties tremble at the power of the mobilized masses, whose anger they cannot contain.  Unfortunately, I am very alone in my socialist feminism and this wasn’t met with raised fists and denouncements of imperialism.  I got carried away.  Oh well.  Nevertheless, I remain convinced that women’s liberation is not a question of electing more women to power.  Women do not benefit from simply electing other women to office if these women are not committed to ending such things as poverty, homelessness, climate change, environmental destruction, racism, war, ableism, and heterosexism.  Working class women do not benefit from more women who are CEOs.  Women of color do not benefit from more female police officers and prison guards.  Just as the world is not a better place with more women on firing squads, we are no better when women win access to the tools of capitalist oppression.

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Queen of Hearts- a female with power does not equal feminism.

 


In the foggy days of figuring out politics, I remember that I was a fan of Madeleine Albright.  At the time, I admired her because she was a woman in a powerful position.  I admired that she was tough and stood up to men.  As a young woman, I wanted to see what women could do anything men could do.  It was only after becoming a socialist and seeing feminism in an international and class context, that I could see that Madeleine Albright did nothing to dismantle patriarchy.  She affirmed patriarchy by promoting U.S. foreign policy, even justifying the death of 500,000 Iraqi children due to UN sanctions as “worth it.”  She affirmed patriarchy by supporting the NATO bombing of civilian targets in Yugoslavia and by supporting right-wing guerillas in Colombia.  In the same way, Hillary Clinton offered vocal support of dismantling welfare, calling welfare recipients “deadbeats” and justified the Crime Bill by calling African American youth “super predators.”  She encouraged a coup in Honduras, supported wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and regime change in Libya.  Women’s liberation should not come at the expense of women elsewhere in the world or at the expense of oppressed groups in our own country.   I don’t want war criminals who menstruate.  I don’t want war criminals period.  (Word play intended).

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On a local and state level, it is not much different.  I am disappointed with our female mayor’s support of more “professional housing” developments when the city sorely needs more low income housing and her less than enthusiastic support of the Homeless Bill of Rights.  Amy Klobuchar supported PROMESA, a bill that granted an un-elected board control over Puerto Rico’s finances (enforcing a colonial relationship upon the island).  Although she was against the Iraq war, she supported the war in Afghanistan and sanctions on Iran (even though we are the only country who has actually used nuclear weapons in combat).  I am not aware of Klobuchar supporting Palestinian rights, rather, she supported Israel’s right to “self-defense” against Gaza.  In 2014, in the interest of “self-defense” Israel bombed Gaza, killing over 2000 civilians and destroying over 20,000 homes.  These may not seem like feminist issues, but my feminism is anti-colonial.  My feminism is against apartheid in any state.  My feminism does not think a U.S. war will liberate women.  Women must organize to liberate themselves.

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I understand that this leaves women with choiceless choices.  There are Republicans, who very clearly want to end reproductive rights and who often don’t even give lip service to ending racism, sexism, ableism, heterosexism, and climate change  and Democrats, the kinder gentler capitalist party.  It is sad that women are often left with choiceless choices.  For lack of socialized day care, they must often choose to have children and put their employment and education on hold.  Sometimes they must choose to stay in abusive relationships for lack of money and lack of housing.  They historically have had to choose to get married, exchanging sex and unpaid labor for economic stability.  The two parties seem like another choiceless choice.  Yet, I believe that other choices do exist.  And, at the very least, by participating in mass movements and fighting like hell on the streets and in the workplaces, both parties can be temporarily forced to the left.  Women can be leaders. They can be leaders in social movements.  They can be leaders in their community.  They can be leaders in their unions.  They can be leaders in speaking out against war.  They can be leaders in demanding social programs.  They can be leaders as allies to oppressed groups.  They can be leaders in parties that truly work for workers for – parties that actually fight patriarchy rather than coddle it through war and oppression.   Women can be leaders in fighting the power of capitalism and patriarchy.

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The Gravity of the Center: A Rant about Centrism

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The Gravity of the Center: A Rant About Centrism

H.Bradford

1/30/17

One of my fears with the Trump administration is that it will make George W. Bush look like Che Guevara.  To most people, almost anything looks like liberation in comparison to Trump.  There has been astonishing resistance to his policies and person.  Who could imagine that the National Park Service would rebel and create alternative social media accounts to promote environmentalism, science, and fight climate change?  Who would have thought that thousands people would protest at airports against the Muslim Ban or that taxi drivers would go on strike?  All of this after a women’s march of over four million participants!   There is an enormous outpouring of rebellious sentiments and participation in actions.  Yet, I worry that all this zeal will be funnelled into the same-old pro-capitalist centrism that brought us to this point to begin with.  To many, the pre-Trump status quo will look like a lighthouse of liberation.   This beacon of light is illusion.  It is the light that is suspended in time, just before the black hole at the center devours it.   Here is how one might go about identifying the center, hopefully so its intense gravity can be avoided.


 

Globalization:  

Lately, it seems that there has been a certain amnesia about the negative impacts of globalization.  Many people seem genuinely upset that Trump wants to renegotiate NAFTA and has backed out of the TPP.  While it is easy to believe that everything Trump does is terrible, it is important to evaluate each policy in their own right.  NAFTA, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 1994 was signed and supported by Bill Clinton and 129 Democrats.  Its passage launched the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico.  In a way, it was the Standing Rock of the 1990s, if Standing Rock was on steroids.  The Zapatistas rose up because they believed that NAFTA would hurt indigenous people and widen the gap between rich and poor.  They also sought land reforms and the democratization of Mexico.  NAFTA hurt Mexican farmers because cheap American corn flooded into the country, causing them to lose their livelihood and created further incentive to immigrate to the U.S.  Multilateral free trade agreements have been the way of things since the end of World War II and especially since the 1970s.  While I don’t want to discuss this point at great length, these agreements generally have negative impacts on the environment, workers, and developing countries.  Consider the EU, which is essentially a free trade agreement for Europe.  The integration of markets and currency means that member countries must play along with the rules.  So, when economies like Greece, Spain, and Italy. floundered, the EU solution was austerity.  That is, government spending had to be curtailed  Thus, in Greece, at least as of 2015, ⅔  of youth were out of work and wages were down 50% since before the economic crisis of 2008.  Free trade seeks the free movement of capital, but also labor, which leads to social strain as workers from poorer regions of Europe are blamed for taking jobs.  At the center, there is unquestioned support of globalization.  In fact, it is looked upon positively because it is shrouded in internationalism and multiculturalism.  Well, colonization and imperialism also are forms of internationalism and “multiculturalism.”  The globalization that occurs through free trade agreements and organizations is simply modern colonialism.


 

The Vilification of Enemies to U.S. Hegemony:

Another characteristic of the dark center of politics, is the vilification of enemies to U.S. hegemony.  Both Republicans and Democrats do this.  Basically, the U.S. has enemies.  These enemies tend to be countries that don’t agree that the United States is a beacon of democracy and hope for the world.  These countries might critique U.S. militarism or pose some threat to the U.S.’s military right to have over 600 bases in 148 countries.  Our number one enemy right now is Russia.  Bizarrely, standing against Russia is seen as progressive.  Much is made about Russia’s militarism and conservatism.  Recently, I saw that many progressives were sharing an article about how Russia has legalized domestic abuse.  Yes, that is truly terrible.  But how many of those people know any of the other 19 countries in the world with no laws against domestic violence?  How many are paying attention to the domestic violence laws elsewhere in the world?  Or even in our own country?  This is an example of the vilification of Russia.  Russia is a country of Neanderthals who make war, abuse women, and punish the LGBT community.  Now, I certainly am against war, abuse, and for queer liberation, but it seems suspicious to me that this critique of Russia fits very nicely with our own militant foreign policy.  Considering that the Cold War cost the United States over 5 trillion dollars in nuclear weapons and weapons spending, I am very cautious about the fear mongering over an enemy.  Villains create a wonderful justification for militarism.  Villains sell war.  They also paint us as morally superior and therefore justified in our foreign policies.


Russia has been blamed for spoiling the U.S. election.  The internet is rife with homophobic memes of Trump and Putin.  It is odd that Russia is critiqued for its LGBTQ repression and yet homophobia is used as a vehicle to poke fun at Trump.  What purpose does vilifying Russia serves?  I don’t think it is conducive to building solidarity with Russians.  We all have a shared stake in ending homophobia, sexism, and militarism.  And, at the core of this vilification of Russia is the notion that they are somehow different and incapable of democracy or peace.  Let’s remember that Russia (then the Soviet Union) was the first country to legalize abortion.  They did this over fifty years before abortion was legalized in the United States.  The Soviet Union decriminalized homosexuality in 1917.  In the United States, sodomy laws were not overturned by the Supreme Court until 2003.  Russians are capable of standing up for progressive causes. I am not a Russian apologist, but I certainly can’t stand the vilification of a country.  If we want to change the world, we should first look in the mirror.


War:

 

Closely related to the vilification of certain countries is endless war.  Both parties have stood for war.  War goes unquestioned, as if it is an American right to destroy the world.  The thing that I dislike the most about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton was their commitment to war.  President Obama authorized ten times the drone attacks than his predecessor, George W. Bush.   Yet, he is seen as just and the embodiment of hope.  His administration normalized drone attacks and certainly ended the hopes and dreams of the 3,000 + people killed by them.  74% of the U.S.casualties in Afghanistan actually came after 2009, when Obama sent more troops to that country.  If Trump increased the troops in Afghanistan, wouldn’t we be raising a raucous?  Often times, there may be peaceful solutions.  Muammar Gaddafi actually wanted to negotiate to step down from power.  Yet, war and regime change in Libya were sought anyway.  And when it was all over, Hillary Clinton said, “We came, we saw, he died.”  Perhaps Trump won because the alternative is repulsive.  At the very least, I am repulsed by U.S. war mongering, whether it be from Democrats or Republicans.  A person can’t really be pro-environment or pro-women if they are pro-war, or at least quietly ignore that war is occurring.


 

American Exceptionalism:     

An idea that drives our war making, foreign policy, and domestic policy is that the United States is exceptional.  John F. Kennedy said, “More than any other people on Earth, we bear burdens and accept risks unprecedented in their size and their duration, not for ourselves alone but for all who wish to be free.”  Bill Clinton justified the war in Bosnia by saying, ““America remains the indispensable nation” and “there are times when America, and only America, can make a difference between war and peace, between freedom and repression.”  Although Obama was criticized for not actively embracing American exceptionalism, he did say “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being” to graduates of the US Military Academy.  Apparently, everyone has forgotten that American exceptionalism was supposed to be insulting.  After all, the word was coined by Joseph Stalin.  Oh well.  In any event, politicians and many Americans embrace the idea that Americans are special, with a special place in history and the world.  We’re not just another country.   This is dangerous.  It can be used to justify anything from blocking refugees from entering our country to building walls…to endless war.  It means that the people of other countries are somehow less deserving of autonomy or inferior because they are less like us.  It justifies our role as the world’s police officer.  Since most people alive today are accustomed to U.S. hegemony, it is almost impossible to imagine that perhaps the US does not have a higher mission or purpose in this world.  More fearful is the idea that we could be eclipsed by another great power.  This fear keeps us locked to the two capitalist parties.  It limits our imagination that we could perhaps have some shared interest with the people of the world in dismantling capitalistic and militaristic hegemony period.


The Invisibility of Class:

 

Finally, the dark center of politics lacks any concept of social class.  Class is an obscure concept.  Everyone is a part of the mushy, middle class.  What is the middle class?  What is its relationship to other classes?  Its relationship to capital?  Our exceptionally large middle class, whatever that may be, is another thing that makes America exceptional.  After all, look at all those other countries.  All the countries without middle classes.  They just have poor people and a handful of rich people.  If only they had it so good.  We have homes, cars, and college educations.  Nevermind that we also have credit card debt, student loans, bankruptcies, foreclosures, etc. to finance the illusion of the middle class.  Nevermind that we also have trade deals to get all those cheap goods made it sweatshops far away so we can feel wealthy at Walmart.  Or, nevermind that the middle class is nothing more than a social construct.  At best, it is operationalized by ranges of income.  But, if it were operationalized as a household making $42,000 – $125,000 a year, this says little about education, kind of work, and more importantly, role in this economic system.  It also implies that a person who makes $41,000 is working class or poor, but the person who makes $1000 is magically middle class.  This lack of a concept of class or acknowledgement of the working class obfuscates the economic well-being (or lack thereof) of this country and limits the possibility of class consciousness.  People might be encouraged to join unions or fight for higher minimum wage if they saw themselves as workers or part of a large working class with common interests.


Conclusion:

I am not sure what will happen after Trump.  I hope that perhaps this outburst of activism against him can push America further away from our xenophobia, racism, sexism, environmental destruction, and war making.  I hope that the outrage cannot be contained by the two parties.  That perhaps new institutions will arise or old ones will be revitalized.  I hope that mass mobilizations of people make the 1960s look like a 4th of July Parade.   I hope we can make 2017 look like 1917.  But, my fear is that the lure of centrism will draw people back to oppression wearing the shroud of liberation.  I worry that the old way of things…the muted version of all that is happening now, will look positively cheerful.  But, I suppose all of this depends on our ability to build movements that are independent of both parties and revitalize the labor movement.  For now, I hope that people keep on fighting.  I hope they don’t forget how to fight when it seems that things have returned to normal.  Normal is unacceptable.

Making Socialist Resolutions: An Activist’s New Year

Making Socialist Resolutions:

An Activist’s New Year

by H. Bradford

12/13/16


New Year’s Eve is just around the corner, so I have spent the month doing an audit of my goals and hopes for 2016.  While some socialists are known to make revolutions, I am prone to making resolutions.  This year I tracked my goals in a small journal, which has provided me with a lot of data on how this year went.  I had over 50 New Year’s Resolutions last year and completed around half of them.  The goals I didn’t complete are probably more interesting and revealing than the ones that I did.  One of the goals on the list was to attend 40 political events.  I wrote that goal without any idea of how many events that I actually attend during the year.  As of today, I am at over 75 events!  Of course, life should be about quality over quantity.  However, the number attests to how active I was during this year!  With that said, here are some highlights of a year in activism.


  1. Socialism and a Slice:  This is a once a month current event discussion group which meets at Pizza Luce to discuss news from an anti-capitalist perspective.  There is a fun group of core people who have been attending.  The group tends to focus on local events and the discussions have helped us coordinate and plan things as activists.
  1. Anti-Rape Protest: Take back the Park: This event was organized in response to a pro-rape meetup that was supposed to happen in Duluth.  It is bizarre to think that there are men who actually believe that rape should be legalized and that rape is a legitimate activity within the privacy of their homes.  It is scary!  It is scary that they wanted to meet up!  Dozens of people held a vigil on February 6th, 2016 at Leif Erickson Park to stand against rape and rape culture.  It was awesome!  To my knowledge, no pro-rape activists showed up.
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    1. AFSCME Meetings/Steward Training:  Since June I have been attending monthly AFSCME meetings.  I am proud to be one of the 11% of workers who belong to a union.  It is also great to connect with other people who are labor activists working in the nonprofit sector.  Another highlight was that in November I attended a training to become a steward.

 


  1. Homeless Bill of Rights: I have attended some meetings and events as time permits.  I was proud that I was able to contribute to the group by getting my union local 3558 to endorse the Homeless Bill of Rights.  It is only one of two union locals who endorsed it.  Though, the entire Central Labor body endorsed it.  I also feel glad that I collected a few pages of signatures for the petition in support of the Homeless Bill of Rights.   The City Council may vote on it in February, but the struggle will continue as we try to provide accessible bathrooms for the homeless community.

 

    1. Feminist Frolics:  This is a new activity which is sponsored by the Twin Ports Women’s Rights Coalition.  Once a month we host an outdoor activity combined with an educational presentation.  A highlight was researching a feminist history of Halloween, then going on a spooky night time hike to an abandoned cemetery.  The point of these events is to build community and raise feminist consciousness.

 

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    1. Chalk for Choice:  This was another new event that the TPWRC sponsored/participated in.  This involved creating beautiful art and messages to support the women who work and use services at the Building for Women.  We did a few Chalk for Choice events and look forward to doing more in the future.

 

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    1. 40 Days of Choice:  Each Friday during the 40 days of Life, the TPWRC organized two counter protests of the anti-choice vigil outside the building.  One of the highlights of the 40 Days for Choice was wearing our Candy Land themed Halloween costumes on the final event.  I made protest signs to match our costumes.  Keep Abortion Safe, Legal, and Minty!

 

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    1. Pride: There are some years that I don’t attend the local pride festival at all.  This year I didn’t work so I had the opportunity to run in the Hummingbird 5k, table at the festival with Safe Haven, and walk in the pride parade with Grandmother’s for Peace.  This made for a fun, vibrant, memorable Pride weekend!

 

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  1. Radical Cheerleaders:  Back in 2010, I organized a radical cheerleading group called the Rah Rah Revolutionaries.  The group evaporated when I moved to Mankato for graduate school.   This year, I revived the group on a modest scale.   Hopefully, it can be a spring/summer project.  The Rah Rah Revolutionaries are a modest ad hoc group, but we did contribute to Take Back the Night by welcoming people to the event with our cheers.  We also did some cheers and chants at an anti-war picket on the anniversary of the war in Afghanistan.  Finally, we appeared at one of the 40 Days of Choice events.  It is fun to put on a cheerleading costume and do chants for reproductive rights or against war.

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10.Pandemonium:  Pandemonium was started up in October and meets once a month for “Bi with Pie.”   I have wanted to be a part of a bi+ group for some time, since I think that bisexuality is not a very visible and legitimate sexuality in our society.  One of the catalysts for creating the group was attending a vigil for the victims of the Orlando night club massacre last June.  I was asked to be interviewed but felt shy because I didn’t feel like I was queer enough.  I think that a bi group is important for bisexuals so that they can develop identity and community and better connect with the larger LGBTQ community.


11.Islamophobia Protest:  What better way can a person spend Valentine’s Day than with a picket that shows love and support for the Muslim community.  The event was organized by Break the Bonds (an Israel divestment group) and Kym Young after Superior Mayor, Bruce Hagen made disparaging remarks about Muslims.


  1. Hiroshima/Nagasaki Vigil: This event is organized each August by Veterans for Peace and Grandmothers for Peace.  It was a beautiful event hosted at the Japanese garden at Enger Tower.   This was my first year attending.  Oddly enough, they were short on speakers so I was asked to speak (from a script).  That was neat.  Hiroshima/Nagasaki has always interested/concerned me.  When I was in high school, I went to state for a speech on the topic of the atomic bombings.  As a student in Korea, I went on a weekend adventure with some fellow students to Hiroshima.  It is startling and horrific what our nation did to two civilian populations.  Zombie movies have nothing on the grotesque reality of our militant foreign policy.

 

    1. Letters for Prisoners: I have only attended two meetings of this group, but wrote my first letters to prisoners.  I wrote to Oscar Lopez Rivera and Leonard Peltier, but members of the group can write to any prisoner (famous or not).  I wrote Rivera about a trip to Puerto Rico this spring and my impressions of it as a pseudo-colony.  I wasn’t sure what to write because I am not very knowledgeable about the Puerto Rican independence movement.  I wrote Leonard Peltier about a local picket that Socialist Action hosts on his birthday each year and some local Standing Rock actions that have happened (I have only attended a few Standing Rock events, so I just mentioned my impressions of those events).

 


  1. Social Events: Socialist Action hosts a few social events each year.  This year we did a “commie con” themed Marxmas Party, which was attended by about 25 people.  We also did a Fall of Capitalism Party in October, which included trivia, fall foods, and a visit from Karen Schraufnagel (Socialist Action’s Vice President Candidate).  Our final social event was a Bolshevik Bonfire on Wisconsin Point.

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  1. Speaking to a Class: I was invited to speak informally to a class at UMD about domestic violence and working at a shelter.  It was a wonderful opportunity and made me feel like my experiences matter and that I have knowledge worth sharing.

This is just a sample from my list of 75 events.  Since some of these groups or events happened more than once, it quickly added up to that total.  Based upon the list, I would say that I am weak on my participation in racial justice and environmental issues.  I have started to attend a few SURJ meetings, so perhaps that can help me become a better ally in the area of racial justice.  As for the environment, I attended a documentary last night, but it was focused on marketizing carbon and buying electric cars to solve climate change (which isn’t the anti-capitalist solution I am looking for).  As a whole, I am proud of my engagement.  This stems from being a socialist.  Once a person becomes anti-capitalist, it is hard to see issues in isolation.  A person cannot fight sexism without also fighting racism, ableism, and classism.  A person cannot promote the interests of workers at the expense of the environment or promote environmentalism without looking at how classism, racism, gender, and ability intersect with environmental issues.  War is also an issue of feminism, class, race, and environment. Thus, I am not attending events for the sake of reaching a magical number, but trying to be engaged on many fronts in the war against capitalism.  The numbers encourage me and make me feel proud for trying hard to be a “good” activist.  Since activism is pretty thankless and misunderstood, I think it is okay to give myself a pat on the back for doing my best this year!

Radical Cheerleading Chronicles: 15th Anniversary of the War in Afghanistan

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Lately,  I’ve been feeling old.   Well, nothing makes me feel old like the anniversary of the war in Afghanistan.  Seriously…15 years?!  That began 15 years ago?!  I remember sitting in a foreign policy class with that sexist professor from CSS.  I remember being cynical when we dropped food and messages on the population, followed by bombs.  I remember celebrating the 11th anniversary with a small picket in Mankato.  A student snickered a few weeks later when it was announced that the troops were being drawn down.  Our small picket ended the war, he laughed.  Yeah, yeah, we aren’t changing the world.  Rub it in.  Really it seems that we have been “drawing down” for five years.  The Northland Anti-War Coalition disbanded in 2014 under the pretense that we would draw down the troops to half in 2015.  Here we are, 2016, and there are still 10,000 troops in Afghanistan.  And, no one knows and no one cares.  I didn’t even know.  I was shocked when I read a report that cited the Department of Defense…that indeed, we still have almost 10,000 soldiers there.


Anti-war work has a special place in my heart.  My very first activism was anti-war activism.  War is one of those big things.  At least to me it seems pretty easy and obvious to be against war.  Abortion rights can be complicated to explain.  But, war is expensive and it kills adult people…children….pregnant…women…fetuses….animals…environments.   It seems that anyone who generally does not like the idea of things dying or becoming permanently injured, would be wary about war.  This gets confounded by patriotism, fear, and hate, of course.  But, if not death…the enormous price tag should deter some.   The Afghanistan war could cost up to 6 trillion dollars.  Currently, the war has cost about 680 billion dollars.  I read that per American, the Afghanistan war has cost $33,000. Of course, there are different websites with different numbers.  I imagine that it is hard to calculate or anticipate the full price tag of the war.   On the low end, we have killed 30,000 Afghan civilians or on the high end, over 200,000.  We have created six million Afghan refugees.  At the same time, there is little improvement in the country.  The Taliban has been steadily gaining territory and ISIS has been gaining a foothold in the south.  Opium production is actually 35 times greater today than in 2001.  Really, this is a black hole sucking up American resources with little benefit to the population there.  The worst thing is that it is entirely invisible in the public discourse.  Neither Democrats nor Republicans are talking about it.  Yet, both are responsible for this prolonged and pointless war that benefits no one- spare some defense contractors and warlords who siphon off aid.


It would be wonderful if the 15th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan was a catalyst to renew the anti-war movement.  Alas, it is an invisible anniversary for a forgotten war.  Locally, we planned a picket in Superior with the Veterans for Peace and Grandmothers for Peace.  The Rah Rah Revolutionaries decided to make an appearance, even though the event was modest.  Three radical cheerleaders showed up.  It was bitterly cold for October.  Our cheerleading costumes were not enough for the unexpected cold.  However, our chanting and cheering kept us warm.  The pompoms also kept our hands from freezing.  Like Take Back the Night, it was myself, Lucas, and Alexa.  In total, there were eleven people at the picket.  It is sad that there were fewer people at the protest than there were years of war!!  But, this is the sorry state of the anti-war movement and I am glad that there are some die-hard activists.  Eleven is better than zero.

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Although we froze our butts off, there were a few things that made it worth it.  For one, I think that the older activists, especially those who were in the Grandmothers for Peace, were glad that the cheerleaders were there.  Even though we are in our 30s, they were happy to see “young” people there.  Someday I will be an old lady who has done decades of activism-looking to the future.  We are the future.  We are young in the sense we have many decades left to fight.  So, while the 15th anniversary sure makes me feel old, it can also make me feel young when I see the Grandmothers for Peace.  Another plus was that we had a great response from cars that passed by.  We were a bunch of frozen weirdoes with peace signs.  Yet, we had many honks and waves.  People don’t like war.  Maybe they forget that it is still going on, but it is encouraging that they support our efforts.  Finally, it was nice to do cheers as the cheerleaders.  It made the time go quickly.  It kept us warm. And, I now have cheers to re-use for the 16th…and I predict, the 20th anniversary of this war.  Here are the cheers in case any other radical cheerleader group wants to use them:

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Anti-war Chants

I can’t stand,

Another year in Afghanistan,

Fifteen years is way too long,

For a costly war that’s clearly wrong!

15…15

So much war is just obscene!

10,000 troops are still too much!

In country we shouldn’t touch!

15…15

We armed the mujahedeen!

How many years until we see!

War is our policy!

Bush, Obama…Hillary next?

War goes on no matter who we elect!

That’s why we’re here, doing this cheer!

This is a chant all parties must hear!

Hey hey, understand!

We’re still in Afghanistan

We never beat the Taliban,

Even now they’re gaining land!

Hey, hey, understand!

This forgotten war is a sham!

600 billion since 2002,

What on earth should America do?!

31 thousand civilians dead,

Spend that money on peace instead!

No matter how many troops we send

This war goes on without end!

No matter how much money we spend,

This war goes on without end!

We’re anti-war and we couldn’t be prouder

If you can’t hear us, we’ll shout a little louder!

One, we’re anti-war (point to self)

Two, you should be too! (point out)

Three, troops home now!

No more war, war, war, war!

Troops home now! (Clap, clap, clap, clap)

we’ll show you how! (clap, clap, clap, clap)

Take to the streets (clap, clap, clap, clap)

Unite for peace! (clap, clap, clap, clap)

Salam, Pace, Mir

We’re for peace

It’s why we’re here

Paz, peace, amani

No more war,

Just harmony!

1,2,3,4

We cheer for anti-war

5,6,7,8

No more fear, no more hate!

9,10,11,12

Put our weapons on the shelf!

Who was the one who started the assault,

Bush, Bush,

without a doubt!

Who had the urge, to do a troop surge?

Obama, Obama!

Continued the drama

Who is next in November?

Will this war go on forever?

Stop stop

TROOPS OUT NOW! (raise fist)

Six million refugees

Stop this war

Stop it please!

Rah rah rah,

Peace is patriotic

No duh, duh, duh (thumbs down)

War is idiotic

Alexander the Great

Genghis Khan

The Mughal Empire

The list goes on

The Sikhs and

The British too!

All defeated by you know who!

The Soviet Union,

And Now the US

Why we’re there is anyone’s guess!

It could be contracts

Or the war machine!

This endless war is so obscene!

Tell me, tell me

What would you do?

If I gave 30 grand to you?

Would you save for a home, go to college, get a car?

If you didn’t pay for the Afghanistan war

Tell me, tell me,

How would it be?

If we pooled all that money?

Who would be poor or going hungry?

With a new priority!

We want justice

We want peace

U.S. out of the Middle East!

No more wars for corporations,

No more drones and occupations!

Not a penny, not a dollar

We won’t pay for endless slaughter!

Money for jobs and education

Not for war and occupation!

 

Black sites

Drones

Opium Farms

These are the ways our

War does harm!

My Short Stint as a Radical Cheerleader

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Back in 2010, I started up a radical cheerleading group called the Rah Rah Revolutionaries.   You might ask, what is radical cheerleading?  Well, it is a form of performance based activism that began in the mid-1990s by three sisters in Florida (Aimee, Coleen, and Cara Jennings). Generally speaking, it has an anarchist, anti-capitalist, feminist history.  I am not an anarchist, but I enjoy the idea of appropriating cheerleading and twisting it into something subversive.  By the time that I started the group, radical cheerleading was in decline nationally.  This isn’t surprising, as social movements in general were in decline after the Bush years.  Nevertheless, 2010/2011 saw a resurgence of protest and I am glad that the cheerleaders were a tiny part of that.


When I started the group, I had a lot of energy for activism.  I had just returned from a semester abroad in South Korea and I was looking to re-engage in my community.  The trip was a bit of a political isolation chamber.  Weird ideas fester in isolation.  I wanted to start up a radical clowning group at the same time.  For better or worse, that idea never took off.  Anyway, the idea of radical cheerleading had appealed to me for some time, though I am not sure how I first became familiar with the idea.  It seemed like a way to add something fun and interesting to the run of the mill protests that I had been attending.  Admittedly, my main motivation was probably the fact that I had been a cheerleader in high school.  Granted, I was the worst cheerleader in the history of cheerleading.  I was so awful that I actually got hate mail asking me to quit the squad.  This makes for a funny story, especially because the sender did not add a stamp to the letter.  I had to pay postage for my own hatemail.  I feel that paying postage for your hate mail pretty much means you fail at life.  None of this traumatized me enough to squash my fantasy of being an adult communist cheerleader.  To this end, I made some handmade fliers and put them up around Duluth.  I assembled some cheering clothes and recruited a few interested friends.  Thus, this is how the Rah Rah Revolutionaries was born.


The group really came into fruition when we tabled at the Duluth/Superior Pride Festival that year.  This helped us establish an email list.  This is also where we did our first action as the Rah Rah Revolutionaries, which involved cheering and chanting at a group of religious activists who were there to protest the Pride Festival.  In all, I have good memories of tabling at this event as many young people and members of the LGBT community showed interest in our group.

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Following the event at Pride, we had a few meetings at my house.  We never practiced any chants or routines, but we planned some events we could attend.  Our events that fall included a fundraiser for CASDA  (a local domestic violence shelter) and an anti-war rally.  We were able to lead the anti-war march and lead the protesters in chants.  We were also involved in a few “Cheer for Choice” events.  In these events, we counter protested the 40 Days for Life picket outside of the Building for Women.  We did this several times during their 40 day vigil.  Because of my affinity for costumes and red and black clothes, I provided most of the uniforms/clothes to my friends.  After these fall events, the group went on hiatus during the winter.  It re-emerged in February 2011 with a few protests against Scott Walker’s attack against collective bargaining for public workers in Wisconsin.  We also did a few “Cheer for Choice” events that spring in front of Planned Parenthood as a way to counter protest .  In all, only about a half dozen people were actively involved in the group, with a dozen participants altogether. rah6


Unfortunately, I graduated in the spring of 2011 and moved to Mankato in fall 2011 for graduate school.  The group did not continue after I moved away.  Years passed, and while I looked back at the brief stint at a cheerleader with fondness, I figured that it was something that would forever remain a brief moment in the past.  However, after attending the Pride Festival this year, I once again became nostalgic for my pompons and cheerleader outfit.  As I saw young politicized youth wandering around the festival, I thought that they might enjoy radical cheerleading.  Perhaps it would be a way to make protesting fun and accessible.  At the very least, it could add some color and noise to local protests and pickets.  Around the country, there are not many active radical cheerleading groups these days.  I myself am pretty busy with other things.  But, the magnetism of nostalgia and possibility pulls me back to that past moment.  So, I am preparing for round two of the cheerleading squad.  Hopefully we can cheer on the masses to, “Rise up!  Rise up! Rise Up up up up!”

 

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Someday a Woman Will be President: A Poem

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I haven’t written poetry since about the 5th grade.  I am not trained in poetry.  I don’t know poetic techniques or structures.  I really don’t even appreciate poetry.  But lately, poems have just been coming to mind.  They are mostly political poems.  The pop into my mind in a few lines at a time.  This is one of them.  And while I am embarrassed of this endeavor to write poetry, I suppose that there is no reason to feel ashamed.  It is an expression of  a feeling or thought.

When I was a senior in high school, I had a homemade poster in my locker that said “Someday a woman will be president.”  At the time, so many eons ago, I thought it was a radical sentiment.  This was in my pre-feminist days…in my pre-socialist days…when I was just starting to think about the world and politics.  Of course, my consciousness as a feminist has changed since then.  Hence…the poem.

Someday a woman will be president

Someday a woman will be president,

and we will see that girls can play with dolls and drones

and we can menstruate

while shedding foreign blood

or there can be menopause

without giving pause

for Iraqis, Haitians, and Hondurans.

 

Someday a woman will be president,

and we will trade our hope chests for war chests

of trillion dollar atomic trinkets.

We’ll sing Suffragette songs

as troops march on

in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

 

Someday a woman will be president,

but rest assured trade will fly on free trade wings,

and we will marvel

at all of the things

we can buy at Walmart prices.

Someday a woman will be president.

 

 

 

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