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Personal Politics

The Personal is Political we always said, and I believe it. Life experience has shown me that the reverse is also true, that The Political is Personal. By this I mean that politics affects our lives, and in deeply profound ways. When I talk about politics I’m not talking about who got elected last Tuesday, but about the distribution of power and wealth – the two being synonymous in our culture.  The degree to which we each have power shapes our life’s circumstances in almost every conceivable area. For nobody is this more true than it is for those with little or none.

One reason it’s so hard to get people to look clearly at the way things work is that nobody wants to identify themselves as powerless – it’s a creepy feeling; who’d want to confess to it? I don’t like saying so, believe me, but in order to talk about personal politics I must. During the course of my lifetime I’ve experienced a steady diminishment of power – after childhood, that is, when we have absolutely none (other than what we can manipulate with tantrums and other devious methods). As an adult I’ve gone from being young, sexy/pretty, and upper-middle-class to being old and poor (also un-pretty and un-sexy as an elder according to social standards). Having taken this backwards journey — we used to call it “downward mobility,”  I know a thing or two about power, or lack of same. Armed with this perspective, I’ve been thinking I want to do more political analysis, as I did back in the days of feminism. Not that I haven’t done any of it since, but the fact that my blog was rejected from inclusion in a list of women political bloggers tells you something.

The state of politics today is what’s compelling me to focus more attention on it. We’ve moved so far right that Barack Obama, the ultimate capitalist advocate, is labeled socialist. We almost put a gal into the House of Reps whose platform includes ending masturbation. Okay, that’s a joke, sort of;  but it’s undisputed fact that everything’s moved rightward.

Chris Hedges, author of Death of the Liberal Class, was on Talk of the Nation the other day, blaming liberals for the current state of affairs. A proud lifelong liberal himself, he says that liberals have basically dropped out, that there aren’t any great liberal groups and institutions around anymore to keep our capitalist democracy in balance. Hedges sees the liberal class as a necessary element of our democracy, one that should be respected for having brought us the five-day work week and minimum wage, among other humanizing practices, but instead it’s become a dirty word. Hedges believes that if things continue going in the same direction we’re facing a barbaric future; barbarism is his exact word, and he doesn’t toss it around lightly. If we don’t address “the ecological emergency,” (another great phrase) which is tied to the economic emergency, if we keep on exploiting people and the planet to exhaustion, he warns, we’re facing willful suicide.

What he’s saying makes sense to me. Recently I read Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood and am now reading Oryx and Crake, a sort of prequel. Atwood describes a dystopia in which the failure to address the ecological emergency, plus scientific experimentation gone amok, lead directly to utter barbarism. My worldview has been immersed in Atwood’s since I began reading these books, and everywhere I see the seeds of her envisioned future. It’s scary as hell, but I can’t shake it: Atwood’s world is materializing before my eyes. That more than half the Republicans in power do not “believe in” the ecological emergency fills me with despair.

I see global climate change in every incident, from mudslides to forest fires to the BP oil spill, and I see it moving faster all the time. Change seems to be increasing exponentially: instead of just one change happening and then another, each change affects the whole organism, so that many changes occur, one on top of the other. I used to think the apocolypse wasn’t going to come in my lifetime, but I’m not so sure anymore, given that it’s already happening. For some in particular – those evacuating low-lying islands as the warming ocean rises and erodes their homeland; those driven off their lands by floods or erupting volcanoes – the worst is happening right now. For those with very little power, like me, survival becomes more and more difficult as resources become more and more scarce. Meanwhile, the people with more power, and certainly those with all the power, aren’t yet being affected.

I try not to debate people about politics, because I tend to get overly emotional, and sometimes even cry, as I dissolve into incoherence. That’s because this stuff is personal to me. When someone declares that only losers need government help, they are saying I’m a loser. I take that very personally.

One example illustrates everything I’m talking about: Hurricane Katrina was an emblematic event that revealed everything about what’s happening to our country. The people who got through nearly unscathed left New Orleans before the hurricane by turning the ignition key in their dependable cars. Those who had no way of leaving either perished or went through hell, and many still have not recovered. We all saw the crowds in the SuperDome, saw the color of the people’s skin, the conditions of their lives writ large upon their tired faces, in their broken and missing teeth. These were powerless people. Many of them survived but lost their homes, were “relocated,” and still have not been able to get where they want to be: back home. I understand the pain of being unable to go home: I long for New York and would go back if I could, but I don’t have the resources – and it takes a shitload of resources. I well remember how easy it was to move around 40 or 50 years ago. As things have gone increasingly dog-eat-dog it takes more and more money and power to move around, to make changes, to shape and control the circumstances of our lives. It’s all about power. It’s all about politics. The personal is still political – and the political is very, very personal.


Martha Coakley, Red Sox Nation, and Teddy’s Seat

Personally I think the Senate should adopt baseball’s time-honored ritual and retire the seats of former members of great fame, accomplishment and/or longevity. Ted Kennedy’s seat would simply remain in the Senate, empty, as a symbolic reminder of what’s been lost. Of course, the great state of Massachussets shouldn’t be deprived of its rightful two senators: they can still elect someone to do the job. But at least a Republican would not be literally sitting in the Liberal Lion’s chair.

Come to think of it, maybe Massachussets deserves to lose representation, considering their stupidity. The pundits and politicoes have been wasting time all week, turning this thing over and about, examining what happened from every angle, when the truth is, these voters are just plain stupid.  Most of the pundits seem to think they were expressing a desire for change. What change could they expect from Scott Brown, a dyed-in-the-wool Republican who’s been up front in his intention to join his brethren in their holy crusade–to make sure that no changes occur in this country, at least not on the Democrats’ watch, and certainly not under the leadership of an African-American.

If Martha Coakley made one big blunder we might point to as relevant, it was dragging Red Sox Nation into the campaign. It’s a known fact that Red Sox fans are the dumbest fans in sports, bar none (I submit the photos here as evidence). The scene at Fenway Park almost always resembles a reunion of morons, with their drunken, painted faces and bellies, their sloppy, silly behavior, and their lame,  immature taunts to the visiting team. Yes, there’s some  stupidity in every team’s fans (the Angels and Braves are close runners-up), but IMHO Red Sox fans are the worst.

Thus, when Martha Coakley denigrated their Holy God, arch conservative Curt Schilling, he of the catsup-soaked sock, by claiming he’s secretly a Yankee fan, she stupidly sealed her fate. A huge portion of the Massachussets electorate lives and dies by the Red Sox. Absolutely nothing is rattling in their brains other than the rise and fall of their team’s statistics.  When Ms. Coakley enraged these fans, they had to vote for Scott Brown:   never in a million years would they let her remark go unpunished.

One thing that puzzles me is, if Massachussetts voters are okay with a Republican representing them, why did they vote for Ted Kennedy—for all the Kennedys—for so many years? Maybe it’s because they regard the Kennedys as their personal connection to royalty. Principles and political views–the act of thinking–apparently never enters the equation.

Schilling, who has himself speculated about running for public office (shudder), was ‘dissing Coakley long before she made her accusation. Horrified by her remark, he intensified his blogging campaign against her. “I’ve been called a lot of things,” he said in response, “but never, and I mean never, could anyone ever make the mistake of calling me a Yankee fan.”

And if you think Curt Schilling has even half a brain in his head, just read a few of his posts. A great thinker he is not. Bearing in mind that an awful lot of Massachussets residents hang onto his every word, read his blog. Then you’ll have an inkling of why the Democrats lost Ted Kennedy’s seat.

Click for another interesting take on the election.

Health Care and Abortion Rights

Congress threw women under the bus again yesterday. The following statement from NARAL – National Abortion Rights Action League – explains it all.

As you’ve probably heard, the Senate is moving forward on health reform.
Unfortunately, the revised bill has some bad news for pro-choice Americans.
The Senate bill does not include the egregious Stupak-Pitts provision that you helped us defeat less than two weeks ago, but we are not in the clear.

A new provision demanded by anti-choice Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson is unacceptable. In short, the Nelson proposal would impose great administrative burdens on women who purchase abortion coverage in the new system and plans that offer it. So, where does that leave us?

Our standard has been consistent and clear: Women should not lose ground in the new health-care system.

We all recognize that the Senate bill includes other provisions that will improve women’s access to reproductive-health services significantly. However, the language regarding abortion coverage comes at too high a price for reproductive health. Thus, we must oppose this new Nelson provision.

On balance, that means NARAL Pro-Choice America will withhold support from the overall health-reform legislation until we see the final bill that both the House and Senate will vote on.

As this process moves forward, we will keep in touch with actions you can take to protect choice in health reform. Rest assured, Congress will continue to hear from America’s pro-choice majority.

This situation is  an unfortunate reminder that, despite our significant pro-choice gains in the last two election cycles, anti-choice lawmakers still outnumber our allies. We must work together to change these numbers, starting with the 2010 elections.

Nancy Keenan
President, NARAL Pro-Choice America

Update December 21st: More dismal news: Another feature of the Senate version of the health care reform bill is that it includes an amendment concerning sex education in the schools. Introduced by the Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, it would revive a separate $50 million grant-making program for abstinence-only programs run by states. This despite the fact that abstinence-only sex ed has been proven time and again to be useless, or worse.

Discovered Website

I have no idea what “Widdershins” means*(see below), but wanted to bring your attention to a newly discovered website by that name. Political posts with a radical feminist perspective. Expresses regrets that Hilary isn’t our Prez, and they’re more than cynical about Obama. I’ve put it into the place on my menu bar formerly reserved for the Huffington Post, which I eventually found to be somewhat shallow. Widdershins: if anyone knows what it means, let me know, and be sure to check it out.

A couple of Widdershins?

According to Wikipedia, Widdershins act “in a direction opposite to the usual”, and… contrary to the apparent course of the sun sixteenth century. It is cognate with the German language widersinnig, i.e., “against” + “sense”. The term “widdershins” was especially common in Lowland Scots, and was known in Scottish Gaelic as tuathal, or “left-hand-wise”. It uses the same root as tuath meaning “countryside”, originally “tribal-land”, “folk”, “people.”

Universal Insurance

office womanSo it looks as if, instead of universal health care, what we’re going to get is mandatory universal health insurance, with employers and individuals responsible for themselves, and a punishing fine if you don’t buy it. WTF?!

I should’ve been out there screaming and hollering with the crazies. Turns out they’re not so crazy after all.

The rationale for mandatory insurance is that without it, the insurance companies won’t be able to cover everyone! This is corporate socialism, courtesy of Congressional Democrats and a ‘liberal’ President. Republicans still maintain they’re not voting for it.

Those lunatics who cried “I don’t want the government messing with my Medicare” were, unbelievably, not far from reality. Like I said, not so loony after all.

Bring me my gun, Jeeves, I’m a-goin’ to a town hall meetin’!