Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Remember AIDS?

You don’t see very much about AIDS in the news these days. It’s all politics and the economy and the revolutions in the Mid-East – except when it’s not, when it’s about Charlie Sheen or Justin Bieber, or, most recently, the promises-to-be-a-screeching-bore-royal-wedding. Even on the slowest news days, you don’t hear anybody talking about AIDS. But now, thanks to the Broadway revival of Larry Kramer’s landmark 1985 play, The Normal Heart, AIDS is entering the social conversation again.

In addition to being a remarkable playwright, Larry Kramer (pictured above) has spent decades at the forefront of AIDS activism. Now 76, this man who has dedicated his life to campaigning for AIDS treatment, proper medical research, and concerned public awareness, is distributing an information letter outside the John Golden Theater, where The Normal Heart is running in New York.

I don’t think Mr. Kramer would mind in the least if I reprinted his letter here – in fact I think he’d be pleased, and hopeful that he’s reached a few more people. So, whatever it is you think you already know about this plague, because you’ve suffered the loss of friends or family to this disease, please don’t turn away from Kramer’s letter. Please read it and share it with others. Please talk about AIDS with others and tell them what you’ve learned. Please help prevent AIDS from becoming a dead story, because millions of people worldwide are living with AIDS and millions have died. AIDS is not a gay man’s disease or just a man’s disease (about half of those now infected are women) or “just” an epidemic in Africa. AIDS is something everyone should be concerned about. I’ll let Larry tell you why:


Please Know

Thank you for coming to see our show. Please know that everything in The Normal Heart happened. These were and are real people who lived and spoke and died, and are presented here as best I could. Several more have died since, including Bruce, whose name was Paul Popham, and Tommy, whose name was Rodger McFarlane and who become my best friend, and Emma, whose name was Dr. Linda Laubenstein. She died after a return bout of polio and another trip to an iron lung. Rodger, after building three gay/AIDS agencies from the ground up, committed suicide in despair. On his deathbed at Memorial, Paul called me (we'd not spoken since our last fight in this play) and told me to never stop fighting.

Four members of the original cast died as well, including my dear sweet friend Brad Davis, the original Ned, whom I knew from practically the moment he got off the bus from Florida, a shy kid so very intent on become a fine actor, which he did.

Please know that AIDS is a worldwide plague.

Please know that no country in the world, including this one, especially this one, has ever called it a plague or acknowledged it as a plague, or dealt with it as a plague.

Please know that there is no cure.

Please know that after all this time the amount of money being spent to find a cure is still miniscule, still almost invisible, still impossible to locate in any national health budget, and still totally uncoordinated.

Please know that here in America, case numbers continue to rise in every category. In much of the rest of the world – Russia, India, Southeast Asia, Africa – the numbers of the infected and the dying are so grotesquely high that they are rarely acknowledged.

Please know that all efforts at prevention and education continue their unending record of abject failure.

Please know that there is no one in charge of this plague. This is a war for which there is no general and for which there has never been a general. How can you win a war with no one in charge?

Please know that beginning with Ronald Reagan (who would not say the word ‘AIDS’ publicly for seven years), every single president has said nothing and done nothing, or in the case of the current president, says the right things and then doesn’t do them.

Please know that most medications for HIV/AIDS are inhumanly expensive and that government funding for the poor to obtain them is dwindling and often unavailable.

Please know that the pharmaceutical companies are among the most evil and greedy nightmares ever loosed on humankind. What ‘research’ they embark upon is calculated only toward finding newer drugs to keep us, just barely, from dying, but not to make us better or, god forbid, cured.

Please know that an awful lot of people have needlessly died and will continue to needlessly die because of any and all of the above.

Please know that the world has suffered at the very least some 75 million infections and 35 million deaths. When the action of the play that you have just seen begins, there were 41 [known people with AIDS]. (Italics and bracketed copy mine – MizB)

I have never seen such wrongs as this plague, in all its guises, represents, and continues to say about us all.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Acknowledging Poverty and Progressive Choices

I was just sitting here thinking about the national budget and its attendant “crisis” and the proposed budget cuts that so far range from the right-wing’s cruel and unthinkable, to the President’s weak and miserable. I was feeling very despondent – then I read Paul Krugman’s column in today’s New York Times, which offered a little cheer and encouragement.

That’s because it discusses the “People’s Budget” from the Congressional Progressive Caucus. I didn’t know there was a Congressional Progressive Caucus; I didn’t know there were enough Congressional progressives to constitute a caucus. I certainly didn’t know they had created a budget that, as the Caucus details on its Web site, will do the smart, sane thing:

“The CPC proposal:

• Eliminates the deficits and creates a surplus by 2021
• Puts America back to work with a “Make it in America” jobs program
• Protects the social safety net
• Ends the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
• Is FAIR (Fixing America’s Inequality Responsibly)

What the proposal accomplishes:

• Primary budget balance by 2014.
• Budget surplus by 2021.
• Reduces public debt as a share of GDP to 64.1% by 2021, down 16.5 percentage points from a baseline fully adjusted for both the doc fix and the AMT patch.
• Reduces deficits by $5.6 trillion over 2012-21, relative to this adjusted baseline.
• Outlays equal to 22.2% of GDP and revenue equal 22.3% of GDP by 2021.”

If that’s a bit too technical for you to digest, Krugman sums it up in layman’s terms very nicely:

“[The CPC Plan]… unlike the Ryan plan, which was just right-wing orthodoxy with an added dose of magical thinking — is genuinely courageous because it calls for shared sacrifice. True, it increases revenue partly by imposing substantially higher taxes on the wealthy, which is popular everywhere except inside the Beltway. But it also calls for a rise in the Social Security cap, significantly raising taxes on around 6 percent of workers. And, by rescinding many of the Bush tax cuts, not just those affecting top incomes, it would modestly raise taxes even on middle-income families. All of this, combined with spending cuts mostly focused on defense, is projected to yield a balanced budget by 2021. And the proposal achieves this without dismantling the legacy of the New Deal, which gave us Social Security, and the Great Society, which gave us Medicare and Medicaid.”

As someone who used to be middle-class and is now poor (it’s taken me quite a while to admit that to myself, yet alone say it in a public forum), I want to see this plan adopted – and I’m going to contact President Obama and my Senators and Congressman and tell them so.

I’m also going to tell them that they must at least try to remind the Republicans and Conservatives that people on Welfare, Social Security Disability and Medicaid are not deadbeats unwilling to work, and those on Social Security Retirement and Medicare are not people who were just too lazy and lacking in foresight to save enough money to take care of themselves in later life, no matter what.

Apparently, there are still millions of Americans who genuinely believe that the “social safety net has become a hammock,” as John Boehner recently/famously said. Some people really think that the money garnered from entitlements is excessive and amounts to a gravy train rolling down Easy Street. Recent polls showed that a majority of Americans thought the government spends 10% to 50% of GDP on foreign aid (which they don’t like and think should be cut way back), when actually, less than 1% is spent on foreign aid. Similarly, millions of people think beneficiaries of entitlements receive large sums of money and live high on the proverbial hog. Without going into a lot of personal, embarrassing detail, just let me say this is incredibly untrue.

Everyone (the media, the politicians, those on the right…) has been telling us that to solve our national financial problems, everybody has to take a hit. But that’s neither true nor fair. There really are people who cannot – or can no longer – support themselves through work. Most of the people on Welfare, for example, are unskilled, poorly educated, white single mothers with children who are school age or younger. They should have to “take a hit”? Retirees should take a hit? The disabled should take a hit? Other social services (including family planning), education, the environment, energy initiatives, Veterans' benefits, scientific research, infrastructure repair, the creation of high-speed rail service, the arts and public broadcasting – all these should take a hit? What will it say about us – as a government and as a people – if we do this? And why would our Democratic President allow a right-wing revolution to take hold on his watch?

Please show your support for the budget proposed by the Progressive Congressional Caucus. It’s the only light at the end of the dark budget tunnel that makes sense.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Promises, Promises

I felt cautiously optimistic after listening to the President’s speech about the upcoming 2012 budget yesterday, which I didn’t hear during the day but was able to watch in its entirety last night on the White House Web site (where it’s still up). In that speech, President Obama refuted Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s inhumane (and insane) budget proposal, saying that he will not maintain the Bush tax cuts for the rich after they expire at the end of 2012 (it would have been preferable if he’d said he would revoke them at the start of 2012), nor would he allow Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to be dismantled, and, that he would not allow education and the environment to suffer in the name of so-called fiscal responsibility.

It was heartening to hear the President say these things, although his delivery was very low key (a little high-pitched indignation would have been appreciated) and the fact that it was part of a speech (commencement?) at George Washington University in the middle of a weekday did not signal the sense of urgency or determination this situation requires. Today, he held what I hear was an equally encouraging press conference, but I haven’t seen that yet.

As much as I want to believe what the President is saying now, I have doubts and fears. My friend LK, an avid Obama supporter and indefatigable news junkie, said she couldn’t listen to the whole speech, because she just doesn’t believe him – and I share a lot of that sentiment. All the dreams of hope and change we bought into seemed to fall away once he won the election, and since he’s now running for election again, one can’t help but ask: are these empty promises, temporary bravado – or will he use his second and final term to do the things he said he’d do from the start?

Those of us who supported the President from the beginning, whether we jumped on his bandwagon after Clinton conceded the nomination or before, truly believed that he would bring forth a brand new day in progressive policy. Everything he said during the campaign gave us every reason to believe that. And it was this vision that brought millions of young, first-time voters into the fold of civic participation that they might otherwise have ignored as pointless and nothing that would improve their lives. Now feeling betrayed, will those folks go back to the polls this fall – or will they just stay home feeling helpless?

Since Mr. Obama took office, we political veterans who continue to advocate the antithesis of everything the Republicans and Conservatives advocate, have essentially stood by the President, recognizing that his bold plans were eviscerated by the fiscal crisis he was thrown into, one that was far worse than the outgoing administration let on. And, rightly or wrongly, he chose to immediately focus on health care reform instead of employment and economic recovery, a decision for which he has been pilloried by the Republicans.

It has been most unfortunate that in the President’s efforts to be civil and conciliatory, to bring opposing sides together in bipartisan cooperation, he allowed a bloated, poorly structured health care reform plan to be the final program put into law; that he approved toothless financial regulation; and that, in general, he has made so many concessions on so many issues he has seemed more like Republican Light than Progressive Super.

Of course, it hasn’t helped that the opposition has been devoted to undermining him at every turn and in every way possible. And whether it’s their attitude toward the President or the pressure of Michele Bachmann’s Mad Hatter Tea Party, they’ve certainly ratcheted up their rich loving/poor hating agenda. I can’t remember who said this recently, but some dufus Congressman said that cutting back on Medicaid would be good for poor people, because it would “teach them how to do more with less.” Oh how I wish these people would go back to whatever planet they came from!

Now, it’s time for President Obama to accept the fact that his foes will never be his friends and he must cater to those who support him rather than oppose him. He must put forth progressive policy, rather than settle for mediocre (or damaging) policy in the name of bipartisanship; he will never achieve bipartisanship with this crowd. And he must be a much more forceful Executive, rather than worrying about stepping on the toes of the Legislative; he could fly over their heads and they would still yell ouch and foul. We cannot afford business as usual. We’re in the midst of a political, financial and ideological crisis and we need a warrior, not a peacemaker. Take up your arms, Mr. President – and give us reason to trust you and believe in your promises once again.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

God Bless the New York Times

Today’s Times, that poor battered Gray Lady, has three very important opinion pieces that I want to share with you: two editorials and the weekly conversation between Conservative David Brooks and Progressive (though often a little lightweight) Gail Collins.

The first editorial is Budget Battles: The Price of Ill-Conceived Cuts:

“Mayor Vincent Gray of Washington was so angry that the budget deal prohibited his city from spending its own money on abortion that he blocked traffic outside the Capitol, getting arrested in the process. His rage was a sharp departure from the general self-congratulation of Democratic leaders and President Obama’s failure to tell the truth about the budget deal for this year: It ushers in a denuded era of loss to vital government services, mostly at the expense of the most vulnerable...” Click link to read all.

The second editorial is Budget Battles: Tax and Spending Myths and Realities:

“Here are two numbers to keep in mind when thinking about the House Republicans’ budget plan: They want to cut spending on government programs over the next decade by $4.3 trillion. And they want to cut tax revenues over the same period by $4.2 trillion...” Click link to read all.

Last but not least, One Step Forward, 20 More to Go by David Brooks and Gail Collins:

Gail Collins: David, now President Obama’s going to make a budget-balancing speech. I guess it could be worse. It’s better than having him announce another war. But I’ll bet you’re more eager to hear what he has to say than I am.

David Brooks: I couldn’t be more excited. I’m hoping he’ll do the whole Ross Perot thing. Bring out some charts. Show the American people the scale of the problem…” Click link to read all.

I left a comment on this piece. It’s #163 and I hope you’ll take a look at it, too.

The budget business aside for a moment, I want to say a few kind words about The New York Times. I know it’s become popular to trash the Times, though I’m not sure why. Yes, they have an abysmal number of typos, outrageous for a paper of their unique stature, but apparently copy editors are expendable in favor of reporters and Web masters. The online site is, I believe, the best news site on the Internet and definitely the best newspaper site.

I’m sure you know that the Times is now charging a subscription fee for the site, which has a lot of folks up in arms. While I appreciate that this sets an unfortunate precedent, I’m confident that it’s necessary for them – and you should know that anyone can review the homepage anytime and as often as you like, and, you can read any 20 articles on any page for free each month.

I’d be lost without the Times online, and there are several ways to get ones money’s worth. Subscribers can either have unlimited access to the site on computer and they’ll give you one or more aps for your assorted communications devices. Since I don’t have any devices (not even a cell phone!), I opted to get some form of home delivery of the print version, which automatically gives me unlimited online access. So I got just the Saturday/Sunday papers (the cheapest subscription at about $13 a month).

I got my first papers this past weekend and I was shocked. It was like seeing an old friend in the midst of a terrible illness. The entire paper is smaller; no longer the majestic broadsheet. And every section is thin as a rail. The Book Review is virtually a pamphlet. The Magazine is a shadow of its former self and all the sections are a few pages each. Most stunning are the classifieds, once a massive section in and of itself, now just two pages in the business section in what must be 5pt or 6pt type.

For most of my life, the Sunday Times was a massive fixture, first in my parents’ home, later in mine. But like millions of other people, I abandoned the print version in favor of the more immediate and less cluttering online site. I knew the Times was in trouble and that newspapers are dropping like flies nationwide. But I didn’t know how bad it had gotten. It frightens me to see the Times in this condition and to think about what print journalism will become if all print newspapers go the way of the typewriter. Something important to consider in these ever-increasingly dumbed-down times.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Things We Can Do to Fight Back

I’m very aware that our current political and economic realities are so awful, so shocking, so surrealistic, even given our nation’s checkered past, that it’s all enough to render us immobile – not just unable to act, but convinced that there’s no point in acting. It looks like the bad guys have won, and all we can do – all we want to do – is stay beneath the radar and focus on our personal lives, reaping whatever purpose and satisfaction we can.

I can’t argue with this, especially when I know that most people are busy with jobs (or job hunting), families and friends (if they’re lucky enough to have them), and the myriad details of maintaining daily life – sometimes with major obstacles and burdens to bear.

Admittedly, as a single person who doesn’t work, I have more time than many people (if not most) to vent my spleen on this blog and advocate social/political action. Ironically, my chronic depression and ongoing agoraphobia have made it very difficult for me to do more than run off at the mouth. However, the budget-2011 debacle we just endured, as well as the thought of what comes next, have convinced me that I must do more, do whatever I can, and encourage others of like mind to do the same. I don’t plan, nor do I propose for others, to turn my life upside down, endanger my home or personal freedom, or, in general, get into trouble with the powers that be. That said, action is still necessary. The following is a summary of my current activities and plans; I hope it inspires you to devise an action plan of your own, if you don’t already have one.

First off, I try to be as aware as possible of what’s going on politically. I eschew the Big-3 (or 4) network news programs in favor of the nightly PBS NewsHour, both on air and online and Charlie Rose, arguably the best roundtable discussion series on TV. Other PBS programs also in my viewing repertoire include Washington Week and Frontline, as well as other documentaries, among them those from American Experience and anything by Ken Burns and Hedrick Smith. I also watch the three main cable news networks – CNN, MSNBC and FoxNews – with an occasional visit to the BBC. I rely on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher for both comic relief and important commentary. I peruse an assortment of newspapers, magazines and blogs each day, making sure I get the facts and not media pulp. And I contribute comments on blog posts and press articles, whether it's a quick sentence of agreement or a cogent message of disagreement.

I also enjoy independent documentaries and fictional features that touch and inspire. At the moment, I recommend Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story, a two year old film that I’ve only recently seen, and for reasons I’m not sure of can be seen in its two-hour entirety, for free, at the link above. Second is The American President, also an older film, but extremely pertinent to today – most especially a five minute speech by the president (Michael Douglas), the essence of which I wish we would hear coming out of Barack Obama’s mouth.

Thirdly, I’m very big on signing petitions and writing letters/making phone calls to my Senators and Congressional representatives. I can tell you for a fact that these missives are taken very seriously, that it is assumed that for every letter received, hundreds of other people hold the same views but just didn’t bother to write. I know there are folks who dislike doing this, because they fear getting on some Nixon-style enemies list. This may be a reasonable concern – but I contend that speaking out in this way is not likely to have dire ramifications and, one way or the other, it’s worth the risk. Also, when I can, I practice a little checkbook liberalism. I don’t spend much; a $10 contribution to whatever organization(s) resonate with me is meaningful. Think what it would mean if all of a sudden, hundreds of thousands of people began sending in $10 apiece to a broad range of liberal enterprises. That’s serious bucks.

I vote each and every time any sort of election comes up. Another way of voicing protest is changing one’s party affiliation. I plan on dropping my lifelong Democratic allegiance and re-register as an Independent. It’s the only way I know how to tell the Democrats that they can’t take me for granted. If, suddenly, thousands of people dropped those donkeys, they would be very curious and very concerned; really give them something to think about.

Perhaps the most important thing any of us can do is talk about serious political issues with friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, the guy in the deli, your hairdresser; anybody and everybody. In the final analysis, it’s word of mouth that creates a buzz for and of change. Even though we’re all going through this, it often, sadly, feels like were going through it alone. Empathy, togetherness, a sense of shared purpose are enormously valuable because theyre incredibly strengthening.

I’ll close for now, but I’ll continue to spread the word about things of this nature – as well as more aggressive activities – when I learn of and adopt them. All of this may or may not make a shred of difference, but I believe that it will make me feel better. And in times like these, any little bit of pride and peace of mind is well worthwhile.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Political Hangover

I don’t know about you, but I spent the weekend feeling betrayed, insulted and sullied by the political theatre production of Budget. If you looked at the programme, you know it read: “Starring John Boehner and Harry Reid, with Barack Obama as the President Who Does Nothing, and introducing The Tea Party as The Hateful Minority That Has Seized Undeserved Power."

After the performance was over Friday night and the players were taking a bow, I felt sick and furious watching these supposedly arch enemies pat themselves and each other on the back. (Then on Saturday, Obama went sprinting up the steps of the Lincoln Monument to remind visitors that they could enjoy being there because he and Congressional leaders had done the right thing and managed to keep the government up and running. Give me a big break!)

How is it possible that the Democrats, who could and should have presented a fiscally responsible and socially progressive budget six fucking months ago not do so and instead collaborate with the Republicans, the Conservatives and the Ignorant Teabag Maniacs after allowing the budget process to come down to the wire? How could the President allow military and civil service families suffer horrid anxiety about money for their day-to-day lives when he and all the cronies on both sides knew very well they were not going to let the government shut down? And how has the Tea Party, undeniably representing a minority of American opinion, gained so much political influence so quickly?

Smarter and better-informed heads than mine are pondering these questions and writing about them today. Since my ultimate question is: how can American Progressives sit back quietly while the noisy, hateful opposition use previously-successful left-wing tactics to successfully push forward their right-wing agenda?, I want to offer you links to some of the better things I’ve read this morning – with the hope that you’ll read them, too:

The President Is Missing

by Paul Krugman

Why the Right-Wing Bullies Will Hold The Nation Hostage Again and Again

by Robert Reich

Why Progressives Keep On Losing and the Right Keeps On Winning

by Richard Eskow

As I was traversing the blogosphere and news outlets this morning, it was clear that most folks were willing to put the budget-2011 fracas behind them and focus on the bigger battle currently gathering steam: budget-2012. Perfectly reasonable. But in order to fully prepare yourself for this onslaught, it’s worth noting what really happened last week – and why (therefore, the links above).

Going forward, confronting the deficit, the debt and (now) the debt ceiling may seem necessary, although that’s questionable… But let’s assume it’s as essential as the Republicans would have us believe. Why is there no deafening call for more revenue on the part of Democrats? When is someone going to find the balls to proportionately tax very rich people, as well as end tax cuts for corporations who outsource American jobs, and go after the huge sums in other unpaid corporate taxes (e.g., GE)? When will truly non-essential monies be cut out of the bloated Defense budget? When will the federal government look at its own house and defund programs that duplicate the functions of others already successfully in place (which in itself would save billions)?

And when will President Obama stop playing Mr. Nice Bipartisan Guy and start talking and behaving like the liberal he’s supposed to be? When will he let the opposition know that budget cuts will not be made on the backs of women, children, the poor, the environment, education, and the best that American culture provides – all of which, combined, doesn’t even begin to compare to the costs of mismanaged Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Don’t get me wrong: I do not want to see cuts in those programs made in such a way that they take anything away from the people they were established to serve. But no one can deny that there’s waste and fraud there, and a fine scalpel (instead of an ax) should be used to cut them out. And, once again (I’ll keep saying this over and over), the U.S. would save billions and earn billions if marijuana were legalized and taxed – and the War on Drugs could be waged against substances that truly kill people, cripple lives, and damage communities.

My final question is when will We the People start getting more concerned and involved – but I’m saving that commentary for another post, something that might be called Effective Dissent for Busy, Tired People. Keep an eye peeled.

Friday, April 08, 2011

All Fall Down

As I begin this post, it’s not yet 8:00 a.m. and I haven’t even had coffee yet. Nor do I have the time/room here to talk about Donald “Pompadour” Trump’s transformation from a self-serving billionaire into a self-serving “birther”; Michelle Bachmann making Sarah Palin look like Eleanor Roosevelt; or other little matters like new violence against Israel, the ever-enlarging quagmire developing in Libya, and another unsettling earthquake in Japan.

That’s because my mind – like those of millions of Americans – won’t move off the subject of the very-possible government shutdown, a circumstance we’re all confronted with because the Congressional Republicans insist on hooking budget resolution to the policy issues they’ve wanted to tackle (and dismember) for years, and, because President Obama has been walking softly and carrying no stick at all virtually since he took office.

It remains to be seen what ultimately gets thrown under the bus during these final, early-dawn White House negotiations. We’ll very possibly see funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drown in the still-bubbling oil clogging the Gulf, or PBS/NPR going dark and silent, or, especially, Planned Parenthood rendered bankrupt as millions of American women have no place to turn for routine and preventative health care, not abortions.

Whatever does or doesn’t happen regarding the government shutdown today, it’s important to remember that the budget being haggled over only covers governmental operations through September 30th, the end of the nation’s fiscal year. We have to soon confront the budget for 2012 and will no doubt have to watch the consideration of Rep. Paul D. Ryan’s (R-WI and chairman, House Budget Committee) proposed plan, which New York Times columnist Paul Krugman correctly termed “ludicrous and cruel” today.

What disturbs me as much as the details of all this political wrangling is the fact that more people were more concerned with the American Idol finals last night than the fact that the government was simultaneously being held hostage by politicians from both parties who, I fear, are more absorbed with getting re-elected than doing the right thing.

That said, the Republicans, with the Tea Party holding a legal assault weapon to their heads, do seem to genuinely care about making war on women, the poor, the environment, and arts/education in all its forms, and they’re going to continue this battle whether the government shuts down or not. Helpfully, the President and the Democrats in both houses squandered the political capital they had for the past two years and did very little to protect these constituencies and further their causes. But what difference does it make when the winners of American Idol and Dancing With the Has-beens are at stake? I wouldn’t know any of those people if you threw them in my lap. But I’m certain that many of the people who do, would not be able to identify two of the three people pictured above (for the record, left: Harry Reid, D-NV, Senate Majority Leader, and, right: John Boehner, R-OH, Speaker of the House).

Last night, Martin Wolf from London’s Financial Times, was on Charlie Rose talking about this budget dilemma, and he said: “Winston Churchill once observed that `America always does the right thing – after exhausting every other alternative'.” God willing and the creek don’t rise…

Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Battle of the Sexes Redux

Given the fact that the election of a Black president and hard economic times have rejuvenated America’s cultural/political right wing, it should come as no surprise that the latest “Pro-Lib” (that’s progressive/ liberal…) construct on their kill agenda is feminism. Of course, the Right has been fighting modern feminism since it began in the late 1960s, successfully defeating organized efforts to secure the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment); continuously fighting mainstream efforts to make and keep abortion legal and readily available; and in general, bad-mouthing feminism at every turn.

But now, with women marrying later in life, with 50% of marriages ending in divorce, and with the genuine possibility of gay marriage coming closer all the time, the well-organized, articulate, on-point and active right wing is taking on feminism big time.

Two books published last month are paving the way for a major trend-setting argument, garnering considerable press attention and providing the language and talking points for this new battle: Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys by Kay S. Hymowitz, and, The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know – and Men Can’t Say by Suzanne Venker and Phyllis Schlafly (yes, The Fly is back…).

Their messages are essentially the same: progressive-liberals aren’t fit to run a bowling alley let alone a nation; feminism, the demon seed of liberalism, is full of shit; women aren’t (and never have been) victims or oppressed or marginalized in any way; and most important, feminism has destroyed the American Family and emasculated men.

I want to say that for the past couple of years, I’ve been asking “Where is the New Feminism?” I’ve been saying that feminism and its resulting migration of women into the workforce has had a negative impact on family life – just as racial integration had a negative impact on black communities.

But, just as segregation allowed for strong black communities by default, because law and custom demanded that middle-class and poor blacks live side by side in neighborhoods filled with black-owned businesses, powerful and unifying black churches, and generally-united families, that didn’t make segregation a good thing or make integration any less vitally important. Similarly, while women living in the traditional role of wife and mother provided both stability for the family and clarity of gender roles, that didn’t make it any less important for women to be freed from their domestic cages, as well as the limitations created by law regarding property rights, divorce, employment, and personal freedom.

These Women of the Right would have us believe that the only solution to domestic instability is for women to cut out all this feminist nonsense and go back home – which can sound, to many, like a fine, easy, workable solution to a thorny social problem. The Right wishes they could also say that if blacks went back to second-class citizenship, we wouldn’t need all these Hispanics and Asians for menial work, but to their never-ending fury, they can’t say it. And of course, if gays just went back in the closet and shut the hell up, maybe this could be a decent, God-fearing country again. Yeah! Out with Jersey Shore, video games and the Internet, and back to Leave It To Beaver, Scrabble and stick ball! Why struggle with moving forward when it would be so much simpler to just move back?

Going back is both impossible and undesirable – regarding feminism, racism and homophobia. What is essential, however, is for the Left and the left-leaning but civically disengaged to become organized and creative in addressing the problems created by uncompleted social progress and counter the delusional Right with practical solutions and ongoing advancement.

Back in the `80s, I lived briefly with a man I adored, but the relationship didn’t work. During one of our rare serious conversations About Us, he said “I feel like there’s nothing I can do for you.” I didn’t appreciate the meaning and importance of that remark and really didn’t address it. I was wrong.

I don’t recall the feminism of my youth implying that women and men were the same, just that we were equal. But I do recall that we were so consumed with our own needs that we regarded consideration of men’s needs as somehow counter-revolutionary. We were wrong.

Clearly now is the time for everyone to consider everyone else’s needs and create a new kind of culture that will allow for the development of new kinds of families. New strategies. New compromises. More forthright communication on everybody’s part. And soon. Before the New Right destroys the good we’ve done and makes it impossible for us to do more.