Friday, July 30, 2010

Racism - What it Is ?

"to rant this is not the 1800's on the frontier you are not cowboys if you have a racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic BS thoughts in your head please do me the favor of not having it come out of your mouth as you drive by in your car I mean really it is 2010 and for the record if you are reading this and have those kind of thoughts feel free to un-friend me cause we need some serious toleration up in here"

We've just watched a serious play and have left the theater. We've waited several minutes for the light to change and have crossed the main street. We start across the side street and - a White Man - forced to turn around by his road blocked off by a roadblock, so he Needs to turn back in the direction he came from.

B - is a few feet ahead of me and she Has The Nerve to walk in front of the Man and His Car - he has a stop sign.

After he's made it through the intersection - he yells back at her: "more points ..."

I both can and can not at all understand! For me - another A-Hole - I can "understand" that B is pissed. It was an obvious blatantly racist statement and totally unnecessary!

At the same time, I can't really understand. I've not faced a lifetime of similar snippets of being treated like I didn't matter - I'm not Black, Female, large bodied, assertive - I've not been told by My Father in so many Deep Ways that I'm not "good enough" no matter how hard I try and how Well I do at What I do.

I can support and love and affirm - and learn a little snippet at a time.

We're in "liberal" Seattle! Perhaps Selma or Jackson or Florida where B spent her formative years aren't "worse".

It's sad for me. We have so many, many people who are in a sense well meaning, caring people, but they Don't Step out of their shoes and see - what is around them around the bend. We also have others Who Do really understand; mostly People of Color or Women Who've Been Assaulted, or Gay/Lesbians who've faced the worst of Our Wrath or Similar.

Really - we Say - that things have Changed, but really the World remains - life is still stuck in the S__t of yesterday.

I'm sad - can't say - "I'm hurt" - but I'm feeling a little of the Pain. I can't say that I really Do Feel it - in its Depths, but it does Affect Me and Hurt. Thanks!

Amazingly Understandable - from the Elect. Intif.

Israel's racist policies toward Palestinians have worrying historical precedents. (Anne Paq/ActiveStills)

Names have always been political. Throughout history different regimes have used naming as a means of racial or religious identification. In Nazi Germany a 1938 law obliged Jews to add Sara or Israel to their names so as to eliminate ethnic confusion. And in my own country, Northern Ireland, even without a law, a name could determine one's success in life.

Until comparatively recently many Catholic families I know chose Protestant Anglicized names so as their children could have a chance of escaping the discrimination inherent in the sectarian state. It rarely worked however, as there were always other ways one could tell someone's background. Indeed, even today most of us immediately conduct a sort of scan upon meeting a new acquaintance. If we can't tell by name then we move on to other questions like, "Where do you live?" or the clincher -- in a society where schools are largely segregated -- "What school did you go to?" This approach is not always successful but most times we can quite quickly classify who we think our new acquaintance is and how much we can reveal of ourselves to them.

Sad though most of you must think this is, for people of my generation it is an automatic but unfortunate hangover from hundreds of years of mutual suspicion. Thankfully however, never did we have someone convicted for rape on the basis that the woman had mistaken her sexual partner as being of the same religious group as herself. This is what happened in an Israeli court last week.

For those unfamiliar with the case the story goes like this. A young Jewish Israeli woman and a young Palestinian Jerusalemite had consensual sex. Afterwards, the Jewish woman discovered that her partner was in fact not Jewish at all, but horror of horror, a Palestinian. But there was more, the Palestinian had called himself "Dudu," his nickname, but one most often used by Israeli Jews, and from this the young woman concluded she had been deliberately deceived and in fact raped.

In our society of course, refusal to contemplate a relationship with a person from another ethnic or religious background is described and denounced as racism or bigotry. In Israel it is now protected by law. The court found that indeed the young Jewish woman had in fact been raped, not by force of course, but by name. Finding the Palestinian guilty, district court Judge Zvi Segal stated, "The court is obliged to protect the public interest from sophisticated, smooth-tongued criminals who can deceive innocent victims at an unbearable price -- the sanctity of their bodies and souls."

Sadly, this all has very worrying historical echoes. It hints back to the Apartheid and Jim Crow Laws which presupposed dangerous Blacks waiting to pounce on virginal Whites. It also conjures up the notorious images from the Nazi publication Der Sturmer of supposedly lecherous Jews trying to seduce young Aryan Germans, no doubt also at the unbearable price of the sanctity of their bodies and souls. In part it also shares the Nazi obsession with racial mixing and the naming policy Germany introduced to eliminate any possible confusion in ethnicity. Except perhaps Nazi policy was more honest. In the Nuremberg Laws Germany explicitly outlawed sexual relations between Jews and non-Jews; Israel does no such thing, it merely makes it a crime if sex takes place without the actors being fully aware of each other's background. Perhaps then Israel should take a leaf of out of Germany's 1938 naming law: every Muslim to have the name Muhammad attached; every Christian, Jesus. But it won't do that, after all, that is racist.

Richard Irvine teaches a course at Queen's University Belfast entitled "The Battle for Palestine" which explores the entire history of the conflict. Irvine has also worked voluntarily in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and taken part in olive planting and harvesting in the West Bank.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Excellent Writing on Healthcare Costs - Reform

I just read an incredibly good article related to US healthcare costs and reform. It is from the June 1, 2009 New Yorker magazine. It pre-dates the recent passage of healthcare reform legislation, but shows rather clearly how what is passed will NOT help lower healthcare costs substantially and what is likely to be potentially successful.



Republicans & Democrats - Different, Yet The Same

Thomas Friedman had an excellent editorial in today's local paper about the short-sightedness and futility of the Senate Republicans being united now against energy reform legislation which apparently has roughly 53 Democratic votes and 0 Republican votes. It appears that the Republicans will require 60 votes for passage, and thus as of now the legislation is dead.

Friedman focused upon how the legislation would help the U.S. be more independent of Mideast ("Arab" - though Iran is not "Arab) nations' (oil) and do much of what Republicans profess they want, without requiring U.S. military intervention.

While I agree with much of what Friedman said, I think that his criticisms of the Republicans in some ways ignore the basic weaknesses and similar of our political system with both Democrats and Republicans at fault.

To pass major legislation there commonly needs to Either be No "enemy" or one needs to make Substantial compromises in the legislation to appease "the enemy", whoever that may be. For the State of Connecticut the insurance industry may be sacred. For various midwest states the interests of corn farmers such as Ethanol are usually sacred. For some Gulf Coast States oil industry interests have been sacred.

When healthcare reform legislation was finally passed, it was only possible because the hospital and drug industries were largely appeased. As a result, the "reforms" will Not control costs and healthcare costs will continue to rise significantly, barring significant further serious reforms which may control them.

While the Democrats may be "better" than the Republicans on most issues, they are hardly "progressive" or otherwise looking out for the concerns of most of us. They are beholden to the issues of keeping their political office (e.g. campaign finance reform as an issue) and their own "parochial" interests.

Friedman points out eloquently the parochial interests of Republicans in looking towards the short-term and what the perceived as their "political interests" (my words)rather than looking at the bigger picture (including their own interests).

Until and unless campaign finance reform legislation passes Congress (unlikely) and the Supreme Court allows limitations upon lobbying and corporate power over Congress it seems unlikely that serious reforms of important things will be possible most of the time. Nearly always the powers of those being limited will have enough power to make changes either insubstantial or otherwise not sufficient for real, significant change.

It is, of course, difficult! Thanks!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Getting Over it, etc.

Part I:

B's childhood was not the easiest. Both her mother and father were Not the best of parents. She is biracial. After her parents had messed things up, she moved in with her paternal grandparents who did their best raising her.

After high school she got pregnant. She's a single mother now with a teenage daughter. For much of the first part of her daughter's upbringing, they lived with her mother, who oft times took care of her granddaughter. More recently she moved away with her daughter. She moved near where she had lived with her grandparents as a teenager.

B never seems to get various things related to being a caring parent (or a thoughtful, responsible adult). Particularly difficult for her is recognizing the (commonly viewed) reality that her daughter's (emotional and related) needs should come first.

Perhaps Not surprisingly, when her grandmother recently moved from the general area they both lived in, she had No Time to help with the packing and similar. Other family members flew in to help out, but the only time she came over was to pick up some things her grandmother gave her.

Part II. Being Responsible and "Our Oppressions":

One could argue that B's behavior is at least understandable, given her childhood. Her parents said bad examples for her. As she nears age 40, she's seemingly never learned various important lessons of life.

At the same time, the excuses B makes get old very quickly!

It isn't always easy to separate the adult "victims" and those who are good people in some ways, yet help keep the S--t happening. As an upper-middle class, White Man I'm well aware of how despite my anti-racist beliefs, I've done things that certainly didn't help, while having done relatively little to help end racism. It seems rather lame to say that I didn't do more because of my immaturity over the years.

As a man, I am proud that I worked significantly in men's anti-rape organizing mostly from 1983-1987. I was very aware of sexism and did do some good work for a period in my life. Perhaps I could have done much more!

It seems most common for many of us that we remain within our safety zones regarding race, gender, class, sexual orientation and much more in our lives. A few men do remarkable work regarding sexism. A few White People do good work regarding racism. A few Heterosexual People do good work regarding gay, lesbian, or transgender issues. Others do good work helping others in "normal" ways such as working in soup kitchens, helping build houses with Habitat for Humanity and similar.

In general though it seems like people who are hurting and hurt need to lead the battles against oppressions that are incredibly real to them. A "minority" person (rather than a "non-minority person") is most commonly the one motivated to fight the battles they see in part because they are "minority". In general we others do "a little good" participating in fundraisers for good causes and similar.

It is difficult to see how serious change will occur when those lacking the power must fight the apathy of the rest of us as well as the forces in opposition.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Obama - and Hopes for the Future?

Many of us have not been ecstatic over President Obama's leadership to date. We don't have to see John McCain as better to feel like things haven't worked out well.

I look at most of the major issues, and wonder How things are likely to improve before the 2012 elections:

1.) Afghanistan - one doesn't have to be a flaming radical to see that "counter-insurgency" isn't working there. The big unifying issue whenever there is one seems to be that we are hated as "outsiders" just as the Russians were in the 1980's. To succeed if that were even faintly possible, there would need to be a "good" government as an option to the "enemy" forces. It also remains unclear to me how what we do here is somehow going to stop international terrorism or that IF we leave - declare victory and take our troops out how this will strengthen terrorism directed at us.

2.) Iraq - now we are being told that it's too soon to take our troops out (as it will be soon with Afghanistan). While there is less violence than a few years ago, it still is unclear how things will go here,

3.) Health care and health care reform - compromise legislation will help millions more get coverage eventually, however nothing has been done to stem the increased costs of health care and it will continue to bankrupt us - if serious reform isn't initiated. IF Democrats lose decisively in November, 2010 elections this will be tough to accomplish,

4.) Israel-Palestine - perhaps I'm overly cynical and as soon as the November, 2010 elections are over Obama will get tough with Israel and start really pushing for a serious change in policy which may allow peace to evolve. I'll be pleasantly shocked if this happens,

5.) The economy - I don't know where to start here. Jobs and the housing industry seem likely places to start perhaps?

It should be obvious now that Obama is a politician and hardly a "real liberal" one at that. It should also seem obvious that his tendency to try to wait for consensus to emerge and then try to work with it isn't working too well. He's not a "master politician" and he's not done a very good job of reaching "mainstream America" on any issue to date since he was elected.

It's difficult now because we can't rely upon right-wing and Republican "mistakes" to fuel unity amongst Democrats. The weaknesses of the "big tent" Democrats are most apparent now. It's sad that at the same time Democrats generally can't build upon the problems the Republicans have with their internal splits between "normal Republicans" and the Teaites and others.

I'm not real optimistic! Thanks!