Friday, November 07, 2008

Making a Grass Roots Movement, NOW!

This has been an incredible week! In Portland, within a half and hour after the polls closed on Tuesday, voters began loudly celebrating the election of Barak Obama. As a 42 year old woman, I can say that I have never seen an election night like this. With cars honking, people screaming, and assorted fireworks here and there--- it was livelier than any New Year's eves I can remember (indeed, livelier than most 4th of Julys-- possible exception of The Bicentennial), too. The relief and joy felt by so many in this country was palpable. I know that I, for one, am very happy that for the first time in 8 years, we will have a leader that can not only speak in full sentences, but that he does so most eloquently, and in a tone that sounds strong, open and welcoming-- which is a blessed change from the disjointed sneering phrases of W.

Obama ran on the idea of Hope and Change. He spoke of a new America that honored fairness. Our challenge is to now build on that momentum to actually craft what that change looks like, and to push like hell in that direction. This can be a truly profound transformation, if, and only if, we take this opportunity to coalesce a broad based grass roots movement. We must bring together a groundswell of support, not for any particular candidate, but to address the issue of economic justice at home--- calling for an immediate reversal of the massive redistribution wealth that has been ongoing since Reagan, and has accelerated dangerously in the last month. We must reinvigorate a movement that demands peace and diplomacy in our foreign policy, not endless wars propagated with a might-makes-right mentality. We must come together to loudly demand environmental sustainability, not as a green washing campaign, but as deep we take up the challenge of essentially changing our country's relationship to resource exploitation, and thinking ahead for about our impact on generations to come. It is imperative that we work together to demand the restoration of our constitutional rights-- ending spying on activists, and the demonization of dissent; to put an end to torture and to bring back a healthy habeas corpus; and there is so much more. As Norman Solomon notes in his article, A Mandate for Spreading the Wealth:

Obama and his activist base won a mandate for strong government action on behalf of economic fairness. But since election night, countless pundits and politicians have somberly warned the president-elect to govern from "the center." Presumably, such governance would preclude doing much to spread the wealth. Before that sort of conventional wisdom further hardens like political cement, national discussions should highlight options for moving toward a more egalitarian society.

I was not a big Obama supporter-- I can't turn a blind eye to the fact that he wants to continue our war in Afghanistan, and talks of "clean coal". I felt that the McKinney / Clemente ticket most represented my concerns, and had good plans to address them. Indeed, this is the first time I have ever convinced myself to vote not my conscience, but to choose based on my fear of the worser evil (I admit it, the thought of a Palin theocracy scared the bejeebus out of me). I have huge concern about his statements regarding adding heat to the fighting in Afghanistan, if he does this, I will be complicit in that murderous act (along with the rest of you that voted for him), so let's act now, together, and quickly, while this opening exists to push, push, PUSH Obama to take right action. Let's become to hard to ignore. This is where we begin to do the hard work of holding this new administration accountable to usher in the changes we want to see.

I am still adjusting to the idea of a country without W. Given how bad things have gotten, it will take a bit to remember what it was like to live in a country where dissent is an expected by-product of our democratic process in a "free" and diverse land, as opposed to being subjected to "If your not fer us, your agin us," tough guy talk. May this country not fall back into cynicism and apathy, because while Obama might not have all of the answers himself, working together in solidarity, we can supply him with some. And through our continued involvement, we will demand right action to move our country in a good direction. It's just that it will take all of us working together to be heard over corporate interests, and over some of his appointments (excuse me what? %?!?!*&$ Rahm Emanuel?!?!?!?).

This is the opening that many have been waiting for. Let's jump on through, together.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Gathering of Dead -- The Wheel Turns

I threw a little gathering at my place last Friday. All of my guests were dead. I made my Dad a peanut butter and honey sandwich. I made tea for my Gran, my Aunts Bett & Alice, and for my Uncle Jack. My old comrade Jan got a glass of port. Everyone got wheatmeal digestive biscuits, apples, and chocolate, and by Gran's request, soft boiled eggs. Of course, not wanting to be species-ist, my partner broke out some fine catnip for my old furry friend Newton. These loved ones, now dead, are invited and welcomed back into my home and life, along with a growing list of friends: Judi, Jasper, Jim, Bruce, to be honored, loved,and to renew our connections. That's what Samhain, Celtic New Year, or Halloween, is all about. A time to eat, drink, and connect again with our beloved dead. A time to renew our connection in the long chain of life, knowing that, in our turn, we too will pass, and new generations carry on the mantel of life on this plane.

On Saturday, I went to a concert wherein the dead were formally invited to come and dance. Jason Webley and Vagabond Opera combined their musical genius and put on a fabulous show. But that was only a part of the evening. At the side of the dance floor was a beautiful altar for the dead, with candles, food, flowers, pictures, skulls-a-plenty, and much love. Folks were encouraged to go to the altar and converse, play with, write notes to, or in some way interact with the dead / death / transformation. A large paper mache skull was on hand to receive notes of affirmation and the like; collecting the notes for a ritual following the concert.

As the music stopped, a procession started--- following Webley, who held aloft a very large paper mache tomato, a couple of hundred people created a joyous parade down the street and around the block about midnight. Celebrants shook rattles made of plastic bottles and coins, blessing and strengthening our connections, with ourselves, each other, and the dead. We ended up back at the venue, with a little fire made ready in a steel cart, decorated with skeletons and skulls; gathering 'round while the large skull with our collected notes inside was put on the flames. Smoke began to pour out of the hole cut in for the third eye. As the energy built, the flames engulfed the skull and the sky opened, and for a moment, there was an absolute downpour. When I have shared this story with a couple of friends well familiar with the ways of ritual, they told me that in their traditions that downpour is a sign of prayers being accepted by the spirits-- it certainly felt that way to me at the time. Three young women danced around the flames as we stood adding our energies to the affirmations going up in smoke. Shortly thereafter, a large fire truck and two cop cars stopped by, and a very nervous house manager ran about telling everyone "It was a great evening but everyone has to leave NOW!" It's hard to be a pagan in the city.

But of course, this isn't really a pagan thing. It's just stopping to note that at this time in our yearly cycle the veil between the worlds grows thinnest. Many cultures recognize this. You don't have to be a believer, just walk out amongst the fall leaves, feel the air on your face, and listen to the night-- and feel. There are other realities pressing against each other like soap bubbles-- and now the walls of that bubble are quite thin.

So much of American mainstream culture is really twisted up when it comes to death. It is, forgive the pun, morbidly afraid of it, and dictates that polite company avoids the subject at all costs. Part of this terror comes from the fear of separation-- of loss. It becomes a catch-22, since we are taught fear it, we want no reminders of it, and we abandon our dead, which reinforces that separation. This is so very different from the cultures that accept that death and life are inherently intertwined. Now we are on this side, and sometime we will be on the other, never really knowing when that transition will take us through. I have spent some time recently contemplating this, following the sudden death of a man that was becoming a friend. Paradoxically, I find that I appreciate life all the more when I work on accepting death.

And the wheel of the year turns--- in the Celtic traditions, the God is dead, and awaits rebirth on Winter's Solstice. It is the dark of the year, a time to go deep inside and vision what we need to do for ourselves and the world in the times ahead. This is the time of creating that seed / those visions. Oh, and a time to remember the dead, and to feast together, remember our families, ancestors, friends, and celebrate the connections that weave together this world.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Bit About Domestic Terrorism

Ever since 9/12, I have been very, very leery of the "terrorist" label.

I know that labels get applied to different people, well, differently--- according to where one sits in relation to the status quo. As many a great political cartoon has illustrated - spotting the difference between a "Freedom Fighter" and a "Terrorist" is entirely dependent upon your view.

All that said, I want to share my experience as someone who worked in a non-profit health center that provided clinical abortions. It was my job to check for bombs daily, when I unlocked the clinic for just above minimum wage. I got trained to open doors in a certain way, check several key points methodically, and to really check, double check and triple check all incoming mail before opening it.

This wasn't idle paranoia on the behalf of the health center. A couple of months before I started work with them, they received a letter bomb that was suspected by the receptionist, and the bomb squad was called out. The police verified that it was, indeed, a very live explosive, that was capable of leveling the building had it been opened. After it was reported, postal officials found three more in the mail addressed to other providers and the Planned Parenthood office. I have had people who spent their days protesting outside the clinic try to run me over a few blocks from work after hours, follow me on foot as I tried to walk home with friends, chase me in cars (at rather high speeds down Foster Rd), finally leaving me alone when I drove into the parking lot of the dike bar (couldn't thnk of a better place to take them). These people effectively terrorized me and my co-workers, daily. The fear that they created was palpable. How would it effect your day to know that you started by checking for bombs (for a reason), and that you were more likely than not to get some sort of death threat hurled at you by phone, mail or in person. I can vouch for this sort of thing really fucking with your morale.

So to get to the crux of this biscuit, enter Sarah Palin-- and her hyping of Bill Ayers as a domestic terrorist to paint Obama as a dangerous man since they have known each other in a vague progressive circle kind of Chicagoan way. Is tenured professor William Ayers a terrorist for his involvement in The Weathermen, 30+ years ago? Sarah says "There is no question...." But someone who has bombed a clinic that provides abortions? If the gods of embedding video are with me, just play this for Sarah's answer.

Let's face it, saving the unborn is thinking ahead for this crowd--- they need them for cannon fodder later.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Army Begins Active Duty Assignments in the Homeland

Look the fuck out-- this seems bad!

I haven't found any other articles, but this comes straight from the horses mouth, as it were. Has anyone else seen anything about this?

Brigade homeland tours start Oct. 1

from the Army Times, September 8th, 2008

some choice excerpts:
3rd Infantry's 1st BCT trains for a new dwell-time mission. Helping 'people at home' may become a permanent part of the active Army.

"The 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent 35 of the last 60 months in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle, helping restore essential services and escorting supply convoys.

Now they're training for the same mission — with a twist — at home." .......

"In the meantime, they'll learn new skills, use some of the ones they acquired in the war zone and more than likely will not be shot at while doing any of it.

They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack." ....

"The 1st BCT's soldiers also will learn how to use "the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded," 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.

" 'It's a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities that they're fielding. They've been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we're undertaking we were the first to get it.'

The package includes equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets."


Gee, I am feeling safer already. Nothing says "I care" like a boot on the neck.

Monday, September 08, 2008

On Broadcasting Dada, and Narrow-Mindedness

KBOO broke ground again last week when we cleared the schedule for a special called: 101 Hours of Innumerable Small Events Which May or May Not Be Related to One Another-- A Celebration of Dada and Surrealism. We had ran a three day Dada special six or seven years ago, and while it had impact, this event generated MUCH more feedback.

For the whole of the two business days of the festival (which began Wednesday evening, August 27, and ran through midnight, August 31), our phone rang off of the hook. Primarily people were confused, though many were very upset. There were also those who phoned to praise us, but they were a decided minority, at least at first. KBOO received emails from volunteers, friends and listeners, asking why, in these important political times, we were choosing to run this "puerile, self-indulgent noise". Don't we realize there are elections, and conventions, and wars, and stuff? My god, what have we done with Amy Goodman??? The calls continued throughout the weekend, taken by the various deejays, who explained things in very different ways....

A few members swore they would never support us again, though I know more than a couple of folks who said if we played this experimental stuff more often, they would support us again.... hmmm, tricky balance that. I understand if Dada is not your cup of tea. I understand you turning the dial and not giving it 101 hours to grow on you (though by at least a couple of friends' accounts, it did grow on them by Saturday afternoon). It's the tendency to insult that which we do not understand that dismays me--- I had thought that KBOO listeners may be a bit more open than that. After all, our program charter says that "KBOO's arts, cultural and music programming shall cover a wide spectrum of expression from traditional to experimental, and reflect the diverse cultures we serve. KBOO shall strive for spontaneity and programming excellence, both in content and technique." I guess that this was just too experimental for some folks.... I can almost here it, "We support experimental arts and spontaneity, just don't fuck with Democracy Now!" Or, "Hey you bohemians, you already have programming 3.5 nights a week in the wee pre-dawn hours-- don't get greedy."

There is a troubling lack of understanding, both of our charter and of the Dada arts movement, that clearly shines through in the comments chastising us for airing such material during such a politically important time. Having the festival run the hours it did, meant that we forsook traditional public affairs programming for TWO DAYS! Don't get me wrong--- I love KBOO public affairs, I have listened to KBOO's public affairs since the late '70s, when I was but a tadpole. And I am a political junkie--- I really do love following news and current events, and do so pretty constantly. But please! A little break is good for the soul-- and if this wasn't the time you wanted to take a break, you can inform yourself in any of a number of ways (for two days, love of Pete, just two days), and end up at a coffee shop with friends to actually process some of the information we are endlessly taking in.

The irony that slaps me in the face about this is that Dada is an anti-war, anti-capitalist, anti-establishment art movement, born of the disillusionment following WWI. This is what really saddened me when I received emails from liberals and progressives taking the station to task for being so self indulgent when there were important political events to cover. Do they not think art can be political? Is art not an important part of our culture, and does it not inform our politics? In fact, far from being irrelevant as some claimed, I can't think of any more relevant programming to broadcast at this time that no sense makes sense. When life is absurd, only the absurd will do. I am going to guess that most of our disgruntled listeners have no idea of the history behind Dada, and some might not care. For those that do care about the history of this brilliant movement, I want to share an excerpt from the preface of the program schedule for the special:

It's 1918. You're young and living in Berlin. You're a little dazed to have survived the mass-slaughter of World War I. You feel sorrow and anger that so many of your friends and family were killed, mutilated, driven mad by the first mechanized war with weapons of mass slaughter, the first with a new mental damage called "shell shock."

Like your surviving friends, you have only contempt for your "civilization" and its masters whom blame and condemn the structures of your culture: the state, the church, the press, capitalism, the academies, the arts -- you ridicule them all.

Your friends are pacifists, artists, communists, anarchists, all shades of ists; but you have gone beyond them to question reason itself. Because you have no idea why the war was ever fought. For what?

You uneasily recognize the great fearful and violent unconscious of humanity has surfaced catching everyone, including yourself, completely unaware. You see that visions of mass-annihilation have entered the European imagination. You sense even worse atrocities to come.

You gather with friends at clubs and to write and perform satires, poems, manifestos and attacks, writing them in violation of all the rules. You print art and writings on cheap paper for mass distribution. You develop an anti-art, anti-rules, anti-logic, anti-reason, anti-structure approach to artistic creation, calling Dada; scraping away surface consciousness to uncover and probe what lies beneath. A basis for a true art of the people?

You notice as your Dada festivities progress, you all become a little more than just giddy. It begins to develop some purpose, generating explorations of altered states of consciousness through art and sound. Your friends talk of achieving the "marvelous" and "fields of light;" it would sound mystical if you weren't so dead set against religion....

Imagine: The Marvelous!!!"

That's why I think that this Celebration of Dada and Surrealism, at this time-- conventions, and all-- was actually a critically important thing to do.

This special brought together scores of volunteers and guest artists who began collaborating on pieces last spring-- creating original music, recording plays and poetry, producing audio, arranging and creating simulcasts on cable access, and showing rare surrealist short films in the KBOO lobby late one evening. In short, it gave reason to create a community of artists who inspired each other to do excellence, and to reach further. That is a political act, and that is one of the essences that blends into the whole of a great community radio station.

Viva Dada.
Viva Art, Truth & Beauty.
Viva KBOO.

Happy Lammas, Y'all

In honor of today being the euro-pagan day of Lammas (well, it was when I wrote this, some five-weeks ago,on Aug 1st), I am going to focus on the wheel of the year, and what this time of year means to many of us. Watching the earth through the pagan year's holy days is one way to see ourselves connected to a recurrent cycle of birth, growth, diminishment, death, rest and rebirth. Today is Lammas, which is the half-way point between Beltaine and Samhain. This is the first celebration after the summer solstice, when the year is at its peak of solar energy-- the god at his zenith of power. This marks the god's
aging, and as John Barleycorn, he is cut down in the gathering of the grains.

Let's pause for a moment and look at this in context-- how the year's cycle and changing of the seasons can be told in one story or myth:

Lammas is celebrated August 1st. It is the festival of the first harvests. It is a very opportune time to assess what you are manifesting, how is it coming in? What do you need to prune, adjust, reshape? This is the time that the god grows older, waning in energy,
while the goddess as mother harvests the seeds and nurtures the god growing within her, awaiting his re-birth.

The next turning point is Mabon, or Fall Equinox, a time to celebrate balance. Projects and goals that were dreamed in the winter and started in the spring come to fruition. It is a time to give thanks for what has come into your life and to prepare for the more introspective times ahead. The god, old now, rests after harvest-- preparing for his death.

The last turn of the year is Samhain, better known in this country as Halloween. This is a time of dreaming, of communion with the dead, and those spiritual allies that are not incarnate. The veil separating this physical world from the land of the dead and the faery grows the
thinnest at this time of year, making it a great time to gain advice and contemplate visions to guide you through this dark and introspective time. The god dies on this day, and old year passes
away. The world lies fallow, resting until the god's rebirth.

And the re-birth happens at the Winter Solstice. The new year, full of hope and potential as it stretches out ahead of us. It is time to do deep introspective work to make clear your own intentions and goals to your own self. As the new sun grows in strength, what aspirations
do we want to grow into reality? What can we do to give strength to that new world that has justice, love and laughter at its core?

Next comes Imbolc. Traditionally, this involves a feast dedicated to Brigid, on February 1st or 2nd. This is the beginning of spring, as the lambs are born, and signs of life begin to appear in earnest, giving hope that the greening of the year is getting under way. This
is a time of beginnings, and initiation. The god is still in infancy, but gaining strength, the goddess rests after birth, readying herself for the Rites of Spring, celebrated at the next turning point.

Ostara, aka the Spring Equinox—the Rites of Spring. This is a time to celebrate the fertility of the goddess in her Maiden role, and the god grows well into his youth. This is a time to nurture and feed what we have started, and see what else needs to be manifested in our lives.
This is the time of the planting—laying tangible foundations for your ideas and projects.

Beltaine is a celebration of sexuality, and the year turns to early summer. Traditionally celebrated by erecting a Maypole, and dancing during the day, giving way to bonfires and sex at night. This is the time that the god becomes a man through his union with the goddess.
As the poem goes: "Hooray! Hooray! for the 1st of May, Outdoor fucking begins today!"
Alright, it's probably not an ancient poem, but I have to say, I like the sentiment.

Then we move into Summer Solstice, or Midsummer, which was the last holy day before today. This is the time of the god enjoying the apex of his power. A time of great expansive energy and celebration. This is the time to focus your power to give your dreams "lift off". Play
hard. Think of the energy as a drum circle reaches that fevered frenzied climax. Manifest!!!

Which brings us back to today.

I thought it important to look at the full year, as often people ask me how they can strengthen their connection with the earth, how can they feel more like they are a part of that big cycle. To me, one of the best ways to do this is to go out into a place during each of these turning points and to observe the changes, season by season. It doesn't matter if that spot is in a forest, a park, or your yard-- what matters is that you spend a little time, at least every six weeks, getting to know it. Watching how the plants change, which birds are there-- how the place sounds and smells, what the vibe is, through out the year, and how those changes relate to your own life.

So a little more about Lammas. As I mentioned, it is the celebration of the first harvests – the cutting of the grains and the corn. This is a holy day of transformation, for after the grains are cut, they are milled into flour and turned into bread to give us all sustenance. In a more mythic take, the god's sacrifice is seen through the personification of the grain into John Barleycorn, and his sacrifice. Another way to see it is that the bounty of solar energy is embodied in the grains now ripe for harvest, and it is time to prepare for the leaner months, which lie just ahead.

For people interested in holding a simple ceremony to mark this day, a great way to do it is to bake bread. While you are kneeding the dough you can focus on the connections within your community/ friends and family-- those with whom you will be eating the bread with later. Kneed thanks into the bread for the harvests, for sustenance, and for the love and connections in your life.

Invite loved ones over to eat this bread with you-- reflect on how much you have accomplished this year, and what more you need to do to feel satisfied. It is the holiday to assess how you can best adopt, adapt and improve your plans. While sharing the bread, don't forget to toss a chunk out for spirit-- making offerings is another way to experience deeper connections.

You can decorate your table with stalks of grains, and ask yourself and others what you need and how to support one another through the coming winter. Are there sacrifices that you need to make now to be reaped in the future?

You can braid those stalks of grains and keep them through the winter to keep the spirit of the harvest present until the next growing season.

So I want to hear how your year is going-- what are you harvesting, and what do you want from your community? What are you giving to your community? I am also interested in hearing about your celebrations-- what traditions do you keep?

Change Now!

It's my 42nd birthday (rather it was six-weeks ago, when I wrote this on July 18th), and I have very recently returned home from the Oregon Country Fair. As I assess my life at this turning point in my year, I am overall very, very grateful for the community of which I am a part, for love and laughter, for food and shelter, for right livelihood, for the spark of divinity we all share, and for the beauty of the earth surrounding me.

To all of my friends, family, community cohorts--- I thank you for enriching my life.

Let's look for further and deeper ways to create the new world founded in compassion, truth, & beauty. Let's make this week's headlines the impetus to do it now. Why not?

Big news of economic hard times this week-- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are in a bad way. Huh, who'da figured? Some people seem surprised, others wryly cynical, but no matter your attitude, in the end we need to strategize a way through the collapse of this system.

But wait, what if this isn't really the big, BIG collapse.... you've heard it before--- people are always crying the end of the world, and all. What about Y2k? The nuclear doomsday clock? It's tiring to live with an impending apocalypse. Still, here is another moment that the old system teeters.... we know, absolutely, that empires fall; they are like a house of cards-- I propose that we withdraw more of our support from this empire's base, and be ready when the house comes down. We know that this system is not sustainable, as no other empire has lasted, neither will this one. So why wait? It does little good to visualize radical transformation of our society and then be unprepared for the moments that are ripe for further transformations to unfold.

So how do we ready ourselves for the transformation? How can we work together to make a new community that is far more self reliant than the community we woke up in today? We don't need external experts, but we do need to be smart about organizing our resources. What networks and support systems can we help to form now? What do we take for granted? How much non-perishable food do you have in your house? What's your access like to fresh produce? Does the food you eat get trucked in from around the globe, heavily dependent on the oil industry to reach your table? What very practical skills do you have that you can share with your community? Can you make medicines? Build shelters? Clothing? Can you entertain, make music, spin stories and create the new myths to weave together our new world? How's your water use going? How are you at gardening & identifying edible foods? Do you know how to preserve foods? If you know how, do you do it?

It's time to put solidarity into action-- being kind to each other is not only pleasant, but will actually increase our viability-- we are stronger together, than alone. We must stand strong together-- lest we be vulnerable to being swept up in xenophobic propaganda. It is crucial that we deeply listen to each other, so that we can actively support one another. To work in solidarity with each other pivots on our basic understanding of each other's issues and needs, and to find how they connect with our own.

How's your consumption lately? I know that I am mending more things than I had been for a while. Remember the WWII jingle: Use it up, wear it out; make it do, or do without-- that certainly has a place now.

On the fourth of July, Cicely Rogers joined me on the talk radio show. She emphasized the importance of doing the work of readying ourselves to take advantage of opportunities to transform. I want to suggest that the time is now, right now, to engage in solidarity. Check in with those around you-- what needs aren't being met? How can you organize people to meet them? Is there a need to care for kids while some work? Is there a need to have help in a garden that folks without land can share? Do people have enough to eat? If not, can you organize feedings? It's time to get down to basics.

Check into our history-- there are brilliant examples of community defense and mutual aid. Check the actual history of the Black Panthers, of the Wobblies and late 19th century anarchists, of the 17th century Diggers. What can we learn and take with us. What do we want to create fully new?

What am I going to do differently, starting today, to help actualize this world? What are you going to do?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Healing Our World Requires Healing Ourselves

Last week I spoke Robert Jensen, who is a wonderfully radical author, organizer, and associate professor at University of Texas at Austin.

Jensen has written a new book entitled, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity. In it he examines the effect that porn has on us as consumers, and the effect that it has on the pervasiveness of violence against women in our current culture. He also examines how gender role socialization keeps men from being fully human, and ensure isolation, over compassion-- conquest over passion.

He makes a very compelling case, the new "gonzo" extreme porn is hardly the campy stuff I watched with friends, feeling all manner of libertine. This stuff is a not even veiled glorification (let alone reinforcement) of violence against women, and the cruelly detached macho guy persona. I would argue that this new porn really has little to do with sex and arousal, but much more to do with power over women, and assertion of male dominance. Why else would scenes end with women having their heads stuck in toilets that are flushed while the guy ejaculates on her back--- I ask what is sexy about that? And I ask this as someone who is not, by just about any stretch of the imagination, a prude--- just a compassion human being, who is concerned about what it says when men jerk off to images of women's heads being flushed.

He argues that it is a cycle of disconnection. That as we feel isolated, men may hold onto that one thing that started this cycle, and hold on tightly, they may not be able to feel tenderness, love, empathy, but at least they are a real man, prized in our society for being invulnerable, strong, and all those other things that go into "masculine".

He quotes men in the industry, and consumers of porn talking about how when they view porn they want to see a woman hurt, because they can fantasize that it's that bitch that hurt him, slighted him, rejected him--- and now she will pay.

Right--- I am disturbed by this.

I have often shied away from a public discussion on violence against women in porn, as there is always a rush of acceptance from a part of the movement that is steeped in puritanism. And this is not where I am coming from.

As I mentioned earlier, I do tend towards the libertine. I argue that sexuality, sensuality and pleasure are deeply personal things, and what works for some, does not have to work for all, and certainly do not require anyone's approval. As a bisexual gal, I didn't fit neatly into categories, and since my attraction is primarily to women, I have often accepted the term dyke, both for short hand, and for shock value. Besides, I have often found that "bisexual woman" in this culture too often is interpreted as "will sleep with a girl for her boyfriend's fantasies", at least by men.

As a radical feminist, I continued to break through stereotypes when I openly acknowledged that I enjoy SM play, as one of many ways of sexual expression. This was a center of raging debate at the Michigan Women's Music Festival, during my years as a worker-- I remember friends looking at me sadly, asking why I wanted to perpetuate the patriarchy (um, that just wasn't what was going through my head when I was, well, playing).

As a free speech advocate, I am very hesitant to engage in attempting legislation to limit what can be produced. When the first of such laws were enacted in Canada in the 1980s, the Canadian police raided a queer bookstore, and confiscated lesbian s/m erotica. I learned from that example--- the state has no interest in actually fighting patriarchy; their attempts to do so are comparable to the U$ fighting for freedom abroad, while actually spreading imperialism, and internalizing repression at home.

So what to do? How do we stop this cycle of disconnection and subjugation, without trying to legislate morality, or allowing another's morals to dictate my own practice?

At root, is getting over the enforced hierarchies assigned in our culture. Getting over the labels of masculine / feminine, getting over the dichotomous thinking that restricts our interactions to those of superior/inferior, and keeps us pitted against one another. Rigid gender role socialization continues. I still hear kids get fag baited-- boys who might actually show sensitivity being told that if they continue, they will be labeled a fag, and that comes with an inherent understanding that you are lesser, and that you could be beaten, or killed, for your transgressions. Did I mention that nationwide, violence against queers is up over 20% in the last year? As progressives, as caring and thinking people, we must decry the roots of this hierarchy, we must work to end gender socialization, and work to end homophobic violence that enforces the system.

It means a lot of honest introspection about what we have been taught. There are still a lot of people believing that the difference between rape and seduction is a sales job. We have a lot of un-learning to do, and that can best be done together, when we engage in honest conversation, as human beings, trying to live lives of empathy, empowerment and compassion.

Ahh, but as products of this system ourselves, how can we do this work? It takes courage, and love-- love for yourself and for the lot of us.

Let's begin. Let's dismantle the patriarchy.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

May Day!

Happy May Day!

The wheel of the year turns, and we all know that a turning wheel creates revolution, right?

Celebrate this joyous day, the greening of the year, the lives that we share-- interwoven into our community.

Do what you can to break out of your usual routine and recognize the sacred: within yourself, within the earth, within each other. The ancient idea of ritual was to do just that, to create a time where the usual is suspended, and we engage with the mysteries that surround us all the time. Make your own ritual, it just needs to be meaningful for you-- it isn't for anyone else. It need not involve May Poles, nor Morris Dancing. You don't even need a field or a bon fire (but hey, they are nice to utilize, if you happen to have 'em).

A few of my suggestions would be:

dance, ecstatically, alone or with friends
sing loudly
make love
watch birds
sit under a tree and connect with it- seriously, this is not just a cliche
watch a river, and listen to what it tells you
laugh out loud
say hello to strangers while looking them in the eye
walk in a way that pleases you
feel yourself in your body, love yourself
converse with divinity: god/dess / spirit

Let us all soak up the high energy of this holiday, this turning point, and let us re-write the game and re-create the world, together. Let that new world honor the individual, and the collective (as if this is an either or, dualistically limited choice!); let it celebrate and promote love, beauty, justice, sensuality, balance, sustainability, truth.

Many blessings to all on this day.
With Love, So Mote It Be!