Dissent. Diversity. Unity.

The World Is Burning—So Let’s Talk About Yoga Pants

in Resistance by

Yoga pants.

Yes, I know: everything we hold dear about our nation is being flushed down the toilet, and I’m asking you to read about yoga pants.

Maybe because I’m so overwhelmed with the Bannon-puppet Trump and the rest of the GOP that I can’t sustain a cohesive argument without ending up in all caps. Or maybe this is connected. Bear with me, and we’ll find out.

A friend of mine recently shared a photo he snapped of alt-right (yes, I hate that term too) protestors at a chocolate fair. (You read that right: protestors at a chocolate fair—this is how we know there’s something supremely wrong with their perception: Who protests chocolate? Backward people, that’s who.)

The sign he held up, listing off all the kinds of people who will be spending eternity in fire and damnation, isn’t new; I’ve seen it on social media before, and my friends and I always joke that we’ll be having a great party in hell together.

On this list are homos (I’m assuming he means -sexual, not sapiens, but honestly, I’m not sure), feminists, porn freaks, pot smokers, atheists (okay, guys, atheists are NOT scared by threats of hell—however, we might cower into submission if you send in the clowns), thugs, yoga pants, cutters, Muslims, witches, idolaters, and masturbators. (And let’s take a moment to appreciate that they finally figured out how to use Spell Check.)

Oh, he’s also wearing a shirt that says, “This is what patriarchy looks like.” Yes, dude, we know. We’re very familiar with patriarchy and all its incarnations. You’re a patriarchist. Got it.

But back to yoga pants.

My friend approached the guy, looked at the sign, and asked, “Yoga pants?” The man responded, “DRESSING LIKE WHORES!”

And this is why I’m writing.

I don’t believe that patriarchists have any trouble with women wearing clothes that patriarchists see as too revealing—that is, “dressing like whores.” If they did, there’s a long list of clothing articles that should also be there: mini-skirts, plunging v-necks, crop tops, tank tops, leggings, thigh-high boots, spandex body suits…

Or they could just put “whores” on the list. That would be more succinct. But they don’t.

Because they like whores.

Patriarchists define women solely by their sexuality in relation to men—virgins, wives, and whores. And they have a use for each one of these categories.

But women in yoga pants? Well, a woman wearing yoga pants is doing one of two things (or perhaps both): (1) doing something solely for herself, for her own well-being, and/or (2) not giving a shit about whether or not random dudes want to fuck her.

AND THERE IS THE SIN.

A woman in yoga pants sees the value in self-care and, thus, likely sees herself as being a full and equal human being.

For patriarchists, this is a sin.

A woman in yoga pants is expending her energy on prioritizing what’s important to her. She is giving her care to what she loves and values. She alone defines herself and shapes her life according to her own self-determination and goals.

For patriarchists, this too is a sin.

A woman in yoga pants isn’t living her life for you.

SIN.

In fact, if we go back to that list, every group of people on there (and many of us fall into multiple categories…because we’re awesome) lives according to their own values, priorities, sexual identities and preferences, avenues for pleasure, and modes of empowerment. And none of these is being done in service and subservience to white, cisgender, heterosexual, Christian males.

If you are a patriarchist, and someone who is not white, cisgender, heterosexual, Christian, and male DARES to make their way through their own life freely and autonomously and—worst of all—without a care for your indignation brought on by their insubordination, then you know what you have to do: Tell them they’re going to hell. Eternal damnation. Fire. Demons. Torture. Clowns. (I just threw that last one in there—I don’t recall clowns being mentioned in any canonical descriptions of hell.)

Keep this in mind when we talk about white supremacy, Muslim bans, racial discrimination, defunding reproductive services and ending guarantees for access to women’s healthcare, and on and on and on. EVERYTHING Trump (aka Bannon) and the GOP are doing has one, overarching goal:

To reinstate themselves at the top of the chain of power, and to put the rest of us back in our places—in subservience to them and them only.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to go stock up on yoga pants, and I’m going to wear them Every. Fucking. Day.

This is what equality looks like.

We’re Not Fracturing the Resistance—We’re Identifying Our Warrior Leaders…And Our Judas Iscariots

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Have you seen the June 2015 article from Breitbart entitled, “Here’s Why There Ought to Be a Cap on Women Studying Science and Maths,” which argues that “there ought to be a cap on the number of women enrolling in the sciences, maths, philosophy, engineering…and perhaps medicine and the law, too.” You can check it out to get the details, but yes, it’s as bad as it sounds.

This is just one of the many things Breitbart—run by Bannon, the guy who is now calling the shots behind the scenes of our nation—thinks about women. This is how they talk about women to each other. This is what they say as they high-five each other and shake their heads, thinking about how so much has been taken from them when others demand equality.

But this isn’t just about women, because if you check out Breitbart, you’ll see that women aren’t the only ones in their crosshairs. There are also people of color, of course, and anyone not Christian. And anyone not firmly and unquestionably heterosexual and cisgender. And poor people—those lazy, good-for-nothing people living in poverty. And it’s about the people who may not fall into any of those categories but are nonetheless allies of the people who do.

In fact, when you really look at who is being targeted by the Bannon agenda—the agenda that is getting free reign as Trump does everything Bannon wants him to do—it’s most of us.

And this is why we need to start looking past identity politics and start seeing what brings us together:

What do they want to do to all of us, and how do they plan to do it?

How can we come together to protect each other and help each other?

There are a lot of poor people who voted for Trump and are sexist and racist and homophobic, but we need to see what they won’t see: they’re on the hit list too, just further down. So let’s ask ourselves:

Are we prepared to protect them too? Even if they want to hurt us and the people we care about?

And most of all—we need to identify:

Who are our warrior leaders?

Who are the people not willing to sacrifice ANYONE to the Trump/Bannon agenda, no matter what?

Calling out our elected officials for being willing to compromise in the face of this existential threat is not “fracturing our movement”—it’s making clear that the leaders we fight behind and fight with must be fighting FOR ALL OF US. They must be leaders who will serve up no community as the sacrificial lamb in the name of “compromise” with fascism.

Because something like caps on professions may seem like something small, and we have to choose our battles, but a warrior leader will know that we must fight every step the opposition takes toward consolidating power. Every single step. Even the little ones. And when they don’t, when they vote with those who are pushing this fascist agenda, then they are compromising our lives.

ALL of our lives.

We must reject the narrative that tells us that pointing out the Judas Iscariots among us fractures and weakens us. Until we know who our false leaders are, we cannot know how we can fight with our warrior leaders.

January 11, FDR, and the Fight for the Second Bill of Rights

in History by

On Tuesday, January 11, 1944, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his unprecedented twelfth State of the Union address to the nation. On the advice of his doctors, the president, for the first time, delivered his address from the comfort of the White House rather than in front of a joint session of Congress. Considering how difficult it was for him to stand and deliver remarks at all, it marked another softening of his stance toward the public knowledge of his disability. He had been a paraplegic for over two decades now, and in a little over a year he would publicly speak on the fact that he “walked” with the help of two steel braces that supported his full frame.

In his prepared remarks the president spoke of the successes the United States and its “United Nations” (UN) had delivered against the Axis Powers in the theaters of North Africa, Italy, and the South Pacific. He spoke of the need for continued US involvement in world affairs after the war was won, noting the terrible consequences that isolationism had brought during the interwar years. He also turned his remarks to domestic affairs and the abrupt change that peace would bring to the nation and its people. There were already fears of explosive inflation once favorable wartime spending was gone. Unions, women, and many minorities feared that their hard-fought rights and wages in wartime America would be dismantled or taken away once the 20 million GIs came back home.

Then, nearing the conclusion of his half-hour speech, the president began to speak about his vision for a postwar America once the war was over. He began,

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill housed, and insecure.

Harkening back to the beginning of the nation, Roosevelt spoke of how the country’s founding fathers had—for the first time—established a nation based on certain political rights and liberties such as the freedom of worship, speech, press, and so forth. Then came the crescendo he was famously known for:

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.

The president then outlined to the nation—and, indeed, the world at large—eight proposed economic rights that he believed would spell the foundation of economic and human well-being in the United States and around the world.

  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
  • The right of every family to a decent home;
  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
  • The right to a good education.

He then climaxed his remarks with an exclamation point, saying,

All of these rights spell security, and after this war is won, we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens. For unless there is security here at home, there cannot be lasting peace in the world.

This, coming from a sitting president of the United States while in the middle of the largest global conflict the world has ever known. Today these words may seem so foreign to us in their implications, considering the Pax-Americana that followed. Some might be discouraged by how little of the president’s splendid goals have seen fruition since 1945.

To me, however, I am always struck by how much of the Roosevelt’s vision lives on in the programs he either helped originate or inspire.

César Chávez at a March for Education Rally in the 1970s.

Today, while the right to associate has been under constant threat here in the United States, the world has seen the greatest increase in the human standard of living due to increased wages and benefits, thanks in no small part to unions and collective bargaining.

US Census Bureau Chart showing the declines in poverty during FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society and War on Poverty. Sadly, the United States still has the highest childhood poverty rate in the world.

When Roosevelt first became president in 1933, over two-thirds of all seniors lived in poverty. Today, thanks to such government programs as Medicare and Social Security, less than 10 percent of all seniors now live below the poverty line, and in the most recent economic recession, that number fell instead of rising, as it did in all other groups.

President Roosevelt’s widowed wife, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, proudly displays the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights to reporters after its adoption by the General Assembly in 1946.

The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights today embodies many of the rights that President Roosevelt considered essential to maintaining human betterment and peace. All nations should abide by its tenants or face the collective impunity of the nations of the world.

The Rural Electrification Administration (now known as the Rural Utilities Administration) provided electricity to the most far-flung areas of the nation, reducing the hard labor and high costs of farming before mechanization and electricity.

Today, thanks to such government programs such as the Rural Utilities Administration, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Homeowners Loan Corporation, and the Federal Labor Standards Act, all the citizens of our country can have electricity in rural areas, refinance their home mortgage to a more favorable contract, and organize in their shops and companies to receive fair contacts and benefits.

Norman Rockwell’s famous depictions of FDR’s Four Freedoms speech from 1941 citing freedom from want and fear as well as freedom of speech and worship. These freedoms would prove to be the foundation of his later “Second Bill of Rights” Address.

This is the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt and his grand vision of “a lasting peace.” Although we may not be at that point in our society as yet, nothing should deter us from reaching for this vision. In doing so, we will pick up the mantle of our forebears in helping to maintain and strive for “a more perfect union.”

The Hypocrisies of Our Left-Wing Echo Chambers Will Destroy Us

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In the days and weeks after the 2016 election, many of us on the left were shocked. Some blindsided, some devastated but not surprised, others bewildered.

After months of putting Trump’s racist, ableist, sexist remarks—and only those remarks—on a 24/7 loop in our left-wing, self-created echo chambers, we couldn’t understand how anyone could vote for Trump unless they were raging, unapologetic racists and misogynists.

So we pulled ourselves out of our shocked states by releasing a damning, name-calling tirade against anyone who voted for Trump.

It felt good, didn’t it?

It felt so good to hurl invectives and vow to fight till our dying day those awful, horrible people.

Because they’re hateful. And we’re not.

“Love Trumps Hate,” we told ourselves as we looked down on them and reduced them to one-dimensional caricatures so we can generalize about who they are and what they’re capable of—effectively dehumanizing them.

We’re the good guys, we told ourselves.

But some voices, including Bernie Sanders, have piped up out of the morass of indignant anger to argue that Trump wasn’t just making racist and sexist remarks—he was saying other things as well, things we didn’t register because we only listened to his incendiary rhetoric.

Some have pointed out that Trump struck a chord with people who feel left behind by our current economic system, people who feel angry that their lives and their values are being forgotten, if not demeaned.

But we won’t stand for that, now will we?

No. If you voted for Trump because he said he was going to shake up Washington politics (yes, I know, he has failed on that promise), because he wasn’t part of some entrenched political dynasty that has been failing our country for decades, or because he adamantly opposes the “free trade” deals that have eviscerated much of our working class, no matter. If you didn’t NOT vote for him because of his racist and sexist remarks, you’re a racist and misogynist and that’s all you are.

And just as we don’t watch your news shows and read your news sites (and thus don’t see what they’re emphasizing, what they’re saying, how they’re shaping your perception), we’re not going to listen to you and we’re not going to talk to you because, we say, hate is unacceptable.

We will shut you out and shut you down and shut you up…because love trumps hate.

Meanwhile, an African American named Daryl Davis has made it his mission to reach out to, talk with, listen to, and ultimately become friends with members of the KKK and other hate groups. The process has been slow, and I’m sure it’s rarely been easy, but as a result of his willingness to see them as people, to listen to their viewpoints, to open a door between himself and them, 200 of them have changed their views and renounced their memberships in the KKK.

Martin Luther King said, “You cannot drive out hate with hate: only love can do that.” Davis’s efforts exemplify this.

If just 1% of us were willing to enter into spaces where we are perceived as the cultural enemy and instead just show them that we are human—complex, flawed, products of our environment and circumstances, and yet capable of love—and that we see them as human and worthy of compassion and empathy, imagine the impact we could make.

No, we won’t convert everyone. But we could shift the balance. We could change the narrative.

Conversely, recently singer Kim Burrell was disinvited from appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show after she called the LGBT community “perverted.” DeGeneres said she chose to not allow Burrell on her show because she did not want to “give her a platform after she was saying things about me.”

I get it. Talking with people who say racist, sexist, homophobic things is hard. Listening to them with a level head and not reacting in disgust and condemnation is even harder. Having difficult conversations with people who hold not just different but socially destructive views and trying to see where they’re coming from—how can anyone do that? After all, if we see where they come from, will we become racist, sexist, and homophobic too?

But if you don’t know where someone is coming from, don’t understand where they are, then how can you bring them to a better place?

Many have argued that it doesn’t matter that millions of rural and working-class white people struggle economically and culturally. That we should not care about the white rural and working-class perception that they are being left behind while minorities get special treatment (yes, I know, this is a distorted perception, but it’s their perception nonetheless) and their financial duress (after all, many of us feel that same duress, and yet we refuse to discriminate, so they should too, even though there are myriad other circumstances affecting how each individual processes their own reality).

They say we should not try to empathize, should not listen with compassion and respect because we know their perception is distorted and their values are based on hate. They say we should disregard Trump voters’ pain, struggle, and isolation. Because we’re right, they’re wrong, so what they feel is invalidated.

But we disregard and dismiss their lived realities at our own peril. As we scare ourselves shitless drawing comparisons between Trump and Hitler, we forget that Hitler came to power as a result of the combination of draconian international sanctions and punishments on the German people following WWI and widespread anti-Semitic propaganda. If the German people’s lives had not been reduced to desperate penury and cultural ostracism within the European community, there would have been very little fuel for the anti-Semitic propaganda that elevated Hitler and the Nazi Party to power.

When people muse about going back in time and killing young Hitler in his cradle, they imagine that if they separated the head from the body of the beast of Nazi Germany, then the horror it wreaked never would have happened.

As though Hitler, and Hitler alone, caused the infectious hatred, the devastating inhumanity, the widespread destruction.

Instead, what if you could go back in time and change the Treaty of Versailles. What if you could prevent the post-WWI punishment of the German people? What if you could remove the body from the head?

It’s easy to condemn Trump voters. But when we do that we are not only strengthening the arms and legs of the Trump beast; we are also lying to ourselves when we think that we are not being hateful as well.

We can and must love better.

No, Progressives Aren’t Afraid of the Word “Liberal”

in Political Thought by

I’ve recently heard it said and many blindly accept that people who call themselves “progressive” do so because they have become afraid of the term “liberal” ever since conservatives led a “liberal” smear campaign.

This claim implies that:

  1. people who call themselves “liberal” and people who call themselves “progressive” are fundamentally the same, hold about the same values, and seek very similar policy reforms. The only difference, according to this claim, is that…
  2. progressives are afraid of owning the word “liberal” or, more to the point, that people who call themselves “progressive” are afraid, which in turn implies that people who call themselves “liberal” are courageous.

First, it should be pointed out that the term “progressive” historically precedes “liberal” as these words are currently used in America. When West Wing’s Matt Santos says that it was liberals who have always fought on the right side of history, he is being anachronistic: the term liberal was not applied in that way at many of his historic examples; indeed, it was progressives who fought for policies that changed the face of America. The Progressive Era (1890s–1920s) helped enact many standards of our nation today—the 40-hour work week, the weekend, that child labor is illegal and considered wrong, and so on. And progressives laid the groundwork for now-integral programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

The government programs and regulations that have kept America from degrading into a brutal, inhumane, and depraved society have come into being through the actions of people who proudly called themselves “progressive.”

And yet people still claim that liberals and progressives are fundamentally the same. This claim is difficult to disprove simply because there is not one, universally accepted definition for either term, though you can find several articles online attempting to parse the difference. David Sirota argues that today’s liberals want to help people through government subsidies but are unwilling to impose impactful government regulations or create game-changing programs; instead, liberals want to throw tax-payer money at a problem to temporarily ease the discomfort, whereas progressives want to solve the problem at its root.

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is one example of liberal vs. progressive approaches. The ACA’s original proposed legislation was a hybrid of liberal and progressive solutions to the problem of the dysfunctional US healthcare system that leaves millions unable to access affordable care. In addition to the reforms and programs we are all familiar with, including Medicaid subsidies, the original bill also included strong government regulation of insurer premiums as well as a government-run insurer that would compete with the private insurers (the public option) and, likely, bring private rates down as a result.

But insurance company lobbyists had a talk with the liberals who run our Democratic Party, and the progressive elements of the legislation were the first to be scrapped. We were sold the promise that Medicaid with subsidies, along with toothless and spotty regulation, would be enough to create universal healthcare for all Americans.

But today 30 million Americans remain uninsured, and an estimated 32 million are underinsured—that’s 62 million Americans who can’t afford to get sick.

The liberal vision for creating universal health coverage in the United States, divorced from progressive oversight, regulation, and policy, has failed.

And when we compare the positions and policy proposals of self-proclaimed progressives to those of self-proclaimed liberals, the difference that emerges is indeed one of courage—but not on the part of liberals.

Progressives are fighting to make our national minimum wage a living wage to pull millions of people out of poverty—and, incidentally, off of government-assistance programs, which would mean saving billions of tax-payer dollars every year, money that is now essentially subsidizing the labor costs of very profitable corporations.

Liberals, however, have meekly and reluctantly been pulled and pressured to state that they would support—not propose or fight for—a $12 minimum wage, which would help people in some areas of the United States but would still leave many, many others struggling to survive below the poverty line.[1]

And while both progressives and liberals accept the science of climate change, it is progressives who are fighting hard to do something about it—seeking to aggressively transform our energy system (which, incidentally, would also make energy cheaper and more accessible to everyday people as well as create millions of jobs that cannot be shipped overseas), halt the increasingly dangerous extraction and transport of fossil fuels, and help those communities that will be impacted the most by the oncoming devastation of climate change.

Liberals, meanwhile, make a few symbolic and largely surface protections and regulations but are unwilling to meaningfully take on the entrenched fossil fuel corporate interests.

In fact, when Native Americans stood their ground (literally, they stood on THEIR ground—the land is theirs, and it is sacred) to stop the construction of an oil pipeline from being run through their water supply—and, by the way, the water supply of 17 million other Americans—progressives fought alongside them. It was progressives who took a moral stand and stated clearly and unequivocally that it is WRONG to support corporate oil interests over the rights of Native Americans and despite our critical need to start aggressively addressing climate change and protecting our world for future generations.

And during the months-long Dakota Access Pipeline standoff, liberal Democrats and, in particular, Hillary Clinton—then the Democratic nominee for president and the person liberals proudly hold up as their standard-bearer—stayed silent. They equivocated and said “no comment” amid pleas from the water protectors that they take a moral stand, that they do what they had previously said they would do: protect Native American rights and act to address climate change. But instead, Clinton and other liberals were morally spineless.

And it is here, when we compare progressives with liberals, that we see the myth break down.

No, progressives and liberals are not the same.

No, progressives are not afraid.

We are not afraid to call out, clearly and emphatically, what is right and what is wrong. We are not afraid to be put in conservatives’ rhetorical crosshairs.

We are not afraid to be radical—because that is not only who we are; it is what we do.

The word “radical” means to “get to the roots.” Progressives seek to solve our society’s greatest problems and challenges not through moral equivocation, not through back-room corporate compromise, not by clipping gingerly at the edges, but by diving in, getting our hands dirty, and fixing what’s broken.

We seek intelligent, meaningful change. Progressives truly fight for people, for our world, for our future.

Vision.

Moral strength.

Courage.

That is the difference between progressives and liberals.

 

[1] The living wage varies by geographic location. You can find your area’s living wage here. Although it is the general progressive position that the national minimum wage should be changed to a flat $15/hour, I disagree with this approach. I believe we should create legislation that mandates that the minimum wage be tied to the living wage, to be determined by a handful of independent agencies, and it should vary by locality. This not only would help ensure that the living wage is appropriate for each local economy but would also incentivize local businesses and chambers of commerce to look more closely at their fellow businesses’ practices—and how those practices may inflate an area’s living wage in a way that benefits only themselves while hurting the greater community.

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