Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Four things US President Barack Obama did not say in response to Republican Congressman Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin yesterday:

"JUSTICE IS JUSTICE. And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of justice we’re talking about doesn’t make sense to the American people and certainly doesn’t make sense to me. So, what I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are white, making justice decisions on behalf of people of color."

"MURDER IS MURDER. And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of murder we’re talking about doesn’t make sense to the American people and certainly doesn’t make sense to me. So, what I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are imperialists, making military decisions on behalf of innocents abroad."

"CLIMATE CHANGE IS CLIMATE CHANGE. And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of climate change we’re talking about doesn’t make sense to the American people and certainly doesn’t make sense to me. So, what I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are corporate stooges, making harmful resource extraction decisions on behalf of human and nonhuman cultures and ecosystems."

"HEALTHCARE IS HEALTHCARE. And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of healthcare we’re talking about doesn’t make sense to the American people and certainly doesn’t make sense to me. So, what I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are in bed with insurance and pharmaceutical corporations, making healthcare decisions on behalf of the poor and vulnerable."

Instead, the first US President to ever have a "kill list" and assume the authority to command that any person, anywhere, may be killed for any reason, at any time, said that rape is rape, and that we shouldn't parse it, and that "we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making healthcare decisions on behalf of women."

And now I am angry and confused. The de facto dominant mass cultural message emanating from people repulsed by Akin's utterly repugnant ideas about rape, women's reproductive rights, and human biology, seems to be that since some or many US Republicans will support laws that negate women's rights, the coming federal elections are a referendum on these rights, and so Democrats must be supported in these elections.

But there is a fallacy here. Democrats, and Barack Obama chief among them, have a record of sustained campaigns of terror against women. Every time a bomb is dropped, a rocket is launched, or a bullet is fired by US military abroad, we must consider these to have targeted women. Every time a trained killer, who must obey orders and not his conscience, is stationed somewhere, he is a threat to women. Every time a vote is cast to increase the cash flow from struggling folks to the Pentagon, it is a vote against women. Women, specifically. Women suffer the most in war. They suffer the most from the belligerent occupying forces, the exploitative corporations, the local creeps taking advantage of the chaos.

And women suffer the most in wars that are undeclared, but are wars nonetheless. Obama has proven himself an enemy of the environment. His policies, from his embrace of nuclear power to his enthusiasm for hydrofracking to his duplicitous zeal for tar sands mining to his commitment to "offshore" oil drilling, are contributing to the horrendous condition of our air, water, soil, climate. The effects - fires, floods, food scarcity, toxics everywhere, and so forth - are felt hardest by the most vulnerable in all societies. These are never politicians, never (white) men, never the wealthy, anywhere on Earth.

What was Obama saying about rape last week? Where was his concern? Women were still being raped, were still being harassed for seeking healthcare, were still being denied their rights. Obama's most important piece of legislation has been his giant gift to health insurance companies.

The political expediency of his response to Akin reveals exactly who he is: not committed to social justice issues. Like all rat-bastard politicians, including his opponent Mitt Romney, he is committed to himself, and satisfying the whims of those who pull his strings. Now I'm thinking about how fast he suspended his political campaign and rushed to Aurora, Colorado, when James Holmes shot up a movie theater there. And now I'm thinking about how he did not do that when Wade Michael Page did the same to a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin a few weeks later.

I am witnessing not just politicians, but their supporters, segregate their moral concern. It is intellectually dishonest and it is ineffectual in bringing about real social change. Today I saw an inspiring statement: Rise Up or Shut Up. It is a reminder of what it means to be truly committed to social and political change. Someone who is genuinely committed to the rights of women does not wait until a "Legitimate Rape"-ist like Todd Akin speaks before advancing the notion that actually no, women should rule their own bodies. Someone who is genuinely committed to the rights of women does not bomb them, does not starve them, does not torture their brothers and sons, does not run toxic pipelines across their farmland, or their aquifers, or their sacred sites, does not accept political bribes from corporations that toss women and men out of their homes, or that draft legislation funneling them into lives lost in the for-profit prison-industrial complex.

Perhaps the argument I am trying to make is convoluted. I am writing while I am angry. I am angry because I don't distinguish between men who rape and men who legislate rape. And I don't distinguish between kinds of rape. And I don't segregate the victims of rape. It is a rapist mentality that keeps bombing people in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Yemen. It is a rapist mentality that drills into the seabed looking for oil. And I think we can struggle against the individual rapes and the collective rapes, the Republican rapes and the Democrat rapes, without feeling ourselves thrown into the clutches of a different rapist on election day. We will not stop this rapist culture with votes. Rise up or shut up!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I don't know any cops. I see them on the street but usually they don't see me, because I don't fit the profile of the people they target for harassment, kidnappings, and murder.

Maybe you know some cops? A few weeks ago I was discussing the New Jim Crow with two friends, women who also want to see a fast end to the institutional racism in the US that preys on people of color to fill its prisons, ghettos, and morgues. I made the totally uncontroversial statement that all cops are bastards, only to remember, as I spoke, that one of my friends is the daughter of a cop.

I did not take back my statement, or apologize, but I did listen as she described her cop father: a man, she said, whose inclinations were anti-racist, toward genuine public safety, toward justice, who complained (at home) about dirty deeds on the force.

A few days later, cops in Anaheim, California executed Manuel Diaz in the street. Diaz, a 25-year-old community member accused of no crime, was shot from behind, as he ran with two other men in the opposite direction of the armed men trained to kill who were chasing him. Diaz was unarmed. After hand-cuffing him, police shot him in the back of the head at close range.

Members of that same police force responded to the families, who assembled in the neighborhood to demand justice, just like a bunch of cowardly bastards, firing bean bags from shotguns, firing rubber bullets, and letting loose an attack dog. The small, unarmed crowd included infants.

These cops then offered cash in hand to people in the crowd for their cellphones, presumably to dispose of the evidence of their disgusting crimes, which anyway found its way to network news and the Internet. Within 24 hours, these same cops murdered another community member, Joel Acevedo.

"Known gang members" is the way the police force, and the compliant media, justified these murders. "Police involved shooting" is the way the press describes them, and the numerous other acts of lethal, extra-judicial aggression this particular police force has committed in 2012.

Here's a reminder: so far, this year, a person of color is murdered by the state or its vigilante proxies every 36 hours in the US. I don't have the exact numbers for when American cops initiate beatings, sexual harassment, sexual assault, public humiliations, violations of privacy, threats, thefts, kidnappings and so forth. You can look up the numbers on incarcerations for non-violent offenses, for the way folks are kidnapped from their communities and stripped - with classless, colorblind laws that target people of color and the poor - of their rights to work, receive public assistance, vote.

And since I began this piece, I read of Chavis Carter, a young man who was stopped by cops in Jonesboro, Arkansas, searched multiple times, handcuffed, and thrown in the back of a police car. At some point after this, a bullet entered his right temple and killed him, and the pigs say it was a suicide. These cops are bastards.

What does it take for a cop to not be a bastard? To denounce, loudly and clearly, this kind of behavior. To refuse to participate in it. To refuse to protect the State from the people it is entrusted to serve. To refuse to protect corporations from people protesting their misdeeds. To refuse to protect private power, period. To recognize the functional difference between municipal police and the military.

Want to be a hero to the community? Escort vulnerable folks, without a gun. Be helpful, without a badge. Be responsible, without a uniform. But if you wear a uniform, if you wear a badge, if you carry a gun, know that the State no longer sees you as an individual, but as a weapon yourself. That's how it uses you, that's how it dispatches and discharges you. Know that many of the rest of us see you that way too, and with good reason.

If you wear a uniform and a badge, if you carry a gun, go ahead and demand accountability from the force, see how far that gets you. Remember that you are supposed to serve the community, not the force. Remember that the mass incarcerations and killings by police are done in your name and that, wearing that uniform, we see you as duplicate expressions of the same idea. Are you a weapon against us? What are you a weapon for?

If the cop in your life is still a cop, it means that he (or she) has not threatened the good ol' boys club with demands for accountability, but really it means that he (or she) hasn't risked job and benefits in a society that criminalizes joblessness and health problems. It means that they collude (actively, or by their silence) with other members of the force to alter or hide evidence of police crimes. It means they go out on the street, trained to kill, with weapons loaded, knowing damned well that we live in a society that targets people of color, youth, and poor folks, and have the temerity to expect respect, even praise.

I am about done writing when I read another story about murderous cop bastards, this one out of New York City, where the mayor brags "I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world." Two days ago a swarm of these forces loyal to arch-plutocrat Bloomberg confronted Darrius Kennedy in Times Square. I am going to go out on a limb and say that a reasonable response to being confronted by multiple armed killers is to protect yourself. Kennedy pulled a knife and started to back away. I suppose Kennedy had mental health issues, and if this society cared to address them, it wouldn't shoot him dead in broad daylight.

Ten shots, I think I read, to slow down this one agitated man, from a police force well practiced at containing thousands of Occupy Wall Street activists at a time for the past year. Brave? No. Accountable? No. Just? Not at all.

Again, what were these cops a weapon against? Who were they a weapon for? Here is an account from social justice activist Kelly Rose Pflug-Back, who writes that

Will we live in fear of the State's municipal police forces or will we demand accountability and exact justice from them? Are all cops bastards? Let the bravest ones lay their weapons down, step forward, and prove otherwise.

Thursday, August 09, 2012


Because it bears repeating,

and regarding the anniversaries of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, civilian population centers in a country ready to surrender,

and regarding the billowing plumes of black smoke spilling out from the Chevron refinery in Richmond, California and into the lungs of the largely poor, black, and immigrant population there,

and regarding the US president who still takes cash from the nuclear industry, and thinks that hydrofracking should be exempt from clean air and water standards, and that BP and Shell and ExxonMobil and the rest should drill for oil, right there, offshore, in the fucking sea,

and regarding the drone aircraft that killed another ten men (and who knows how many women?) in Yemen earlier this week, ten men whose crime was their age, their gender, and the audacity to live where they live, making them "militants" (against whom? for what reason? in what war?),

and regarding the laying of the Keystone XL Pipeline across North America, from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, cutting like a dull, rusty knife through aquifers and mountains, wetlands and woodlands, prairies and farms, cutting through lands where genocide has taken place, cutting to line the pockets of a few men, the moral and biological descendents of those who committed the genocide,

and regarding the sending of spacecraft (military, scientific, commercial) through the atmosphere and into outerspace, the only atmosphere we have, our protection on this planet, the atmosphere that NASA must share with every species, and most of us never asked NASA to put us all at risk so that a camera could snoop around Mars anyway,

and regarding the white men who won't examine their fear and hatred, who lash out with violence against any "othered" individual or group, men like that white supremacist piece of garbage who brought his hatred to a Sikh temple in Wisconsin last weekend, putting to predictable work his years of training and indoctrination by the US military,

and regarding the asshole president who speaks of "soul-searching" after such a predictable bloodbath, while maintaining a kill list, the right to kill anyone, anywhere, for any reason, while defending war, defending apartheid, promoting the idea that remote-controlled aircraft armed with missiles and bombs, and covering the globe make anyone safer, and turning his back, like a fucking coward, on climate science, on American racism, on class warfare,

and regarding the murder of Marvin Wilson by the state of Texas a few days ago, a man who was so easy to kill, with an injection of poison into his bloodstream, and so difficult for people to defend, with his black skin, and his mental disability, which the racist, backward state compared in its murderous legal reasoning, its own intellectual deficiency, to a fictional character in the Steinbeck story Of Mice and Men,

and regarding the fact that at no time in history have so many people been imprisoned as there are, now, in the United States, and they are so disproportionally drawn from poor, black, and latino communities, and this is neither brave, nor free, nor secure, but unmitigated evil,

and regarding the hateful mass of people, who call themselves Christians, but whose charity amounts to eating the cooked flesh of industrially tortured chickens rather than countenancing the notion that their very neighbors might love who and how they wish to love, without fear,

and regarding the channeling of stolen wealth toward corporate stooge politicians amidst a backdrop of school closings, teacher layoffs, home foreclosures, and the absence of mental health resources to those pushed to the edge of despair by this shithouse culture,

but mostly because the degree to which the following sounds wrong to you reveals the degree to which you need to hear it again, to turn it around in your thoughts, to realize not everyone has it as good and easy as you,

god damn America.