Well, the Women’s March on Washington was a blast!
Now, as we have heard, the work begins.
This post will be long. I’m hoping some people out there will hear it through and give it some consideration.
As excited and energized as I was in and from DC last night, and as significant and important as the show of strength, power and unity among people of varying intersectionalities, I would caution against having many illusions about what a march can and cannot accomplish. Let’s face it: some very bad people have a disproportionately large amount of power right now. I point that out, not to give in to despair, but to simply state the facts. I suspect anyone who is in a dander about White House websites being taken down is in danger of burning out in a week. It’s wrong, and I respect the feelings of moral indignation many people have about it, but seriously.
I’m trans. An entire state went to extreme lengths of dismantling its democracy (looking at you North Carolina) simply for the purpose of denying trans people human rights HB2, for those who don’t know). I’d love it if people got as upset – and active – about that as they are about a website. Did anyone expect the least bit of respect from these people? Does anyone think any amount of online petitions is going to change their views? Don’t get me wrong, try anything. Maybe if enough people create enough of a fuss, some Republicans will mitigate the excesses of the party. But seriously. It’s going to go very badly for millions of us.
I am not interested in fretting over every stupid comment and bad policy that goes down in the foreseeable future. I believe that in order to get anything done, we need to be solution-oriented.
Yes, I will be making calls. I will be hitting the street. I will be exploring all the local, small, personal ways we all can act to create positive changes in dark times. It all matters, and it matters a lot. I do not believe, however, that it is nearly sufficient enough.
At the March, Michael Moore talked about taking over the Democratic Party. I’m not sure how many people heard that line, or understand the impetus behind it.
The fact is, the Democratic Party has failed an awful lot of people. I do not believe they will win unless they address these failings. Although the ideas I hope to develop over time may seem extreme to some people, I’m not actually saying anything unique. Many people on the left have pointed out the problems which I’d like to call attention to, from Noam Chomsky to Howard Zinn to Martin Luther King. MLK was proclaimed a hero for his speech on the Mall. He was assassinated for exposing and questioning the systems of oppression which lead to inequities in the first place. I’m not trolling the Democratic Party, but I do feel comfortable slaughtering a few sacred cows. Let me point out, I have no need for WIkileaks, or Pizzagate or Benghazi or any other questionable sources or conspiracy theories. Two main issues are so blatant, the Democratic Party has been courting them openly for decades: triangulation and neoliberalism.
A quick summation of the two philosophies goes something like this. Triangulation is the strategy whereby the Democratic Party has consciously, deliberately moved to the right. The idea is that by doing so, they can skim voters off the right, but those of us on the left will have to stick around, because we have nowhere else to go. The Clinton era brought us welfare reform, the prison industrial complex, and NAFTA, all important Republican policies, all of which did real harm to racial minorities, the middle class, and unions.
Here’s the fatal flaw of triangulation: Democrats don’t win elections by turning Republicans, they win elections through enthusiasm. Every time voter turnout increases, it works well for the Democrats. By abandoning the left, by abandoning the most vulnerable in society in search for Wall Street money – again, an open strategy, not a conspiracy theory, the Democrats give many citizens of the US little reason to get enthusiastic about their platform.
This leads to fatal flaw #2: neoliberalism. This is the basic concept that market solutions are best, that public money should be privatized, and that Wall Street should be less regulated, rather than more. I suspect not a lot of people understand how repealing the Glass-Steagall Act has trickled down to affect their lives, but they know they are being squeezed. Democrats have had little better to offer the public than the Republicans, and they lose a lot of people because of it.
Both of these pressures have shifted the Democratic Party to the right, in action and rhetoric, even while the majority culture is clearly shifting to the left. Trust me, when nearly half the country believes, at least theoretically, that trans people deserve equal rights, they are probably ready to welcome a whole lot of other exceptionalities to their table, as well.
Neoliberalism, and the Democratic Party, have been doing better on so-called identity politics. Don’t get me wrong. I understand how much worse things will be under Trump than any Democrat. I still contend that we are not doing enough.
The problem with piecemeal identity politics and incrementalism is that neither of these ideas questions the larger paradigm in which racism, sexism and homophobia, as well as other systems of dominance – exist. Once the conversation starts up about who is acceptable and who is not, about who gets a turn at small improvements and who has to wait – oh, yes, damn skippy – at the back of the bus, the moral high ground has been ceded. A few battles may be won, but the war is already lost.
Oppression and bigotry will never be beaten by supporting a system of oppression. The US was built on slavery, with women and the poor denied the right to vote. These systems did not end with the end of slavery, nor with women’s suffrage, nor with the civil rights movement. As long as we accept systems of dominance and oppression, we have no chance of ending bigotry.
I reject triangulation. I reject neo-liberalism. I reject incrementalism. I understand the realities of day to day living and compromises we all make, but I do not accept these philosophies as a starting point. We need to do better. And we can.
I believe the Women’s March on Washington has shown us a template for moving forward. In their list of values, I find common ground with ideas many progressives, myself included, have been promoting for a long time. Think about this: we just witnessed the largest rally in the history of the world. I was there. I felt the energy, I felt the enthusiasm, I felt – goddess help poor hippy-dippy me – the genuine love and caring of half a million people (plus sister marches!). All this under an absolutely unapologetically progressive platform. All with the genuine leadership, voices and inclusion of an incredibly wide array of intersectionalities. I’ve been doing this my whole life, and I was absolutely blown away, not only at the size and energy of the crowds, but by the breadth of intentionality and inclusion exhibited at all levels in the March.
I believe that yes, all the actions are necessary. I also believe we need to have a lot of real, long, deep conversations, not merely about individual actions, but about how we got here and what framework we adhere to moving forward. I believe these ideas matter. A lot. I am hoping to use Transcendanses as one platform for these discussions.
I’m worried as I see the Democratic Party turn a deaf ear to the many it has excluded and hurt. I’m worried that once we start talking about who it’s okay to defend, I will be tossed aside in a heartbeat. I love you all, I know you don’t intend it, but there is a long history of this happening.
I believe we need to take a deep look at the systems which allow a framework of bigotry and dominance, and that this work is important if we are truly going to build something lasting moving forward. I am hoping that at this unique moment of history, more people will be open to these questions, even while we recognize that many people benefit from them, including a lot of nice and deserving people.
I am not so vain as to assume I have all the answers. I am, however, plenty vain enough to suggest that my history In activism, my readings and conversations with a lot of people in a lot of groups over several years, and my status as a trans woman give me a unique and valuable voice and perspective on the challenges that lie ahead. I have literally been living on the front lines of the culture war since I came out and began living my life with the authenticity so many strive for. I am challenged and hurt by it regularly. I have faced, personally, more bigotry than most people even imagine, and I have felt the crushing weight of silence from so many others who are otherwise decent. Both have hurt, and almost as much. I have a decidedly different worldview than many other people I know. I struggle with the challenges of presenting these thoughts without getting overcome by my own emotions and assumptions.
We’re in for a rough number of years. I make no promises about where we will be, what the climate of the country will be, or even of our chances of effecting real change in a rigged game. I do believe, however, that the more we engage in these important conversations, the more we challenge ourselves and face our own privilege, the more we build our communities of activism moving forward, with openness and intentionality, the better we will all come out of it.
Sit, have a cuppa, and join in conversation.