Monday, November 21, 2016

Resisting Trump

By Kelly Cogswell

I take good news where I can find it in Trump's woman-hating, neo-Nazi, gay-bashing, Muslim-registering, anti-Semitic America. Last week, it arrived from a climate change conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, where delegates from 197 countries united to approve a statement urging immediate action in the face of Donald Trump's promise to pull out of the Paris Agreement and defund international efforts.

In one of his last appearances as Secretary of State, John Kerry delivered an emotional speech declaring that despite Trump's election, the U.S. fight against climate change wasn't over. Market forces would ensure a transition to a low carbon world even if policy didn't, because investments in renewable energy were absolutely exploding. And the vast majority of Americans supported action even if a powerful minority didn't.

I hope so. I really do. But the real reason this news cheered me a little was that I also learned that California was exploring how to join the climate talks as a subnational party if, or when, Trump makes good on his threat. In short, California is looking for ways to resist.

There's a good chance they can. The UN Convention on climate change declares "Any body or agency, whether national or international, governmental or non-governmental, which is qualified in matters covered by the Convention, and which has informed the secretariat of its wish to be represented at a session of the Conference of the Parties as an observer, may be so admitted unless at least one third of the Parties present object."

Even if they get thwarted by the Trump admin or Russian ally, nothing stops California, or New York or Oregon, from passing more stringent regulations. Now, at least, American states can still find ways to resist on an international level every time the official representatives of our country act against our interests. They can also guarantee abortion rights and minimum wages. For once, the tradition of respecting state's rights in the U.S. may work in the favor of progressives.

In other good news, individual cities like New York and San Francisco have declared that they won't participate in mass deportations and other unconscionable, bigoted acts, like any efforts to register Muslims. On Sunday, some New York politicians from the local, state, and federal level even jointly marched against hate and condemned Trump's administrative appointments. While press conferences aren't enough for the long run, they show that our daily protests have paid off. For now. Because no politician ever opens their mouths unless they think it will win them votes.

In the long run, we'll have to do both. Lay down in front of bulldozers and, like California, look for back doors not just to resist, but progress. Which means we activists have to commit ourselves to unraveling how our various levels of government actually work, understanding for instance the relationship between the beat cop and the Justice Department. The State Department and a queer film festival in Ankara.

Too many of us have seen our LGBT rights as a simple Christmas list of important issues, not as intertwined civil rights dependent on the health of our democracy and things like free speech and assembly. Clean votes. From now on, queer issues must include not just marriage equality or gender recognition, but the gerrymandering of voter districts, the suppression of voter rights, an independent judiciary actually committed to administering justice equally regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or race.

Not to say we should ignore specifically queer issues, but that we should see them in context. If you thought trans women of color had it tough before, imagine trying to work for their safety under a Justice Department led by a neo-Nazi. Every anti-bullying law everywhere will be under attack as well, along with hate crime ordinances. Those queers who couldn't access marriage in anti-gay regions, will face even worse obstacles. AIDS, in this new anti-gay, anti-Obamacare era, will probably hit us hard along with an epidemic of despair and self-loathing.

The worse things get, the more important it will be to demonstrate and put our queer, our brown, our black flesh out there, reminding politicians that we are not abstractions. And reminding ourselves of the power we have acting with, and for, each other.

It's not easy to take to the streets right now. Even experienced activists are still shell-shocked, and frightened. And we should be. It's easier to throw protesters in jail. And many of us are older, and already concerned about the vulnerabilities of our bodies. Getting hit by a cop or a bystander may not just put us out of commission for a few months, it may kill us.

And yet. And yet... "When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." Audre Lorde.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

When Trump Is King

By Kelly Cogswell

We could have done it. Had the first female President of the U.S. And one of the smartest, most prepared executives ever, but never underestimate misogyny. Never underestimate the vast selling power of hate and fear, and a sensationalist, ratings grabbing media that insisted on covering Trump as if he was a candidate like any other. Not a crook, a predator, a thug, a sleazebag racist openly endorsed by the KKK, and helped into office by a Russian dictator, a cowed FBI director, and the likes of Julian Assange who's not a radical truth-teller, just a resentful, but powerful, little fuck in some embassy basement.

What I really want to know is, what are we going to do about it? What are the Democrats? When Florida Republicans stole the vote in 2000 (later verified by the New York Times), none of the white Senate Dems protested during the roll call, and Gore was like, Gee shucks, what's a guy gonna do? Then the whole party rolled over as George W. conned the country about weapons of mass destruction, and followed him into a war that most of them now, including Clinton, acknowledge was a huge mistake.

So there you go. Afghanistan was succeeded by Iraq. And environmental treaties gutted or put aside, and almost every international agreement suspended for oil profiteering with Bush aided and abetted by a mainstream media that didn't dare, for instance, use the word torture to describe what resulted because his administration was so vindictive that rags like the Times were afraid their journalists would be excluded from a press conference or something. Then, the impact was mostly abroad. Domestically Bush made nice, never once called Latinos rapists, and had in his cabinet black and brown people like Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, and torture apologist Alberto Gonzales.

Trump is not even gonna play that. Not with a Republican Congress at his back. We're gonna see wackjob Giuliani redux, a Gingrich thrilled that Trump has promised to deport immigrants, destroy the Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade, roll back marriage equality among other monstrous things. On the global level, Trump scorns not just specific agreements but the whole idea of international cooperation on trade, defense. If somebody annoys you, just nuke 'em, though handsomely reward your extreme right pals like Putin, France's Marine Le Pen.

So what I want to know is, are the Democrats and the media gonna roll over again, kiss goodbye the rule of law, accept dirty and missing votes, suppression of speech, of assembly, a politicized judiciary just so they can keep access? Make money? There's no question that all the Republicans who turned their backs on Trump last week are gonna kiss his ass today. But will the Democrats and the media bi-partisan and co-operate this country to death? Are they gonna throw the entire world under that very big fucking bus?

I really do need to know. My household's kinda vulnerable you see. Two queer females. One dependent on Obamacare. Another an immigrant. I wish I'd done more. But I've been paralyzed with a kind of sick fear. This country can be so ugly. The only moment I felt vaguely hopeful was last Saturday, when I went to Clinton's campaign headquarters downtown to get tickets to her election night rally and saw the enthusiastic mix of races and ages bent over their phones, sending texts to get out the vote under a distant banner acknowledging Orlando.

Everybody looked so calm and happy it made me a little teary. When I saw a woman take her two young daughters to pose in front of some Hillary signs, I nearly sobbed. I wonder if they're going to find some way to keep participating now that my fellow Americans have voted, not just for Trump, but against Hillary, against the last eight years of LGBT progress, new black and Native American activism, and women, women, everywhere.

Some of us will get lost in fear, or embrace an ugly cynicism because many of us imagined as I did growing up that our system of democracy was somehow as fixed and invulnerable as a statue of blindfolded Justice in which her scale never wavered. And when I began to understand misogyny, racism, homophobia, classism, and that nothing was fixed, or guaranteed, the whole thing did seem rigged, like lies. I felt ashamed and guilty, and ready to keep the whole country at arm's length as if I could avoid contamination.

We can't. We shouldn't. The truth is that we are not the best country in the world, nor are we the worse. Not yet. We have done great things, and horrible things. What redeems us are the people here who understand that words like liberty, equality, justice are not facts, but aspirations, which require unending vigilance and the kind of hard work Clinton, anyway, was known for. It is time to recommit ourselves to the fight.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Make America Rape Again

By Kelly Cogswell

It’s not just a joke. The only upside to the Trump candidacy is how having a sexual predator as presidential candidate has inspired women to talk about just how frequently we are attacked and harassed.

One woman can just be contributing a perfectly harmless comment to a Twitter thread, and the next thing she knows some man is typing, FUCKING CUNT, FUCKING BITCH and getting all his friends to make death threats. Another is merely walking down the street, a hallway, a subway platform, and some man screams at her, or grabs her body, or shoves her wordlessly merely because she exists as a woman in a man’s world and she happened to cross his path.

The weird thing is that people rarely talk about these attacks as in the same category as racist aggressions, or homo- or trans- phobia. In fact, groups tracking hate crimes rarely even keep statistics on anti-woman acts.

Maybe it’s because rapists, for instance, are rarely seen as anti-woman. Young or drunk they're excused as normal red-blooded boys just overcome by normal sexual urges that got a little out of hand. That is why men are not to be tempted with short skirts, scarlet lipstick. Or public female drunkenness. Who can really blame swimming star Brock Turner for getting some when he had the chance? Later on, men who rape become outcasts, are considered the intrinsically violent, the “perverts” whose choice of female victims is almost beside the point.

In college, I remember being shocked when I read Susan Brownmiller’s groundbreaking book, “Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape,” describing rape as an act of domination which was all about power, not sex, even if men used their dicks to do it. For one thing, it was the first time I understood that all girls got the warnings my mother gave me, and also that this vulnerability, this violence was partly why all the presidents and vice presidents, almost all the representatives and senators and preachers and doctors and priests--were men. (And overwhelmingly white).

Brownmiller’s 1975 book also contributed to a growing understanding of how rape is used as a tool of terrorism, aimed at punishing and subduing whole populations. And why we see rape wherever we see war and civil conflict. Across different cultures and races. From the Sudan to Syria to the American South, both during and after slavery. If she made this leap forward, seeing rape as pure power, it may have been because she was building on work done by black women in the South who had already begun framing it as a civil rights issue when they pressed rape charges against white men who not only wanted to humiliate and paralyze black women, but shame the black men who could not protect them. Eldridge Cleaver was inspired to rape white women in revenge--first practicing on black women--before he had a later change of heart.

The problem with talking about rape as a tool, is that it begins to sound abstract. And erases women. Making the men seem detached and calculating almost as if there was no hate involved, and that rapists, and aggressors don’t hold inside of them a cache of fear and loathing that occasionally, or often, wells to the surface in violence and rape. As if Trump grabbed women by their pussies just to establish his power, and not in the joy of pure hate directed at our femaleness, and a desire to humiliate and destroy.

We don’t have many choices in how to respond. You can fight it every time and die of grief and rage. You can ignore it, even as you shrink a little having learned, as do all people of color in this predominantly white country, that the bodies we inhabit are vulnerable, don’t quite belong to us. The way an effeminate boy learns to shudder at the locker room.

But indulge this machismo enough, allow your culture to celebrate it, you get femicide, the murders of women like Lucia Perez in Argentina who was drugged and raped so violently the pain gave her cardiac arrest. The BBC reports that on average, one woman is killed there in domestic violence cases every 36 hours. Argentina adopted an anti-femicide law in 2012, with harsher penalties for men who kill women because they’re women.

By comparison, in the larger U.S., three plus women are killed every day just by their partners or ex’s. Many more every day are raped. The biggest difference is that last Wednesday people all over Argentina walked out of work for a couple hours in the pouring rain to protest against anti-woman violence. Signs read, "If you touch one of us, we all react," and “Not one more.” Protesters supported them in Mexico, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. I can’t remember the last time women in the U.S. have been outraged enough at murder after murder, rape after rape for us to take to the streets on our own behalf.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Our America

By Kelly Cogswell

I was following my twitter feed and channel surfing during the "debate" last night when I heard a news anchor announce that the police were looking for a serial groper. When I glanced up I really did expect to see Donald Trump's pink butthole of a mouth, and flabby sulking face, but it was a photo of a normal looking white guy with ear buds in, and a greenish grey tee shirt hanging over his skinny chest. Which is what most sexual predators look like. As ordinary as anything.

There is nothing particularly impressive about dictators either. In photos, Pinochet smiles like somebody's affable grandfather. Hitler only looks peculiar to us because of his mustache. Evil doesn't leave a trace. Even Putin looks ordinary with his slightly balding pate, though like with Pinochet, the journalists, activists, or politicians who oppose him have a way of spending years in prison, meeting untimely ends, disappearing.

All day, I'd hoped Clinton would simply refuse to go, quit normalizing Trump's candidacy as all of America has done for the last year, imagining that this rapist, this tyrant, and Putin-loving demagogue would just go away. I'd add racist or bigot to the list, but the words seem too mild to describe how he intentionally enrages the rabble, attacking people of color, immigrants, women, Jews, Muslims. Words like nigger and kike are coming back into fashion as Trump, and his anti-gay running mate Pence, not only reveal America's latent hatreds but fatten them every time they open their mouths.

And yet, when nine o'clock struck, Clinton took the stage with Trump, and both smiled for the cameras, as if it were business as usual. Republicans versus Democrats. Later on, I even saw a few tweets by folks complaining that nobody was talking about the issues. Why wasn't there a mention this time of police brutality? As if we could even hear what Clinton said while Trump furiously grabbed his chair, lurked behind her like a psycho killer. As if Trump would say something rational, not respond to questions with lies and obfuscations, offering a bizarre dismissal of his taped sexual assault brags, as "just words... locker room talk, and it's one of those things. I will knock the hell out of ISIS." Sniff!

Given the circus-like atmosphere of the election, I'm not sure that we have seriously considered the implications of Trump's threat to unleash his Justice Department on Clinton if he is elected president, to send her to jail. It was the most naked assertion to date of his aspirations to rule without the rule of law, binning the basic protections every citizen is assured by our constitution.

The response was enthusiastic applause from the back of the room. Because what so many Americans want is a strongman to take the cunt down. Take all the pussies down. Commenters across the board found this disturbing, chilling even, though this has been commonplace at Trump's rallies for the eternity of this election season.

I can't stand any of it. His red-faced lying, rapey hate. Everybody's perpetual surprise. The GOP's attempt to distance itself from the monster it created. The Democratic silence about its own treatment of Clinton for decades. The dykes who have repeatedly announced their hatred of her voice, her thighs, her hair. All those gay men feeling absolved by their gayness that call all women cunts and bitches every chance they get. Who exclude women from leadership positions. Fuck you. Then there are the lefties who will get behind every mediocre man of any color who promises the populist moon. No wonder Trump was applauding Sanders, Sanders, Sanders.

Through it all, Clinton remained pleasant and composed, even smiling as Trump did his best to intimidate her. And I watched as guys tweeted things like, "I don't know how she does it." "I'd be pulling my hair out." "She should knee him in the nuts." All the women were like, "Every female on earth has had to learn how to deal with this." Because we have. With strangers in the street, or bosses, but more often from classmates, men at church, cousins, brothers and fathers. All of them threatening us with their dicks, and asking, Just who do you think you are?

As @meganamram tweeted, "With this election we're simultaneously breaking through the glass ceiling and the rock bottom. We got a really big room now." And it's not even over yet.