My filmmaker friend and colleague Laurie Kash made this film of the Women's March in Washington DC, January 21, 2017. Full disclosure: I'm in it. Watch it anyway. It is a beautiful portrait of national and global resistance.
...Donald Trump takes offense with a tweet demanding an apology.
So, just to make sure we understand: President-Elect Trump believes that he and his surrogates are entitled to call Mexican immigrants "rapists," to call women "pigs" and "dogs" who you can "grab by the pussy," to claim that President Obama was not born in the United States, to advocate banning Muslims from the country, to insult a military Gold Star family and their self-sacrificing son on religious grounds, to mock disabled people, to validate white supremacists, to encourage violence at his rallies, to call the former secretary of state and his presidential opponent a "nasty woman," and to sneer "they don't look like Indians to me" at Native Americans who challenge his casino interests.
But an audience at a smash musical that touts diversity is not entitled to voice its displeasure at such wanton racism, sexism, and hatred.
To paraphrase that paragon of principle MittRomney, this is a textbook example of white male bully delusion. It's an affliction of those taught to inherit the 400-year-old self-image of captor and master: they can dish it out but they can't take it.
Ex-slaveholder, ex-master of women, and ex-majority over brown people are all positions with no future. In today's world they are guaranteed dead-end jobs. And I do mean dead: in the sense of an aging and shrinking white male-dominated demographic that can feel itself shriveling nationally and globally. Within decades its majority in America will be gone, replaced by a thriving predominance of brown people and of white people who are comfortable with difference.
One recent example that will jerk your head back is the testimony, on the seminal radio chronicle This American Life, of economically screwed white Americans who bitterly report, with no sense of historical irony whatsoever, their shock at feeling "their" country and communities occupied by differently-colored newcomers from overseas. Uh, has anybody here looked beyond the white experience to see how their feeling of dispossession is neither unique nor accurate?
But that's the problem with defined whiteness: its world starts and ends with itself. Trump is part of its end, its desperate death throes, its final mythology. The only remaining question is whether the rainbow of humanity as a whole can survive this deadly fiction.
How does it make you feel to watch video of the elegant, informed, erudite President Barack Obama sitting beside, and making welcoming conversation with, President-Elect Donald Trump as Obama dutifully hands over the reins to the Western world to an openly racist, sexually assaultive, Muslim-persecuting, defiantly know-nothing, brazenly lying sociopath?
To me, watching that video footage feels like the final collapse of whatever lingering legitimacy the American presidency still had after decades of corporate money and advertising-driven media made the race for the highest office a sponsored pageant: a mega-moneyed Mr. or Ms. Universe contest. A cage fight with attack commercials.
After the shattering Obama-Trump footage of presidential baton-passing, there is little left to the nation’s most exalted position but a palmed shiv and a tiara. If such a creature as Trump can pass the casting call for the world's most powerful political role, then the show is over. At least for now. It’s just another hack creation that a crew of mercenary smarties heaved into our lives because they got paid.
Except that this show will savage the future of at least a generation and, potentially, all humans in the searing times to come. Think climate change and the nuclear red button -- for starters.
Trump's rise is proof positive that most voting Americans believe that the state is a crude, sarcastic joke. The punch line, of course, is that they’re right: it is. As any person or family who has suffered through recent decades of the wealthy's bottomless buffet can tell you.
The resulting empty societal space, where the richest nation in history might have cultivated mutual care and trust but didn't, is what enabled an amoral billionaire megalomaniac to lie his way into the hearts of millions of hard-suffering white folks who embraced an ideal of privileged whiteness as a last-stand currency of lost power and dignity.
So Obama and Trump smile on camera as the former flushes the slurry remains of presidential substance and morality into the little pink-cupped palms of the latter.
After three debates and a hallucinatory succession of politically unsurvivable outrages, Donald Trump is still standing.
“Impossible” is a marker we blew past long ago. After a year of Trump’s gleefully insulting the economic intelligence of angry whites, spitting in the faces of people of color and women and Muslims, consorting with the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis, denying the continual catastrophe of climate change, pandering to the worst in foreign autocrats and domestic brown shirts, and magnifying at dizzying speed the reasons he cannot be trusted with house keys, let alone nuclear weapons, Trump has capped his wickedness with boasts (and 11 allegations so far) of sexual assault, “nasty woman” rasps at Hillary Clinton, and defiance of a popular vote before it even happens.
And yet, close to half of the electorate remains willing to vote him into the presidency. Pundits are aghast. Mainstream news outlets, for whom quote-without-question false equivalency has become a rote practice in reporting “both sides” of issues like politics and climate change, now dare to use the word “lie” to describe Trump’s fictional claims. Now, just days before the election, one can feel a rising mainstream hysteria on the airwaves, in print, and in overheard conversations: He will not die! How is this possible?
There is a very good reason, and it is one that corporate journalists and corporate-fed politicians continue to deny: America is broken, from the bone outward. And only Trump, an amoral opportunist, and Bernie Sanders, a progressive firebrand who the managers of corporate reason were unwilling to tolerate, have dared to mouth those words.
Let’s take the corporate journalists’ denial first. From The New York Times to CNN to NPR, until these final shell-shocked days the unspoken subtext of news stories has been, If we journalists simply put on display Trump’s daily outrageous claims, which are transparently untrue, citizens must surely see through them and reject them as antithetical to the truth and fairness of the American experiment. But this is a false assumption. Unlike prosperous national journalists who earnestly publish books and who vacation in inspiring places, the millions of white Americans who make up Trump’s base long ago gave up on any pretense of meritocracy in this country. They know that access to political office is bought with money. They know they are behind the eight ball on a slanted plane of play. They expect to be ceaselessly lied to. And they have learned well, at the punishing hands of global conglomerates and purchased politicians, that the only remaining game is a dirty one. Black and brown communities trapped in poverty, poor schools, and a pipeline to for-profit prisons? Too bad for them, and keep them away from us. Refugees fleeing the wreckage of a global post-neocolonial regime of cheap raw resources and wars of control? Wall them out. We have our own hell here. War-zone zealots whose remaining desperate sense of redemption is in wearing a bomb belt? Screw their reasons and don’t apologize for our methods. Bomb and torture them back to carbon. For uneducated white men – the core Trump electorate – the corporate media have been speaking Greek for decades.
Then there is the corporate political denial. As the longtime sole arbiter of what passes for progressivism in nationally “realistic” politics, the modern Democratic Party has – since the rise of Ronald Reagan and the Dems’ defensive descent into increasingly cruel corporatist platforms and policies (welfare reform, NAFTA, draconian sentencing laws, obscenely weakened oversight of banks, polluters, low-wage conglomerates and other public predators) – effectively erased the party’s credibility with suffering whites for whom the crumbs of white privilege have become starvation rations. Republicans have, since Nixon, peddled flavors of the “what’s good for rich people is good for white people” seduction. But today’s Democratic – and increasingly, Republican – Senator Silverhairs have become, to many whites amid the remaining shreds of a middle class, a bitter mockery of representation. Mainstream news correspondents may still dutifully repeat these professional politicians’ vacuous declarations as if they are newsworthy. But many ordinary working white Americans stopped listening years ago. It’s what Cornel West has accurately called the “niggerization” of American working people. We black folks and other people of color have borne it for centuries. Now, increasingly disenfranchised whites, feeling their own (decidedly race-softened but awful) version of the pain, are staging a political riot. (For a deeper understanding of how and why Trump profoundly appeals to white voters who are by far his moral superiors, go to The United States of Anxiety, a devastating podcast produced by The Nation and WNYC.)
That is why Trump can serially lie with impunity to his base about his disproven claims, boast about his evading taxes, contradict his nationalist rhetoric with his anti-American-worker hiring practices, and brag about sexually assaulting women – and still claim roars of approval from the very voters he betrays. This is neither nonsensical nor insane. It is a brutal, wicked consequence of corporate media and mainstream politics having abandoned the clear populist imperatives of our era. The error of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and their humanistic side of the corporate establishment is that for the past eight years they have left the defiantly progressive field wide open for any takers. They left it vacant, in fact, until Sanders proved it had clout. (Have you wondered, as I have, what the campaign would now look like if it were Democratic Socialist Bernie bellowing back at fake-rebel Trump in the three presidential debates?) Trump, the consummate opportunist, has filled the white blue-collar populist void with his brutal audacity and dishonesty. It doesn’t take much to swim upstream when the flow is so feeble.
So Hillary Clinton – who embraced energetic progressive rhetoric only after Sanders proved it might win – is now our last barrier between a bad political landscape with footholds for progress and an abyss plunging into unknown depths of depravity, repression, and potential nuclear and ecological ruin. She was far from my first choice. But I am one of many who will vote for her with fierce resolve.
For those who have failed to call out betrayal of progressivism over its decades-long cooptation by corporate expediency, the old adage still applies: you break it, you buy it. That shattered mess on the floor is what is left of the myth of white meritocracy preached since World War Two. White people left behind by the corporate version of white privilege need somewhere else to go. Trump is a temporary refuge. He may or may not lose the election. But either way, the tide of betrayed collective white ego he has loosed is not retreating. That dam is busted, and the flood plain will extend far beyond Election Day.
We can blame Trump, an amateur fascist, for cashing in on this with his come-on to a beached white electorate. Or we can ask, What happens when the enraged hungers of disenfranchised white people start to merge with the centuries-old hungers of black and brown ex-slaves and the desperation of those who now flee global poverty and slaughter?
So far, 13 women say that they have been sexually assaulted at his hands. The rest of us may never know for certain. But we do know some things.
– We know that Cosby reached a settlement in 2006 in a civil lawsuit filed by Andrea Constand in which 13 women were slated to testify that he had sexually assaulted them.
– We know that Barbara Bowman, who says she was one of the 13 who would have testified in that trial, has come forward in a Washington Post op-ed and a Huffington Post video interview with detailed accusations of Cosby having serially drugged and raped her when she was a teenaged actress under his mentorship.
– We know that rape is dramatically under-reported by its victims because of societal stigma, hostility toward victims by police, and the hellish ordeal faced by victims in the judicial process. In that light, 13 women being willing to testify in a sexual assault lawsuit against one man makes a statement of its own. And if even with those numbers you're wondering about sue-a-celebrity motives, you’d do well to ask a woman who has filed rape charges what the legal experience was like for her.
– We know that only after a man, comedian Hannibal Buress, has publicly called Cosby a rapist, have women’s decade-long public accusations against Cosby gained the seeming social legitimacy to go viral. That makes a statement as well.
– We know that, as of this writing, Cosby himself has nothing to say. In an NPR interview yesterday, Cosby responded with three consecutive silences when Scott Simon repeatedly asked him if he cared to give his side of the story.
To date, no criminal charges have been brought against Cosby. So far the greatest consequence for him has been the public contempt and humiliation of his bungled Twitter publicity stunt last week, in which tweeters he invited to post funny memes of him responded with brutally satirical representations of him as an alleged rapist.
Here is a snippet of Ian Welsh's recent blog post about the rage that we live with in a regime of ruin. But you really need to read the entire thing here. It is good medicine for what ails us and what can sustain us.
For those who think ahead; for those who are empathic; for those who work for justice or kindness, the world can be a horrible place.
We look around and we see the decline of nations. We see people dying, being tortured, being raped who need not die or suffer. We look to the environment and we see that species are being killed so fast we’re in the middle of a great die-off; or we look to the biosphere and the oxygen cycle and we worry that we could see a collapse of both.
We know that much of the suffering the world is needless: that there is more than enough food to feed everyone; that many wars are wars of choice which hurt many to enrich a very few; and we know that many who brutalize others are receiving no security or even money in return. We look at how prisoners are treated in jail; and we know that the primitive lust for vengeance is creating monsters for we understand the cycle of abuse: that those who are abused, become abusers.
We see the rise of a surveillance state that may eventually cause the Stasi to look like amateurs and which is already more sophisticated than anything Orwell imagined. We see that the masses of the people in the developed world are being impoverished; generation after generation. And worse, we see our own efforts at stopping all of this fail. We worry that our efforts are not even slowing the worst of it.
And for many of us it hits home closer. We or our loved ones are those suffering: losing their lives, homes, livelihoods or living lives of despair.
For years I lived in a state of rage. Not even anger, but rage. Rage at those like Bush and Blair who were mass murders. Rage at those who did not stop him who could have. Rage at those who believed all the lies: whether about economics or war or crime.
I see many who come to my blog, a place where scenarios are explored which are both bleak, and often, very likely, giving into despair or rage themselves. The world is big, the powers that are leading it to ruin are overwhelming, and we look out on a future which seems to get worse and worse the further ahead of us it is. Even countries now on the rise, like China, will suffer massively in the decades to come.
It is perfectly natural to be angry. It is even useful to be angry. Anger or rage are adrenaline shots to the system. They push you to do what must be done; to tell the truth; to push ahead, to tackle the big enemies.
But they are toxic in the long run. Like adrenaline they are useful for shots of energy, but if you are angry all the time at anything, it will hurt your body and eventually your mind. You will burn out, and if you aren’t lucky you may burn out permanently or you may die.
is such an unspeakable act that it is hard to find words.
First there is the very obscenity of a young woman's being targeted for planned gang rape by six men, including the driver of the bus in which she was riding and several other males – her alleged attackers, now facing murder charges – and her being savagely beaten, raped, sodomized with an iron rod with such force that surgeons had to later remove her intestines in trying to save her, and thrown from the bus to ultimately die of her awful injuries.
Then there is the further horror that, while this particular case made global headlines due to its blood-curdling brutality and the relatively high class stature of the victim, India's tradition of men beating, raping, and murdering women with impunity is long, pervasive, and still widely-approved.
All of this is part and parcel of a deeply-entrenched patriarchy in which a woman (or a girl) can be promised and delivered to a man as de facto chattel for marriage and servitude, and in which women suffer one of the highest rates of rape in the world. Were it not for the explosion of pent-up outrage by Indian women in the wake of this highly-publicized torture and murder, it might have continued to be business as usual. Even after this sensationally horrific crime, Indian officials continue to respond to protestors with rapespeak. This from an Al Jazeera piece by Naomi Wolf:
It is not simply the high rate of rape in India that is driving the protests' virulence. In a passionate speech, Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association, spoke to the deeper issue behind the protests: the blame-the-victim culture in India around sex crimes. She notes that government and police officials recently insisted that most rapists cannot be prosecuted in India, because, as one official put it, they are known to the women attacked. Other officials have publicly suggested that victims themselves are "asking for it" by their use of freedom of movement.
Like other coexisting regimes of rule by repression, including those of race and sexual orientation, rule by gender is both ruthless and steadfast. We hear an avalanche of reasons why we cannot change it: It's what God wants, it's what nature wants, it's what the public wants, it's what the law says, it's what people are going to do regardless. We've heard it all before on each unique front of battle, including gender rights: Maybe it's not fair, but you people just have to accept reality.
One front of battle in the war for gender equality is, of course, that of class. Indian feminist and publisher Urvashi Butalia has some interesting things to say about this. Listen to a radio interview in which she talks about how the bitter resentment of millions of low-income Indian men left behind by global capitalism expresses itself partly through rage and violence toward women, particularly toward "uppity" upwardly-mobile women who have the gall to seek education and equality. Women like the victim in this attack, who was a 23-year-old university student. The more women gain, the greater the desire of insecure men to dominate and punish them.
The conditions faced by women in parts of the developing world, where capitalist and pre-capitalist brutalities meet, are particularly dire. But before we pretend that elemental issues of gender justice exclude the West, consider this from Wolf:
This return to pre-feminist discourse is not confined to India. Italy is having a similar debate about whether women's clothes and behaviour invite rape. Even in Sweden, activists complain, rapes in which the men know their assailants go unprosecuted, because the victims are not seen as "good girls."
WASHINGTON -- Despite a late-stage intervention by Vice President Joe Biden, House Republican leaders failed to advance the Senate's 2012 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, an embattled bill that would have extended domestic violence protections to 30 million LGBT individuals, undocumented immigrants and Native American women.
"The House leadership would not bring it up, just like they wouldn't bring up funding for Sandy [hurricane damage] last night," said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a key backer of the Senate version of the bill, in an interview with HuffPost. "I think they are still so kowtowing to the extreme on the right that they're not even listening to the moderates, and particularly the women, in their caucus who are saying they support this."