Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Fury

Last night on her top-rated news analysis program, Rachel Maddow ran ancient (1991) video of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questioning of Anita Hill, with regard to the awful experience that she was alleging: repeated, wholly unprofessional instances of sexual harassment, at the hands (metaphorically) of then-Supreme Court nominee, now Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas.

I forced myself to stay with it till the end, and it was excruciating. Not merely because of the subject matter; and not merely because Ms. Hill’s parents were in the room at the time, being forced to listen to stories from their daughter’s life that no parent should have to listen to. At least as excruciating was the dogged determination of the questioners, from an all-male Judiciary Committee, to extract from Hill every last lurid detail of various events and conversations, and to spare no opportunity to take from her the refuge of euphemism. Exactly what physical attributes are we speaking of, Ms. Hill? Exactly what name did Judge Thomas assign to his penis, Ms. Hill?

Notably, all of the coveted seats on the Senate Judiciary Committee then were occupied by older white men. Some professed, uncomfortably but inevitably, the wish to get all the evidence “on the record”. Some of them disguised less well their wish to force Anita Hill to recount nearly-unspeakable things in public, in a Senate hearing, before the eyes and ears of the nation, for reasons other than “getting all the details on the record”. You want to challenge the status quo by carrying out what amounts to a genuine act of bravery, Ms. Hill? You’ll have to endure the humiliation once again, then. That’s how it has to be. We say so; as we have said so for a very long time.

Fast-forward twenty-seven years, and how ’bout that. Here we are again.

If and when there is Senate Judiciary Committee questioning of Prof. Christine Blasey-Ford, with regard to her (so far alleged) awful experience: outright sexual assault, at the hands (literally) of now-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh … is there any guarantee that the questioning will be any less excruciating?

Not merely because of the subject matter; and not merely because as recently as 2012, Prof. Blasey-Ford reportedly engaged the services of a therapist in order to further process an event that she says happened when she was a teenager. Most likely, at least as excruciating will be the dogged determination of Committee questioners to similarly extract from Blasey-Ford every last lurid detail of the event, and to spare no opportunity – in as many words, in effect – humiliate her. You want to challenge us, Dr. Balsey-Ford? We’ll take the opportunity to (metaphorically) take you down.

And the most hostile questioning will come from the Republican, Congressional-majority side of the Committee, which is still completely comprised of older white men. (The chairman of the Committee will be Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) … who was on the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991, during the Anita Hill hearings.)

So much has changed, and yet nothing has changed.

And we wonder why women are furious.

In saying this, I will come off sounding like a white knight; a “woke” man trying to ride to the rescue of women; a bandwagon-jumper. Despite numerous blog posts in full-throated support of women, over the last eight years, from Sandra Fluke to the #metoo movement, I recognize that a worthy strategy would be to shut up and step aside. Women can speak for themselves.

(And yet here I go. I know, I know.)

No surprise, then, that the very day after the 2017 Inauguration, a nationwide – no, worldwide – protest … one whose size dwarfed that of said Inauguration, and one which was so large and so vocal that the mainstream corporate media was forced to acknowledge that it had even happened … was called the International Women’s March and was driven by the anger, the rage, the fury of women.

Historically, when women have had it up to here and rightly called BS – whether they were the Suffragettes or Serina Williams – they’ve been called hysterical and shrill and mixed-up and pipe down, little ladies, it’s not your place.

Sorry. That was way too passive-voice. When women have risen up, men have actively worked to shut them down.

In the last month or so, with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York and Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts being not nearly the only examples … it’s begun to become clear that politically, the force-to-be-reckoned-with will be women. Women of color, in those cases, but not exclusively. It’s a force that looks like, and represents the interests of, a constituency that has long been dismissed as hysterical, shrill, emotional, insubstantial, unimportant, not qualified to make decisions.

And that force, clearly, will be driven by firmly-channeled and tightly-focused fury.

In the words of maybe not the most effective feminist icon ever, “That’s all I can stands, cuz I can’t stands no more.”

Not long ago, on the floor of the US Senate, a speech by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was interrupted on allegedly procedural grounds by Senate Majority Leader and ancient male Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Within half a day, Warren (ably assisted by her fellow American citizens and their spectacular meme skills) had turned McConnell’s condescending “nevertheless, she persisted” into a rallying cry and a future campaign slogan. She went on cable news programs and pointedly pushed back against McConnell’s attempt to shut her down. She didn’t yell … but she didn’t whisper either.

This past week, during the early moments of the Kavanaugh hearings, Senate Judiciary Committee member Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) interrogated the Supreme Court nominee in such a clinical and legal-eagle way (“Be sure about your answer, sir,” advised Harris in a tone that was at once glacial and “be reminded that you’re under oath, fella”) that it made me glad not to be the object of her inquiry in that moment. Harris’ voice was calm, but the fuel behind it was more than just one hearing-day worth of frustration and the honed skills of a professional prosecutor.

Flailing anger alone can be dismissed as emotion triumphing over logic, or self-control. Volcanic rage can be written off as short-lived (as demonstrated by a teacher or two of mine, whose explosions at roomfuls of students only had its intended effect for a few minutes) and not worth remembering.

Fury, though … fury is all that emotion, curated. Collected. Concentrated. Unleashed in a specific direction, for a specific purpose, with a specific target.

Such as… well, seven weeks from tonight we get to try and save our democracy, eh?

For my money: as many women as can be elected to Congress, state legislatures, governor’s mansions, local school boards, whatever … will be the best outcome.

No, it isn’t right to generalize about any group of people, whether for weal or for woe. Hashtag “not all fill-in-the-blank”. Not all men…! Not all white people…! Not all people of color…! Not all Republicans…! Not all Bernie supporters…!

Not all women are working for the good of humanity, or even of people who look like they do. Not in a world where people like Ann Coulter and Roseanne Barr and Jeannine Pirro still rate a platform and can behave the way they do.

Not one hundred percent of any group of people are pulling the oars in the same direction.

But I’d be willing to see the world give this particular constituency a whirl, since this is also a world in which people like Rachel Maddow and Carmen Yulin Cruz and Maxine Waters and Aisha Tyler have platforms and behave the way they do.

I can only speak for myself … and I can only offer advice … I can’t force you to do anything.

But I’ll at least let you know … that in November, when I go to the polls, if I look at an election ballot and have a choice one way or the other, I know what choice I’ll make.

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September 18, 2018 Posted by | current events, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pious Public Pronouncements

[Excerpted from a Facebook post from today.]

Well, let me pause for a moment. I would like to link to one of my favorite vituperative left-leaning bloggers, who writes more fragrantly than I do, as a little “got-yer-back” to a thought I’ve been having. <http://driftglass.blogspot.com/2018/08/the-real-complaining-party-at-bar-in.html&gt;

Here’s what’s bugging me: Currently there are a bunch of people getting lots of credit online (cable TV, Twitter, etc. etc.) for expressing their horror as they seem to suddenly realize: “HE’S HORRIBLE. And his party has Suddenly Become Horrible.”

Rick Wilson, with a best-seller book called “Everything Trump Touches Dies”. Well, duh. Steve Schmidt with a sweet MSNBC contributor gig. Bill Kristol and David Frum, speechwriters and neoconservative think-tank jockeys whose every foreign policy stance has been proven wrong for at least a decade and a half. Nicolle Wallace, with a sweet MSNBC show-hosting gig now.

All of them Never-Trump people… and all of them just waiting for this all to blow over, after which they’ll then go right back to trying to make liberals cry, or forming the Second Tea Party.

Whatever happened to that tale about the scorpion who stung his rescuer and then shrugged because it was in his nature…?

Rick Wilson was a political-advertising guru who gave us George W. Bush’s sliming of John McCain during the 2000 primaries.

Steve Schmidt helped give us Sarah Palin. Enough said.

Bill Kristol and David Frum helped sell us the Iraq War.

Nicolle Wallace was George W. Bush’s White House Communications Director, then was communications director of the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign, and then was a senior advisor to the 2008 McCain-Palin campaign. She didn’t stumble into these gigs. She signed up.

These, and pundits like them, are not people who were on the fence about backing Republican people and policies who were incompetent, craven, and/or cruel. They had experience in this long before the Toddler-in-Chief became a thing.

So in my book, even though they’re taking great pleasure in saying things that will make us liberal types thrill to their seeming conversions … they have one hell of a long way to go before I can happily listen to them as confirmed Lefties.

Because we who were paying attention for the last three years know full well that HE’S HORRIBLE. And we who were paying attention for the last 25 to 40 years know full well that his party has been espousing horrible policies and acting horribly.

I don’t like to hold grudges. I like to be welcoming. But I also like to bear-hug tight to that aphorism about people who forget history, and also to the aphorism (there must be one) about people who try to get other people to forget history. Because not only can that bear-hug inform my assessment of Pious Public Pronouncements … but it reinforces one idea:

We were right all along, thank you kindly.

So … anyway …

74 days to the midterms. VOTE, and then, should we prevail in wresting Congress from the clutches of the current majority … be prepared to tell all those corporately-funded “moderates” and “converted Republicans” to go pound sand. ‘Cause we’re wise to them.

August 24, 2018 Posted by | current events, media, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Crying Babies Doesn’t Look Good Politically”

A couple of weekends ago, as part of my church musician work, I helped wrangle a pack of Sunday School kids as they stood up at the front of the church sanctuary and sang a couple of songs they’d been working on. I smiled and sang along with them and encouraged them to try to remember the words. I was reminded, strongly, of my experience with teaching public-school music to packs of kindergarten kids nearly a decade ago. I got back up to speed really, really fast. I was reminded, strongly, of just what kind of backflips can go into working with kids that small … never mind teaching them; just helping them be comfortable in new situations, doing unfamiliar things, for the first time.

That Sunday, in church, there were kids as old as sixth grade, and as young as pre-school. Some of them walked to the front steps of the church; some of them toddled, led by Mom or Dad. Some of them stood straight and smiled. Some of them were inclined to wander off (so we gently guided them back to the steps). Some of them threw their heads back and sang lustily, just like the United Methodist Hymnal suggests; some of the kids mouthed the words a split-second after they heard the rest of the group sing them.

Some of them I’ve known all their lives; some of them I haven’t known very long at all. Some of them were from families who had come to our church pretty recently; some of them had been part of our church family for a very long time (relatively). Some of them looked totally at ease with standing up in front of the congregation and singing. Some of them looked more than a little bewildered, because they don’t often stand up in front of the congregation and have everybody lookin’ at ’em.

I remember being more than a little bewildered — pretty freaked out, really — the first time my mom delivered pre-school-age me to a Sunday School classroom in the church where our family were members, a building where I’d spent plenty of time, a building where I already recognized plenty of people. I was more than a little nervous that she was going away … even though she’d always picked me back up from whatever classroom she’d delivered me to, in my life to that point. Intellectually (at age 4?), I knew she always would. But in that moment, the parallel instinctive separation-anxiety wiring kicked right in, and I got really really freaked out.

This morning I tried to imagine myself taken away from my mom, and parked in a “tender age shelter”.

This morning I tried to imagine any of the kindergarten kids that I taught, or all of them, parked in a “tender age shelter”.

This morning I tried to imagine any of our Sunday School kids, or all of them, parked in a “tender age shelter”.

This morning I tried to imagine my niece and nephew, when they were toddlers, or infants, parked in a “tender age shelter”.

Oh, hell no.

My mind recoiled at the prospect.

Someone’s mind didn’t, though.

 

People in our government, working for our government, representing us by doing so … have acquired the kind of cognitive dissonance that allows them to not merely consider that prospect in the abstract and not retch, but to actually create and implement and enforce an immigration-control policy that takes toddlers and infants away from parents (who are seeking asylum from places that are dangerous enough that they want to remove their children to keep them safe) … and chucks ’em into a holding pen. (Or, as has been postulated by people who are putting one and one together and getting at least two, in the case of all the girls that no one can find, chucks ’em into an even worse place.)

There are monsters running our government.

There is only one remedy for this.

There are members of our elected government –- members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives –- who support this policy wholeheartedly. There are those who are remaining mealy-mouthed or dead-silent in the service of political expedience, political ideology, and political campaign contributions. In a meeting with the Congressional majority yesterday, the Short-Fingered Vulgarian who currently occupies the Oval Office reportedly declared, “The crying babies doesn’t look good politically.”

There are, astoundingly, plenty of elected officials who refuse to condemn taking babies from parents and parking them in “tender age shelters” — should we call them detention playpens? – no, we should cut the delicate-sensibility-preserving bull-pucky and call them baby jails, because that’s what they are …

We must identify them. Mark them. Tag them.

And vote the bastards out.

And thereby send a message to them and to anybody who supports them. Big sign in the window: “Congress inside. Only humans need apply.”

It’s long past time to stop “trying to understand” any of these people. Because there is no way for a compassionate person to understand this. The cognitive dissonance-fueled gap between “pro-life” and “pro-family”, “family values”, “What-Would-Jesus-Do?” … and THIS … is too vast to bridge.

 

It’s time to stop pulling punches. With respect to Mrs. Obama, who had the right idea … nonetheless it’s time to stop “going high when they go low”. If it isn’t time to take to the streets on this, it’s awfully damn close.

In November, remember this moment … even along with all the other moments, the Parklands and Pulses, the Pruitts and Princes, the “thoughts and prayers” and rage-Tweeting … remember this moment, when the Republican Congressional majority entirely failed to access some basic humanity and call this policy what it is: domestic terrorism.

In November, flood the polling places with so many people voting to rid our government of these conscience-less, soul-less ghouls that no amount of Putin-driven Russian bot farms and Kremlin election-machinery-hacking will remotely matter.

November.

Remember.

Remember the people who are okay with traumatizing infants and toddlers, who are okay with scarring them for life, on purpose.

Remember these domestic terrorists.

Remember these monsters.

And vanquish them.

June 20, 2018 Posted by | civil rights, current events, government, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment