Hell Yes, I’m Intolerant

 

 

Hell Yes, I’m Intolerant

By Joanna Schroeder

 

The other day on Facebook a friend of mine shared his thoughts on the Coca Cola ad set to the song “America the Beautiful.” My friend’s status said, “If this bothered you… I don’t even know what to say to you. Get a brain.”

This seems like an obvious sentiment. If you’re bothered by “America the Beautiful” being sung in other languages or by images of happy people doing fun things while being unapologetically whatever race or religion they are, then you do need a brain.

I don’t think anyone was surprised by the fact that some people hated the ad. Racism is alive and well, and it’s something people of color experience all the time, in all sorts of ways. Hating “America the Beautiful” because it portrayed America the Diverse is par for the course in a nation peppered with intolerant bigots.

But what did surprise me were the people who commented on my friend’s status by saying (paraphrased), “I don’t agree with the people who were angry about the ad. But it doesn’t bother me that they hated it. Why should I care?”

I had to stop and do a double-take at this.

Really? It doesn’t bother you that people are being racist? Not at all?

It was hard for me to resist typing, “You are a moron and I hope you fall in a deep, deep hole.” Instead, I said, “Of course it doesn’t bother you that people are racist. You are white. Why would it bother you that people don’t like non-white people?”

The response that I got was fascinating (again, paraphrasing).

“No,” said one racist-who-thinks-she’s-not, “I, unlike you, am not intolerant of other people’s opinions.”

This forced me to consider whether I was, in fact, being intolerant.

I am most certainly sometimes stupid, and quite often blind to the realities that people of color (or other marginalized groups) face on a day-to-day basis, primarily because no matter how hard I try, my privileges can make it hard for me to see outside of my own experience. I work hard to simply keep my mouth shut and listen so as to avoid being stupid and perpetuating more stupid… But I don’t think of myself as “intolerant”.

But then I thought about the actual meaning of that word and I realized that, YES, I am intolerant.

From Merriam-Webster:

in·tol·er·ant

adjective -rənt

: not willing to allow or accept something

: not willing to allow some people to have equality, freedom, or other social rights

See what she did there? She took a word that is contextually understood to mean one thing (essentially, bigoted or racist) and twisted it around so that she could sound righteous by exploiting the fact that it also means, basically, “not putting up with your stupid shit.”

I suspected that this must have a Fox News origin, and so I went digging. I Googled “leftist intolerance” and found a lot of really amazingly terrible clips wherein Fox News pundits call liberals hypocrites because we, the liberals, are the ones who are intolerant of them and their racism and anti-gay agendas.

Here’s one really painful example, though I have to warn you before you click through that it is a clip of five (not one, not two, but FIVE) white people talking about the NAACP and US Senator Tim Scott (who is Black), and how generally terrible they think the NAACP is to Black people. I’m not embedding it for obvious reasons.

After all of that, I realized that yes, I am intolerant and I’m proud of it!

I’m intolerant of white people being assholes about “America the Beautiful” being sung in non-English languages. I’m intolerant of people who say that people of color or non-Christian folks don’t represent our nation.

I’m intolerant of people who say that our LGBTQ+ brethren don’t deserve equal treatment under a Constitution and Bill of Rights that affords all people the same rights.

I’m intolerant of people referring to young Black men as thugs when they, themselves, are the ones who think gunning down unarmed boys, girls, women, and men who aren’t committing any crimes (or even trying to commit crimes) is an okay and legal thing to do. I’m intolerant of your racist thuggery, racist white people.

I’m intolerant of a lot, really. I’m intolerant of people who abuse children, of people who commit rape, and of people who deny the reality of how often rape and sexual violence happens in this nation to men, women, boys, girls and everyone else.

I’m intolerant of people who think that being transgender is something we can just tell people to stop being and that it will magically work. I’m intolerant of those who choose to mis-gender someone who very clearly has told you that she is a woman.

I’m intolerant of the parents and teachers who think it’s okay to let kids say “f*g” or “pussy” or “queer” to kids like the boy who likes My Little Pony and is now on life support after trying to take his own life. I’m intolerant of the adults who modeled that hate to their children. Yes, shaming kids who don’t conform to the strictest gender binary is hate. Pure and simple. And it is killing kids.

I’m intolerant of the people who tell my friend’s daughter that her gorgeous natural hair is a problem for them. I’m intolerant of the toy companies that don’t offer enough dolls that look like all the kids in the world, so that each child can have a baby doll that represents an image she or he can relate to (I’m looking at you, American Girl).

I’m intolerant of people who perpetuate myths about the nature of Islam, and I’m intolerant of the people who scrawled racist graffiti across the gorgeous GAP ad featuring Sikh-American Waris Ahluwahlia, implying he and anyone else in a turban is a terrorist.

I’m intolerant of people who refuse to see the pain and disrespect brought to Native Americans by the unauthorized use of Native mascots, names and iconography. I’m intolerant of the white folks who think they have some right to Wahoo the Indian or the name “Redsk*ns“.

I’m intolerant of this nation of bullies that gets off on thinking that the only real way to be American is to be white, non-poor, Christian, educated, able-bodied, cis-gendered, un-scarred by emotional or physical abuse, and straight. And I’m intolerant of all of you who think that it’s okay to say absolutely nothing to the people in your life who are harming others through any sort of racism, abuse or bigotry.

Hell yes, I’m intolerant of your willingness to tolerate others’ hate.

This article originally appeared at The Good Men Project and is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

***

Joanna Schroeder is the type of working mom who opens her car door and junk spills out all over the ground. She serves as Executive Editor of The Good Men Project and is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on sites like xoJane, hlntv.com, and The Huffington Post. Schroeder loves playing with her sons, skateboarding with her husband, and hanging out with friends. Her dream is to someday finish her almost-done novel and get some sleep. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter.

An Open Letter to North Carolina’s Governor

paul_letter_image

Dear Governor McCrory:

In light of the new law allowing concealed weapons in bars, I’d like to propose to you and your cronies (McCrory’s Cronies has a nice ring, doesn’t it?) a law that would allow open containers at gun shows. If people are going to be given the chance to make stupid decisions with firearms while drinking, I think it only fair that people also be allowed to make stupid decisions about the purchasing of firearms while drinking.

I know what you’re thinking: Genius idea, right? Indeed, sir! This will boost sales for your NRA lobbyists, and that means more money for you and yours, Governor. Show me a drunk who hasn’t ever thought “Man, I’d love to have an AK-47 or a Howitzer right now,” and I’ll show you a man who has never been drunk at a gun show.

This will also keep us safer. No longer will women in bars need to fear the bad pick-up line—any jerk who asks “If I said you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me?” can now be taken care of, quickly and efficiently, with one squeeze of a trigger. Those obnoxious college kids with their Sex on the Beaches and Vodka/ Redbulls? I think we know what happens to them if they get out of line. Same for the secretaries on Margarita Monday, and those asshole grad students who always win Trivia Tuesday. No need for bouncers, either—Clint Eastwood over there drooling with one eye open and seventeen bourbon straws on the table in front of him can take care of any trouble, or Chuck Norris dancing with his pool cue in the corner can.

It will also keep people fearful. The more people in bars with guns, the more shootings there are likely to be, which, in turn, will make others think they need a firearm to mosey on down to the local watering-hole and have a wine-spritzer or a Zima. Which means more gun sales. Until everyone owns a gun. All of us, and we all stay home, safe and sound on a Saturday night, peering out the window, drunk as the last lords of creation, wondering what might be gunning for us—our firearms, like our bottles of bourbon, within easy reach.

Sincerely,

Paul Crenshaw

***

Paul Crenshaw is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he was a Fred Chappell fellow. His stories and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Best American Essays 2005 and 2011, Shenandoah, North American Review, Southern Humanities Review, and Hayden’s Ferry Review, among others. He teaches writing and literature at Elon University.

Secularism and Compartmentalization

Secularism and Compartmentalization

by

Kenneth Nichols

Nearly twenty years ago, my loving father spent some of his evenings coaching my T-ball team in the fields behind Reynolds Elementary. Early in his tenure, he knelt and told me that I wouldn’t be able to play shortstop as much as I wanted.

“Why not?” I asked. “Aren’t I a good fielder?”

“Of course you are,” he said. “But everyone needs to get a chance and a coach must be fair.”

Parents are renowned for their perfectly natural ability to compartmentalize: to exempt certain people and situations from rational thinking in order to avoid the uncomfortable cognitive dissonance that would result if the truth were confronted in earnest. Many parents believe, in spite of evidence, that their child is the kindest and most intelligent around.

The phenomenon, for better and worse, carries over to the political realm. The secular worldview varies from most other popular modes of contemporary political thought in that clarity of thought is favored over the strict adherence to the dogmatic base of an ideology. To make a policy judgment, the secularist doesn’t consult a moral code established by dubious and supernatural authorities. Instead, the secularist seeks to purge him or herself of flawed thinking that is pitted with fallacious logic.

For example, should Americans have the right of same-sex marriage? Secularists consult the Constitution, the deep well from which our rights are derived, and find that the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees equal protection under the law. In the interest of thoroughness, we may ask, “What’s the harm?” and find none. Those who claim otherwise are appealing to tradition, making a priori assumptions and otherwise demonstrating that their convoluted thinking, if represented visually, would resemble an M.C. Escher pen-and-ink drawing.

Given the importance of logical thought in governance, it seems problematic that Representative Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) is the only open atheist in Congress. On the other hand, it’s not very hard to come up with a Catholic lawmaker whose voting record reinforces abortion rights. (John Kerry was famously excommunicated for violating this Church doctrine.) Another Roman Catholic, Louisiana Senator David Vitter, voted to broaden the use of the death penalty in spite of the fact that he ostensibly prays to such a victim each night.

Both of these lawmakers (and countless others) abandon the teachings of their Church to vote in the manner they feel is best for society. The cause of this disconnect is the same for all individuals who employ compartmentalization in an effort to exist in both the real world and the fantasy of their choice. In a 2013 article for Scientific American, Dr. Michael Shermer claims that people construct “logic-tight compartments…analogous to watertight compartments in a ship” that allow otherwise intelligent people to hold improbable beliefs such as global warming denialism and that the attacks of September 11th, 2001 were an inside job. (Dr. Shermer’s book Why People Believe Weird Things is a treat for anyone who wonders how someone as brilliant as Dr. Linus Pauling could believe that large doses of vitamin C could prevent and cure cancer.)

As I said, the ideal of the secular process of thought is an understanding of the world that is devoid of delusion. The secular individual seeks to understand the universe on its own terms, not his or her own. Alas, we have evolved to be pattern-seeking animals. Our very brains engage in perpetual civil war: the left side remembers and calculates and the right side determines what the data means. The Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey indicates that only 16.1% of Americans identify as unaffiliated with a religion. What are pure secularists to do?

It seems that we must take comfort that we have many allies whose powerful minds are laden with Shermer’s “logic-tight compartments.” No less a secularist than the late Christopher Hitchens adored his friend Dr. Francis Collins, the geneticist who led the Human Genome Project and is now Director of the National Institutes of Health. At first glance, Dr. Collins may inspire fear in the heart of the secular progressive. A self-professed atheist, Dr. Collins converted to Christianity after a patient merely asked him about his religious beliefs. After attempting to defend his lack of belief, Dr. Collins said “suddenly all my arguments seemed very thin, and I had the sensation that the ice under my feet was cracking.” Most any atheist or agnostic who has engaged in such an informal debate will agree there’s a big leap from “there’s no evidence to suggest that a supernatural deity may exist” to Dr. Collins’s fallacy-laden understanding of atheism itself: “If God is outside of nature, then science can neither prove nor disprove his existence. Atheism itself must therefore be considered a form of blind faith, in that it adopts a belief system that cannot be defended on the basis of pure reason.”

Is it time to ring the alarm bells and to lament that someone such as Dr. Collins is in such a position of power in the scientific and political community? Not at all. (As a skeptic, of course, I’m open to changing my mind should sufficient evidence present itself.) Dr. Collins stridently rejects intelligent design, the concept best described as “creationism in a cheap tuxedo.” Dr. Collins, I understand, has not stood in the way of embryonic stem cell research. (Sad to say the same can’t be said for Congress.) Dr. Collins, a breathtakingly intelligent man, has compartmentalized his beliefs, devising a philosophical construct in which religion and science are—to him—not only compatible, but complementary.

Perhaps the immediate goal of the secular community should be to point out that our fallacy-prone friends and authority figures engage in this compartmentalization. Many Christians who chant, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it,” still eat shrimp, wear cotton/polyester blends and refuse to “take up serpents” and understand that drinking poison will kill them. Belief in any aspect of the supernatural, religious or otherwise, requires a person to put these beliefs in one of Dr. Shermer’s “logic-tight compartments,” where it will be safe from reality and reason. So many of these valises have already been cast away—slavery is illegal, women have the vote, miscegenation is only a problem to an irrational few—more are sure to follow. The resultant cognitive dissonance causes unpleasantness at times, but this societal conflict is a necessity if the United States is going to continue its path toward fulfilling the secular ideal laid out in its founding documents. If you read the accounts of those who protested Loving v. Virginia, it’s clear that they were very upset. Those who are on the wrong side of history and of secularism deserve the same response: “Too bad.”

Wanna check my Shermer quote? http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-minds-compartments-create-conflicting-beliefs

Pauling. Isaac loved the man, but I think he was bummed by this. http://mostlyscience.com/2013/02/logical-fallacies-and-you-what-you-need-to-know-when-doing-your-own-research/

Pew. http://religions.pewforum.org/affiliations

Collins quote: http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/the-strange-case-of-francis-collins

Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland, reviewed by Eric Kroczek


Official White House photo of President Richard Nixon NARA National Archives and Records Administration (public domain)

The most remarkable thing about Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland is that it was published four and a half years ago, before Barack Obama was elected president, before the Tea Party, before Occupy. Otherwise you might be forgiven for thinking that Perlstein was drawing meaningful parallels between our era and the 1960s and early 1970s of Richard Nixon’s heyday. There’s no way he could have been, of course. But it sure feels that way.

It is easy to forget that our current toxic “red state/blue state” opposition is nothing especially new, even if it has taken on a novel geographical aspect—a “big sort,” as Bill Bishop has it. We neglect to trace our current divide back through the Reagan era, through the Nixon era, to 1965, which is Perlstein’s starting point. The United States has been two oppositional yet intermingled nations for nearly fifty years, and Perlstein sets out to find out where it started and who stood to profit from exploiting that tension.

Nixonland is about Kulturkampf, American-style, and about Richard Nixon’s manipulation of it for political gain. Perlstein’s thesis is that the future president’s worldview was formed at Whittier College, where young Nixon was shut out of the world of the Establishment swells, known there as “Franklins”; Nixon formed his own social club for the lower-class strivers, which he called the Orthogonians. For the rest of his life, Perlstein claims, Nixon saw the world as divided between the Franklins and the Orthogonians. (This is an interesting tack for Perlstein to take, given that he prefaces every psychological insight he borrows from other sources—that is, virtually all of them—with “The psychobiographers might say that…” or something similar; more on that below.) What’s more, he had a gift for sniffing out these socioeconomic oppositions and using them to further his political career. Paradoxically, Nixon positioned himself as the champion of the traditional values of the working class in spite of his membership in the party of business and wealth, and he was the first to bring many blue-collar voters into that party, which so disdained their economic interests. Before there was What’s the Matter with Kansas? there were the Reagan Democrats, and before the Reagan Democrats, there was Nixon’s “Silent Majority.”

How did he do it? The answer is obvious to us, because it’s the political air we now breathe: cultural wedge issues. It wasn’t so obvious at the time. Nixon pioneered the alchemical transmutation of fear of change and class resentment (where class is a cultural category, rather than strictly an economic one) into virtues, a subtle manipulation that Perlstein calls “political jujitsu.” How dare those artists and movie stars, those pinko professors and Establishment liberals, that liberal-biased media sympathize with the Communists we’re fighting in Korea and Cuba and Vietnam, the druggie degenerates who are tearing apart the moral fabric of our great nation and perverting our children, the civil rights activists and Yippie political agitators who want to change our venerable Constitution and overthrow our government? How dare they throw their “tolerance” and “experimentation” in our faces? We just want economic stability and peace and quiet in the streets and the kind of life our parents had, only more prosperous.

And so, after a quick summary of Nixon’s boyhood, education, and early political career—including the all-important “Checkers” broadcast, in which Nixon gave an early virtuoso performance of his uniquely passive-aggressive brand of moral suasion—Perlstein throws us into the Watts riots of 1965, where the era of Great Society peace and prosperity promised by Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 landslide victory (the 1960s equivalent of Francis Fukuyama’s 1992 premature prediction of the “End of History”) immolated itself before a shocked television audience. Nixon took in the violent cultural fault lines created by desegregation and protest against an already unpopular war. He understood that once equal rights became a statutory reality, oppressed blacks would not tolerate anything but the full and immediate fulfillment of that legal promise, which most whites, especially Southern and working-class whites, would not abide. He saw that the traditionally Democratic South was appalled by LBJ’s liberal turn on civil rights and desegregation, and that in the North, traditional Democratic stalwarts such as labor unions and big-city machines felt as though their interests were being ignored in favor of rights and privileges for blacks and the non-working poor. And in all this he saw opportunity—opportunity for a traditional-values based Republican party, led by Richard M. Nixon, to make inroads into perennial Democratic strongholds. Nixon was always a hard worker, and he put all his energy, stamina, cunning, and political influence to work.

Perlstein goes into great detail as he traces the disintegration of the Democratic party—first at the notorious 1968 nominating convention in Chicago and then at the less-infamous, but perhaps even more damaging, 1972 convention in Miami Beach—and the implosion of George McGovern’s presidential run. Perlstein rightly sees McGovern’s campaign as doomed from the start: though his ill-advised choice of Thomas Eagleton as his running mate was the coup de grace, it was the Committee to Re-Elect the President’s sabotage, the internecine skirmishes and philosophical contradictions between rival candidates and factions, and the neutering of the once-powerful bosses, capped off by a three-ring circus of a convention that showcased the party’s divisions and apparent frivolities, that preordained the Democrats’ failure. Simultaneously, he follows the rise, and the beginning of the political demise, of Richard M. Nixon.

Perlstein’s talent (at least here) is not with original research (Nixonland contains little, if any), but with sifting through secondary sources and collocating and analyzing his finds. He arranges his facts to speak for themselves, and his style of analysis is subtle and unobtrusive, interwoven into the narrative so well that the reader sometimes fails to notice that the story has taken a didactic turn. He is also an astute student of politics and a political realist, with a deep respect for the compromise, the coalition, the power play, and even machine politics to a degree (for an excellent short-form example of Perlstein at work, see this recent piece on Barack Obama’s roots in Chicago machine politics). It is here that the lessons he takes from the history of Nixon’s era differ from the usual partisan fare—even when he’s using source material written by partisan observers—and where his analysis of the politics of that time provides unsettling insights into our current situation. He stresses how radicals’ chronic aversion to compromise and coalition-building, and their incorrigible overestimation of the majority’s tolerance for rapid change and novelty, nearly always dooms their efforts to effect reform, and how the top-down reforms they are able to institute so often meet with resistance from the rank-and-file. The radicals’ fetish for open discussion and equal and democratic representation in all decisions, especially in combination with the aversion to compromise and coalition, creates deadlock and endless delay and forecloses any possibility of quick executive decision-making and nimble response—a lesson that the Occupy movement has yet to take to heart. And all too often, there is a Richard Nixon figure, an adept of Realpolitik, to capitalize on the chaos that ensues.

And about Realpolitik: an argument that Perlstein seems implicitly to make is that Nixon’s downfall was at least partly a function of his transformation from a sort of Manichaean figure, the scourge of State Department crypto-Communists and hippies and champion of the “Silent Majority,” to a disciple of Henry Kissinger’s amoral power-worship. His manipulations vis-à-vis the Vietnam war—of facts, of the lives of POWs—and his brute, naked lust to gain a second term as president, his increasing paranoia, his stonewalling of the press, his abandonment of principle in the economic realm as stagflation and competition from Japan and the Common Market created trade imbalances and degraded the value of the dollar, his need to surround himself with venal yes-men who would do literally anything to get a leg up on the president’s “enemies”: these were distortions and exaggerations of Nixon’s character flaws that only grew the more power he amassed. It is an interesting theory, if it can even be called a full-fledged theory, but it smacks of the kind of armchair psychoanalysis that Perlstein claims to disdain.

Nixonland is a big book, a sprawling history, given its seemingly narrow focus of a seven-year period, and its epic scope and accumulative nature have the virtue of presenting the reader with a wealth of trivial information and glimpses—foreshadowings—of things and people that will become important only later. We meet a young Karl Rove, a campus Young Republican who ingratiated himself into the Committee to Re-Elect the President by bringing to the ’72 campaign a bag of political tricks garnered in college elections. We meet a newly-divorced Senator Bob Dole on the prowl, sporting bell-bottoms and a fake tan. We see early abuses of the Political Action Committee in John Connally’s Democrats for Nixon, which produced one of those tasty if vapid statistical coincidences that really make reading history fun: the specious claim, in a TV ad, that George McGovern would make 47% of the population eligible for welfare. But the agglomerative method also has its drawbacks: one finds repetitions of unfortunate words and phrases—near-comical overuses of the phrases “slow, soiling humiliations” and “man bites dog,” and of the words “solons” for legislators and “exuberants” for conservative die-hards come immediately to mind—as well as the sort of minor factual errors that have the effect of calling into question the veracity of more important claims: the film Straw Dogs is not a western; Richard Nixon’s father was born in Ohio, not Indiana; and the chief official of a Nazi political district was a Gauleiter, a German word, not gauletier, a real-sounding but imaginary French one.

On a more macro level, while one shudders at the possibility of seeing scores more instances of “slow, soiling humiliations,” it might have been interesting had Perlstein lent his skills to taking the book all the way through Watergate to Nixon’s actual resignation, rather than leaving off shortly after the 1972 election. But that could well be an entire 900-page book in itself, and Perlstein succeeds admirably in proving his point in the period he allotted himself. What remains to be seen is whether American politics continue to exhibit—as in Nixon, in his pupil Ronald Reagan, and in Reagan’s student George W. Bush—the pattern of ruthless power-seeking by the Right, and rudderless floundering and fissile factionalism within the Left. The human cost of such recurrent dysfunction is higher than ever.

México: el país de no pasa nada

Seis años atrás, Ismael Hernandez Deraz aspiró a la gobernatura de Durango con la promesa de que llevaría al Estado hacía el progreso, haciéndose llamar “EL” como adjetivo característico del cambio que denotaría un antes y un después en la historia de la ciudad. El resultado de su proceso electoral no dejó en duda que el pueblo estaba con EL, pues obtuvo una ventaja de casi diez por ciento sobre los demás candidatos quienes aceptaron la victoria del Partido Revolucionario Institucional como un resultado legítimamente jurídico.

No tardo mucho en verse el cambio del que Ismael tanto hablaba; las oportunidades de trabajo empezaron a concederse a un limitado grupo de personas, todas ellas cercanas al gobernador dejando en la quiebra a varios negocios locales pues un monopolio había comenzado. Los medios de comunicación denunciaron esta práctica inconstitucional y poco a poco fueron callados por el mismo gobierno llegando a las consecuencias de que ninguno de ellos podría publicar ningún tipo de información sin que antes no fuera aprobada por EL. La ciudad comenzó a quedarse muda y sorda, conociendo las novedades por testigos presenciales cuya veracidad terminaba en rumores. Poco a poco, Ismael comenzó a demostrar quien realmente era, nunca le importó Durango, lo único que le importaba era su propia riqueza y habiendo dejado en claro que nadie podía estar en su contra, comenzó a desalojar a los habitantes de una manzana completa para el ahí, construir su mansión. La educación pasó a último término, pues para estos casos es preferible un pueblo ignorante.

Cierto día comenzó a circular en la red una amenaza de un grupo llamado “Los Zetas”, quienes anunciaban que en un plazo de dos meses llegarían a Durango armados y que no se detendrían ante nadie ni ante nada, que la población debería tener cuidado y evitar salir de sus casas. Durango se vió exceptico ante esta situación y lo tomó como una broma, por que para cadenas en internet, esa, no era la única.

Las cosas cambiaron cuando los primeros enfrentamientos entre la policía estatal y “los Zetas” tuvieron lugar dentro de un fraccionamiento conocido y cobró vidas inocentes a las que nunca se les hizo justicia. Durango empezó a conocer el miedo cuando hieleras ensangrentadas aparecieron frente a la Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado conteniendo las cabezas de once hombres que habían sido reportados como desaparecidos apenas un día antes, acompañadas con una cartulina cuya leyenda decía “Ya llegamos, y no nos vamos”. A partir de entonces, Durango dejó de ser esa ciudad colonial y tranquila que le caracterizaba para convertirse en uno de los primeros estados con un alto índice de inseguridad a nivel nacional, las ejecuciones estaban a la orden del día, las amenazas de bombas, balaceras, los levantones, sucedían a cualquier hora, en cualquier parte, y eran tantas las denuncias de la ciudadanía que la autoridad optó por ignorarlas alegando que ya tenían demasiado trabajo para intentar con mas. Al poco tiempo, las denuncias terminaron, pues cada que se realizaba una, se recibía una llamada de amenaza por parte de este grupo del crimen organizado pidiendo por las buenas, que se callaran. A Durango no le quedo mas que ser testigo de todo lo que el crimen organizado era, no le quedó más que ser victima de sus miles de atropellos y no le quedó mas que aprender a quedarse callado, pues quienes debían protegernos, quienes debían llevarnos al progreso, tenían nexos con el narco.

Seis años le tomó a Ismael deshacer Durango, hacerlo inhabitable, inseguro, impune, negando siempre ante los medios el grado de violencia y cinismo que se vive actualmente en lo que fué una de las ciudades más tranquilas de la República. Y no obstante, reacio a dejar su poder dentro de la política, para estas elecciones del 2010, postuló a un candidato saltandóse todos los requisitos legales para poder postularse como candidato a gobernador, pues sabría podría manejarlo cual títere y así, alargar su gobierno durante seis años más. Los duranguenses cansados de vivir con miedo, votarón por el candidato del partido opositor, José Rosas Aispuro y al ver Ismael que su derrota era inminente, el día de las elecciones, el pasado 4 de Julio, mandó comandos armados a robar las urnas que contenían el material electoral y a pesar de las denuncias ciudadanas exigiendo el respeto de su voto, el candidato de Ismael, Jorge Herrera Caldera y el Partido Revolucionario Institucional se declararon ganadores, e incluso agraviados, pues declararon que Rosas Aispuro había sido el responsable del robo de urnas,  ya que  habían encontrado pruebas tales como publicidad en contra del PRI y boletas electorales en casas de miembros del partido opositor, e hicieron públicamente responsable de cualquier cosa que pudiera sucederle a Ismael, pues Aispuro tenía fuertes nexos con el narcotráfico. Cabe mencionar que los miembros del partido opositor en quienes supuestamente encontraron el material electoral robado, fueron puestos en libertad días después por falta de pruebas.

Diversos medios de comunicación anuncieron la victoria de Herrera Caldera incluso días antes de que el conteo oficial hubiese terminado sin darle importancia a las 30 urnas robadas, las cuales contenían aproxidamente de 10 mil a 20 mil votos. Rosas Aispuro  ante esta situación declaró que pedirá el recuento voto por voto una vez que las investigaciones sobre las urnas robadas que realiza la PGJE terminen  y que de ser necesario llevará este asunto a los tribunales electorales federales.

El pasado 8 de Julio, el pueblo de Durango salió a las calles para realizar una protesta pública contra Ismael, y a pesar de que este prohibió el transporte público ese día,  alrededor de 50mil personas recorrieron las calles de la ciudad exigiendo que se respetara su voto, su derecho a la democracia, a la vida y a la seguridad, que el pueblo de Durango ya había decidido y había decidido a Rosas Aispuro, que era tiempo de que Ismael dejara el poder, incluso la ciudad.

Nosotros no queremos una dictadura, no queremos que nos impongan un candidato, no queremos seguir viviendo en constante inseguridad y en un atropello interminable de nuestras garantías individuales, y mañana, 11 de julio, estamos a la espera del resultado final de las elecciones del 4 de julio, donde esperamos que nuestro derecho al voto sea respetado y Rosas Aispuro tome el poder el 5 de septiembre del 2010, como el pueblo de Durango lo decidió.


Ana Rzeznik is an activist and law student in Durango, Mexico.

Health Care Reform

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Eight Single Payer activists were arrested in May for attempting to tell the truth about health care reform at the Senate Finance Committee meeting.

Corporate Dems, “Single Payer” Health Care, and Two Party System Failure–All Made Real Simple

–Kara Allison

It is only natural that so many people are talking about health care and health care reform these days. I cannot express how excited I am to see the grassroots effort that many of my friends and colleagues have participated in, finally get the national attention it deserves.

But I have to be honest here…

Most of the conversations I hear swirling in and out of coffee shop doors, hovering outside entrances of local pubs, and even those that have boldly entered the confining walls of academia are incredibly misinformed. In these conversations I hear people throwing around words like “single payer” and “universal” interchangeably… Using words they don’t even know the meaning of, like they coined the words themselves.

At a social networking website recently, I noted one person admitting in a comment thread that he knew nothing about Obama’s proposed health care plan, but acknowledging, in the same breath, that reform is needed.  This person took the “I trust Obama, so just pass the bill through” stance.  I navigated away from this site only to return to someone else grumbling about how he shouldn’t have to pay another dime to support the “deadbeat Americans who are too lazy too work”.

I looked down at my check stub for a moment and did some quick math.  Then I decided to visit the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website to look at their health care rankings. France currently holds the number 1 ranking for the best health care system in the world. Their citizens pay about 10% of their income in taxes.  This includes militia, health care, transportation, etc. I looked down at my check stub again, noting duly, that I pay roughly 23% more in taxes than the average French citizen, work more hours a week on average, and if I get sick, well… I’m fucked.

This past week the House Democrats presented their health care reform bill.  While many people believe that a step in any direction, is a step forward regarding an issue that has been immobile for so long, Obama’s plan—even if it passes—it destined to fail.

Single Payer Action’s http://singlepayeraction.org/index.php Russell Mokhiber, in an email earlier this week, tells us why:

    Because it keeps the insurance industry in the game.
    It will cost a trillion dollars over ten years.
    It won’t cover tens of millions of Americans.
    It won’t control costs.
    And it’s a bailout for the insurance industry.
    Only a single payer — everybody in, nobody out — national health insurance bill (co-sponsored by 85 members of the House — most recently by Congressman John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) will hit the grand slam — cover everyone, save money, control costs, and fix a broken health care system.
    But what struck me yesterday while watching the Democrats was the depth of their deception.
    There was Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
    Both heaping praise upon and honoring Congressman John Dingell (D-Michigan).
    And his father — John Dingell, Sr.
    John Dingell, Sr. represented Michigan’s 15th district for 22 years until his death in 1955.
    John Dingell, Jr. has represented the district ever since.
    But not once during the press conference did anyone mention that it was John Dingell, Sr. who first introduced a single payer bill in Congress in 1943.
    And it was Democratic leaders in Congress and President Barack Obama who took single payer off the table.
    The Republicans will tell you straight up — we’re for big business.
    Single payer is socialism.
    And that’s why we’re against single payer.
    When the Democrats are out of power, they will tell you what you want to hear — we’re for single payer.
    They then take power, and all of a sudden, they are against single payer.
    Take Henry Waxman (D-California) as a case in point.
    For years, Henry Waxman was a co-sponsor of HR 676 — the single payer bill in the House.
    Until earlier this year, when he became part of the leadership in the House.
    Then Waxman took his name off the single payer bill.
    In 2003, Barack Obama said he was for single payer.
    Obama said at the time that we would have single payer in America only when the Democrats took back the White House and Congress.
    Last year, Obama and the Democrats took back the White House and Congress.
    And now President Obama is opposed to single payer.
    The reality is that there is only one solution to the health care crisis — get the insurance companies out of health care.
    The Democrats are now engaged in what Dr. Marcia Angell — former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine — calls “the futility of piecemeal tinkering.”
    Angell and a majority of doctors in the United States — and a majority of the American people — believe that only a major single payer overhaul will get the job done.
    That’s why we’re challenging the Democrats around the country.
    And we will continue to challenge them, and the health insurance industry to whom they are beholden, until single payer becomes a reality in America.

Many health care reform advocates warn that we need to press for “single” payer” and not the “public option” for many reasons: the public option is NOT single payer, it does not confer the benefits of single payer, and is too expensive. The inevitable failure that will result from the “system” including the public option but which also preserves the insurance companies, will only serve to discredit the idea of single payer and set back present and future efforts.

So what’s the solution?

I believe Dennis Kucinich is headed in the right direction with HR676, which is explained in the following:

    Healthcare: Change the Debate
    Support a Real Public Option
    In mid-May, in an effort to reach consensus, President Obama secured a deal with the health insurance companies to trim 1.5% of their costs each year for ten years saving a total of $2 trillion dollars, which would be reprogrammed into healthcare. Just two days after the announcement at the White House the insurance companies reneged on the deal which was designed to protect and increase their revenue at least 35%
    The insurance companies reneged on the deal because they refuse any restraint on increasing premiums, copays and deductibles – core to their profits. No wonder a recent USA Today poll found that only four percent of Americans trust insurance companies. This is within the margin of error, which means it is possible that NO ONE TRUSTS insurance companies.
    Then why does Congress trust the insurance companies? Yesterday HR 3200 “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act,” a 1000 page bill was delivered to members. The title of the bill raises a question: “Affordable” for whom?.
    Of $2.4 trillion spent annually for health care in America, fully $800 billion goes for the activities of the for-profit insurer-based system. This means one of every three health care dollars is siphoned off for corporate profits, stock options, executive salaries, advertising, marketing and the cost of paper work, (which can be anywhere between 15 – 35% in the private sector as compared to Medicare, the single payer plan which has only 3% administrative costs).
    50 million Americans are uninsured and another 50 million are under insured while for-profit insurance companies divert precious health care dollars to non-health care purposes. Eliminate the for-profit health care system and its extraordinary overhead, put the money into healthcare and everyone will be covered, everyone will be able to afford health care.
    Today three committees will begin marking up and amending HR3200. In this, one of the most momentous public policy debates in the past 70 years, single payer, the only viable “public option,” the one that makes sound business sense, controls costs and covers everyone was taken off the table.
    In contrast to HR3200 … HR676 calls for a universal single-payer health care system in the United States, Medicare for All. It has over 85 co-sponsors in Congress with the support of millions of Americans and countless physicians and nurses. How does HR-676 control costs and cover everyone? It cuts out the for-profit middle men and delivers care directly to consumers and Medicare acts as the single payer of bills. It also recognizes that under the current system for-profit insurance companies make money NOT providing health care.
    This week is the time to break the hold which the insurance companies have on our political process. Tell Congress to stand up to the insurance companies. Ask members to sign on to the only real public option, HR 676, a single-payer healthcare system.
    Hundreds of local labor unions, thousands of physicians and millions of Americans are standing behind us. With a draft of HR3200 now circulating, It is up to each and every one of us to organize and rally for the cause of single-payer healthcare. Change the debate. Now is the time.

There are approximately 200 countries that exist on our planet and each of these countries has devised its own plan to meet the health care needs of its citizens.  When studying collectively the health care systems of the world, one will note that four patterns tend to emerge.  Hence, health care systems can be divided, for the most part, into four basic models.  A brief outline of  the four health care models can be found at : http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/sickaroundtheworld/countries/models.html.

The United States is unlike every other country because it maintains so many separate systems for separate classes of people. All the other countries have settled on one model for everybody. This is much simpler than the U.S. system; it’s fairer and cheaper, too. The time for health care  reform in the United States has finally come.  It is imperative that we educate ourselves and press our government to make the right decision.  A weak foundation now, will be the cause of failure in the future.  How much more failure can we afford?

Kara Allison is an academic librarian, freelance writer, and activist living in Cincinnati, Ohio.


THE UNDIVIDING LINE BETWEEN LITERARY AND POLITICAL

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THE UNDIVIDING LINE BETWEEN LITERARY AND POLITICAL

by Okla Elliott

It has been said that poetry feeds no one, and no doubt, I have felt occasionally that reading or writing literature is merely an indulgence, one many people cannot afford. But that’s a rather limited view of how literature, the presses that publish it, and its practitioners function in the world.

In many ways, literature offers an opportunity to be political completely outside the electoral arena, something the people of this country (which has a two-party duopoly currently in place) sorely need.

Who can read a novel like The Quiet American (Graham Greene) and not rethink the Vietnam Conflict in human terms? Who can read Fox Girl (Nora Okja Keller) and not be heartbroken over how US military bases in South Korea negatively impacted the lives of the people who inhabited the camptowns around them? And, here again, in human/emotional terms, not mere numbers which lose meaning in their abstraction. Gore Vidal’s historical novels help readers to review American history from a different perspective. War memoirs personalize tragedies via the concrete and hellish details, as opposed a government’s abstractions of patriotism, freedom, or liberation which try (quite effectively) to dehumanize what is going on and thereby make it more stomachable.

That is perhaps literature’s greatest strength. It removes the easy cleanness of abstraction and introduces the muck and blood of reality into political thought. I do not mean to suggest that more rigid statistical analysis doesn’t have a very important role in politics; of course it does, as nearly everyone agrees. But literature can bring life to those numbers in a way that can motivate people to act, which our emotions are more likely to do than our intellect in most cases.

Unfortunately, however, too often writers in the United States eschew the political as beneath the dignity of high art. Not only is this a view solely held by our nation (in Europe, Africa, South America, etc, politics and art/literature quite often go hand in hand), but it is also so obviously nonsensical, I don’t see how it gained such ideological traction. Am I to believe that the lives and deaths of my fellow man are beneath the purview of art? Or that war cannot or should not produce insightful novels and poems?

But literary work doesn’t have to be openly political to perform a political or ethical function. When a middle-aged man in upstate New York reads a novel about a young girl in an impoverished Kentucky town, his knowledge of humanity is broadened as are his powers of empathy. And empathy makes us less likely to support policies that harm others.

And it’s not just the work itself that is political. There is a political aspect to the publishing and purchasing of books.

Let’s look at small presses for a moment. The term “small press” is an elusive term, as it includes presses with an all-paid staff and tens of thousands of dollars in grant support, as well as presses run by an all-volunteer staff out of someone’s apartment. But what small presses definitely are not are the huge publishing houses owned by corporations like AT&T that largely crank out books with cute cats on the cover or books that otherwise play to our basest sensibilities. Take, as an example of an excellent small press, Ugly Duckling Presse, which specializes in experimental literature and literature in translation. Experimental literature might have no overt political message, but it seeks to shake things up or offer an alternative view on human experience and thought. And translation is highly political, even when the content of what is translated is not. Every translation is an entry into another culture, an invitation to understand how people live in other parts of the world. By better understanding other cultures, it strikes me that we are more likely to respect them and therefore less likely to want to bomb the shit out of them. And, aside from the occasional blockbuster hit, most translation comes out of university presses or small presses, as well as small literary journals.

To take a cue from this blog’s name, I’ll not be merely descriptive of what literature can and does do; I’ll be prescriptive about what editors, writers, and readers ought to do (or ought to do more of), bringing us to the classic progressive question—what is to be done? First, editors need to solicit more well-crafted political writing, more translations, and more travel literature (whether it be poetry or prose, fiction or non-). Second, more writers need to be producing such work (and here I don’t mean preachy, one-dimensional stuff, but rather complex, well-crafted, multiply indicting work). Third, lovers of literature and writers (or people who hope to be writers) need to support the small press industry with subscriptions to journals and by buying books.  We also need to purchase well-written and politically sophisticated books from the major publishers to teach them in the only terms they understand (i.e., profits) to produce more books like the aforementioned Fox Girl (out from Penguin) and fewer books with cats dressed in cowboy hats or superman capes or whathaveyou.

In closing, I offer a very abbreviated list of books, journals, and presses that might be of interest. If you have any to add, please feel free to do so in the comments section below.

Books

Rising Up and Rising Down (nonfiction), by William T Vollmann; After the Lost War (poetry), by Andrew Hudgins; Disgrace (fiction), by J.M. Coetzee; This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen (fiction), by Tadeusz Borowski; Salazar Blinks (fiction), by David Slavitt; Cancer Ward (fiction), by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; Our Lives Are Rivers (poetry) by Mark Smith-Soto; A Gesture Life (fiction), by Chang-Rae Lee; Selected Poems (poetry), by Marina Tsvetaeva; Death and the Maiden (drama), by Ariel Dorfman; Christopher Unborn (fiction), by Carlos Fuentes; and, again, Fox Girl (fiction), by Nora Okja Keller.

Journals

Blue Mesa Review, Circumference, Contrary, Crab Orchard Review, Hobart, Indiana Review, International Poetry Review, The Literary Review, Main Street Rag, Monthly Review, Natural Bridge, New Letters, New York Quarterly, A Public Space, and The Sun.

Presses

Copper Canyon Press, Dzanc Books, Graywolf Press, Monthly Review Press, Press 53, Red Hen Press, Seven Stories Press, and Wave Books—as well as dozens of university presses (e.g., Ohio State, LSU, Northwestern, etc).