Thursday, November 30, 2017

EXPOSED! The Consequences of Male Privilege

We are all victims, men and women, of the centuries-old belief that women are somehow less than fully human beings, that males rule the public sphere and women the home, that males have rights, privileges and prerogatives, and women have socially acceptable roles. The fact that women are born with the same range of talent, intellect, interests, and dreams as men does not figure into this equation. Never has.

These social expectations and cultural beliefs are hard-wired into us from birth. This is what Patriarchy is all about. Betty Friedan, in 1963, called it "the feminine mystique."  And  a "mystique" it is.  The mystique that men are born to rule and women to follow, to obey.  The mystique that men's experiences, needs, ways of thinking and points of view are dominant and have authority, while the voices of women are mute, less important.  Persistence is not considered a virtue in women as it is in men, for example, nor is achievement.

These expectations and roles have become so "normal," so pervasive, so ubiquitous, that they are as much an unconscious ideology as a conscious pattern of behavior.

The ideological rigidity of male and female roles drives men to act on their prerogatives in lots of ways, now painfully evident in the exposure of the extent and depth of sexual harassment. It leaves women to deal with it in their own ways. Some succumb, some recoil, some get hurt, some get angry, some laugh it off as 'men will be men, boys will be boys.'  I don't know of any woman who has not dealt with this behavior, from moderate to severe, in one way or another.  I do know, like most women, that lots of men have fallen into this patriarchal trap, and it's not pretty.

Look at Matt Lauer, the most recent to be exposed.  "As his 20 years as a fixture of U.S. morning television came to an abrupt end, the married 59-year-old Matt Lauer found himself joining the fast-growing ranks of powerful men in U.S. entertainment, politics and media to be felled in recent months by accusations of sexual misconduct." (yahoo news, 11/30/17). While Lauer said some accusations were "untrue or mischaracterized," several of the accused have said something similar, he had to acknowledge that "there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed."

Feeling embarrassed and ashamed.  Doesn't feel good. Women know this feeling well. 

Not too long ago, an all-male Congressional committee made fun of a talented women who struggled to become a lawyer, earned a good government job on her merits, and was then sexually harassed in the workplace. Brave enough to step forward, Anita Hill was put down, her words twisted, in order to put an abusive male on the Supreme Court.

This is the misogyny condoned by patriarchy. Whether conscious or unconscious, it is an abuse of women, especially virulent against achieving women. Anita Hill, in the face of her courage even to confront the issue of sexual harassment, let alone do so in public, was treated as if she were less than human, treated with disdain and disrespect, a life to use, abuse, and demean.

Patriarchy (male dominance) and misogyny (ill-treatment of women) are indeed a central theme of  American history, consigned to what's called "women's history." I started the women's history course at the University of Toledo in the mid-1970s and have taught it off and on for some 30 years, here and in DC and Florida. Whenever I get a chance, I still recommend Eleanor Flexner's Century of Struggle as a basic text. Lots of studies have since been published, but it remains a thoughtful introduction to a complex subject. Teaching women's history has been a labor of love, and the field has exploded, but it's also been a daunting effort to have a voice.

Finding a voice is the essence of women's history. From the beginning of the new experiment in democracy, women's experiences and points of view, the way they think and they way they communicate, have been diminished and silenced. Women had few rights and lots of responsibilities for hearth and home and child raising, for working from sunup to sundown on farms large and small. They had no legal rights (married women were "femme covert" in English Common Law), no right to education, no path into the professions, no right to vote.  Abigail Adams, John Adams' wife, urged the "Founding Fathers" in 1776 to "Remember the ladies," but that was not about to happen.

The ladies were forgotten until they forced the issue at the first-ever Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls in 1848. And that was just the beginning.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Matilda Gage, and Lucretia Mott are American pioneers, but who remembers them?  Who remembers the ordinary men and women who trudged to that epic meeting with a mixture of fear and hope in their hearts?  Who knows that the platform of the Seneca Falls Convention, all-encompassing, transcendent, is still valid, still relevant, still a work in progress. Everyone should read it.

Women like Susan B. Anthony, the Grimke sisters, Sojourner Truth, and Lucy Stone were among the first to speak out against slavery, pioneer abolitionists, but who remembers them? Who remembers that it was when women were forbidden to speak out against slavery that the women's rights movement was born? Who remembers that it took a century of struggle to win the right to vote? Who remembers that Jane Addams, M. Carey Thomas, Carrie Catt, Alice Paul were reformers and pioneers in social justice at the turn of the 20th century, before men climbed onto the "progressive" bandwagon?

The silence of women's voices in American history, the lack of knowledge about women's efforts to gain rights and respect, to pioneer in equality and social justice, has led us to the present predicaments over sexism in our culture.  So has the lack of interest or concern about the meaning of patriarchy and most of all its consequences.  That's what we are dealing with today. Men in power positions are being exposed and we haven't even gotten to the voices of ordinary women, women of all ages, in all fields of endeavor, who are juggling home, child care and work.

Most of us find nothing gleeful about the exposes. They are not a political game of "gotcha," although men are making it so.  Not about conservatives or liberals, Reds or Blues. They are about a changing culture, about questioning societal roles, attitudes, and expectations.  They are about exposing the excesses of an unconscious but powerful ideology. They are the sad consequences of unfinished business in the area of  equality and human dignity, unresolved issues in the long struggle to find places for women in the broader world.

One day society will recognize--for the good of all, for the common good--that women have many talents, skills and points of view to contribute to our society and to lead us into a strong future. Then women will be found wherever their inherent talents and interests take them, without the barriers of an ideology or role expectations in their path to self-fulfillment and human dignity.  It's never been an easy climb.
Still at it after all these years. Women's March in DC, January 2017
For a copy of the Seneca Falls Declaration, see
One grievance reads that men "have endeavored, in every way that he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent life.... " A powerful statement at the time.  The Declaration concludes: "Now, in view of this entire disfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation--in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of the United States." from Elizabeth Cady Stanton, A History of Woman Suffrage , vol. 1 (Rochester, N.Y.: Fowler and Wells, 1889), pages 70-71.  The most radical of the rights called for in 1848?  The right to vote. And it took incredible effort over several generations to achieve it. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Republican Tax Cut "Reform" is a Trojan Horse

“The tax legislation passed by House Republicans last week shouldn’t really be understood as economic policymaking in any traditional sense. It’s not about stimulating growth or investment or improving incentives. It’s class war. Republicans are assisting the efforts of a very small, very rich faction to take an ever-growing share of the nation’s wealth from the rest of us.”
Zach Carter, "Welcome to the Class War," Huff Post, 25 Nov. 2017.

Thomas Nast, Boss Tweed
Trump, the White House trasher, and Congressional Republicans, enabling it to happen, are doing the Koch brothers' and dark money network's bidding to pass a prize tax cut for the 1 percent. They are pushing all the propaganda buttons and ramping up the doublespeak to beat the band. The poor are rich, the rich are poor.  

Get it done, or else,” is the word from the Koch brothers. They said the same about the repeal of Obamacare. 

The Senate bill, McConnell hungering for some victory, will hurt the middle class, workers and the poor. It will set the economy back by increasing the national debt and throwing millions off health care. The House bill is equally damaging for the majority of Americans and for our national economy, thanks to grinning Paul Ryan who smiles at the thought of screwing ordinary workers to get money for the super rich. Whatever any of the Republicans say in support of these bills is a bunch of lies.    

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report is damning. It notes that by 2019, people earning less than $30,000/year would be worse off under the Senate bill. By 2021, Americans earning $40,000 or less would be net losers, and by 2027, most people earning less than $75,000/year would be worse off. The poor would be hit hard. Health insurance premiums would rise if the bill becomes law, leading 4 million Americans to lose health insurance next year, and 13 million by 2027.  On the highest end of the economic scale, millionaires and those earning $100,000 to $500,000 would be big beneficiaries, as would Wall Street bankers and big corporations.

Leading bi-partisan economic and financial analysts, including CEOs, confirm this analysis.  CEOs acknowledge they cannot promise more jobs or wage increases. Everyone knows "trickle down" has never worked. Some 400 hundred CEOs are writing Congress to let it know they are worried about what increasing income inequality and the national debt will do to the economy.  The media is doing a good job of laying out the facts, getting past the smoke and mirrors, searching for the truth of the matter.

Trump only knows the tax bill would enrich himself and his family. He's pushing it like the lowlife Willie Loman he is. He knows as much about tax policy as he knew about the Obamacare repeal.  He cares nothing for the facts, as usual; doesn't consider options or consequences, no surprise there; and is not informed by principles or beliefs, as McCain reiterates. 

Does the CBO report on its ill effects on his fan base bother him?  Does he care that's it's giving corporations a $2 trillion tax break at a time they're making record profits?  Does he care that the Senate bill would kick 13 million poor people off  health insurance? Does he care that the tax bill is full of loopholes for Wall Street's wealthiest, or that the 1 percent now hold a record 38.65 percent of the nation's total wealth, up from 33 percent a decade ago?

Nah. He's calling the Republican tax "reform" a "Christmas gift" to the people. Tax cuts for the middle class. Tax cuts for all. Best thing for the economy since sliced bread. These are outright lies, shallow and without substance, but Republicans are hammering home the message and ramming it down our throats anyway. 

So we have Ohio Senator Rob Portman shamelessly selling the tax plan as if he's giving out candy on Halloween. It's how Portman operates in his fake compassion for the opioid crisis,too, giving aid on one hand, taking it away on the other, throwing platitudes to the masses on one side, screwing them on the other. This is Rob Portman: a Koch-funded politico par excellence, selling an unconscionable tax scam as a gift to the people when he knows it's a killer of the American dream. It's all a lie, like those slick Koch-funded ads that made Portman look like a choir boy in a hard hat and got him elected to serve his wealthy masters. As someone who calls him almost daily, like thousands of other Ohioans, the hypocrisy is overwhelming.

The Republican tax reform effort is a trojan horse. Adding $1.4 trillion to the national debt, cutting the needy from health care, hurting workers, the middle class, ordinary Americans in order to give tax cuts to the very rich, is about as cruel a trick as the Trojan Horse the Greeks used to destroy Troy. 

It's a trick on the American people.  It's a trick to fool them into believing it's about them, when the truth is, it's all about the super rich. We have to look this trojan horse in the eye and say 'no way.' We did it for health care. We can do it for the Trump/Republican tax scams as well.  

Some Sources:  "The letter calls on Congress to not to pass any tax bill that adds to the debt and that "further exacerbates inequality." Instead of cutting taxes of the wealthy, the letter tells Congress to raises taxes on rich people like them. It is being released publicly this week, as Republicans debate legislation which would add $1.5 trillion to the debt to pay for widespread tax cuts for businesses and individuals."

From Wikipedia: Trojan Horse is a tale from the Trojan War about the subterfuge that the Greeks used to enter the independent city of Troy and win the war. In the canonical version, after a fruitless 10-year siege, the Greeks constructed a huge wooden horse, and hid a select force of men inside. The Greeks pretended to sail away, and the Trojans pulled the horse into their city as a victory trophy. That night the Greek force crept out of the horse and opened the gates for the rest of the Greek army, which had sailed back under cover of night. The Greeks entered and destroyed the city of Troy, ending the war./
Metaphorically a "Trojan Horse" has come to mean any trick or stratagem that causes a target to invite a foe into a securely protected bastion or place. A malicious computer program which tricks users into willingly running it is also called a "Trojan horse" or simply a "Trojan"./ The main ancient source for the story is the Aeneid of Virgil, a Latin epic poem from the time of Augustus. The event is also referred to in Homer's Odyssey.[1] In the Greek tradition, the horse is called the "Wooden Horse" (Δούρειος Ἵππος, Doúreios Híppos, in the Homeric Ionic dialect).

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Remembering Loren on his 70th Birthday

Today is my dear brother Loren's 70th birthday. I'm not sure he would have liked it, but he would have carried on, as he always did.  He would keep my sister Andy and me on our toes, too.  He would rant with us, and keep us resisting. He was a warrior for truth and justice. He embraced diversity. He was a compassionate Aspie. He would never be silent, never give up.  His spirit lives on. 

But I miss him. It's been seven years since his last hike. He died along the trails of the Aucilla River in northern Florida, a place he loved. I was in Ukraine then, and my grief at the news of his sudden death from a heart attack knew no bounds. I don't think he was ready to go, but the goddess he loved called him home. I wasn't ready for sure. Nor our sister Andy, who greeted two very nice, grim-faced police officers at her door on a late Saturday afternoon in May 2010. She knew something was wrong, and fainted when the officers told her the news. So sudden, so unfair, just a few months before his autobiography, An Asperger Journey, on which he had worked so hard and for so long, came out. 

Loren would have been on fire at the outrages of the tRump regime and the blatant efforts of the oligarchs to enrich themselves at the expense of ordinary, hardworking Americans. He would have railed against the lies, the destruction of government agencies, the tyranny of the Bannon/Mercer/Pence cabinet and Senate Republicans to destroy our democracy. He would have been on the front lines of the Resistance.

Now, only the memories remain. And the fighting spirit, the voice of compassion and empathy, the light from a lovely soul. 

Here is a song for Loren on his 70th, a Mary Oliver poem he would have loved because it is about nature in harmony and at peace with itself.

Song for Autumn 
by Mary Oliver  

In the deep fall
     don't you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
     the earth instead of the
 nothingness of air and the endless 
     freshets of wind? And don't you think
of the birds that will come--six, a dozen--to sleep
     inside their bodies? And don't you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
     the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow?  The pond
     vanished, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
     its blue shadows.  And the wind pumps its
bellows.  And at evening especially,
     the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.  

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