Tag Archive for resist

When a Word Goes to War

by Jean Waight

Remember the so-called War on Christmas—just another snit by Fox News, right?

In the wake of last year’s presidential election results, we—secular and religious progressives, liberals, centrists, and presumably, a good many conservatives—have looked far and wide, and at ourselves, to explain the election. But I think we would do well to take a closer look at this old skirmish, and consider how a word can be used to steer debate and also have non-rational effects—in a long game. The so-called War on Christmas was not a controversy so much as a step in a call to arms, and it looks to me like the rest of us unwittingly aided their cause.

How? We took the bait. We took up what we thought was the issue—religious freedom—thinking we could argue it civilly. Our mistake. It was not really about whether it was better to use the greeting “Happy Holidays” rather than reflexively saying “Merry Christmas,” which actually was, as an issue, pretty easy to resolve. Our other mistake was thinking: This, Too, Shall Pass. But this was not an isolated squabble. And it only seemed to pass.

Strategic use of the word “war”

If the stated issue wasn’t the real issue, and we made a mistake discussing it, (or ignoring it) then what else could we have done?

Our big mistake was in accepting Neo-conservative terms for the discussion—accepting that this disagreement could properly be called WAR. You don’t remember accepting those terms? Me neither. But by not calling a halt to the discussion until we could clear up this meta issue, we gave them the win in that skirmish, with lasting damage.

I checked definitions. After finding in my old 1941 Webster’s a heavy emphasis on massive armed conflicts, I turned to my newer dictionary, Merriam Webster’s Collegiate, tenth edition, 1993. Almost sixty years later, usage has relaxed a bit.

1.  a. A state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations

b. A period of such armed conflict

2. a. A state of hostility, conflict, or antagonism

b. A struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end (such as a class war or war against disease.)

Although the dictionaries allow the use of the word “war” for major struggles that are below the level of armed conflict between nations, the use of the word in a simple debate or disagreement is definitely pushing the envelope. What else does it do besides push boundaries on meaning? Unacknowledged are the word’s unspoken connotations and its conjuring of awful history. In wars between nations, what comes with the territory? Jettisoned quickly are truth, ethics, honesty, fair dealings, even listening. Emotions rise to a pitch. Horror, cruelty, and an all-in mentality result. Is that basket of sadness what we want brought to a mere disagreement?

The Neocon long game

The strategy and fruits of the Neocons’ long game are clear now. First, they accused the left of waging war. Not of insensitivity or other wrong, but war. In this age of trash talk and hyperbole, we rolled our eyes and let it pass. Now look what that did for the Neocons. With our acceptance of this hyperbole, they could avoid any clear light shining on that deeply anti-democratic piece of fire-bombing. “Anti-democratic” because it paints simple disagreement as the mark of a war enemy.

My gratitude to Marian Exall for her insightful comments on an earlier draft.

Author Bio:   Jean Waight is a Bellingham memoir and essay writer. Her work has appeared in the Red Wheelbarrow Writers anthology “Memory into Memoir,” in Cirque: A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim, and in Whatcom Watch. She blogs on GreenTeaSympathy.blogspot.com.

Nevertheless, She Persisted

by Sara Stamey

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted,” Mitch McConnell said after invoking an obscure, antiquated rule to silence Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor.

“Bullshit!” I responded when I heard what he’d done. I was angry, and taking it personally. Then I asked myself why, and realized that it WAS personal—to all women and girls. This is what I grew up hearing:

“Be nice, be ladylike. Don’t talk back.”

“You’re being impudent.”

If I spoke up against unfairness, I was punished, and I learned to silence myself, like so many women around the world. It was a long road for me before I realized that the persistence of the old “power-over” models, perpetuated by patriarchy (our dysfunctional U.S. Congress, anyone?), depends on silencing powerful and thus threatening-to-the-old-order women. Why has my right-wing father hated and excoriated Hillary Clinton since her First Lady days?

My Resistance to tyrannical authority began with the stories and novels I write, in which plucky women freely speak their minds despite the dangers of doing so. In my early science fiction novel Wild Card Run, a young woman escapes her abusive stepfather and repressive homeworld in which women are required to stay in the home and denied the freedoms given to men. She lands on an anything-goes asteroid called Casino, only to discover that even there her outspokenness may result in punishment with the “Steps of Healing,” which would erase her memories and rebellious personality. She would literally be silenced.

I considered the novel allegorical, not literal, in regard to women’s rights. During my youth, the feminist movement had made great strides in gaining rights for women, and I had worked among men in industry. Of course, I had to go through hazing and working harder than the men to “earn” my right to be accepted on the work crews, but I prided myself on being tough and able to take it.

Then I moved to fairly remote Southern Chile, where my former husband and I had bought land to start a farm. I was startled to realize that in this rural area, women stayed in the home while men had the freedom to go out partying and do what they wished. I was never addressed by my name, but was merely “la senora,” an attachment of my husband. A Chilean woman needed her husband’s permission to open a bank account or do many of the things I had taken for granted in the States.

We started building a house, hiring local workers to help with various tasks. When my husband fell ill with a lingering malady, I had to take up the reins to finish the house, and I discovered that the workmen would not take instructions from me, a mere woman. I had to get my husband out of bed and prop him up in the doorway, where he could repeat my instructions. When the house was finished, we planned a traditional “roof raising” celebration with the local families and issued invitations. Only the men attended, as the women were not allowed to come.

In Santiago and other South American cities, where the culture is more progressive, women engage in business and enjoy much more freedom, though still limited by restrictive laws. Even they must watch their step in the more “traditional” communities, as a Chilean friend told me. She and her husband had a summer cottage near our land, and she reported that when she had asserted her authority to instruct a male worker on their boat, he had deliberately tried to injure her with a dangerous “accident.”

In my travels around the world, I have seen that the ancient angers and fears of women still prevail in many cultures, where horrors such as stoning and mutilation persist. But I had thought we were moving past those in the U.S., especially during the Obama administration, with its embracing of women, minorities, all genders and lifestyles. The harsh reality of the oppressive new administration has been a slap in the face to so many of us, including the strong women in Congress.

When I learned of the silencing of Elizabeth Warren—temporary, thanks to her power and persistence—I realized that Resistance must move beyond storytelling, as vital as it is to our culture and community soul. I am making the effort to speak out personally and confront the outmoded, oppressive social model that the current regime is seeking to reinstate. I’m arming myself with facts to counter people who spout “alternative facts” that support the new tyranny in our country. I hope I will have the courage to take physical action if necessary to hold the line and protect our civil rights.

I recommend a short, pithy book, On Tyranny, by Dr. Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale University. An expert on the Holocaust and recent European history, Snyder lays out clear parallels between the regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Putin, and others, and the tactics of so-called president as orchestrated by neo-Nazi advisor Steve Bannon. Snyder suggests ways to recognize and oppose efforts to erode our rights, especially vital to women and minorities.

So I join the groundswell and raise my voice against the many forms of tyranny, overt and insidious: “Resist!”

Author’s Bio: 

Award-winning novelist Sara Stamey’s journeys include treasure hunting and teaching scuba in the Caribbean, backpacking worldwide, operating a nuclear reactor, and owning a farm in Southern Chile. She taught creative writing at Western Washington University and shares her creekside land with wild creatures and her cats, dog, and paleontologist husband Thor Hansen.

Sara’s science fiction novels with Berkley/Ace received praise from Publishers Weekly and made the Locus Best New Novelists list. Her Caribbean psychic suspense novel ISLANDS—“A stomping, vivid ride” (Statesman Review)—won the Chanticleer Paranormal Suspense Award and Hollywood Book Festival Genre Award. Her near-future Greek islands thriller THE ARIADNE CONNECTION won the Cygnus Award for speculative fiction. “A rocket-paced thrill ride that delivers complex, engaging characters in a laser-sharp plot.”   (Chanticleer Reviews) www.sarastamey.com

Sara’s story “Reset” is included in the multi-genre collection Nevertheless, She Persisted, to be released August 8 by Book View Café publishing.

Here is the Amazon pre-order link for Nevertheless She Persisted

Sara’s Amazon author page  

Labels

by Judith Shantz

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. That was the childhood response to playground bullies, but it was never true. Words do hurt, far more than sticks or stones. Mindless cruelties. Retard and queer. We never outgrew it, the words just changed – redneck, welfare queen – nasty labels of otherness. Where did we learn these words?

Surely deplorables and bad hombres have always been with us.  Somewhere in our evolution we crossed a line, from the simple needs of the clan, “Og kills antelope” to the despicable rejection of otherness, “Og hates fags”.

The Ogs have become more sophisticated over the millennia but their type is universal. In America they now have perfectly ordinary, European names. They wear business suits. Some even have titles – doctor, congressman, pastor, president. Their message is often more nuanced but it is still the same brand of hate.

I belonged to a generation of believers. We were the granolas and the tree-huggers, the marchers and the protesters. It was a heady time with great music as its backdrop – music that gave us our anthems and promised “Times, they are a-changing”. We were, perhaps, naïve but our tents were big – Civil Rights, Human Rights, Women’s Rights – and our hearts were expansive.

But it wasn’t quite enough. We grew up and had babies and needed jobs. We cut our hair and put on work clothes and took out mortgages. The fierce momentum lagged and those big tents shriveled, became more exclusive, leaving the most vulnerable behind. Now, in some quarters, ‘colorism’ embraces only lighter-skinned African Americans and Feminism has been reduced to a fight for reproductive rights – certainly a critical issue but not the only one.

In greater and greater numbers, the disenfranchised have turned to the politics of identity, rising up to claim their own labels and narratives. This wasn’t caused by any single event – it cannot be laid at the feet of September 11 or Trayvon Martin or even FOX News – those were simply catalysts. “I will no longer permit you to define me; I will name my own identity.”

This has been empowering for some.  We can see that in the happy proliferation of rainbow flags. But it has also left so many others in little bubbles of aloneness, struggling to reimagine their own unique identities, standing rigid and apart, each with his or her own label. “This adjective, this pronoun, this acronym, this is my unique identity. You are Other.  You cannot know my pain.” We tiptoe through these minefields, afraid that our words will, in the parlance of the day, ‘disrespect’ those Others. And now, in these politically charged times, ‘PC’ itself has become a pejorative.

Am I an innocent in all this?  Alas, no. I am a world class ranter and have been known to broad-brush, at least privately, entire populations as anti-intellectual and bigoted. I have also indulged in creating my own identity, my label. I have let the few really nasty, anti-immigrant tirades hurled at me get under my skin and stick there, like a tick bite, festering. I have sometimes worn my alien status as a badge of honor.

Yet my particular identity is mostly invisible. I am only really affronted by the attacks on the millions of other immigrants who stand out because their skin color or language marks them as alien. I can really only imagine what the reality is for poor people standing in long lines outside the food banks, the disabled children, the men of color or the women in hijab; people who wear their ‘otherness’, their ‘lesserness’ in public every day.  We cannot fail to see and understand this pain. All those individual identities, celebrating their otherness because they have so little else – no hope of prosperity in a fabulously wealthy land, no hope for respect or admiration, no anticipation of acceptance or justice in the only home they know.

While immigrant may be part of my life experience, it doesn’t define me any more than gay or black or atheist defines anyone else. I don’t want to think of people as adjectives or acronyms. Those words do not portray any of us in our wholeness.

Ultimately, my resistance is to labels of all kinds, whether the undeserved ones or the self-selected ones.  I do not want to sanctify otherness.  Some of us are saintly, others not so admirable. But our simple humanity still makes us all eminently knowable. While it is impossible not to notice basic physical differences, I want to look you full in the face and see simply another human being. I want to listen to your story and see in you the whole person that you are.

I would return to my 1967 self and feel the upwelling energy of the fight for justice, and all those other fights, against poverty and homelessness, against corruption and greed – but never, ever against one another.

One by one, I am trying to lay down all the stick and stones.

Author’s Bio:  Judy Shantz grew up on the freezing/scorching Canadian prairie but always longed for a more gentle clime; preferably one with the scent of roses and salt sea in the air. Her first full-length novel, The Case of the Flickering Flashlight, was written at the age of nine and accepted by her loving parents with amazement and scarcely-disguised laughter. Her adult writings fill notebooks, spill out of files, cover cocktail napkins and the backs of grocery lists and her association with Red Wheelbarrow Writers is providing the inspiration to add flesh and feathers and fancy pants to all those characters waiting to be heard.

Burn ~ Part 2 (cont. from last week’s part 1): Refusal

by Nancy Grayum

I see withholding as a practice, a way of living lightly, spending small, taking time to think and feel, pacing ourselves. Progressive refusal, increasingly tweaking our resistance to the culture of waste and greed, can create meaningful outcomes.

Divestment from funds that support environmental or social abuse is easy to accomplish, but it can be difficult for people to let go of potential financial gain.  If investing in mutual funds, then we select “socially responsible” and read the fine print.

No banks or investment corporations use my money now. I’ve used only our local credit union, not the for-profit banks, for 50 years. A credit union is a cooperative non-profit, with an elected board that exists to benefit local community members. Bank-initiated legislation constantly threatens the non-profit status of credit unions. Even with strong resistance from members, the banks creep in: WECU sold our mortgage. Their Visa is actually Citibank. I pay the charges quite immediately so Citibank gets zero interest, but the usurers get a take from my vendors, who in turn charge me.

It’s this type of close examination of my own assumptions and habits that leads me to seek and share more ways to resist dependence on an abusive system.

I won’t vote for a candidate who accepts corporate contributions. Thousands of alliances have formed since Senator Bernie Sanders set the example and proved the power of common people during his presidential campaign. As these groups coalesce I will support them in the interest of social justice, education and a compassionate society.

Since the 1970’s everyone in our family has attended to efforts to decrease personal use of fossil fuels. These days I walk and use public transit to schools, markets, libraries and offices, but we also use a gas-powered car.

We support local farms and economies by purchasing locally-sourced fresh food. We avoid buying things that had to be transported by ship, plane, or trucks. But we can’t grow lemons or avocados here; there is still privilege in our purchasing habits.

We recycle and re-use. We also agonize over the omnipresent plastic that is woven through our personal culture like the DNA of living organisms. We could do better.

I resist by protecting my mind. I refuse to watch or listen to propaganda aka advertising aka network programming, so I don’t feed the gaping maw of corporate athletic, retail, political, or pharmaceutical America. There’s been no TV at home since I dialed up the internet in the 20th Century, but still the headlines from around the world swim in our ether whether we want to know about them or not. I’ve always been disinterested in “the news” in a rather snooty way, and continue my lifelong quest for meaningful journalism, verified sources with integrity, and without snarly hi-amp attitude. I wi-fi-couch surf national and international headlines but find other ways to read those topics in depth for free. Breitbart is free. (Opposition research.)

Oh yes, Yes!  magazine makes my list, along with other ad-free print and online sources of news and people in our multiple cultures that interest and inspire me: The Sun, Orion, Crosscut and Northwest Citizen, ACLU, Sierra Club, Northwest Treaty Tribes, Jay Taber’s Salish Sea Maritime blog and Jen Briney’s Congressional Dish podcast. Then I try to budget my stress hormones and let my thoughts compost sans odeur.

While I aim to stay healthy and fully available to family and friends, I now take the time to write postcards to our members of Congress every week–one topic per missive. I sign petitions, forward the urgent emails, then unsubscribe from the flood of solicitous promotions that result from my clicks. I make protest signs, and after years away, show up at protests. I pray that all people and all creatures may experience kindness and compassion.

Quiet time, retreat, solitude are like the exhale after a frightened gasp. Post-traumatic stress after November 2016 made me sick for three months. I seek renewal. Wendell Berry, in the last line of his poem The Peace of Wild Things, says it for me:

For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

We were burned this past winter and the flames are intensifying. But we are still breathing. The deliciously saturated clouds are still floating above, the rhodies are blooming at our front door, and we didn’t use the gas fireplace today. We can’t change our cultural entrapment with the flick of a switch, but we can keep the wicked wizards’ feet to the fire while we continue our own slow burn.

Author’s Bio: Nancy Grayum grew up in the rain-blessed forests and on the salty shores of Washington State, usually seeking the right path, or some divergence. She taught in public schools during the 1970’s, did a stint as a self-employed copy editor, then had a long career in classroom technology support at WWU. As a recovering technical writer she enjoys writing poetry and creative non-fiction, and is a volunteer with Whatcom Land Trust. She lives in Bellingham with her husband Gene Riddell  and their dog, Mr. Black.

Determination

by Diana Dodd

I have a photograph of a small bird that has in the grasp of its claws two separate pieces of pond grass. One leg is extended to the right and the other to the left, and then it is leaning forward to get a sip of water. That is what I call determination.

Determination does not come easily. It requires careful thought and a willingness to do whatever is necessary to reach a goal. In the realm of resistance, determination is key, because there will be times when the resistance succeeds and times when it fails. How many times did the bird attempt his trial of derring do before he achieved the fine balance that brought him success. It is easy, as time goes by and more and more happens in our country, to lose sight of the fierce resolve we might have felt on election night.

In order for the bird to balance on the moment the picture was snapped were all the times that the grass gave way or he misjudged the distance to the goal of the water and he shook his head to clear it off, and try another route. There are many ways to resist. We can support candidates both local and state when the option arises or even consider trying to serve in public office ourselves. We can write to our legislators both state and federal to protect the things we hold dear. We can promote organizations that assist those whose rights are in jeopardy. And on top of this, we must vote.

This first 100 days of the president’s term have been like a constant barrage and as confusing as being in the throes of battle. It can be hard to see what is happening when so much mud is thrown in the water. We must remain vigilant and informed. If a small bird can find the balance in his life, we can find the balance in ours and the determination to stay in the resistance.