Sunday, March 06, 2016

My feminism extends beyond US borders, and it informs my first-ever vote as a new American citizen


Police in Honduras repress women protesting violence against women. Photo via Telesur.

In the days and years before January 22, 2016, when I became a US citizen, the question of whom to vote for was always a hypothetical one for me.

Oh, that doesn't mean I didn't think about, write about, and discuss endlessly at our dinner table all the good, bad, and ugly features of every candidate vying for the votes of my husband and two of my three sons, US citizens by birth. The Huz is our main breadwinner, without a doubt, and we live where his business lives--as opposed to where I would prefer to live--making him the de facto head of the family. But as the saying goes (certainly as it goes in the so-called traditionally "patriarchal" countries I've lived in), the man may be the head, but the woman is the neck that turns the head.

So it would be dishonest of me to say that my interest in presidential politics was just academic. It would be disingenuous of me to say that in researching, analyzing, and discussing the candidates' records and policy proposals; their personal histories and present-day characters; and their values (insofar as it is ever possible to assess those with 100% accuracy when the person one is evaluating only exists in the electronic boxes in one's home), that I was merely indulging a hobby. A rather masochistic hobby.

I was amassing the data, evaluating it, and applying it to the progressive values we've taught our kids, the values that my family and I strive to uphold in all areas of life, not just politics. I was doing my job as "the neck".

In 2008, I was genuinely torn. To my mind, there was not that much difference between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. All things being equal, I told myself, my feminist self, I would have to support the woman candidate because she would bring to the nation's highest office a range of experiential qualities that a man never could. In the same way that, prior to giving birth to my first child, I always thought I knew what agonizing physical pain was (I had, after all, broken long bones while riding horses, and I'd suffered through a few tropical viruses) but in reality could not possibly know what it was really like until I'd gone through it myself. Likewise, then, a man--even a man who was the most empathetic creature on the planet--could nonetheless never truly understand what it was like to go through life as a woman in our culture.

That mattered a great deal to me. (It still does.) I connected with Hillary Clinton on a number of levels, just as the data tells us that women in my demographic tend to. We've experienced sexism and harassment; we've been underestimated and underpaid; we've seen our perceived worth reduced to our fuckability and outward appearance, even as we are simultaneously told to cover up those attributes lest we cause a helpless male superior at work (or else some rando dude in the parking lot) to accidentally rape us. (Ah yes, rape. That vile and violent power-display thing.)

Only a woman could truly know, at the experiential level, what all that shit feels like. How it talks to us, deep inside our brains, telling us we are not as good, not as smart, not pretty enough, not thin enough, too thin, too pretty, too loud, too quiet, and now, for me anyway, too old. Even as we manage to do well in the face of all of that because (if we were lucky) we had a role model or two in our family or circle of friends who insisted that we could, or else, we found in the literature or art or cinema some small gem of wisdom and affirmation that made us realize we could--indeed, look at what we've been through, we already have.

At the same time, though, and despite the powerful impetus to link arms with Hillary Clinton and support her in her quest to become the country's first woman president, I could not ignore her Iraq vote. The two candidates were so similar, in so many ways, but that one difference meant a lot to me. I believed 2008 Barack Obama when he said he would end the wars and bring everyone home. More than that, I believed him when he said he did not go along with the herd--he did not cave to pressure from war hawks, and this, in turn, indicated that even as a young senator, he had his own mind and he had the right ethics--the kind of ethics that had him standing up to the murderous George W. Bush and his colleagues.

Our dinner conversations began to center around Barack Obama. We read his book, Dreams From My Father. (Well, I did--I can't say for sure if the boys did.) I still longed for a really left-leaning candidate, one who broke free from the neoliberals in the Democratic party, the way that terrific, outspoken Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders did in the Senate. "If BERNIE ever runs for president," I declared, "I'm becoming a citizen so I can go with you guys to the poll and vote for him myself."

Fast-forward to last year. Bernie announced his run and I filed for citizenship, something I know well I should have done years ago--I've been eligible since 1979!--but didn't, because a big part of my heart still lived in England, where other Socialists like me were living (and living in the sunlight, unashamed and unassailed), and I felt it would be unethical to become an American when that English part of me still had blood flowing through it. Bernie, a Democratic Socialist, possibly becoming president? Well, then!

And here we are. We're looking at the increasing inevitability that, despite a heroic run by Senator Sanders, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. But I can't vote for her, even though I am now a citizen as well as a feminist.

It's the war/foreign policy thing again. The foreign policy history that Secretary Clinton forged between 2008 and now. It's about Libya. And, especially for me, Honduras. The latter received such scant coverage in this country, it broke (and continues to break) my heart. But it matters a great deal. You see, I lived in Honduras as a young teen--lived through the 1974 Coup--and another part of my heart is with the people of that country, too. Last week, an activist for the indigenous people and campesinos (small farmers) and women of Honduras, a brave and beloved woman activist named Berta Cáceres, was shot dead in her home. What does this have to do with Hillary Clinton? In 2009, as Secretary of State, Clinton shepherded in the new, hard-right, School-of-the-Americas trained military junta who ousted a democratically-elected president, Manuel Zelaya. "Ousted" is not quite the right word: after a contentious back-and-forth between Zelaya and the (far) more rightwing factions of the government, soldiers broke into the president's house, beat him up, held him at gunpoint, and dragged him onto a plane--still in his pajamas--and flew him out of the country.

A bit of background: Mel Zelaya was himself a member of oligarchic society in Honduras. As you are probably aware, Honduras is practically a case study in what goes wrong when income equality gets too out-of-hand. You have a tiny few owning everything, and you have multinational corporations joining forces with them to seize every resource there is, and you have a vast many who have virtually nothing. "Nothing" often means: no electricity, no running water, no shelter, no food. You have fifteen-year-olds with AKs strapped to them stopping you in the street at gunpoint to ask for your ID, and when you hand them your passport, they look at it upside down because they don't know how to read. (True story.) You have indigenous people being abused at every turn, having their waterways seized for dam projects, their land and mountains destroyed by mining interests, their fields taken over by corporate fruit industries. You have a population kept in line by all the traditional fascistic means: sexism, hard-line religion (in the case of Honduras, the Catholic church), and militarized police forces who beat and kill. Who make people disappear.

But Zelaya, despite his upbringing, had the heart of a leftist. Once elected, he set about making birth control available to poor women. Even Plan B. He stood up and apologized for the country's history of persecuting LGBT individuals, and told them they were okay, they would be safe now. He constantly advocated for the poor, for the indigenous communities, for the campesinos. He worked alongside Berta Cáceres, and other activists like her. He was in the process of pushing for a significant raise in the country's minimum wage when he was "ousted".

When the coup happened, in 2009, President Obama at first condemned it. As did the UN, as did the OAS. Many Latin American leaders were calling for the US to do something--to demand that Zelaya be allowed to return to his country, where tens of thousands of people were marching in the street, peacefully protesting and calling for their president's safe return (and getting beaten and shot for their trouble). In a few days, the press moved on. Suddenly, our US president was saying nothing. 

Hillary Clinton's emails, released last summer, tell us why. She was very actively involved in supporting the installation of the new, right-wing government. This has been covered by Democracy Now, TeleSur, and other "alternative" media. This piece in The Nation, written by noted Latin American scholar Greg Grandin, is a good one to start with.

Why is this important to me, and why should it be important to every feminist who is voting in the presidential election? Because of what happened in the aftermath of Zelaya's violent removal from office in 2009--in the years between then, and 2016.

Draconian abortion laws were put into place. Birth control became unaffordable once again and Plan B was banned.

LGBT individuals were beaten and killed, after they had just begun to feel as though this was their country too, they were free. Now it was, Oh, sorry, you're actually NOT safe. You will be beaten if you're lucky; murdered and mutilated if you're not.

Multinationals got their footholds strengthened as militarized police forces beat and killed protestors.

And, well-documented at this point, the ensuing chaos and mind-bending levels of violence that beset the largest cities, particularly San Pedro Sula, led families who feared for their children's lives (many families had already lost loved ones to drug gang violence) to send them on a long and frightening journey to the US border, where they hoped their kids would somehow find asylum and safety.  Meaning these children would have to travel through Honduras, through Guatemala and the entirety of Mexico (parents reading this, please imagine how desperate you would have to be, how dire your circumstances would have to be, for you to kiss your small kids goodbye and put them on a rickety bus and hope against hope they would make it to safety).

Secretary Clinton said they should be sent back, these kids. Said this would "send a message". I actually watched the debate during which she said this, and shouted at my television: Send a message to WHOM?

I know I've rambled on (to put it mildly), but I was finally moved to speak, and I had a lot to say. I have been reading the discussions, everywhere, about people's support for Secretary Clinton based on feminist principles, and always the discussion turns to the same questions: Why are you denying my experience as a woman? Why can't you see how important it is to me, as a woman, to have a woman be able to rise above all the things we have all faced and be elected to the country's highest office? Why aren't you listening to me?

Meanwhile, I--a feminist, a mother, a target of sexual harassment and sexism--am asking, Why aren't you listening to ME?

The world does not begin and end at the US borders. Back-channeling deals to install rightwing military juntas that impose and enforce draconian reproductive laws is NOT FEMINIST. Back-channeling deals to install rightwing military juntas that silence--by bullet--more than a few women activists, is NOT FEMINIST. When LGBT people are beaten and killed; when women who are raped can't get abortions; when women who live in a highly patriarchal culture cannot even access ways to plan their families, which in turn seals their fate as permanent members of the underclass so favored among multinationals who need cheap, motivated labor...these results are NOT FEMINIST GOALS.

Thanks for reading. Now you know why, when I say I "feel the Bern", I really mean it.

This post also appears at: RadioOrNot

Thursday, August 06, 2015

On this day (how could we, how could we?)


I am sharing this email with the permission of its author, the venerable civil rights attorney Guy Saperstein, whom I am privileged to call my friend and correspondent.

(Photos via Wikipedia and CommonDreams, added by me, DNT.)

***** 
Exactly 70 years ago, on the morning of August 6, 1945, the Enola Gay, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, flew over Hiroshima and dropped the first atomic bomb on humans. The bomb exploded 2,000' above the ground and five square miles of Hiroshima was completely destroyed, incinerating and killing 90,000 people; 70,000 more people would die soon after from burns and radiation. Nearly all the killed people were civilians.


Three days later, on August 9, 1945, the United States would drop a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, killing 70,000 civilians.

President Truman justified the use of nuclear weapons on "military necessity"---the need to avoid an invasion of Japan which would have cost American military lives, but, in fact, every one of Truman's military advisors and his Commander of the U.S. Army in the Far East, Douglas MacArthur, and Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, advised Truman that using nuclear weapons was not necessary to defeat the Japanese, who had a delegation in Washington D.C. negotiating for peace, and expressly advised Truman against using the bombs.

Historic records of Truman's administration later would reveal that use of nuclear weapons was never directed at Japan:  Truman's Secretary of State, James Byrnes, had convinced Truman that the Soviet Union would emerge from WWII as America's only rival and we needed to show them we had nuclear weapons and were willing to use them. Dropping the bombs on Japan was an attempt to dictate post-war terms to the USSR, not defeat Japan.  It was the beginning of the Cold War and the greatest single act of terrorism in the history of the world.


All of this has been documented by historians, most notably Gar Alperovitz in two books: Atomic Diplomacy and The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb.  Alperovitz' scholarship has stood up for 40 years.

Of course, this is not the version taught in schools and not the version popular in public conversation in America.  America doesn't do introspection.  America doesn't do contrition.  America fights terrorism, but never looks at its own acts of terrorism.

But maybe we could look at it today.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Mama Deborah's vegetable soup (stew, really)


As is my wont, usually when it's cold or rainy--obviously, it was the latter this week--I get in the mood to make soup.

Soup is a wonderful, forgiving foodstuff. Unlike baking, where you have to pay close attention to the precisely-measured amounts (of most ingredients, anyway), soup-making allows you to customize like mad. If you adore thyme, go ahead and throw in some more; if you're trying to cut back on sodium, eliminate most of the salt; if you've got a surplus of carrots lying around in the fridge, well, no-one is going to argue with the sweet, carroty flavor and extra dose of vitamin A this week's soup is offering. You can be totally creative and health-conscious while thriftily using up leftover vegetables from your last supermarket run or CSA delivery. There really aren't too many rules.

I made the soup in the photograph above this week, and a few people asked me for the recipe. I'm sort of embarrassed to admit that I don't really have a recipe, per se, but I hope they'll like what I'm offering instead: a general guideline for making one's own fabulous vegetable soup. Do it once, and you'll love the results (and process!) so much, it will become a habit, especially as fall draws near.

This was an enormous amount, as I have a big and hungry family. You should feel free to divide the quantities and add or eliminate ingredients as you see fit.

Start with a big stock pot. My beloved All-Clad pot, above, which is going on 10 years old, is actually part of gigantic shellfish steaming set. Any good, heavy-bottomed stock pot will do--you want to be able to simmer your soup without scorching it, something that can happen if you use potatoes and/or fava beans (I used both this week).

Coat the bottom of the pot with olive oil. Add a pinch of sea salt and a dash (or two or five, depending) of crushed red pepper.

Turn on the flame to low/medium and add your "mirepoix". A classic mirepoix is a mix of diced onions, celery, and carrot slices. I prefer minced garlic to onions, and there were tons of fat fennel bulbs at the market this week, so instead of celery, I cut the fennel into 1" dice (don't worry if you get a few of the leafy fronds in there, they're edible and tasty) and used those. If you can get your hands on fresh fennel, I wholeheartedly recommend using it--it imparts a delicious, sweet, faintly licorice-y flavor to the soup, and I adore that. It's also fun to nibble on raw while you're doing prep.

So, to recap, for this big batch (so far) I've used:


  • Olive oil to coat the pan
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Dash(es) of crushed red pepper to taste
  • 3 bulbs of fennel, woody stems and hearts removed, cut into 1" pieces
  • About 20 medium-ish organic carrots, sliced (however you like to slice carrots--fat, thin, French...your choice).


Sauté those until they're beginning to get soft, then turn down the heat to low and add:


  • 1 head of garlic, peeled, with the woody ends nipped off, then minced


Stir well, put the lid on the pot and let it all cook for a bit, checking on it and stirring every so often. The moisture from the carrots and fennel (or celery, if you're using that) will steam up and help soften everything, and it will also keep things from sticking. (But you still need a little oil to start with.)

While this is going on, you can prep your other vegetables. Meaning, it's serious wash-and-chop time.

The only real rule here is that you're going to add the harder, crisper vegetables first; softer, leafier stuff (like spinach) can wait until the end.

You'll need to have handy, at this point:


  • 3 cartons of organic vegetable broth (if you've got your own homemade stuff, use that--lucky you!)
  • 1/2 bottle of inexpensive semi-sweet white wine (like Reisling)
  • Some boiling water in the kettle, standing by alongside the soup pot: if your creation seems too thick at any point, you can splash a little in


Once the mirepoix is softening up nicely, pour in the wine. Turn up the heat a bit to bring things to a boil. Then pour in the vegetable broth. Get it all nice and bubbly.

Now add to the pot, more-or-less in this order, waiting until the bubbling resumes between each addition:


  • 2-3 tablespoons of dried sage or fistful or two of fresh sage that you've chopped
  • 1 pound, give-or-take, of new (baby) potatoes, preferably Yukon gold or other firm-fleshed potatoes, cut in half or even quarters if necessary (not red potatoes though, because they are best for mashing and you'll find they disintegrate rather quickly in soup)
  • 1  15-oz. can of organic Marzano plum tomatoes, which you've squashed in the can with your bare hands (or cut up into smallish chunks if you're squeamish), juice included
  • 1 large can of fava beans, rinsed a few times and drained (or a cup or two of fresh favas, if you can find them, again, lucky you)
  • 1-2 heads of organic broccoli, cut into reasonable-sized chunks
  • 3 large zucchini, sliced
  • 3 large yellow squash, sliced
  • 1-2 cans of organic baby peas, or a bag or two of frozen, or a pound or so of fresh petit pois if they're available (sigh)


And get all that boiling nicely. After about 20-30 minutes, once the potatoes are softening, you can add:


  • 1-2 bags (or more) of washed baby spinach.


And when that is cooking down and swirling around the other vegetables, take a big fistful of:


  • fresh thyme


...wash it well, and stir it into your soup.

(I'm trying to remember if I left anything out....)

You'll want to simmer your soup on low for a good hour or so after this; put the lid on it, but askew, so some steam escapes and it can continue to cook down. Me, I love the way this tastes the next day, when flavors have blended together nicely and the potatoes have thickened everything up. Given that your kitchen will be smelling mighty fine, though, you'll probably have to serve this soup tonight, and it will be raved about. When you're ready to do that, taste a bit and see if it needs more salt; bear in mind, you'll want to use little-to-no additional salt if you're serving your soup with an Italian hard cheese.

Yes, you can shave some pecorino Romano (or Parmesan) on top. Certain family members of mine insist on it.

And yes, you can cook some tiny soup pasta (like acini di pepe) in a separate pot, spoon some in bowls, and then ladle your wonderful vegetable soup over it--and then top with cheese (or not), too. Totally up to you and/or your crowd.

Having a hot, crusty loaf of bread and a full bottle of wine on the table though? That's pretty much mandatory.

Enjoy.

XXX
D


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I'll be on Radio or Not with Nicole Sandler today


Be sure to tune in to Radio or Not at 10:30 am, when I'll be talking all things Flori-DUH with my pal Nicole Sandler.

(The show is re-run throughout the day, and there will be a podcast available at Radio or Not.)

See you on the radio!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Edward R. Murrow, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you


The coffin of one of three young Muslims who were shot in Chapel Hill, N.C., this week was carried to a funeral prayer service on Thursday in Raleigh, N.C. Travis Dove for NYT
 
Credit
Newsflash: We have crazy, murderous extremists right here in America.

They torture and murder, oftentimes--to the shock of the rest of the world--spectacularly and en masse; oftentimes claiming they do it in the name of a larger cause: the voice of a deity in the heavens or the head, and even, most recently, a seething anger toward the Constitutionally-protected worshipping of any deity of choice, period.

Terrorists abroad usually have to steal their weapons and equipment, often from the people America had originally supplied them to; sometimes they finance their weapon stash by kidnapping journalists and aid workers and holding them for ransom. Here in the States, though, any crazy, murderous extremist (or group of them) with a few bucks on hand can just go to one of the more than 51,000 gun retailers currently in business. (Yes, America has more gun retailers than grocery stores.)

If these murderous people and organizations in America circulated slick propaganda videos of themselves carrying out their rapes, lynchings, and shootings (and on and on), would we be okay with having other countries start dropping bombs on us?

Because that's exactly what many in American media are calling for right now: Crazy murderous extremists are doing crazy, murderous, extreme things in Iraq and Syria, so let's go to WAR! (Again.)

Charles Krauthammer and Morning Joke are just the most baldfaced and risibly ignorant-sounding of the chattering lot.

What concerns me: the insidious influence of the quiet, "polite", well-remunerated chatterers--the nascent Judy Millers, and the ones who work for networks either owned by defense contractors or heavily advertised-on by same; many of whom, amazingly, moonlight as corporate speech-givers and de facto lobbyists. And have the nerve to call themselves journalists, all the while tut-tutting about the "black eye to our profession" they seem to think has occurred because the odd one among them got caught lying a bit too obviously.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Anti-Choice, therefore Anti-Health and Anti-Women



Go read Natasha Chart's heartbreaking piece at RH Reality Check, entitled I Had an Ectopic Pregnancy, and Anti-Choice Laws Could Have Made My Experience Much Worse.

It's stunning, and infuriating, that in addition to the heartbreak and fear a woman goes through when facing something like this, she must now think about things like, Is this hospital going to provide me with *actual* medical care, or are their decisions going to be guided by the misogynistic laws of a church I don't even belong to? Consider, for a moment, that in some regions of this great country, Catholic-controlled hospitals are all that are available if you need obstetric/gynecologic care--unless you wish to embark on some long-distance travel--and you'll begin to realize how commonplace this predicament has become.

How commonplace? The news is bad:
Between 2001 and 2011 the number of Catholic-sponsored or affiliated hospitals increased by 16 percent, while the overall number of hospitals nationwide declined. In 2011, one in ten acute-care hospitals were Catholic-sponsored or affiliated. That same year, 10 of the 25 largest hospital systems in the country were Catholic-sponsored. 
With the rise of Catholic hospitals has come the increasing danger that women's reproductive health care will be compromised by religious restrictions. The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (the Directives), issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), govern care at these facilities. The Directives prohibit a range of reproductive health services, including contraception, sterilization, many infertility treatments, and abortion care, even when a woman's health or life is in danger. Moreover, they often restrict even the ability of hospital staff to provide patients with full information and referrals for care that conflict with religious teachings.
Are we or are we not living in the twenty-first century?

It needs to be said, over and over until everyone in the country (especially those who occupy the governors' mansions and state and national legislatures) gets it: By placing the prevention of pregnancy termination ahead of safeguarding a woman's health and, even, her life, you are stating in no uncertain terms that women are not people, and our very lives are of diminished value. It's that simple. Trust that women are fully-realized human beings endowed with natural rights to control our own bodies and health--that we are people--and the absolute necessity of protecting choice becomes obvious.

This is supposed to be a nation of laws, not a nation of churches.

But this is the reality:



Photo via ACLU Blog of Rights; graphic via ACLU.org.

UPDATE:

My friend Sara Robinson recommends the excellent blog Catholic Watch, which follows and reports on the various ways the church influences and controls healthcare in the United States.

They write:
The Catholic bishops are imposing their moral values upon Catholics and non-Catholics alike through their control of Catholic hospital and medical systems, which are heavily financed with taxpayer dollars. 
In WA State, almost half of the acute care hospital beds (a proxy for the health care system more broadly) are now subject to the "moral authority" of three Catholic bishops. These bishops oversee medical policy and employment practices for all Catholic "health care ministries," which now includes hospitals, labs, physician practices, hospices, and even insurance companies. These bishops oppose same-sex marriage, birth control, "direct" abortion in all cases - even to save the life of the mother, fertility treatments, and Death with Dignity. 
A recent article in Mother Jones showed that Catholic hospitals contributed 2.8% of total patient gross revenues as Charity Care, which is lower than the industry average of 2.9%.
CatholicWatch is committed to safeguarding patient and taxpayer rights and protecting our health care system from theocracy-based medicine.