Thursday, November 01, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

Credit to Arthur J. Magida for working Iraq into a column (see "Disconnect Between Anti-War Activism Then and Now" at Common Dreams) but maybe you can't really compare "then" and "now" in terms of illegal wars at a book symposium? And maybe Toad who didn't want protests at the RNC convention against the illegal war, who got his ass served to him by Naomi Klein over that ridiculous position, and Katha Pollitt who doesn't seem to be aware that an illegal war is going on now are the ones to look to for war commentary? On the latter, it was almost exactly one year after Ellen Knickmeyer's incredible article on Abeer ran in the Washington Post when Pollitt finally made time (a single sentence) to mention Abeer. I don't know where people are getting this idea that Pollitt did anything amazing (other than sign a few petitions) to end the illegal war? The topic didn't even make the phoned in "10 non-related items I string together and tell you to donate to and call it a column year after year". Vietnam made the list. During the holiday season of 2006, Vietnam was on the list. Iraq? MADRE wasn't on the list. No Iraq related charity or need made the list. Lynda noted an article (Stacy Bannerman's must-read "War IS a Women’s Issue, Senator Clinton") that I passed over to Rebecca because I knew she could write about it at length and far better than I could. (Which she has, see her "stacy bannerman & the facts of life.") Molly Ivins attempting to use her public forum to end the illegal war? Absolutely. Katha Pollitt? Please. Maybe people don't read The Nation (not surprising with the falling circulation rates) but let's no confuse snappy attitude with a desire to end the illegal war. If Pollitt wanted to end the illegal war, she has a monthly column to make that point in. Anna Quindlen? Absolutely. She wrote about war resisters -- which is a great deal more than many of the alleged left and 'to the left' can claim. Katha Pollitt?

I appreciate Madiga's column and applaud his tying Iraq into it but the reality is the magazine went downhill some time ago and Pollitt ignored Iraq. She suddenly discovered Cindy Sheehan as a topic only when Sheehan was on the verge of announcing her own run for Congress. Instead of applauding Sheehan for that, Pollitt -- who'd never devoted a column to Sheehan and had only written a single sentence about Sheehan prior -- had a ton to say. All variations on "Don't Run!"

Pollitt who does not live in the eighth Congressional district of California (nor in California) wanted to sport her lack of knowledge and facts and tell the Peace Mom she was of more value as an activist -- one that, presumably, Pollitt could continue to ignore.

Now I don't vote in NYC and I don't carpet bag into Conn. to vote for Ned Lamont. So on those areas, I'll let Pollitt cover the waterfront. But she had no point in weighing in. It's a local election she will not be voting in (unless she has more creative uses for her voter registration) and it's an area she hasn't lived in, has no knowledge of except as a tourist.

So the Bay Area says, "Go away, Katha. You've already insulted Muslims, you've already insulted the NAACP, you couldn't write about Abeer when it was needed, we've had enough of you." Now she probably passes for 'radical' in the lit set. As she garners new attention for her cyber stalking essay (more embarrassing in hard cover than it was in The New Yorker, although I did hear a hilarious joke making the rounds of Hunter College) maybe it will disguise the reality of Pelosi?

From an article reposted at CBS News:

A survey by the Field Poll in California last week showed that in her home state, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the first time in her new job has a plurality of voters disapproving of her performance -- 40 percent to 35 percent.

B-b-b-b-but, everyone loves Nancy! Or at least Katha thought so. Nancy Pelosi was a gift! Not to the Bay Area. Not to the people who have elected her. She has abandoned every issue that ranks high in the Bay Area. Now for another area, she might be seen as fairly left (I wouldn't call her that) but for the Bay Area, she's our Joe Lieberman. Although it's news to Katha, it wasn't news to anyone in the Bay Area (and we noted it here when Pollitt felt the need to offer that Cindy shouldn't run -- surely the height of faux-feminism, telling another woman not to run for public office).

As Rebecca rightly notes, there's a reason Katha became the den mother of the Mud Flap Gals. (And Rebecca's illustration of that is hilarious. I won't spoil it by noting it here, it's in her final paragraphs.) Suddenly, after ignoring Iraq, the peace movement and everything else for how long?, Pollitt rushed in to celebrate Cindy the activist and say, "Woman to woman, sister to sister, feminist to feminist, Cindy, please know your place." Again, the height of faux-feminism. Reading that ridiculous new book, you grasp that Pollitt's in the midst of her own Backlash. It's like reading The Ego Of Us All all over again, as if Pollitt's intent upon channeling TEOUA from the grave -- and succeeding.

Cindy Sheehan's not running a vanity campaign. She's running to win. And the Bay Area is fed up with Nancy Pelosi. They are tired of her turning her back on LBGT issues, they are tired of her re-invented stance on abortion (not something she'll press on as 60 Minutes noted in the October 2006 report), won't go for impeachment (which is heavily favored in the Bay Area) and has sold out the Bay Area on the issue of ending the illegal war. When Martin Frost and assorted others were bad mouthing Pelosi then trying to get the leadership role in the House, the (false) claim was that she was too liberal for the job because of the area she represented. But Nancy Pelosi hasn't represented the Bay Area for some time. For the Bay Area, she is Joe Lieberman.

And while Magida is making some strong points (and has written an enjoyable column), the reality is that Katha Pollitt hasn't used her voice to end the illegal war. Her body of work (I'm referring to her columns) demonstrates this. Had Cindy not decided to run, Pollitt might have gone through the entire decade without focusing on her for even that lousy blog post.

And confusing grass hoppers rushing from topic to topic with people trying to end the illegal war is prolonging it.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Thursday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3837. Tonight? 3845. Just Foreign Policy's total for the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the illegal war stood at 1,093,978. Tonight? 1,099,372.

We're staying on the topic of women using their voices for this entry. The Bat Segunda Show was noted in the "Iraq snapshot" Tueday. From time to time, the program sends out a release. That can't go in the snapshot. We don't have that kind of room. (There wasn't even room for Blackwater today, the plan is to pick it up tomorrow.) But here's some of their latest press release:

Bat Segundo, beyond almost everyone's expectations, has hit his 150th show, thanks in part to many of your kind pledges!
The latest five installments (Shows #146-150) of The Bat Segundo Show, a literary podcast featuring interviews with today's contemporary writers, are now up. These shows include Inside the Actors Studio's James Lipton as you haven't heard him before, talking candidly about his work as one of the leading television interviewers (#150), a heady discussion about thought and language with noted cognitive scientist Steven Pinker (#147), a political conversation with Naomi Wolf about whether we are close to the end of America (#148 . . . and, last but not least, an investigation into the life of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz with biographer David Michaelis (#149).
Mr. Segundo is testier than usual these days, perhaps because he has once again been heckled by his ex-wife Doris and seems convinced, based on the ten reasonable steps outlined by Naomi Wolf, that the end of The Bat Segundo Show is fast approaching (or perhaps he's simply dismayed by anything involving steps, because it will mean that he will have to give up his tequila).
The main Segundo site can be found here: subscribe to the show with a podcatcher program (for later transfer to your iPod), copy and paste the following URL into your program:
Please note: You do not have to have an iPod to listen the show! If you go to the main Segundo site, you can save the MP3 to your lovely machine by clicking on the bat picture or, if you're the kind of person who prefers swinging a bat over clicking on one, we do have a user-friendly interface with many listening and streaming options below the capsules.Here are the details for the latest five shows.

SHOW #148 -- Naomi Wolf (50:13)
Direct Link to Show:
Condition of Mr. Segundo: Contemplating the end of The Bat Segundo Show.
Naomi Wolf
Subjects Discussed: James Madison's prescient statement about the American republic in 1829, the end of America, despotic blueprints, on the prospect of Americans taking up arms against the government, closed societies, the staging of "Mission Accomplished," the efficacy of protesting, Nancy Pelosi's ineptitude, the American Freedom Campaign's failure to adopt impeachment as a position, Andrew Meyer and John Kerry’s failure to react, paramilitary forces crushing democracy, Blackwater, the Defense Authorization Act of 2007, the failure to restore habeas corpus, enemy combatants, what’s coming six months from now, the TSA watchlist and citizen intimidation at airports, Andrew Meyer remixes, the confiscation of cameras and laptops, fear and denial, Victor Klemperer, father metaphors for the President, the justification of torture, Page Six libel, Abu Ghraib, the PATRIOT Act and Barbara Lee, the possibilities of a transparent election in 2008, Hillary Clinton's waffling, the assault on lawyers, whether progressives and the Daily [Toilet Scrubber] adequately question the Democratic Party, the abdication of paper ballots, and the Democrats raising the war debt ceiling.
Wolf: It is so important for us to look at this blueprint, because when we see all these pieces fitting together, we realize that we are in an extraordinary crisis point where we have to rise up. I would not say rise up with arms, but certainly take to the streets and press representatives and confront the abusers, like other democracy movements.
Correspondent: I suggest the rise up in arms with a certain degree of hyperbole. Because people are going to Washington. They've gone there to protest the last couple of weeks about the war. And there are people getting arrested for reading the Constitution on public property, on a place where they are supposed to have freedom of assembly. So given this, and given the fact that, well frankly, Nancy Pelosi isn't going to proceed impeachment actions against Bush, so what then can we do?
Wolf: What can we do? You know, this is a very sad conversation in a way, although it will end hopefully. Because I'll reach the answer in a minute. When I wrote this book, I thought it would be very controversial and that people would be saying, "Come on. Not America." On the contrary. What I'm finding is that Americans across the political spectrum are already there. They know something very serious and dangerous is going on. And they're saying what you're saying, which is: We tried it all. We tried democracy already. We tried the marching. We tried emailing our Congress people. Things are shifting into overdrive. And you're right to notice that. I mean, there's this horrible phase in a closing democracy, when leaders and citizens still think it's a democracy, but the people who have already started to close it are kind of drumming their fingers waiting for everybody to realize that that’s not the dance anymore.

I'm not including a bad reciter of lines who faded years ago and chose to trash feminism (not surprising, she is a Republican so bringing up that she sounds like Rush Limbaugh isn't going to be an insult to her) in the listing.

We focused on Wolf and she's been a topic on campuses a number of times this week. In fact, today she was contrasted with Katha Pollitt. (Students grasp that Pollitt's not interested in the illegal war and they grasp that The Nation isn't. The magazine has the worst rep among left college students of any magazine.) Wolf's new book is The End of America: Letters of Warning to a Young Patriot (and it will be the topic of a book discussion at Third, but not this weekend, we want to try to do as quick an edition as possible, no 36 hours with no sleep again). ["1 Book, 10 Minutes" went up today. We did it October 7th. It's up today due to reasons outlined this morning here and also outlined by Mike tonight.] It's gathering a lot of interest and attention (as it should) but the thing that came up today (and has come up before) is why does Wolf 'get it' when others don't?

Well she's smart. But that's not really it. The reason is she's not been playing desk jockey. She hasn't produced a naval gazing book because she's out in the world. If you listen to the interview (or just read the excerpt above), she's explaining what she's encountering. Grass hoppers aren't going to pick that up. They're too busy leaping from topic to topic.

When the comparison between the two women was made today, another student shared that she felt this book, Wolf's new one, was the logical sequel to Fire With Fire. That is an incredible point to make (and one I wish I had thought of). In that book, Wolf was looking at the changing landscape in the US and talking about the power we had and how we could use it. With this book, she's again exploring the landscape and she's addressing the way our power is being stolen and what we need to do to get it back.

A student who did sign up with her organization, American Freedom Campaign, and is excited about it, noted that she seems more left than the organization. As she notes in the Segundo interview, the goals and work of the organization will be decided by the members. But in terms of where she's at and where she's headed in the immediate future, you can't speak with people the way she is (or the way Matthew Rothschild does) without it waking up something in you.

When the comparison was brought up today, I asked what news source do you go to for information about Iraq? I knew what the answer would be because it's generally the first answer on most campuses: Democracy Now! [Most? We're expanding to speaking areas where Democracy Now! is not as readily available, as Kat has noted.] So why is that?

Amy Goodman's probably killing herself with her current schedule (program, show, speaking and working with her brother David Goodman on their third book) but one thing that all the meet ups she's doing does is keep her connected with the concerns of people. Not the concerns of the beltway. She's not watching the chat & chews on Sunday, asking herself, "What will I cover this week! I need ideas!" As back breaking as her schedule is, one thing it provides her with is interaction with a wide range of people, a huge spectrum.

At the same time they're making these points, the biggest puzzle this week has been, "Why don't other people get it?" And, there, they're usually speaking of parents or relatives who have some strong past moments in activism but don't appear connected today.

We're more divided today. I'm not speaking of 'polarization.' Isn't it funny how the mainstream media speaks of the Iraq War as 'polarizing'? The polls don't reflect a 50-50 divide. The polls overwhelming demonstrate that Americans want the illegal war ended within a year or less. The actual 'polarization' appears to be between Americans and the bulk of their elected officials.

But we are move divided in the sense that our public spheres are shrinking (not unlike our media choices) and we're more prone to rush back to our boxes. (Americans are working more to make ends meet than they were during Vietnam.) Mark Rudd had a wonderful point about this:

I think it's more cultural, too. I think there's an individualism and a sense that nothing can change anything, that we didn't have in the '60s. I think the civil rights movement was a big factor in raising up a generation of people who felt that what you do makes a difference. Also, and this is interrelated, but a youth culture, an anti-authoritarian culture, is very important. But now there's no youth culture--well, in indy media--but at a deeper level, the consumer culture, and the entertainment culture, has gotten so deep into people's psyche, that there's no civic culture, where it's important to get together with other people on a Friday night and figure out what we can do to end the war. That's almost unthinkable to young people today. But I did that every Friday night. It's unthinkable because the entertainment culture, and the consumer culture, is so completely and totally hegemonic. People go out for entertainment or they buy some s--t or they go online and surf or buy ... it wasn't quite like that in the '60s. We had television. We weren't in the dark ages. But there was much more of a civic idea, that it meant something to get together and do something important. I see it in my own two kids. What's important to us is a good dinner on a Friday night. That's entertainment. That's what life has become.
[. . .]
That's another thing in this society that I can point to. There's so much fragmentation in society that there's no sense that anybody can talk to anybody else who isn't exactly like them. It wasn't like that before. You could talk to anybody back then. Part of it is the subcultural fragmentation that young people experience due to whatever brand of consumerism or whatever brand of music that they get into. "I listen to hip-hop and you listen to hardcore so we have nothing in common." We had an advantage in that there was still a pop music that was broad that everyone the same age listened to. Everybody knew Bob Dylan; everyone knew the Doors and the Supremes. So here we have a culture that's so intensely fragmented--not as a conspiracy, but as a marketing tool.

Where's the link? Hopefully everyone caught the edit to make it work-environment-safe, that was your warning. Click here for the interview. We're a niche-market society today. Which is good in that tiny niches have been carved out that can offer more representation than there was in an earlier time. But we seem to be unraveling each year.

Students, as we've noted here forever, were looking for leadership. When little was offered (lots of kids-today-oy-vey, not any leadership), they became their own leaders and that process continues. But here's the thing, if on a campus they need to make a real effort to connect (and many do -- not due to any self-issues but due to the spread out, isolated nature of today) (and if I'm short on examples, Jim wants to carry a topic over to Third this Sunday so I'm trying to avoid those examples), imagine how hard it is for those who aren't on a campus during the week? That's parents, that's adults (including young people not in college). We spoke to a women's group today and one spoke of how she was invited at the last minute and was so thrilled to be asked. She knew the co-worker but they really didn't talk. They'd just bumped into one another on the way back from lunch and one had asked, "How are you doing?" The other had responded she was disgusted with the news that X number of deaths means a 'win'. That's what led to the invitation. Both women knew each other. They nod in the hall of the multi-storied building they work in whenever they pass.

The woman who was speaking has one child who started college a year ago, she got divorced three years ago. They sold the house during the divorce (and split the money from the sale), she moved into a large apartment because she had custody of her son. With her son now in college, she moved into a smaller apartment. She's had three moves in five years. Her marriage has ended, her son's going to college in another state and work is it for her.

She talked about being surrounded by people -- these are adults, professionals -- who discussed Britney Spears all day. Yesterday, as yet another round of Britney and whatever female celebrity was about to be broached, one of the women (in her fifties) in her office said, "I am so sick of that woman --" and, tongue-in-cheek ("but a little hostile," the woman confessed), she responded, "Condi Rice?" No, of course not. It was a young actress. And the sad thing is, just typing "young actress" probably has everyone reading knowing exactly who it was.

But a few weeks ago, when some of the men and women she works with went out for drinks after work, she thought, "I need to tag along." Because she really doesn't know anyone outside of work and she's feeling really disconnected. Being away from work did not elevate the conversation. "It was the same run down of what you'd get in an hour of E!" She discussed how she attempts to talk about Iraq and the result is either hostility (and blame) towards Iraqis or blank expressions.

So she was getting phone numbers and connecting with other women at the meeting (some of whom had similar experiences) but if you're a student and don't feel your parents are as active today as the stories you heard growing up indicate they should be, you need to realize that they aren't as rooted as you are today (or as they were when they were in college).

There's awakening, there's reawakening and there's renewal. (There are probably many other things. We're focusing on those three.) For Amy Goodman -- who lives on the road -- it's probably renewal. For others it's awakening or reawakening. People do care about ending the illegal war. The majority of Americans in fact. What's missing is the connection.

It's not due to the draft not being present. (During Vietnam, to repeat, women could not be drafted. College women, who were very much a part of the peace movement, not only couldn't be drafted, the majority of the men they interacted with daily couldn't either.)

United for Peace and Justice's local actions hopefully provided many with the opportunity to connect. (They certainly allowed the inclusion of those who can't afford to travel to DC to participate -- as well as those, and this was the biggest complaint last spring, who have made the journey but had to struggle to swing the expense -- which does include missing work -- 'blue laws' are a thing of the past, we live in a 7-day work week world.) And that's something to remember when you're at a rally. It's not rush in and walk out as soon as you can. It really does come down to we need to be talking with each other.

At this point, conversion's not really needed. The numbers are on the side of the peace movement. The differences today include online petitions. Used to, you went door to door or sat up outside a store or venue or whatever. (With so much of America mall-i-zed, petitions needed to go online.) You would meet all sorts of people gathering signatures. You were face to face and they felt comfortable asking questions -- about the issue, about what else they could do, about rallies, you name it.

So as 2008 approaches, one thing we can do is increase our efforts to connect. I know in this community, everyone's already doing a great deal. No one's showing up to rallies alone or with one other person. You are all making a point to invite others to go along. That's great and wonderful and something to be proud of. But we really need to work on reaching out even more. The way community member Goldie (to name only one example) does every day. We did the women's group this evening and had a students' group tonight. When we shared the story of the woman who happened to attend the Iraq discussion, it really did underscore for a lot of the students how detached so many can be. Not because they don't care but because they just aren't being invited, they just aren't being communicated with.

If you look at the polling, the numbers is not the issue. The peace movement carved out the space for the debate on the illegal war that the administration worked so hard to prevent. That is an amazing accomplishment. And people making sure they don't go to rallies alone (or alone without trying to invite others along -- obviously, you should go alone if you can't find anyone who wants to go with you) is a big thing as well. It's not about, as someone laughably suggested on one radio program -- the program itself has been forgotten, we heard it on the road either this week or last week -- because people aren't showing up to protests in suits and ties. (I would assume the male speaker meant men but maybe he wanted women to dress in suit and ties for the protests as well?) (That was sarcasm and yet another example of the sexism that really doesn't think a protest is a protest if men aren't outnumbering the women.) This is not a case of, "Oh, I am so different from those people." It's a case of word of mouth, it's a case connections. (And the notion that those active -- even only in small ways -- in the sixties would feel more welcomed if men donned suit and ties today goes to the fact that a lot of idiots are eating up limited air time. No one active in the sixties is going to throw a hand to the forehead and exclaim, "Dungarees!" -- as the non-expert seemed to believe they would. That generation smashed the dress code. Seeing it again would spook a great many -- who would assume those dressed in that manner were FBI there to spy.)

So some people are in a state of awakening to what's going on or the role they can play, some are reawakening through interaction and some are in a constant state of renewal through interaction. Though probably none of us could maintain Goodman's schedule, in our own way we can do the renewal daily. In trying to do that, we can awaken others and lead to reawakenings. And that's really where the movement is at today. It's not a case of we need to fight to be heard. (We're still not heard by the bulk of All Things Media Big and Small, but the movement has long gotten around that.) It's not a case of, after fighting to be heard, we need to fight to persuade. At this point, it's just a case of finding out how to connect and how to engage others. That doesn't require 'new slogans' or 'dress codes.' It requires face to face. That may not be as 'high-concept' as some non-experts would like, but that's reality. And it's a story that's come through all week from every group we've spoken with.

The e-mail address for this site is Expect nothing tomorrow morning in the entires. It's late now.