Sunday, March 12, 2017

14.2 - A call to action

A call to action

And you know what else they are, besides an outrage?

They are a call to action. A call to keep on keepin' on.

A lesson from the old guy
There's a lesson to be learned from the dreaded '60s: In the 1950s, the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, known as HUAC, intimidated and silenced a good deal of potential opposition with the political blackmail of "hearings" and "investigations" designed to accuse people of being in the Communist Party or knowing someone in the Communist Party or of once being at a party at the same time as someone who once knew a communist; it didn't matter how tenuous the connection was as long as they could claim one existed. But as the McCarthy era ended, HUAC fell into disrepute. (Yes, the McCarthy hearings were in the Senate and this was the House, but as McCarthyism fell, it took some other unsavory characters along with it, and HUAC was one.)

In the '60s, there was an attempt to revive the committee under its new name of the House Internal Security Committee to investigate what was known as the New Left, the radical opposition to the Indochina War.

The hearings were a farce, a total failure for the Committee. Why? Because the witnesses they called, including, foolishly for them, people like Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, simply refused to be intimidated.

"What is your relation to the Communist party?"
"Those old line, stiff-necked, no fun hacks? Yuck."
"But isn't it true that you have worked with the Communist Party?"
"Yeah, sure, where we agree. Why wouldn't we?"
"Isn't it true, in fact, that you are a revolutionary who wants to overthrow the system?"
"Isn't it true - wait, what?"

No, of course those are not real quotes but they do reflect the spirit. That refusal to be intimidated, that determination, in other words, just to keep on doing what you were doing the way you were doing it, to be neither stampeded nor hobbled by what the state wanted or expected of you, that is one of the things that made the movement of the '60s so powerful. And yes, it was powerful. It was, as I have written before, powerful enough that over a several year span it was able to limit and finally stop a war, force one any maybe two presidents from office, bring the nuclear power industry to a virtual standstill, change our society's perception of half its population, and shift - perhaps not by much but surely permanently - that society's sense of its relation to the environment.

The important point, the lesson, of this excursion into nostalgia, is that in the face of attempted suppression, our best response, our best tactic, our best way is to just keep on going.

And we have been.

February 16 was "A Day Without Immigrants." Restaurants, grocery stores, food trucks, coffee shops, diners, and taco joints in cities across the country shut down either because they didn't have enough staff or, in some cases, in solidarity.

The effect was strongest in the restaurant industry, where immigrants make up the majority of the 12 million people employed in it, but the construction industry, which also employs large numbers of immigrants, also felt the impact - as did some employees, who were fired for taking part in the action. Whether those firings were legal remains to be seen, but it would be a hard fight. Which makes solidarity with immigrants even more important.

Speaking of solidarity, on February 18, thousands of folks marched in Los Angeles under the banned "I Am a Muslim, Too" in a day of solidarity with immigrants and refugees, protesting TheRump's Muslim travel ban.

The next day, something over 1,000 came to Times Square in New York with the same message.

The day after that, in 28 cities across the country Presidents Day became "Not My Presidents Day" as thousands of people participated in marches and rallies to declare that TheRump does not speak for us. Not just in the obvious places like New York, Washington DC, and Los Angeles, but in places including Atlanta, Austin, Rapid City, South Dakota, Nashville, Indianapolis, Concord, New Hampshire, Santa Barbara, and others.

Crowd sizes ranged from dozens to several thousand to over 10,000 in New York.

Yes it's true, and it was noted some places, that the turnouts didn't come close to the historic levels of January 21. But that's not important; it's the persistence that's important. Not, again, that there has to be some march every single day or even every single week, but that there be a constant rumble of opposition, of resistance to the course on which the deeply reactionary cabal in the White House would place us.

A quick sidebar here as a personal comment: Some on the left don't like the "Not my president" idea, with some saying it's too divisive and others saying "He is the president, like it or not." From my point of view, I say yes, he did win by the means we use - it's not the means I would use and I note I have been against the Electoral College since I was in grade school and that's not an exaggeration - but he did win by the way we now count it. He is legally the president and has all legal authority of presidency and so in that legal sense, yes, is my president. But I will continue say that TheRump is not my president to make it clear that he does not speak for me.

Since I became politically involved, there has been no president that I fully embraced. I have respected some more than others, have opposed some more strongly than others - but this is the first time that a presidency has seemed so across the board offensive, so persistently indifferent to the needs of the many not only here but around the world, so insistently determined to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted, so unreservedly favoring the powerful over the powerless, the rich over the poor, the corporations over the people, so eager to embrace bigotry, this is the first time an administration has seemed so utterly devoid of redeeming virtues, and so the first time I have chosen to say "not my president." Because he does not speak for me.

Anyway, getting back to the topic and moving on to the big deal of late: March 8, International Women's Day and the "A Day Without A Woman" - the women's strike. This was a day of action including over 400 local events in 50 countries around the world, women rising to declare their independence, their worth, and their dignity and to proclaim their futures as full and equal beings.

Part of the purpose was to show women's impact on society and the economy and one impact here in the US was immediate and obvious: Entire school districts in some states had to shut down because without women - who account for 87% of US elementary school teachers - they just didn't have the staff to stay open.

The marches, protests, and rallies in the US addressed a range of issues including LGBTQ rights, support for Planned Parenthood, workplace harassment, health care, the "gag rule" that says that foreign nonprofits providing abortion services forfeit aid from the US government, and more - including, of course, equal pay and a living wage.

According to the US Census Bureau, women make up more than 47% of the workforce and are dominant among registered nurses, dental assistants, cashiers, accountants, and pharmacists. They make up at least a third of physicians, a third of surgeons, a third of lawyers, and a third of judges. Women also represent 55% of all college students.

But at the same time, American women earn only about 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. And that difference persists across all levels of education, as the chart to the right shows. It indicates with each level of education from less than a high school diploma through an advanced degree, the average of what a man can expect to earn (dark blue line) and the average of what a woman can expect to earn (light blue line). Note particularly that a woman with an advanced degree can expect to be paid less than a man with a bachelor's.

We have a long way to go. But women around the world are saying "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around" - so we will get there.

So long as we keep on keepin' on.

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