Resistance, and Being a “Sore Loser”

resistance-image-black-ohm-on-pink-background
Ohm — a unit of resistance.

I keep seeing arguments against the massive uprising in protest of the DT regime, on the grounds that DT won the election and we should accept it gracefully and not be sore losers. Weirdly, I don’t just see this from Republicans: I see it from some Democrats as well. So here’s what I want to ask:

Are you arguing the the citizens of a democratic country should not press our elected officials to do what we want? That we should not, as the First Amendment says, peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances?

Are you arguing that once a president is elected, citizens should let him do whatever he wants with no opposition, regardless of whether it’s grossly immoral and indeed illegal?

Are you saying that we should sit back and do nothing while incompetence, raging bigotry, xenophobia, kleptocracy, and contempt for the constitution all become entrenched in law and policy?

Are you arguing that we should ignore the gross irregularities in this election — the widespread and systemic voter disenfranchisement, the interference from a hostile foreign government, the absurd electoral system that allows someone to become president when they lost by three million votes — and accept the results of this election as if they were normal and legitimate?

Are you arguing that the problem with contemporary US politics is that citizens are too engaged, and that our political engagement should involve voting and nothing else?

And are you arguing that people who recognize the warning signs of fascism — who are listening to the historians who study fascism when they say that yes, this is what the rise of fascism looks like — should sit back and let fascism rise, for fear of looking like poor losers?

We are not the ones dividing the country. The people who want to kick out immigrants even if they’re here legally, who want to let poor people die for lack of health care, who want to decimate public education, who want to permit open discrimination against LGBT people, who are tolerating and even encouraging the massive increase in bigoted hate crimes — they are the ones dividing this country. Are you arguing that we should be in unity with bigoted, hateful, kleptocratic fascists?

What’s happening now is exactly how democracy should be functioning. What you’re advocating is a four-year dictatorship.

Resistance, and Being a “Sore Loser”
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8 Great Reasons to Take Some Pleasure in Activism

Silhouette of protesters under banner

There’s a nasty strain of dourness in leftist politics. All too often, we run into the idea that activism is only valuable if it’s solemn, focused entirely on the harsh realities of the present or the grim possibilities of the future. This attitude was encapsulated perfectly in a Washington Post column by Petula Dvorak, opposing the pink pussyhats in the Women’s March after inauguration day. “This is serious stuff,” Dvorak said. She argued that the Women’s March was about serious issues of suffering and danger, so the imagery shouldn’t be playful or fun. “The Women’s March needs grit,” she said, “not gimmicks.” (Note: Many trans women and women of color found the pussyhats exclusionary, and there are good arguments against them. Dvorak’s column isn’t one of them.)

Dvorak’s attitude is common. And it needs to be loaded into a cannon and shot into the sun. Pleasure, fun and joy are enormously valuable in activism. Pleasure isn’t a requirement for everyone, of course: different people pursue activism in different ways, and that’s a good thing. But of the many tools in our collective toolbox, pleasure is one of the most powerful. Here are eight reasons why.

*****

Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, 8 Great Reasons to Take Some Pleasure in Activism. To read more, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

8 Great Reasons to Take Some Pleasure in Activism

Milo Yiannopoulos, and What Free Speech Does and Does Not Mean

white male hand grabbing microphone

I don’t believe we have to discuss this again. But apparently we do.

The right to free speech does not give someone the right to other people’s platforms and microphones. You can respect someone’s right to free speech, and not give them your own space and audience.

You don’t have to invite someone to speak on your campus. You don’t have to interview them in your newspaper or magazine, on your TV show or podcast. You don’t have to let them comment in your blog or Facebook page or YouTube channel. You don’t have to give them a book deal. People are not entitled to these things, and in fact most people don’t get most of them. I haven’t been invited to speak at the University of California, and this doesn’t obstruct my free speech. I can speak in other places.

When you give your platform and your microphone to hateful, bigoted, dangerous fascists known for ugly harassment, it gives them legitimacy. It makes their ideas seem mainstream. It doesn’t necessarily say that you agree with them, but it says you think their ideas are worth considering and are a subject for reasonable debate.

Milo Yiannopoulos is part of a highly dangerous movement, a movement that has been empowered and emboldened by the 2016 presidential election. If successful, this movement will result in a rise in bigoted and xenophobic hatred, a massive upsurge in violent hate crimes, a loss of basic civil rights, severe restrictions on science and education — and yes, the suppression of free speech, for individuals as well as media organizations. Some of these things are already happening; others are already beginning to happen. Do you really want to give this movement your platform, your microphone, and your audience?

History has its eyes on us. In twenty years, fifty years, a hundred years, we will be judged by how we responded to this crisis. Do you want to be one of the people who helped the Nazis reach more people?

In the past, when people have argued that they’re entitled to other people’s platforms (such as commenting on blogs or Facebook pages), I’ve often illustrated the absurdity of this by asking, “Would you let people spew openly hateful racism on your platform? Would you let people advocate genocide on your platform? Would you let Nazis use your platform?” It is highly distressing to learn that for many people, including people I’ve considered colleagues and allies and even friends, the answer is Yes.

Milo Yiannopoulos, and What Free Speech Does and Does Not Mean

Calling Your Elected Officials: Breaking it Down and Making it Easier

Shirtless_pierced_man_holding_up_a_smartphone
Photo by miggslives, via Wikimedia Commons

I know that for some people, calling their representatives can be a daunting task. So here are a few tips for breaking it down and making it easier.

1) Today, if you haven’t done so already, look up your representatives’ phone numbers, and put them in your phone. Once they’re in your phone, calling is much easier. Start with your Senators and Congressperson. If you have the energy, then do your governor, state senators and representative, mayor, and city councilor or whatever they call that in your city. (If that’s overwhelming for one day, do your national reps today, your state reps tomorrow, and your local reps the next day.)

That’s it for today. You don’t have to make any phone calls today if you don’t have the energy. Just look up the numbers and put them in your phone.

2) Remember that when you call, you don’t have to give a speech on the issue, and you won’t be grilled on it. All you have to say is your name, zip code, and what you want them to do. If you like, you can give a short explanation of why you want them to do the thing, but you don’t have to. Continue reading “Calling Your Elected Officials: Breaking it Down and Making it Easier”

Calling Your Elected Officials: Breaking it Down and Making it Easier

January 20, 2017: Refusing My Consent, and Grieving the World

the word no

I do not consent to this.

It’s January 20, 2017. It’s inauguration day. And I do not accept it.

That’s an odd phrase: “I do not accept this.” It can mean denial, refusal to acknowledge reality. Or it can mean resistance. I’ve been doing a bit of both: I’ve been sinking into work and organizing, and I’ve been sinking into escapist distractions. I’ll probably keep doing both. I can’t work all the time, I’ll exhaust myself. And I can’t let myself think too much, or for too long, about the world we’re in now. Especially not when I’m alone. I need my escapes into other worlds: worlds where people mostly treat each other decently, worlds where wrongs are righted.

I think I’ve read too much science fiction. There’s a part of me that keeps looking for the key to the alternate reality. One of the most painful things about this election is how close it was. Just a few thousand votes in a handful of states, and it would have been different. The other reality seems so close to this one, and it seems radically wrong that we can’t reach it, that it doesn’t actually exist. It seems wrong that the other world could have been so close to our grasp, and yet be so radically different. The flawed country making itself gradually better, moving three steps forward and two steps back, building on the legacy and momentum of the last eight years… and the worst sides of this country, the dehumanizing racism, the leering disgust of women, the repugnance toward the body, the poisonous fear of the new, the contempt for knowledge, the naked greed, the selfishness masquerading as individuality, the hatred of the stranger masquerading as love of the country, all made flesh at once. So close.

And because the other world is so close — was so close — it makes certain kinds of pain hard to heal, and hard to bear. I know I need to move forward, not dwell, learn lessons and move on. But it’s hard to not feel rage, at people I once saw as part of my extended chosen family, people who should have known better but helped make this happen. And it’s hard to not feel guilt; to feel like I should have done more, better, sooner.

I feel somewhat bad, writing this today. I feel like I should be inspiring righteous anger, issuing clarion calls to action. I know I’ll do that, some of it anyway, in the months and years to come. I know that resistance is not futile. And I will resist. I have already begun to resist, and I’ll continue. But today, I’m deep in grief. I’m grieving the world we could have had. I’m grieving for the world we’re in now. And I am refusing my consent.

Do what you need to do today. Console each other; rage; retreat and regroup; distract yourself; spend all day poking the wound and taking its measure; cry; protest. Self-care is not selfish. Self-care is a form of resistance.

Other work in a similar vein:
Depression in a Fascist Regime
The World We’re In Now (my talk at Skepticon 9)

January 20, 2017: Refusing My Consent, and Grieving the World

Godless Perverts Social Club Feb. 7: Sexual and Gender Rights in the Trump Regime

Godless perverts Social Club Feb 7 for website

There’s a Godless Perverts Social Club on Tuesday, February 7, at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th St. in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART), 7-9 pm. Our discussion topic for this evening: Sexual and Gender Rights in the Trump Regime.

Under the Trump regime and with a Republican-controlled Congress, sexual and gender rights will be under attack. Legal protections could be removed, not only for LGBT people, but for anyone in any sexual relationship outside opposite-sex marriage. And the recent rise in hate crimes targets sexual minorities as well as people of color, Muslims, Jewish people, and others. What threats do we have to be concerned about? How is the false panic over religious freedom being used in these attacks? And how can we take action to protect ourselves and each other, and to fight back?

The Social Club is free, and all orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) are welcome. Wicked Grounds has beverages, light snacks, full meals, and amazing milkshakes: please support the cafe if you can. If you can’t afford cafe prices, Wicked Grounds customers have bought you coffee or tea: just ask for your beverage to paid for “from the wall.”

Community is one of the reasons we started Godless Perverts. There are few enough places to land when you decide that you’re an atheist; far fewer if you’re also LGBT, queer, kinky, poly, trans, or are just interested in sexuality. And the sex-positive/ alt-sex/ whatever- you- want- to- call- it community isn’t always the most welcoming place for non-believers. So please join us! Hang out with other nonbelievers and chat about sex, sexuality, gender, atheism, religion, science, social justice, pop culture, and more.

Godless Perverts presents and promotes a positive view of sexuality without religion, by and for sex-positive atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other non-believers, through performance events, panel discussions, social gatherings, media productions, and other appropriate outlets. Our events and media productions present depictions, explorations, and celebrations of godless sexualities — including positive, traumatic, and complex experiences — focusing on the intersections of sexuality with atheism, materialism, skepticism, and science, as well as critical, questioning, mocking, or blasphemous views of sex and religion.

Godless Perverts is committed to feminism, diversity, inclusivity, and social justice. We seek to create safe and welcoming environments for all non-believers and believing allies who are respectful of the mission, and are committed to taking positive action to achieve this. Please let the moderators or other people in charge of any event know if you encounter harassment, racism, misogyny, transphobia, or other problems at our events.

If you want to be notified about all our Godless Perverts events, sign up for our email mailing list, follow us on Twitter at @GodlessPerverts, or follow us on Facebook. You can also sign up for the Bay Area Atheists/ Agnostics/ Humanists/ Freethinkers/ Skeptics Meetup page, and be notified of all sorts of godless Bay Area events — including many Godless Perverts events. And of course, you can always visit our Website to find out what we’re up to, godlessperverts.com. Hope to see you soon!

Godless Perverts Social Club Feb. 7: Sexual and Gender Rights in the Trump Regime

Godless Perverts Book Club: “My President Was Black,” Ta-Nehisi Coates

Godless-Perverts-Book-Club-Jan-for-website

Godless Perverts is starting a book club! Want to talk books with other nonbelievers interested in sexuality and social justice? Come to the very first Godless Perverts Book Club, Tuesday January 17 at Borderlands! We’ll be discussing a wide variety of books over the coming months, about sex, gender, atheism, religion, science, activism, resistance, and other topics in the Godless Perverts wheelhouse.

For our first selection, we decided to read a hefty article instead of a book, since part of the first meeting will be devoted to getting things off the ground and choosing the next book. We will be reading the Ta-Nehisi Coates article in The Atlantic, “My President Was Black.” The article addresses issues around identity politics (a.k.a. civil rights), respectability politics, and the role and functions of the President. While this is not specific to godlessness and perversion, it should lead to some good discussions regarding the current political climate, what we expect from politicians (whether friend or foe) and how we should hold politicians accountable. The article is about a 2 hour read (17000 words).

The Godless Perverts Book Club is at Borderlands Cafe, 870 Valencia St. in San Francisco. Continue reading “Godless Perverts Book Club: “My President Was Black,” Ta-Nehisi Coates”

Godless Perverts Book Club: “My President Was Black,” Ta-Nehisi Coates

Politics and Sexual Shame

pointing finger

Content note: sexual shaming, the president-elect, passing mention of rape.

Please find a way to talk about the latest DT/ Russia/ blackmail story in Buzzfeed, without shaming consensual sexual activity.

If the activity being discussed isn’t your thing, please try to imagine what it’s like for people who do engage in it seeing it viciously mocked on social media. Or else, think about one of your own favorite sex acts, one that’s widely considered to be funny or weird or sick — and again, imagine seeing it widely reviled by your friends, neighbors, family members. And please act accordingly.

There are ways to discuss this news story, and to revile DT over it, without shaming or mocking this sex act. You can focus on the racism: how this act (assuming the story is accurate) was done as an act of racist dominance and white supremacy. You can focus on the blackmail aspect. You can talk about the grotesque hypocrisy of FBI director James Comey releasing a bullshit non-story about Hillary Clinton days before the election, but sitting on this story. There are lots of things you can say about this story other than “THAT SEX ACT IS GROSS! RIDICULOUS! DISGUSTING! LAUGHABLE! WEIRD! SICK!” — or making adolescent jokes rooted in the idea that the sex act is gross, ridiculous, disgusting, laughable, weird, or sick.

Remember when Rush Limbaugh made that comment about how liberals think any sexual activity is okay as long as it’s consenting, but any time something was non-consensual we wanted to call the “rape police”? Remember when we all collectively said, “Um… yeah, that’s the idea, what’s wrong with that?” Let’s live up to that now. If we want to be the better people, our sexual ethics need to be based on actual ethics — like consent, honesty, fairness, and harm. They can’t be based on which sex acts personally gross us out.

Politics and Sexual Shame

Depression in a Fascist Regime

depressed woman in window seat

(Content note: serious depression, spoilers for the last episode of “Angel”.)

I don’t know how to do this.

A lot of my strategies don’t work anymore. This round of depression isn’t just worse than my previous episodes: it’s different. My symptoms, the things that help, the things that make it worse — they’re different. I’ve spent the last four years learning how to manage depression, and now, at least to some extent, I need to start all over again.

It’s different because the world is genuinely terrible. That’s not the depression talking: that’s a reasonable, evidence-based assessment of reality. You know the joke, “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you?” Well, just because you’re depressed doesn’t mean the world’s not terrible. And just because you’re anxious doesn’t mean the world’s not terrifying. I keep thinking about Reviving the Tribe, Eric Rofes’s book about gay men’s lives in the worst years of the AIDS epidemic, and I keep thinking about the question he kept asking: How do you treat PTSD when the trauma is still ongoing? Continue reading “Depression in a Fascist Regime”

Depression in a Fascist Regime

Rogue One, and Collective Action

rogue-one

Content note: spoilers for “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

There are things I liked about Rogue One, and things I didn’t. I mostly didn’t like the ratio of “Pew! Pew! BOOM!” action to dialog and plot. I like “Pew! Pew! BOOM!” as much as the next geek, but there was too much of it here: it got exhausting and overwhelming and boring, and it took time that could have been spent clarifying the sometimes confusing plot. But there were a lot of things I liked (gotta love a sarcastic robot who’s a bad liar), and one thing I liked a hell of a lot:

I liked how Rogue One was about collective action.

I liked that the movie wasn’t another goddamn Hero’s Journey. I liked that it wasn’t about another Destined One Who Will Save Us All. It was about ordinary people stepping up, not because they’re some powerful Jedi’s long-lost son, but because someone has to. It was about the difficulties of collective action, people arguing and splintering and deciding for themselves who to follow — because the alternative is the exact rigid authoritarianism they’re fighting against. It was about a team who all have their crucial part to play, who figure out on the fly how to work together.

In fact, Rogue One completely undercuts the whole Hero’s Journey thing in Star Wars 4-6. Continue reading “Rogue One, and Collective Action”

Rogue One, and Collective Action