Starting my COVID vaccination is thrilling, liberating, a massive relief. It’s also terrifying. (Content notes: depression, anxiety, American assholes.)
It’s like a year ago, we slammed on the brakes.* The roads all turned into lava or something, and we slammed on the brakes and pulled over. And we’ve been living in our cars ever since. We’ve been eating junk food from the gas station; getting crappy sleep in the back seat; doing video calls with the people with we love, trying to shut out the pain of not touching them, not having touched them for months.
A year ago, we slammed on the brakes. And now the road crew is on their way. I’ll be able to start the car soon. I’m excited, elated, relieved beyond measure.
You might think leftists need to stop painting conservatives as heartless bigots and stop painting the Republican Party as the Evil Empire. You might think punching Nazis or throwing milkshakes at fascists is unacceptable violence. You might think the word “fascist” is leftist hyperbole.
How bad do things have to get before you’ll change your mind?
Fascism typically turns the heat up a little at a time. “First they came for the socialists,” and all that. Each new horror is just a little bit worse than the last, normalizing the ones that came before it and numbing people to ones that are coming. It’s easy to see in retrospect that strong action should have been taken earlier — but when it’s happening, it’s easy to convince yourself that it isn’t really that bad. Especially if you’re not one of the main targets. Yet.
How bad do things have to get, before you’ll recognize that this is a crisis? How bad do things have to get before you’ll stop seeing this as a problem that can be addressed with civility and debate? How bad do things have to get before you’ll agree that milkshaking — a form of resistance activism that’s been shown to be effective, one of the few forms of resistance that increasingly powerless people have — is acceptable? How much violence does the regime have to inflict before you’ll accept the morality of self-defense?
I don’t want you to answer right away. I just want you to think about it.
Your position should be falsifiable. If you’re an atheist or a skeptic, you should already be allergic to unfalsifiable opinions, goalposts that keep moving. So if you think fascism is not on the rise in the United States, draw your lines. Think now about what you’d consider business as usual, and what you’d consider to be crossing a line. Don’t let the heat get turned up another degree, and another, and another, while you insist that 200 degrees is certainly very hot but technically isn’t boiling. Don’t insist that, because you don’t personally know anyone in the cooking pot, the people screaming about the heat are being hysterical. Draw your line. And make it one where the goalposts won’t keep getting moved, a foot at a time, deeper and deeper into fascism.
We’re having a Godless Perverts Social Club on Tuesday, October 3, at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th St. in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART), 7-9 pm. Our discussion topic for this evening: Sustaining Resistance.
How do we sustain political resistance for the long haul? How do we stay involved and informed, without becoming overwhelmed and burning out? How do we move forward with our everyday lives, without letting fascism become normal? Join us for a discussion about self-care, taking care of each other, deciding on priorities, taking breaks, folding resistance into our everyday lives, and more.
Some political protests are relatively safe. Others are more risky. And we don’t always know ahead of time which is which. Whether you’re planning to be in a protest with a known risk of injury or arrest, or you just want to be ready in case it happens, it’s good to be prepared, so come attend this Protester Safety Training session, featuring Guy Vandenberg and Kitty Stryker, hosted by Godless Perverts. Wednesday, August 23, 7:00 to 9:00 pm in San Francisco. This training will cover:
Preparing for action, anticipating and avoiding violence and injury
Tactics for non-violent self-defense and de-escalation
What to do — and what not to do — when you’re injured and/or arrested
Taking care of yourself and each other after an action
PLEASE NOTE: The space for this event is limited. If you’re planning to attend, please email [email protected] to RSVP and get the location.
Guy Vandenberg is a registered nurse and HIV specialist who began work in the fight against HIV/AIDS in 1985. A veteran of ACT-UP, the AIDS activist organization, he has founded needle exchange programs, worked with homeless populations, and done continuing education about HIV care for physicians and nurses in correctional settings across the US. He has done numerous trainings in protestor safety.
Kitty Stryker is an experienced activist, the ringmistress for Juggalo resistance group Struggalo Circus, and an active member of the genderqueer feminist art collective the NorCal Degenderettes. She has been on the ground acting as a street medic since Occupy. Her first book, Ask: Building Consent Culture, is an anthology with diverse voices discussing consent, from Thorntree Press and coming out in 2017. For media inquiries and bookings, email [email protected].
GODLESS PERVERTS is a non-profit organization that presents and promotes a positive view of sexuality without religion, by and for sex-positive atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other non-believers. We host social meetups, educational events, performances, and fundraisers for other organizations. We are committed to feminism, diversity, inclusivity, and social justice. All sexual orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) are welcome.
I’m writing this three days after the last round of the Big Health Care Showdown. For seven years, Republican legislators in the U.S. have been screaming that they wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Yet despite having control of the presidency and both houses of Congress, despite arm-twisting and deceit and heavy-handed manipulation of legislative procedure (including introducing their final bill at ten p.m. for a vote at midnight), they failed.
There are a lot of reasons they failed. Even though they had seven years to prepare, the Republicans weren’t prepared with actual legislation. Their own party was divided: a large branch of the party thought the bills being proposed weren’t draconian enough. And, of course, the president is an arrogant, incompetent, willfully ignorant buffoon, who failed to do the difficult work of convincing legislators and citizens to accept the legislation, and didn’t even see the value of doing so.
But one of the biggest reasons the Affordable Care Act was saved was a massive outpouring of resistance from citizens, beseeching their representatives not to take health care from millions. The ACA was saved, in large part, by a flood of people contacting their Senators and Congresspeople: calling, texting, emailing, sending letters and postcards, protesting, lobbying, getting arrested, and organizing others to do all the above. Everyone familiar with how federal government works says contacting elected officials is effective, and when it happens on this scale, it’s hugely effective. Everyone familiar with federal government says the recent flood of civic engagement was a major reason a handful of Republican legislators broke ranks — and all Democratic legislators held firm.
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.
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.
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.
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.