• Politics

    Here’s a script. Call your reps.

    Or don’t, as you see fit. But if you’ve ever wondered how ordinary decent people let Nazi Germany happen, if you’ve ever thought “I would have done something, if I’d been alive back then,” well, this is how it happened, and what we do now is what we would have done then.

    Hi. My name is [   ] and I’m a consitutent in [   ], zip code [   ]. I don’t need a response to this, but I do want this message passed on to my [ Senator / Congressperson ].

    I’m calling to tell the Senator/Congress(person) that it is imperative that they denounce not only the Nazi gatherings in our country, but also the President of the United States, who has now openly defined himself as a white supremacist. Thoughts and prayers are, at this stage, deeply insufficient. Any action less than a full and swift removal of Donald Trump from the Presidential office is inadequate. We as Americans must be better than this, and the Senator/Congressperson, as an elected official, must stand up and say we will not tolerate fascist leadership. Every day that they delay doing so aligns them more powerfully with an authoritarian regime, and history will not be kind to those in government who do not take decisive action now.

    Thank you for your time.

    If you really hate talking to people on the phone, call during off-hours so you’ll get an answering machine. But call, because you can’t pull punches when you’re fighting fascists.

  • Politics

    An open letter to the electors

    I’ve written an open letter to the electors via DearElector. There’s a copy of the letter posted here, where you can add your name as a signator, if you feel I’ve said anything worthwhile, but the body of the text is also replicated in this post.

    Dear Elector:

    These are the things I can probably safely say I know about you:

    You have deeply held convictions.
    You are politically active.
    You are a Republican.

    That’s it: that’s all I know about you. I know those things because you’re a Republican elector for the Electoral College, a position you wouldn’t be in without being politically active and holding deep enough convictions to feel it was an important use of your time and energy.

    I admire that profoundly. I grew up in a very political family (my uncle Hugh Malone was one of the instigators of the Permanent Fund), and as an adult it still shocks me when people aren’t politically involved. The fact that you are relieves me, even though I’m on the other side of a political divide from you.

    There are things I imagine I know about you, too. Right now, mostly I imagine that you might feel caught between a rock and a hard spot in casting your electoral vote. I could easily be wrong; you might feel that your task is simple in this election cycle. But it’s hard to imagine you expected a president-elect who would fill his cabinet with people like a self-admitted bigot whose hero inspired him to say, “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment” (Steve Bannon, The Daily Beast, 2013), or Goldman-Sachs alumni, or former representatives of Exxon, who were responsible for one of the worst environmental disasters in Alaska itself.

    It’s hard to imagine you thought the CIA would conclude that a foreign interest, Russia, had interfered in the election in an attempt to install a man whom they had personal investment in the Presidency. It’s hard to imagine you thought Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was aware of suspicion of such interference and felt that information, on a topic which should be of concern to every last one of us who is interested in maintaining integrity in our electorial process, should be squashed rather than highlighted, or that after McConnell moving to keep that information quiet, McConnell’s wife Elaine Chao would be nominated for a Cabinet position.

    It’s easier to imagine you know we’re on history’s radar, right now.

    It’s easier to imagine you know that there are very few moments in history when we can look back and learn from a parallel situation, and look forward and recognize which side history is going to place us on, through our actions.

    Being on the right side of history is—historically, if you’ll forgive me—generally terrifying, in the moment that it’s happening. Choosing to go against tradition or social expectation, to find a line and say, “They shall not pass,” is a tremendous action of courage and foresight.

    You are in a unique, rare, powerful position right now. You have the ability, right now, to be on the right side of history. It will require an action that many people, many of your peers, will not approve of, and equally, an action that many of them will approve of.

    It will require a tremendous degree of confidence in your understanding of history and your vision of the future—because again, it’s difficult to imagine that no matter how much our visions of America might differ, that your vision of the future allows for someone like Steve Bannon to encourage the president-elect to destroy the very foundations of our nation—and a tremendous degree of confidence in yourself as someone who is trustworthy to shape the future of our nation.

    I imagine you would not be in the position you are right now if you did not have that degree of confidence in yourself. You wouldn’t be in the position you are right now if our Founding Fathers had not also had that degree of confidence in you: the Electoral College was established in part so that people of conviction and wisdom could prevent someone hopelessly unqualified and influenced by toxic regimes from being placed in the Presidential seat.

    I imagine that you know no one in American history has ever been censured or fined for being a ‘faithless elector’, nor are Constitutional lawyers convinced that it is lawful to require electors to vote in a winner-takes-all bloc.

    I genuinely believe that it’s the duty of our Electoral College, people whom I believe to be patriotic, passionate, and of strong conviction, to cast their votes for the winner of the popular vote, whose qualifications outshine the current winner of the electoral votes. I genuinely believe that such a vote is what our forefathers would expect of us and what our grandchildren will thank us for. I genuinely believe this is a turning point in history, and that the Electoral College is our last, best hope for peace and prosperity for all of our futures.

    I ask you to cast your vote for Hillary Clinton on December 19th, 2016, and to go down in history as someone who stood up for, and helped to shape, the continuing American Experiment for all of us.

    Catherine (CE) Murphy

  • Politics

    third parties & american presidential politics

    I wish everybody who believes that voting for a third party in a two-party presidental election is a protest vote would go out and run for office themselves under a third party and work their way up through the system and create a situation where a third party was a viable option instead of taking away a vote for the party which, like it or lump it, their values most closely align, and potentially giving what is still arguably the most powerful political position in the world to someone who has no business holding that position.

    Because if you want to change the political stalemate in the US, if you really want to change it, you’re going to have to start at the bottom, not the top. It requires hundreds of individuals dedicated to the third party platform to run for office. To get those politicians into place requires the support of hundreds and thousands of people willing to canvass, financially back, and actually vote for those politicians until the party is widely recognized and represented in local and state governments. Only with that kind of on-the-ground support is there any chance of building a platform in which a third party candidate is a realistic option for the Presidential seat.

    And let’s be frank: it will probably still take decades, at that point, to get a third party candidate into the White House. As people have been fervently pointing out, women have been running for President since the 1880s, but it’s taken until the early 21st century for one to become a viable option. The habit of voting for Democrats or Republicans is entrenched; building a legitimate base for a third party candidate has that to surmount too, and even if one should get as far as the presidential elections, entropy is hard to overcome.

    I can hear people shouting, “That’s why we’re voting for one now! Break the cycle!” And I get that impulse, I do. I even get that people opting to vote for a third party in the upcoming election *don’t expect to win*, that they are in fact registering a protest vote.

    But many thousands of people just voted protest votes in Britain and are horrified to find themselves in a situation where Britain has made a public international statement that as a people they want to leave the EU, and there appears to be no politically viable way out of that. It was a binary vote. There is no safe protest ground in a binary vote: it is either yes or no, on or off, in or out.

    Like it or not, at this stage in the political arena of the United States of America, a presidential vote is a binary vote. Voting for a third party does not, in the USA, cause the dominant parties to say “We had better adopt some of this third party’s platform because 5% of the voters clearly feel strongly about it and we want to reflect their passions so they’ll vote for us.”

    Well, it would be *nice* if it worked that way, but it would also be nice if I woke up a NYT Bestseller tomorrow morning because that’s what I *want* to have happen with my career. Just because I think it would be nice, or indeed, because I think it’s how it Should Be, doesn’t have any bearing on how it actually is.

    To make our presidential elections anything other than a binary choice requires, as I’ve said above, a movement that starts on the ground with the passion of all the people who are unhappy about the binary choices putting their lives and activities where their mouths are and getting into office. This is a much, much, much harder proposition than simply casting a vote for a third party in the presidential election. It requires time and dedication and determination and obstinancy and conviction.

    It’s also the only thing that stands a chance of working.

    I don’t, incidentally, think voting for a third party is throwing away your vote. I do think, however, that it may be throwing away the country’s future: all too often, third party candidates split the vote and hand the presidential position to the party the third parties have _less_ in common with.

    I believe presidential elections are too important to risk that with, and I believe this one in particular is much, much too dangerous to play that game with. The next president will almost certainly be appointing several Supreme Court justices, who will be guiding the United States through the next twenty to forty, even fifty, years of social change and law development. I believe the collective futures of women, people of color, queer people, immigrants–anyone who is not, in essence, a straight white man–should be considered in the balance against the weight of a protest vote.

    From where I stand, protecting the safety of those people and the lives of children being born into this world is a vastly more powerful and significant action than the casting of a vote for a third party candidate at the presidential level. From where I stand, running for office as a third party candidate and building the necessary groundwork–a proposition which I realize would be likely to take longer than the lifespan of most people reading this–is taking powerful action. But those options are as far as powerful actions go right now, as far as I’m concerned, because like it or not, this is how the system works.

  • Politics

    when nice people say they’re voting for trump

    Earlier this summer a friend said they were going to vote for Trump.

    I turned bright red, I kid you not. Bright bright red. Even I thought it was funny. They said, “I take it you’re a Hillary fan,” and I said, truthfully, that it wasn’t so much that I was pro-Hillary as I was vehemently anti-Trump. (This has changed: I’ve really had to examine my prejudices against Hillary and question how many of them were instilled by 30 years of media telling me she was evil and corrupt, but that’s another post.)

    My friend said, “Why?” and I said, “Because Trump thinks that women are things, not people, and if he’s elected President he’s going to be the person appointing at least two, up to probably five, Supreme Court justices, and every right women have will get rolled under. If you think, for example, that there are any circumstances ever under which a woman should be able to have an abortion, you should not vote for Trump.”

    (I don’t know if I had the clarity of mind at that moment to actually say “You in fact need to vote for Clinton if you think women are people,” because a vote for a third party in a two-party system isn’t a protest vote, it’s taking support away from whichever major party, whether you like it or not, aligns more closely with your values, hopes and expectations of your country. Which is also another post.)

    I asked them why they liked Trump, and they said they liked the sense that he was cutting through the bullshit and saying what he thought and that somebody who wasn’t tied to the political system seemed like they could do a lot of good.

    I said I understood that, to a degree, because I *do* understand that it feels like politicians frequently say one thing and do another, and that they’re always very careful about what they say so they aren’t committing to anything, and I *get* that there are millions of lower and middle class white Americans who feel like nobody in Washington is listening to them.

    I also said that Trump is a billionaire, he was born a billionaire, he’s going to die a billionaire, and he absolutely does not care about the lives or futures of people who are not billionaires, regardless of the stories he might tell from the pulpit.

    I said as somebody for whom the environment is an important topic I thought Trump would literally burn the world down in the name of making a profit for himself and his billionaire friends and that it would do the rest of us no economic good at all. And I said I didn’t have any great hopes for Clinton improving things environmentally but I thought she at least wouldn’t make it worse.

    My friend said I’d given them something to think about, and admitted they hadn’t thought beyond the surface of Trump’s presentation. They said that that was on them, it was something they should have done.

    I don’t know if I convinced them to vote for Clinton. Obviously I hope I did. But honestly for me what mattered most was that we had a conversation about politics and nobody (especially me, because who are we kidding, I’m prone to this) flew off the handle, and that we both made each other *think* a little bit. And that’s valuable, not just to me personally but to our political system and our future as a whole.

    (Ad hominem attacks in comments will not be tolerated.)

  • Politics,  SFFragette

    Good Guys & Responding to Womens’ Sexual Harassment

    A friend of mine over on Facebook posted link to this article, Why Women Smile At Men Who Sexually Harass Us, which is a good article full of things that are tiresomely familiar to virtually all women and apparently continue to be surprising to many, perhaps most, men.

    I think it’s a good article for men to read, because what prompted her writing it was how the author’s boyfriend, who is, by her estimation, one of the good guys, responded not only to her being harassed, but to her *reaction* to being harassed.

    Here’s the thing. There are very few men of my acquaintance that I wouldn’t consider to be among the good guys. Men who would never dream of behaving in the ways described in this (or so very, very many other) articles, who find it appalling that anyone *would* behave in the way described. And that’s good. That’s great. That’s wonderful.

    It’s also amazing how very easily they–these good guys, these men who are absolutely trying to Do Right–miss the mark in how to react when this kind of thing happens to a woman they’re with, or even when they hear about it happening.

    Women respond the way we do because we’ve learned, whether consciously or not, what to do to ensure the most positive outcome for ourselves when we find ourselves in these kinds of situations, and honestly, women aren’t kidding when that #YesAllWoman hashtag trends. We have *all* found ourselves in a position of being harassed, and smiling uncomfortably and trying to ignore it and being polite when we’d rather scream or kick or run but there’s no one to hear (or listen) or help fight back (because we’re mostly smaller and mostly aren’t going to win a physical altercation) or anywhere to run to.

    I came across this quote a few days ago and I think it’s hugely relevant to what I’m about to say here. It’s talking about cat-calling, specifically, but you ought to be able to see how it applies more broadly:


    Because what gets me, and what gets me every time, is how enraged and how immediately prone to violent threats so very many men* become when shit like this happens. How they react by escalating, or thinking women should escalate. How THEY wouldn’t respond with a tight smile (except that’s not true, because almost all the time when we’re confronted with racist or sexist or homophobic or misogynistic behaviour that’s exactly what we *all* do), THEY would confront the guy–and how in that situation they sometimes do.

    First off, that’s looking at the situation from the male point of view. It’s making it about the male friend’s (completely happenstance, because he’s not always going to be there) position in the scenario, and right there, that stops being helpful, even when a man is really, really trying to be one of the good guys.

    But second, and more relevantly to what I’m coming at here, is that if men want to be any actual use in that kind of situation, they need to stay calm instead of getting snarly and confrontational. They need to say “this isn’t okay” without bringing on the aggression themselves. Yelling, threatening, puffing up, all of that is absolutely no use, because then you know what the woman who is being harassed has to deal with?

    Two men who are behaving like shitheels. One of them is her harasser and one of them is nominally her friend but who is in that moment making the situation worse for her. Because now somebody is Trying To Defend Her, but doing so in a way that could in fact potentially bring on violence, and so instead of the tension of politely ignoring the first jackass, she’s now trying to defuse and manage a situation that’s been magnified, which is what she was trying to avoid in the first place.

    Honestly, going silent is more helpful in the immediate than getting confrontational, because what people who act like this are *looking* for is a reaction. But in the long term, and I’m not just talking about street harassment but about general sexist(racist/homophobic/misogynistic) commentary, *by far* the most useful thing men (in particular men, because broadly speaking men listen to other men more than they listen to women) can do is say, “That’s not cool, why would you say something like that, I can’t stand here and listen to you talk that way about somebody,” in as casual a manner as possible, and do it every single time. Not when there’s something big at stake, but when it nominally doesn’t matter.

    It’s *incredibly* difficult. It’s so. very. hard. We’re trained not to make a fuss. Women are trained even more than men, but generally we’re all socially conditioned to keep conflict to a minimum and let it blow over while we maybe exchange uncomfortable looks, but that will never. ever. change. anything.

    Years and years ago a friend of mine, who is generally an extremely good person but came from a culture where this was considered okay, used ‘gay’ as a slur. I called him out on it. Told him that wasn’t appropriate and I’d thank him not to use that term again my house or my hearing. We were both, frankly, mortified by me saying it. But a couple weeks later he said to me, “Ever since you said that to me I’ve had to think about EVERYTHING I say,” and that’s the point.

    And that was with somebody who was a good guy. He was able to hear it from a woman and respond appropriately. Huge numbers of men can’t or won’t heed that kind of commentary from a woman, which is why we need men to say it too, all the damned time, in a calm and reasonable manner, until it stops being necessary. Which isn’t going to happen in our lifetimes, but it won’t happen in *anybody’s* lifetime if we just let casual sexism(etc) go because it’s more comfortable to not speak up in a calm, rational way.

    I’m not saying anything new here. I don’t know that I’ve got enough reach for it to get out of my echo chamber. But it’s a thing that seemed important in the wake of reading the linked article, and if it makes anybody take a deep breath and reconsider whether they’re about to be helpful or not, it’s certainly worth posting.

    I swear to God if I get one “not all men” on this I will drop an anvil on you.

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