Politics


[editors note, another version of this with potentially triggering images is located at http://adonismirror.com/06052008_leader_pimpandho_primary.htm ]

 

There are people in life each of us just can’t stand. It just so happens that every white liberal I can’t stand picked Barack Obama as their choice in the Democratic primary. Who I do or don’t like probably doesn’t matter much to you, it shouldn’t, and what I’m about to say doesn’t have much — if anything — to do with Obama himself.

However, my dislike isn’t arbitrary or capricious. It has a very specific origin. I detest progressives who claim to be against unchecked capitalism, up until the issue of sexual exploitation is raised. These are the sort of people who mock Wal-Mart shoppers, McDonald’s workers, and other inferior beings in the liberal universe, only to turn around and celebrate the selling of sex as liberation itself. Some of these people are so far gone as to be in favor of human trafficking, if only because George W. Bush had the sense to be against it.

Pundits discussing the 2008 Democratic primary have demonstrated little understanding of power within our country. Their simplistic claim is that racists are refusing to vote for Barack Obama while sexists are giving a cold shoulder to Hillary Clinton. Such thinking is convenient. It’s also utterly egocentric. After all, if a person believes that white men in Kentucky are especially racist, that same person probably feels safe in assuming that those men are especially sexist, too. Only this time their racism won out over their sexism and they voted for Clinton. Could be. It’s impossible to say for sure.

Millions of chauvinist men have voted for Hillary Clinton over the past few months. Millions of white supremacists have happily cast their lot for Barack Obama. Perception comes down to who is writing the narrative. Painting the white men of Kentucky as rednecks brought little opposition in the world of liberal punditry. To be sure, some chaffed at the suggestion, and others warned that it might be a self-fulfilling prophecy come November, but no one posed a similar question that day about the white men of Portland, Oregon. Were they all sexist for voting for Obama?

Such thinking is ridiculous. Those men assuredly have white women in their lives. But no one stopped to think about how they treat the women in their lives. Portland, the same city where Barack Obama drew his now legendary crowd of 75,000, also claims to have the highest number of strip clubs per capita in our nation.

I’m not suggesting a direct correlation. On the other hand, there is a cultural difference between the average town in West Virginia and Portland, Oregon. These differences led to wildly divergent voting patterns — even among the same general demographics. Some writers have declared it cappuccino or latte voters vs. coffee voters. There is some truth to that.

I believe that attitudes about prostitution and pornography are also significant markers along that same cultural divide. Barack Obama became the porn candidate. I’m not speaking of direct industry support. The sex business itself was evenly split between Obama and Clinton after it became clear that Dennis Kucinich, a friend of Larry Flynt, had no future in the race. Instead, I’m speaking of a nation that lives within a pornographic and runaway-capitalist ethos. Young people, especially, have never known any other culture. This way of life was perfectly suited for the Obama brand that David Axelrod would create.

There’s over 300 million different ways to be a sexist and a racist in our society. Yes, I’m counting our entire population there. Larry Flynt wants us to believe that he was shot and paralyzed by a racist who was inflamed by the interracial pornography published in Hustler. Yet the fact that “interracial” itself is a commoditized genre of pornography, with its own iconography and rules, is nothing but racist. There is no hero in Flynt’s story: it was just one kind of racist shooting another kind of racist.

If the people of West Virginia are racist in one way, perhaps Portland’s crowd of 75,000 was racist in another. I’m not calling them out as individuals (just as I don’t think arguments for West Virginians as abject or even noteworthy racists were substantiated), nor am I accusing them of voting under the duress of “white guilt.” Instead, I only wish to speak to a larger issue in our culture.

Early in the primary, certain clever individuals invoked the “bros before hos” mantra. While the slogan was widely denounced as sexist — though not universally, sadly — the racist nature of how whites manufacture black masculinity went unremarked upon. Barack Obama didn’t ask to become a “bro,” nor did he ask to be a pimp, lording over his whore.

White men in our country pay big money to possess imagery that shows exactly that. We have entire industries dedicated to producing it; not just pornography but mainstream movies, music, and now even cable news networks. We want to see white women humiliated for their weakness, a fragility of our own invention. We use our racist notions about black masculinity, ever brutal and animalistic, to supply the ultimate episode of humiliation. We believe that humiliation is something women of all colors enjoy at the core of their being — that masochism is written into their genetic code.

The pornographic industry can’t admit that’s what they sell. They’ll say all of that is just in my head, that I’m the one with the problem. They’ll say that they’re breaking down barriers. They’ll say that they’re freeing love from bondage. If that were true, many of Barack Obama’s fans wouldn’t have cheered (if only on the internet) when they thought he was giving the finger to Hillary Clinton in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Yes, of course the official explanation was that such a claim is absurd. It unequivocally is. Yet there were people who wanted to believe it, not because they needed another reason to hate Obama, but because they were excited that their pimp finally gave his white-bitch ho what she had coming.

White males are the authors of both black masculinity and white femininity. Both are fictions. Because we own and control their legacy, we are better equipped to take on either part if we choose. Not only is it far easier for a male in drag to mimic a supermodel on a catwalk than the average woman (the odds of being six-feet tall are highly in our favor), it’s easier for us to be “black,” too. There are no repercussions, no institutional racism, just the fun in reveling in someone else’s oppression.

Nothing excites a white man more these days than saying the word pimp. There’s no higher high. Watch us when we say it. Watch our eyes twinkle. Pimp hands, pimped out cars (and even tricked out trucks for rednecks), pimp and ho parties, it never stops: “pimp” is a politically correct way to distill the essence of the N-word into a product that white men can embrace for our own amusement.

White men are the worst imaginable sort of n****rs in our own minds. We revel in the idea and know no greater joy. We want to possess that elite form of unrepentant masculinity, to be a monster among monsters, and yet walk away from it unscathed. We can get our pimp on and then safely go back to being just another guy in the crowd.

Making Barack Obama into a pimp, a cooler than life mythic figure, absolves us of that. In that way, he’s the ultimate white man on the stage, our subconscious belief in our own masculinity. This is a criminal act on our part.

Many progressive African Americans are skeptical of Barack Obama given his support by white men. They reckon that the support is owed to his post-racial politics and his rejection of Black Nationalism. That is likely true. I would add that there’s a sexist reason for that support, and it’s not just sexism against Hillary Clinton, but Obama himself. White men treat him as if he were our id: his cool, distant superiority is our own masculinity at play.

If there’s a direct link between whites who are favorable towards pornography and their support for Barack Obama, I certainly can’t prove it. I do, however, think that it’s a component — and a significant one — of the cultural difference between the whites who embraced him and those who campaigned for his rival, Hillary Clinton.

By all rights, I’m a member of the young, hip, highly educated creative-class, demographics that all but worship Obama. Going into the primary, I had no great love for Clinton, even though she is my senator; indeed, her reinventing herself as a New Yorker was something I loathed. I had planned from the start to vote for Cynthia McKinney. As the campaign wore on, however, a strange realization came over me:

I’ve been writing for several years about sexual exploitation. Because of that, I don’t get to feel young. I don’t get to feel hip. I don’t get to feel especially educated or creative. I’ve been told time and time again that I’m not part of that in-crowd, that my beliefs aren’t part of an avant-garde that views making a sandwich as slavery and performing sex acts with strangers as an art form.

The Nation, the most elite of the progressive magazines, only stopped printing advertisements for sex tourism a short time ago. While activists won out and the ads were removed, it’s abundantly clear from the content The Nation produces and the writers they employ that they still see the raping of children as a matter of free speech. They were also in the tank for Obama.

As were all of the celebrated white liberal blogs: places like The Daily Kos where there have already been several mass exoduses of women over near-pornographic ads. The blogs weren’t just for Obama, they were rabidly against Clinton, causing yet another wave to leave. This hasn’t caused much concern for those men as there will always be more women, one generation of them after the next, to take their place. Everyone wants to be where the power is, after all.

Even feminists, the young, hip, white ones who receive the most attention from those men, were more likely to support Obama than Clinton. Those are the feminists who are also most likely to be favorable towards prostitution and pornography: they don’t have much of a choice if they want to remain young and hip.

A popular feminist blog, Amptoons.com, was sold by its creator to a marketer of hardcore pornography. One of the websites it currently advertises depicts Hispanic women performing sex acts on immigration officials to avoid being deported. While many of the feminists abandoned blogging at the website after the sale, some stayed. It’s an Obama stronghold.

As month after month passed in the primary, I became aware that I felt a certain affinity for Hillary Clinton supporters. I felt that I was part of their world, if not exactly by choice: after all, who would choose to be old, unhip, uneducated, and non-creative? By extension, I began to care about Clinton too, something that surprised me immensely. As one of the “ugly” people, she represented me on the public stage.

Again, I don’t mean to suggest that every Barack Obama supporter is a porn fiend. Many of the most misogynist rapists in our country back Hillary Clinton; I still count her husband as one of them. There’s 300 million ways to be a sexist, after all. But by using pornography as a lens, it became clear to me that there was a rather stark divide among whites in our country, with one side believing that they were part of Obama’s world, while the other remained part of Clinton’s.

There are an infinite number of other lenses though that can bear witness to the same division. Not all of them are nefarious (cappuccino vs. coffee), and of those that are, neither coalition is without fault. (Although both, I’m sure, would prefer to blame the libertarians in our midst for any excesses, a too convenient theory I don’t find particularly convincing.) In listening to various discussions, the language and the imagery I saw revealed an immense amount of hatred for both candidates, even if the authors of it preferred one.

I do think it’s a salient point that their preference was almost always a black man over a white woman. However, Obama’s dominance in this imagery was not his own: he was a surrogate, just as the performers in interracial porn are proxies for the white males who are running the show, the business, and ultimately the country. It would be remiss to make a one-to-one comparison to Obama’s role in that imagery to his role as a statesman. It would be equally negligent to imagine that an entire culture of violence and pornography holds no sway over our presidency.

Frank Peretti is often described as “The Christian Stephen King.” In many ways, it’s accurate: he writes apocalyptic fiction that’s a little bit too fantastic to achieve mainstream appeal. Granted, he’s sold a lot of books, but he’ll never be able to reach the same cultural status that the Left Behind series has garnered.

Peretti’s angels and demons duel mercilessly with flaming swords while his flesh and blood monsters skulk about in the shadows. It’s a touch too out there — especially for a demographic that loves stories about brave militia men and pornographic detail about their firearms. Peretti might as well be writing about pink unicorns. His fantasies are destined to be viewed as effeminate.

On the other hand, the comparison is unfair to Stephen King. Frank Peretti never has to be quite as good. The brutally-oligarchic world of Christian capitalism saves him from having to compete on a level playing field: “Don’t read Stephen King, he might lead you down the wrong path and you may never recover. But here’s a nice equivalent with 99% of the same themes. You can even offer it to your friends as a witnessing tool!”

Thus the champ of Christian Professional Wrestling doesn’t have to compete with Hulk Hogan.

The best Christian skateboarder doesn’t have to be as good as Tony Hawk.

The best Christian Romance Novelist doesn’t have to contend with Danielle Steel (let alone the Bronte sisters).

And Peretti certainly doesn’t have to match Stephen King to be mentioned in the same sentence as him.

Nevertheless, I do hold a deep affection for Peretti. When I was a kid, he scared the hell out of me in a way that no secular author could, being that he could leverage my eternal soul. I kind of miss those days. Horror just isn’t the same after you fall off the bandwagon.

Frank Peretti’s also a genuinely good guy. He’s written books about bullying and is generally sympathetic to outsiders in a way that most writers in his shoes decidedly are not, even though he does get a kick out of “redeeming” us. Still, you get the sense that he cares irrespective of whether or not you come over to his point of view.

I recently picked up his 2005 book, Monster, to see where he is now. I thought it might be a good way to see where I am now, too. We’ve both changed over the years, one has to assume.

I wasn’t disappointed though: in the running for a world record, Frank Peretti managed to absolutely terrify me before his book even began. Stephen King couldn’t accomplish that feat in his wildest dreams.

It was an acknowledgement-page that did the trick. Not only did Peretti thank his family physician for contributing medical expertise for forensic details, and a local mountain man for advice on how wilderness trackers operate, two additional names were given:

Jonathan Wells, postdoctoral biologist and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, whose book, Icons of Evolution, first got my creative wheels turning, and who helped me clarify my main story idea over a pleasant lunch.

Dr. David DeWitt, director of the Center for Creation Studies at Liberty University, who, besides being a brilliant scientist and technical advisor, is quite an imaginative story crafter in his own right.

Monster is a Bigfoot story.

As far as Bigfoot stories go, it’s a fairly good one: an internet forum of Sasquatch fans was quite satisfied with Peretti’s treatment of their favorite beastie and his due diligence in keeping with their accepted lore.

As far as stories go, it’s not a very good one at all. The pacing is off and all the hunters tromping about the woods, searching for the Bigfoot and the young woman it kidnapped, is never quite as fun or as interesting as Peretti seems to think it should be.

It’s also a Christian Bigfoot story, although it doesn’t quite reveal itself as one until halfway through.

To be sure, there are hints leading up to the big reveal: whenever something happens, characters emote in a predictable pattern of silent prayer. The formula goes something like this “God, why me? Why do you hate me? Why did you let the bigfoot shred my last roll of toilet paper?” For real. This initial anger is followed by acceptance, submission, and then thankfulness. Different scenarios breeze through the steps at varying speeds but the end result is that devout of Monster have some of the most boring internal monologues in the history of fiction.

The kidnapped young wife (and wives are always young, it seems), the same who lost her toilet paper, winds up living with an entire clan of Sasquatches. After observing their personalities and familial roles, she — naturally — sees an exact alignment with the biblical family of Jacob. She names the rest of them Rachel, Leah, and Reuben in accordance.

While all the forest frolicking might appear to be the main story of Monster, all of that is really just a coat rack to hang the story that Frank Peretti really wants to tell — the story that he had to cozy up with the Jerry Falwell crowd to research.

Each of the four main characters has a vocation that is essential to the plot. Except, of course, for the young wife, whose only purpose in life is to be kidnapped. (Although her personality is fleshed out with an affected stutter given to her dialogue; if you didn’t know, that means she’s shy.) Her husband just happens to be a police officer. His best friend just happens to be a forensic examiner. That friend’s husband just happens to be a former biologist at a local university. He might be last in the chain but he’s far from least.

Biblical literalists in America are waging a two-pronged assault on science. While so-called fundamentalists might consider themselves an oppressed minority, they’ve been remarkably successful in using pop-culture and Astroturfed (fake “grass roots” planted by corporations) initiatives in controlling public opinion. A majority of Americans don’t believe in evolution; that’s akin to 51% of our population believing in a flat earth.

For the majority of my life, I was one of these people.

I believed that carbon dating was utterly unreliable, that people really did walk with dinosaurs (the “young earth theory”), and that evolution is a highly controversial belief in science. It was “just a theory.” Of course, gravity is just a theory, too.

In the same way, I believed that global warming was a highly contested idea in science: how could mere humans mess up God’s vast creation? But as most of us, even the devout (and many self described fundamentalists who have been inspired to “go green”), have recently discovered, that controversy didn’t much exist among scientists. That controversy, the very idea of controversy, was just something that was planted in the public consciousness with large sums of money.

The war against evolution is waged in a similar fashion. Creationists — and their insipid rebranding as Intelligent Design proponents — have scores of glossy websites and books that put the Spartan websites of academia to shame. All of that costs big money, of course. 

On a high school level, they want to create seeds of doubt. They donate their books to schools that cannot afford new science texts (this is made even more convenient by conservative pushes to reduce public school funding). They work with laypeople on school boards to reframe science as the will of public-opinion. They recycle arguments that have either been put to rest or are entirely irrelevant when it comes to the scientific community: the goal isn’t the advancement of science but to spread the belief that science itself is untrustworthy.

At the university level, they hang their hat on the First Amendment.

They want to buy tenure for professors who can then use the title of Ph. D. to lend credibility to Creationist rhetoric. (It is believed that the same Jonathan Wells that Peretti thanked had his advanced degree paid for by Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church.) While many of these Intelligent Design proponents chafe under the claim that they never publish in peer reviewed journals — or that when they do, it’s material completely unrelated to biology — it’s not their job to be scientists but perpetual victims.

While what they say might not be science, it’s certainly speech, and their right to say it has to be protected.

As the secular world refuses to honor their personal beliefs as science, thus calling into question their identities as scientists, they get to complain that they’re being bullied by fascists who are unwilling to engage competing points of view. As churches have been spreading the idea that universities are out of touch with common folk (even the exceedingly rich and powerful “common folk” who hide behind the Intelligent Design movement) for going on six decades now, it’s quite easy to convince the public that something unseemly is going on. A conspiracy is afoot and God fearing scientists are being oppressed!

It’s precisely on this model that Peretti crafted his character, Dr. Michael Capella.

“Cap,” a professor of biosciences, was drummed out of his Corzine University because he “kept finding problems with Darwinism.” In Monster, he doesn’t so much find problems, but instead asks a series of flawed questions in rapid fire that, when not answered with perfect satisfaction, gives him the excuse to exclaim “a hah!” as if it were some sort of discovery on his part. It’s all easy enough as his beliefs don’t require evidence and aren’t required to make predictions of any sort: his role as a scientist is to play the part of the martyr and speak truth to power. Peretti transcribes the belief that the academy works to silence dissenting opinions, oppressing people of faith, on page 248:

Merrill smirked. “A word to the wise, Dr. Capella — if that term means anything to you: we are all scientists here, and that means we deal in facts. You are a creationist, and now have the added liability of being a trespasser and a burglar. Before you say anything to anyone, please give careful regard to which of us has the credibility —and the power to destroy the other.”

Creationist. Merrill used that word as an insult. Cap had seen this power trip before, and he was fed up with it. “Is this a scientist I hear talking?” [emphasis original]

Merrill smiled. “In every way, Dr. Capella; in the eyes of my peers and, most of all, in the eyes of the public. I have my responsibilities, foremost among them, not allowing science to be undermined by detractors like you.”

“Science? Wouldn’t it be more accurate to call it ‘the only game in town’?”

The most prized of Cap’s convictions is that mutations are never a mechanism for evolution, as they inevitably negative in result (benign, harmful, or fatal): this is the theme that Peretti built his Bigfoot tale around.

He uses the story of Cap to tease the reader that the Sasquatches might be the result of a mad-scientist (a former co-worker of Cap) and his experiments. While the mad scientist gets his just desserts at the end of the novel — after a protracted speech specifying the details of his depravity, an episode unintentionally comical post Austin Powers — his experiments never actually worked. All he managed to do is create a Bigfoot-like monster that could barely move and feed itself.

Of course, due to the necessities of plot, the almost immobile monster was able to launch an attack on the Bigfoot conclave early on, in a deliberately murky set of scenes that amount to little more than hints in the prologue. Indeed, the first few chapters had me convinced that the book was going to be a brawl between Bigfoot and the New Jersey Devil (transported to the Seattle area somehow), yet the latter was deliberately ignored and forgotten until the final few pages of the novel in order lend gravitas to the big reveal in the finale.

I feel safe “spoiling” the ending as Peretti’s big reveal isn’t so much storytelling as it is pedagogy: the Bigfoot clan wasn’t created in a laboratory, they are natural, God’s creatures. While this is consonant with Peretti’s claim that mutations are never positive — and in his view, even if a scientist did succeed in creating a beneficial mutation, it still wouldn’t be proof of anything as it happened under an intelligent designer, not under completely “natural” circumstances — this does open the door to other problems.

How did Noah smuggle Bigfoot onto the Ark? How did they get to the New World? How is there no direct physical evidence despite the various giant myths (yeti, ogres, etc.) throughout human history? But Peretti’s science isn’t required to explain anything, only to ask pointed questions at those who dare to try.

Save for a few Bigfoot fans who can’t get enough of the big guy (or gal), everyone seems to be in agreement that Monster isn’t a very good book. It’s not a good book in the grand scheme of literature; it’s not even rated as a good Frank Peretti book.

It is, however, a significant book. Its purpose is to further the belief that American Protestants — unlike Christians throughout the rest of the world — are required by their faith to denounce evolution.

This proof of fealty has little to do with science or religion, but human greed and politics: to denounce evolution is to swear allegiance to a particular way of life and the socio-political actors who make it possible.

Many today think that evolution and the Big Bang theory go hand in hand (indeed, one school board acting on behalf of the Intelligent Design movement targeted the Big Bang theory as a fundamental aspect of evolution, confusing biology and physics). American conservatives talk about the theory as if its name were pornographic (undoubtedly spurring a television sitcom to adopt the name in liberal-kneejerk agreement), an abomination. Yet the Big Bang model of cosmology was in part proposed by a Catholic priest, Georges Lemaître, who believed it to be theologically sound. It proposed a beginning for the universe, after all, in stark contrast to the always and unending Steady State theory.

Unflinching hatred for evolution is used in our society as currency. It marks you as plain folk, ever trustworthy and loyal to America and its corporations, not a heathen, communist, or even a Catholic. Denying a basic scientific fact says that, when push comes to shove, you will stand with the strong as they march against the meek. It stands for some rather un-Christ like ideals that are somehow acceptable so long as they are American ideals.

While this oath of obedience is currently sworn on the battered body of evolution, it could just as easily be affirmed by taking any number of other positions on any number of other things. Evolution is just the most active and visceral site for that conflict today. Tomorrow it will be something else.

As even evangelical congregations have moved beyond “the myth of global warming,” resistance to the basic fact of evolution cannot hold out forever.

Frank Peretti’s monster is a mayfly.

 

For information on the battle over evolution, two of the most comprehensive and understandable sources are the Pulitzer winning Beak of the Finch,  by Jonathan Weiner, and Nova’s Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beak_of_the_Finch

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/id/program.html

 

I watched a bit of cable news yesterday. Honestly, I forget which network it was. It doesn’t matter. For the benefit of their audience they were showing one of those “test groups” of average voters. They were in the process of reacting to a speech by Barack Obama, each with a buzzer in hand contributing to some magic graph that went up and down — but mostly just up and up.

One after one, they repeated that he’s the perfect candidate. Not only does he have a monopoly on hope in politics, he’s going to be the guy to unify the country. As opposed to Hillary Clinton, of course. She would divide the country: Republicans will all refuse to work with her, so says conventional wisdom, and nothing would get done. She’d be a lame duck.

That, of course, is silly. And it doesn’t have anything to do with the character of Obama or what he said in his speech: I’m not going to comment on it, I wasn’t even able to hear much of it over the cable network’s babbling! Instead, it has a lot to do with what people — us average voters — are supposed to want. What we’re expected to want. What we’re told to want.

When did unifying this country become an all important goal?

We weren’t united when we got into this war, why would we be united if and when we get out of it?

Yes, it seems like a plausible campaign strategy, with popular support for the war in Iraq (anyone even remember Afghanistan?) being three steps south of “waning.”  But outside of that single issue, I’m not sure very much unity is possible. I’m not even sure it’s desirable.

Only one side is saying “bipartisan” like it’s a magic word.

It’s not Republicans.

Yes, they largely went with their own “moderate” candidate. It was a weak field, however, and the secular champions of big industry made a huge mistake by backing Mitt Romney. His religion automatically disqualified him from much of the Republican base. Baptists have spent big money of their own to disprove the tenets of Mormonism, so much so that Scientology actually seems quite reasonable in comparison. We can’t prove that Thetans don’t exist but we can prove in about a hundred different ways that Native Americans aren’t descended from Israelites.

Even as a moderate though, John McCain is expected to run roughshod over the forces of liberalism: That’s his job description.

They’re not worried about whether or not Nancy Pelosi will return his phone calls if he’s elected.

Yes, most Leftists like to believe that if not for the stranglehold Republicans have on stoning gays (or just brainwashing them back to straight, et tu Barack?) and burning witches, many conservatives would be swayed by our populist initiatives. Maybe that’s true. I’m not sure it will happen within our lifetime.

If one believes — as many do in our nation — that American prosperity is a direct reward for our piety (or lack thereof in times of recession) and our support for Zionism, maybe one doesn’t personally need populism. Keeping things like science out of our children’s classrooms, yes. Populism, not so much.

Only one side is saying “bipartisan” like it’s a magic word.

Are we supposed to break bread with “Huck’s Army,” those people who would put stoning gays and burning witches (and sniping “abortionists”) ahead of the welfare of their own families?

I thought this election was supposed to be our chance to send a message that that sort of stuff isn’t going to fly anymore.

Instead, it seems that “hope” equals the path of least resistance.

If Obama can get more done than Clinton, it won’t be because Republicans like him more, it will be because he offers Republicans deals that give them what they want at the expense of the ideals for which his own party stands.

I’m not at all suggesting that he’d do that. I’m not suggesting that he wouldn’t, either.

I’m only speaking of the ludicrous nature of this “unity” polemic. Yes, it’s currently boosting Obama at the expense of Clinton, and that’s something that one can ponder and talk about, preferably in that order. But in the grand scheme of things it’s just a point of trivia.

The mainstream media paints a picture of the “average voter” as being a non-political entity. He — yes, he — is supposedly tired of politics, even though a controversial election makes for exciting television viewing and view he does. He wants things to get done and he wants to elect people who will get things done. What things? Who knows! But they’ll get done.

The two-party system gets in the way of things getting done. Someone is always vetoing this or filibustering that and nothing ever gets done. The media loves to point that out. It especially loves to point out that the average voter, thanks to the media, is now cognizant of that “fact.”

As it’s impossible to reject that two-party system (without being mocked by that system, the media, and other average voters), how is anything to get done?

There are two answers to that question:

If you believe in personal liberty and a secular state, the average voter expects you to find a way to work towards bipartisanism. As the “feminine,” this is what makes them sexy.

If you believe in stoning gays and burning witches (or finding more polite ways to make life into your idea of hell for people), the average voter expects you steamroll your way to victory. As the “masculine” party, that is what makes them sexy.

Those are two very different standards.

As the “average voter” is now more currently invested in the Democratic primary (and at this point it’s unclear whether it’s due to dissatisfaction with the Republicans or general excitement over a mud fight), there’s a lot of talk about how the Democrats can best fulfill their standard.

Barack Obama seems to be the frontrunner: the average voter believes he can deliver what Democrats are expected to deliver: Bipartisanship. Getting things done. What things? How? It doesn’t matter, we’ll do it together. One nation under God.

This is hope. Or at least what passes for it these days.

Only one side is saying “bipartisan” like it’s a magic word.

Only one side has to, thanks to the media and the average voter they created.

I don’t know Ruth Christenson.

Until today, I’d never heard her name before. I suspect that you haven’t either.

What I do know:

In July of 1984, she walked into a Minneapolis bookstore that sold pornography. She carried a backpack filled with literature that condemned sexual exploitation.

Earlier that week, Christensen had written letters to local politicians. One recipient was Charles Hoyt, a city council member sponsoring an anti-pornography ordinance. Her letter told him that “sexism has shattered my life.”

When she entered that shop, she proved that her beliefs — so easily dismissed by even her peers in this world — were more than just words.

Ruth Christenson doused herself with gasoline and set herself on fire. She burned for over a minute before bystanders were able to extinguish the flames that engulfed her. She was removed from the store in critical condition, with burns over 65 percent of her body.

It’s a tremendous story. It’s also one that I stumbled onto by accident. News clippings from 1984 don’t exactly throw themselves at you, not even on the internet. The short article, written just days after Christenson burned, told only the most basic facts about her existence.

The most heartbreaking aspect of the saga can be witnessed in the words of another local activist. Terese Stanton was the organizer of a Pornography Resource Center in Minnesota. Speaking through that article to an audience twenty years removed, her words about Ruth Christenson are haunting: “This will not be in vain — she did this for a lot of women. This will definitely be witnessed and remembered.”

Perhaps Ruth Christenson is still remembered in quiet vigils in Minneapolis. I hope so. She sure as hell isn’t remembered anywhere else.

Perhaps that’s for the best. If Ruth Christenson were remembered today, she’d be remembered not as a hero — or even as a martyr — but as a crazy woman. A tragic figure, no doubt, but the tragedy would be considered hers to bear alone.

Even people calling themselves feminists, no shortage of men in that number these days, would believe Christenson did what she did out of selfish, personal desperation: an inability to cope with private horrors that have little to do with what the “common woman” experiences. Hormones and brain chemistry. To them, that can be the only reason why she took such a terrible and final action.

Not because sexism shatters women’s lives.

Two decades after Ruth Christenson set herself on fire, very little has changed. Many would argue that things have gotten worse.

While sexism can be talked about as violence, only the most blatant, rude, and Republican forms of it can be addressed. A bourgeois woman is a battered wife, a bohemian woman is a “bottom,” living a lifestyle, or transcending cultural mores.

Sexism can only be seen as violence when that violence isn’t seen as sexy.

Eve Ensler’s “V-Day” festivities are, well, festive. All too often they resemble drag shows even when they aren’t specifically drag shows — as they sometimes are. The consumerist crowds they assemble would never condone a legitimate anti-pornography message. No Monologue will ever be said in honor of Ruth Christenson. That’s likely for the best. I doubt she’d want someone talking about her vagina. After all, it’s men and not female genitalia that needs to change.

Even the more somber Take Back the Night processions, now often equally about men’s “pain,” are enthralled with capitalism. The march that takes place in my home city of Buffalo was once sponsored by a college bar that uses underage girls as bait for its paying male clientele.

When it comes to the idea of consent, critiques of capitalism aren’t allowed in our culture: few are willing to think about how money — and the power it gives one person over another — influences our opportunities to say “no.”

Even liberals run from such critiques. Feminists, too. How could Ruth Christenson be remembered in a world where feminist bestsellers borrow the language of pornography to drum up sales?

What room is there for the utter simplicity of Ruth Christenson’s message in a world where bait-and-switch schemes shift the blame from pornography to easily trademarked phenomena such as “Raunch Culture?” Even authors who aren’t necessarily against porn can make a mint off of women’s fundamental uneasiness with their own exploitation, happily displacing feminist writers in the process.

Who would be willing to remember the bravery of Ruth Christenson in a world where even anti-pornography activists are ready to shed the word “feminist” from their organizations in exchange for better funding?

And what of this new virtual world that all too many of us seem to inhabit — is there room in it for Ruth Christenson, someone so clearly invested in the realities of life?

Online feminism tends towards a curious fusion of post-modernist academia and hipster sensibilities. There, the idea of “gender oppression” has become subordinate to “gender expression.” This shifts the political focus of feminism from the voiceless to media exhibitionists. Gender is something that makes you more interesting. Gender is something that makes you better in bed. Gender is something that scores you a book deal.

There are a lot of Gender-Superstars now. And not one of them has ever made a sacrifice for his or her convictions the way that Ruth Christenson did.

Instead, they’ll tell you that porn isn’t going away. They’ll tell you that it’s vital for our education as sexual beings. They’ll tell you that even though they agree that 99 percent of porn is sexist and racist (not that they’ll personally do anything about the pornography that is sexist and racist, indeed, they view both on the same level as “tackiness,” the only pornographic crime they ever publicly object to), they hold out hope for a new feminist porno-paradigm. And they’ll require you to do the same or they’ll throw you to the dogs: the male pimps and johns that cluster about them, celebrating their every word.

In turn, they’ll glorify the ingenuity of the men who conspired to shatter Ruth Christenson and her world. In my research I found a magazine article bearing testament to her deed: it was a journalist’s 1997 love-letter letter to the store franchise’s founder, congratulating him as Russian immigrant who made good on the American dream.

It was an ode to freedom and male cleverness at any cost, including women’s lives.

Ruth Christenson was reduced by the writer to a “moral snit” and a punch line. One former employee recounts how, on his very first day there, Christenson set herself alight: to him, it was just a zany event that bookended his rollercoaster of wild experiences at the store. In order for him to become the man he is today — and not just any man but a “rocker” whose persona is created out of the telling of such stories — she had to die.

Only Ruth Christenson didn’t die that day. She lived.

She endured seven operations and somehow found the strength to carry on, despite her wounds and disfigurement. She didn’t just disappear. She brought a message of hope to the women in her community. Larry Cloud-Morgan, manager of a shelter for American Indian women, told the Star Tribune how Christenson would stop by to talk with the occupants. “She knew them on the street, and she loved them. We talked about justice and a woman’s world and compassion.”

Her compassion was without limits. Cloud-Morgan said that the last time they spoke, Christenson said that she feared a war in the Persian Gulf, that she was “afraid that the women and children there may someday have to look like me.”

Such compassion wears hard on a human soul. Ruth Christenson died on December 6, 1990. She set another fire. Only this time she was alone, cloistered in her apartment.

She never lived to see “Desert Storm” on her TV. She never saw the images of bombs falling down chimneys in antiseptic black and white. She never watched her country march to war a second time, our corporations lining up to trademark “Shock and Awe” for use in videogames. But Christenson fully anticipated it. The pornography of war — and of everyday life — was all too clear to her. 

If Ruth Christenson were alive today, she would be approaching 50 years old. I can’t know what she’d think about me dredging up the past and telling her story — I’d hope that she’d prefer someone more worthy to tell it. I certainly can’t speak for her. I’ll never know the full extent of her motivations when she set herself on fire. All I know is that I wish she hadn’t done it. But even more than that, I wish she hadn’t needed to do it in the first place. Her psychology was never the real problem.

Sexual exploitation is always a backburner issue. It comes up from time to time, but only when it’s “over there” in other countries, countries our government declares are full of bad men. Men who aren’t at all like the men who live here.

Women who complain about the men here are silenced quickly. After all, they certainly don’t have it as bad as the women over there. I defy anyone to say that Ruth Christenson didn’t have it “bad.”

Liberal men, especially, demand that their female peers abandon any interest in “feminist issues,” those things that “only affect women,” until the more important crises are all brought to conclusion. When men set themselves on fire to protest one war or another (each always a problem of male creation), they are at least honored for their sacrifice by those who share their politics. Those men are proved strong by their actions, rather than weak, foolish, and broken. And yet that’s just how our world regards a woman who would make the same sacrifice for herself and others like her.

If female bravery of that kind could be celebrated, it would mean that women suffer under patriarchy in the here and now, even surrounded by good men.

Relatively few today would celebrate bravery of that kind — even those of us who believe in equality for all human beings. The vocation of silencing women comes with great rewards in our society. And with those rewards, it’s quite easy to believe that one is smarter, stronger, and better than the Ruth Christensons of the world. We think that we can find the middle ground. We absolutely know that we can have it both ways.

Imagine the hubris of someone saying, “Ruth Christenson just needed to see some feminist porn. Then everything would have been different.”

Someone will say it soon enough.

Update on Ruth Christenson

I am revising the post on Ruth Christenson and will be posting a new version soon.

Thanks to Moonlight and a few other researchers, another article about Ruth Christenson was uncovered at the Star Tribune. It is from December 14, 1990.

Christenson died of apparent suicide on December 6, 1990, as a conflagration engulfed her Minneapolis apartment. Two brief excerpts:

In the 6 1/2 years since she stepped inside a downtown Minneapolis bookstore, poured gasoline over her head and set herself afire, Christenson knew a lot of anguish, they said.

There had been seven painful skin-graft operations after the 1984 protest, which came during a bitter and protracted City Council debate on pornography. She had third-degree burns over 65 percent of her body, and her face was badly disfigured.

A full year passed before she dared to look at herself in a mirror.

Larry Cloud-Morgan, who operates a Minneapolis shelter for American Indian women, said Christenson often stopped by to talk. “She talked about my people,” he said. “She knew them on the street, and she loved them. We talked about justice and a woman’s world and compassion.”

The last time they talked, he said, she was worried about the possibility of war in the Persian Gulf. “She said, ‘I’m afraid that the women and children there may someday have to look like me.’”

Christenson stood, burning, for about half a minute, then staggered and collapsed. She continued to burn for perhaps another 30 seconds as clerks and customers used fire extinguishers and carpets to put out the fire, which had spread to stacks of newspapers and other material.

A sheaf of hand-lettered leaflets — “Stop Porn Now” — fell from her backpack. She also had firecrackers and .22-caliber bullets in the backpack.

Despite her burns, Christenson remained conscious. She said nothing and didn’t cry out.She had mailed letters to city officials, describing her hatred of pornography and announcing that she would commit suicide to protest the degradation of women. The letters arrived after her protest.

People involved in the antipornography movement stood vigil at the hospital where she was treated. Fearing duplicate demonstrations, the Pornography Resource Center issued a statement: “We don’t want women to harm themselves. We need women to stay alive and intact for the struggle.”

Also, the suicide letter she wrote to the Star Tribune in 1984:

“Sexism has shattered my life — psychologically, economically and spiritually. Because of this, I have chosen to take my life and to destroy the persons who have destroyed me. I don’t know if any of this will have any impact on your civil rights legislation, but at least someone will have done something about this nightmare of racism and sexism that most pornography involves.”

 

 Edit: a more complete version of this article can be found here:

http://www.adonismirror.com/wordpress/?p=22

 

I don’t know Ruth Christenson.

Until today, I’d never heard her name before. I suspect that you haven’t either.

As I said, I don’t know Ruth Christenson. I don’t even know if she’s still alive. What I do know is this:

In July of 1984, she walked into a bookstore in Minneapolis that sold pornographic materials. She had a backpack full of literature that condemned sexual exploitation. Earlier that week, Christensen had written to Charles Hoyt, then a city council member, who was sponsoring an anti-pornography ordinance. Her letter told him that “sexism has shattered my life.”

When she entered that shop, she proved that her beliefs — so easily dismissed by even her peers in this world — were more than just words.

Ruth Christenson doused herself with gasoline and set herself on fire.

She was removed from the store in critical condition, having burns over 60 percent of her body.

The press included a quote by Terese Stanton, then an organizer of a Pornography Resource Center in Minnesota: “This will not be in vain — she did this for a lot of women. This will definitely be witnessed and remembered.”

Perhaps Ruth Christenson is still remembered in quiet vigils in Minneapolis. I hope so. She sure as hell isn’t remembered anywhere else.

Perhaps that’s for the best. If Ruth Christenson were remembered today, she’d be remembered not as a hero — or even a martyr — but as a crazy woman. A tragic figure, no doubt, but the tragedy would be considered hers to bear alone.

Even people calling themselves feminists, no shortage of men in that number these days, would believe Christenson did what she did out of selfish, personal desperation: an inability to cope with private horrors that have little to do with what the “common woman” experiences. To them, that can be the only reason why she took such a terrible and final action.

Not because sexism shatters women’s lives.

Two decades after Ruth Christenson set herself on fire, very little has changed.

While sexism can be talked about as violence, only the most blatant, rude, and Republican forms of it can be addressed. A bourgeois woman is a battered wife, a bohemian woman is a “bottom,” living a lifestyle, or transcending cultural mores.

Sexism can only be seen as violence when that violence isn’t seen as sexy.

Eve Enslers “V-Day” festivities are, well, festive. All too often they resemble drag shows even when they aren’t specifically drag shows — as they sometimes are. The consumerist crowds they assemble would never condone an anti-pornography message. No Monologue will ever be said in honor of Ruth Christenson. That’s likely for the best. I doubt she’d want someone talking about her vagina. After all, it’s men and not female genitalia that needs to change.

Even the more somber Take Back the Night processions, now often equally about men’s “pain,” are enthralled with capitalism. The march that takes place in my home city of Buffalo was once sponsored by a college bar that uses underage girls as bait for its paying male clientele.

When it comes to the idea of consent, critiques of capitalism aren’t allowed in our culture: few are willing to think about how money — and the power it gives one person over another — influences our opportunities to say “no.” Even liberals run from such critiques.

Ruth Christenson isn’t remembered on the internet, either.

There, the feminism of post-modernist academia joins the feminism of the hipster set. The idea of “Gender Oppression” has become subordinate to “Gender Expression.” This shifts the political focus of feminism from the voiceless to media exhibitionists. Gender is something that makes you more interesting. Gender is something that makes you better in bed. Gender is something that scores you a book deal.

There are a lot of Gender-Superstars now. And not one of them has ever made a sacrifice for his or her convictions the way that Ruth Christenson did.

Instead, they’ll tell you that porn isn’t going away. They’ll tell you that it’s vital for our education as sexual beings. They’ll tell you that even though they agree that 99 percent of porn is sexist and racist (not that they’ll personally do anything about the pornography that is sexist and racist, indeed “tackiness” is the only pornographic crime they ever publicly object to), they hold out hope for a new feminist porno-paradigm. And they’ll require you to do the same or they’ll throw you to the dogs: the male pimps and johns that cluster about them, celebrating their every word.

In turn, they’ll glorify the cleverness of the men who conspired to shatter Ruth Christenson and her world. In my research I found only one other article bearing testament to her deed: it was a journalist’s 1997 love-letter letter to the store franchise’s founder, congratulating him as Russian immigrant who made good on the American dream.

It was an ode to freedom and male survival at any cost, including women’s lives.

Ruth Christenson was reduced by the article to a “moral snit” and a punch line. One former employee recounts how, on his very first day there, Christenson set herself alight. To him it was just a zany event that bookended his rollercoaster of wild experiences at the store.

If Ruth Christenson is alive today, she is approaching 50 years old. I’m not sure what she’d think about what she did — or even me dredging up that past again. Neither can I know the extent of her motivations when she set herself on fire. All I know is that I wish she hadn’t done it. But even more than that, I wish she hadn’t needed to do it in the first place. Her psychology was never the real problem.

Sexual exploitation is always a backburner issue. It comes up from time to time, but only when it’s “over there” in other countries, countries our government declares are full of bad men, who are not at all like the men who live here.

Women who complain about the men here are silenced quickly. After all, they don’t have it as bad as the women over there. I defy anyone to say that Ruth Christenson didn’t have it “bad.”

Liberal men, especially, demand that their female peers abandon any interest in “feminist issues,” those things “only affect women,” until more the important crises are all brought to conclusion. When men set themselves on fire to protest one war or another (each always a problem of male creation), they are at least honored for their sacrifice by those who share their politics. Those men are proved strong by their actions, rather than weak, foolish, and broken. And yet that’s just how our world regards a woman who would make the same sacrifice for herself and others like her.

If female bravery (outside of men’s fantasies about dominatrices) could be celebrated, it would mean that women suffer under patriarchy in the here and now, even surrounded by good men.

Relatively few feminists today would celebrate bravery of that kind. The vocation of silencing other women comes with great monetary rewards in our society. With those rewards, it’s quite easy to think that one is smarter, stronger, and better than the Ruth Christensons of the world.

I can only imagine the hubris of someone saying, “Ruth Christenson just needed to see some feminist porn. Then everything would have been different.”

If you were to ask me what the first thing is that pops into my head when you say “Ward Churchill,” I’d honestly have to answer with “pedophiles.” Word association can be a mysterious thing indeed.

But not this time.

No, I don’t have any secret information about the man, now recently fired from the University of Colorado. I didn’t conduct a sting or catch him chatting up teenagers on MySpace. Nor have I heard about any sort of illicit fetish, save for his propensity to pretend to be Native American—though I can’t fathom what guise that takes in his bedroom.

Most don’t consider his masquerade to be a serious offense. Not even the Board of Regents that booted him out gave a damn about that. No, they were concerned about the white-rules he broke: a disjointed mishmash of banal administrative errors and exposing—if only by accident and incompetence—the cracks in the lofty mythology that academia holds for those who want to stand on the shoulders of its giants.

It would take a very brave white man, one with a large audience who isn’t afraid to say unpopular things, to even have a chance at making the rest of white society respect tribal citizenship. You know, someone just like Ward Churchill, except—my, now isn’t that a Catch 22?

But it’s not that fetish (or even the silly conceit that not getting a haircut makes him look less like a white guy) that connects him in my mind to pedophiles.

His lawyer helped me with that. David Lane, a self-professed 1rst Amendment guru, made the cable-news rounds last night in order to drum up even more attention for his client. He informed me that Ward Churchill was only around other people who plagiarized. He said that Churchill’s “smallpox blankets” were from oral traditions that he was recording for the sake of posterity. And he said that even though Churchill can demolish every single complaint against him on a point for point basis (“HULK SMASH!!!”), the real issue is the witch hunt that was obviously started over the “nine-eleven” remarks.

In short: if Churchill loses his job it will have a chilling effect on the human race’s ability to generate new knowledge.

Wouldn’t it be grand to be that important? And know it?

Just imagine being able to say, without bursting out into laughter, “the fate of the Free World rests in my pension plan!”

This is a guy who reportedly said “new game, new game” as he vowed to sue his former employer: one might expect that from some troglodyte bragging about killing prostitutes on his PlayStation, not the scholar who is supposed to stand between us and the return of the Dark Ages.

The last time I encountered someone thusly important was in an article at Counter-Punch, a Leftist magazine that likes native people—or so I hear—especially when they’re white like Churchill.

It was about “Sexual Fascism in Progressive America,” in the words of its author, a real charmer calling himself “Pariah.”

The article is one of those sixth-grade concoctions where the writer is utterly convinced that he’s the very first to construct the sentence “the last safe minority to oppress in America is…”

Well, in this case, it’s pedophiles. (President Bush hates them so they must be a bunch of stand-up fellows; it’s only logical, after all.) The author uses other people, equally anonymous, to make his points:

http://www.counterpunch.org/pariah03042006.html

“Most sex offenders, says one therapist who works with sex offenders in a state prison system, are ‘Gentle grandfathers who made one mistake in judgment years ago and fondled their grandchild. Or lonely, geeky gay men—teenagers some of them—who sought mutual sexual release with adolescent boys. Or young female teachers who succumbed to the wiles of handsome adolescent boys or girls. Or young men who got drunk and pushed their girlfriends over a line that is now called date rape.’”

Real progressives, “Pariah” argues, should be about abolishing such lines. Viva la Revolucion and kill all the frumpy puritans while we’re at it! Thankfully, the author has the geniuses at Counter-Punch to help him get that message out.

It’s this writer that sprang to mind when I found out exactly how important Ward Churchill is—and has to be—to the rest of us plain folk.

Indeed, Pariah too, is that important. As the Counter-Punch editors explain:

“The writer remains anonymous because he writes and is politically active in several completely unrelated social justice movements. He fears that the shunning and marginalization he describes for those who write about this topic could compromise (unfairly) his other work.”

Without the valiant efforts of this one Pariah, we might not have anyone to save the whales.

Unions would continue to die out.

Illegal wiretapping will go unabated.

Imagine being so important. And not just in that John Lennon way, I mean really imagine it: we’re not talking about heaven and hell. This is something that you can witness in the here and now in the cases of Churchill and Pariah.

Imagine being so vital to the fate of all the little people out there—so much so that a respected progressive journal will protect your identity as you write a manifesto in defense of date rapists, just in case you manage to singlehandedly stop global warming someday.

Similarly, imagine that people who claim to be all about Indigenous Rights will champion you, even after you make a mockery out of tribal authority, just because you can shout “Little Eichmanns” to get a rise out of Bill O’Reilly.

Now that’s power.

It’s also why I’ll always think of pedophiles whenever I hear the name Ward Churchill. Fair? Perhaps not.

Of course, no one can prove that he didn’t write that article at Counter-Punch, either.

At first, I was unsure of what to think about Ward Churchill. I mean, everyone was telling us what to think. FOX News called him a terrorist. Counter-Punch called him a hero. I really wasn’t swayed by the latter’s campaign in his favor: it’s not like Churchill had said anything new and it’s not like he said it more eloquently than anyone else. He spoke well enough, sometimes; I thought an address to students, delivered under heavy security, one that aired on CSPAN, was suitable and adequate.

So much furor and attention for someone who is, at his very best, only adequate? Last I heard, that phenomenon was called “white male privilege.”

Indeed, it’s fairly easy to forget “Free Leonard Peltier” when the bigger crowds are shouting “Free Ward Churchill and give him a 401K.”

That is a bit rude. On the other hand, Churchill’s defense, some sort of Miranda-style syllogism, doesn’t seem on the up and up to me: “ok, so you discovered I’m a fraud who lied my way into my job, but your discovery of all of that doesn’t count because your search only happened because you wanted to violate my academic right to free speech because you were afraid of Bill O’Reilly.”

Ahem. I have no idea of the legal basis for that argument. After Scooter Libby, I’m not entirely sure how many wrongs it takes to make a right: I suppose once you have enough of them to require long-division to sort them out, most of us just give up and look the other way.

Churchill’s case is coming up at the end of July:

http://test.denverpost.com/extremes/ci_6318430

Discussions of race in the mainstream media have recently been shifting the entirety of white privilege onto the backs of white women. Liberal white men have enjoyed this process, snickering constantly over the corpses of white women, women whose disappearances only warrant media attention because they were too pretty and too white—before they were murdered by white men, anyway.

That’s not to say white women are or should be off the “hook” for white privilege, only that some of the same liberals who are rightly taking issue with Angelina Jolie for her blackface role are all too keen to reward Ward Churchill for his Indian-face performance.

It doesn’t seem that difficult for a white man to become a brother to someone, anyone, given the realities of power in our society. And for a bunch of sensitive dudes with awareness, we’re all too happy to let white women “hold the bag” when it comes to taking responsibility for white privilege.

Our freedom does not hinge upon the protection of Ward Churchill and his career, anymore than our freedom of speech is tied to Larry Flynt’s: there are far more deserving people than Churchill who require the urgent attention of the self-described Left. That he has become the focus of so much worry by liberals is as racist as Churchill’s attempt to ignore the sovereignty of the peoples for whom he claims to speak.

Some reading on Churchill:

Elizabeth Cook-Lynn:

http://indiancountry.com/content.cfm?id=1096413276

Many of the scandals in academia these days are media events, melodramatic and sensational: just the ticket for someone like Ward Churchill, a man who loves center stage and has recently been outed as a wannabee Indian and a plagiarizer after a successful 20-year professorship based in fraud and ethnic studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Sensational examples like Chagnon or Margaret Mead or Stephen Ambrose come to mind, but who remembers?

Sooner or later, these scandals ebb and wane and stars flicker out. At long last, though, one of the many Indian impersonators in academia has become the focus of the most significant scandal to reach Indian country since Red Fox. This impersonator at the University of Colorado has been described as a plagiarizer and a fraud by an investigative committee made up of his colleagues and is, thus, charged with those crimes. Unfortunately for Indian studies, that same committee has refused to call his claim to Indian-ness or Indian identity either a ”hoax” or a ”crime.” This would seem to indicate that this committee of anti-historical intellectuals carries on the misguided belief that there is no such thing as tribal nation citizenship.

Suzan Shown Harjo

http://www.indiancountry.com/content.cfm?id=1096410704

There are many legit Indian and non-Indian people who are enthusiastically, unselfishly, tirelessly helpful to Indian people and causes. These generous traits are welcomed by many Native people, especially those who are overworked, understaffed, impoverished, stressed out or under siege.

Educator Norbert Hill, Oneida, gave Ward Churchill his first job at the University of Colorado – even though Hill recognized him as an Indian ”wannabe” – because Hill’s program needed help and Churchill was an eager beaver.

Churchill and many pseudo-Indians initially act like eager beavers. The difference between Indian and non-Indian eager beavers on the one hand and pseudo-Indian eager beavers on the other is that the pseudo-Indians are the ones pretending to be something they are not: Indians.

There are people who don’t think that lying about being Native is a serious matter, or even a lie. It’s more like a white lie, a pen name or a hobby. Actually, lying about being Native is more like identity theft, using a stolen passport or falsifying sworn documents. It is not victimless.

Pseudo-Indians are masters of distraction. Churchill is a classic obfuscator, as evidenced by the way he has kept reporters in Colorado running in circles chasing his biography, which is an unbroken chain of white roots linking back to southern Illinois and northern Europe.

When pressed, Churchill plays the ”Indian” victim and makes a bid for sympathy. When pressed harder, he goes on the attack. These are typical reactive traits of pseudo-Indians.

Harjo’s taxonomy of Eager Beavers, Weeping Willows, Prickly Pears, and Spies in Disguise can also apply to pro-feminists (I’m certainly guilty) and even male-to-female transsexuals. It’s worth reading and thinking about in wider terms.

Finally, the literary equivalent of Ward Churchill, “Nasdijj” or Tim Barrus:

http://www.laweekly.com/general/features/navahoax/12468/?page=1

“Did a struggling white writer of gay erotica become one of multicultural literature’s most celebrated memoirists — by passing himself off as Native American?”

Well, yes, he did. And we helped him.

Conservative men would rather their daughters die of cervical cancer than give them a vaccine that would allow them to make their own sexual choices in life. That’s the theory given by any number of liberal writers in the political debate over Merck’s Gardasil product. They very well might be correct.

 

What about men on the Left though? What would we prefer for women? All evidence seems to point to the fact that we really don’t care what kind of cancer they die from, so long as they keep putting out.

 

Women’s health has seldom been a priority for Western progressives. To see it take center stage with the introduction of Gardasil is several orders more miraculous than the invention of a vaccine itself. This attention, sudden as it is, is too surreal to be genuine.

 

The cervix has no monologues. It is perhaps the most alien part of female anatomy to men, and the least interesting; there is no part of it to conquer and rule, after all. And yet, thanks to Gardasil, it had its day in the most masculine and elite of Liberal publications. This included places like The Nation, where feminists are routinely put on the back burner if they ever get too unruly. There, the “status of women” is always justifiably second to the status of the war on Iraq or whatever other male-emergency is taking place. This sudden interest in women’s cervixes has everything to do with that war.

 

Big-business conservatism and religious fundamentalism have a complex love-hate relationship: mostly, it’s self hate. Gardasil is the product of more than a few men who assuredly belong to both camps, after all. Those who stand to profit the most can express their fiscal conservatism. Not only does Gardasil engender private wealth, it lessens the need, if only slightly, for the confiscation of it for public health care.

 

Likewise, fundamentalism can more easily bubble to the surface for those standing at the outer reaches of the payday, one that exists for them not as cash money but in the other social benefits that adhering to the corporate ethos provides: the often incorrect belief that one is safely, and deservedly, “middle-class.”

 

The Gardasil controversy—one of them, anyway, the jury is still out as to how safe and effective the vaccine is—should be seen as a microcosm of the greater debate about the war on Iraq, and its ability to make and break political careers, only this time transcribed onto the bodies of women. It was merely a chance for the men on the Left to poke a bit of fun at their male peers on Right, the Republican Party teetering between its own two baser instincts of money and religion. The argument just happened at a particularly opportune time for the Left.

 

However, liberal rhetoric has effectively described the pharmaceutical industry as an indifferent force of nature, utterly unaffiliated with rightwing forces. This falsehood is only promulgated when that industry is helping to make women more sexually available to Leftist men. The Left typically works to distance itself from capitalists, the sex industry serving as the lone exception.

 

Of course, women had their say, too. And if they wanted to say it in the publications of the male elite, they had to refrain from expressing any skepticism they might have over the dosing of an entire generation of women with an experimental drug. The favored feminists were forced to offer up their own daughters: the sexual freedom of girls is ever contingent upon them being freely available for the sexual requirements of men.

 

Such a statement need not be tied up in the quagmire of abstinence propaganda or even monogamy.

 

Where was the male Left, when it came to cervixes, a decade ago? Where were we on HPV and cervical cancer before there was a “cure?”

 

That answer can, ironically, be found in Merck’s own commercials for Gardasil. They feature one nubile woman after another proclaiming that she had only just heard about HPV, how it can cause cancer, and how absolutely terrified she was for that one brief second before the pharmaceutical industry heroically came to her rescue.

 

This terror is new.

 

In the past 10 years, little seems to have been learned about HPV, at least when it comes to the basic information that can be transmitted to laypeople. An internet archive of a Planned Parenthood brochure dated from 1995 can be found online:

 

http://web.archive.org/web/19990428221708/plannedparenthood.org/STI-SAFESEX/HPV.htm

It offers the same basic fact that women now find scary: up to a third of all sexually active teenagers might be carriers of the virus; condoms may not always prevent transmission, if at all; almost all women with cervical cancer test positive for HPV.

 

That same information was unremarkable a decade ago. Women, if they were of means, were marshaled in for their pap smears and colposcopies. Cells were harvested. When needed, their bodies were burned, frozen, and cut. Women died with their families next to them. Women died alone. Their deaths were convenient: no man ever faced responsibility for passing on the fatal infection; any sex act was seen as a distant consideration, a silent memory buried in time.

 

Between the ever immediate emergency of pregnancy and the tail end of America’s full-on AIDS panic, a fear that still proved ineffective enough when it came to convincing men to use condoms, HPV seemed totally unremarkable to Generation X. Its three letters were not even worth committing to memory.

 

The threat of cervical cancer rarely informed anyone’s sexual decisions—if it did, it was surely last on a woman’s list of considerations.

 

Inflicting cervical cancer upon someone was never a consideration of men. HPV strains that did not burden a male with unsightly warts were deemed not worth testing for by the medical establishment; out of sight, out of mind. There were no marches. Penises were never called “the original cancer sticks.” No man ever curtailed his sexual behavior on account of it, admitting that even condoms not might prevent its transmission.

 

And yet that same generation of Leftist men, cure in hand, now accuses religious fundamentalists of murderous indifference.

 

It is only now that women can be saved—and pockets can be lined—that women are allowed to fear HPV and the very worst of its effects. Indeed, they are even encouraged to fear it. Before, it was merely part of heterosexual life for women, an uncommon yet ordinary consequence of all we ordained as “natural.” Bad luck, or the Will of God, cancer was seen as outside the domain of male control.

 

Only cervical cancer wasn’t: ironically, cloistered nuns were the living proof, as they alone were uniquely immune to the affliction. Now men are taking credit for conjuring a cure without ever taking responsibility for engineering the proliferation of the disease.

 

Again, I must point out that I’m not proposing abstinence or monogamy as a solution. Nor am I saying that women lack the interest, the will, or the right to engage in any sexual activity that they desire, fully cognizant of the risks.

 

However, prior to the marketing of Gardasil, public knowledge of HPV was limited at best. It was defined solely in terms of disfiguring warts. The direct connection to cancer was undermined by a generally defeatist notion about cancer and its inevitability in modern life. The specific and accurate information surrounding HPV was lost in a sea of myth, where public sentiment distrusted a scientific community, which, according to conservative lore, said something was good for you one week and bad the next. That phenomenon was exacerbated by fundamentalists preaching of a nonexistent connection between abortion and breast cancer, disease ever being a punishment for “bad” behavior.

 

When HPV was discussed, it was typically with women in their private sessions with gynecologists, if they could afford them, not in public as part of sexual education services. Such education is a task that Leftist women have been thanklessly charged with carrying out. While many of their efforts have been inspired by feminism, and continue to be so, the money required to engage in them is often at the discretion of their male peers. They control not only the purse strings of their own significant wealth but the insider-circuit of progressive fundraising.

 

If Planned Parenthood, prior to the advent of Gardasil, ever described cervical cancer as a frequent result of sex with men, that condoms were no panacea, and advised women to act in accordance with that knowledge, it seems certain that Planned Parenthood would not be around today. This would be especially true if they had treated HPV and cervical cancer with the same caustic urgency that liberal pundits expect it to be spoken of today, post-Gardasil.

 

Leftist men would have swiftly killed an organization that has survived the pipe bombs of the Right.

 

Gardasil has given men free reign to focus on a pharmaceutical future. That utopian vision, a narrow one at that, allows men the privilege of bucking responsibility for HPV transmission in both the past and present, where adults of both sexes certainly continue to be infected and re-infected with strains of HPV. Indeed, everyone over the age of 21 is considered a lost cause without remedy: we’re all supposed to resign ourselves to contracting HPV at some point in our lives unless we decide to remove ourselves entirely from sexual culture.

 

It never had to be that way. Most sexually transmitted diseases could be greatly reduced in prevalence within the course of a few generations—and without medical intervention. This wouldn’t require monogamy, abstinence until marriage, but for something completely new: men treating women as their equals. Should that vision ever be achieved, it seems likely that young girls would no longer be held as fetish objects by older men. A study of teenage-pregnancy by the Alan Guttmacher Institute revealed that two-thirds of such girls are impregnated by men who are at least 20; the younger the girl is, the older her male “partner” tends to be.

 

Yes, these situations are especially egregious, but the same dynamic is represented in every other form of patriarchal sexuality—both heterosexual and homosexual—that believes that dominance is the most exciting aspect of sex. As long as men’s relationships with women keep skewing younger, if only slightly in most cases (the U.S. Census Bureau’s reporting of the “median age of first marriage” shows a difference of just under two years, 26.9 for males, 25.3 for females), it seems likely that sexually transmitted diseases will spread much more quickly than they would otherwise. The younger people are when they contract HPV, the more opportunities they have to pass it on to others.

 

Men are fairly adept at pretending women are their equals: not only does the church recommend marriage as a protection against exploitation, as if it were never an issue of “frying-pan to fire,” liberal men insist that their own self-professed “immaturity” makes them the peers of younger women who are anything but. Men, across the political spectrum, have engineered a sexual world that’s designed to pass on infectious diseases as rapidly as possible, ever looking at new generations to exploit.

 

 While this is done with no shortage of dedicated malevolence (how many men could not stop themselves from joking about what abuses they might perpetrate when the “Olsen Twins” turned 18?), it is always explained in the dispassionate terms of Darwinism; men spreading their seed in the greenest of pastures.

 

Again, I’m not recommending abstinence or monogamy, or even that people shouldn’t be free to form relationships with adults of all ages, only that the general pattern of men fetishizing younger women (while too often abandoning elderly women to die alone in poverty) leads to a culture where rape, incest, and prostitution run rampant. It’s especially racist for Westerners to view reports—some real, many not—of African men infecting virgin girls, even infants, with HIV as both unprecedentedly vile and absurd, when our own culture operates in similar ways.

 

Even progressives lack a compassionate voice when it comes to sexual politics. A recent study at Johns Hopkins suggest that HPV transmission through oral sex can lead to dramatically increased risks of throat cancer, perhaps at incidences of up to 32 times, making other risk factors such as smoking virtually negligible by comparison.

 

http://www.hopkinskimmelcancercenter.org/news/index.cfm?documentid=883&newstype=News%20Releases&action=showthisitem

Responses to this news were varied.

 

Some found dark humor in it, noting that the risks ensued at even five partners over the course of a lifetime were so astronomical that they might as well throw caution to the wind. Others believed that the reporting was overstating the danger as throat cancer is still relatively rare compared to other cancers.

 

A few heterosexual women found odd relief in that the report said cunnilingus was also a mode of transmission, glad that men might, for once, share equally in the risk as well. However, it seems difficult for a non professional to tease that information out of the data supplied and it often seems that press releases slant in the direction of mutuality only when none exists. Many lesbians believe that their own sexual risks are dramatically inflated by studies for political reasons. They theorize that not only are such warnings designed to discourage women from pursuing such relationships, but for internal “queer” reasons as well, supposing that lesbians will contribute more to the well being of gay men if they identify with facing the exact same risks.

 

Men, particularly in feminist communities, complained that there is no standardized screening test for them, nor do they currently have access to Gardasil, preventing them from protecting their sexual partners.

 

What went unmentioned, however, was pornography. There, Deep Throat has transformed from a once exotic activity to a simple stage in a sequence of events—first as an innocuous, almost forgettable act and then once again in an Ass-to-Mouth climax. From the perspective of the filmmakers, the two instances of “fellatio” couldn’t be more different. Each fits into precise spectrum of activities designed to create a crescendo of humiliation.

 

While the pornographic industry prides itself in the sexual health of its workers, bragging of constant testing, condom use is still limited even in so-called mainstream productions. Yet the profit margins are in the use of subcontractors to generate content; companies inside of companies that manage stables instead of “stars.” When condoms are used, they are only for intercourse: oral sex is deemed an acceptable risk by management.

 

There is currently no standard way to test males for HPV and condoms may not always prevent transmission.

 

Defenders of pornography speak of agency and safety. Even if one believes that all performers, in both gay and heterosexual porn, have full agency to give informed consent to each and every sex act they’re required to perform, the cancer risks associated with HPV make that sterling guarantee of safety an impossibility. That would remain true even if condoms were in universal use.

 

Even so, apologists for the sex industry could argue that watching, as entertainment, someone potentially contract a disease that leads to cancer is no different than viewing a film where people smoke, perform motorcycle stunts, or even risk injury in traditional sports. I would disagree with that assessment in many respects but that disagreement is not relevant to the argument I am making here: The liberal panic over HPV and cervical cancer exists only in terms of how liberals relate to their conservative peers. Outside of that conflict, HPV isn’t on the Leftist agenda at all.

 

The Left, especially the men of the Left, have had ample time to consider public policy for both HPV and cervical cancer. Ironically, it was not the disease that became the emergency but the “cure.” While liberal pundits were willing to work overtime for Merck and their advertising department, historically, that same interest in women’s health was nowhere to be found.

 

Before cervical cancer became a commodity—not just in the sense of the existence of Gardasil, but as a chit to be traded back and forth between political parties—it was a non issue. The lack of public awareness concerning HPV before the recent bout of publicity, and the now deliberate fear mongering, is testament to that fact. As is the lack of concern for the women in the sex industry who are most at risk; they go unnoticed while America and other Western nations fret over the most precious of their daughters.

 

Yet it is their sons who should be cause for concern. Yes, they should be tested for HPV too. And yes, perhaps the vaccine should be administered to boys en masse as well. But more than that, men need to be cognizant of the reality that male power has crafted. A sexual culture of predation, where deceit is encouraged and exploitation celebrated, has shaped HPV into something akin to a man-made disease. A vaccine might treat a symptom but it will take far more than Gardasil to cure it.

Who knew playoff-hockey could cause so much excitement?

The facts as they seem to be known:

New York State Assemblyman Tom Hoyt (D-Buffalo, Grand Island) invited a number of his fellow legislators and their support staff to watch a hockey game at an Albany area sports bar.

Assemblyman Mike Cole (R-142nd District) attended.

Cole drank to excess and eventually retired from the bar with a 21 year old female intern who was sitting at his table; they had never worked together and met for the first time at the event.

Cole “walked her home” and slept on the floor of her bedroom. Both claim that no physical contact or relationship took place. Most people seem to be taking them at their word, save for a few liberal blogs that made lurid quips, fantasizing about a different sort of encounter.

When news of this leaked, the intern was immediately fired from her position. She evidently violated a no-fraternizing rule, specifically one that forbids interns from attending events where alcohol is served (although other interns also attended the event without incident). While some journalists indicated that the woman, still anonymous, received both her full stipend and academic credit for the internship, other reports seem less optimistic: Assembly spokeswoman Sisa Moyo stated that payments terminate with employment and that academic credit is wholly at the discretion of her school.

A month later, Cole was censured by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Cole was also stripped of his position on the Assembly’s Drug and Alcohol Abuse Committee and its $9,000 stipend. He is no longer permitted to participate in the Assembly’s intern program, meaning his own intern had to be reassigned elsewhere.

 

Reporting on local politics is always a bit funny: in this case, you have the liberals complaining that The Buffalo News did not cover the story quickly enough after the New York Post led with it, while conservatives argue that Cole being censured is ridiculous considering that serving Democratic officials who have been indicted for criminal offenses have not met with that same punishment, token as it might be.

I find the liberal reaction to be especially ironic. First, with all the sleaze filled jokes in area blogs, it’s interesting to see the so-called progressive party asserting the belief that men and women can’t be friends or even do a solid favor for one another as passing acquaintances. I guess a decade of jokes about how “pimp” Bill Clinton was, something still thought to be to his credit amongst some circles, will do a number on your mind.

Journalists didn’t help though: some wrote that Cole slept on the bedroom floor while others either lacked that information or omitted it, since no one really had any idea what “bedroom” meant: other than the fact that it was a Big Red Flag when the political machine started chewing. “Bedroom” can mean a variety of different architectural configurations when it comes to 21 year olds. They tend to lack some of the more advanced options, such as studies and foyers, for putting away besotted friends.

Most people seem to understand that something unfair happened to the intern.

They get that she lost more even though she was the one with far less power and responsibility. It’s easy to see that something isn’t right about that—especially after three Spiderman movies.

But for most, that’s where the questions stop.

Fire Mike Cole, too, that will make things right.

Or forgive him, we all make mistakes, and gosh darn it, we should find another opportunity for the young woman. To many, questions of fair and unfair begin and end with the individuals involved.

However, this is a story of gender.

For the Assembly, their carefully crafted no-fraternizing policy made what happened or didn’t happen on that bedroom floor irrelevant. This is expedient for them as they no longer have to prove what went on behind closed doors: the intern’s crime was entering a public place of business, a pub, and sitting down at a table with political big dogs. As soon as she did that it was game over. Her bad.

The intern would still be just as fired if Cole had raped and murdered her on the walk home.

I’m not against the Assembly’s fraternization rule. Yes, it’s pathetically insufficient when it comes to protecting against abuses of power. That doesn’t mean that having no protections at all would be superior. Just because one thing is sometimes silly doesn’t mean another thing isn’t absurd.

In a world with infinite constellations of power and authority, the idea of freely consenting adults is more than a little bit naïve, no matter how bankable; capitalism sure enjoys the thought and it certainly repeats it often enough.

I do think the no-fraternizing rule hurts women.  I also think that the alternative would likely hurt women more.

The real problem is with men—the people who not only imposed the rule but made it necessary in the first place.

Mike Cole’s constant refrain throughout his ordeal has been that he’s “taking responsibility.” He knows he should have called a cab. He shouldn’t have consumed so much alcohol. He messed up and now he, two interns, and his family (although I think the very concept of his marriage is unfairly privileged in these discussions, something that deserves to be examined at length) have paid the price for his mistake. His responsibility doesn’t end there, though.

All males contribute to a culture that made the no-fraternizing rule necessary. Not only is Mike Cole to blame, but also the man who censured him, Sheldon Silver, and myself. The very existence of the rule demonstrates that women are not equal members of our society.

That might look like a circular argument, and there are people who believe that eliminating evidence of inequality (and especially responses to inequality like Affirmative Action or Hate Crime legislation) would magically make inequality itself disappear, but I’m not one of those people.

So let’s back up just one second: “walked her home.” That’s what Cole did, according to just about every newspaper covering the story. Everyone seems to think that’s what he did. Going through the reports, one can read one “walked her home” after another, like he, in his stupor, somehow knew the way better than she.

It does have the effect of making it look like a mutually beneficial transaction: he protected her, so she let him dry out. Since she needed him for something, that “protection” being her motive for allowing a strange man into her home, it’s easier for people to imagine nothing untoward happened. People, other than a few liberal rags, are less likely to attribute more scandalous motivations to her.

Very kind of the newspapers to do that for her.

Now, imagine if she walked his stumbling ass back to her place and just flopped him on the floor in a drooling pile. It might be closer to the truth but—somehow—the public uttering of that truth would be more dangerous to her than those strange men who haunt the alleyways of that walk home.

If Mike Cole wasn’t a chivalrous knight, she’d be a craven slut.

Very kind of the newspapers to do that for him.

If women weren’t afraid to walk the city streets at night, Mike Cole wouldn’t have been able to justify, if ever feebly, his decision to go home with a woman half his age. Rapists—and the racist propagandists who have profiled rapists as deranged “urban” men who attack women at random and not husbands, fathers, and brothers who betray the women who trust them the most—are the people whom Cole should be thanking. After all, the mere thought of their existence made his own actions seem rational to him.

On the other hand, that same fear, fear that Cole materially benefitted from, would prevent most women from doing what he did: crashing in the bedroom of a stranger of the other sex. Women know that more than a few men (and not just those skulking in dark alleys) view a woman’s acceptance of such an invitation as, well, an invitation of its own.

As a people, we see things in terms of transactions. That’s why the “walk home” for the “place to sleep” equation was rendered in nearly every article covering the story. As a woman, she couldn’t possibly have been just doing something nice for a drunk who couldn’t take care of himself. Only men have that kind of magnanimity. Only men are able to rise above the equation. I am reminded of that scene in American Beauty where the protagonist nobly decides he has only warm-fuzzy feelings for his daughter’s best-friend, laying naked in his arms.

Sure, we’re protecting you from us, but just look at how good of a job we’ve been doing, lately…