Time for the biggest march on Washington DC EVER!

The bombardment of bad news is relentless. For an empath like me, it’s literally painful, even self-destructive to open myself up to it. Today they are permitting the shooting of hibernating bears in their dens. Yesterday they threw out the rules against trophy imports of elephant and lion parts.

Tomorrow they’ll vote on a tax bill will savage students, the elderly and the working class, while sending the rich laughing to the bank. Word is that the senator from Alaska has decided to vote for it, despite misgivings, because she can’t resist the pork thrown her way: carte blanche to drill in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge. And then there’s the possibility of war with North Korea, which has Hawaii resurrecting World War II era missile warning systems.

Meanwhile, the insane man who stole our White House is busy inflaming old hatreds, undermining confidence in our most respected news organizations, and getting away with crimes that other men are now being fired for daily (Garrison Keillor, the latest head to roll for sexual misconduct).

How should we conduct ourselves in the face of such overwhelmingly bad news?

Like most people I know, I’m just continuing to go through the motions of my life. As a teacher, I go in to teach my classes, and most of the time current events doesn’t come up, even in my media studies classes. The students don’t want to discuss politics or current events. They don’t want to get into arguments or risk offending each other. They just want to do their work, get good grades, and move on with their lives.

I can’t blame them as I’m following the same playbook. We all are. Yes, there’s some outrage expressed on social media, but if we really allowed ourselves to wake up and feel the full measure of the slow-motion disaster that is our present moment, we’d be doing more than posting angry faces and sharing editorials.

Graduate students, who are among the biggest targets of the disgusting Republican tax bill being rushed through Congress, are taking to the streets to protest. As usual, the young lead the way. We should all be out in the streets protesting!

I am surprised that no national organization is calling for the mass protests that should be occurring in Washington DC this holiday season. Last January women turned out en masse not only in Washington but all over the country to protest the ascension of “grab’em by the pussy Donald” to the highest office in the land. Where are they now, when all our worst fears for the Trump era have come true, and then some?

Protesting to your social media friends in virtual reality is ineffective because you’re not reaching your “enemies,” the people in power you’re protesting against. The Republican-controlled government is in its own echo chamber—45’s 43 million Twitter followers are cheering him on, giving him the illusion of invincibility.

Trump and his Republican toadies need a wake-up call, and it needs to be delivered with boots on the ground, not easily ignored virtual reality.

Today I’m calling on the leaders of every progressive organization in America to get off their butts and start organizing the biggest march on Washington our country has ever known.

We are in the midst of a crisis of epic proportions, affecting every sector of society (save the 1% and the big corporations). The health of our society and environment has never been more threatened.

It’s a storm-the-Bastille moment, and yet here we are, all mesmerized and immobilized by our screens.

Let’s use virtual reality to organize: who’s ordering up a bus for my town? What about yours? It’s time to go to Washington to remind the politicos who they work for, and what the democratic creed of America stands for.

We need to do it now, before they lock in legislation that will cripple our economy and bankrupt our future for generations to come.

Fired up? Ready to go!

***

While you’re waiting for the bus, you can call these senators who are said to be open to rational appeal on the tax bill:

Collins (ME) 202-224-2523
Corker (TN) 202-224-3344
Daines (MT) 202-224-2651
Flake (AZ) 202-224-4521
Johnson (WI) 202-224-5323
Lankford (OK) 202-224-5754
McCain (AZ) 202-224-2235
Murkowski (AK) 202-224-6665

And consider submitting your writing, photography or art to the new online magazine I’ve just founded, Fired Up! Creative Expression for Challenging Times.  It’s true that online activism can only take us so far. But it’s a good way to let off some steam and inspire ourselves and others in the process!

Solstice reflections: Women as Victims of Violence and as Peace Agents

Winter solstice eve, 2011.

The darkest day of the year, and yet presaging the return to light.  The stars and planets continue to wheel overhead, taking little notice of all the sturm und drang here on Earth.

Tonight there is one image that keeps calling out to me for comment.  It goes by the Web shorthand “woman with the blue bra, Cairo.”

Did you see that one?

Someone captured on camera a brief two minutes of violence in Cairo, Egypt, when an unnamed protester was dragged by military forces in the street, then stripped of her abaya, under which she wore only a blue bra–and then beaten up some more.

WordPress has taken away my ability to post video, so you can watch it here.

It goes right up there with the video from New York City, towards the beginning of the OWS protests, of a police officer spraying peaceful, captive girls in the face with pepper spray.  This video has apparently been watched on You-Tube more than 1.5 million times.

There is something about seeing women being beaten up by masked, uniformed security forces that sets off particular triggers in most of us.  It’s certainly no accident that the Occupy protests swelled dramatically in numbers after that pepper-spray incident, or that more than 10,000 protesters, mostly women, turned out in Cairo following the posting of this image on the Web.

Part of me wants to question why it is that we get so upset when women protesters are attacked.  After all, they knew the risks they were running when they went out into the street.  And what’s the big difference between a man and a woman being beat up by goons, anyway?

But there is a difference.

The difference is that it’s always men doing the beating.

Yes, we have some women in police and military uniforms.  And yes, women can be violent.  But you will have to look long and hard to find cases where women bore the responsibility for killing or attacking civilians, in any circumstances.  It may happen, but it’s pretty rare.

So when we see a mob of men stripping and beating a woman–in a society where nudity is absolutely taboo, to boot–it’s impossible to ignore the full impact of the insult intended.  And in a society where women are forcibly kept out of leadership roles, the message is all the clearer.

Stay at home where you belong, or we’ll do this to you, too.

I’m so glad that the women of Cairo did not take this attempt at intimidation lying down. Just like the women in New York, who took the unwarranted police brutality as a gauntlet thrown down to test their protest mettle.

The question of whether men are in fact more aggressive than women is still a matter for debate in academic circles, but taking a look around the world, it’s pretty clear that men commit almost all the violence in every context.  When women murder or assault, it’s almost always in self-defense.

And yet women are still held back from leadership roles in most societies, and even held back from the peace-making negotiating tables in post-conflict regions.  A big exception is Rwanda, where women have taken a leadership role in rebuilding that shattered society–mostly because the men had succeeded so well in killing each other off.

We have moved past the point in the intellectual history of gender studies where feminists were striving to be “the same as” men.  Women don’t want to be the same as men if it means repeating the same old history of violence and abusiveness.

What we need is to move, as men and women, beyond the violence that has continually plagued human society.

Violence towards each other; violence towards other species and the rest of the world.

The only way to move forward as a species is to disable that aggressive switch, and become the consensus-seeking conciliators we have always been in our finest moments as human beings.

As we return to light this solstice night, this is my fervent prayer: that the aggressive, masculine energy that has dominated this planet for the past 5,000-plus years will begin to shift to a more peaceful, creative, feminine energy, from which both men and women–and the planet as a whole–will benefit.

Let it be so.

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