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I haven’t been blogging much in the last couple of years, but I’ve been meaning to get some thoughts out on the Presidential election for a while that can’t quite be captured on twitter, so this is just intended to put together some rough ideas that have been in my head recently, not only about the election but also touching on currents in left politics.
A post appeared on Jill Stein’s facebook page recently from her social media director (Jillian), in which she implies that Trump is the better choice for President between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton because Clinton represents ‘the establishment’ while Trump’s racist hatred is not the ‘root cause’ of inequality in our society, but rather a product of it. This statement further riffed on an idea that I have seen circulating among some on the left: the claim is that a Hillary Clinton presidency will inevitably lead to aggressive confrontation abroad or even World War III; meanwhile Donald Trump’s might lead to blood on the streets in the U.S., but would supposedly lead to peace abroad.
While I do agree that Clinton’s foreign policy will probably be a bit worse than Obama’s (and Jillian is right to criticize Clinton’s policies towards Israel and the Palestinians in her statement), I don’t understand what the larger claim regarding the election is based on. Why do some on the left seem to believe Trump is a ‘man of peace’? What personal traits of his is this based on?
As I mentioned above, in one variation of this idea, the ‘even-handed’ criticism of the two candidates is presented that Clinton will supposedly lead to WWIII, while Trump will lead to civil war in the U.S., because of his reliance on white supremacist politics and his attempts to impose violent racist policies. But why would we expect someone that leads to so much divisiveness and aggression within our own borders would lead to anything other than aggression abroad? Is this really a natural assumption to make about Trump?
From my perspective, I think that a better assumption is that Trump will simply follow whatever path feeds his vanity and his instincts to bully. Further, Trump has repeatedly demonstrated a short-sighted instinct to lash out at others over minor perceived slights, which often results in almost immediate negative consequences for himself personally and his campaign. And particularly with regards to Russia, it seems very possible that Trump’s foreign policy would be informed by his own personal business interests.
In addition, if he were to become President, Trump would be the titular head of the Republican party, which means he will be pressured to choose policies that conform to GOP instincts. I don’t understand why a narcissistic, short-sighted bully, especially under those conditions, would be trusted on foreign policy by some on the left.
With that in mind, let’s remind ourselves that if Al Gore had been sworn in as President in 2000 (and not had the election be close enough to be stolen), then the Iraq War and many of its terrible consequences would almost certainly not have happened. Sometimes it may feel frustrating that the difference between the two parties seems so small, but with regards to more than a few policies, that difference matters very much.
This is also very much true with regards to climate change, on which the Democrats are willing to be pressured to act, while Republicans will always attempt to tear up any progress the left makes on the issue whatsoever. It is almost impossible to understate the immediate importance of this, and it’s very frustrating that the Green Party are the ones essentially saying the issue can be resolved later, after we enable a third party takeover of the Presidency and Congress.
On the contrary, I think a much more realistic view of the issue is that electing Donald Trump may result in putting the human species on a path towards extinction.
As a more general comment on the progressive movement at large, it seems that there are some nominally on the left who are increasingly comfortable with political ideas and expressions that originate from conservative movements and particularly the alt-right. Reactionary groups like Deep Green Resistance have been on that path for a while, but now it seems like Wikileaks and many of its supporters are increasingly comfortable with alt-right politics. Some who were formerly Bernie Sanders supporters (whom I myself supported in the primaries) have now turned to supporting Trump as an expression of ‘anti-establishment’ politics. And of course, Jill Stein herself has expressed support for the Brexit campaign that was driven by far right nativist currents in the UK.
Personally, I will choose a Democratic party that can at least be pressured to make some gradual progress on issues like climate change over knee-jerk politics that increasingly seems to ignore implementing substantive progressive policy in favor of directionless kicks against ‘the establishment.’
Note: an update appears at the bottom of this piece.
Ok, we’ve all seen this movie before by now. Every queer in Toronto has seen the prequel, the sequel, and everything in between. It gets kinda old at a certain point, but nevertheless, let me make a brief recap:
Every year since 2009, Toronto local activist organization Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) has signaled its intention to march in the Toronto Pride Parade, and every year pro-Israel lobby organizations and their allies have, by one means or another, attempted to have them kicked out (and consistently failed at that).
Indeed, Israel lobby groups and even their handful of queer allies have gone so far as attempting to defund Pride Toronto, over nothing more than one queer group that is critical of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians. And this is even after their primary talking point was completely discredited with last year’s report from the city manager on the situation.
This has all culminated with Pride’s recent institution of the so-called Dispute Resolution Process (DRP), which is aimed at resolving potential disputes between different Pride Participants— or even non-participants, apparently. Indeed, it was just on the eve of Pride weekend that we found that Canadian Israel lobby group B’nai Brith failed yet again in its attempts to have QuAIA ejected from the parade, this time through the DRP. (The full detailed result of the arbitration can be found here.)
But it turns out the other side can apparently lodge an unlimited number of complaints. Hence only days after the previous ruling was released, we received a new complaint from an individual I’ve previously never heard of— one Joe Clark. And in a word, Joe’s complaint (which has been posted online here) against QuAIA (and Pride, and the DRP itself, and, well, everybody) is hilarious 🙂 Not necessarily hilarious in a good way, mind you, but hilarious nonetheless 😉 As a QuAIA member, I’ll take a moment to present a few of the highlights below.
Joe spends a lot of effort in his DRP submission whining about the formal process up to this moment, which I won’t bother commenting on due to the fact that I’m not that bored. However, it’s when he turns his guns on Pride that we see Joe’s true disposition come out to play. For example, Joe claims that QuAIA’s argument that all queer groups should be able to participate in the Parade is bunk because, he says, “Pride already bans participants.” Joe claims:
Following is the approximate text of my comments at the 2012 Trans Pride Toronto rally that took place 29 June. Before my formal remarks, I drew attention to the news from earlier that day that Pride Toronto’s Dispute Resolution Panel had concluded there was no basis for the claims from Israel lobby groups that Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) should be excluded from the parade, or any other part of Pride week. Members of QuAIA and Dykes and Trans People for Palestine were proud to participate afterwards in the trans march.
Sisters and brothers, friends and lovers; I think we are experiencing an important moment in the evolution of the placement of our community in relation to wider society. In the last few years in particular I think trans people have begun to take on larger and more visible roles that society had previously denied us. Simultaneous with that however has come a backlash, which has taken many different forms, both explicitly and implicitly violent.
In my home country of the United States we saw a wave of violence against trans women of color in the last few months. While this phenomenon is unfortunately nothing new, it is a stark reminder that violence is very real, and if often acts as the final act of silencing.
Furthermore, it calls attention to the often-overlooked fact that not all of us in the trans community are equally vulnerable.
Indeed, it is a sad state of affairs that the fact that trans women, and particularly trans women of color, sex workers, and those living in poverty, are most vulnerable often passes without comment, even by those who stand up, generically speaking, for “trans rights.”
That has to stop, and we all should commit ourselves to trying to build a trans community with more representative leadership of the community as a whole.
Further, there is the critical issue of prison justice here in North America that is often overlooked. Perhaps these issues are best exemplified by the case of CeCe McDonald, a black American trans woman who was attacked along with a few friends by a group of anti-trans white supremacists one year ago in Minneapolis.
When this gang of thugs hurled racist and trans-misogynistic epithets at her, CeCe stood her ground. And when one person in that group started a fight by slamming a glass across face, lacerating her salivary gland, CeCe stood up for herself and her friends and fought back. And in the end she killed an aggressive man with a swastika tattoo on his chest in self-defense.
And that’s when the system stepped in to reinforce racism and trans-misogyny by charging CeCe despite the fact that the County Attorney’s office had previously declined to press charges against other people under similar circumstances. While the charges were at least dropped to manslaughter at a later point, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that CeCe has been punished for surviving her attackers.
Further, there is the fact that CeCe is now forced to inhabit a men’s prison, where she is potentially vulnerable to coercion and abuse, and further largely forced to live cruel conditions under solitary confinement. Of course, this is not unique to CeCe as this is the situation for countless trans women, particularly trans women of color, across North America. We must begin to have a serious conversation around these issues.
And finally, I want to make a small statement that the reason for fighting, for standing up for ourselves and for others who are even more oppressed than ourselves, is not because victory is assured. If you are here because you believe victory is assured all I can say is I think you don’t understand the meaning of honor. Victory is never assured, and if it were it would not be worth fighting for.
The reason we fight is because it is the process of standing up for ourselves that we obtain our dignity, we stand up and we take our honor. And I want to emphasize that our dignity does not come from Pride Toronto. Our dignity is not given to us by the federal government, the provincial government, the city or any other such entity. Our honor does not come from the government or society’s acquiescence; rather, it comes from our demand.
Our dignity is not give to us by anyone other than ourselves. We bestow upon ourselves our own honor in the act of standing up as individuals and as a community for ourselves.
Free CeCe! Free Palestine!
Update: Here is a short video my friend Cathy made of the Dykes and Trans People for Palestine/QuAIA contingent at the Trans March:
As many of us aware, last June CeCe McDonald and several of her trans friends were walking in Minneapolis when confronted by a group of angry white supremacists, who proceeded to verbally assault CeCe and her friends with racism and transphobia. When CeCe stood her ground against this verbal tirade, they proceeded to physically assault her and her friends. In the aftermath of the resulting melee, Dean Schmitz (who was later discovered to have a swastika tattoo on his chest) wound up dead.
CeCe survived, and the system punished her for that by throwing her in prison, and further, forcing her into solitary confinement, an exceptionally cruel punishment for an exceptionally vulnerable member of society.
Meanwhile in Palestine, hunger strikes have broken out amongst Palestinian political detainees who are held in cruel conditions in Israeli prisons without charge or trial, often for entirely arbitrary reasons. This includes Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak, who Israel recently promised to free after his epic three month fast.
Just as the media remains largely silent about CeCe McDonald and other trans people (particularly trans women of color, sex workers and those living in poverty) who are unjustly forced into abusive conditions in prisons here in North America, the media also remains silent about Palestine’s hunger strike heroes like Mahmoud Sarsak who are standing against arbitrary arrest and torture at the hands of Israeli occupation forces.
At this year’s Pride Toronto Trans March, we commit ourselves to reminding the world of their voices and their stories.
As members of Dykes and Trans People for Palestine, we invite all trans people and allies to join us at the trans rally Friday June 29 at 6 pm at Norman Jewison Park, followed by the trans march at 7:30 pm. Our group will be meeting in the space around 7:15 pm to form a contingent committed to promoting justice and solidarity with those targeted by the prison-industrial complex, and in solidarity in the wider struggle against patriarchy and imperialism, including Israel’s apartheid against the Palestinian people.
As feminists and trans-feminists we stand opposed to all forms of gender violence. As feminists and trans-feminists we stand opposed to all forms of racism and colonialism, and all other oppressions and social injustices.
In the lead up to Pride 2012 and the decision by Toronto-based activist group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid to return to this year’s parade, I am re-posting the following article that I put together back in April, 2011, before I started this blog. (This article originally appeared at Bilerico. Here I have updated the links, improved the formatting slightly and made a few edits for clarity regarding the timeline of events.) I’ll be returning to this issue over the next week or so.
On a humanitarian delegation tour of historic Palestine in the summer of 2005 I had the opportunity to visit the remains of Lifta— a Palestinian village on the outskirts of West Jerusalem whose inhabitants were driven out in 1948 by Israel’s proto-military forces. Our delegation was guided by Yacoub Odeh who was born in Lifta and whose family was forced to flee when he was still a young child. Like some 750,000 other Palestinians, Yacoub’s family was not allowed to return to their homes once hostilities ended, despite UN Resolution 194 that demands precisely that.
It was touching to observe Yacoub walking among the ruins of his childhood home; he showed us the house where his family had lived, the mosque where they prayed, the bakery where bread was made, places where he used to play with his friends. At one point he showed us a house in which there remained beautiful ceramic tiles along the floor, still mostly intact, although many had been taken by scavengers. He told us that through the years he had resisted the temptation to take one for himself; still holding on to hope that some day he would be permitted to return to his village he had not allowed himself a keepsake.