The Nasty Woman Rises

I never wanted Bernie Sanders to be President.

Let’s begin at the beginning………

I was raised in that tie-died bastion of revolutionary liberalism that is Eugene, Oregon. Mired in 60’s nostalgia and protest culture, many of my childhood memories were of furious men shouting at marches, adults striking and making signs, walk outs for this and that, and those effigies of Reagan burnt on the grade school playground. My father gave me a copy of “Rules for Radicals” on my sixth birthday.

I seemingly had no choice but to be a radical. But, but, but…as those years went on I also witnessed beneath and around the edges of all that potent and vital fighting for justice much that was destructive. Parents who neglected their children in favor of ‘finding themselves’. Rampant drug addiction. Men who left their families for nubile young things wearing hemp dresses and playfully proffering strawberries in the park. The many who disappeared into the deep rabbit hole of new age philosophy. People often did not vote. Survivalists abounded. And yes, a number of those furious speakers were later arrested for beating their wives.

That dear anarchist father of mine who once grew glorious sunflowers in our back yard while quoting lines from “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”? Well, he became Born Again and joined the Republicans. Off came his beard and cut offs and on went his suit and tie. I was ten.

As a result, I have a wariness about any public figure who promises radical change. Including Obama in 2008. I believe in these ideals. I DO. I have spent many years fighting for just that but I have also long learned to approach revolutionary rhetoric with a discerning spirit and a critical eye. I will not drink anyone’s Kool-aid.

And………………………………………………………………….

I have wanted Hillary Clinton to be president since 1997.

“There cannot be true democracy unless women’s voices are heard. There cannot be true democracy unless women are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their own lives. There cannot be true democracy unless all citizens are able to participate fully in the lives of their country.” ~ Hillary Rodham Clinton. Keynote Address at the Vital Voices Conference in Vienna, Austria, July 1997.

Sure, she is complicated. She is no perfect personification of my ideals. I have some issues with her influence in Haiti and Libya and Honduras. She is not my hero. And that is precisely the reason why I support her. Deifying politicians is dangerous. Giving heroic gloss to an individual saddled with the responsibility of governing sows the seeds of fascism be it far right OR far left gilding to one demanding rigid adherence to an ideology. I do not require politicians to be inspiring or revolutionary or charismatic. I want them to do their damn Job. I do not agree with everything that Hillary has done but over the past decades I have witnessed her ferociously fighting for many of the issues that are vital to me and those I love.

I trust her.

The Hillary I know is not the one presented to me by the opposition. She is not a neoliberal, war criminal, Wall Street panderer, racist apologist, assault condoning, cynically ambitious lying sociopath who will destroy the very fabric of our Nation.

Nope.

In the article Understanding Hillary by Ezra Klein he relates a story told by one her staffers.

“Laurie Rubiner, who served as Clinton’s legislative director from 2005 to 2008, recalls being asked to block out two hours on the calendar for “card-table time.” Rubiner had just started in Clinton’s office six weeks before, and she had no idea what card-table time was, but when the boss wants something put on the calendar, you do it.
When the appointed day arrived, Clinton had laid out two card tables alongside two huge suitcases. She opened the suitcases, and they were stuffed with newspaper clippings, position papers, random scraps of paper. Seeing the befuddled look on Rubiner’s face, Clinton asked, “Did anyone tell you what we’re doing here?”
It turned out that Clinton, in her travels, stuffed notes from her conversations and her reading into suitcases, and every few months she dumped the stray paper on the floor of her Senate office and picked through it with her staff. The card tables were for categorization: scraps of paper related to the environment went here, crumpled clippings related to military families there. These notes, Rubiner recalls, really did lead to legislation. Clinton took seriously the things she was told, the things she read, the things she saw. She made her team follow up.”

I have told that story to numerous people when up rises the political conversation and they are always surprised. Invariably, most of these people had never actually researched Clinton, read her platform, listened to her speeches, examined her voting record. They didn’t know, for instance, that she made it possible for trans folks to be able to change their gender designation on their passports without a medical document allowing them not only to travel as themselves but to also use it as an ID for housing and employment. They do not know that she has long been a fighter for economic justice including justice for people with disabilities. They do not actually get why Putin is so afraid of her. They had instead, largely swallowed what various press outlets or rally speakers, (ahem), had told them.

To be perfectly honest, up until last year I also hadn’t really researched her. Not thoroughly. That is until April 26, 2016 when I publicly posted my support for Hillary Clinton.

The Great Contention commenced. I was bombarded for months and months with diatribes and attacks from Sanders supporters. Not trolls. Not random people. Not Trump supporters. These were friends and allies and collaborators and even, my fans. Some were respectful but many were downright vicious. I was barraged by Their View with spit laced vitriol over and over again. I spent most of that time just unpacking the false information in the articles they sent me, sharing some simple facts and occasionally, a little dose of history. I also had the exasperatingly amusing experience of being regularly told to ‘Check my Privilege’ by other white people. I had become, purely because of my unpopular political choice, a kind of pariah.

By October, I was exhausted.

I will call this, without reservation, Cultural Terrorism. It silenced me. I allowed it to silence me. I had a sad martini moment alone filling in my mail in ballot for the candidate I was historically and personally excited about because I was surrounded by the Bern. Everywhere I went, even mentioning Hillary’s name could invoke sneers and hateful assertions and derision. It became so contentious I would not post anything political a week before I had an event because it would affect my audience turn out. Really.

I did indeed lose friends.

But let’s go back to April, 2016. I am a diligent sort of thinking person. I do not follow blindly nor does my vagina solely dictate my voting habits. My Vagina however, certainly has an influence. I also firmly believe that it is crucial for every Citizen to always question. Investigative education is imperative for a functioning Democracy and we should approach every allegiance with a healthy sliver of doubt.

And so I read up on Senator Sanders.

Initially, I liked a lot of what I read and heard. I am a leftist after all. I also took all the criticisms of Hillary seriously and delved in down to the river mouth ready to dig into the silt and wrestle with the crawdads.

I read everything; economists reports and legislation texts, senate hearing transcripts, varying perspectives on the 1994 crime bill, that rape case, old articles about Hillary the Senator and Hillary the Secretary of State, single payer advocacy and the history of passing the ACA, Congressional policy, Environmental reports, I checked back in with Noam Chomskey and the writing of Robert Reich, campaign donor records, DC gossip blogs, reports from the ground in Libya and Haiti and Honduras and why didn’t we answer the call for the kidnapped girls in Nigeria. All Those Emails. And more and more and more. I went further and researched each publication as well as individual journalists and authors. Hell, I even waded through the muck that is Reddit.

Surprising even to me, this research actually strengthened my resolve. Digging in revealed, like a diamond wrecked betwixt coal dust, a Hillary that inspired me. Intelligence, strength, experience, stamina and genuine goddamn compassion Hillary has and courage too. Oh hell yes, she never quit or gave in and she hasn’t now, even after a crushing loss that would have sent most us to hiding in the woods for far more than a few weeks. She is still fighting for the things she believes in. I believe in. I cannot convey with words how much I wanted her to be my president. To be Madame President. To be the President!

T-shirt bought from a young woman in Oakland at the Hands around the Lake protest.

And Sanders? He didn’t fare nearly as well. There are legitimate reasons to criticize the fiery senator from Vermont.

( I too am a great fan of FDR. He also signed the executive order creating the Japanese internment camps. Just saying.)

But it wasn’t until late June that I began to actively dislike the man and his most rabid followers. When he refused to step aside and kept whipping up the frenzy attacking Hillary, ‘the Establishment’ and the Democratic party itself while we were battling the most horrific opposition candidate to ever run for the highest office in the land I began to growl and fume. I watched in disgust as people booed civil rights speakers during the most progressive convention to ever exist — anywhere — in all of history. And in the midst sat scowling, the man who had hijacked the most important election of my lifetime.

I knew then that we would lose. I didn’t want to admit it, even to myself, but deep down I knew.

This, of course, is not how most of the people I know see it. Many of those I respect have also done extensive research and know their stuff and have legitimate issues with Hillary. Not All those who supported him are ignorant, irrational, misogynistic bastards, (that there are many of those within the pro-Sanders movement, I think we could all agree on). I will also insist that sexism is rife within the leftist movement in both subtle and blatant ways, a veritable fact and needs to be called out and eradicated. I will however, concede that Sanders has brought great ideas to the national conversation and many who found inspiration in Sanders are genuinely committed to bringing about positive change. My purpose in writing this is not to excoriate these activists and friends. I simply, want to be heard.

I am also fully aware of many a Sanders supporter position; the election was rigged, he was conspired against by the DNC, The media ignored him, He inspired a mass uprising and even — a bird, He spoke truth to power, He would have won….. I have heard it and read it and heard it and read it and heard it and read it and been told it and read it and heard it and had it shouted at me and read it and seen it in copious comments to articles and heard it and read it and had it whispered and heard it and read it and heard it and read it and had it in my kitchen and heard it and read it and anytime I post anything remotely political it shows up, in droves, on my page. Trust me, I have Heard you.

There were many Hillary supporters who were also rude. No one’s hands are clean. We all have mud on our shoes.

However, I do want to point out here that though I was barraged for months I remained judicious. Aside from a few ill-advised whiskey fueled comments which even then were never insulting but merely feisty, I never attacked. I did not go on people’s pro-Sanders posts and rant against him. I swore at no one. I never posted anything negative until after the election. I also refused to use buzzwords. I never typed, ‘Bernie-Bros’. I have a distaste for that sort of language, always have.

Ever since those long ago summers when I would help my — newly Republican, Rush Limbaugh admiring, Fox News aficionado, “You are a Feminazi” declaring — father paint houses, I have had a resistance to reducing important conversations to stupidly clever monikers. I reject debate methods whose primary purpose is to obfuscate and Shut Down rather than to persuade.

That a certain cadre of leftist friends suddenly began using these similar tactics disturbed and continues to disturb me. When a writer dubbed the fanatic Sanders/Stein supporters as the ‘Green Tea Party’, I laughed and then vomited. It was a little too true.

Which brings me to an upsetting trend that has begun to proliferate in our political discourse. Words and what people Say has become far too important. Obviously, words matter but too often these words are divorced from nuance and context. As Dan Savage argued in his article about Marriage Equality, Hillary’s statement about marriage being a sacred bond between a Man and a Woman was a concession to the Republican base in service of, “opposition to a constitutional amendment that would’ve banned same-sex marriage in all fifty states”. In all fairness, Sanders has also had some of his statements removed from their context to the detriment of the intent. Nevertheless, focusing inordinately on what is Said also disregards that old adage — it matters not what you say but what you do.

It is a known fact that the only legislation that Sanders, during his many years in office, passed was for increased veterans rights and altering the designation of two post offices. I love his 2015 proposed legislation for ending privatized prisons. That the legislation also died at the gate and has not been reintroduced is also significant. Doing does matter and that record does not impress me. It certainly does not impress me as much as all of the many good things Hillary has done. I have the luxury of not compromising my ideals. I am not in charge of anything.

I recently posted on facebook this: “So, I have noticed something. Those journalists respected in my circles who were hard for Bernie, have it out for Hillary and are, to me, bizarrely rejecting Russia’s influence on the election — are mostly white men. 
Conversely, those other, also respected, journalists who advocated for Hillary, at least in the general, are fighting the 45 on every possible level and are criticizing some of Bernie’s actions are mostly women and black and gay men. 
This is something I have noticed.”

A woman, a friend, who was one of the most vocal on my feed whenever I would post something about Hillary responded with, “why the hate Ginger?”. Obviously, she was was much more long winded but the gist was that Bernie does good things and I am hating and we need to unify now. First of all, my above message wasn’t hateful. Snarky yes. Hateful no.

However, the reason that I needed to post that, the reason why I am an avid fan of the righteous ire and deliciously relentless courage of Anna March, Sammy Leonard, Rebecca Traister, Rebecca Solnit and Sasha Stone and the reason I can’t yet ‘Unify’ is because I am still angry. Deeply, profoundly, achingly angry.

For the month after the election I cried every day. Or rather, I sobbed ugly, messy, choking sobs every day. I was fucking devastated. All those who avidly supported Hillary were devastated and not just because Trump won. We felt and still feel that of all the many factors that contributed to Hillary losing the election by far the most significant factor was the candidacy of Bernie Sanders.

I want not agreement but understanding that my anger has validity. We are angry and indeed, we are bitter. I know you are too. You are angry that Sanders lost the primary. You are angry at the system. You are angry at injustice of the 45. But you know what the difference is? You and your candidate have not been subjected to ceaseless virulent hate. You really haven’t. Those who disagree with me like to say it was the same on both sides. It was and is not. There was no need for private Sanders groups. Nobody was shouting “Kill the Bern” or “Lock him Up”. Last Monday, Anna March wrote a very reasonable article for Salon exploring many of these issues and as a result she was hacked, stalked and threatened. Her email, bank records and identifying personal information were compromised within hours of posting the article by self-proclaimed Sanders supporters - “YOU ARE A FUCKING IDIOT! YOU DO NOT DESERVE TO WRITE ARTICLES OR TO CLAIM THAT YOU ARE AN ADVOCATE FOR OTHERS! SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LET THOSE OF US THAT ACTUALLY THINK OBJECTIVELY FIGHT FOR RIGHTS! YOU ARE WHAT IS WRONG WITH AMERICA! NYC HAS MANY BRIDGES!! I HOPE YOU JUMP OFF OF ONE SOON!!" She is not the only one, she is only the most recent recipient. If Hillary supporters did this to you or someone you know, I am all ears. Do tell.

I am angry at all this hate. I am angry that the democratic party seems to be more the Enemy than the Trump administration even as they have been waging a mighty battle. I am angry that I felt silenced. I am angry at myself for my own cowardice and for not doing more. I am angry that any kind of real debate seemed so impossible. I am angry that there has come to be such simplistic division within our political sphere.

Let’s dive into that for a moment.

Hillary is criticized because she didn’t support the $15 minimum wage. It is oft cited as The issue that proves she is in the tank for Wall Street. What is often disregarded is that she was in support of that for certain states just not federally where she supported instead, a $12 minimum wage. Which is arguably not only a sound solution but in the same realm of what Sanders fought for. Her proposal isn’t in opposition and that small distinction of $3 does make a difference for small businesses in less affluent states than say, California. Yes, California is rife with economic inequality but it is also the 6th largest economy In.The.World.

I Am a socialist. I am born of poor people, raised by poor people and am still a poor person. I’ve been exploited by credit card companies and banks and jobs and the System. I have no love for Wall Street. I do not however, wanted it all to burn down. I do not want the economy to collapse. There are many reasons but the main one is that thousands upon thousands of social programs, civil rights organizations, protections for marginalized people nationally and globally depend upon a stable American economy. Of course, there needs to be massive change but do you really want to tell a disabled veteran to go fuck themselves and their benefits because it’s ‘time for the revolution man’? Or people relying on food stamps or housing programs or um, roads. Sanders’ proposals rely on a functioning economy and corporate interests. Where do you think all of those taxes are going to come from?

While we’re at it, I also want climate change to be addressed and a dedicated movement away from dependence on fossil fuels towards green energy solutions. I find it abhorrent that there is a skating rink pumping out exhaust in Oakland, CA where the sun shines most every day. I also know that at that rink are great programs for children who have never seen snow and are hungry to have their potential fostered and cared for, (I am talking about brown children right now). Do you know who also wants to fight for environmental protection and for better opportunities for children? Hillary Clinton. She did not support the revised TPP bill. She also had thorough and reasonable solutions to our energy problem. We can’t just stop it all at once. That’s ridiculous and you know it — oh person reading this on your, manufactured using fossil fuels, laptop which requires electricity.

Also, for the record, Hillary did not lose because of Kentucky coal miners. She was not a ‘weak’ candidate or the wrong choice. She did not lose because she didn’t campaign enough in Wisconsin. She did campaign there. She sent a Democratic coalition representative by the name of — Bernie Sanders.

She won the popular vote by a greater margin than any white presidential candidate……………………………………………………………………ever.

I will not go into every issue or every misconception, this article is already quite long enough. Instead, I have provided links to numerous articles that do just that.

I am neither ignoring nor sweeping under the rug her stances on fracking, (which is a complex issue and deserving of greater conversations), or any of the other numerous questionable connections she has fostered rather I truly feel We could have influenced her had she been president. It is what we as concerned citizens and activists do for our causes as John Lewis and Maxine Waters and even Shirley Chisholm would very much like you to get goddamn hip to. There needs to be a recognition that change is not that easy, it is not at all that easy. As my flip-flopping old man has also come to realize. A suit did not make him rich and God did not favor him over us heathens.

Have you, dear savvy readers, started to cotton onto my repeated mentions of my father? Do you think that I might have some Daddy Issues and therefore that explains my complaint with Sanders? If so, you would be right.

I have heaps of Daddy Issues. Or rather, I once had. I’ve worked through that shit. Mostly. I have worked through that shit as much as I can knowing that what forms us — Is. It can be challenged. It can be overcome. But it can never be nullified. We are all a tapestry of the things that have been threaded upon us.

It is also true that it is the women in my family that I trust. It is the women in my family who have been strong. The women, for generations, who have persevered and persisted against great odds. It is the women who have had the grace to accept responsibility for their mistakes and to continue to grow. It is the women,(and my handsome gay uncle), who have always been generous with their love and their care and their commitment. It is the women in my family and otherwise who have worked for the rights of others and these communities. So yeah, I’m a bit biased.

I wanted THE FIRST WOMAN PRESIDENT! Of course, I did. Don’t be daft.

And so, labelling my excitement as ‘Identity Politics’ is supremely insulting. It is the worst kind of dismissiveness which disregards the daily fight that so many of us, particularly women of color, have been waging for decades, centuries, a millennia. If you still really want to throw Identity Politics in my face as a defensible argument, I want to, somewhat violently, stuff you into a time machine and travel back to November 2008.

Come with me.

Let’s witness, shall we, the sheer joy and hope and excitement expressed in the faces of those who poured out into the street in celebration, everywhere from East Lansing to literally, Timbuktu.

“Forget basketball, I’m going to be the next black president!”

Don’t you remember……..?

That Obama did not follow through on many of his campaign promises, made a number of bad decisions during his two terms and was more moderate than many of us would have liked him to be, the sheer fact that he won still matters. It could be posited that the Black Lives Matter movement can trace its origin energy to the fact that Obama was president. And you are a fool if you don’t now, miss the dignity of his presidency.

That monumentally historic moment gave voice to those who have long felt voiceless. It created, if only for awhile, a hope that those who have been denigrated, ignored, brutalized might be recognized. Because all politics are identity politics. It is delusional to think that our background, race, gender, sexuality, religious affiliation or lack thereof, etc.. don’t influence our political choices. We can attempt to look at the facts and data and make reasoned choices but we will never be entirely free of what has made us.

Why am I writing this now?

Why do I need to write that I am still angry at 3rd party voters, at those who stayed home, at those who thought that we had the luxury of a Protest Vote! I am writing this now because I am still so bone-shakingly furious that that absurd, sexist, racist, xenophobic, fraudulent mother fucker is sitting in the chair that I wanted Hillary’s pants suit clad ass to be sitting in!

This is a fact. This is the reality we are living in — right now — and a reality we should all be fighting against but even in the midst of this terrible truth the divisive rancor has not stopped. The skew persists.

Every day it seems there is some fresh new vilification of Hillary. Or Chelsea. Or Corey Booker. Or Obama. Or the DNC. Also every day, there are new terrifying reports from the white house and while we struggle through our horror and our ache, there is Sanders blatantly saying that women’s reproductive rights are not a core issue. That civil rights are not a core issue. That, in fact, his position is, “what is the largest voting bloc in America? Is it gay people? No. Is it African-Americans? No. Hispanics? No. What? …… White working-class people”. Not only is this not true it is egregiously narrow minded.

The irony in this is that I am a white working class person. One who yet knows that there can be no economic justice without social justice. That queer rights, racial rights, immigrant rights, earth rights and yes, women’s rights are are fundamental to any pursuit of economic equality. Full stop.

Truth be told, I will always be a little angry. We had a chance to make history. Good history.

We are now royally fucked and it may take decades to repair the damage of just the last 100 days. I have no doubt that fifty years from now this time will be viewed as a definitive event akin to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Until my dying day, I will bear the scar of this heartbreak on my soul.

But I will ………………………………rise up.

Which brings me to the ultimate point of this article.

The truer reason that I continue to mention my father is because he is responsible for my first political awareness. It is he who, through our furious debates, helped me to cultivate my opinions and my voice. Most importantly, it is through him that I learned that it is simultaneously possible to vociferously disagree with everything a person says and still love them.

I love you, my friend, even though you voted for Jill Stein. I love your voice and for actually helping me to check my privilege. I love you, you wacky men who still don’t really realize that you are not hearing me or know where I am coming from but sometimes, you do. I love you, those men who always have done. I love you, young white woman who voted for Trump because your boyfriend told you to and yet, you listened to me and let me hug you. I love you Drag Queen friend who ‘likes’ my posts even when you disagree. I love you, all you activists and thinkers who care so much and do what you can to make this world a better place. I love you, oh sweet lady, who let me sob and snot on your gorgeous cleavage on November 9th. I love you, you brave folks who spoke out when I could not. I love you, all of you who do the hard work every day serving the suffering, teaching when that is so hard and giving of yourself for all that you believe in.

Slowly but surely, the rift is beginning to heal. Slowly and tentatively, conversations are being had exploring the complexity of the issues facing us. Slowly and sweetly, there has been building a subtle solidarity. I am a ridiculous optimist and I will not quit. I will fight. I will Hope even as the darkness thickens but the cultivation of that hope requires that I say my piece so that slowly and softly now, we can begin — to come together.

It does not begin and end with one man.

It does not begin and end with one woman.

It does not begin and end with any single day.

We are the hoards. We are the multitudes. We are the voices. It begins and hopefully, never ends — with Us.

“Each generation doubtless feels called upon to reform the world. Mine knows that it will not reform it, but its task is perhaps even greater. It consists in preventing the world from destroying itself. Heir to a corrupt history, in which are mingled fallen revolutions, technology gone mad, dead gods, and worn-out ideologies, where mediocre powers can destroy all yet no longer know how to convince, where intelligence has debased itself to become the servant of hatred and oppression, this generation starting from its own negations has had to re-establish, both within and without, a little of that which constitutes the dignity of life and death. In a world threatened by disintegration, in which our grand inquisitors run the risk of establishing forever the kingdom of death, it knows that it should, in an insane race against the clock, restore among the nations a peace that is not servitude, reconcile anew labour and culture, and remake with all of us, the Ark of the Covenant. It is not certain that this generation will ever be able to accomplish this immense task, but already it is rising everywhere in the world to the double challenge of truth and liberty and, if necessary, knows how to die for it without hate. Wherever it is found, it deserves to be saluted and encouraged, particularly where it is sacrificing itself.” ~1957. Albert Camus.