Category Archives: dreaming politics

I’m always pondering how to build a better world. Or how to survive this one. I read, think, dream, act. It’s all here.

Muddled Privilege Conversations

Yesterday I came across a simple, effective lesson on privilege that missed out on something important. It came from a comic by Nathan Pyle, posted first on BuzzFeed and then on the Everyday Feminism site: “How One Teacher Taught the Class a Powerful Lesson about Privilege.”

The Lesson

The teacher instructed students to crumple up pieces of paper and toss them in a recycling bin. Students in the front row had it easy, but oddly enough, students in the back row had it much harder. So far so good. But. The moral at the end.

Your job — as students who are receiving an education — is to be aware of your privilege. And use this particular privilege called “education” to do your best to achieve great things, all the while advocating for those in the rows behind you.

What’s wrong here? In short, it’s all about preserving privilege and power. It’s assuming an audience of privileged people and presenting them with a recommended course of action–all the while ignoring the folks in the back, and with them, any possible chance of doing away with privilege altogether.

Rather than argue my points, let’s play with a couple of different scenarios and see what happens. We’ll name the students in the front row A and B; the second row C and D; and the third row E and F.

Scenario #1: Bow to the Teacher’s Wisdom

All the students throw their crumpled papers. A and B succeed, and consider it a job well done. The second row students try diligently. C barely makes it, while D misses, resolving to try better next time. E and F aren’t even close. They complain bitterly and start arguing with the rest of the class.

“Well, I didn’t make it either, and you don’t hear me complaining,” replies D.

The teacher imparts his wisdom and most of the students nod thoughtfully,  imagining themselves in the front row of life and resolving to be kind to those less fortunate. But the back row students feel something’s off.

After the bell rings, E complains to F: “You mean to say the best I can hope for is to throw my paper, fail, and get a pat on the head from B?”

F shrugs. “Guess so. Jerks.”

(Later that evening, the janitor comes in and cleans up the crumpled papers, feeling mild irritation at these careless, privileged students.)

Scenario #2: Classroom Warfare 

In the middle of the teacher’s speechifying, E breaks out and says, “That was not fair! I demand a redo!”

“What’s your problem?” asks A.

“You’re way up close!” says F.

“That’s not our fault!” says A.

In the second row, C turns around and says, “You sat in the back row. You don’t deserve to score. But I tried.”

E and F start crumpling fresh pieces of paper and get out of their seats for an impromptu redo.

“Sit down, students!” calls the teacher. “I wasn’t done explaining!”

E and F keep moving forward.  Afraid of violence, D asks everybody to quiet down and listen to the teacher. Meanwhile, A, B, and C have gotten out of their seats and formed a protective wall in front of the recycling bin.

A and F start yelling at each other. D starts shouting that it’s just a game. E pushes a chair up to the blockade and starts to climb up, B kicks it away, and A brandishes a ruler. D knocks over a desk. By the time the bell rings, the classroom is trashed and two kids are in detention.

(And the janitor is not pleased.)

Scenario #3: Somebody Uses their Imagination

Before any crumpled papers are thrown, F blows a whistle and says, “This is completely unfair!”

“So what?” says A. “It’s just a game. We sit in the front row, we win. It’s that simple.”

“You people are so sensitive,” says D.

The teacher tries to break in. “Students, this is a lesson about privilege. And your job, as students receiving an education, is to be aware of your privilege, and to advocate for others who are less fortunate.”

F blows the whistle again. “I vote we put the recycling bin in the back of the room. All in favor?” E shouts “Right on!” But C and D just look confused.

“This is a classroom, you moron, not a presidential election,” says A.

But C’s eyes light up. “Let’s put it in the exact middle.”

“Right next to you, of course,” A remarks. “As if.”

“Why do you care?” asks C. “It’s no farther away from you than it is now. You have the same chance of success.”

“Because it’s not FAIR to ME,” says A, with an eyeroll. B snickers and nods.

The teacher scolds A and B, saying, “Remember your privilege, and to advocate for those more fortunate.”

B looks a little abashed. “How about we give them more practice time?”

“Wait, I know!” says E. “We could move the chairs into a circle.”

“Sorry, but no,” says the teacher. “Moving furniture is not allowed for this exercise.”

All eyes turn to the teacher.

“Why?” asks E.

“Because I’m in charge, and I say so.”

“Now, that’s privilege,” says D.

“Well . . . no. . . ” says E, thinking hard. “Not privilege. Power. The power to impart privilege to some and not to others.”

The teacher makes eye contact with A and B and rolls his eyes conspiratorially. “That’s enough for today, students.”

F blows the whistle again. “All in favor of moving the chairs?”

The vote is not even close. The teacher vetoes, and A and B refuse to participate in the vote on the grounds that voting in a classroom is ridiculous. But the second and third rows are unanimous.  Chairs are moved. The game is played. Everybody wins.

(And the janitor has nothing to clean and goes home early.)

The Moral of the Story

It’s all well and good for the front-row students to understand their own privilege. But what then? What is to be done with that information, and who is capable of doing it?

(Aside from offering those questions, I have no Official Wisdom to impart. Make your own moral.)


– Kristin


Bye, bye, LiveJournal!

I love blogging. It’s like keeping a diary, but you self-edit so your posts are not so torturous to read later. And for those times you absolutely must splay your guts on the page, you can write a blog post and mark it “private.” It’s like having a secret pen pal.

I started blogging maybe around 2009? I quickly settled on LiveJournal, partly because other friends of mine were there too. Then Facebook came on the scene, and LiveJournal started doing pushy advertisements, so I switched to WordPress, leaving my old stuff on LiveJournal.

It’s not entirely the same. WordPress feels more professional and less personal, and with less of a sense of community. But it’s where I am.

Meanwhile, something happened with LiveJournal. It turns out it has been owned by a Russian company since 2007, and I neither knew nor cared. But after the 2016 presidential election, in which the Russian government explicitly meddled in the U.S. democracy, I care a damn lot. But more to the point, the servers are now living in Russia and subject to Russian espionage  (guess it wasn’t a secret pen pal after all), Russian law, and Russian censorship. This is happening in the context of human rights abuses in Chechnya relating to LGBT folks. (By the way, there is a call-out to folks to consider donating to an organization called All Out, for emergency evacuation of LGBT folks in Chechnya.  ) LiveJournal put out a new Terms of Service that everyone using LiveJournal had to agree to, and a bunch of people are leaving in droves and moving over to

Here’s a blog post with more info (especially see the comments): New LiveJournal Terms of Service.

So, goodbye LiveJournal. I made a backup on Dreamwidth (under an alias so I can splash fanfiction and whatnot on the page without worrying about the mess) and then I deleted my account. I am copying over some of my more interesting posts to this blog, as time permits, and back-dating them.

emma peel moved her blog

Teaching anti-fascism to kids

All my life I’ve heard “Never forget!” when it comes to the Holocaust. But clearly, something has gone awry. Maybe the meme was too weak. Maybe we needed “Pass it on to the children!” instead. Because there’s a big difference between remembering as an individual and keeping the memory alive in a culture that spans generations.

As a child I read The Diary of Anne Frank, and The Chocolate War, and I watched Fiddler on the Roof and The Sound of Music. These had a big impact on me. But what are my children reading and watching? My assumption was that since I knew the material, my children would know it too. Of course that’s false.

So I was searching for something unrelated (anti-fascism in Europe) and randomly came across a post too awesome not to share. It’s about a workshop done by a multi-ethnic youth arts and education organization in Bosnia. The facilitator reported back on what they did and for which age group, and it sounds like they had a blast!

“Anti-Fascism Day 2016”

And here’s an adorable graphic that had been up on Indymedia Scotland but was made as part of a poster for an anti-fascist meeting in Athens. Modern-day Athena?


– Kristin

Do we value democracy?

A recent Guardian article got me thinking about how much people value democracy and what we expect out of it. The article, “Burst your bubble: five conservative articles for liberals to read as protests stymie Trump”, quoted a neoreactionary thinker who may have influenced Steve Bannon’s thinking. The quote, from “How I stopped believing in democracy,” is:

And, if our goal is really just the faithful execution of a trust, why assume that electoral suffrage of any sort is the most effective way to constitute it? . . . How does Google just skate along without any suffrage at all, whereas Georgia needs elections? And which trust would you guess is more effectively exercised?

Yes, folks, in addition to the voter suppression we saw in the last election, there is a serious effort underway to eliminate voting altogether. The current president, cabinet, and Congress do, collectively, have the ability to seriously erode suffrage.

There is one and only barrier standing in their way: public opinion.

If we have a populace ready to take to the streets in support of universal suffrage–to copy the women’s suffrage movement and the civil rights movement — then our right to vote cannot be taken away no matter what the federal government tries to do. This is the lesson history gives us.

Unfortunately, we don’t. The twenty-first century has seen a significant crisis of faith not only in our political leaders but also in the American people, according to a recent Gallup poll.


From Gallup article “American’s Trust in Political Leaders, Public at New Lows,” September 21, 2016.

A study by the Pew Research center from November 2016 is even less optimistic, with only 34% of the public trusting the collective political wisdom of the American people.

Well, it’s easier to take away universal suffrage from people who don’t believe in it, and that’s why it’s under attack now.

What is to be done? I have three outrageous proposals. Think ’em over.

1. Push for universal suffrage

Our laws exclude plenty of people from voting: undocumented immigrants, felons, ex-convicts, people with the same names as felons and ex-convicts, people who live in areas with limited polling stations, and people who physically can’t leave their house to vote. Is that reasonable? If not, what can be done to change it?

You might be thinking I’m going too far. But consider. Aren’t ex-convicts supposed to have “paid their debt” to society? And don’t undocumented immigrants pay local taxes such as sales tax? And wasn’t the rallying cry of the American Revolution “No taxation without representation“?

Right now, when our system is broken, is the time to question everything.

2. Use democracy everywhere

By this I mean family meetings, book groups, PTA meetings. Be a democracy nerd. Anytime you’re in a group and an unofficial leader says, “Well, it looks like we have consensus. . .” just pipe up and say, “Why don’t we vote on this?” The main objection I see raised is “Oh, we don’t need all that fancy structure” and “It will take too much time.”

Actually, democracy, even in small groups, takes very little time and is efficient. A person starts off by saying, “I move that. . . .” This clarifies the proposal in everybody’s heads. Someone else says, “I second that.” If nobody seconds it, then obviously nobody else thinks it’s a good idea, and it will obviously fail a vote, so the group can drop it and move on.  Then somebody says, “All in favor . . . all against . . . all abstaining.” Count the results, and presto! You know what the group wants to do.

Actually it’s not quite like that. There’s room for discussion after the second and before the vote. That can take time, but chances are it will be quicker than its alternative. And if the discussion drags on past the point of usefulness, somebody can always say, “Call the question!” That means “Shut up and vote already!”

(Geeky interlude here. Technically, if you’re following the official Roberts Rules of Order, you have to vote on whether or not to call the question. In practice, I’ve found this makes people very confused, especially the ones that were still talking. Are we voting on whether to vote, or are we voting on the motion? Then the facilitator explains, but the people who just started talking after the question was asked are confused all over again. A trained facilitator will know when the room is ready to call for a vote, or another method can be used, like a thumbs-up/thumbs-down “temperature check.”)

3. Use democracy in the private sector

This is the most outrageous proposal at all. It brings us full circle to the quote from “How I stopped believing in democracy.” The author asked, “How does Google just skate along without any suffrage at all, whereas Georgia needs elections?”

Well, why don’t workers have the right to vote at Google, or any other company?

If you’re looking at this question squinty-eyed and thinking “What in the heck is she on about?” then this is the time to notice that you’ve internalized a belief that the private sector–even nonprofits–should not be held accountable to the public interest. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not true, but most people have not even thought about it.

The thing is, when we work eight or more hours a day and every meeting we attend has a boss managing the discussion and making all the decisions, we come to expect that even in meetings we hold outside of work. (This goes back to my outrageous proposal #2.) We expect to be powerless everywhere. But what if it was the other way around? What if the public was powerful everywhere instead?



Democracy. Use it or lose it. Our choice.


– Kristin

Election fraud

There’s a debate within the U.S. about whether or not “voter fraud” happened. Did millions of people vote illegally, or is that just another lie? This is the wrong question to ask. It’s taking a big-picture problem and framing one small issue, in order to divide and mislead voters.

It also hides the fact that voters broadly agree on one thing: we want fair elections. The president is calling for a massive investigation of elections but such an investigation will likely exclude:

  • voter suppression — denying eligible citizens the right to vote
  • gerrymandering — dividing up districts in ways favorable to incumbents, and
  • election machines that can be hacked

There’s a lot at stake here. People are pinning their hopes on the 2018 midterm elections, but if we don’t keep a close eye on these three issues, those midterm elections won’t be free or fair. In fact, at the same time as Tromp is stealing center stage on the news, a House committee voted to eliminate the independent election commission because it is “fluff.” (Here’s a link to an article in the Guardian about it.)

So what do we do?

Step one: Pay close attention to language used by the media. If our news sources are talking about “voter fraud,” call them on it. Use a different term, like “election fraud” — one that won’t narrow the issue.

Step two: Get informed and talk to our friends and neighbors. And by the way, if we’re sharing news, let’s look for the most neutral sources possible. A conservative neighbor is no more likely to believe The Nation, for example, than I am to believe Breitbart.

Step three: pick our news sources deliberately rather than waiting to see what new and sensational terror comes through our social media. We should control our viewing of news, not the other way around.

Further Reading

Here are a few quick sources for further reading about ways elections can be compromised:

A Bloomburg Businessweek article on voter suppression, published before the election. These are the words of a senior official in the Tromp campaign:

Instead of expanding the electorate, Bannon and his team are trying to shrink it. “We have three major voter suppression operations under way,” says a senior official. They’re aimed at three groups Clinton needs to win overwhelmingly: idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans.

A New York Times article that discusses the background of partisan gerrymandering:

A panel of three federal judges said on Monday that the Wisconsin Legislature’s 2011 redrawing of State Assembly districts to favor Republicans was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, the first such ruling in three decades of pitched legal battles over the issue.

Federal courts have struck down gerrymanders on racial grounds, but not on grounds that they unfairly give advantage to a political party — the more common form of gerrymandering. The case could now go directly to the Supreme Court, where its fate may rest with a single justice, Anthony M. Kennedy, who has expressed a willingness to strike down partisan gerrymanders but has yet to accept a rationale for it.

That particular case focused on gerrymandering that unfairly favored Republicans, but the article asks us to rethink whether it’s a good idea to let incumbents of either party should have control of redistricting.

CBS article on whether election machines can be hacked:

Roughly 70 percent of states in the U.S. use some form of electronic voting. Hackers told CBS News that problems with electronic voting machines have been around for years. The machines and the software are old and antiquated. But now with millions heading to the polls in three months, security experts are sounding the alarm, reports CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal.

As a counterpoint, the federal Election Assistance Commission says it certifies voting systems:

The Election Assistance Commission told CBS News that it ensures all voting systems are vigorously tested against security standards and that systems certified by the EAC are not connected to the Internet.

But guess what? That’s the exact same Election Assistance Commission the House Republicans committee just voted to eliminate.

No voter, from either side of the aisle, should support that!

cats voting


– Kristin

My path to getting woke, part two

At the end of Monday’s post on getting woke, I promised to write about Professor Colleen McElroy and what she taught me while I was in the creative writing graduate program at the University of Washington. I regret to say I am skipping over my entire undergraduate education, largely for lack of time.

She was an amazing professor with a vast quantity of fascinating stories, which she always told with a conspiratorial twinkle in her eye. For a small taste of her life and her personality, here is an article by Bethany Reid on HistoryLink and an interview by Elizabeth Hoover in the magazine Sampsonia Way. I enjoyed her classes a lot but was fairly silent in her classes, partly because I was shy then and partly because of the awkwardness that comes from systemic racism. Now if you’re a person of color reading what I’m about to say, you might be surprised, and if you’re white you might think, “Oh yes, I know what you mean,” but anyhow, for the longest time, for many years, or rather several decades, I had the mistaken assumption that the internalized racial prejudice that I held — that everyone holds, to one extent or another — would be revealed to all the world if I spoke up and said the wrong thing. This has stopped me from speaking up about race, many times, when I should have.

Where I was most mistaken was in thinking that my internal racial prejudice was unique to me, or that most other white people would care about it one way or another. But even more so was my naive assumption that because the civil rights movement had happened, segregation theoretically ended, and so forth, that if a person held back from making some racist comment it was because they were ashamed of it, like I was. It’s clear now, from the enormous backlash against “political correctness,” that a whole lot of white people were silent only because of social conventions.

In other words, I cared a lot more about racism than a lot of other white people, but I was less likely to speak up. I’m still in recovery on that one. I find it much easier to write about racism than to speak about it, even with close friends.

Colleen McElroy exposed me to a wide swath of voices I would never have heard otherwise. To name a few: bell hooks, Gloria Anzaldua, Isabel Allende, and Carolyn Forché. These voices framed my understanding of concepts such as the politics of art, race, and immigration; and they also provided a launching off point for learning more and more and more.

One of the books she taught was:

Points of Departure: International Writers on Writing & Politics, David Montenegro, University of Michigan Press, 1991


From the cover blurb:

In these times of political transformation and turmoil around the globe, Points of Departure offers incisive and passionate reflections on literature and politics by ten of the world’s leading writers. David Montenegro’s interviews with these novelists and poets, some living in exile, focus on the relationship of the writer’s work to political violence and oppression and examine the troubling tensions between art and social responsibility.

There’s an ongoing debate about “whether or not art should be political” and I have to say, after reading this book, I look at people who believe you can separate the two and wonder: What world are you living in?

The texts here put me on the path to getting “woke” not exclusively about racism but also about the lived experiences of people who have endured imperialism, colonialism, and so forth. And the understanding that many terrible realities have been too often whitewashed in our history and our news. This is of course still going on.

Below are quotations from two texts that provided a-ha moments for me, one by Isabel Allende and one by Carolyn Forché. I will leave them as is without discussion or interpretation.

From David Montenegro’s interview of Isabel Allende about the day of the military coup in Chile, in which her uncle, Senator Allende, was deposed and killed, here are some snippets.


Well, I was a journalist at that time, and that day I got up very early in the morning, as I usually do. I prepared my children for school, like any day, and went to my office. I didn’t realize there was a coup. . . .

By two o’clock, more or less, I learned that Allende was dead and that many of my friends were in hiding; others were killed; others were in prison. But at that moment it was very difficult to realize exactly what was happening. It was a time of great confusion. And rumors. On television we only had military marches and Walt Disney movies. It was so surrealistic, so strange. . . .

[T]he very day of the coup, soldiers would cut the pants of women in the streets with scissors because they wanted ladies to wear skirts, which was proper. . . .

(pp 110-115)

And here is a bit from Carolyn Forché prose poem “The Colonel,” which details a poet’s interview with a colonel. It begins in mundane domesticity, with the wife bringing coffee and sugar and the daughter filing her nails. Midway through the interview:

The colonel returned with a sack used to bring groceries home. He spilled many human ears on the table. They were like dried peach halves. There is no other way to say this. . . .

(pp 75-76)

So then.

Opening my eyes to the world in this way was not the most pleasant gift I have ever received, but is certainly one of the most important. Thank you, Professor Colleen McElroy.


image from awritersalchemy.

– Kristin

My path to getting woke

In Seattle, people of color – in particular, indigenous people – LED the march. That’s the way to do it. One of my eye-openers was the bell hooks book From Margin to Center which laid out very clearly and practically why folks on the margins understand the world in ways folks in the center don’t. It’s a matter not only of justice but of practicality that we center the voices of women and color right now.

I posted that comment on a friend’s facebook page and followed it up with another post to mine:

Only a fraction of the people who attended Seattle’s Womxn’s March yesterday would have heard this–the mike only carried so far–but in the opening remarks the speaker gave respect for Judkins Park being on Coast Salish land, and that indigenous people would be leading the march. A HUGE cheer went up at this news. Later, two bald eagles graced the march. I take all this as a sign that the new womxns movement is heading in the right direction.

Until recently, it wouldn’t have even occurred to me that putting women of color first in a march might be a good idea, or that anybody would even understand if I said it. That’s the ignorance of white privilege. But to my surprise and pleasure, a huge number of friends clicked “like.” So I think I am along the path to getting woke, and doing so in community.

I expect some of you readers are looking at me right now like I’m a weirdo.  But if you have some patience, feel free to follow along and see how I got to where I am.

What does “getting woke” mean? Roughly, becoming aware of racial justice issues. There’s an article about it on dailykos, just as a starting point. If you haven’t heard the concept, take a minute to read that before reading the rest of this post.

Okay, done?

So. My steps toward getting woke. Some of it’s reading books, talking to people, listening to speakers, and some of it’s from making mistakes. Altogether it’s a long and ongoing process but I have gratitude to everyone along the way.

The first people who helped me “get woke” were my liberal parents, the conversations we had, the book they got me. And then middle school: the substitute teacher who told us stories of times there were two water fountains, one for “white” and one for “colored” and since he was biracial, he never knew which to use. I remember his kindness to us and the frustration he felt as he spoke, because of the difficulty in communicating what those times were truly like.

There was a sharp division in middle school, which took me a long time to understand. I attended Washington Middle School in Seattle, an almost entirely black school that had implemented busing for desegregation, by which I mean they bused white kids from the north end from the advanced learning program, meaning that the district was less segregated, but the school was more.

By high school my family was living in Salt Lake City, and there was my high school teacher who said Martin Luther King was a “troublemaker.” This woke me to understand not everybody was like my liberal parents, and that history didn’t proceed from race hatred to everybody singing kumbaya.

One time for journalism I distributed a survey asking people two questions: did they think white and black people were equal, and is mixed marriage okay. If I recall correctly, everybody who responded believed in equality, but only half in mixed marriage.

Then there was the time my mom dated a black man, and we lived in a house where the front door was stuck so we only ever used the back door, and my mom’s date explaining to me that he was always afraid a cop would see him sneaking in our back door and arrest him.

That gets me through high school, in bits and pieces. I had no black friends in high school. In fact, my entire high school had no black kids. That’s how it was.  I’ll just go ahead and skip undergraduate school, although some learning took place there, and move forward to graduate school. Because there’s a professor I need to express gratitude to, and that’s Colleen McElroy, who exposed me to some amazing poets and writers of color. I’ll talk about her in my next post.

More concerning than Tromp

Suppose for a moment that our president-elect is not the main threat to our freedom but a buffoon whose primary purpose is to be so outrageous as to distract everyone from worse things happening. And suppose for a moment that everything U.S. citizens have taken for granted is no longer a certainty. As someone who reads dystopic science fiction and has paid attention to happenings in Latin American countries, and as someone with children who will inherit tomorrow, I think about these things.

It’s easy to get frightened here, but let’s not. Let’s start with the assumption that the worst we could imagine is preventable. In this case, the first step is to predict it. If you’re somebody who hasn’t paid a lot of attention to what’s happened in other countries, now’s the time. So, here’s a link to an interview with author Isabel Allende explaining what happened the day of the military coup in Chile, when democracy was suddenly abolished.  And here’s a link to some excerpts from the novel Horizontalism by Marina Sitrin, which talks about the day that Argentina froze bank accounts and used the money to pay off an IMF loan, leaving people without their savings for months. Anyway, those were my starting points for understanding the world around me a little better.

Right now it’s clear that the New Deal and civil rights legislation, both hard-won in the twentieth century, are under attack by our current Congress. And people are already worried that loss of the Affordable Care Act will cost lives, and asking whether Medicare and Social Security might be next.

What other damage could Congress do? I can think of a lot of things — defund the EPA, repeal worker protections, and more.

But what aren’t we thinking about? How about a substantial revision to the Constitution, dramatically limiting the federal government’s ability to raise taxes and pass laws?

That’s impossible, right? No. According to the article “Corporate America is Inching Even Closer to a Constitutional Convention” on the web site In These Times, apparently, the U.S. close to having something that hasn’t taken place in the entire history of our country: a constitutional convention.

According to Article V of the U.S. Constitution, the states can convene a constitutional convention without the federal government’s go-ahead if two-thirds (34) of them pass a resolution in favor. Right-wing organizations—and their billionaire funders—have been working feverishly for decades to get state legislatures to call for such a convention, with the explicit aim of limiting the powers of the federal government.

According to the Constitution, such a convention would only have the power to propose amendments, which would then be ratified only upon approval by three fourths of the states.

What’s concerning here is that model legislation has been written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and if you don’t know what that is, now’s the time to find out! I like to think of them as a fourth branch of our government–the corporate branch. Unelected, secret, unaccountable. And there has been a dry run of a constitutional convention using ALEC’s model legislation.

That warrants close scrutiny. In a Tromp era, with more and more people angry at the federal government, efforts to limit it will be popular among both the right and the left. But here’s the rub: curtailing federal rights can make states more tyrannical. As the article points out:

But ALEC doesn’t just fight for states’ rights over the federal government. It fights for states’ rights over everything else, including local governments. After focusing on state legislatures for decades, they now hold decisive control in states across the country, which they have used to stalemate state budgets, and push an avalanche of “state preemption” laws to entrench state control over local towns, villages, cities and counties.

It’s also worth noting that the recent federal election, which put in place a conservative president, Congress, and governors were affected by voter suppression, including voter ID laws proposed by ALEC. The issue of voter suppression, detailed in an article in The Nation, is one of the most under-reported stories about the recent election, but also one of the scariest.

What else aren’t we thinking about?

How about the bizarre goings-on within the U.S. intelligence community–the CIA, the FBI, and whatever Homeland Security is doing? Hacking, Russian blackmail, and who knows what else. It’s like there’s some turf war going on with unknown stakes. Yesterday Anonymous came forward with a threat to release damaging material on our president-elect — after having made but not followed through on a similar threat before the election. That’s surprising enough on its own, but an even bigger surprise to me is that when I checked the news, the top hit announcing this threat was not for any traditional media but rather rt dot com.

Anybody know what that is? Leftists have been forwarding lots of articles from it. Really, anything damaging to the president-elect appears legit to us. We’ve gotten lazy.

But remember: the enemy of our enemy is not necessarily our friend.

That website, which jumped to the very top of my news feed, is Russia Today — the Russian state-owned media. Why did it jump to the top? Is it because it’s that popular, or because my news feed has been personalized? It’s concerning either way. Because whoever can manipulate the news can manipulate the nation. And to what end? What does Putin want? Would destabilizing the U.S. help him achieve his goals?

Our representative government is a big stinking mess right now. People have lost faith in it, for good reason, and with every new Tromp scandal our faith grows weaker.

But there are no other democratic proposals out there on the table. Our constitution and our system of elected officials is, at the moment, the best thing we have. Let’s not throw them out the window.

To make a long story short, what’s more concerning than Tromp? The possible loss of our democratic institutions. That’s what. Let’s keep a sharp eye and all our wits about us in the days and weeks to come. Watch the news, but also watch behind the news.


– Kristin King

Learning from Women

In 2014, I attended a weekend workshop in Oregon, called the Fishtrap Winter Gathering. The theme was “Learning from Women,” and it was a weekend of talks, readings, and workshops by Molly Gloss, Ursula Le Guin, and Tony Vogt. It was a marvelous experience that changed my thinking in many ways, and I have never described it to my satisfaction. I did make one post to the Aqueduct Press blog, “Report from the Fishtrap Winter Workshop.”

First up was a discussion of the definition of women. Throughout the workshop, it was awkward to talk about “women” as a whole, because of gender essentialism. We did it anyway. There was an acknowledgment that the definition is shaky and incomplete, and a general invitation to men to take on the honorary name of “women” for the duration of the workshop, but that by and large, across cultures, women have been socialized to take on certain roles and certain ways of being.

There is a cultural division, and in it, the role of “men” is privileged. Ways of thinking, being, doing. An assumption that women will be liberated when we take on those roles. But why not the other way around?

At the moment I’m thinking about all these things in the context of the left. The group I’ve been working with got an influx of new members (hooray!) that is mostly men, and thinking, “Oh, this again” with a certain sense of exhaustion. It’s not the big things but the little things, like do you put smiley faces in your emails or not, when you should ask nicely or express gratitude. In mostly women’s spaces, we do all these things, and we do them to build community. In mixed or mostly men’s spaces, it comes across looking like weakness.

How does a group handle interruptions? Men often interrupt more and get more air time. If you want to change it, do you ask women to interrupt more, or men to interrupt less? Is there a social benefit to taking turns?

Just the little things.

More later.


Pierre-Auguste Renoir – Confidences


Neo-fascism trounced in sci fi, 2016

Last year I posted an essay about neo-fascist goings-on in the science fiction community. To make a long story short, a racist, misogynist troll who calls himself “Voice of God” and owns a publishing house in Finland used Gamergate tactics to hijack the ballot for science fiction’s prestigious Hugo Awards.

At the time, I was shocked and alarmed by the blatant neo-fascist rhetoric used by the troll and the normalization that had taken place in the science fiction community. (He had run for president of Science Fiction Writers of America even after using an outrageous racial slur against N.K. Jemisin, and a stunning ten percent of people had voted for him.)

In hindsight, I see that the racist far right has made inroads everywhere. Because about a fourth of the U.S. electorate voted in someone who is looking to be an actual fascist.

But here’s the good news: the science fiction community organized and the science fiction community won. Whatever else happened in 2016 that sucked, a bright spot is that he was roundly defeated. You can read more about that in the IO9 blog article “Hugo Awards Celebrate Women in Sci-Fi, Send Rabid Puppies to Doghouse” by Beth Elderkin.

Science fiction represents the dreams of our community. And dreams are powerful. If science fiction fans can come together to defeat neo-fascism with their own community, then everyday people in the U.S. can defeat white supremacy, actual fascism, and all the rest of that garbage.

We can win.

I’ll finish up by a quote from N.K. Jemisin:

. . . all this anger and discussion reflects a struggle for the soul of the organization, which is in turn reflective of a greater struggle for the soul of the genre, and that overall struggle taking place globally. . . .

Diverse voices are here to stay.