Adrienne Rich, 1929-2012

We mourn the loss of Adrienne Rich, radical, lesbian, feminist, poet, and essayist.  UPDATED: Since the LA Times obituary neglects to mention her lesbianism, I have been requested to reprint one of Rich’s more powerful and memorable quotes, from the forward to On Lies, Secrets and Silence:

It is … crucial that we understand lesbian/feminism in the deepest, most radical sense: as that love for ourselves and other women, that commitment to the freedom of all of us, which transcends the category of “sexual preference” and the issue of civil rights, to become a politics of asking women’s questions, demanding a world in which the integrity of all women—not a chosen few—shall be honored and validated in every respect of culture.

It seems most appropriate to reprint, then, her poem, “For the Dead.”  All of her poems are available here.

For the Dead

I dreamed I called you on the telephone
to say: Be kinder to yourself
but you were sick and would not answer

The waste of my love goes on this way
trying to save you from yourself

I have always wondered about the left-over
energy, the way water goes rushing down a hill
long after the rains have stopped

or the fire you want to go to bed from
but cannot leave, burning-down but not burnt-down
the red coals more extreme, more curious
in their flashing and dying
than you wish they were
sitting long after midnight

Adrienne Rich

Trayvon Martin and Dred Scott

Another excellent article.

And this is what brings us to the terrifying present, a period some 155 years later, but during which time it appears there are still far too many in the white community (and even some among persons of color) who would return us to the logic of Dred Scott. This they make clear from their hateful and bigoted musings about Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old black male who made the mistake, in their mind, of forgetting that he had no rights which white men (or even Latino white-male-wannabes like George Zimmerman) need respect. No right to go where he pleased, “without molestation,” no right to be treated like a citizen, indeed like a human being. No rights to due process, to peaceably assemble on a public street, to free speech (which he foolishly tried to exercise by asking his pursuer, Zimmerman, why he was following him), to be free from cruel and unusual punishment (such as extra-judicial execution for being black in a hoodie and thus arousing the suspicions of a paranoid negrophobe). No rights at all.
And not even the well-established right to self-defense — the very right Zimmerman would now claim for himself, but which apparently did not extend to the young man whose life he ended. And so we hear (whether true or not — it remains to be seen) that Zimmerman had a broken nose and head injuries, that Martin attacked him: never mind that Zimmerman took out after Martin, that Zimmerman accosted Martin and asked him what he was doing in the neighborhood, that, according to witnesses, it was Zimmerman who pinned Martin down. We are supposed to feel sorry for the shooter because even in the light most favorable to him, his victim might have actually fought back! Imagine that, fighting back against a total stranger who attacks you. That Martin would still be alive and Zimmerman would never have suffered the indignity of a broken septum, nor the anger of millions aimed in his direction had he just kept his stupid ass in his SUV like the police told him to do apparently matters not. Because, as some wish to remind us, Trayvon Martin had been suspended for school on suspicion of marijuana possession (an allegation so weak that he received no citation for the incident); and because Trayvon didn’t have a receipt for those Skittles he had in his possession when he was murdered (as if any 17 year old asks for a receipt when they purchase candy like they were going to need it for an expense report); and because Trayvon posed like a gangster on Facebook. Oh no, sorry, wrong Trayvon, but racists are like the Honey Badger–they don’t give a shit.

Trayvon Martin and the Fugitive Slave Law

An excellent article by philosopher Robert Gooding-Williams:

On Delany’s account, the effect of the Fugitive Slave Law, at least as Judge McClean interprets it, is to subject all unowned black persons to the domination of all white persons. For by requiring that the self-proclaimed slave catcher be taken at his word, the law leaves unconstrained the ability of any white person to arrest and seize any black person. In effect, it renders all titularly free blacks vulnerable to the power available to all whites in exactly the way that, according to Frederick Douglass, a black slave is vulnerable to the power exercised by his or her white master.

The affinity to the Trayvon Martin incident is perhaps obvious. Chief Lee’s statement that Zimmerman was not arrested for lack of evidence sufficient to challenge his claim that he had not acted in self-defense (“We don’t have anything to dispute his claim of self-defense”) appears to imply that, absent such evidence, a white or otherwise non-black man (there is some controversy as to whether Zimmerman should be identified as white, or Hispanic, or both, although no one seems to be claiming he is black) claiming self-defense after killing a black man is simply to be taken at his word. It is hard to resist the thought that race matters here, for who believes that, had an adult African American male killed a white teenager under similar circumstances, the police would have taken him at his word and so declined to arrest him?

…In short, it appears that whites (or other non-blacks) may hunt down blacks with immunity from arrest so long as they leave behind no clue that they were not acting to defend themselves; or, to echo Martin Delany, that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law threatens to render some citizens subject to the arbitrary wills of others.

(Via New Apps.)

When did Cracked become so feminist?

I remember Cracked magazine from my childhood, and it wasn’t like this.

This current of white-hot rage has to come as a surprise to some of you, because we tend to think “sexism” is being dismissive toward women, or paying them lower salaries — we don’t think of it as frenzied “burn the witch!” hatred. Yet occasionally something like this Limbaugh thing will come along to prick that balloon, and out it pours. Like it’s always waiting there, a millimeter below the surface.
Why? Well, you see …

The article then goes on to outline ways that men and boys are trained to “hate women”.

The article is not without flaws, by any means. But it’s a far cry from the Cracked Magazine of my childhood. (Unless I’m misremembering. In which case I’m sure J-Bro will set me straight.) And it’s really surprising to find this in a humour magazine.

Thanks, T!

Famous Five Kicked Off New Canadian Fifty Dollar Bill

Canada’s newest bank notes — $50 bills made from a plastic polymer — started circulating Monday. Sadly the Famous Five aren’t on them.

The front of the new note features a portrait of Sir William Lyon Mackenzie King, while the back depicts the Arctic research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen. Missing are the Famous Five, the women who are responsible for women being considered “persons under the law” in Canada.

“It may seem like an innocuous change, but it is a symbol of a pattern of assault on women’s issues by the Harper government,” said Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees President Carol Furlong. “The battle that these women fought to have women recognized under the law as people is a crucial part of our country’s history. The decision to remove a reference to these women, their struggle and their historic accomplishment from the new 50 dollar bill should be reversed.”

famousfivebill4

Read more:

CBC, New plastic $50 bills go into circulation, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/03/26/fifty-dollar-bank-note.html

The Famous Five Clearly Not Important: http://womensaccessfoundation.org/blog/2011/12/07/the-famous-five-clearly-not-important/

NAPPE News Release, http://women.gov.ns.ca/assets/files/NEWS%20RELEASE_NAPE%20President%20opposed%20to%20removal%20of%20Famous%20Five%20from%2050%20Dollar%20Bill.pdf