Archive for Patriarchy

Sunday Morning Talk Show Fantasy Guest Lineup, Women Talking About Syria Edition

Some people have fantasy football teams.  I have fantasy Sunday morning talk show guest panels that are made up entirely of women.  These are my picks for my fantasy panel, Syria edition.

As U.S. posturing on Syria has escalated, the media has trotted out old white guy after old white guy as “experts”, never mind many of them are the same men who lied to us about chemical weapons in Iraq and then commenced to bomb the Iraqis with all manner of chemical weapons which left a horrifying epidemic of cancer, birth defects and death in that country and have backed U.S. policies that have contributed to the current situation in Syria and Middle East unrest in general.

I think most of us are supremely tired of listening to these guys and of a media that simply parrots the  talking points of U.S. military domination.

Imagine if instead they presented a balanced view that brought in people who articulate alternative visions and oh what the heck, how about we just kick all the men out and listen to women for a change.

So for the benefit of the media,  here are some voices you ought to be including as commentators in your coverage of Syria:

1.  Sarah Van Gelder writes in Yes! Magazine that, “there are at least six strategies that could hold wrongdoers to account, deter war crimes of all sorts, and build peace”:

  1. Bring those guilty of atrocities to justice
  2. Call for a United Nations embargo on arms, military supplies, and logistical support for both Damascus and opposition forces
  3. The U.N. Security Council should hold an international peace conference
  4. Offer aid and support to the nonviolent movements within Syria
  5. Provide the humanitarian aid desperately needed by the millions of displaced people
  6. Force the hand of Russia and China in the Security Council

2.  The women’s human rights organization MADRE similarly calls for the Obama Administration to:

  1. Stop the flow of weapons into Syria
  2. Renew focus on diplomacy to end the conflict
  3. Increase humanitarian aid to the region

3.  The Nobel Women’s Initiative (who unlike President Obama, are using their status as Nobel Peace Prize winners  to promote peaceful solutions) has put out a statement that reads:

The use of chemical weapons in Syria is a crime that cannot be ignored but bombing Syria is not the answer. Military intervention in Syria can only lead to more death and destruction, and further fuel the volatile situation in the region.

We applaud the vote of the UK’s Parliament against endorsing British involvement in attacks on Syria, and call upon the United States to step back from the brink of attacking yet another country in the Middle East/North Africa region. Such a move can only result in more hatred, more violence and more retaliation.

We call upon the UN Security Council to accept its responsibility to act in response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria instead of the ongoing posturing of its members based on their own self-interest instead of concern about the people of Syria.

We urge the Security Council to ensure the nonviolent resolution of this crisis within the ongoing crisis of the civil war in Syria. We call upon the Security Council to refer the matter to the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

We also call on the International Community to urgently convene the Syria Peace Conference, known as Geneva II, and to ensure women meaningfully participate. (emphasis mine)

4.  Sonali Kolhatkar of KPKF’s Uprising radio program and Co-Director of the Afghan Women’s Mission writes,

Students of American imperial history do not have to look too far back to see the disastrous consequences of bombing dictatorial governments. As the debate over a US military strike on Syria heats up in Congress, American antiwar activists are clear in their opposition to the push for war. And they are correct to oppose any sort of military strikes if the long arc of destructive US foreign policy is to be trusted to remain the same.

5.  Medea Benjamin points out that most Americans do not support the idea of bombing Syria.

6. Amnesty International looks at the problems of sexual harassment and forced marriages faced by Syrian women refugees.

7.  The Women’s Media Center’s Women Under Siege has run a number of pieces about women in Syria.

The U.S. media owes its audience a fair and balanced representation of the issues, not just pro-war talking points and they need to include women’s voices and concerns as part of that discussion.


Postscript–As several readers have pointed out, I left out the crucial voice of Phyllis Benis.

Patriotism Reconsidered

As the flags are waved and the parades marched this 4th of July, we would do well to consider the freedom and independence we claim to cherish and defend.  In decidedly different ways, Edward Snowden’s leaking of NSA documents and Texas State Senator Wendy Davis’ filibuster have challenged us to think about what it means to stand up for what we believe in, in ways that don’t involve spending billions of dollars fortifying our borders, stopping and frisking without cause, arresting people for expressing their First Amendment rights in washable chalk, perpetually attacking other countries,  the highest rate of incarceration in the world, and the highest per capita rate of gun ownership.

Bill Moyers reports that,

In just the six months since the Newtown killings there have been more Americans murdered by guns than the 4,409 United States armed forces killed in the Iraq war.

Aside from the fact that fighting spurious wars against other nations most decidedly makes us more vulnerable rather than safe, on our own streets and in our own homes, every day, we are waging war against ourselves.

Our military meanwhile censors news in defense of free speech and insists that maintaining the chain of command and good order trump legitimate prosecution of sexual assaults within the ranks, completely missing the point that the epidemic of personal violence being perpetrated by those who have sworn to protect us completely belies any semblance of a functional chain of command or good order.

At the same time, we have ignored both our own complicity in and the consequences of global warming.  How is it that the President just got around to making a major speech on that subject?

Last week there was an insert in my PEPCO bill that informed me that 41% of my power came from coal, 18.6% came from gas, 34% came from nuclear and only 5.7% came from renewable sources.  Meanwhile we are told that we must frack, never mind that it causes water to catch on fire and earthquakes, and we still don’t have a clue how to store nuclear waste (because the truth is it can’t be safely done) and we build tar sands pipelines through our farmland, wilderness and suburbs, and commit mountaintop mastectomies.  Our air and land and water are polluted, wildfires rage and entire cities flood.

And too, we cut education spending, close schools and fire teachers, and saddle our college students with impossible debt. Even with “Obamacare” there will still be those who do not have insurance.  In our legislatures and in Congress, a war is being waged against women’s reproductive rights. And retirement?  Don’t even go there. And Wall Steet?  Well it’s doing just fine.

That is the nitty gritty of the democracy for which we wave our flags. As Team America put it so eloquently, America, fuck yeah.

Josh Marshall (no relation) of Talking Points Memo makes the point that  American democracy is dependent on secrecy as an integral part of its defense and questions whether breaking that secrecy (even when it exposes the abuse of that mandate) is acceptable,

Let me put my cards on the table. At the end of the day, for all its faults, the US military is the armed force of a political community I identify with and a government I support. I’m not a bystander to it. I’m implicated in what it does and I feel I have a responsibility and a right to a say, albeit just a minuscule one, in what it does. I think a military force requires a substantial amount of secrecy to operate in any reasonable way. (emphasis mine) So when someone on the inside breaks those rules, I need to see a really, really good reason. And even then I’m not sure that means you get off scott free. It may just mean you did the right thing…
…And I’m very skeptical of the notion that what Snowden did is awesome just because leaking state secrets is always a heroic act.

No question, America does indeed depend on secrecy.  But as The New Yorker points out,

Snowden took classified documents from his employer, which surely broke the law. But his real crime was confirming that the intelligence agencies, despite their strenuous public denials, have been accumulating vast amounts of personal data from the American public.

Yes, precisely.  And ask yourself this–Can you defend democracy with secrecy and spying or do those acts in fact completely undermine what you claim to hold dear?

Patriotism is a dangerous notion.  It assumes the supremacy of the state  that requires the constant exertion of ‘power over’ to maintain and the sanctity of borders that imply a damaging assumption of dominion and ownership which destroy any possibility of real freedom or democracy.

It’s time, past time, to reconsider what that flag we so proudly wave really represents and to stand up for the values that we hold dear.

At What Cost?

And so we finally got Bin Laden.  In the run-up to the President’s announcement as the news pundits could hardly find enough superlatives to fill the time, my only thought was “at what cost?”.

This war of retribution has cost us dearly, and by us I mean the global us.  In Afghanistan and Iraq the most, countries ruined, so many innocent lives lost.

Here in the U.S., not only did we lose those who died on September 11th, but so many who were sent to fight, dead and maimed too.  And in the process, we have all but bankrupted our country, social services decimated, education cut, children hungry, people without jobs or homes or healthcare.

How sad that this is how we define victory.

And That Was The Day That Was–Monday Edition

Epic Days are becoming far too common place, and not in a good way.  From today’s headlines–A no fly zone in Libya that seems to be taking out about as many civilians as targets in order to support rebels of uncertain political aspirations (perhaps on the assumption that they could hardly be crazier than Gaddafi and dammit, we need that oil).  Memo to the good people of Sudan, Ivory Coast and other places where innocent civilians are under siege–sorry, your lives aren’t worth jack unless you’ve got something we want.

And while everyone is totally distracted, Israel starts in on Gaza again.  Meanwhile existing home sales skidded, well actually nose-dived would be a better adjective, the NRC says no changes needed in the U.S. nuclear program while the Japanese figure out how to deal with radioactive lettuce and milk and still smoking reactors not to mention the significant percentage of their country that just got trashed by Mother Nature.

The World Bank says no worries though, the Japanese disaster won’t have a long term effect on the global economy. Oh and trophy pictures have surfaced of U.S. soldiers gloating over dead civilians in Afghanistan, which couldn’t possibly be true because Abu Ghraib was just a few bad apples.

I probably missed a few things, but truly that is enough, and that was just today.  Dear ones, we cannot continue like this.  Kurt Vonnegut warned us about becoming what we pretend to be.  But we seem hellbent in doing just that and it is a very sorry sight.

From June Jordan’s “The Revolution Now”

The following is an excerpt from “The Revolution Now:  Update On Beloved Community”, an essay by June Jordan written in 1997 and delivered at a celebration of Martin Luther King’s life.  Necessary strength and faith during these overwhelming times, and still so relevant:

June Jordan

June Jordan

And you cannot achieve a stabilized mutually respectful, conscientious, neither dominant nor submissive, love, without a revolution of the spirit that invented and imposed and enforced iniquities of inequality in the first place.

Is there reason for hope?…

,,,I know there is.

It may be small.  It may be dim.  But there is a fire transfiguring the muted, the daunted spirit of people everywhere.  Like the “still small voice” that came to the prophet Elijah, this is not a spectacular, televised conflagration.  But the burning away of passivity and misplaced anger and self-loathing among the poor and the invisible and the inaudible and the insecure and the economically dispensable and the socially ostracized–that burning away persists like the undeniable light from the farthest stars.

I know that it is happening.

–from Affirmative Acts, pg. 207

Terrorizing Women And Children In The Name Of Democracy

Yesterday’s observance of International Women’s Day began for me with a sober reminder that women’s lives, and those of their children, are still under siege both here in the U.S. and everywhere. The front page of my morning newspaper carried this truly disheartening picture of women in black as it were, voting in Iraq, a testament to the deterioration of women’s rights in Iraq, where previous to the U.S. invasion, women were among the most privileged in the Arab world. Now they are seen in restrictive clothing, voting while invisible.


Radio Free Europe reports that,

“There’s been significant attention paid to the role of women in this weekend’s parliamentary elections, both as voters and as candidates. Much of the discussion has centered around how Iraqi women will participate in the vote. There’s been some concern over the potential for Iraqi men to unduly influence the votes of their female relatives. A number of citizens speaking to RFE/RL’s Radio Free Iraq admitted that such pressure was commonplace.

One citizen, Abu Milad, told RFI that he was sure his wife would vote for whomever he votes for. Hussein Abdel-Rahman, a young college student, admitted that he will attempt to sway his sisters’ voting choices, but attributed this phenomenon to the nature of Iraqi society, which is dominated by what he calls the “Eastern view” of relations between men and women…

…Young women from a village in Diyala province told RFI that many women in rural areas were being told that they were not allowed to leave their house to participate in the elections. They added that the male members of many households had collected the voter registration cards of all the women in their family, and planned to cast ballots on behalf of their female relatives, in addition to their own.”

Democracy? Not. But what nailed me was the article directly beneath the picture reporting that our state legislature in Kentucky once again is suffering from an acute case of brain in paranoid dick disease with some of our abortion phobic representatives trying to hijack 2 bills aimed at improving children’s lives by insisting on the addition of anti-abortion language.

Call it a tale of 2 fundamentalisms. If we really wanted to end terrorism, the first place to look is clearly at home.

On a related note, the U.S. military continues to prey on our children, marketing the fighting of war as an opportunity for occupational training and education, while the fine print on the sign up contract tells a different story. Young women in particular however face additional risk of being sexually assaulted by these snake oil recruiters. Learning Not Recruiting* has issued their annual compendium of suspect behavior by recruiters that has been reported (which they quickly point out is likely to be the tip of the iceberg in terms of actual number of cases). As they note in an email,

“With whatever other crimes in frauding, drug dealing, questionable enlistments, etc. that are committed, the vast majority of the reports involve sexual assault, rape and manipulation of young girls by recruiters.”

Documented reports for 2009:

1. Police: Army recruiter had sex contact with teen
2. Army Recruiter Arrested on Sex Charge
3. Army recruiter pleads not guilty
4. Recruiter uses slur at high schools
5. Former Recruiter Gets 3 Years on Child Sex
6. National Guard recruiter pleads guilty in theft
7. Marine guilty in sex assault of stepniece
8. Army recruiter disciplined
9. Ex-Guard recruiter sentenced to prison
10. Area Navy recruiter charged with statutory rape of
11. Marine recruiter faces 14 felonies
12. Case impugns Marine recruiting
13. Parents of recruit sue the Army, say they were
14. Marine recruiter gets 3 years for sexual assault
15. Air Force recruiter charged with selling drugs
16. Marine recruiter charged with pimping girl, 14
17. Recruiter allegedly propositioned student
18. Ex-CCHS Army recruiter under investigation
19. Former Marine recruiter pleads guilty of rape
20. Miramontes guilty of manslaughter
21. Recruiter charged in child prostitution sting
22. 2 recruiting bosses fired after suicide probe
23. U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal
Appeals: US v. Scholz (Conviction upheld against
recruiter who had sex with and impregnated 14-
year-old 9th grade student)
24. Low morale, stress blamed in Army recruiter
25. U.S. Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals: US v.
Curran (Conviction of recruiter on multiple sex
offenses upheld)
26. Marine gunnery sergeant jailed 90 days for
27. Substance abuse appears a problem among stressed
Army recruiters

We read about the abuse of child soldiers in what the press paints as darkest Africa, all too easy to ignore because it is over there and it is someone else’s children. But it isn’t just over there, it is here too. It is terrorism being committed against our own children, and most assuredly not the defense of democracy.

Meanwhile, the military enjoys impunity from the damage caused by dumping toxics near military bases, perchlorate pollution and weaponry leashed on civilian populations such as Fallujah causing all manner of health problems, especially for children whose tiny bodies are the most vulnerable and birth defects and miscarriages.

Yet hardly a day goes by that we do not hear from our country’s leaders that they are spending billions more to fight terrorism and keep us safe from the enemy while our schools are pretty literally reduced to holding bake sales to stay solvent. Orwellian doublespeak at its finest, or as Pogo would have said, we have met the enemy and he is we. Poisoning children, sexually assaulting women and girls, depriving women of their rights while the country goes bankrupt–we are not safer and any notion that this is democracy is delusional. We are not only terrorizing others, we are terrorizing (and killing) ourselves.


*With many thanks to Ret. Col. Ann Wright for bringing the recruiting abuse story to my attention.

What Now?

Remember that  careful list you think about making early in the year about how much you will spend on holiday shopping and then it all goes to hell in late December when you mostly just want to get done and go home…

With almost no debate

The U.S. Senate approved a $636 billion military spending bill on Saturday that funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and also includes money to extend jobless aid and Medicare payment rates for two months.

By a vote of 88-10, the Senate approved the bill and sent it to President Barack Obama to sign into law. The House of Representatives passed the bill on Wednesday.

The bill covers Pentagon operations through September 30, 2010. But the $128 billion approved for ongoing wars probably will not be enough to cover Obama’s plans to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan

…lawmakers funded 10 more Boeing Co C-17 transport planes than the Pentagon had asked for, at a cost of $2.5 billion.Congress also kept alive over the Pentagon’s objections the troubled VH-71 presidential helicopter, made by Lockheed, and an alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter made by General Electric Co and Rolls Royce Group Plc.

Then there was the health care bill that we were told last summer would cost a trillion dollars over 10 years.  The cost of the current plan is unknown because the Senate has devolved into  a last minute Christmas shopper who has to buy a gift no matter what it costs, might find a bargain or have to pay full price but hey as long as you get  it before Christmas who cares.  And then  there is the Copenhagen “agreement“:

“Finally we sealed a deal,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “The ‘Copenhagen Accord‘ may not be everything everyone had hoped for, but this decision…is an important beginning.”

But a decision at marathon 193-nation talks merely took note of the new accord, a non-binding deal for combating global warming led by the United States, China, India, Brazil and South Africa.

The 193 nations stopped far from a full endorsement of the plan, which sets a target of limiting global warming to a maximum 2 degree Celsius rise over pre-industrial times and holds out the prospect of $100 billion in annual aid from 2020 for developing nations.

The plan does not specify greenhouse gas cuts needed to achieve the 2 Celsius goal that is seen as a threshold for dangerous changes such as more floods, droughts, mudslides, sandstorms and rising seas.

If asked, I wonder how President Obama would characterize his leadership style, because I don’t know what you call it when the Congress spends the better part of a year crafting an expensive, deadly healthcare plan while barely blinking an eye about spending even more money on poorly defined wars  while completely trivializing the issue of climate change that ought to be a national emergency priority item.

Without a question we need to re-prioritize our thinking and change our framework, to wit, profit at the expense of human rights and environmental degradation should be considered a treasonous act.  We also need to play a little round of six degrees.

The U.S. military is arguably the world’s biggest polluter.  When we spend money on the military we need to take into account that aside from funneling that money from education, health care and other vital services that make us more secure, we are also contributing to the further environmental degradation of the planet.  And courtesy of, here are some other connections between military spending and the environment:

  • Projected total US spending on the Iraq war could cover all of the global investments in renewable power generation that are needed between now and 2030 in order to halt current warming trends.
  • CO2 released by the war to date equals the emissions from putting 25 million more cars on the road for one year.
  • If the war was ranked as a country in terms of annual emissions, it would emit more CO2 each year than 139 of the world’s nations do.
  • The $600 billion that the US Congress has allocated for military operations in Iraq to date could have built over 9000 wind farms (at 50 MW capacity each), with the overall capacity to meet a quarter of the US’s current electricity demand and cut 1/6 of the country’s total CO2 emissions.
  • In 2006, the US spent more on the war in Iraq than the whole world spent on investment in renewable energy.
  • US president Obama has committed to spending $150 billion over 10 years to advance the next generation of green energy technology and infrastructure. The US spends that much on the war in Iraq in just 10 months.

I’ve also been thinking about the odd juxtaposition of the use of abortion rights as a tool of white, conservative American men to jettison meaningful health care in this country and the increasingly louder drumbeat, mostly by white, liberal American men to tie the benefits of family planning to the use of population control for the sake of the planet. Really?  Using the latter line of reasoning we should also cut maternal health care funds such as they are because hell, half a million (almost exclusively non-white) women die of maternal mortality every year and if we can up that number, that means less babies and mothers and that is good for the planet.  It is no accident that the colonization and control of women’s lives is being ratcheted up at the same time we trash the planet.  And we need to make that connection.

Derrick Jensen has an eloquent vision of the first step of what it would take to re-frame the discussion of how we are going to walk in this world, and I’ll leave you with that:

A lot of the indigenous people with whom I’ve worked have said to me that the first and most important thing any of us needs to do is decolonize our hearts and minds. Decolonization is the process of breaking your identity with and loyalty to this culture-industrial capitalism specifically, and more broadly civilization-and remembering your identification with and loyalty to the real physical world, including the land where you live. It means re-examining premises and stories this culture handed down to you. It means seeing the harm this culture does to other cultures, and to the planet. It means recognizing that we are living on stolen land. It means recognizing that the luxuries of this way of life do not come free, but rather are paid for by other humans, by nonhumans, by the whole world. It means recognizing that we do not live in a functioning democracy, but rather in a corporate plutocracy, a government by, for, and of corporations. Decolonization means recognizing that neither technological progress nor increased GNP is good for the planet. It means recognizing that this culture is not good for the planet. Decolonization means internalizing the implications of the fact that this culture is killing the planet. It means determining that we will stop this culture from doing that. It means determining that we will not fail.

Janie Rezner: Right Relationship And Being In Gratitude… And Compassion

With her kind permission, what follows is  a thought provoking essay by Janie Rezner about what I suppose might be called the faux meaningful mantra.  As I told Janie in our correspondence about this piece, my personal not-so-favorite is the notion of living in the moment.  As if we can separate this moment from the history that brought us here or pretend that it has no impact on the moments that will follow.   The only true power is power with and from within, and the notion that meaning can be gained from constructs of power over will always be a falsehood.

Right Relationship and being in Gratitude.

I believe these concepts are rather popular these days… in the spiritual ‘realms’  at least. And sometimes  worn like a mantle by the folks touting them,  who may perhaps inwardly  pat themselves on the back about being “on the path.”

However, in these conversations  seldom is there a mention of the suffering peoples in the world…

Spiritual and religious services and gatherings,  rituals and  sacred musical events –environmental groups,  any gathering of serious minded persons,  who do not  even make a mention  of the suffering peoples, women and children, and grandmothers and grandfathers  of the world, not a mention or a prayer for  the innocent and oh so vulnerable animals and other creatures of this earth who suffer beyond measure, living horror filled lives and deaths… and the continuation of WAR,  and the degradation of our earth itself…

Seem to me to be kinda short on Compassion…

And that there is NO MENTION of the horrific sexual abuse against  millions and millions of women and children all over the world, at this very moment,  who are  being violated and tortured, by insane patriarchal men, all over the world, at this very moment…

Where is the ‘right relationship’ in that?

And,  further, regarding  we humans, men’s that is,  “sacred vow with the animals that it’s ok with them to be sacrificed, “ that  they are willing to hand their life over to you –so we may eat…. you know, how those Indians did it… in a sacred way… you remember…

Do you really think that antelope was put on earth to feed YOU?   What about it’s   OWN life…   I wonder which animal  “they” polled to come up with such an idea??

Let’s turn it around… “oh by the way” – says the monster,  “I’d like to kill your daughter  tomorrow so we can eat her.   Thanks so much.”

Where’s the right relationship in that?



My commitment is the bring forth a new paradigm  grounded in the supremacy of the Great Mother, our creator.   That is what real supremacy looks like!! She is our mother, for heaven’s sake.  How else do you think you got here???  Did you fly into earth on your own??   Whose  body held you and nourished you and protected you all those months you came into being… and in the months and years beyond… as we came into our adulthood…and who is still a powerful and essential part of our lives?

In order to move into a higher state of consciousness, we need to bring into our awareness the “shift” that is  happening–the reemergence of the Great Mother, the Sacred Feminine.  This is the time to call her forth–to proclaim her space in our consciousness.

Janie “Oquawka” Rezner
Spiritual Feminist Warrior

Patriarchal Wounding And The Masculine Mystique

When we talk about the harms of patriarchy, more often than not we couch it in terms of the impact on women’s lives. But the damage to men’s lives is also quite profound and something that needs to be deeply examined. In her four volume From Eve To Dawn: A History of Women in the World, Marilyn French writes,

The masculine mystique is precisely the same (as Friedan’s feminine mystique referring to the “discrepancy between the reality of women’s lives and their image of a proper woman’s life”): the  image of men as motivated by a drive for power more important to them than life itself. to live by a mystique is to live in bad faith, to live a false life. For both sexes, trying to live out an image makes life miserable.

Reality is inconsequential to gender rules, which is why they are so rigid. The male myth promises men transendence of human vulnerabilities through domination…If a man has enough power, he is freed from the vulnerabilities and fears that haunt lesser men…It makes the fateful assumption that power is a good, ignoring the isolation, fear, and paranoia that follow in its wake. The masculine mystique transforms ends into means: people, relationships, pursuits, and abilities become mere objects to control. Even worthy enterprises are infected by the use to which they are put. Without other ends, satisfaction is impossible.

Volume 2, p. 99

Wise context for the harms that seem to be spiraling out of control all around us.