As I ponder the passing of Howard Zinn, one of the most radical minds of our time, I am hard-pressed to speak on anything but the way of dissent, of revolution, of progress, of change. His work was instrumental in my turning the corner from liberal to radical. And it is with his spirit, his words, his legacy that I pen these ruminations.
I've always loved a good struggle. Show me a wall and I'll show you how to scale it. Give me the road and I will march the length of it. Raise me a rebel voice and I will scream along with it. Show me a woman who has got some sizable ovaries and I will get wet in the panties for her courage.
Zinn and Chin
People who stand fierce in the face of difficult struggle are sexy. Women who resist tyranny. Men who dare to be vulnerable. Hearts insist on mending after being shattered. I love a women who can fall in love, get dumped, fall in love, get dumped and then fall in love again. Perseverance is the stuff of which good sex, good people, good friendship is made.
Dissenters make me particularly horny. They make me want to do things. To make the world better.
In the 1930s Ghandi wrestled with the Brits and rubbed salt in their wounds. In 1955, Montgomery, AL. Rosa Parks refused to get up and give a white person a seat on the bus. They arrested her, and all hell broke loose.
In the 1969 the gay community in New York City pushed back at cops who routinely closed down gay clubs and harassed the patrons. Out of that push-back the LGBT movement was born.
It would be years before the nation was energized to rise up again.
It is about 40 years later. Blacks and Latinos and Native Americans can ride where they will on public transportation. We can eat at the same restaurants as white folks, sort of. (Most times we can't afford to.) We can drink from the same water fountains- if we can get close enough. White kids buy music made by Black musicians, and Black kids dance all night to music made by folks from all around the world.
But here in America, Black and Latino kids aren't graduating. Our boys are being pipelined from high school to prison. And those who aren't in prison are killing each other. Most of those that actually defy those racist odds and head to the Ivy leagues become so disconnected from their racial identity that we don't know what to do with them, and they don't know what to do with us.
Most of the white working class in this country can't afford to send their kids to college. The middle class is struggling to keep their house, and cars, and health, and all the other necessary "luxuries" they have been told will come if you work hard and obey the laws.
On the books, everybody in the US all can cross 'tween the sheets and flit across lines of race and class and sexuality. There are no laws that prevent LGBT people from being with each other. There are no laws that say Blacks can't marry Whites, or go to school with Asian kids. The laws do not state that kids on the south side of Chicago can't go visit their friends in Hyde Park. But the realities of safety and economics and freedom make it almost impossible for poor people, for people of color, for LGBT folks to live, eat, and exist in particular neighborhoods.
Gays boys can march in parades with their ass cheeks "out" for all the world to see. They can teach straight guys to dress well on TV. Lesbians can host talk shows. We can play professional tennis, and basketball. We can be the star of prime time sitcoms. Our stories can become comic relief. But we can't marry in most of the zip codes in America. We can't get federal spousal/partner benefits; health insurance, social security, immigration rights for those with which we partner. In many states we are not allowed parental rights. And we were still being fired from our jobs for being LGBT. And we were still being turned away from many spaces because we were too openly gay.
Then came Barak Obama. Smart as he was sexy. Even-tempered. And he had a strong, sensible wife. He had equal parts white blood. He spoke in a universal language. He appealed to both camps. He looked good to those of us who needed to see something good.
Some of us took a while to cross over to Obama-land. The most radical of us mainstream democrats/liberals were with Edwards. Then Edwards' penis went astray; his mistress turned up pregnant, and he jumped ship. Largely because he knew Americans like their leaders chaste- or at least SEEMINGLY chaste.
Soon after Hillary lost the scuffle. So there was only Obama. Well, Obama or McCain.
So Obama it was.
And he was promising the world. Hope. Hope. And More Hope. And healthcare. And education that was affordable. And rights for the weary LGBT. He promised to go after the wealthy. He promised he would go after the corporations that siphoned off too much of the communal pie. The crowds roared when he spoke. People invoked Dr. King. And the rest of us, wanting so badly to be a part of something wonderful went along with him -some kicking and screaming, some with a willing song of hope in their hearts.
When he won we couldn't believe it.
There would be perms in the White House. Imagine! Melanin behind those walls. Black kids crawling on the Oval floors. Collard greens in the Oval pots. The sinew of Black flesh sleeping/making love on the oval beds. It was euphoric. So we sang. And danced. And dared to believe.
But six Months into Obama's presidency and folks are becoming a little antsy about what he hasn't delivered. The national LGBT sentiments, so forcefully pro-Obama during the presidential campaign, turned impatient, and a little sour. Folks began to call for action.
My dear comrade/sista Staceyann Chin opines on radicalizing the radical movement and the inspiration of Howard Zinn.