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The Muslim “Bernie Clone” Running for Governor in Trump Country

Tue, 2018-02-20 11:00

ADRIAN, MICH.—On a wet, wintry January night, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed addresses a packed room at the Lenawee County Courthouse Commons. The 33-year-old son of Egyptian immigrants intends to become his state’s first Muslim governor. He launches into a speech on the challenges facing the state: pollution, high-cost healthcare, a tough job market, a gig economy and a broken political system. It’s a talk he’s given in more than 90 cities and 40 counties.

Then he comes to his diagnosis: “The reason why our politics feels so broken is because the people oftentimes whom we’ve elected to represent us, well, this system kind of benefits them. They’re eating at the same corporate trough.”

As a Muslim candidate, ElSayed might have expected a tough crowd. Eighty-four percent of Adrian’s 20,000 residents are white, and Lenawee County went for Donald Trump by a 21 percent margin. Yet the roughly 100 attendees appear impressed.

“He does not back down from tough questions,” says CeCe Rodriguez, secretary of the Lenawee County Democratic Party, which hosted the event. “He really took time to get to know us.” Emilie Mullins, 42, an independent, says El-Sayed’s heritage is a non-issue for her.

“I didn’t know a lot about his platform before tonight, but I liked almost everything I heard,” says Mullins. “Michigan is barely maintaining or sliding backward in almost all quality of life issues. I’m looking for a progressive candidate, and [El-Sayed] supports a high minimum wage, protecting our environment, improving the schools and attracting quality jobs to Michigan.”

El-Sayed also advo cates universal healthcare and has pledged not to take corporate donations. His program for Michigan includes investing in infrastructure and education; protecting teacher pay and pensions; legalizing marijuana, which he estimates could free up nearly $125 million in the state budget; and overhauling the state’s high auto insurance rates. And while he supports revitalizing Detroit, the state’s largest city, his plan focuses on improving the quality of life in residential neighborhoods, not the downtown area.

“If we’re willing to work together, we can propose and actualize solutions to problems we all face,” El-Sayed says. “It’s not about where we’re from, the color of our skin, where we were born or what we do for a living. It’s about recognizing there’s an opportunity for us to pass something better to our kids.”

Incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Snyder can’t run for a third term because of Michigan’s term limits. The state’s primary is eight months away and El-Sayed is up against three other Democrats. Gretchen Whitmer, a former Democratic minority leader in the statehouse, leads early polls of Democrats, but the Detroit News says she is vulnerable because she has not done well in metro Detroit.

In head-to-head polling, she is running near even with Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, the early favorite for the Republican nomination. (El-Sayed may also face a residency challenge. He lived in New York from 2013 to 2016, and Michigan requires candidates to have been registered to vote in the state for four years.) 

El-Sayed has an impressive résumé. A former Rhodes scholar, he has a medical degree from Columbia University and a doctorate in public health from Oxford University. At 29, he was appointed the executive director of the Detroit Health Department by Mayor Mike Duggan. But what wins over grassroots supporters is his message of serving people, not profits. Mullins, for example, says she drove to Adrian because she is looking for a candidate who has not sold out to corporate interests.

Joni Baker, 40, has been intrigued by El-Sayed since she saw him in a Facebook video nearly a year ago. She calls him a “Bernie Sanders clone,” which is “perfect in my book.”

“Listening to him speak gave me hope for the future of my children in Michigan,” Baker says. “I liked that when he answered a question, he didn’t just have empty promises. He was knowledgeable on the problems our state has been having, and he has detailed plans to fix them.”

El-Sayed tells the crowd that, after he’d decided to run for office, he learned he was going to be a father. With no money coming in, he asked his wife if it made sense for him to stay in the race. He says she replied, “The best thing you can do for this little girl is go out and win the election—it says more about who we are as a country.”

Who Bends the Arc?

Tue, 2018-02-20 11:00
We take comfort in Martin Luther King Jr.’s idea that the arc of history is long, but bends toward justice. Yet does it? Is social progress an inexorable process? Can we trust that tomorrow will be better than today?   Let’s recall the “long, hot summer of 1967,” when Black people in 159 American towns and cities took to the streets to protest white supremacy. All told, more than 85 people were killed—almost all Black and almost all shot by white men in uniform.   President Lyndon Johnson, speaking with a militancy now lacking in American liberal discourse, promised to respond with “an attack—mounted at every level—upon the conditions that breed despair and violence... ignorance, discrimination, slums, poverty, disease, not enough jobs.”   “We should attack these conditions—not because we are frightened by conflict, but because we are fired by conscience,” he said on July 27, 1967, as he appointed the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders.   The commission—mostly white, mostly male and all aligned with the political establishment—was chaired by Illinois Gov. Otto Kerner (D), who had overseen the integration of his state’s National Guard. On Feb. 29, 1968, the Kerner Commission, as it came to be known, released its report.   Recognizing what is now referred to as “institutional racism,” the report explained:   What white Americans have never fully understood—but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it and white society condones it.   Warning that “our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal,” the commission called for “a commitment to national action, compassionate, massive and sustained.”   Describing police actions—and police racism—as the “basic causes” of the 1967 uprisings, the commission concluded:   Police misconduct—whether described as brutality, harassment, verbal abuse or discourtesy—cannot be tolerated. ... Police departments must have rules prohibiting such misconduct and enforce them vigorously.   So, 50 years later, how far have we progressed?   Consider that most hideous expression of institutional racism: the prison system.   In 1968, 187,914 Americans were serving sentences in federal and state prisons, an imprisonment rate of 94 in 100,000. Fast-forward to the most recent year data is available, 2016: 1,458,173 people are in prison (a rate of 450 in 100,000). Of these, 27 percent are white men (a rate of 400 in 100,000) and 32 percent are Black men (a rate of 2,415 in 100,000). In other words, 2.4 percent of Black men are behind bars.   To put it another way, since 1968 the national incarceration rate has increased by 356 percent, and today a Black man in America is statistically more than six times as likely as a white man to be locked up.   Meanwhile, Trump, Sessions & Company have restarted the war on marijuana, championed private prisons and shut down Justice Department oversight of rogue police departments like the one in Chicago.   Let’s consider the possibility that things don’t get better on their own—that only human action, not the hand of providence nor the laws of the universe, bends the arc of history toward justice. Black youth, facing the intolerable racial injustice of 21st-century America, have mobilized around the conviction that Black lives—their own lives—matter. They are the arc-benders, and in 2018, they find themselves fighting the most racially reactionary administration since that of Woodrow Wilson.

Beyond Hollywood: Domestic Workers Say #MeToo

Mon, 2018-02-19 07:00

“I HAD NOT PERSONALLY MET MERYL STREEP BEFORE I CHECKED MY VOICEMAIL AND HEARD HER SOFT VOICE, familiar from so many of my favorite films, introducing herself,” wrote Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), in a January 9 blog post for Cosmopolitan. “There she was, asking to discuss the possibility of attending the Golden Globes together. Yes, Ms. Streep, we can definitely discuss that.”

Streep didn’t cold-call Poo. The actress Michelle Williams had invited Tarana Burke to the awards show in recognition of Burke’s decade-old “Me Too” campaign to empower young women of color who have experienced sexual violence. At Burke’s suggestion, seven other stars brought activists as their plus-ones, including farmworker advocate Mónica Ramírez, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United co-founder Saru Jayaraman and Poo. It was a striking corrective to the celebrity-focused first wave of #MeToo. In that spirit, Shonda Rhimes, Reese Witherspoon and 300 other actors raised more than $19 million to help low-wage women workers who file sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits cover the cost of legal expenses.

Poo’s appearance at the Golden Globes is part of a long arc of bringing domestic employment out of the shadows and into the spotlight. She fell into the work after volunteering during college in a domestic violence shelter in the Asian immigrant community (she learned Mandarin from the immigrant grandparents who raised her) and witnessing how survivors in the low-wage workforce struggled to put food on the table for their families. The organization Poo went on to lead, Domestic Workers United, became a model for how to organize the supposedly “unorganizable”: a workforce splintered by language barriers and workplace isolation. Recruiting in playgrounds, enlisting an army of translators, and building a network of worker-organizers, in 2010 DWU pushed the landmark Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights through the New York state legislature, a template for laws that are being duplicated across the country.

In These Times spoke with Poo shortly after the Golden Globes about how domestic workers are experiencing the #MeToo moment, how she navigates the tension between her own growing celebrity and elevating workers, and why she sees this as a once-in-a-generation women’s movement.

How are sexual harassment and assault experienced by domestic workers?

AJP: They are all too common. This is a female-dominated workforce—disproportionately women of color and immigrant women—doing care-giving and cleaning work that is associated with women and taken for granted. This workforce has been discriminated against in the law ever since the New Deal. You have isolated workplaces, often just one woman working for a family. There is no list, no registry, so nobody really knows that you work there except for your employers and whoever you tell—which is usually just your family. And the precariousness of the employment compounds the vulnerability to abuse. That abuse is sometimes economic: poverty wages, nonpayment of wages, late payment of wages. It can also be emotional, verbal, physical and sexual. It comes down to abuses of power that prey upon the vulnerability of the workforce.

Women have been incredibly resilient and courageous in the face of that power dynamic and have organized in many different iterations over generations. What we’re seeing now is that domestic workers are coming forward as part of the #MeToo movement to say, not only are we not alone as domestic workers, we are not alone as women working in this economy. Women across the board face this imbalance of power, which makes us susceptible to harassment and abuse, and limits our economic and human potential.

We say that one domestic worker can transform a family and 250,000 domestic workers can change a country. It’s about the power of women’s voices when they are unified around a collective courage to transform our culture. What is so powerful about this movement is the way that we are speaking to each other, like a call and response between women across so many different experiences and communities and industries. We are saying to each other: I see you. You’re not alone. I’m here.

Given that domestic workers can be isolated and face language barriers, to what extent is this #MeToo moment reaching them?

AJP: What does reach domestic workers is media. Media exposure is hugely helpful in terms of the awareness that we exist. The Spanish language press and mainstream media covered the Golden Globes. And everybody knows who Meryl Streep is.

 

 

Did the message get through, or did you run up against reporters who wanted to only talk dresses?

AJP: I was pleasantly surprised. The entertainment media were generally interested in why we were there. Entertainment Tonightasked: What’s your message?

What was beautiful about it was that this message of unity and of inclusion carried through the program that night: everyone wearing black, and most of the women who got up on stage saying something meaningful about equity. And then Oprah of course closed it with an epic speech.

She’s an important figure to domestic workers around the country for many different reasons—one of them is that in her movies she has played strong domestic workers [like Sofia in “The Color Purple”]. That she named them in her speech was a very important redemptive measure; that Oprah, the person that they really admire, recognizes their existences, their contributions, their realities.

How is your group building on this moment in your organizing?

AJP: At least 2 million women do this work and a lot of them are still very isolated, not connected to our organization. Our goal right now is to make sure that every last one of those women know that we’re here as a resource and a home for them to connect to their peers. We did a Facebook Live after the Golden Globes. Daniela Contreras, one of our worker leaders, and also a survivor, hosted it. It was bilingual. Thousands of people tuned in.

Yours is a group that centers worker-members as leaders, and yet you’ve found yourself in the spotlight. How do you navigate that?

AJP: I’ve spent my entire adult life—since 1998—immersed in how we bring visibility and light and dignity to this work. When invisibility is such a part of the disenfranchisement of a workforce, then you’re always trying to make this workforce visible. Opportunities like the Golden Globes shine a light on the significance of the work of domestic workers and home care workers, but also on the incredible organizing that’s happening with so many amazing women beyond me. Sidestepping those opportunities is not helping anyone.

Is #MeToo personal for you?

AJP: Absolutely. I’m a survivor myself of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the workplace. I’ve dealt with this in my life and in my own way. This moment has been incredibly healing and also put the fire of urgency in me to make sure that we achieve real and lasting change. Women have been surviving violence forever. This moment of awakening is one that we cannot squander.

Do you see the Women’s Marches as a part of that moment of awakening?

AJP: Yes. The marches were bigger this year; I think a lot of the official numbers are undercounts. That tells me that women are driving a historic transformation in our cultural and political lives in this country. This kind of transformation and activation in our democracy only happens once every few generations.

It’s important that people who are closest to the sharpest and cruelest forms of inequality are really a part of the movement. There are powerful organizations, and leadership by women of color, trans women, and women with disabilities. I feel hopeful. This is the movement that we have always wanted.

What are your hopes for this movement?

AJP: The question is: How do we ensure that we have lasting change? It’s civic engagement—all of the women who are running for office, all of the women who are talking about being campaign managers, some of whom never voted before. We need to start talking about big bold policy solutions. One idea we have been incubating is universal family care: one fund that everyone contributes to, that everyone can benefit from, regardless of where and how and whether you work, which helps you afford child care, elder care and paid-family leave. In other words, everything you need in order to participate meaningfully in the economy and have a family.

Like a Social Security for caretaking?

AJP: Yep, exactly. A social insurance program.

How do you get there?

AJP: Elected officials in Maine and Michigan are working on state-level legislation. In Washington state, they are discussing something called the Longtime Care Trust Act, a social insurance program for elder care in the state of Washington. It’s a universal program for everyone. We’re moving it state by state. Federally, we’re trying to find champions. There is an appetite for these big, bold solutions. There are candidates for Congress and others who are reaching out to us and saying: “Hey, this is the kind of thing I want to run for office on.”

And now, the most important question: Do you have an invite to the Oscars?

AJP: Not yet!

Should we tell people you’re available?

AJP: Yes, tell people that domestic workers are ready to stand with their sisters and take on the industry.

Yes, You Should Watch The Chi

Thu, 2018-02-15 12:00

Showtime’s The Chi, which premiered January 7, is one of the most eagerly anticipated productions of 2018. Its 33-year-old creator, Lena Waithe, became the first Black woman ever to win a comedy writing Emmy (for an autobiographical episode of the Netflix series Master of None).

With The Chi, her intent is to depict Chicago as it looks from the inside—a goal that drew Common, a.k.a Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr., a Chicago rapper/actor known for his community consciousness, to sign on as an executive producer. That ambition has placed the series at the center of a debate on the function of fictive representations of urban America. Is this latest iteration of urban vérité—a cinematic style popularized by HBO’s The Wire—a fruitful dive into an authentic Chicago, or just another TV safari featuring picaresque tales of exotic natives?

Black Chicagoans are particularly sensitive to this question, given the city’s highly visible violence problems and its already damaged reputation. This is a lot of sociological baggage to throw at a series intended to entertain a mass audience. And to focus on the need for positive imagery or an accurate class analysis is to confuse cultural therapy and political analysis for aesthetic criticism. No matter how pure Waithe’s motives, the series has to deliver as entertainment and as art. On that score, Waithe’s effort is admirable, though a mixed bag.

The dialogue has a colloquial authenticity—aided, no doubt, by the crew of black writers Waithe assembled—as do the set shots of various neighborhoods, although Chicagoans may find some geographical inconsistencies. She is working in a genre virtually invented by David Simon (The Wire), and there are some Simon alums in The Chi to sharpen that point. But rather than focusing on the intricacies and implications of the underground economy—as The Wire did in Baltimore—the show centers instead on community dynamics.

The story opens with a wildly coiffed boy named Coogie (Jahking Guillory) carefreely riding his bike though hardscrabble neighborhoods, playfully interacting with Arab store owners— a ubiquitous presence in these parts—and just doing kid stuff. It isn’t long before he’s ensnared in a net woven by one of those murders that keep Chicago in the headlines, and his death is added to the toll. Waithe mines complexity out of an all-tootypical story of community violence by refracting the tale through the sensibilities of a wide array of characters, an audacious undertaking for a relative neophyte.

The series follows four (male) main characters as their lives intersect: Coogie’s older brother, Brandon (Jason Mitchell), a hard-charging striver with restaurateur aspirations; Kevin (Alex Hibbert), a 12-year-old who is both too wise and too naïve; Emmett (Jacob Lattimore), a materialistic teenage lothario who is suddenly burdened with fatherhood; and Ronnie (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine), an oldschool slacker whose adopted son’s murder starts the whole thing.

All of these characters have wispy connections that firm up later and reveal a web of socialization that inadvertently perpetuates dysfunction. Tracy (Tai Davis), Ronnie’s ex and the mother of the first man murdered, insists that he “do something” about the death of their child. Coogie’s murder places a similar street obligation on his brother Brandon, who’s on the verge of a professional breakthrough. Waithe’s script neither evades nor accentuates the negative as much as it seeks to contextualize what is usually projected as irredeemably negative.

Coogie’s impulse to swipe the chain and shoes from a dead body, for instance, seems an acceptable option in the predatory context of these neighborhoods. Waithe’s canny observations of community etiquette are her unique contribution to the everexpanding urban crime genre. Her depiction of Emmett’s unintentional fatherhood captures its awkward quality with a rare insight, especially for a woman.

In fact, if there’s any script deficiency, it’s the lack of a fully rounded female role. I suppose it’s unreasonable to expect a television series to discard all stereotypes—reliable tropes ground viewers. Thus, The Chi gives us the sympathetic outsider cop, the tormenting harridan, the schoolyard skirmishes. By and large, the series manages to stay true to Waithe’s intention to humanize the denizens of her fictive South Side. The question many are asking, though, is, do these times demand the portrayal of denizens with different kinds of stories?

“Marriage and Love Have Nothing In Common”: Emma Goldman on Romance and Sexual Freedom

Wed, 2018-02-14 17:46

The popular notion about marriage and love is that they are synonymous, that they spring from the same motives, and cover the same human needs. Like most popular notions this also rests not on actual facts, but on superstition.

Marriage and love have nothing in common; they are as far apart as the poles; are, in fact, antagonistic to each other. No doubt some marriages have been the result of love. Not, however, because love could assert itself only in marriage; much rather is it because few people can completely outgrow a convention. There are today large numbers of men and women to whom marriage is naught but a farce, but who submit to it for the sake of public opinion. At any rate, while it is true that some marriages are based on love, and while it is equally true that in some cases love continues in married life, I maintain that it does so regardless of marriage, and not because of it.

On the other hand, it is utterly false that love results from marriage. On rare occasions one does hear of a miraculous case of a married couple falling in love after marriage, but on close examination it will be found that it is a mere adjustment to the inevitable. Certainly the growing-used to each other is far away from the spontaneity, the intensity, and beauty of love, without which the intimacy of marriage must prove degrading to both the woman and the man.

Marriage is primarily an economic arrangement, an insurance pact. It differs from the ordinary life insurance agreement only in that it is more binding, more exacting. Its returns are insignificantly small compared with the investments. In taking out an insurance policy one pays for it in dollars and cents, always at liberty to discontinue payments. If, how ever, woman’s premium is a husband, she pays for it with her name, her privacy, her self-respect, her very life, “until death doth part.” Moreover, the marriage insurance condemns her to life-long dependency, to parasitism, to complete uselessness, individual as well as social. Man, too, pays his toll, but as his sphere is wider, marriage does not limit him as much as woman. He feels his chains more in an economic sense. 

Thus Dante’s motto over Inferno applies with equal force to marriage: “Ye who enter here leave all hope behind.”

That marriage is a failure none but the very stupid will deny. One has but to glance over the statistics of divorce to realize how bitter a failure marriage really is. Nor will the stereotyped Philistine argument that the laxity of divorce laws and the growing looseness of woman account for the fact that: first, every twelfth marriage ends in divorce; second, that since 1870 divorces have increased from 28 to 73 for every hundred thousand population; third, that adultery, since 1867, as ground for divorce, has increased 270.8 per cent.; fourth, that desertion increased 369.8 per cent.

Added to these startling figures is a vast amount of material, dramatic and literary, further elucidating this subject. Robert Herrick, in Together; Pinero, in Mid-Channel; Eugene Walter, in Paid in Full, and scores of other writers are discussing the barrenness, the monotony, the sordidness, the inadequacy of marriage as a factor for harmony and understanding.

The thoughtful social student will not content himself with the popular superficial excuse for this phenomenon. He will have to dig down deeper into the very life of the sexes to know why marriage proves so disastrous.

Edward Carpenter says that behind every marriage stands the life-long environment of the two sexes; an environment so different from each other that man and woman must remain strangers. Separated by an insurmountable wall of superstition, custom, and habit, marriage has not the potentiality of developing knowledge of, and respect for, each other, without which every union is doomed to failure.

Henrik Ibsen, the hater of all social shams, was probably the first to realize this great truth. Nora leaves her husband, not---as the stupid critic would have it---because she is tired of her responsibilities or feels the need of woman’s rights, but because she has come to know that for eight years she had lived with a stranger and borne him children. Can there be any thing more humiliating, more degrading than a life long proximity between two strangers? No need for the woman to know anything of the man, save his income. As to the knowledge of the woman—what is there to know except that she has a pleasing appearance? We have not yet outgrown the theologic myth that woman has no soul, that she is a mere appendix to man, made out of his rib just for the convenience of the gentleman who was so strong that he was afraid of his own shadow.

Perchance the poor quality of the material whence woman comes is responsible for her inferiority. At any rate, woman has no soul—what is there to know about her? Besides, the less soul a woman has the greater her asset as a wife, the more readily will she absorb herself in her husband. It is this slavish acquiescence to man’s superiority that has kept the marriage institution seemingly intact for so long a period. Now that woman is coming into her own, now that she is actually growing aware of herself as a being outside of the master’s grace, the sacred institution of marriage is gradually being undermined, and no amount of sentimental lamentation can stay it.

From infancy, almost, the average girl is told that marriage is her ultimate goal; therefore her training and education must be directed towards that end. Like the mute beast fattened for slaughter, she is prepared for that. Yet, strange to say, she is allowed to know much less about her function as wife and mother than the ordinary artisan of his trade. It is indecent and filthy for a respectable girl to know anything of the marital relation. Oh, for the inconsistency of respectability, that needs the marriage vow to turn something which is filthy into the purest and most sacred arrangement that none dare question or criticize. Yet that is exactly the attitude of the average upholder of marriage. The prospective wife and mother is kept in complete ignorance of her only asset in the competitive field---sex. Thus she enters into life-long relations with a man only to find herself shocked, repelled, outraged beyond measure by the most natural and healthy instinct, sex. It is safe to say that a large percentage of the unhappiness, misery, distress, and physical suffering of matrimony is due to the criminal ignorance in sex matters that is being extolled as a great virtue. Nor is it at all an exaggeration when I say that more than one home has been broken up because of this deplorable fact.

If, however, woman is free and big enough to learn the mystery of sex without the sanction of State or Church, she will stand condemned as utterly unfit to become the wife of a “good” man, his goodness consisting of an empty head and plenty of money. Can there be anything more outrageous than the idea that a healthy, grown woman, full of life and passion, must deny nature’s demand, must subdue her most intense craving, undermine her health and break her spirit, must stunt her vision, abstain from the depth and glory of sex experience until a “good” man comes along to take her unto himself as a wife? That is precisely what marriage means. How can such an arrangement end except in failure? This is one, though not the least important, factor of marriage, which differentiates it from love. 

Ours is a practical age. The time when Romeo and Juliet risked the wrath of their fathers for love when Gretchen exposed herself to the gossip of her neighbors for love, is no more. If, on rare occasions young people allow themselves the luxury of romance they are taken in care by the elders, drilled and pounded until they become “sensible.”

The moral lesson instilled in the girl is not whether the man has aroused her love, but rather is it, “How much?” The important and only God of practical American life: Can the man make a living? Can he support a wife? That is the only thing that justifies marriage. Gradually this saturates every thought of the girl; her dreams are not of moonlight and kisses, of laughter and tears; she dreams of shopping tours and bargain counters. This soul-poverty and sordidness are the elements inherent in the marriage institution. The State and the Church approve of no other ideal, simply because it is the one that necessitates the State and Church control of men and women.

Doubtless there are people who continue to consider love above dollars and cents. Particularly is this true of that class whom economic necessity has forced to become self-supporting. The tremendous change in woman’s position, wrought by that mighty factor, is indeed phenomenal when we reflect that it is but a short time since she has entered the industrial arena. Six million women wage-earners; six million women, who have the equal right with men to be exploited, to be robbed, to go on strike; aye, to starve even. Anything more, my lord? Yes, six million age-workers in every walk of life, from the highest brain work to the most difficult menial labor in the mines and on the railroad tracks; yes, even detectives and policemen. Surely the emancipation is complete.

Yet with all that, but a very small number of the vast army of women wage-workers look upon work as a permanent issue, in the same light as does man. No matter how decrepit the latter, he has been taught to be independent, self-supporting. Oh, I know that no one is really independent in our economic tread mill; still, the poorest specimen of a man hates to be a parasite; to be known as such, at any rate.

The woman considers her position as worker transitory, to be thrown aside for the first bidder. That is why it is infinitely harder to organize women than men. “Why should I join a union? I am going to get married, to have a home.” Has she not been taught from infancy to look upon that as her ultimate calling? She learns soon enough that the home, though not so large a prison as the factory, has more solid doors and bars. It has a keeper so faithful that naught can escape him. The most tragic part, however, is that the home no longer frees her from wage slavery; it only increases her task.

According to the latest statistics submitted before a Committee “on labor and wages, and congestion of Population,” ten per cent. of the wage workers in New York City alone are married, yet they must continue to work at the most poorly paid labor in the world. Add to this horrible aspect the drudgery of house work, and what remains of the protection and glory of the home? As a matter of fact, even the middle class girl in marriage can not speak of her home, since it is the man who creates her sphere. It is not important whether the husband is a brute or a darling. What I wish to prove is that marriage guarantees woman a home only by the grace of her husband. There she moves about in his home, year after year until her aspect of life and human affairs becomes as flat, narrow, and drab as her surroundings. Small wonder if she becomes a nag, petty, quarrelsome, gossipy, unbearable, thus driving the man from the house. She could not go, if she wanted to; there is no place to go. Besides, a short period of married life, of complete surrender of all faculties, absolutely incapacitates the average woman for the outside world. She becomes reckless in appearance, clumsy in her movements, dependent in her decisions, cowardly in her judgment, a weight and a bore, which most men grow to hate and despise. Wonderfully inspiring atmosphere for the bearing of life, is it not?

But the child, how is it to be protected, if not for marriage? After all, is not that the most important consideration? The sham, the hypocrisy of it! Marriage protecting the child, yet thousands of children destitute and homeless. Marriage protecting the child, yet orphan asylums and reformatories over crowded, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children keeping busy in rescuing the little victims from “loving” parents, to place them under more loving care, the Gerry Society. Oh, the mockery of it!

Marriage may have the power to “bring the horse to water,” but has it ever made him drink? The law will place the father under arrest, and put him in convict’s clothes; but has that ever stilled the hunger of the child? If the parent has no work, or if he hides his identity, what does marriage do then? It invokes the law to bring the man to “justice,” to put him safely behind closed doors; his labor, however, goes not to the child, but to the State. The child receives but a blighted memory of its father’s stripes.

As to the protection of the woman—therein lies the curse of marriage. Not that it really protects her, but the very idea is so revolting, such an outrage and insult on life, so degrading to human dignity, as to forever condemn this parasitic institution.

It is like that other paternal arrangement—capitalism. It robs man of his birthright, stunts his growth, poisons his body, keeps him in ignorance, in poverty and dependence, and then institutes charities that thrive on the last vestige of man’s self-respect.

The institution of marriage makes a parasite of woman, an absolute dependent. It incapacitates her for life’s struggle, annihilates her social consciousness, paralyzes her imagination, and then imposes its gracious protection, which is in reality a snare, a travesty on human character.

If motherhood is the highest fulfillment of woman’s nature, what other protection does it need save love and freedom? Marriage but defiles, outrages, and corrupts her fulfillment. Does it not say to woman, Only when you follow me shall you bring forth life? Does it not condemn her to the block, does it not degrade and shame her if she refuses to buy her right to motherhood by selling herself? Does not marriage only sanction motherhood, even though conceived in hatred, in compulsion? Yet, if motherhood be of free choice, of love, of ecstasy, of defiant passion, does it not place a crown of thorns upon an innocent head and carve in letters of blood the hideous epithet, Bastard? Were marriage to contain all the virtues claimed for it, its crimes against motherhood would exclude it forever from the realm of love.

Love, the strongest and deepest element in all life, the harbinger of hope, of joy, of ecstasy; love, the defier of all laws, of all conventions; love, the freest, the most powerful molder of human destiny; how can such an all-compelling force be synonymous with that poor little State and Church-begotten weed, marriage?

Free love? As if love is anything but free! Man has bought brains, but all the millions in the world have failed to buy love. Man has subdued bodies, but all the power on earth has been unable to subdue love. Man has conquered whole nations, but all his armies could not conquer love. Man has chained and fettered the spirit, but he has been utterly helpless before love. High on a throne, with all the splendor and pomp his gold can command, man is yet poor and desolate, if love passes him by. And if it stays, the poorest hovel is radiant with warmth, with life and color. Thus love has the magic power to make of a beggar a king. Yes, love is free; it can dwell in no other atmosphere. In freedom it gives itself unreservedly, abundantly, completely. All the laws on the statutes, all the courts in the universe, cannot tear it from the soil, once love has taken root. If, however, the soil is sterile, how can marriage make it bear fruit? It is like the last desperate struggle of fleeting life against death.

Love needs no protection; it is its own protection. So long as love begets life no child is deserted, or hungry, or famished for the want of affection. I know this to be true. I know women who became mothers in freedom by the men they loved. Few children in wedlock enjoy the care, the protection, the devotion free motherhood is capable of bestowing.

The defenders of authority dread the advent of a free motherhood, lest it will rob them of their prey. Who would fight wars? Who would create wealth? Who would make the policeman, the jailer, if woman were to refuse the indiscriminate breeding of children? The race, the race! shouts the king, the president, the capitalist, the priest. The race must be preserved, though woman be degraded to a mere machine, --- and the marriage institution is our only safety valve against the pernicious sex-awakening of woman. But in vain these frantic efforts to maintain a state of bondage. In vain, too, the edicts of the Church, the mad attacks of rulers, in vain even the arm of the law. Woman no longer wants to be a party to the production of a race of sickly, feeble, decrepit, wretched human beings, who have neither the strength nor moral courage to throw off the yoke of poverty and slavery. Instead she desires fewer and better children, begotten and reared in love and through free choice; not by compulsion, as marriage imposes. Our pseudo-moralists have yet to learn the deep sense of responsibility toward the child, that love in freedom has awakened in the breast of woman. Rather would she forego forever the glory of motherhood than bring forth life in an atmosphere that breathes only destruction and death. And if she does become a mother, it is to give to the child the deepest and best her being can yield. To grow with the child is her motto; she knows that in that manner alone call she help build true manhood and womanhood. 

Ibsen must have had a vision of a free mother, when, with a master stroke, he portrayed Mrs. Alving. She was the ideal mother because she had outgrown marriage and all its horrors, because she had broken her chains, and set her spirit free to soar until it returned a personality, regenerated and strong. Alas, it was too late to rescue her life’s joy, her Oswald; but not too late to realize that love in freedom is the only condition of a beautiful life. Those who, like Mrs. Alving, have paid with blood and tears for their spiritual awakening, repudiate marriage as an imposition, a shallow, empty mockery. They know, whether love last but one brief span of time or for eternity, it is the only creative, inspiring, elevating basis for a new race, a new world. 

In our present pygmy state love is indeed a stranger to most people. Misunderstood and shunned, it rarely takes root; or if it does, it soon withers and dies. Its delicate fiber can not endure the stress and strain of the daily grind. Its soul is too complex to adjust itself to the slimy woof of our social fabric. It weeps and moans and suffers with those who have need of it, yet lack the capacity to rise to love’s summit. 

Some day, some day men and women will rise, they will reach the mountain peak, they will meet big and strong and free, ready to receive, to partake, and to bask in the golden rays of love. What fancy, what imagination, what poetic genius can foresee even approximately the potentialities of such a force in the life of men and women. If the world is ever to give birth to true companionship and oneness, not marriage, but love will be the parent.

Behind the Explosion in Socialism Among American Teens

Wed, 2018-02-14 12:00

TAMPA, FLA.—In a fluorescent lit classroom with handmade posters covering one wall, approximately 15 high school students are chanting the words of black revolutionary Assata Shakur: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and we must support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” With some embarrassed giggling, they recite it once, twice, three times, led by their visiting speaker, Pamela Gomez of the Hillsborough Community Protection Coalition, an alliance of local progressive groups.

These students are some of the 40-odd members of the Blake High School chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA). The Tampa high school has 1,697 students, a majority of them black or Latino, and the YDSA chapter reflects that. The chapter also has a high concentration of LGBTQ students, the club’s biggest demographic bloc.

The chapter is the brainchild of Graham Shelor, 17. Slim and sandy-haired, a contemporary dancer as well as an organizer, Shelor grew up in a “fairly liberal” household but became disillusioned with the Democratic Party during the 2016 elections. “They lied to me and the people of America that they were going to make it work,” he says. “It led to a domino effect of me seeing the flaws in the current American system.”

Blake’s chapter is part of the youthful explosion of interest in socialism that has led to YDSA’s impressive recent growth, with 130 chapters and organizing committees, a five-fold increase in two years. Since 2015, the average age of a DSA member has dropped from 64 to 30.

YDSA’s members must be under 31 and are usually affiliated with a university or high school chapter. University chapters outnumber high school chapters by about 10 to 1. Like its parent organization, YDSA is multi-issue and “big tent.” It doesn’t require members to subscribe to any particular ideology beyond a commitment to feminism and an opposition to racism, imperialism, homophobia, transphobia and, of course, capitalism.

Chapters are largely autonomous: Though many work with their local DSA chapter, they’re not required to. Often, they focus on youth and campus-specific labor issues, like graduate student organizing or fighting the privatization of facilities staff at state universities. Blake’s YDSA has rallied in support of a long-promised wage hike for their teachers.

The meeting begins with announcements about upcoming actions, like canvassing for Medicare for All with the Tampa DSA. Then an invitation is issued to join Hillsborough Community Protection Coalition in campaigning for Black Lives Matter, immigrant rights and environmental justice.

For co-chair Kayla Ginty, 16, YDSA is more than a conduit to political action: It’s led her to question inherited political beliefs and define her adult political identity.

“There are a lot of myths about what socialism is,” says Ginty. “High school is the perfect time to start educating ourselves. We are the next generation of voters. We can’t keep depending on older adults to lead the way.”

“When the [2008 financial] crisis hit, I think a lot of [young] people experienced the impact of that on their home lives,” says YDSA National Coordinating Committee co-chair Michelle Fisher, 20. “Their parents got laid off, they got evicted from their homes, and they needed to be able to do something about it.”

In the 2016 primaries, 2 million people under 30—YDSA age—voted for Bernie Sanders, far more than voted for Clinton (770,000) and Trump (830,000) combined. A survey conducted by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics found only a minority—42 percent—of millennials support capitalism.

There’s a popular belief that youthful radicals turn into middle-aged conservatives. A 2014 study by Columbia University political scientists, however, found that “the political events of a voter’s teenage and early adult years, centered around the age of 18, are enormously important in the formation of these long-term partisan preferences.”

For the students in Blake High School YDSA, the “enormously important” political events of their formative years will include the surprisingly successful campaign of Bernie Sanders, the election-year failures of the Democratic Party and the rise of Trump. These events took place against a backdrop of skyrocketing student debt, a dismal job market, a significant decline in upward mobility, and the first shocks of capitalism driven climate change.

“Our generation is really political because we have to be,” says Fisher.

“We Won’t Let Him Sleep”: The Dreamers Hounding Chuck Schumer.

Tue, 2018-02-13 12:00

Protesters headed to Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's New York home January 23 after Democrats agreed to end a government shutdown without securing DACA protections. In These Times spoke with Ricardo Aca, a 27-year-old student at Baruch College with DACA status, who took part in the protest.

Tell me about what motivated the action. 

The name of that rally was “Our Lives Are On The Line, Chuck!” because that’s the reality. Many of us can’t return to our countries because of natural disasters or civil strife.

I’m from a Mexican state called Puebla known for being very religious. I’m openly gay here in New York and I wouldn’t be able to go back to my country and feel safe. There are many people who are in that situation. We’re angry with Schumer for not holding firm. He constantly promises us there’s going to be a fix.

But it’s 2018 and the Dream Act was introduced in 2001. So for Republicans or Democrats to say that they need more time is very frustrating. People have waited 17 years and it’s not fair that we constantly have to be out there pushing for something. We’re angry.

What’s most concerning about the present debate?

It’s emotionally draining to have your life played with like a football. There’s all this back and forth on these deals. On Twitter, Trump says he loves the Dreamers. That there’s nothing to worry about and DACA’s going to be fixed. But he’s the one who caused this chaos, right? He’s set on getting funding for the wall and I don’t think he’ll stop until he gets that.

For undocumented immigrants like myself, who have undocumented parents, it’s very scary to accept a deal that does not include protections for my people. I think that’s why many of us are fighting. This fight is not even about people with DACA status. This fight is about respect, justice and dignity for all our families.

How many years of school do you have left?

I have one year left. If there’s no fix on DACA or the Dream Act, then by the time I graduate I’m not going to be able to legally get a job. I will be at risk for deportation if there’s no fix for this.

How are immigrants you know dealing with the fear of immigration raids or having their status reported to ICE by neighbors?

Our parents are afraid of going out and doing day-to day things. My mom watches TV and she’s up to date on everything that involves immigration. When she hears that there are these ICE raids in places like Staten island, Long Island or at 7-Eleven stores she freaks out. She’s not able lead a normal life for herself in New York.

She always feels like she has to stay in the apartment because anytime she steps out she’s at risk of being deported or coming into contact with an ICE agent. I’m pretty sure that if I wanted to be like, “Hey mom let’s go to Philadelphia on a bus, if you’d like to take a day trip,” she’s going to be scared. She’s going to be concerned on the whole ride that at some point an ICE agent is going to stop us. That’s no way to live our lives.

What does true immigration reform look like for you?

I understand every country wants to defend their borders. But we don’t see the United States building a $25 billion border wall next to Canada. Trump’s policies are attacking immigrants of color mostly. People who are Muslim, Mexicans and other Latinos—people from places he considers “shithole” countries.

Democrats should consider the work that we do for this country. I’m proud to say that I’ve cleaned toilets growing up to be able to go to school. I’ve served at restaurants. I even worked at one of Trump’s hotels before he ran for president. My stepfather has been a server for twenty years. My mom cleaned houses. We do the jobs that not many people want to do. But we also know that we’re just as important as any other person who is American.

We take pride in these jobs because this is ultimately how we’re able to provide for our families. These jobs are how our undocumented parents are able to send their children to school. We take a lot of pride in that. We’re not taking any of the benefits that many Republicans say we are. I’m a student and can’t receive state or financial aid. I don’t even have health insurance. I think that’s the same story for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are here and who have jobs.

Immigration reform should be acknowledged our contributions to the United States. That means giving us a path to citizenship. It also means that our communities need to be able to feel safe. That they don’t have to live with the fear of being separated from their families.

The Abyss of Motherhood

Tue, 2018-02-13 06:00

The first time I said my new job title aloud was over the phone, to a man at my husband’s marketing company.

“You’d better make me your contact person,” I told him, “since I’m the stay-at-home mother.”

"Must be nice,” he said, chuckling.

I could sense a whole lifestyle taking shape in his imagination—yoga, wine, soap operas, maybe a literal couch where I eat literal bonbons. I wanted to tell him that I have, at minimum, two jobs, parenting and writing (in reality, I could probably list every ongoing relationship with an editor or a publication as a job in itself); that I have been sleeping in two-hour increments for three months; that it is a special occasion when I can drink a cup of coffee before it gets cold; that I limited my “maternity leave” to three weeks, because there would always be someone else who wanted my job and my editors are not required to hold it open. I wanted to tell him that I write and pitch and edit around the schedule of a baby, whose needs are always urgent and never negotiable; that I once auditioned for a PBS documentary while breastfeeding. I wanted to tell him I spend every day wondering which job I’ll fail at today. That he doesn’t know what “stay-at-home” means, and should stop assuming.

“It is nice,” I said. You can’t yell in front of a baby.

The idea that mothering is different than “parenting” may seem offensive. But, as Adrienne Rich writes in Of Woman Born, the difference is in the verbs: “To ‘father’ a child suggests above all to beget, to provide the sperm that fertilizes the ovum. To ‘mother’ a child implies a continuing presence, lasting at least nine months, more often for years.” Rich is being generous, I think, to include pregnancy. A man can “father” a child he never meets. But we would never say that a woman who had a baby and left it in the hospital “mothered” that child. Mothering comes after: Nursing, changing, reading, singing, administering Tylenol and frozen teething rings, attending to 3 a.m. diapers and hunger pangs and nightmares, keeping track of schedules and grades and homework and food aversions and favorite songs. Fatherhood is a status. Motherhood is labor.

Which doesn’t mean women are inherently suited for it. Even those of us on the Left can fall into romanticizing the “maternal instinct.” Babies are some of the most likable people in existence, and not just because none of them have podcasts—loving them isn’t some magical female talent. You learn how to care for children the way you learn anything else: Reading up, talking to people who have done it and paying attention to the children themselves, who tend to be quite definite on their preferences. Any caring adult can do it, and that person doesn’t have to be female, or even a genetic relative—witness the intense bonds adoptive parents forge with their children. In an ideal world, all parents would have the work flexibility to be deeply involved with their children’s lives.

But in our world, it’s overwhelmingly women who get assigned mothering work. I do it for reasons that are partly biological—if you breastfeed a baby, the lactating parent spends more time with the baby—but mostly economic. Both my husband and I adore our child, but it was easier to give the work to me, because I make less money.

My career was forged by the media landscape 10 years ago, when you could be a “famous blogger” (I was one) or an “Internet feminist” (I am one) as an entryway to paid gigs. But they were just that, gigs; staff writing jobs were evaporating as the Internet made news free, blogging was underpaid or unpaid, and in the collapse of 2009, when I lost my day job, I found myself living off $50 Salon pieces and $15 PayPal donations. At the peak of my “celebrity,” I could direct more traffic to a site than the New York Times, but I couldn’t buy groceries. My husband, then my boyfriend, had an entry-level marketing job with an income of around $30,000, and he saved us. As we got older, his career progressed. Mine never quite recovered. So we went from being poor together to relying on his income together; I didn’t notice until I got pregnant, at which point we both assumed my career would take the hit, because I could do it without impacting the bottom line too much.

That shift of power is a built-in feature of heterosexual relationships. Women and men in their twenties earn roughly equal pay; however, as per the Harvard Business Review, “[the] average male college graduate by his early forties earns roughly 55 percent more than the average college graduate female.” Women aren’t so much bumping into the glass ceiling as they are being ushered into a whole different building; while men are building relatively stable careers, women are more likely to do precarious contract or temp labor (like, ahem, freelance writing) and more likely to work part-time. This drives single mothers into poverty—but then, that’s the point. Living on a single income has been untenable since our own mothers were young. Single mothers are not allowed to exist. Women in patriarchy must depend on patriarchs to live.

It is startling, after a career spent railing against the statistical realities of women’s lives, to find out that your own life still conforms to them. Women are still edged out of public life, while men proceed apace into power. And mothering work is still devalued. We get people to do it not by making it worthwhile, but by telling them they are too worthless to do anything else.

Within my lifetime, mothering work was supported. We had institutions—functioning public schools, CHIP, welfare, child care centers and preschools that were affordable for most middleclass families—that, although never cheap, ensured children did not go without necessities. But they have all been gutted. Basic necessities, like day care, have become luxuries; child care now costs more than rent in some cities, and more than the average state college tuition everywhere. Things that were once luxuries, like private school, increasingly become necessities as conservatives take aim at public options.

There are things other countries take for granted—parental leave, universal healthcare, universal preschool, Scandinavian-style baby boxes that provide the essentials for a child’s first year—that we don’t have. Some, we’re not pursuing. One of the core features of European socialist childhood, and one of the major demands of second-wave feminism, is state-funded, high-quality, universal child care centers for ages 0 to 6; currently, there is no significant U.S. activist momentum for it among either socialists or feminists.

But those needs are easy to ignore when mother work is worthless. So, most importantly: We could envision mothering differently. We could resist atomization, build solidarity and see the fates of all our children as connected. Vulnerable communities already know this; sociologist Patricia Hill Collins notes that working-class black women, who have always had to work, have also always created support networks to care for each other’s children. Mothering is not an individual struggle, but a community resource, and real respect adheres to women who are skilled at nurturing.

Instead of following their lead, the culture as a whole devalues mothering, calling it work that anyone could do, even as the shredding of the social contract makes successful mothering impossible. So we’re stuck, unable to work, unable to stop working. We are pushed into part-time work without benefits, or shoved into the precarious gig economy—driving cars, renting rooms, writing blog posts, sitting other people’s babies—that promises “flexibility” and delivers unceasing work, as in the now-viral story of the Lyft driver who was so afraid of turning down a gig that she wound up driving customers while she was in labor. We dump our money into the child care center, not knowing where college will come from. We quit our jobs to provide child care so our children can go to college. We scramble to provide them with everything that our nation once provided us, and we do it in a culture that will not help us, because it is hostile to any but the most traditional solutions: As per a 2016 Washington Post poll, 75 percent of Americans believe mothers should not work full time outside the home. Yet, as per the U.S. Department of Labor, 53 percent of mothers with children under 18 do so, and another 17 percent work part time.

Millennials, who are already the most underemployed generation, are also the generation currently having children, albeit at a rate lower than any previous generation. The scramble to provide our children more support with fewer resources is going to get worse.

We live wondering which job we’ll fail at today. We know only that success is no longer an option.

I love my daughter more than anyone I've ever met. I love the way she takes her bath, dipping her toes into the water and exclaiming with pleasant surprise, like a little old lady taking a trip to a day spa; I love how she signals anger by blowing furious raspberries on her hand; I love how she curls back into fetal position as I sing her to sleep, folding her knees and tucking her head into her chest, as if she remembers being part of me. I spend every minute of the day with her, until I put her to bed. Then, once she’s tucked in, I take out my phone and I look at baby pictures. I feel lonely when she isn’t in the room. I love my job, too. No, it’s never going to pay for a summer house, but I didn’t take it for the money. I recognize it’s a privilege to say this—that no one in my family history, and certainly no woman, has had enough security to take a job for reasons other than the paycheck—but that makes me cherish it all the more.

I have something that very few women have had throughout history; I have the ability to make myself heard, for my words to matter to the culture at large. There’s no way I would ever give that up willingly. You would have to kill me to stop me from writing, and even then, there’s always Ouija boards. But what I don’t love is the fear I feel, once a day, looking at my daughter; the formless, shooting panic of how will she ever go to college or what if one of us gets sick. I don’t like that having both a child and one’s chosen work has essentially been priced out of reach for most women, many of whom are just as talented as I am, or more talented; that the basic human activity of love has been turned into a luxury item. I don’t love that fear, that constant, wordless sense of being suspended over an abyss. Our family has enough, these days. Yet I’ve had enough and lost it before. It could happen at any time. It would take one big expense, one job loss, one market crash, for us to fall. And when I fall, down will come baby, cradle and all. And I can’t say nobody warned me.

Lorde Took a Stand for Palestinian Rights. Now an Israeli Organization Is Suing Her Fans.

Mon, 2018-02-12 12:44

When the pop star Lorde made the decision in December 2017 to cancel an upcoming concert in Israel, a predictable backlash gathered steam.

Social media invective ensued. The New Zealand Jewish Council said Lorde had “succumbed to a small but loud group of extremist bullies.” And right-wing celebrity Rabbi Shmuley Boteach paid to print an advertisement in the Washington Post calling the singer a “bigot.”

Less expected, however, was a lawsuit aimed at two Lorde fans in New Zealand who called on the pop star to boycott Israel over its human rights abuses that harm Palestinians.

On Jan. 31, Shurat HaDin, an Israeli legal organization, announced it filed suit against Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab, two New Zealand citizens who, in an open letter, pleaded with Lorde to “join the artistic boycott of Israel, cancel your Israeli tour dates and make a stand.”

Shurat HaDin has close ties to the Mossad, the Israeli equivalent of the CIA. The group says the pair violated Israel’s 2011 law prohibiting advocacy of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. The suit filed on behalf of three Israelis who had bought tickets is asking for $13,000 in damages for the “emotional injury” caused by the concert’s cancellation. (Shurat HaDin did not respond to a request for comment.)

The lawsuit is a test case, as this is the first time the Israeli anti-BDS law has been invoked. However, the litigation has very little chance of going anywhere in the Israeli court system.

“In order to apply a law on an extraterritorial jurisdiction, you need to have that very clear in the law, and it’s not mentioned in the anti-boycott law,” says Sawsan Zaher, an attorney at Adalah, a Palestinian-run legal center in Israel. “You are not liable if you call for a boycott in an area, a territory, a country that is not under the jurisdiction of the Israeli law.”

But even if the case fails, the lawsuit is one more indicator that Israel’s global battle to shut down the BDS movement, which Israeli officials have labeled a “strategic threat,” is escalating. Israel and an array of allied organizations have taken a multi-pronged approach in their anti-BDS strategy, using legislation, online blacklists, travel bans and lawsuits to crack down on the human rights movement.

BDS is a Palestinian-led global campaign that calls for boycotting Israeli goods, divesting from corporations that do business with Israel and imposing government sanctions on the state. The movement’s three demands are: an end to Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and Gaza; equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel; and the right of return for refugees expelled from Israel in 1948, when the state was founded.

Lorde’s boycott of Israel was perhaps the BDS movement’s most talked about victory last year.

Explaining her decision, Lorde wrote in a statement that her original move to book a concert in Tel Aviv was “not the right call” and that she decided to cancel the show after having “a lot of discussions with people holding many views.”

Her boycott captured headlines around the globe, and angered opponents of the BDS movement.

“The symbolism of a well-known pop star standing up for what she believes in is threatening to those who want to preserve the status quo and squash those who stand up for human rights,” says Rahul Saksena, a staff attorney at the group Palestine Legal, which monitors attacks on Palestinian rights advocacy in the United States.

And it wasn’t only Israel that was miffed by the concert cancellation. In late January, Florida lawmakers cited Lorde’s decision to justify their push to strengthen a state law that bars state contracts worth $1 million or more from going to entities that boycott Israel. (The lawmakers want the $1 million threshold provision dropped.)

“Lorde is coming to Florida in April,” said State Rep. Randy Fine, the Republican sponsor of the bill, at a Jan. 23 press conference. “That’s why it’s important for the legislature to take a stand to say it is not okay for a government to conduct business with groups that choose to have these discriminatory and anti-Semitic positions.”

In February, Fine explicitly called for the Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority and the Tampa Sports Authority to cancel Lorde’s shows in those cities.

Beyond Lorde, the Israeli government, Congress and U.S. state lawmakers are stepping up their broader war on the boycott movement.

The Israeli government has poured millions of dollars into attempts to stop the movement, and in January, announced it would ban 20 pro-BDS groups from traveling to Israel/Palestine. This ban is significant, as Israel controls all entry points into Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Congress is considering the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which would impose fines or up to 20 years in prison for those advocating the boycott of Israel. Groups like Shurat HaDin have filed multiple legal complaints against organizations, including the Presbyterian Church and the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America, that have called for boycotts of Israel.

In addition, 24 states have anti-BDS laws on the books, most of which bar state contracts from going to companies that boycott Israel. Some of these laws have required individuals to sign oaths stating they would not boycott Israel before receiving state money.

Palestinian rights advocates say these laws are unconstitutional, striking at the heart of free speech in the United States. In January, a federal judge in Kansas agreed, and blocked a state law that required a public-school educator to certify she wouldn’t boycott Israel if she wanted to train teachers.

“These laws are a clear violation of the First Amendment, at a time when we need to protect those rights the most,” Palestine Legal’s Saksena tells In These Times. “Anti-BDS bills across this country are clearly aimed at chilling people’s speech.”

But if the goal is to stop activists from calling for a boycott of Israel, these anti-BDS laws, and lawsuits like the one against BDS advocates in New Zealand, are not working.

In response to the news that Shurat HaDin filed a lawsuit against them, Sachs and Abu-Shanab, the authors of the letter to Lorde that called on her to renege on her Israel concert, vowed to keep working for Palestinian rights.

“No intimidation tactics can or will stifle this growing movement,” they wrote in an online statement. “We won’t be told what to say. Instead of scaring us, these bullying tactics only embolden us and make it self-evident that there is a right and wrong in this situation. We are proud to stand for what is right.”

The Right To Mother and Do Sex Work

Mon, 2018-02-12 06:00

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA—Kymberly Cutter expected an uphill battle for custody of her 8-yearold daughter. She is a sex worker and her case was being tried in a rural, conservative part of the state. Her ex-boyfriend, the child’s father, brought to court a file of photographs and advertisements for her bodywork and prostate massage business.

“He was trying to make it seem like I was raising [our daughter] in a brothel,” she says. “I wasn’t.”

Cutter’s massage studio was in an apartment separated from her main house, and her ex-boyfriend “was part of that world,” she tells In These Times. “He was very much open to my sex work when we were together.”

Liz Afton works as a counselor at the Sex Workers Project, an initiative of New York City’s Urban Justice Center (UJC), which provides legal and social services to people involved in sex work. “Parents, particularly mothers, who are involved in sex work often have it used against them to separate them from their child,” Afton says.

Atossa Movahedi, director of legal services and development at the UJC’s domestic violence project, says Cutter’s situation is common. “More often than not,” she says, “the opposing party had knowledge of, or even was involved directly, in the client’s participation in the sex work, and is now using it as a tool to exploit them in the court system.”

When dealing with custody disputes, courts first look at a parent’s ability to provide a loving and stable home. Financial status, mental health, drug use and domestic violence all fall under consideration. Though many mothers involved in sex work pass inspection in these areas, they’re left with the fact that the job is usually illegal—and in the eyes of some on the bench, immoral.

“In many cases, we see the inherent biases of the judge at play, perhaps not explicitly, but in their demeanor and rulings,” Movahedi says. 

“I had a good judge,” Cutter says. “He felt what I did for a living had no bearing on my ability to parent.” Cutter also came armed with 60 letters of support from friends, family and community members, and her parents gave her $10,000 to cover her legal costs. Even then, she says, “I was really, really lucky. If you get a conservative judge who wants to punish women, well, you’re in big trouble.”

Take the case of Finley Fawn, who lost custody of her 6-yearold son in 2016. Fawn performs legal sex shows on the internet, but the courts decided that filming from home allowed her child too much awareness of the job.

Juliana Piccillo, a former sex worker in Tucson, Ariz., says that when she and her second husband divorced in 2003 she waived her right to child support because he threatened to sue for custody if she did not. When, in 2009, she decided to pursue child support for their disabled son, he tried to use her sex work against her. Though she won, she recalls the experience as drenched in bias and belittlement. Her ex-husband served as his own counsel, Piccillo says, and tried to embarrass her with images from her website. A friend of hers went through something similar; opposing counsel repeatedly referred to her as “Hooker Mom.”

In 2014, Piccillo helped start Red Umbrella Babies, an anthology about sex work and parenting. “Every [separated] sex worker I know ... has had their custody threatened,” she explains. “If we start talking about it, we can show that sex workers can be very good parents and raise very healthy children in very wholesome environments.”

Liz Afton argues that many sex workers make great mothers not in spite of the job, but because of it. “It provides schedule flexibility and much better wages than many jobs, and the luxury of more quality time with their children,” she says. “It can also allow people to escape abusive relationships by taking control of their own financial security.”

As for Cutter, she’s now living and co-parenting with another sex worker who also has a child. Cutter says raising her child with another woman in the field feels like a safer bet when it comes to retaining custody. Within the world of sex workers, it’s not entirely uncommon.

Piccillo, for example, is involved with the Sex Workers Outreach Program, a network of 28 chapters dedicated to advancing sex worker rights. “We spend holidays together, we barbecue together, we raise our children together,” she says. “We create our own communities to nurture our kids.”

Piccillo adds, “A lot of myths and stereotypes” about sex work have been debunked. “But parenthood is the last frontier.”

Can the Democratic Party’s Left Flank Win in 2018? This Illinois Primary Could Be a Bellwether

Wed, 2018-02-07 19:36

One of the most closely watched Democratic primary races of 2018 is taking place in Illinois’s 3rd Congressional District, an increasingly diverse patch of Chicago’s Southwest Side and surrounding suburbs.

For over 25 years, the district has been represented by the Lipinski family—but that could be about to change. Chicagoland businesswoman Marie Newman is mounting an increasingly formidable challenge to Rep. Dan Lipinski, a seven-term incumbent who has made a name for himself as one of the most conservative-leaning Democrats in Congress. Lipinski is a staunch opponent of abortion rights who refuses to back a $15 minimum wage and has voted against LGBT rights, the DREAM Act and Obamacare.

Lipinski, who identifies Ronald Reagan as a political hero, votes against his party nearly twice as often as the average Democrat. In recent years, he’s received harsh ratings from civil liberties, civil rights, education, women's rights, immigrant rights, pro-environment, anti-war and LGBT organizations. He also has a 100 percent rating from the anti-abortion National Right to Life committee. In 2012, Lipinski even refused to endorse Barack Obama for reelection.

Newman is running as a progressive alternative. A supporter of Medicare for All and the Fight for 15, she’s racked up a string of endorsements from left-leaning organizations including NARAL Pro-Choice America, Democracy for America, MoveOn.org and Our Revolution, an official organizational offshoot of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

Newman has also received the support of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who recently headlined a Chicago fundraiser for Newman’s campaign. And Newman been endorsed by two of Lipinski’s House colleagues, Representatives Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL-4) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9).

“That tells you, frankly, how terrible he is on the issues,” Newman says by phone from her home in La Grange, Ill. “Not just my polls, but many polls, identify that seven out of 10 people in the district are pro-choice. About 75 percent are for healthcare for all or Medicare for All. The district has changed dramatically since Mr. Lipinski took office—even though it was a solidly blue district already.”

The 3rd District has leaned Democratic for decades—and today, it is home to a growing base of Latino and Muslim voters, a different set of Democrats from the old Daley diehards. In the decade since Lipinski took office, the district’s population has gone from about one-quarter Latino to one-third, despite redistricting that transferred many Latino voters to Gutiérrez’s adjacent 4th District. In the 2016 presidential primary, Bernie Sanders won the 3rd district by roughly 8 points, a vote Newman sees as a sign of change.

An internal poll conducted by the Newman campaign in January shows the challenger actually leading Lipinski by five points, when voters are made aware of the incumbent’s conservative policy positions and views.

Change doesn’t always come easy to Chicago-area Democrats, and Lipinski is a case in point. He succeeded his father, 11-term representative Bill Lipinski, who stepped down days after winning the Democratic primary in 2004 and tagged in his son to replace him.

The elder Lipinski co-sponsored the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act, consistently voted against abortion rights, and took a conservative tack on issues ranging from restricting immigration to enabling stop-and-frisk policies.

Allegations of nepotism and other wrongdoing didn’t stop the younger Lipinski from picking up where his father left off, using his safe seat to oppose abortion rights, immigrant protections and gay marriage.

Bill Lipinski, a Chicago political heavyweight, had strong relationships with Washington and Illinois power brokers—including the powerful Daley and Madigan families. Those connections haven’t hurt his son, who picked up many of Bill’s richest backers, including local billionaires such as members of the Crown Family and Jerry Reinsdorf, a prominent donor to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Dan Lipinski is also a co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition, the organization representing the Democratic Party’s conservative wing. While many Blue Dogs represent swing districts, Lipinski stands out as a conservative Democrat representing a solidly blue urban area who has never faced a strong GOP threat or been forced to run a competitive general election race.

Like many conservative-to-moderate Illinois Democrats, Lipinski has also received support from establishment organized labor. The Illinois AFL-CIO is a Lipinski ally. And about a fifth of his campaign funds come from skilled-trade unions.

Newman sees this as a prime opportunity to replace Lipinski with a progressive, despite the fact that she’s a political newcomer who trails her opponent financially. Newman’s campaign has raised just over half a million dollars, a strong showing for a challenger but barely a third of what Lipinski has on hand.

If she does win, Newman has a list of priorities ready to go. “Medicare for All, then workers’ and working families’ issues,” she says, “not just having $15 an hour, but paid leave, parental and sick leave—advancing everybody’s rights around immigration, moving on to LGBTQ rights, women’s rights and women’s healthcare.”

Newman also has the support of National Nurses United (NNU), a progressive union that backed Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign. NNU, which coordinates its Chicagoland canvassing through the community organization Reclaim Chicago, is a vocal supporter of single-payer campaigns.

“We see real potential in Marie Newman,” says Jan Rodolfo, NNU’s Midwest director. “She really believes in the public sector and the common good. We also feel it's important to send a message to incumbents that if they fail to act as progressives, there's consequences for them electorally.”

As for Lipinski, Rodolfo says, “He’s just not responsive to his constituency. We don't see him working with his constituents to build a movement to make their lives better.”

Newman has also received the endorsement of other unions in the state including the SEIU State Council and the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

But is Newman, a marketing consultant with no record in office, the best contender to carry the progressive banner? Plenty of candidates have run from the left only to govern from the center, especially those without long experience in office. And once in office, House members aren’t always easy to hold to account.

Rodolfo says that Newman is “committed to co-govern” with Reclaim Chicago and NNU, “and while you can't physically force somebody to be in a room if they break that promise, we can mobilize our base to put significant pressure on her. At the end of the day, I believe that she’ll care what her constituents think.”

While she has self-financed her campaign to the tune of $75,000, Newman points to her relatively small donations (around $50 on average) as evidence that her campaign and candidacy are being fueled by grassroots support from constituents in her district. 

For his part, Lipinski is sitting on $1.65 million for the 2018 race. Some of his top campaign contributors include defense contractors Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin. With a war chest six times bigger than Newman’s, Lipinski has no need to self-finance.

And he appears to have at least one powerful group in his corner: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). The DCCC hasn’t officially taken a stance in the race, or responded to inquiries about whether it will continue to back Lipinski. But the organization has cozied up to Lipinski’s Blue Dog Coalition since the 2016 elections. The DCCC sees the Blue Dogs as the key to retaking Congress in 2018—and endorsing Lipinski’s challenger could seriously hurt that relationship.

The DCCC has made it clear that the anti-abortion views held by some Blue Dogs aren’t a deal breaker, and has accused Blue Dog opponents of setting “purity tests” by holding out for progressives. DCCC chairman Ben Ray Luján has called the caucus “incredible partners.”

When it comes to the DCCC, Newman says she’s “not at all” surprised at the lack of support. “If you’re in a family,” she says, “and a distant neighbor’s friend of a friend wants to be in the family, do you just get to be in the family? No. Those organizations, of course they’re going to protect their family.” If she wins the primary, Newman will likely be expected to work with the DCCC on fundraising and other efforts.

With a post-Trump upswing in progressive primary challenges, there’s been more public debate about the Democratic establishment, including the DCCC, and its sometimes controversial choices on which candidates to support. At the end of the day, though, the question for voters will be whether Lipinski fits the district—and whether Newman would fit it better.

Lipinski has run hard negative campaigns against past primary opponents such as Mark Pera, then a Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney, who challenged Lipinski in 2008.

That year, a flyer funded in part by the Lipinski campaign and distributed across the district caricatured Pera as a carpetbagger who didn’t represent the district’s working-class values. This time around, Lipinski is calling his opposition a “Tea Party of the Left.”

A decade ago, the Tea Party injected primary panic into safe GOP districts, forcing out blindsided incumbents or pushing sitting representatives far to the right. For activists and organizers who want to drag Democrats left, the upcoming primary elections will serve as an important test.

Victories for candidates like Newman, publicly committed to progressive platforms, will point to the growing power of the Democratic Party’s left flank. And the progressive groups backing Newman’s candidacy hope that such victories will help win back control of Congress from Republicans in November.

“If we do turn it over,” Newman says, “I think we can get Medicare for All. I think we can get a comprehensive workers’ bill through.”

If Newman pulls off a win on March 20, it will be the clearest indication yet that a progressive groundswell is translating into electoral victories. In such a solidly Democratic district, Newman would be all but assured to win the House seat in November. She’s hoping to be part of a big freshman class. 

This Former NFL Player Is Running on a Progressive Agenda to Flip a Red District in Texas

Tue, 2018-02-06 18:32

When it comes to Texas, for many years national political pundits have focused on one question: When will the state turn blue? This year, a number of Democrats are running in the Lonestar State, from Beto O’Rourke, who is challenging Ted Cruz for a U.S. Senate seat, to several candidates vying for House seats considered newly up for grabs.

Among them is Colin Allred, a civil rights attorney and former Tennessee Titans linebacker who has thrown his hat into the ring for the 32nd Congressional District. Like many other districts in the state, the 32nd, containing parts of Dallas and its suburbs and exurbs, was so aggressively gerrymandered that Allred’s staffers joke it looks like a dog, albeit a less friendly one than his office’s resident Rhodesian Ridgeback, Scarlett. The 32nd has been represented by Republican Pete Sessions since it was created in 2003 as a safe Republican seat. That safety was called into question in 2016, when voters in the district chose Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by one point.

While Sessions has continued to vote in lock-step with Trump, it didn’t take long after the presidential vote for Democrats to see his seat as contestable ground. Allred is running in a crowded primary field, where seven Democratic challengers have declared so far. But the biggest barrier to him or any other Democrat claiming the seat may be Texas’s draconian voting laws that have led to low turnout: the state ranks 49th in the nation for voter participation.

Allred considers himself the most progressive candidate in the race, and is running on a platform of Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage, campaign finance reform and automatic voter registration.

As a civil rights attorney, Allred has spent much of his career outside the NFL defending against attacks on voting rights at the local and national level. As he tells me, “Texas isn’t a red state. Texas is a non-voting state.” By this he means that white and middle-class Republicans have an easier time turning out on election day than Texas’s growing population of people of color. And while the state’s voter ID laws are notoriously stringent—allowing Texans to use concealed carry licenses but not student IDs to vote—its voter registration policies may well keep even more people from getting to the polls, particularly voters of color.

The state does not allow same-day registration, and anyone hoping to register voters has to first take a class and become “deputized” to do so, a certification that only applies to the county where the certification is granted. For primaries like Allred’s—races where turn-out is already likely to be low—the system presents an especially tough hurdle. Registration for voting in the March 6 race is already closed.  

In many ways, the 32nd is a microcosm for the kind of districts Democrats may have to learn to win if they hope to retake control of Congress: A diverse district where Republicans have erected myriad roadblocks to mobilizing what could be the core of a progressive base.

On Super Bowl Sunday at his campaign office in Richardson, Texas, just north of Dallas, I spoke with Allred about the district he hopes to represent, his career as a civil rights attorney, the increasingly charged racial politics of the NFL and how to turn Texas blue.

Kate Aronoff: How did you decide to run?

Colin Allred: I didn’t think I would run for office, certainly not at this stage in my life. I wanted to give back to my community, and that’s why I went to law school and became a civil rights attorney. I wanted to be involved in the things that had given me a chance and allowed me to chase my version of the American Dream. And I saw we were—in a lot of ways—slipping backward on civil rights.

For a while, those of us in the civil rights community have felt like we were losing ground and defending shrinking ground instead of pushing forward. The election of Donald Trump was the ultimate outbreak of the disease that had been troubling us.

Here in my community, where I was born and raised, we have a member of Congress who I have known for decades and who is completely out of step with the community that we are. Whatever North Texas is, it’s not what Pete Sessions is. I’ve been wanting to get rid of him for a long time, so I decided to run against him.

KA: Can you give some context for the district?

CA: This district takes part of Dallas and combines it with some of the suburbs and exurbs, as many of the Dallas districts do. That’s how Republicans try to keep those districts Republican, since the city proper is very blue. But they’ve been undermined by some of the rapid changes in the area. It’s a very diverse district, and there are 100,000 people a year moving to North Texas.

It’s a district that has two tails to it: There are some very wealthy areas, and there are some folks who’re really struggling. In a lot of ways, it mirrors the country.

KA: Yours is a crowded primary. What would you say are the big differences between you and other Democrats running?

CA: I’m the most progressive candidate, but we also have the most grassroots-driven campaign. We have hundreds of volunteers and we’ve knocked on 13,000 doors, which is a lot for a congressional primary this far out in Texas. And that’s how I think we have to beat Pete Sessions. I don’t think you’re going to beat long-term incumbent Republicans across the country by running generic Democrats on generic Democratic platforms. We have to have candidates who have a story to tell and who can appeal to voters who don’t always come out to vote.

KA: How do you think the Democratic Party needs to change to retake Congress?

CA: We need to avoid the pitfall of just opposing Trump. I am disgusted by Donald Trump as a human being and as the president of the United States. But we have to know what voters are for instead of just what they’re against.

A poll that was done after the election said that a large percentage of voters think the Democratic Party stands for the rich. That is a big problem. Obviously our policies don’t. But there’s certainly something we’ve done as a party that has led to that perception, and we have to address that.

Our leadership has not been bold enough on what we’re standing for. For example, the recent vote in the Senate to keep the government open with a continuing resolution. I think that was a huge mistake. They should have stood firm and gotten a clean DREAM Act. We’re not dealing with an honest broker on the other side. And this is the thing we were elected to do—to stand up for things like this. If you don’t, then why should we re-elect you? If you’re wondering where the Black vote is or where the Latino vote is, it’s issues like this. When you’ve invested in a candidate or a party and you don’t feel like they show up for you. That’s when people turn off.

KA: What should that forward-facing call be in the 32nd District?

CA: Number one is healthcare. We have a healthcare crisis in North Texas. One in five people in Dallas County don’t have health insurance. One in six Texans don’t have health insurance—the highest uninsured rate in the nation. You can’t chase your dreams if you can’t go see a doctor. That’s why I believe so strongly in universal healthcare, and have spoken about my support for a Medicare for All system that can provide a baseline of coverage.

The second thing is public education. In Texas, we have not invested enough in public education, period. And we are always fighting back on the forces that are trying to do what they call “school choice,” which is really just siphoning off funding from public schools for vouchers to send kids to private schools and parochial schools. I’m a product of Dallas public schools. I come from a long line of educators. We have to invest so much more in our public education.

The other thing is good paying jobs and wage growth. Our productivity has grown tremendously since the 1970s, but the average American worker hasn’t gotten a raise. People understand that they’re working harder for less, even if they don’t have the terminology for it. So many of the gains that we’ve made from our collective hard work have gone to the top. That’s not the American way. It’s not radical or socialist to say that’s not the way we do things.

Our inequality problem is just exploding, and it’s a huge problem. Even if you don’t care about the moral side—which I do—you should care about the issue from the small-d democratic side. When people feel like there’s no chance for them it drives down participation and leads to extremist politicians like Donald Trump.

KA: What are some of the trends you’ve seen in Texas in your work as a civil rights attorney working on voting rights?

CA: Texas is one of the worst states in terms of voter suppression. The state government here passed a voter ID law that was the strictest in the country, and added more restrictions to voter registration. Republicans can read demographics as well as anyone, and they’ve done everything they can to ensure that voting is not the province of people of color in this area. There’s no other way to say it.

Putting clamps on voter registration is the easiest way to stop people from voting. A lot of people talk about voter ID laws because it’s the most obvious thing, but the real pernicious thing is restrictions on registration. That’s how you really stop people from getting involved. You can find ways around voter ID laws, but if you’re not registered, we can’t do anything for you. That’s the biggest fight here in Texas and the biggest fight across the country, and that’s why I’m going to be pushing for automatic voter registration in Congress. We can do this as a country, we’ve just chosen not to.

It’s a long-running battle. Whether you care about the economy or the environment or the minimum wage, whatever the issue is, it comes down to getting enough people out to vote to change it. Our policies have majority support. We just don’t have enough people voting.

KA: How have you dealt with these barriers in the campaign?

CA: We try to talk about it in ways that it doesn’t sound too daunting, but it is the biggest hurdle we face. If we had 75 percent turn-out in this district then we would easily beat Pete Sessions. We’re going to have to expand who’s voting. My background and my story can help bring people out who might not come out otherwise. Because I went to the same schools they went to, they know that I was raised by a single mother and was able to make it to the NFL and become a civil rights attorney—they know that I know what they’re facing. There’s an element of excitement to me being a former NFL player, which helps.

KA: Not that the NFL wasn’t political before, but it’s been pretty remarkable to watch Trump take aim at players who are taking a political stand. What has your reaction been?

CA: I’ve talked to a lot of former players about this. All of us feel that what happened this year with the president targeting these players was a violation of our First Amendment rights.

Football players are aware of our position in society, especially African-American players. We know that in some cases we’ll be the most prominent black person that a black kid will watch. We know that their eyes are on this, and we feel a compulsion to take a stand. Some of the kids who you see in the NFL now are 21 and 22 years old. They’ve decided to take a stand for something they believe in, and now they have the president of the United States singling them out and saying they’re not patriots.

I wish that more players that weren’t just black would have gotten involved, because this is a national issue: Issues of police violence and trust between communities and their police is not something that is only applicable for the African-American community. What’s going on in some of these communities has to be addressed, and players who took a stand felt so strongly about it that they were willing to lose their jobs—jobs that may be the only chance for them to change the generational wealth for their family. If they’re willing to risk that, you should at least listen to what they have to say.

KA: What do you think it would take to turn Texas blue?

CA: Texas is not a red state. Texas is a non-voting state. Right now we’re electing officials who represent a minority of our population. There’s not going to be a silver bullet. The way we push that boulder further up the hill is by running candidates who appeal to people who aren’t voting at as high a rate, and who in some cases come from those communities. We started to do that in 2014. Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte ran and did a great job, even though they lost by a lot. The work that was done to clean up our voter file and bring political talent back to Texas. So many people volunteered for Wendy who are now volunteering on my campaign. Those ideas—people thinking they have to knock doors and make phone calls—was an alien thing to Texas until Wendy ran. Now it’s going to be easier for each person after her, so we have to keep building on that.

Ultimately, the answer has to be that we turn out an electorate that is as diverse as the state is and make sure they’re able to vote. If that happens, the state will turn blue. Republicans, for whatever reason, have abandoned the minority vote. As Democrats we have to capitalize on that and appeal to the folks who feel like they don’t have a voice.

We have to remember that Hillary lost Texas by nine points, which is about the same amount she lost Ohio and Iowa by, which are both considered to be swing states. And she didn’t spend any money here, compared with the millions she spent in those states.

Our future as a party is in the South and the Southwest: states like Texas, Georgia and Alabama. Those are the states that are going to flip, because they’re so diverse. Those are the states we should be investing in.

From Sewer Socialism to Server Socialism: Appalachia’s Internet Revolution

Tue, 2018-02-06 06:00

MCDONALD, TENN.—Life in the small unincorporated community of McDonald, which sits among the rolling rivers and smoky mountain ridges of Appalachia, was supposed to be paradise for Trina Pyke and her family.

Pyke, a 60-year-old grandmother who moved to the United States from Venezuela at age 9, lives in a picturesque threestory log cabin built by her husband. “I wouldn’t live anywhere else,” says Pyke. “This is Eden.”

But life in Eden is a digital hell.

Because no one has invested in laying fiber optic cables through the mountains, Pyke, like many rural Americans, must rely on relatively slow satellite internet with data caps. This made returning to school a nightmare for Pyke, who just graduated with her master’s degree in nursing education. When her family met their monthly data limit of 15 gigabytes, download and upload times plummeted.

For nursing school, “We had to transfer data and upload papers,” Pyke says. “Fifteen gigabytes just evaporated in a few days.”

Pyke spent hours at the library accessing the internet, away from home and her 85-year-old mother, who has Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, and requires diligent care.

Now, Pyke is one of a number of activists across the state partnering with publicly owned internet providers to push for expanding fiber optic services to rural communities. Pyke is working with the Electric Power Board (EPB), a public utility run by the neighboring city of Chattanooga, which doubles as an internet service provider.

EPB got into the internet business in 1999, after the state government passed a law making public internet utilities legal. Unfortunately, that same law had a last-minute provision banning public utilities from expanding community broadband into areas where they don’t sell electricity.

EPB could provide Pyke with internet access with no data cap at speeds at least four times as fast as what she currently has—and for the same price. At that speed, “My brother in Colombia could FaceTime our mother,” Pyke says.

The EPB’s mission as a public utility includes addressing the institutional barriers that maintain the “digital divide”—the gap between those who have internet access and those who do not. In 2015, EPB partnered with nearby Hamilton County’s department of education to launch the NetBridge Student Discount Program, which provides low-cost, high-speed internet to households with children in the Free and Reduced Meals Program. J. Ed. Marston, EPB’s vice president for marketing, says EPB would have provided the service at an even lower price, but was again hamstrung by a different state law, this one barring utilities from selling services below cost.

But even as lack of internet service affordability and the repeal of net neutrality are widening America’s digital divide, they may also be laying a foundation for a new kind of politics.

Darren Hodge, a 49-year-old union sheet metal worker and turkey hunting enthusiast, is running for county commissioner in neighboring Rhea County, Tenn.

Hodge, who says he was raised “ultra-conservative Republican,” became a “run-of-the-mill Democrat” with the election of Obama, whose “upbeat inclusive message spoke hope to a dismal economy” at a time when he and his family were suffering financially. Changing parties was a pretty big change, but not nearly as big as what happened after he heard Bernie Sanders speak in the last presidential primary.

“It was like a lightswitch was flipped,” says Hodge. “Bernie spoke to my heart. Medicare for all, livable wages, getting rid of TPP—those issues were like a wake-up call for me.”

Hodge was inspired to run on a populist platform that includes eschewing corporate donations, supporting unions, raising wages and eliminating the legal barriers to expanding EPB service to his county.

“We have outages, slow internet,” he says. “There are some places in this county that don’t have any internet access at all. We need to boost our infrastructure, including high-speed internet for students.”

Promoting publicly owned companies and expanding infrastructure investment in poor, rural communities—all while wearing camo and driving a truck? Sounds like the right ingredients for a resurgence of Southern socialism. 

How the Red Scare Shaped the Artificial Distinction Between Migrants and Refugees

Mon, 2018-02-05 16:31

During his first State of the Union address, President Donald Trump described what he considers to be the perfect refugee. “His name is Mr. Ji Seong-ho. In 1996, Seong-ho was a starving boy in North Korea,” Trump said. After surviving amputations, starvation and torture, Seong-ho “traveled thousands of miles on crutches all across China and southeast Asia to freedom,” Trump continued, noting that the man, who attended the address, now lives in Seoul. “Your great sacrifice,” Trump addressed Seong-ho, “is an inspiration to us all.”

Trump’s tribute to Seong-ho on Jan. 30 came just weeks after the president uttered his now infamous comments denigrating immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and the continent of Africa. “Why do we want all these people from Africa here?” Trump reportedly asked lawmakers at the White House. “They’re shithole countries … We should have more people from Norway.”

Trump is transparent about his racist and geopolitical motives for dividing people who migrate across borders into categories of “good” and “bad”—but his aims are far from original. The distinction between political refugees who are “deserving” of protection, and economic migrants who are not, has been formally enshrined in U.S. law and international norms since the beginning of the Cold War. This binary is neither abstract nor trivial: Denial of refugee status can spell out precarious undocumented existence, indefinite detention, coerced repatriation and even death. While sometimes draped in Trump-style inflammatory rhetoric, these categories are often vaunted by policymakers and technocrats as natural and neutral—far above the political fray.

However, the legal distinction between refugees and migrants has been ideological from the outset, formally emerging in the early 1950s as an anti-communist tool wielded by U.S. and Western European governments. Under U.S. law, the concept of a “refugee” first emerged to describe individuals seeking sanctuary in non-communist countries. On the international level, the United States played a key role in developing norms that emphasize the liberties of political dissidents, while denying the right to live free from poverty. By extending open arms to people escaping the “red menace,” the burgeoning U.S. empire sought to position itself as the leader of the free world. In the process, the U.S. government treated the dispossessed and displaced as pawns to undercut geopolitical foes and advance reactionary policies while fanning the flames of further displacement.

Whether Trump knows it or not, this anti-communist history informs the frameworks that he and politicians across the political spectrum use to determine who is deserving of sanctuary.

Codifying the values of capitalist democracies

In a July 2016 explainer, the United Nations Refugee Agency chastised the media and public for failing to grasp basic definitions. “We say ‘refugees’ when we mean people fleeing war or persecution across an international border,” writes spokesperson Adrian Edwards. “And we say ‘migrants’ when wee mean people moving for reasons not included in the legal definition of a refugee. We hope that others will give thought to doing the same. Choices about words do matter."

Yet these words are profoundly ideological: The separation of civil and economic rights is a key feature of capitalist democracies, predating the Cold War. “Capitalist liberal democracies don't have commitments to social rights like welfare, healthcare and housing,” Elizabeth Cohen, associate professor of political science at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School, tells In These Times. “For them, the government is there to protect mostly negative political and civil rights, like the right to sell your labor on the open market. They don't deal with redistribution.”

“That mentality,” explains Cohen, “lines up nicely with growing concern in the second half of the 20th century that there are hoards of poor people who want to bring down the standard of living.”

Officially, the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention emerged as a global response to the horrors of the Holocaust, which saw the United States and much of Europe and Latin America turn away Jews fleeing persecution. Yet the convention was also a product of the Cold War, with the newly emerged military superpower—the United States—playing a major role in drafting the global accord. Of the 26 nations that participated, Western European countries and U.S. allies were disproportionately represented. The Soviet Union was conspicuously absent.

The treaty defines a refugee as an individual with a reasonable fear of persecution “for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” This category is limited to people displaced by events in Europe before 1951 (a constraint that was later removed in the 1967 protocol). Yet the treaty also signals that countries around the world should see the accord as a baseline and develop their own refugee policies that exceed its “contractual scope.”

According to Rebecca Hamlin, author of Let Me Be a Refugee and assistant professor of Legal Studies at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, these criteria “stem from liberal notions of persecution regarding identity and beliefs.”

"I’m not trying to say those things aren't terrible forces, but that is a limited notion of what suffering is,” says Hamlin. “This mimics the liberal hierarchy of rights that says civil rights come above economic and social rights.”

This narrow, Europe-centric definition of a refugee garnered opposition from India, whose representatives objected that the accord ignored poverty, as well as from Arab nations concerned that the treaty would not apply to the Palestinian refugee crisis.

According to the UN Refugee Agency’s own telling, the first major test of the Convention came in response to the “exodus of refugees from Hungary after the Soviet suppression of the uprising in 1956.” Yet, this was hardly the only displacement taking place at the time: The post-World War II era also saw Israel’s mass expulsion of Palestinians, whose ongoing displacement remains a serious crisis today.

Even as the United States declined to initially sign the United Nations Refugee Convention, the accord became the main global instrument for enforcing the binary between refugees and migrants. As author and scholar Vijay Prashad notes in a recent article for AlterNet, “The West began to use the term [refugee] to define those who fled the USSR and Eastern Europe, but not those who fled colonial wars from Eastern Africa to South-East Asia.”

“Last flickering light of humanity”

In the United States, the ideological underpinnings of refugee law were even more explicit. In the Refugee Relief Act of 1953, the U.S. government first defined a refugee as someone seeking sanctuary in a non-communist country.

'Refugee'' means any person in a country or area which is neither Communist nor Communist-dominated, who because of persecution, fear of persecution, natural calamity or military operations is out of his usual place of abode and unable to return thereto, who has not been firmly resettled, and who is in urgent need of assistance for the essentials of life or for transportation.

The act also created special classes of refugees, including “escapees, ” or those fleeing communist nations—extending admissions to both refugees and escapees.

''Escapee'' means any refugee who, because of persecution or fear of persecution on account of race, religion, or political opinion, fled from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or other Communist, Communist-dominated or Communist-occupied area of Europe including those parts of Germany under military occupation by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and who cannot return thereto because of fear of persecution on account of race, religion or political opinion.

Thus, from the outset, refugees were defined as individuals seeking protection in the “free world”—with a key emphasis on those refugees fleeing communism. President Dwight D. Eisenhower touted the act as “an important contribution toward greater understanding and cooperation among the free nations of the world.”

That act came one year after the McCarran-Walter Act upheld a racist ranking system for “desirable” ethnic groups—while making it easier for the U.S. government to ban “subversives” and deport people suspected of being communists. “If this oasis of the world should be overrun, perverted, contaminated, or destroyed, then the last flickering light of humanity will be extinguished,” said Senator Pat McCarran, defending the act at the time.

One only has to look at the immigration policies immediately following these laws to see what defending the “last flickering light of humanity” looked like in practice. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower implemented the offensively named “Operation Wetback,” in which hundreds of U.S. agents deported more than 1 million immigrants to Mexico. This operation—praised by Trump in 2015—targeted immigrants who were not white.

Following this mass deportation, in 1956 Eisenhower offered asylum to 21,500 Hungarian refugees, with his White House stating that the move “would give practical effect to the American people's intense desire to help the victims of Soviet oppression.”

Decades later, the United States passed the Refugee Act of 1980, which changed the definition of a refugee to largely reflect the language adopted in the 1951 UN Convention. In practice, the Reagan administration heavily prioritized accepting individuals who were fleeing communist countries and other geopolitical foes of the United States, while largely rejecting those fleeing U.S. allies. These policies dovetailed with Reagan’s support for brutal, anti-communist dictatorships in El Salvador, Guatemala, the Philippines and Argentina—as well as his backing and arming of right-wing contras in Nicaragua and the anti-Soviet Mujahideen in Afghanistan.

When no one is safe

In a country built on the chattel slavery of Black people and the exploited labor of immigrants, the U.S. government’s brutal treatment of people who are violently uprooted or forcibly kidnapped far predates the Cold War. But it is in the context of anti-communism that the modern-day concept of a refugee emerged. That framework continues to shape the U.S. government’s political response to unprecedented numbers of displaced people. These old concepts map onto a messy geopolitical terrain, as the Cold War collides with the open-ended War on Terror—and migration remains a global phenomenon, not limited to a single region or conflict.

U.S.-led wars and military interventions play a key role in driving violent displacement—and U.S. economic policies force countless people to flee poverty around the globe. “We have to look at ‘free trade’ agreements like NAFTA and U.S. intervention in many of our countries,” Carlos Rojas Rodriguez, an organizer with the immigrant justice organization Movimiento Cosecha, tells In These Times. “The U.S. government creates poverty and wars. It’s unfair to destabilize countries and their economies and then not want to deal with the consequences of a refugee crisis or a mass migration.”

Meanwhile, what little protections existed for those who are labeled as refugees are rapidly disappearing: The Trump administration is waging an all-out assault on all border crossers—escalating immigration arrests, stripping away Temporary Protected Status from hundreds of thousands, targeting refugees from Muslim-majority nations for exclusion and slashing refugee admissions by 70 percent compared to the last year of the Obama administration. As the attack on DACA recipients shows, even those deemed “good” immigrants face an escalating offensive from the Right, as well as fair-weather allies in the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, the U.S. government’s military brinksmanship spares no one, including Seong-ho, who lives on the Korean Peninsula that Trump has threatened to incinerate with nuclear weapons.

Ultimately, legal categories can’t tell society how to stop the political and economic violence driving record-breaking numbers of people from their homes—or how to extend sanctuary and protection to those who are forcibly uprooted. What is certain is that people will continue to cross borders in a bid to save their lives and the lives of their loved ones—under the threat of war, poverty or both. Whether or not it’s acknowledged, the task to treat all of those people with the dignity and solidarity they deserve is a fundamentally political project.

The Caribou in the Copper Mine

Mon, 2018-02-05 06:00

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA—In a hotel meeting room in bustling downtown Anchorage, leaders from far-flung Native villages talked about how caribou and roads do not mix.

“The migration pattern’s going to get hindered,” said Tom Gray, representing the Native-operated Reindeer Herders Association at the December 2017 meeting of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd Working Group, an advisory panel made up of locals dependent on and protective of one of Alaska’s two largest caribou herds, 200,000 strong.

The herd roams a vast swath of northwestern Alaska, typically traveling about 2,000 miles a year. Their territory holds wide areas of lichen-carpeted tundra, the northern fringe of the quiet boreal forest, icy and fish-filled streams that flow out of the Brooks Range, sections of the northernmost U.S. national parks—and, if the Alaska Industrail Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) gets its way, a 211-mile road allowing access to a copper-rich northwestern area previously too isolated to justify opening mines.

Supporters say the project will create needed rural jobs and a new source of wealth for the whole state. Opponents see the road as an expensive boondoggle that will carve up habitat, endanger wildlife and disrupt indigenous hunting and fishing.

This debate predates 1980, when the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act set aside 104 million acres as national parklands, wildlife refuges and other protected units. The act also allowed for a section of an Ambler mining road to cut through one of those new parks, Gates of the Arctic, but only recently did a specific road plan finally materialize.

The Bureau of Land Management plans to decide on approval by early 2020.

AIDEA envisions a “private-public partnership” to foot what it estimates will be $350 million for construction (in addition to operating costs), with mining companies chipping in user fees.

Eye-rolling critics characterize the Ambler road proposal as yet another chapter in a history of harebrained Alaska development schemes—“the last of the zombie mega-projects,” wrote John Gaedeke, owner of a lodge on the edge of Gates of the Arctic, in a letter to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. The most audacious: Project Chariot, a Cold War-era plan to detonate hydrogen bombs off the coast to create a deepwater seaport. Then there was the proposed railroad tunnel linking Alaska to Russia, a Bering Strait version of the Chunnel (minus the population centers).

Rick Van Nieuwenhuyse, president and chief executive of Trilogy Metals Inc., which is positioning itself to mine Ambler-area copper, pitched the project as environmentally friendly.

The only way to combat global warming, Van Nieuwenhuyse said at the December 2017 working group meeting, is to switch to renewable energy and electric vehicles. “Both of those things require huge amounts of additional copper,” he said, compared to coal power and fuel-driven vehicles. “I like to refer to copper as the green metal of the future.”

He faced a tough audience.

Some members of the working group fret about mine-waste management and potential runoff of dangerous materials. But it is less the mining that worries critics than the two-lane gravel road.

Working group members talked about how caribou movements are altered by the mere presence of roads. They talked about dust, traffic noise and wider ecological impacts of a road, including to water quality and fish. And, when given assurances that the Ambler road would be only temporary—closed to the public to prevent influxes of outsiders and dismantled after mining was over—they invoked past Alaska experiences as a rebuttal.

“Somebody’s pulling somebody’s leg here,” said Vern Cleveland of the Inupiat village of Noorvik, the group’s chairman. “Look at the Dalton Highway.”

That 414-mile highway was built in the 1970s oil-boom era, running parallel to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. It was also touted as temporary, and for industrial use only. In 1994, it opened to the public.

Charles Saccheus, an Inupiat elder from the village of Elim, talked about being 10 years old and traveling by dog sled across the caribou hunting grounds. “I love caribou. It’s what feeds me,” he said. “It’s our way of life from time immemorial.”

Whatever benefits come from the road, they will not go to the region’s people, he predicted.

“We’ve got to be very careful about our fish and wildlife.”

Kara Walker and the Missing Pages of the History Books

Wed, 2018-01-31 06:00

Since her New York art world debut in 1994, Kara Walker has been known for creating alternative narratives of slavery by repurposing anti-Black antebellum caricatures in black cut-paper silhouettes, an 18th-century portraiture technique. Through these scenes, she picks at how racial inequality has been created and maintained.

Now, as the country grapples with still-standing monuments to Confederate leaders, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., is exhibiting Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated), a print series made by Walker in 2005. Displayed for the first time in its entirety, the prints explore how a 150-year-old conflict can still produce so many subjective truths.

In 15 prints, Walker superimposes her cut-paper silhouettes onto reproductions of pen and ink drawings from the illustrated 1866 Harper’s Pictorial History of the Great Rebellion. For generations, the book was treated as an objective archival text, even though it elided racism’s role in the war. By overlaying Black bodies onto Civil War scenes and battles, Walker uses visual disruption to restore the significance of Black experiences to the war’s legacy. She also reminds viewers that those most affected by history are often cut out of it.

Walker is not one to make explicit calls to action through her works or artist’s statements, but this show begs the question: Who did the original Harper’s historical narrative serve? History is never neutral—a fact to be mindful of when considering whether dismantling Confederate statues is “rewriting history” or simply making space for the histories that were never written. 

Rep. Barbara Lee Is Boycotting Trump’s State of the Union Tonight—Here’s Why

Tue, 2018-01-30 18:21

Ahead of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address, In These Times is publishing in-full Rep. Barbara Lee’s statement about why she plans to boycott the speech. After more than 60 Democrats skipped Trump’s inauguration ceremony just over a year ago, some are now declining to attend tonight’s address—with many citing his lies, racism and brutality toward immigrants and refugees (even as leading Democrats fall under criticism for their complicity in Trump’s anti-immigrant attacks). Meanwhile, the National Domestic Workers Alliance and other organizations are hosting a State of OUR Union alternative event in Washington, D.C., in response to the president’s remarks.

Since my election to Congress in 1998, I have attended every State of the Union. I have always believed that this event should be non-partisan because I respect the office of the Presidency. I will not attend this State of the Union because this president has not honored nor respected the office of the presidency and has shown a total disregard for our democratic institutions. From relentless attacks on the press to outrageous statements that undermine the intelligence community and the Russia investigation, and repeated threats to our judicial system, President Trump has launched an all-out assault on our democracy.

President Trump’s un-American approach to immigration—most recently calling Africa, El Salvador and Haiti “s”-hole countries—is racist and further demonstrates a lack of respect for the office of the presidency. His willingness to allow his Chief of Staff to lie about the good work of Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, without requiring an apology, reflects a total disregard for the truth. This is yet another example of this president undermining the dignity of the highest office in our land. According to the Washington Post, over the last year President Trump has lied or misled the American people more than 2000 times, sending a message to our children that lying is acceptable.

Whether it’s his response to Charlottesville, embracing the alt-right agenda, reviving the failed War on Drugs, or ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, President Trump has established over 50 blatantly racist policies, reduced the standard of living for communities of color and dishonored the office of the presidency like no other president in our history. The president has also supported policies that rip healthcare from 13 million Americans and give tax breaks to billionaires and corporations while forcing middle and low income families to pay for it. He’s led the effort to turn back the clock on women’s rights and undermined civil and human rights.

History has shown us that democracy is fragile. It can only be maintained by engaged citizens and elected officials who are willing to protect and preserve our sacred institutions. While I respect our democratic system, I cannot in good faith attend the State of the Union. Instead of listening to President Trump manufacture accomplishments, attack his political enemies and intentionally mislead the American people, I will join principled activists to strategize the next phase of resistance and our vision to move America forward.

A Socialist Case for Curbing Consumption To Stop Climate Change

Tue, 2018-01-30 06:00

This is a response to "Your Carbon Footprint Doesn’t Matter (Unless You’re Michael Bloomberg)" by Kate Aronoff.

I am giddy at the prospect of banning yachts and private jets. But once the millionaires and the billionaires have been driven from their ski resorts and Michael Bloomberg’s helicopters have been sold for spare parts, we’ll find that net carbon emissions still aren’t at zero. Part of the reason is, in fact, “the red meat on your plate.”

For starters, while solar and wind may eliminate carbon emissions in many industries, there’s no viable commercial- scale technology ready to bring about, say, a low-carbon cattle ranch or airplane. At least some of the structural changes we need to fight climate change—a cross-country network of renewable-powered rail to replace commercial airplanes, or ramped-up recycling and reuse efforts to avoid the emissions associated with manufacturing and landfill waste—will have to be geared toward reducing, or at least altering, consumption.

Of course, Kate is correct that individual lifestyle changes alone won’t solve the problem. A little less carbon in the atmosphere and a little less plastic in the ocean are good things, but a slightly-less-bad climate catastrophe is still a catastrophe. Even if every In These Times reader went vegan and sold their car, the fossil fuel-driven economy would keep on chugging. Transforming the entire extractive system will take policy and technology shifts, from reforestation to ending oil subsidies to starting produce co-ops in food deserts as an alternative to cheap, emissions-heavy meat.

But talking about “personal consumption” is not a mistake. The oft-avoided reality is that mitigating cataclysmic climate change will, in developed countries, require serious changes in consumption.

We are in a race against time to scale up renewables to meet energy demand without fossil fuels. The lower the total demand, the faster we finish the race. The Left’s current plan for implementing these far-reaching changes seems to be: Hide the truth for political reasons and then try to legislate massive consumption changes if and when there is opportunity. This is a recipe for failure and resentment.

If we’re serious about systemic changes, we have to start building popular support—and shifting cultural norms—now. This means being honest about what a zero-carbon future will likely entail.

Altering one’s own consumption habits can begin this process in many ways: setting an example to friends and family, starting conversations at parties or work, making ourselves more conscious of the connection between economy and ecology, helping us get specific about the sort of world we want to bring about, and demonstrating that lifestyle changes like composting, taking the bus, buying used furniture or ordering a veggie burger aren’t all that onerous—and, in fact, can be kind of nice.

Because to win, we must reject the framing of anti-consumerism as “austerity.” Current high consumption levels are not inevitable, and a society that consumed less could also work less. There’s nothing austere about having more time for leisure, hobbies and relationships. 

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