I've been missing from these here parts, I know. Things with my big project continue and there have been other things floated about here and there.
Now, if you've read the "there" bit, you know that the majority of the commenters were not happy with me -- my writing, my opinion, and in some cases, er, just me in general/my existence on this planet. INTERNET SMASH!
C'est le guerre!
Since not only did I really anger complete strangers, but also some personal friends, I've been thinking a lot about what I was trying to say, and (I think) have zeroed in further on what prompted me to write in the first place.
Firstly, the whole thing got started because I got obsessed with Bob Dylan's 1963 speech to the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee. Dylan had been doing a lot of work on behalf of the civil rights movement -- singing old labor songs revamped to fit the moment, singing soul and gospel songs, making appearances and speechifying with people like Dr. King and Pete Seeger. My point is, he was really active in trying to lend a hand to the movement. So the NECLC gets together, and they decide to give him the Tom Paine award at a fancy dinner in New York, and they all talk about how talented and gifted and young he is. So he goes, and in his speech.. He essentially tells them all to go shut the front door (as it were -- trying to clean up the language here!)
I want to thank you for the Tom Paine award in behalf everybody that went down to Cuba. First of all because they're all young and it's took me a long time to get young and now I consider myself young. And I'm proud of it. I'm proud that I'm young. And I only wish that all you people who are sitting out here today or tonight weren't here and I could see all kinds of faces with hair on their head - and everything like that, everything leading to youngness, celebrating the anniversary when we overthrew the House Un-American Activities just yesterday, - Because you people should be at the beach. You should be out there and you should be swimming and you should be just relaxing in the time you have to relax. It is not an old peoples' world. It is not an old peoples' world. It has nothing to do with old people. Old people when their hair grows out, they should go out. (Laughter) And I look down to see the people that are governing me and making my rules - and they haven't got any hair on their head - I get very uptight about it.
The crowd did NOT go wild. The crowd felt completely alienated and ticked off that he was not thanking them profusely for the award and all the money and energy they gave for the civil rights movement. (If you want to read more, click here. There's the rest of Dylan's speech, a defense of him, and then a mea culpa/explanation he wrote in response to bad press.)
I just could not believe that Dylan had told a group of people who were FOR such a good thing to go fly a kite. Who does that? Why? What was his deal? Sure, if it were a coalition of old white people pleading for him to sing songs for their efforts to save Stick On Pencil Erasers, maybe I would get it, but this was about the civil rights of entire disenfranchised people. WTF?
But in re-watching the Scorsese documentary "No Direction Home," as I do obsessively, like every three weeks, I realized that Dylan was saying that he was nobody's singing monkey -- not even for the people he agreed with. Not even for the people he loved. (See: Pete Seeger attempting to cut off the electric music at Newport WITH AN AXE.)
And that seemed to me to be a new form of identity, something rooted not in identity with other people or the group dynamics of a shared politics, but an identity formed out of a constant attempt to transcend the moment to reach a level of, dare I say it, righteousness.
" [...]A constant attempt to transcend the moment to reach a level of, dare I say it, righteousness."
Jesus. I need help. Or an editor. Really, both.
Secondly, the reason that the letter was not about "breaking up" with the Democrats, was because as a political body made of flawed human beings trying their best (well, some), I expect that it will be just that -- flawed. The DNC is not about furthering principles, or morals as such, but about securing power. By endorsing Democratic candidates, I invest trust that they will use power that power for good -- as I understand "good" (gay rights, women's rights, polar bear rights, etc.)
The Left on the other hand, as I understand it, is an entire ideology that exists outside of politics. As well as being "a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture" it is also a code of conduct, an infrastructure of principles and morals, which I still believe in.
In college, I rooted my self in clearly defined ideological stance: I am a feminst, I am anti-war, I am pro-gay rights, I am against this, I'm for that. It was personally validating for me, as well as important part of my attempt at maturation, to recognize that as I was becoming an adult, I was a member of multiple communities. It made me feel like I had agency, that I was not complicit in culture of death and mayhem, and helped me feel not so shitty about the world at large.
All of which is important for me, personally but had little effect politically on any scale.
But I'm no longer interested in being identified with anything -- even the things I agree with.
(Of course, the kicker of this is that I will always and forever be identified and associated with one thing (person!) that I have no control over -- either over my existence as such, or that people will always choose this one thing to praise/condemn/dismiss me for. UP TOWN PROBLEM!)
Anyway, back to things that (sort of, not really) matter: being through with identity politics.
My argument in the original piece was that the Left, in relying totally on political bodies which can only accomplish political gains -- rather than the psychological and spiritual gains made when someone decides that they were wrong, we are all created equal -- is not only fallible, but... too small? It seems too small to house all the changes I think we need.
But! You say it's "too small" but it's all we have! You should work with what we have before you abandon everything.
No, the Left isn't "all we have." We have our individual actions, which I think do more to change the world that any group can.
Are you saying that no protest group has made real, substantial change?
No, I'm saying that the Leftist groups we have now don't seem to be able to effect real change -- because they seem to be made up of a bunch of who-ha's. Every time I see a Code Pink lady screaming in the back of a DC hearing, I want to tear my hair out.
An example of group protest that actually worked: the civil rights marches in the south. But you know what strikes me about them? Their dignity. Their quiet, powerful, tenacious, unrelenting dignity. They were better than the forces they were against.
Someone with a papermache George W. Bush puppet with a swastika on its forehead has no dignity. They make people who agree with them, agree with them more, and antagonize further those who don't. They are not better than the thing they are protesting.
I know this dude, who does not like women. Sure, he likes "getting" women, and all, but I think we all know that's the not the same as respecting women, and enjoying all the things we culturally understand to mean "woman" (which is... problematic, I know, but work with me). OH MAN DID I USE TO RAG ON HIM. All the time with the ragging! Every time he called a woman a slut (even though he had also hooked up with her) I was there. Each time he complained about having to "deal with" a woman's emotions, I had thoughts and I made them known. I did not want to let him get away with the barest HINT of misogyny.
I'm sure you're not surprised to learn that he did not wake up one day thinking, "I think I hate women. I think I resent them for having what I want, and then I disrespect them when they give it to me. I think I project all my feelings about my mother and the one ex-girlfriend I actually cared about onto all women, ever. I should stop doing that!"
Nope, he did not.
I did not change his mind. SUPRISE.
So now I use a different tactic. I figure the best way I can prove that not all women are judgmental, flighty, nags is to... Not judge him, try to be an example of responsibility, and to respect his choices, even I don't agree with them.
Sure, if he really upsets me, I'll say something like, "Oh man, if you're gonna be a drag, could you do it elsewhere?" but other than that, I've tried to stop talking about what a strong woman can be, and actually try to be a strong woman in his life.
So you're disillusioned with hippies. Big fucking whoop - grow up already. [ Editor's Note: This could also be substituted with: "Welcome to being an adult. This is nothing new, get over yourself," a statement which seems to infer I am too old to be writing so naively. This seems to be the exact opposite than the previous statement, which infers I am too young to be writing about this, or perhaps any other topic, ever.]
Anyway, these are some of my thoughts. Other people have had them before, of course, but I'm just trying to "[keep] records of [my] troubles."