Thursday, January 01, 2009

Thinning out the herd (2008)

Since the start of the illegal war, I've found many trusted voices. People who were speaking up at a time when the corporate media was largely silenced. People who were brave truth-tellers. People who could be trusted.

And then came 2008.

Thinning out the herd.

2008 reminds me of each spring when I go through my bedroom closet deciding which items to keep and which to get rid of? Am I ever really going to wear that dress again? Those pants don't fit today and didn't fit in the store but I bought them hoping that one of us would change. (Since the material wasn't 'stretchy,' apparently I was the one who was supposed to change.) Those shoes always had heels that were too high for all but those who work with a pole.

A lot of things get tossed into the Goodwill box and my thoughts can usually be boiled down to: What was I thinking??????????

2008 found me wondering that repeatedly.

I'd once considered Laura Flanders to be one of the bravest voices 'independent' media had. 2008 found her stating that she was supporting Barack -- and you should too! -- because the kids love him!

Grace Lee Boggs would go on to disgrace herself with similar remarks. It's difficult to tell which was more upsetting. Flanders could have a second act. At some point, she could wise up and pull something out of thisall frightmare. But Grace? Grace doesn't have many more years left.

So there was Grace Lee Boggs, an elder, a voice. Telling the Democracy Now! audience that she was supporting Barack -- and they should be as well -- because the kids love him!

Part of the reason we have elders and value them is because age is supposed to bring wisdom. Experiences are supposed to add up. So when an elder says "Vote for ___," they should be able to provide valid reasons that call on their years of living and experiences. Instead of bringing wisdom, Grace brought abdication.

She abdicated her responsibility and, in doing so, abdicated and right to be taken seriously as a voice.

She was far from alone.

There were men who were hideous. Chief among the ones I will never again read are Robert Scheer, Robert Parry, stinky BuzzFlash Mark, Norman Solomon, Jeff Cohen and John Nichols.

But the saddest thing for me, a Black woman, about 2008 was the thinning of the sisterhood.

Gloria Steinem is someone I've long admired and, check the Third archives and elsewhere, I defended her when she was falsely accused of racism. I pointed out that when Gloria was writing of all women, it was racist on the part of her accusers for them to insist she was focused on White women. It was racist and it was sexist. It said that "Black" only matters when it's a man. As a woman and a mother of a young girl, no way in the world do I buy that garbage.

So I defended Gloria and was glad to do so.

Until she turned around and stabbed Sarah Palin in the back. There were many ways to disagree with Palin if you had to disagree with her.

I didn't vote for Sarah Palin. (Or John McCain. I voted Nader-Gonzalez.)

But I never felt the need to attack her.

As I saw her be attacked repeatedly with lies and distortions, I did feel the need to defend her. Grasping that a number of those attackers were women was one of the saddest things about the year.

I filled in for Rebecca a few times in 2008 when I absolutely had to say something. [My blog, until November, was an online novel about Betinna -- a victim of globalization, tricked into believing she was married to Thomas Friedman so he could get some free domestic help and a little sex on the side. If I had to say something out of character for Betinna, I took it to Rebecca's site and guest blogged.] If you go read those pieces, you'll note I was hitting the roof frequently. Like when the Black man wrote of how Black women were 'suspect' and not to be trusted because they might not support 'Black' Barack (Barack Obama is bi-racial -- my three children grasped that the first time they saw him on TV, why it's so 'difficult' for some grown ups to grasp is beyond me).

I never felt the need to blog to attack Hillary, Cynthia McKinney or Sarah. I don't know that I agreed with Cynthia or Hillary 100%. But I never felt the need to blog to rip them apart or spread lies about them. And while I didn't agree with Sarah on much politically (I did agree with her strong advocacy for special-needs children and think that, of all her speeches, my favorite was the one she gave on that subject), I never felt the need to rip her apart.

It was heart-ripping to watch the women like Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan repeatedly attempt to destroy Sarah Palin.

Now I understand why they did that: There was no way to make a case to vote for Barack.

When you have a candidate with nothing to brag about, you have to rip apart the competition to 'support' him.

I understand why they did it, it doesn't make it right.

And it's not something I will soon forget.

What Gloria, Robin and the gals of (Democratic) Women's Media Center didn't grasp was that what played with predominately male establishment that they were attempting to please appalled women.

It appalled and disgusted us.

And women in 'leadership' never looked so out of touch as they won praise from men for ripping apart a woman.

And you can toss in the sorry excuses for womanhood at Women's eNews.

It was so awful to read that site throughout 2008. You had the women attacking Hillary repeatedly and then you saw them -- especially the one who dresses like a washer woman and then wants to whine no one sees her as a professional -- show up and try to trick readers. They thought they could pretend like they hadn't spent months attacking Hillary. As if their past work just vanished because they decided to pretend it didn't exist.

Then came Sarah.

And Women's eNews went crazy. They went disgusting. They even started playing blue. It didn't play well and that's why, this month, you've seen begrudging statements on Sarah. Not real praise but sort-of backhanded compliments. With a little bitchy snark undertaste tossed in.

Guess what, Women's eNews, Robin Morgan, Gloria Steinem and all the rest? I am Sarah Palin.

I am a woman with children. I am a woman who has to get up every day and face work and sometimes that's a good thing and some days I feel like a large number of people are ripping me apart and trying to tear me down just because I'm a woman.

I am Sarah Palin.

I go to church. I believe in God.

I never grasped until crazy Barbara Ehrenreich and others started turning that into a fatal character flaw that there was anything wrong with my being a church goer.

I knew not everyone attended or believed. I was okay with that. I have enough trouble in my own life -- being a single parent, a working outside the home parent, with three children -- taking care of what I need to without butting my nose into other people's spirituality or belief systems.

Thank you, Babsie Ehrenrecih and all the other gals (yeah, Robin, that's you) who made it so very clear that, in their minds, I'm stupid, f**king idiot because I happen to believe in a higher power, in the Lord.

I tend to think Babsie's a stupid, f**king idiot but that's due to her snotty little attitude to working class women in Nickle & Dimed. I have to wonder if she'd been writing of male workers if that snotty attitude, that smugness, would have still not been called out? I doubt it. I think male reviewers would have been offended for fellow males regardless of socio-class. But women? Who the hell cares about women? Wasn't that the lesson of 2008?

I am Sarah Palin.

Sarah Palin went to several colleges! Sarah Palin went to community college!

Yeah and your point is?

That she's not some pampered spoiled rich kid? Got it. I'm not either. I started having my children very early on and you're kidding yourself if you think I had time for college before their father did his vanishing act.

My personal time actually increased when that happened because I no longer had to spend hours worrying why he was mad or how I could make him happy or was he so unhappy he would leave or . . .

Thank you to Egg Head Left for explaining to me how much you look down on me because finishing colleges required more than one school and required non-Ivy-league schools. I'm so sorry I couldn't attend Rad-Wels-Lawrence-cliffe and 'experiment' with all the other Egg Head gals but father made me choose between that and having my tiara cleaned.

I am 100% serious about identifying with Sarah Palin.

And the mocking of the way she spoke?

Outside of Egg Head land, that didn't play. It wasn't cute and it wsn't funny. It especially wasn't ha-ha time in the Black community where we have many wise elders who have seen so much that they can share and teach us about but whose lives meant that they dropped out in high school, in junior high or in elementary. If we can understand a person, we don't generally make fun of the way they talk.

But Sarah Palin -- pronoucing her words accurately -- had a tendency to string together a series of half-sentences. The meaning was perfectly clear. But it was time to imply she was a stupid idiot for that reason.

This was just mean spirited bitchiness and because Tina Fey was leading it on, it was supposed to be funny. It was cruel. And, as Ava and C.I. have repeatedly demonstrated at Third, Tina Fey didn't 'play' Sarah Palin, she sexualized her. She did that by giving Palin a higher voice than either she or Tina spoke in, she did that by little 'touches' like having her 'Palin' lift her skirt in a skit to flash leg.

It wasn't funny. It certainly wasn't equal because no one ever made fun of Barack.

It was disgusting.

Ava and C.I.'s "TV: 2008, the lows and really lows" went up Sunday and they talk about how they'd planned to address other issues from that infamous episode of SNL. Like what?

They don't say in the piece but I know because they were outraged at the time. There was a skit about a White racist giving a toast where he goes nuts about Barack being the president-elect. As they pointed out in a draft they were struggling with that week, it sure is easy for the White SNL to feel better about itself while calling others racist but, check the cast, the show's the one keeping African-Americans down. They were noting how some White people who scream racism do it without ever grasping what their own body of work adds up to.

It was a difficult point to make as an aside -- they were trying to fit it into their goobye to Amy P. -- and it just wasn't working. I heard about it and asked for a copy because I knew my dad would love it.

Which he did. And I really need to tell C.I. thank you. I've noted it before but I'll note it now and note that my father now wants the thank you in as well.

Throughout 2007 and 2008, Dad thought nothing of calling C.I. Generally C.I. would be speaking and have to call Dad back as soon as she got a second. Once Dad had C.I. on the phone, he would talk her ear off about how White media was setting up traps for the Black community with the Jena coverage. How that was going to explode (and didn't it -- my dad is a very smart man) and if it wasn't called out right now, if White media wasn't called out for 'improving' the story, the Black community would be the one left holding the bag. Throughout the primaries, he would call C.I. and insist she write about how they were wrongly calling Bill Clinton a racist or how they were doing this or how Barack wasn't Black, he was bi-racial.

Now most of that is stuff C.I. would have covered all on her own. But not to the extent that my father wanted. And I would always hear about it after the fact. Sometimes day after. I'd take the kids over to my parents and Dad would say, "Let me tell you about my conversation with C.I." I would groan and say, "Dad, every time C.I. steps up to the plate and covers this, TCI loses links."

And it happened. Over and over. For Jena comments, C.I. lost 30 links. For my dad's last requested comments on race, even more Whites fled.

Dad realizes now what happened there and wishes C.I. would have said something. But C.I. doesn't care about that. C.I. does care that people who are being shut out by the media have a voice and she was always happy to include my father's voice. Sometimes she immediately got his point, sometimes she would have to say, "I kind of get it but I'm missing some details. Walk me through and I'll find a way to comment on it in the snapshot."

And I love C.I. for that and for always making time for my dad. Mom jokes our local paper (which we ignore because they have attacked Cynthia McKinney non-stop over the years) is so lucky Dad never got any of their private numbers.

But when he read the scrap that Ava and C.I. had to set aside, he pointed out that what they were saying was so true. Saturday Night Live will never, ever try to present a Black perspective but the Whites with the show want to be able to pat themselves on the back by calling others racists.

And as Dad pointed out, by contrast, C.I. will drive herself crazy attempting to include as many points of views and arguments into everything she writes. The bi- and multi-racial community? Ava and C.I. were standing with it in January as Barack and others spat on them. The Asian-American community, the special-needs community . . .

If you are shut out of the narrative, C.I. will first ask you to write something in your own voice. If that's not possible or if you think that's not possible, C.I. will then ask you to give her the basic facts and she will run with your argument. She will make your case for you.

And that's one of the biggest things people never get about The Common Ills. At Third, Ava and C.I. have the ability to write what they want as they want it. At TCI, unless C.I.'s saying, "My opinion," she's writing for the community and on behalf of the community.

And I think we saw how powerful that was in 2008. We never fell onto the HopeyChangey train. We didn't get fooled, we didn't get tricked.

We also didn't know C.I. didn't care for Dennis Kucinich (because he always caves) and actively loathes John Edwards. If SNL hadn't done their election special the day before the election, we might never know that. We did pieces on Edwards at Third after the scandal was confirmed (his affair) and C.I. excused herself from those pieces (as Jim would note in his note to the readers). I had no idea that C.I. loathed Edwards and that it went back as far as it did. (It goes back very far, I now know the whole story there.)

But when the community supported Dennis, C.I. included Dennis pretty much every day in the snapshots. C.I. covered Dennis campaign non-stop. And would never vote for Dennis. And the same with John Edwards who had some support in the community up until he dropped out. C.I. defended John Edwards when the media distorted him or attacked him and, let me repeat, C.I. HATES John Edwards. Hates him. Not dislikes him, HATES him.

And we never knew. We read the snapshots and you can go back and read them now. John gets appladued or called out based on what he's doing. John gets defended when he's distorted.

If Panhandle Media felt they weren't bound by any journalism ethics in 2008 -- and they certainly behaved as if they felt they weren't bound by any -- you think out of respect for their audience they could have tried to have treated everyone fairly.

But 2008 proved they weren't in it for us. They were, as Joni Mitchell sings, only in it for themselves ("Free Man In Paris"). And that's why 2008 resulted in a thinning of the herd.

For more year-in-review commentaries, Kat's "2008 in music" and C.I.'s "2008: The Year of Living Hormonally (Year in Review)" went up this morning, "2008 in books (Martha & Shirley)" -- Martha and Shirley's book commentary which went up Tuesday and Ruth's "Ruth's 2008 Public Radio Report" went up yesterday while Third's "TV: 2008, the lows and really lows," "The 2008 Bronze Boobies," "Best and worst in hardcover music journalism," "Music 2009" and "2009 in DVDs" went up Sunday.