Monday, March 12, 2012

Which Side Are You On?

Just bought the new Ani DiFranco album, Which Side Are You On?, this week. It's amazing--it's hard to choose which song cuts the deepest. For starters, track 1 gives a first person narrative in a homeless woman's voice, who laments--or rejoices?--"every time I open my mouth, I take off my clothes." But there's a line in the following song which strikes me every time as just right:

"Trust: women will still take you to their breast. Trust: women will always do their best."

It's a political song, about a lot of political issues concerning women--but for me, this is what they all come to. Trust. Trust us. Trust us as human beings. Trust us as grown-ups. As citizens. As moral agents. As bearers of the imago dei, twice over. Trust that the decisions we make for ourselves and our children are the best decisions we can make, and that we understand--understand in a way no one else can--what they are and what they mean. Trust: women will still take you to their breast. Trust: women will always do their best.

"amendment" by Ani DiFranco

wouldn't it be nice if

we had an amendment

to give civil rights to


to once and for all just

really lay it down from

a point of view of


I know what you're thinking

that's just redundant

chicks got it good now

they can almost be president

but worker against worker

time and time again

as the rich use certain issues as a tool

and when I said we need the ....? cause I'm a fool

it's cause without it nobody can get away

with anything cruel

you don't need to go far like

just over to Canada

to feel the height and sense of

live and let live

what is it about Americans

like so many pitbulls

trained to attack them

to never give

we gotta come down abortion

put it down in the books for good

as central to the civil rights of women

make diversity acceptable

make it finally understood

through the civil rights of women

and if you don't like abortion

don't have an abortion

teach your children

how they can avoid them

but don't treat all women

like they are your children

compassion has many faces

many names

and if men can kill

and be decorated instead of blamed

when a woman called onto mother

can choose to refrain

and contrary to aeons

of oldtime religion

your body is your only true dominion

nature is not here to serve you

or at any cost to preserve you

that's just some preacherman's oldtime opinion

life is sacred

life is all so profane

a woman's life

it must be hers to name

let an amendment

put this brutal game to rest

trust women will still take you to their breast

trust women will always do their best

trust that our differences make us stronger, not less

in this amendment

family structure shall be free

to be the right to civil union

if we take unions of all kinds

unions of hearts and minds

to give society communion

let's do more than tolerate

let gay and straight resonate

and emanate all things human

with equal rights and

equal protection

intolerance finally ruined

and then there's the kids rights

they'll naturally be on board

a funnel through which

womens' lives are poured

our family is so big and we're all so very small

let a web of relationship be laid over it all

over the strata of power piled up into the sky

over the illusion of autonomy on which it relies

over any absolute that nature does not supply

...and the birds say woman shall regain her place
in the circle of women, ina sacred space
 turn off the machine, put away them knives
this amendment shall deliver from bondage, midwives

Thursday, March 01, 2012

call it like it is

I dislike euphemisms. Perhaps this can be attributed to early childhood training; Mom was a biology major and taught us to label our anatomy and functions accurately. I didn't learn any cutesy demeaning nicknames for my genitalia. I have a vagina, boys have a penis, no one has a "v-jay-jay" or a "wee-wee" or whatever. There's even an apocryphal story in my family about Mom trying to teach the barely articulate toddler me the word "urinate," because she hated hearing other small kids yelling in grocery stores "Mama I have to pee-pee" and stuff. This, so they tell me, resulted in a tearful confrontation in which I burst out with "I am not a Nate! You're a Nate!"

So. Maybe it's my mama's fault, but I have little patience for euphemism, in just about all contexts. (Which helps, now that I think of it, to explain my attraction to the blog motif of "rude truth." Rude--straight up--unvarnished--blunt, non-euphemistic talk to be had here, y'all.)

A large part of my personal frustration with politics therefore takes the form of hating the euphemistic mode of communication taken for granted there. Particularly on issues of race or sex where euphemisms contribute to, not just befuddlement, but the maintenance of the status quo. If you can't label it accurately, you can't talk about it honestly.

One thing bugging me in particular these days is this "social issues," "culture wars," "religious freedom" (?!), "values voters" stuff. Campaigning as the real Christian or most Christian candidate, while dragging up the euphemistically labeled "social issues" (abortion, contraception) to attract the euphemistically called "values voters" (a certain brand of nationalistic biblicist who want a Christian theocracy) is just another form of blatant identity politics, even if no one will call it that, and it's high time we did. It's also, not coincidentally, the current manifestation of white identity politics. And that puts "Christian identity" in bed with racism, whether or not you want to say so out loud.

I think these phrases ought to hit our ears like the dirty words they are. Euphemisms are pretty masks for ugly realities, and meant to be so so that we can leave the social contract to ignore ugly reality undisturbed.

Another apocryphal story comes to mind now, thus one from college and by way of JBB. Once upon a time there was a stand-up Christian dude, who had obeyed all the laws and commandments since he was a child, even studiously and obediently avoiding all cursing and foul language, except that he frequently used the n-word. A friend of his was greatly disturbed by this and confronted him but to no avail. And so this friend devised a plan: every time he heard that word from the guy, he would respond by yelling "FUCK!" as loud as he could. Pretty soon Mr. Stand-Up Christian got the point.

Call it like it is.

Christian identity is being euphemized into a racist, sexist political identity by people who see this as their route to power. I think Christians should probably be objecting to that. Don't you?