The Huffington Post reports that “The Guerrilla Girls Are The Masked Avengers The Art World Still Needs.” How at once true and enlivening. If I were an artist, I might strip and try to get into New York’s famed Metropolitan Museum of Art. I imagine myself, au natural but for gorilla mask, walking through the Met’s stately arched doors before being escorted out and charged with the indecency of a recumbent nude.
But what I’m after right now isn’t artistic freedom. I want more than fair presentation or representation. I want freedom for and control over my body. The problem is the state wants it too: Continue reading
John and Bonnie Raines with their children two years before they burglarized the FBI
Last January, a popular article in the New York Times spotlighted civil rights and peace activists who in 1971 stole papers from an FBI office and began a years-long expose on J. Edgar Hoover’s counterintelligence program. A year later, I’m still wondering how parents of three young children found the time to burglarize the FBI.
Of course I wonder at what our country might have become had activists not checked the FBI’s power. I wonder if we’d be even more systematically watched and controlled by unaccountable agencies. Hoover was after dissidents, after all. Eager to silence college students and activists, his FBI threatened to expose Martin Luther King, Jr.’s extramarital affairs unless he committed suicide. They drugged and arranged for police to murder Black Panther Fred Hampton.
The papers stolen in 1971 and the Freedom of Information Act that followed make Hoover look like the 17th c. Cardinal Richelieu whose spies patrolled Paris, punishing criticism of king or country. In the 1960’s and 70’s U.S., history was repeating itself as Hoover targeted Martin Luther King, Jr.’s potential not unlike his predecessor Richelieu opposed (MLK’s namesake) Martin Luther’s legacy.
Armand-Jean du Plessis Cardinal de Richelieu c. 1640
The burglarizing activists helped pull the U.S. a little further from absolute monarchy and a little closer to democracy. Still, I’m most struck by John and Bonnie Raines because they did so while raising a family. Continue reading
Tuesday, hundreds marched on Tennessee’s capitol to protest the recently passed state constitutional Amendment One, which has taken away women’s freedom to make decisions about our own bodies privately and independent of government interference.
Photo courtesy of Rajendra Jain
Note that here, women are standing outside the building. Despite almost a hundred years of voting, we’re still for the most part outsiders to law making and power. Of course we all should have voted – women and men – when Amendment One was on the ballot. But in November’s election, less than 35% of Tennesseans voted. We’ve almost 4 million registered voters but Amendment One passed with just 729,163 votes. The Tennessean reports that “Tennessee voters by a solid margin backed Amendment 1.” But 53% of 35% of us isn’t a solid margin. It’s a minority. Only 18% of Tennesseans passed a measure to limit women’s equality.
A minority passed Amendment One, and now House Bill 0002 hopes to require all women seeking abortions to view preliminary ultrasounds and listen to heartbeats and counseling before returning another day for another appointment. But not everyone can afford so many medical services, especially services that are not medically necessary. Mandatory ultrasounds, counseling, and waiting periods require capital, confidence, and leisure. Measures like these limit women’s access to safe abortions, especially for women who are poor. Continue reading
The New Black Panther Party is patrolling neighborhoods in Dallas. I wonder if this is what my usually white, usually conservative university students mean when they write essays arguing for our God-given and constitutional right to bear arms?
The Huey P. Newton Gun Club members march through the Dixon Circle neighborhood of Dallas. Photo by Bobby Scheidemann.
When I encourage writing students to choose their own topics, young men in my classes often turn to guns. They’re personally and politically invested in their freedom to own, carry with them, and shoot guns. Or at least they evidence an almost or a vague political engagement. For instance, they’re usually critical of “the government” or of “the president” for trying to control their gun ownership. When I ask which president, they look curious or confused, as if they’re trying to figure out whether or not I’ve asked a rhetorical question.
When I had this conversation last semester with a student who didn’t answer my not at all rhetorical question, I suggested Ronald Reagan, who supported the landmark Brady Bill among other gun control laws. I don’t think my student, who seemed offended at my suggesting a Republican legacy as his antagonist, believed me. Continue reading