From the January-February 2020 issue of News & Letters
CAPITALISM AND CLIMATE
We need to stress the role capitalism has played in generating climate change since the Industrial Revolution. With all the coverage of the Flint, Mich., water crisis, it was rarely noted that GM, the same company that refused to use the Flint River water because it corroded their parts, had been dumping pollutants into that river for the past 100 years. Likewise, in Australia, climate change resulted also from local environmental damage that British colonists created by their attempts to make money off the land: bringing in rabbits, for example, whose population exploded due to lack of predators, and sheep farming. The dustbowl in the U.S. during the 1930s was the result of destroying the buffalo along with replacing deep-rooted native prairie plant ecosystems with cash crops.
Marx observed that “Private property has made us so stupid and one-sided that an object is only ours when we have it—when it exists for us as capital…” This brings to mind the tragedy of the North Bay wildfires near San Francisco. That has been the treatment of the land in Northern California, starting with the genocide by which it was acquired. Later, developers slapped up buildings with little regard for the land or the safety of those who would live there—it was simply a commodity. The state government did little to maintain the land, and Pacific Gas and Electric was careless in its installations. The computer industry polluted Santa Clara County, resulting in many cancer pockets. In San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunter’s Point, the site of a former Navy base, hundreds of new housing units were built on toxic land. Waste from the construction has made huge numbers of the mostly Black residents ill. On the site of the old Treasure Island military base, 8,000 units of “affordable” housing are planned, even though there is so much nuclear pollution there that current residents are warned not to handle the dirt in their own backyards. Totally new human relations also mean a totally new relationship to nature.
San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area
Thank you for including two pages on the terrifying climate crisis that is becoming a global catastrophe. I urge N&L to continue to give space to explore ways that all of us can unite to end this growing threat to human existence. The human race is now at the crossroads of either transforming our entire world community toward life-enhancing activities or to tragically move toward self-destruction.
Queer and Trans dance group WERK for Peace, founded in response to the 2016 Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre, accompanied by dance music supplied by a wagon-towing cyclist, temporarily stopped traffic in the “Shut Down D.C.” climate strike protest. WERK’s co-founder Firas Nasr said that their group also targeted Wells Fargo Bank and the American Petroleum Institute for their complicity in climate change because many marginalized communities, like the Queer community, will be the most devastated by climate damage if it is not reversed.
The Left really is decrying Soleimani’s assassination without any mention of how bad he was. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Soleimani’s actions in Syria and elsewhere need to be brought out, as does the content of the Syrian Revolution still struggling for existence. (See “The death of counter-revolutionary Qassem Soleimani,” Jan.-Feb. N&L.) Rojava and Kafranbel resisted in creative, remarkable ways, like Radio Fresh insisting on women reporters and when things got too bad, altering the women’s voices to sound like men to keep al-Nusra off their backs. We also need to acknowledge the recent rebellions in Iran, Iraq, and the ongoing opposition to Netanyahu’s apartheid in Israel despite his re-election.
Susan Van Gelder
The assassination of Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani, by the Trump regime, forced the Iranian government to retaliate as it said it would. Now what? Iranians have had a very negative experience with the U.S. and the UK: from the 1953 coup engineered by the CIA and the UK’s MI6 in 1953, through the Iran/Iraq eight-year war when Ronald Reagan and George Bush armed Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which killed more than one million people; to when Trump pulled out of the international agreement to monitor Iran’s construction of nuclear power plants and then imposed crippling sanctions which have made it impossible for seriously ill Iranians to get medicines they need, resulting in thousands of avoidable deaths.
TRUMP THE MULLAH?
The mullahs and Trump have in common that they will do anything to stay in power. Trump, channeling Napoleon Bonaparte, wants to start a war when unrest threatens at home. It is also in keeping with his subservience to Russia, despite that the Iranians and Russia may soon be in a position to take over Iraq. Trump couldn’t care less. These are “s***hole” countries as far as he is concerned. If it becomes a shooting war, Trump will try to use that to win the election, saying a la Napoleon: “don’t change leaders mid-stream.” The entire spectacle of seeing these tyrants try to manipulate entire populations is disgusting. President Trump? More like Mullah Trump.
Retired postal worker
WAR CRIME HERO
Trump’s horrific pardon of Eddie Gallagher broadcasts to the world that the U.S. military is not to be trusted; that U.S. soldiers can murder civilians at will and not only will nothing happen to them, they will be treated like heroes and encouraged to make money off of mowing down unarmed civilians including women and children. Trump’s regime has shown that it doesn’t matter what atrocity he and his ilk commit, they will not be punished. This is a horrible precedent.
The Navy announced that Gallagher would be removed from the SEALs. This, after Trump reversed Gallagher’s demotion over a war crimes charge, amounted to the admiral “spitting in the face” of commander-in-chief Trumpy. Gallagher was convicted of posing with the corpse of one of his victims. News reports said his fellow Seals became so disturbed with his murders of civilians that they tampered with his rifle to make it inaccurate and fired warning shots at civilians to prevent Gallagher from murdering them.
Battle Creek, Mich.
Trump and Mitch McConnell have done tremendous damage with appointments to the Supreme Court and lower courts. The court-packing truly is a swipe at young people. Even if youth gain electoral power, they could be saddled for decades with these unrepresentative authoritarians who are being appointed to life terms on the bench.
It’s so wonderful to read Adele’s column embracing Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists and Lesbian separatists and so-called de-transitioning (“Detransitioners and Lesbians speak out,” Nov.-Dec. 2019 N&L). It made me thankful that I departed the organization. But how typically opportunistic that, in a separate section of the paper (“Queer Notes” by Elise), it is noted that Chicago TERFs had vandalized a feminist bookstore for daring to have Trans women as employees!
More support for and study of Detransitioners is needed. I believe Detransitioners and Trans people exist and both are legitimate. I also believe that Lesbians have been exploited by the GLBTQ movement, which remains heavily influenced and steered by white upper- and middle-class men. It cannot be overstated that traditional gender roles—binary, male and female—are still taught, intentionally or not, in the majority of homes and institutions, and are strong influences in society. I do object to the transphobia of trans-exclusive groups such as Get the L Out and Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists. When at least 331 Trans and Gender Variant people—mostly women of color—were reported murdered worldwide last year, the Trans community must be supported. I suggest people do their research on gender identity. One resource is the work of Dr. Veronica Drantz, https://www.slideshare.net/drdrantz/gender-binary-lgbti-people-myth-and-medical-malpractice.
In “Detransitioners and Lesbians speak out’” Adele quotes Charlie Evans: Detransitioning individuals’ “voices are hidden because we’re seen by the queer community as just collateral damage for the greater good. Many are gender non-conforming Lesbians raised in gendered homes where the roles of boys and girls were strictly defined.” I feel that Evans is making a fair indictment of the gender binary pushed by dominant societies, and no doubt pushed as well by some or most members of the Queer community. No one should be compelled by social/political convention or expediency to be Trans, nor to fulfill any particular role. In my experience there has also been “collateral damage” in the reduction of Trans people. While reading the above quote I was reminded of a student convention of LGBT/Queer college groups at the University of California Riverside in 2003, where my colleague was told that he was “just going through a phase” in presenting himself as a Trans man. He was very upset, I think because, again, the way one feels most comfortable presenting and identifying herself or himself is an intrinsic matter, which should not be forced by others if we presume to consider ourselves free people.
Thousands participated in Women’s Marches all across the U.S. on Jan. 18. In the photo, from the Chicago march, where 10,000 came out to protest Trump, attacks on reproductive rights and healthcare access, the climate crisis, gun violence and more.
Victoria’s Secret, the lingerie company that has been objectifying women with their products and their Annual Fashion Show for decades, is in financial trouble and the show is cancelled. YES! FINALLY! It shows something about a turnaround in U.S. culture that will no longer accept a view that all women should look like what Victoria’s Secret says they should. The “Fashion Show” featured models who starved themselves and worked out to exhaustion to create a body that few could hope to achieve and never should have in the first place. One can only hope that the brand will cease to exist.
In one of the articles I read about the British girl who was gang-raped on Cyprus (see “Women WorldWide,” Jan.-Feb. 2020 N&L), a woman said the Israeli boys who did it were wearing yarmulkes at their reunion with their families at the airport. She said that men in Israel like to appear in court wearing yarmulkes to look pious. That reminded me of men of the religious Right in the U.S. comparing themselves to Jesus whenever they are on trial or suspected of wrongdoing. Someone else pointed out that, even if the young woman had lied, it should have been their families’ responsibility to teach them to be compassionate (and not wildly hypocritical).