From the January-February 2023 issue of News & Letters
WOMEN’S STRUGGLES FOR FREEDOM
I have taken people to abortion clinics year after year. They are many different kinds of people. When there are protesters and you eventually get inside, people talk to each other. A 19-year-old Black woman talks with a 40-year-old white woman, talks to Latinas in their 30s, talks to a middle-class Armenian woman. Some don’t want yet another child when they have some already. Men refuse to wear condoms. They sometimes don’t want a woman to use birth control. I know someone who had an unsafe abortion in the 1960s and was unable to have children after because of scar tissue on her reproductive organs. We need to raise money for people in red states to access safe abortion services.
Contrary to news reports, the Detroit Public Schools Community District has restored (NOT changed) several school names, restoring their history. Dr. Ethelene Crockett’s name, whom the emergency managers replaced with the name of reactionary Dr. Ben Carson, represents not only that she was the first Black Board-certified OB-GYN in Detroit. She as well gave Black women in the 1950s and 1960s excellent healthcare at a time when “female troubles” were often dismissed as “in her mind.” She pushed the boundaries by enabling all women to obtain birth control, when none but the legally married were supposed to have that access.
Susan Van Gelder
While many mourn the death of Pope Benedict, his destructive sheltering of abusive clergy and anti-abortion fanaticism harmed millions. Consider his condemnation in 2009 of those who helped a nine-year-old rape/incest victim in Brazil, excommunicating them “automatically,” including the girl’s mother and the doctor who helped her. The Church demanded this girl, pregnant with twins, carry the pregnancy to term. This probably would have killed her. To quote an article written at the time: “…the Vatican produced a document that unequivocally confirmed automatic excommunication for anyone involved in an abortion—even in such a situation as dire as the Brazilian case….the Pope has felt it necessary to publicly defend the Brazilian prelate’s hard line, ordering up the clarification to straighten out any confusion….” In Brazil in 2009, over 200,000 women each year were treated for complications from illegal abortions—and that was only counting those in public hospitals. Hundreds of others died.
Reproductive justice activist
OPEN SEASON ON LGBTQ+
In Colorado Springs a “crazy” goes to Club Q, kills five and wounds many others. Get ready, good folks, for the Right’s pathological fear and hatred of LGBTQ+ people is now into open and violent expression. This is just the beginning! It appears that we are in “1933 Germany” and it is LGBTQ+ people who are on the chopping block. My cellie, a fundamentalist Christian who gets his news from Fox, says its commentators are claiming that all around the U.S. school teachers are telling kids that they should be free to choose what sex they want to be. And that many hospitals are offering sex reassignment surgery to lots of kids. More than 30 million people get their news from Fox and believe everything they hear. Now, due to this propaganda of the Right, it is open season on LGBTQ+ people. I hope that LGBTQ+ folks will stand up for their hard-won rights, take actions to protect themselves, like getting concealed-carry gun permits, and join together for mutual support and protection.
Cañon City, Colo.
HEALTHCARE WORKERS ON STRIKE
Healthcare workers are needed! I stand with the employees laid off by Howard Brown Health, who struck for three days and are trying to get their jobs back. This, at a supposedly “not for profit” organization. That the layoffs disproportionately, negatively affect Howard Brown’s South Side Chicago locations reveal the organization’s racism and classism. The East 55th Street and West 63rd Street locations serve—well, served—a large proportion of Chicago’s socioeconomic minorities, folks who will now have to, somehow, find healthcare elsewhere or do without. It took decades for Howard Brown to open the two South Side clinics. The cuts are so deep that there are only four behavioral healthcare providers for 11 clinics and 30,000 patients. I’m not looking forward to the “efficiency” reforms that will be made. Nurses, technicians, doctors, caseworkers, etc. will be made to work faster and care will suffer. My hat is off to the workers who continue to provide patient care. Their jobs just got much harder.
Former HBHC patient
Lois Curtis, a pioneer for disability rights, died of pancreatic cancer in November. She was 55 years old. She was a plaintiff in the Supreme Court of the United States Olmsted vs L.C. case that granted the right of disabled people to live within their own communities. It was decided that to unjustifiably deny that right and force the disabled to live in hospitals and institutions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and public organizations must provide community-based services to the disabled. Ms. Curtis was a true hero!
Halifax, Nova Scotia
IMMIGRANT SOLIDARITY NEEDED
We need a world context to understand immigration. Ninety percent of Venezuelans halfway to the U.S. southern border will be turned back and told to apply for asylum. One woman shown on TV news had travelled four months with two girls and a nephew and had spent five days inside a garbage truck! Yet small towns in the U.S. with immigrants increasing their population by 80% and more, people who have no jobs to support the tax base, have real problems. Where is the “faith-based” community? Every U.S. church, mosque and synagogue should be supporting an immigrant family. In China, families are split and internal immigration is a huge problem. On every continent, immigration and reproductive freedom are opposed by the Right. It’s important to see what that means dialectically for every country.
Detroit and Chicago
PUTIN VS. UKRAINE
Putin is projecting and acting out a fully genocidal ideology, outright attacks on civilians. Ukraine narcissism has been used as an excuse to invade. Putin has an imperialist image and doesn’t recognize Ukraine as a country, although Lenin did. Putin said he was returning Ukraine and strengthening it. “It has fallen on us to return and to strengthen.” Illusions of Peter the Great. He’s enticing Russian nationalism. Recently, 43 deputies have asked Putin to resign. I don’t know what will happen to them—maybe they’ll be sent to the front line. Putin imposes counter-revolutionary ideology on the entire world. The Far Right of the West adores him as the champion of conservative values.
U.S. RIGHT VS. UKRAINE
During the days it took for the new Republican majority to elect a Speaker of the House of Representatives, Republicans nominating anybody but Kevin McCarthy, broadcast their single-minded focus on obstructing Ukraine’s means of confronting Russia’s invasion. One Republican vowed to block the flow of U.S. aid by examining every dollar destined for Ukraine, and another threatened that if Trump could be impeached over Ukraine and Russia, then they would impeach Biden over Ukraine and Russia. They join Trump-endorsed J.D. Vance, who took the Ohio Senate seat while opposing aid to Ukraine, and Putin favorite Ron Johnson re-elected in Wisconsin. This has not scared away “leftists” from ignoring the ongoing war crimes directed at civilians, which Putin perfected against Chechens and Free Syria, or demanding that Ukraine negotiate “peace guarantees” by trading away its territory and citizens.
Free Syria supporter
WATER AND HUMANITY’S FUTURE
I read that water is predicted to become for the 21st century what oil was in the 20th. There is fear that huge dams built in the 1930s to “tame” rivers like the Colorado and supply water and hydroelectric power will fail to do either when water levels drop. Climate change has intensified weather events, causing catastrophic flooding all over the world, as you see most severely in Pakistan’s Sind province. An extreme five-year drought fueled famine and vicious warfare in East Africa. Capitalist industrial agriculture doesn’t distinguish between the needs for basic foods and artificial “wants” like the huge quantities of water necessary for almond milk production. We need to think about what kind of agriculture is sustainable, and especially listen to Indigenous voices like those of water protectors who resisted the Dakota Access Pipeline.
I remember hearing a scientist-activist say the next World War is going to be about water. It’s pathetic how little recycling actually gets turned into useful products, instead of polluting the oceans. The COP summits are crucially important, but we will see there another set of goals that won’t be met. Water like everything is treated as a commodity.
Look at how many cities have had major crises due to water infrastructure. People buy bottled water because they don’t trust tap water. And that’s in the industrialized world. Water defined where populations gathered for most of human existence. In the 20th century we saw people manipulating water as if it was an abstract resource, building cities where there isn’t enough water.