Bloggelinis: This blog is a response to the Saturday webinar organized by international peace activists. I wrote it last night, haven't read the news yet today. I'm reading, watching videos like the one I link to in this blog. I'm trying to grasp what's going on, what are the possible outcomes, what I or my country can do. Terry
My entire adult life I have been protesting against my own country's invasions of other countries -- first Vietnam, which went on for years and then our first invasion of Iraq in 1990 and then Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq AGAIN in 2003. It was always extremely clear that, whatever the sins of the invaded country, the U.S. was committing a war crime. It was very easy to figure out what to do as an immediate response: Make a sign and show up at a demonstration! You know, like some of the Russian people just did -- except I never needed any courage to do it. In this town, when they arrest protesters, they use pink plastic handcuffs, put you on a parked bus for a couple of hours and then release you. Pink plastic!
We protested so often, my sister Nancy and I made a permanent all-purpose protest sign. (Well, actually it was my idea and Nancy did all the work.) Look at us. We're happy! At that moment, our joy at being with like-minded souls transcended our deep anger. We had accommodated to living in the Belly of the Beast. Our country was evil, but we were good.
I must confess that, now that Russia has invaded the Ukraine, I'm flummoxed. I don't know what action to take against this unprecedented and terrible event. So I was relieved that Medea Benjamin, that great peace activist, was convening activists from many countries on Saturday to speak online on Zoom about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I announced the event in my last blog.
I thought, "These people will tell me how to understand this terrible situation. They'll tell me what I can do." I guess a lot of people felt like I did, because almost 2,000 people joined the webinar.
I was very disappointed. There were a lot of platitudes about peace. A lot of repetition. Many speakers talked about NATO's actions being the cause of Putin's aggression. The speakers didn't say this EXCUSED Putin's invasion, but it made it understandable. I got the feeling that the speakers, like me, were more comfortable looking at what our side did wrong, even though it's the OTHER side that has committed an act of war.
Speakers kept repeating "War is never the answer" like a mantra. I'm not saying we should send American troops to Ukraine. But what IS the answer? What CAN the U.S. government do? What SHOULD it do? If I know that, then I can contact my elected representatives and urge you to contact yours, I can write letters, spread the word. What actions can my government or I take in response to Putin invading Ukraine?
Speakers on the Saturday webinar also told us that economic sanctions that might hurt ordinary sanctions are not the answer.
It turned out that the answer to the question of what we can do was: We can all go to a protest demonstration next Saturday.
But when I marched in protest of my own country's criminal actions, there was always the possibility that we would affect what our government does. Certainly, during the Vietnam War, as the crowds marching grew and grew, we DID help to end our country's invasion. But marching in protest of the criminal actions of a far-off tyrant? I'm not sure what the point is. Putin doesn't give a damn what the American people think.
And I have to say that I don't agree that "War is never the answer." If you take it to its logical extreme, does that mean the Ukrainians shouldn't take up arms to defend themselves?
I don't see how anyone can maintain that "War is never the answer" after World War II. Britain acted on that principle with Hitler in 1938 by accepting Hitler's annexation of territory on the condition that he went no further. But of course, Hitler had no intention of honoring the Munich Agreement and, when he invaded Poland in September 1939, Britain declared war on Germany. War WAS the answer.
And the idea of the United States entering World War II was extremely unpopular before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. But if we hadn't entered the war, it is difficult to imagine how Hitler would have been defeated. Again, the U.S. going to war WAS the answer.
Here I pose that basic Buddhist question: what are the APPROPRIATE actions that the U.S. and its allies can take? What is appropriate to this situation? I don't think it's big peace marches in the U.S. But I probably WILL go in hopes of hearing something that enlightens or inspires me.
I'd like to end with a link to a video interview with Rachel Rizzo, a woman with very impressive credentials who answers a lot of questions about what led to this crisis. I felt I had a better understanding of that after I watched the video. This interview was organized by Manny Yekutiel, the owner of Manny's Community Space. Manny's, on 16th and Valencia in the Mission, is a community-focused cafe and learning place in the heart of San Francisco. Manny's is unique -- a non-profit cafe, a political bookshop, and a place to gather for civic and political events.
Let's remember and celebrate the wonderful theater set by Mica Miro, the beautifully funky Dark Room Theater, the sold-out and lively audiences... Admittedly, the actual show wasn't so memorable. I think Carolyn and I tried too hard. The skits were too complicated. BUT -- We had the greatest poster that was ever designed for any theater I've ever done. Ever ever ever. Melissa Walker was my housemate and the Crones' graphic designer, and she outdid herself with this one. I deeply regret that my father, who had a small advertising agency, died before I could tell him I had an "in-house" graphic designer.
And below are two "I Hate Valentine's Day" Day events happening TONIGHT. In fact, there were many anti-Vday events over the weekend. I can only modestly hope that the Crackpot Crones' long-ago effort in some way helped encourage this delightful subversion of a much-hated holiday.
Because in my opinion:
PEOPLE WHO ARE MADLY IN LOVE
OR HAVE A WONDERFUL MARRIAGE/LOVE RELATIONSHIP DO NOT NEED THEIR OWN SPECIAL HOLIDAY!
EVERY DAY OF THEIR LIVES IS A FUCKING HOLIDAY!
FEBRUARY 14 JUST MAKES THE REST OF US FEEL SHITTY!
Here's what you can do to celebrate "I Hate Valentine's Day" Day
So This Sucks: A Night of Heartbreak and Disappointment
From the creators of “About Last Night,” a one-night-stand storytelling series, comes an Anti-Valentine’s Day show with true tales of heartbreak and disappointment from brave storytellers who plan to share their most humorous and horrifying breakup tales. There will be a post-performance heartbreak cocktail hour from 9:30 to 10:30 p.m.
And tomorrow February 15, in San Francisco, we're having ANOTHER ELECTION TO RECALL THREE S.F. SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS!
A recall is a kind of state or city parallel to impeaching the President. The idea is that an elected official has done something so illegal or outrageous that the we simply cannot wait for the next election to get rid of this despicable human being. An election must be held ASAP! Unlike impeachment, which is decided by the House and Senate, it is the voters rather than legislators who decide whether to kick the bum out.
A recall is supposed to be an extreme solution to an extreme problem. It is not supposed to be used to get rid of someone whose ideas and actions you disagree with. That's what regularly scheduled elections are for.
The supporters of the recall cannot point to any particularly illegal or egregious actions of the three board members they want to toss out. They present a laundry list of grievances -- including the closing of the schools because of the pandemic. This was something that was done by every single school district in the country! The school board's most controversial act was a decision to change the names of 44 schools whose names it said honored figures linked to racism, sexism and other injustices. There was a firestorm of outrage about it in San Francisco, and it was a kooky "Only in San Francisco" news story around the world. All of this outrage CAUSED THE SCHOOL BOARD TO REVERSE ITS DECISION! SO WHY SHOULD THEY BE RECALLED?!?
So why is this recall happening?
There is a general "THROW THE BUMS OUT!" feeling in the air. Is this feeling generated by our terrible frustration at the failure to throw Trump out of office?
Yes, Trump really did commit impeachable acts. He obstructed justice, profited from the Presidency, solicited foreign interference in U.S. elections, advocated political and police violence, abused his power of pardoning. engaged in reckless conduct, persecuted political opponents, violated immigrants' right to due process, and violated campaign finance laws.
Phew. Now, THAT'S someone who should be thrown out of office! Any one of those reasons is enough to justify impeachment. Compare that to the School Board members who:
Infuriated parents by closing the schools, which was universally done because of the pandemic
Wanted to rename 44 schools and changed their minds when many people got upset.
Or perhaps the anger around these recalls is "part of the culture of outrage generated by Fox News and Trump and his supporters," as Peter Gabel, long-time activist, suggests in a letter to the SF Chronicle. Gabel goes on:
"Only if true malfeasance occurs -- such as bribery, sexual harassment or other illegal or immoral conduct -- should we disrupt the normal democratic process in this way. Controversial policy decisions or votes should not be a basis for recall because it undermines the election process and encourages politically motivated wealthy donors to threaten recalls every time something happens that they don't like or that challenges their interests."
In a democracy, we have an established path to throw unpopular politicians out of office. And that path is:
ELECT SOMEONE ELSE!
Impeachment and recall are important safety valvesIFthe office-holder is guilty of committing crimes or violating their oath of office in some totally reprehensible way.
But used repeatedly and without good cause, recalls can destroy our democracy, because:
If you've got enough money,
you can get a recall on the ballot.
So if recalls become business as usual, it's an easy way for billionaires to gain even MORE control of our government.
Who is funding the School Board recall?
Billionaires like venture capitalist Arthur Rock and the former head of PayPal, David Sacks, among others. These people don't give a damn about public schools. They're funding the recall to enhance their own power! And the billionaires' power WILL be enhanced if the recall is successful, because Mayor Breed appoints the replacements.
Now, I know a lot of people -- not just here but all over the country -- felt all warm and fuzzy when an African-American woman -- who grew up in the San Francisco projects, no less -- was elected mayor. What a feel-good story! Isn't THAT what democracy is about, in its best moments?
Well, actually, no. Democracy's best moments are when the voters look past a candidate's identity to examine whose interests she actually represents. And from the beginning of her political journey, London Breed has, as they say in politics, "carried water" for the billionaires of San Francisco. That's who who brung her to the dance. Everyone in politics in this town knows this.
So the School Board replacements will be beholden to the Mayor and the billionaires -- not the people who voted for them, since NO ONE voted for them!
And in San Francisco, being on the School Board is often the first step in a political career. So this gives Breed a huge and unearned say in the future of San Francisco politics.
David Campos has been a dedicated progressive political activist. Matt Haney has been a decent supervisor. But his election will give Mayor Breed ANOTHER CHANCE TO APPOINT SOMEONE TO POLITICAL OFFICE. Mahmood has never held elected office.
Campos has raised far less money than the other two, because he's the only one who truly represents the progressive community of this city.
Bloggelinis: I know I should have written this a long time ago. Sending a blog with voter recommendations the day before the election? Ridiculous! But the truth is that I've been floundering. I am having trouble keeping going. Writing blogs is so satisfying! Readng your emails makes me so happy! Why can't I get myself to do it? Maybe this blog is a sign that I'm coming out of my flounder. I hope so! Terry