Go Home to Your ‘Dying’ Hometown

Or out, away form San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York where the cost of living reduces the quality of life.

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/08/opinion/sunday/urban-rural-america.html

I did, and it isn’t what I expected. I am more involved in social and racial justice, economic development and feminism than I ever was in a big city.

By Michele Anderson
March 8, 2019

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — My husband and I bought a new home last fall — a 1910 Colonial Revival on the edge of this central Minnesota town of 14,000 people. Down the hill from our place is downtown, which includes the library and a medical clinic. Go a quarter-mile in the opposite direction, and the houses end. You’re surrounded by wide-open prairie, and beyond that is Interstate 94, which gets you to the Twin Cities in about three hours.

We’re still unpacking boxes as we get ready for our first baby, due in late March. A few weeks ago, searching for ideas for what to name our son, I looked through a family genealogy book. The last 30 pages are a transcription of my great-great-great grandfather Walter’s diary from 1883 to 1907. He came to Minnesota via Canada and England and lived with his wife, Eleanor, and their nine children on a homestead in Clay County, about 40 miles north of where I live now.

I read excerpts from his diary out loud to my husband, and we soaked in the rhythm of his life:

Thurs. June 1, finished planting onion seed, planted potatoes. Went to J. Lamb’s dance. Fri. 2, rain. Finished planting potatoes. Father went to Sabin. Sat. 3. took cattle to herd. Helped Chas. Lamb haul manure. Sun. 4, went over to church. All McEvers S.S. were there. Mon. 5, cleaned out stable. Ploughed for beans and corn. Tues. 6, went to mill. Wed. 7, father called. I planted beets around house. Sat. 10, ploughed for turnips.

It was a humble sort of poetry, a reference book for the land he chose to commit himself to. He was a farmer, and he helped establish the area’s first Presbyterian church. And yet it’s strange to know every detail of what he planted, but not what he hoped or feared for his family or his community.

The Interstate splits the original homestead, so I drive through that farmland often. I catch myself romanticizing my family’s “legacy,” feeling both pride for what they built and regret that the land that defines my family was stolen from the Dakota people.

I feel conflicted about my role here. Rural places like this one are facing countless questions about the economy, about identity and about the environment. It’s hard to know what we need to be stewards of and sustain, and what we need to let go or confront, to build a strong future.

I am what you might call a “homecomer.” Wendell Berry, the Kentucky writer and farmer, uses that word to describe people who have spent some time away, usually to pursue better opportunities in cities, and then choose to return to their rural roots.

In a 2009 commencement address at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Berry encouraged students to consider whether they might be better and more responsible citizens if they embraced the concept of homecoming rather than the desire for upward mobility, which lures them to places to which they have little connection, to participate in a destructive and extractive economy.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/08/opinion/sunday/urban-rural-america.html

Corbynism Comes to America

From The Tablet:  https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/281764/corbynism-comes-to-america

Wondering about the future of the Democratic Party? Just look at Britain’s Labour.

By James Kirchick
March 13, 2019

Less than four years ago, Jeremy Corbyn was an obscure backbencher in the British Parliament. In his 30 years as a member of the Labour Party, his greatest legislative accomplishment was paradoxically the lack of any: From 1997 to 2010, when Labour was last in government, Corbyn was the MP who voted against his own party more than any other. Despite his perpetual insubordinations, successive Labour Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown declined to expel Corbyn from their party. “There was no threat,” a deputy Labour chief whip told the Financial Times about Corbyn and his small band of hard-left rebels in 2016. “These people were tolerated because no one had ever heard of them.”

Today, everyone in British politics has heard of Jeremy Corbyn, who, as leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition, has utterly transformed the Labour Party. Once a broad-based movement that could command large parliamentary majorities, today it is a sectarian personality cult, offering meager resistance to a shambolic Conservative government. Once the party whose leaders created NATO and stood stalwart against the threat of international communism, today Labour is led by people who sing the praises of anti-Western despots and terrorists. And once the natural political home of British Jewry, Labour today is mired in an anti-Semitic morass, to the point where 40 percent of Jews say they would “seriously consider” leaving the country were Corbyn to become prime minister. Indeed, Labour has become so toxic that, last month, nine MPs quit the party, calling it “sickeningly, institutionally racist,” “a threat to national security” and “a danger to the cohesion of our society, the safety of our citizens, and the health of our democracy.”

How Labour reached this deplorable condition is one that should seriously concern liberals in the United States, where a similar dynamic is playing out in the Democratic Party. An insurgent progressivism favorably disposed to socialism, hostile to Jews and openly admiring of Jeremy Corbyn and all that he represents is steadily making inroads against an aging, centrist Democratic establishment. Here, a constellation of elected officials, media personalities, and activists are mimicking the tactics of their ideological comrades in Britain to take over and transform the Democratic Party into a vehicle for their extreme agenda.

The devotees of American Corbynism congregate around Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the “democratic socialist” who, like the British Labour leader, has a long record of overlooking the depredations of left-wing authoritarians abroad. A recently discovered video from 1988 shows the future presidential candidate regaling an American audience with the highlights of a recent trip he and his wife Jane made to the Soviet Union, where he rode on the “very, very effective” transportation system and was wowed by train station “chandeliers that were beautiful.” Just a year before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, these two political pilgrims sounded like Beatrice and Sidney Webb, British socialists who ventured to Josef Stalin’s Russia only to report back smiling peasants and abundant harvests. Sanders, who initially had positive things to say about the late Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution, today stubbornly refuses to call his successor, the brutal Nicolas Maduro, a dictator.

Continue reading at:  https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/281764/corbynism-comes-to-america

The Queen 1968

The Pageant took place in the spring of 1967.  I was taking exploratory steps towards coming out.

This film came out in 1968 and made my self denial even harder.  By this time in 1969 I had been on hormones for a month and had the glow and itchy tits as well as budding boobs.

This is history forgotten by those who think everything started with Stonewall, especially trans-history starting with Stonewall.

Is Being Trans Like Being an Immigrant?

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/03/opinion/is-being-trans-like-being-an-immigrant.html

Both involve a journey. And both are under assault by this administration.

By Jennifer Finney Boylan
April 3, 2019

Last week, a 9-year-old American citizen, Julia Isabel Amparo Medina, was detained at the Mexican border for 30 hours. Although she had made the trip every school day from her home in Tijuana, Mexico, to school in California, authorities claimed they could not identify her.

Back in January, two British women angrily accosted the human rights activist Sarah McBride after a conference that had brought together members of Congress and the parents of transgender youth. The women, members of a group that denies the humanity of transgender people, referred to Ms. McBride with male pronouns and accused her of championing rape and the erasure of lesbians.

On the surface, it might seem as if the detention of Julia and the cruelty of transphobes is unrelated. But both hatreds, in fact, rise from the same dark spring.

“People who have transitioned,” those anti-trans activists seemed to suggest, “aren’t sending their best. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Actually, unless I missed something, they didn’t say a word about people like Sarah McBride and me being good people. Mostly they implied, as the president once said of undocumented immigrants, that we’re not people. That we’re animals.

Comparing the trans experience to those of other marginalized groups is awkward, and not least because gender and race and poverty have different, if entwined histories. We conflate them at our peril.

Still, the narrative of migration can provide a helpful metaphor for the lives of some trans folks. This isn’t true for all of us, to be sure. But for someone who transitioned midlife, like me, it works pretty well.

I’m 60 years old now. I was 40 when I set out on the dangerous crossing that led from the place where I was born to these green fields of womanhood.

From my earliest memory, the old country — so to speak — felt like a foreign place; for me it was, at least at times, a place of hunger. I knew that if I stayed in the country where I was born — dear old BoyLand — I would never survive. And so I set out for this new land, the place I’d been dreaming of, one way or another, since I was 6 years old. In 2000, when I came out, I finally got my green card.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/03/opinion/is-being-trans-like-being-an-immigrant.html

The Democrats Need a New Eugene McCarthy

From The Tablet:  https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/282679/democrats-need-new-eugene-mccarthy

Will we see a Democratic candidate like him—practically inclined to the liberal center, with a coherent moral outlook that used to be informed by a decent left—in the 2020 election cycle?

By Martin Peretz
April 2, 2019

The awakening Democratic presidential primary, with 14 declared candidates and at least nine possible more, amounts to a stark choice over the party’s future: left or center, identity-issue minded or pluralist, radical or incrementalist. In fact, we haven’t seen Left battle lines so dramatically etched for more than half a century, since 1967 and 1968, under the dual weights of a disastrous foreign war and a rising new generation determined for change. The hero of that Democratic primary, who pushed Lyndon Johnson out of the race, ignited the energy of America’s young, and set up the new fault lines along which the future of the party got fought, was Eugene McCarthy, Democratic-farmer-labor senator from Minnesota. For many of us who were part of the McCarthy campaign, it’s a new Gene McCarthy—not in form, but in values—that we want today.

For those who didn’t live it, it’s hard to imagine the sheer despair that crested in America in the summer of 1967. Vietnam was not just a quagmire but a killing field, sucking the potential of tens of thousands of Americans into a jungle war where rights and wrongs disappeared in the murk, even as its impacts scraped away at the country. All the buried fissures of a changing society—old versus young, producers versus consumers, suburbs versus inner cities, oppressed identities versus old solidarities—were rubbed raw, ready to bleed. And the political class wouldn’t listen—Lyndon Johnson was adamant about prosecuting the war, Richard Nixon was busy manipulating the social fissures the war exposed, and the most obvious candidate to challenge Johnson, Bobby Kennedy, was too canny a political animal to make a leap in the dark. 1967 didn’t feel like the apocalypse—but it felt like five minutes to midnight.

Into this atmosphere came Gene McCarthy, who, after spending the summer urging a personally remote and, in any case, a waffling Bobby to run, entered the race in the fall. Against the high drama of the times, his announcement was flat, basic, to the point: He said the war was immoral and wrong, he said it was eating away at the fabric of country, he said it had to end. But Gene, a second-term senator risking his reputation to challenge a sitting president in the middle of a war, believed in more than ending our involvement in Vietnam. A deeply contemplative man who’d been born into the lower-middle classes and come into intellectual maturity through Catholic education and postgraduate work in economics, Gene was a practical moralist: He held deep beliefs, but his appreciation of reality was too intimate to let those beliefs shade into didactic thinking. When he looked at Vietnam he saw not just a profound moral wrong but also a practically revealing one, of the fissures of a country not in freefall but in intricate transition. “We are no longer a frontier society,” he said, and he meant his campaign to both end the war and address the bigger change—to give more Americans more autonomy in a complicated world.

So, in an age where consumption and technology were becoming the main drivers of economic growth, Gene could imagine automated labor and high-skills-demanding employment putting a certain number of people out of work, and he thought you had to guarantee them an income: It wasn’t a sweeping theory, but Gene is, to my knowledge, the first major candidate to talk about limited universal basic income. He was also skeptical of the new military industrial apparatus and its tendency to promote systemic belligerence abroad, but he pushed back against people on the hard left who inflated that critique into opposition towards both international alliances of democratic societies and the capitalist system itself. Capitalism, he thought, had not just created the wealth we had, it was also the only system that was both independent of politics and could be politically corrected by democratic will. You can’t, Gene realized, deconstruct such a successful system: You have to work carefully within it.

On what we’d now call “identity issues,” Gene was similarly complex. Even as his campaign drew its strength from women, American Jews, high Protestants, middle class African Americans, and Irish Americans, Gene managed to respect historical differences without being imprisoned by them: Histories mattered, but people were individuals to him before they were anything else. He was suspicious of political actors who either papered over differences or made them the hinge on which politics turned: He thought they colluded in perpetuating segregations, not ending them. This focus on individuality meant he was a true integrationist: From the start of his political career, in the face of real intra-party resistance, he insisted that the only way to overcome centuries of segregation was to change zoning laws so that blacks and whites could live together. Alas, that turned out to be not as socially transformative as many of us had envisioned.

Continue reading at:  https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/282679/democrats-need-new-eugene-mccarthy

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Louis Prima and Keely Smith

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Friday Night Fun and Culture: Louis Prima and Keely Smith

How ‘Real America’ Became Queer America

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/13/opinion/lgbt-trump-red-states.html

The Trump administration may be busy waging culture wars. But in the heartland, it’s never been a better time to be L.G.B.T.

By Samantha Allen
March 13, 2019

This may seem like a strange time to feel optimistic about the future of L.G.B.T. rights in America. But as a queer transgender woman who has spent most of her adult life in red states, hopeful is exactly how I feel.

In July 2017 — the same month that President Trump announced on Twitter that he would ban transgender troops — I left on a six-week-long road trip across the red states. I wanted to understand what motivated L.G.B.T. people to stay in the heartland at a time when some progressives were still pondering escaping to Canada.

What I learned on the way from Utah to Georgia only reaffirmed what I have come to believe over the past decade: Attitudes toward L.G.B.T. people are changing rapidly in conservative states, and no one inside the Beltway can stop it. This country’s bright queer future is already here, hiding where too few of us care to travel.

From a bird’s-eye perspective, it may not seem that life has changed for L.G.B.T. Americans in so-called flyover country. State laws prohibiting discrimination against them remain elusive in red states — although Utah notably passed one in 2015. But in their absence, midsize cities have become pockets of L.G.B.T. acceptance.

In the West, cities including Boise, Idaho; Salt Lake City; Bozeman, Mont.; and Laramie, Wyo., have passed L.G.B.T.-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances in the past decade. Below the Mason-Dixon line, the list of cities with such laws includes Atlanta and New Orleans; Birmingham, Ala.; and Jackson, Miss. L.G.B.T. Texans have had to fend off all manner of horrific state-level bills, but if they live in Austin, Dallas, Plano or Fort Worth, they have solid local laws on their side. And Midwestern hubs like St. Louis and Omaha likewise offer L.G.B.T. protections.

The Human Rights Campaign, a national L.G.B.T. advocacy organization, is downright cheerful about this trend at a time when queer optimism feels in short supply. In the its 2018 Municipal Equality Index, the group’s president, Chad Griffin, wrote that “while cynical politicians in Washington, D.C., attempt to roll back our hard-fought progress, many local leaders are championing equality in big cities and small towns from coast to coast.”

And this progress includes transgender people. According to the group’s data, over 180 cities and counties in states whose electoral votes went to Mr. Trump in 2016 now protect employees not just on the basis of sexual orientation but gender identity as well.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/13/opinion/lgbt-trump-red-states.html

 

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on How ‘Real America’ Became Queer America