5th Column and the Way to Peace: A #CheapPeace Synchroblog

Note: This is my second of two additions in the second edition of the #NewPacifism Synchroblog hosted by Rod at Political Jesus. This edition is called Cheap Peace.

In the last blog I argued in a footnote that while the Christian Pacifist class may do a good job of critiquing the Security State abroad, there is no workable critique of the Security State in the domestic level. I propose this is for a variety of reasons. First, Evangelicals overwhelmingly voted in George W Bush and his culture of war, and re-established him even after he and his neocon buddies showed the true face of their “compassionate” Christianity and just what kind of “democracy” they were exporting (and thus importing back into the US as well). So the Christian Pacifist focus on the War on Terror is an important critique. And because this critique was so little heard in the very White and thus Republican Evangelical churches, it caught on with a largely younger generation. In effect, taking on this message became profitable and popular. But it was also easier than critiquing the very essence of the White middle class existence.

This White Middle Class existence is built upon Black enslavement, Indigenous extermination, Brown deportation, racial-economic segregation and gentrification. The largest motivator for these actions is fear. Fear of a Black planet; fear of a Brown county. We readily see fear in not just conservative but liberal and progressive utterances in regards to People of Color. Hives. Muslim Terrorists. Crack babies. Thugs. Infestation. All terms dehumanizing POC. Even the idea of the “Model Minority” puts unrealistic and inhuman expectations on East Asians – using them as objects and props in the neverending socio-psychological war against Black people and other, less-desirable minority groups.

So the disconnect is so wide between the White World created on the energy of fear and the Black and Brown worlds controlled and to a degree defined by that same energy that it’s easy to see why White Christian Pacifists will not tackle domestic racism – it’s alien because they are a part of White Supremacist system and because Cheap Peace comes easy. In the American consumer culture, peace is merely another product that can be – under the right people – wished and spoken into existence. So the cries for Peace, Peace they cried upon Ferguson in the wake of the non-verdict were not cynical, but sincere and genuine. And that is the problem. They seem to actually believe that peace can be achieved abroad or domestically without tearing down the very systems that benefit them in the process. They actually believe that peace is merely a state of mind, and that they – being predominantly white and male – can institute that state of mind. It’s a colonial state of mind.

Riot Police in the Field, Peace - Banksy

Riot Police in the Field, Peace – Banksy

Even Banksy tends to have this neoliberal view.

And as Fanon points out, decolonization is an act of violence because colonization is an act of violence. This is why those who speak for the recognition of the humanity of black people in the framework of White Supremacist America are viewed as “race-baiters” and “racial instigators”. Notice that within this work I – as an identifiably white male – am never referred to as an animal (that distinction would go to my grandmother, friends and neighbors, I suppose), but merely as a trouble-maker. Christian pacifists do not like trouble because it makes things harder for them. Their work is in the speech acts and speech acts need Searlian contexts in order to be effective. The speech acts must be presented at the right time, in the right place, with the right set of words (or their acceptable approximates), and be agreed upon by all acting participants. For someone to reject the call of peace means that the peace-keeper has failed and must go it again. But the lack of peace isn’t due to the fact that the peace-speaker wasn’t working – it’s a result of uncooperative people (usually people of color, of course).

This is of course the essence of Cheap Peace. When Bonhoeffer critiqued Cheap Grace, he was speaking on such matters – grace given as a proximate, as a speech act when none was appropriate. Grace was given by the church over a murderous, genocidal, nationalistic state. His Lutheran church sanctified the Third Reich just as the White American Churches sanctify the White Supremacist code. To reject such is to reject peace. Is to stir up trouble.

This last week I was called a “racial instigator and 5th Column Marxist” by an ex-FBFriend. I joked – as one does – about adding these titles to my CV. I’ve already been long convinced that what the White Church needs is more racial instigation, as its complacency and silence breeds violence just as the Lutheran church’s did in the 1930’s and 40’s. In looking up what a ‘fifth column’ is, however, I was rather stoked. It is this idea of sabotage, of taking down a city or fortress from inside its own walls. I will gladly do that to capitalism, if I could. I will spread the very real news that capitalism is a great evil that is capitulated on the value of private property over the value of human lives. If that is not a fundamentally Christian morality, the one Jesus spoke of to the Rich Young Ruler, I do not know what is. Isn’t radicalism fundamentally instigation and sabotage? To work within the city of corruption and death and destruction to bring it to collapse? If the White American Church runs on a capitalist model (and it does) that benefits White Americans while silencing the voices of those on the margins, it needs to be brought down. It needs to be invaded. Perhaps the word closest to mind would be infested.

But even if the White Pacifist Christians speak out against injustice in and of their communities and silence their own hushing techniques, are they willing to uproot the systems that cause sustained, traumatic violence at home? Are they willing to strike simultaneously against not just the Military Industrial Complex, but against Heteropatriachy1? Not just against the Prison Industrial Complex, but capitalism? Not just that #BlackLivesMatter as a slogan in the same way that the professional anti-abortion industry co-opts the message that all lives are precious to God, but in a theologically robust and comprehensive way that the likes of James Falwell, Chuck Colson, and Operation Rescue never ever comprehended?

The Security State is in place to protect White Middle Class American fears. Is it not the job of Christian theology – and certainly any pacifist view based on that theology – to erase fear with hope and love? And if love in action is the work of justice (I argue it is), and if we recognize that peace does not exist outside of justice, instigate. Instigate!

It is cheap to maintain the status quo at home while demanding change abroad.

This is Cheap Peace. The fact that lives are cheap and that all we need to do is say some words about how lives are treated over there by our government. But very little critique is here, at home. Peace is cheap and shouldn’t cost us some businesses, right?

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1Patriachy is the logic that naturalizes social hierarchy. Just as men are supposed to dominate women on the basis of “natural” biology, so too should the social elites of a society naturally rule everyone else through a nation-state form of governance that is constructed through domination, violence and control. Patriarchy, in turn, is presumed a heteronormative gender binary system. Thus, as Ann Burlen argues in Lift High the Cross, it may be a mistake that the goal of Christian Right politics is to create a theocracy in the United States. Rather, CRp work through private family (which is coded as white, patriarchal, and middle class) to create a “Christian America.” She notes that the investment in the private family serves to make it more difficult for people to invest in more public forms of social connection. In addition, investment in the suburban private family serves to mask the general disinvestment in urban areas that makes the suburban lifestyle possible. The social decay in urban areas that results from this disinvestment is then construed as the result of deviance from the white, Christian family ideal rather than as the result of political and economic forces.

  • Andrea Smith, “Dismantling the Master’s Tools with the Master’s House: Native Feminist Liberation Theologies.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion (22:2), Fall 2006, p 96.

Rioting, Property and Christian Pacifism: A #CheapPeace Synchroblog

Note: This is my first of two additions in the second edition of the #NewPacifism Synchroblog hosted by Rod at Political Jesus. This edition is called Cheap Peace.

Without reprieve, White people talk about the current American-wide protests – rising up since the tragic, police-led murders of unarmed black men and women and then the tragic non-prosecutions of their murderers – as if they are an inconvenience, a negative, a force of destruction themselves. This is a thought expressed by a scarily large amount of White Evangelicals and Christian Pacifists. It is also common for white people sympathetic to the cause (including White Evangelicals and Christian Pacifists) of racial justice to turn the debate around back to the unjust killings themselves. And we draw the focus to the peaceful protests, the candle vigils, the portraits of white and black and brown people of all shades and ages and sizes gathering together and staging die-ins together and white police officers hugging little black children and…

While this is not a wrong approach, per se, what if in a sense the detractors are right? What if what they deem to be ‘violent’1 actions were allowed to stand on their own? What if they were the only reactions; how would we assess that? What if – as Amaryah Shae so brilliantly argued – we allowed the tension that the lootings and burnings and traffic inconveniences are legitimate not just as reactions but as clear philosophical and ethical responses to how White America (which includes our protectorate forces, the military and police) treats Black Americans and blackness?

Sunset with burning building

Petteri Sulonen – Sunset with burning building via Flickr

 

Can Christian pacifists allow2 for that kind of reaction to stand on its own? Or would it be dismissed as “inherently violent” while little is said about the fact that White America, which includes White Evangelicalism and White Christian Pacifism, views Black people as property: as mere items to be worked, sorted, utilized, discarded, burned.

Which is more violent? Actions that lead to the destruction of a national chain store or justification of the propertification of races of people?

The underlying narrative of anti-black racism is that Black people are slaveable (cf, Andrea Smith again) and as such, are property. Property (including the Property-ness of Black Bodies) is only worth possession and monetary value. It is obvious that some property is worth more than others.  White Supremacy is thus confused even as it makes its arguments:

How does property fight back? How does property destroy property?

White Supremacy is trying to negotiate the terms and conditions of the property value of Black Bodies, using police forces and the justice system to do so. So the act of black people destroying personal property is to say that Black lives matter more so than mere personal property3.

Which I see in a very different realm also happening re: Immigration. Brown bodies are at constant risk of deportation in order to keep costs of production down and in order to continue the wheels of capitalism unabated. Smith notes that capitalism is a perpetual death machine needing the slaveability of black people, the otherness (and therefore war and deportation of) Brown people and the continual genocide and land-theft of indigenous peoples. If they were to be paid just wages, then the system could not sustain itself as it were.

This is what mass incarceration and gentrification are in Black & Latin@ communities: Disruption as price negotiation. How can Black and Latin@ communities fight back and demand livable wages and just treatment, White Supremacy has reasoned, if they can’t organize?

As soon as the poor and people of color – and especially poor people of color – organize, the police arrive to reestablish the order.

As soon as they organize unions, union-busting cops show up. As soon as they organize underground economies (as the above-ground economies are not open to them), cops lock them up at rates 20:1. As soon as they organize as working communities in the hood and reclaim their wealth, gentrification comes and the sheriff is at the door. As soon as they organize on the street, the police and the National Guard come to impose curfews, arrest on trussed up charges, throw tear gas at people and canisters at homes (oh, but the Christian Pacifists were mum about this!), to make the simple act of protesting illegal and deem it counter-productive. A constitutionally-guaranteed right is criminalized for Black and Brown folks. But that’s alright as the US Constitution was never for black or brown folk (Consider the very different responses between White and Black people carrying guns in open spaces). Brown people had the land, black people had the work. Out of this was born capitalism.

To claim, as the conservatives and would-be peacemakers do, that less-than-docile protests are counterproductive, is to say that People of Color can only be effective when they are docile. It is to claim that the lives of Cameron Tillman, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Shelley Frey are not worthy of a full expression of human emotions and are themselves worth less than spilled milk. Because property is to be coerced into easy organization.

In fact, Ms. Frey was killed over shoplifting. Mr. Garner for selling loosies. Mr. Brown allegedly for stealing a cheap cigar. Every day, billions of dollars are stolen by bankers and traders through derivatives, federal-guaranteed school loans, and foreclosing homes. On the rare occasion they are charged, their penalty is but a point of a fraction of a percent what they take in. And yet black lives are snuffed out for the slightest provocation. If they go willingly, they are jailed and bail is set at exorbitant rates – so of course black people overpopulate jails when bonds are set at several hundred dollars for lifting a bar of soap, several times the property wealth that black people have.

Garner, Frey and Brown resisted being treated like property in both why they were approached by the police and how they interacted by the police. And they were killed for these infractions. The message is clear: Black people must stay in their lanes. The line must be toed at all costs.

And this message is relayed millions upon millions of times an hour – not just on social media and in the recesses of White Supremacist Internets – but in the very fabric of the White Supremacy framework of America. It is the stuff of White and Black interaction with police, with authorities, with regards to political action, mass media, written and oral histories, the apartheid system of public and private education and the overwhelmingly White face of higher education.

How do we make peace with this? Not through compliance or complacency. Not through respecting the order of things when respecting the order means that People of Color are to be managed like property – like chattel that needs to be corralled and put down if defiant.

By decrying private property destruction, the Cheap Peace of Christian Pacifism prioritizes the matter of capitalism and buildings over the matter of black lives. As if they cannot or will not ask which is worth more.

It is much more expensive to realize that businesses are predicated on a system of economics built upon black slavery – of control and theft – and native genocide – through Black bodies and Brown lands in order to establish White capital. Because that would mean a fundamental shift of order. And that doesn’t seem very peaceful.

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1I do not see the point of rehashing this, but fine: People are more important than property. If damage to property causes actual harm to people, then it is violence as far as that extends and only as far as that extends. This must be weighed by context, including the fact that people tend to not listen until shit starts flying sometimes. As Willie James Williams says,

Only in a distorted world turned completely into commodity, could a life be weighed against private property. Yet we hear constantly the comparison between loss of life and the destruction of property as though these things are on the same plane of moral existence. Black life has always lost out in that calculus, because the ideas of law and order have overwhelmingly been orientated toward the protection of property and not black bodies. Christianity in America has much too often served as the high priest of this sick reality of law and order, too quickly aligning our biblical visions of sin and punishment to ideas of crime and punishment, and lending our support to forms of policing that are betrothed to the control of space and married to violence.

2Christian Pacifism is largely if not utterly detached from the world of here-and-now violence that the very communities it exists in perpetuates on their own Black and Brown neighbors – on my next door neighbors. They can speak mightily about the manufactured safety of the War on Terrorism (and it is a needed voice within Evangelicalism), but that becomes easier as it is distant. I have seen zero evidence of a critique of the war on safety for suburban communities – ie, Crime & Punishment and the War on Drugs that targets, literally, black bodies as a precipice for capitalist security. But more on that in the next blog.

3Amaryah has a much-more thought-out perspective than mine, vis-a-vis personal property and the property of black bodies:

[P]rivate property [is] the invention that produces public property, which is black flesh. And this production of public property as blackness is the production of its profitability as its expendability. Darren Wilson received 500k in support of his defense of this division of property, paid leave, a marriage celebration, and a public interview to top it off.

Is it any surprise, then, that so many public services, schools, healthcare, WIC, etc., have been made synonymous with black people and thus able to be hollowed out, evacuated, defunded, disregarded? This is precisely how poor black flesh is treated by the state.

Continuing Settler Colonialism into the 21st Century

 

chicago- logan square

Heather Phillips via Flickr (Logan Square, Chicago)

 

Scholar and activist Andrea Smith talks about colonialism and the disappearance of the Indigenous as one of the three pillars of White Supremacy. In this type of logic, the indigenous is constantly being removed from the land so that the settler can claim rights to it. We see it in Western myths about the Bad and Savage Indians and in current myths about the Terrorist Palestinian. We see it in the mascotry of Indian peoples, customs, costumes, and tribes for sports teams, and in the appropriation of spiritual practices of Native peoples.

To expand a bit further: Gentrification is a form of and repetition of settler colonialism. Which is to say that gentrification is a method of stealing land and disappearing native peoples from their property, institutions, history, and even cultures. It’s wealthier, typically white people actively disappearing poorer, typically people of color from their lands and their own communities. The similarities do not end there, though. When we try to argue that gentrification is actually a bad thing, white pro-gentrification forces argue that they are there to improve the neighborhoods. The implication argument, is that people of color and their cultures and institutions are intrinsically inferior. They will ask for proof of the worth of black and brown communities and receipts as if the only piece of value is how much to get from real estate. As if the only thing Black and Latino folk do is gang-bang1 and sell drugs. And as if those are more violent actions than intentional financial destabilization and wealth-denying of white institutions of power for the last five hundred and twenty years.

People of color as individuals, as communities, as institutions are not trusted to have value. Their restaurants and churches and businesses schools2 and social clubs are bulldozed, swept out, shut down, overcome because they are judged inferior by the very forces that want them removed. Settler colonialism needs to continually harvest cheap workers, and so keeps destabilizing the communities of its cheap labor force so as to keep them disorganized, to keep them from demanding more, to keep them from speaking of injustice in ways that will eventually lead to justice.

Are white people ok with these acts of displacement, whether they occur in Australia, or Bolivia, or Palestine/Israel, or Humboldt Park, Chicago3, or within the mostly White missional and emergent church experiences, because we’ve never made peace with the fact that we have and are constantly disappearing Native people from North America? In the process of stealing their lands and constantly stealing their lands, we have said that their forms of education were not adequate, so we put them in the first public schools, with the aim of enculturating them to Middle Class Euro-American values and ways of seeing and doing. When we did not actively work to physically and psychologically erase and shame their languages and customs from existence.

And this process continues, and is always continuing. In the same ways where Israeli propaganda claims that Palestine was not an actual possessed land outside of Jewish occupants and that there is no such thing as  Palestinians; in the same way that the First Nations did not have rights to the land since they did not operate by European laws and feudalities; in the same way that White missional churches enter into heavily churched Black and Brown neighborhoods to “bring the Gospel”; in the same way that children are being adopted out of Indian Country and into White families; so White hipsters, investment bankers, real estate agents, business bureaus, city halls, and developers converge to continually erase the identities and culture and institutions of Black and Brown communities to turn a profit and keep poor people in line.

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1 Remember that the KKK was the first and the biggest racialized gang. Remember also that POC gangs in the Northern urban centers grew out of reaction to the strolling and violent actions of white gangs entering into black and Latino neighborhoods looking for black and Latino youths to beat up.

2 In one year, Chicago’s Mayor Emanuel closed down fifty elementary schools – almost every last one having a population made up almost entirely of Black and Latino students. Almost all of them in poor black neighborhoods. But two of these neighborhood schools were closed in Humboldt Park, where gentrification is building steam. A neighborhood middle school in West Logan Square (also on the fast track for gentrification) that had seen huge investment from the community and was a source of pride and joy for all was turned into a military academy against the community’s wishes. Because we can’t trust non-violent forms of Latino organizing and educating.

3 Where I grew up and there was no investment from white people then. But years later, a white coffeehouse owner would ask me if the neighborhood was getting better while White Supremacist Fox News was playing overhead on his screens

Not Jesus

Here Are Your Prophets

This is what the Lord says:

    “You false prophets are leading my people astray!
You promise peace for those who give you food,
    but you declare war on those who refuse to feed you.
Now the night will close around you,
    cutting off all your visions.
Darkness will cover you,
    putting an end to your predictions.
The sun will set for you prophets,
    and your day will come to an end.
Then you seers will be put to shame,
    and you fortune-tellers will be disgraced.
And you will cover your faces
    because there is no answer from God.”

But as for me, I am filled with power—
    with the Spirit of the Lord.
I am filled with justice and strength
    to boldly declare [the colonizer’s] sin and rebellion.

Micah 3 (New Living – with slight paraphrase)

The more famous passage of Micah, where your sons and daughters will prophesy, follows this passage. We find where the prophets are when we dismiss the so-called prophets of the kings and queens – the appeasers. Those who disguised their words uplifting the oppressive systems of the halls of power, of destruction, of war, of racism, of sexism, as the Word of the Lord. Who sell their images as God-speakers, yet what they have to say sounds oddly and eerily what the powerful already say.

Not Jesus

Not Jesus

One of the hallmarks of living in a kyriarchy economy is how easily and quickly the lower social stratus can be dispelled from sight and community with the elite groups. We can colonize, we can take the land and work and bodies, and then throw aside their personhood through colonialism and heteropatriarchy. This makes it easy for elites – for white, middle class, able-bodied, neurotypical males above all – to dismiss criticism and malign prophets.  For what are the dispossessed if not prophets? Do they not speak the Word of the Lord to the Kings and Queens?

Fortunately, we now live in the digital age and the voice(s) of the prophets are everywhere. So when a white male pastor asks where all the prophets have gone, he is missing the picture: they are here. Here is your family of prophetic voices. They speak with passion and knowledge and wisdom and joy and hope and anger and resentment and frustration and within community and from outside the very community they have been cast from. Meanwhile, the white heteropatriarchy asks why they can’t be nicer, why they don’t work within the very kingdom they have been cast from?

If you want the voice of God, it is not to be found in mass media (cf, pt 3), whose ultimate purpose is to support the hegemony of White Culture and consumer capitalism. You may find it in Dexter or Breaking Bad or True Detective, but these are shows of violent white males and I’m not sure how that is much different than other predominant White Male Supremacy voices of Dick Cheney, Exxon Mobil, or penal substitutionary theory (Nothing But the Blood, indeed).

Yet these same people will call Liberation Theologians “ultimately violent”* for loudly resisting the kyriarchy and will proclaim or accept the title of prophet for themselves. They will make racist, sexist, homophobic utterances about the very people they dispossess from the lands. They will talk about how inclusive they are, and how racially conscious and wow what Jesus Feminists they are, but promote White Males all day long.  They will present themselves as lgbtq allies while not just blocking LGBTQ people (but will engage with homophobes all day long), but talk about trans people as having a sexual preference, refer to “a gay lifestyle” and “sin” and say (repeatedly) that the “purpose for marriage equality is to promote lifelong monogamy, which is preferential for everybody.”

zhoag homosexual lifestyle and sin trans orientation

Did I say they block LGBTQ people? Yes. Yes they do. In fact, they block People of Color, feminists, and their accomplices – any critic who doesn’t take kindly to being tokenized and co-opted. Any prophet who will not kowtow to the White Supremacist, Heteronormative Patriarchal Structure of the White Western Church. This is because the kyriarchy is not used to being talked back to in such tones, so they will consider it an act of violence [link to Zahnd’s tweet on liberation theology being violent; other suggestions?]. You want to know where the prophets are? They are right here, but your mute button has put them on silence.

It is an act of intentional cultural genocide. In this manner, they act as Ahabs, erasing prophets from the land for the fear of being confronted with their participation in the White Supremacist, Heteronormative, Neoliberal Patriarchy.

Speak out!

Speak Out! by Chris Schluep, via Flickr You can watch UNICEF video here: http://www.theoneminutesjr.org/

And yet they have the gall to call themselves, endorse others who call them, and then call others that also look like them as “prophets” and “prophetic”, “called you in this time“. They use prophecy as a branding tool rather than a way of God speaking to the powers, to the oppressors, as Amos and Daniel did.

The Empire cannot prophecy to the Empire. White middle class heterosexual men are the Empire in this society. Rather, the sons and daughters of the dispossessed are your prophets.

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*Though Zahnd would later walk the statement back, he barely did so, in fact equating people’s revolutions (who were sometimes backed by Liberation Theology) with the violence of fascist regimes in Latin America that they were fighting against. But could we then not say that Euro-American theology is even more violent, since it has and continues to support genocide, war, and slavery? For more in-depth understanding of White Anabaptist approaches to Liberation Theology, cf Political Jesus’ “Anabaptist Theology & Black Power: A Subaltern Ethics Of Peace #AnaBlacktivism.”

Like a Wheel Within a Wheel: The Kyriarchy Economy

Kyriarchy is a way of understanding the interwoven systems of oppression and hierarchy – those of patriarchy, classism, heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, and ableism. It is one – albeit shortened – way to understand how solidarity can happen under such varied and disparate circumstances among people who are not supposed to get each other, let alone work together to dismantle specific oppressions. If the main tool of patriarchy is misogyny, though, I’d like to suggest that a main tool of and reason for (its MacGuffin, so to say) kyriarchy may be the economy – as it largely has existed, but particularly through capitalism. And a main tool of and reason for most economies is, in turn, the kyriarchy.

To not recognize that the capitalist economy and kyriarchy need and feed each other is to not recognize how either capitalism or kyriarchy exist and operate. It is to erase the impact and wealth that slavery, Jim Crow, and underpaid/unpaid domestic labor have been producing while managers and capitalists – those who have enough money to gamble on ventures and profit from those – are praised and rewarded for the work that others produce. Kyriarchy is both funded by and is skewed towards a warped economic reality in which those who work hardest and produce the most benefits have the least amount of wealth. Consider migrant harvesters and housewives – how would modern Western society survive without them?

Vintage Bank Vault

“Vintage Bank Vault” by Brook Ward via flickr

Of course the most obvious way this works – and yet still denied by much of the US – is that the closer one identifies with the kyriarchal ideal, the more capital one has – the more the economy favors that person. While not every white person is wealthy or even middle class, the more one is part of the predominant White, Middle & Upper Class, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Able-bodied and Psychologically Normed, Educated, and Male Elite structure, the more one has access to what Amaryah Shaye recently configured as “inheritances” - the more capital one has access to. This capital comes in monetary form (inherited wealth and the things one can do with that), educational form (not just blanket “education” as something to be picked up, but as a way of knowing how to respond in a specific culture and among a specific people who can get you nice things and as a way of presenting that culture and your work within that culture as being of utter value even though its real-world equivalence is pushing around numbers and may actually have negative influence upon the world), social form (knowing who is who and knowing the who’s who through familial relations), and even ethnic and racial capital. It is easier to gain trust with the Powers That Be if you were to talk like and look like and write like them.

The system works to keep the system – and the elites – in place. And those elites look a lot like those who show up as members of Congress and the Supreme Court and in the Oval Office, as political pundits, as board members of not only huge multinational corporations but also the non-profits they help fund, as Christian conference speakers, as history writers, as managers, as megachurch pastors, as police, as – yes – those who teach our children. They are the brokers and gatekeepers of the kyriarchy. The various institutions which they populate have as their primary function the guarding of the kyriarchy of which they are members.

We can see how Western Economies (all capitalist, whether large-scale capitalist like libertarian USA or small-scale capitalist like the social democracies of Northern Europe) have benefited from and are benefiting from what Andrea Smith calls the Three Pillars of White Supremacy: Slave logic (via anti-Blackness), Genocide land-grabbing (anti-indigenous), and War (anti-Asian/Middle Eastern Orientalism). In the US, we recognize it as the land of Indian Country fueled by the genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement and perennial lower-class-ness of Black people, and the perpetual wars in Those Countries of Orientalism to provide the fuel to continue the system of perpetual capitalism. The capital made from the land and bodies of the enslaved and disappeared, Smith argues, in turn, funds the perpetual state of war that the US is in. It’s a cyclical machine of economic enslavement. IOW, kyriarchy economy.

The kyriarchy economy needs heteropatriarchy in order to survive and has created this myth of the Nuclear Family in order to fuel its endless consumptive consumerism. It needs the families to stay intact so it makes it harder for women to survive apart from a male partner, and uses children (as bait/anchors), the church, and even extended families to prevent this dismantling, even in the face of severe physical violence and psychological abuse. This is how much it needs the future consumers that are children and the free labor that is provided by many women in these situations.

When the number of consumerist 1 Mom 2.5 Kids 1 Dad-To-Rule-Them-All Families started dying out, the Kyriarchy Economy stretches its borders to include middle class same sex marriages, but under the same auspices (Now you can have 2 Dads or 2 Moms with options to adopt). Not that this is a bad choice. People should have the option to join in or opt out as they choose. But notice how few rally around the cause of homeless LGBTQ youth, or trans rights in the workplace or public place. But Pride parades are increasingly being heteronormatified in order to be more open for Coca Cola and Target advertisements, even as leather pants are being erased.

However, this isn’t to say that kyriarchy only works in capitalism, but that capitalism is where we best see it exemplified. Many socialists and communists here in the States erase and ignore the plight of people of color, feminists, and other oppressed peoples, telling them that once the capitalist system is overthrown, then true equity will flow. But that is striving for an equality without justice, a racial and sexual hegemony without recognizing the present social realities that exist when brocialists try to take over pro-black solidarity rallies by erasing racial injustice and grievances from POC. They are instituting their own kyriarchy in a system they haven’t even realized and wondering why so few will join their cause. Precisely for the very reason that it is their cause and others are not welcomed.

The Error of Reconciliation Theology

 So watch yourselves!

If [a kin] sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that [brother/sister] wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.
Luke 17 (New Living Translation)

A young generation ago, White Evangelicalism came in contact with a firestorm of a soft-patriarchalist movement called Promise Keepers. Football stadiums were rented out and filled with men – all and only men – who would hear speeches by other men, mostly white about the need to redeem and reconcile. Men, we were told, need to redeem our rightful places as strong-but-gentle leaders in the household and the workplace. This wouldn’t be a redemption, of course, but merely a nicer-clothed pushback against the full humanity of women that the conservative church and religious right had been waging since the 1960’s. We can and should talk about the gender-segregated and what Sarah Moon refers to as Benevolent Sexism church modus later, but I want to focus on the reconciliation aspect.

At Promise Keepers events, White men were told – and rightly – that an unaccountable sin was of being distant from their brothers of color (notice that their is no intersection here. This is about what they considered the primary relationship, men-to-men). Tearful white men were challenged to turn to their black and brown brothers and seek forgiveness for racial sins that the White men never caught owned up to, never quite understood. But now they had the added benefit of making instant friends with people of another race and having their consciences wiped clean of corporate wrong-doings. So, White Evangelical men could go around saying “I have black friends!” while voting against the interests of their black friends. They could still push for incarceration and criminalization of black men; they could punish black women and families through welfare reform and slut-shaming; they could continue to marginalize Asian Americans by using them as Model Minority pawns against Latin@ and African Americans and, ultimately, against themselves; they could continue the eternal undergrounding of Latin@ communities; they can continue mascoting and erasing Native communities.

the final Cut

the final Cut – by Robb North via Flickr

While heaping praise upon themselves for welcoming non-Whites to worship and barbecue with them, White evangelicals could talk a big game about the work they’ve done to “bridge the gap” between White and “minority” peoples, but the only gap jumped was by the non-Whites. Whites have made no effort to de-center themselves, to weep where the sufferers weep, to grieve over and when oppressed people grieve, to join. Rather, under the auspices of “community” and “unity” White people put Black, Brown, and AAPI peoples in the situation of having to conform to White normalcy.

White normalcy, by the way, isn’t restricted to Fundamentalist or Evangelical situations. White normalcy is the underlying identity in a White Supremacist structure, in which most of the world under Euro-colonialism exists. So progressives (of the political and Christo-theological variety), liberals, Marxists, libertarians, all have to resist the dominant racism gene that places white people and white narratives and themes at the center even when talking about issues important to People of Color. And, let’s be straight, that is not happening a lot.

So, basically, White Christians are demanding that Christians of Color meet White Christians on White Christian ground, worship at a White Cross, come under a White Jesus.

As Amaryah Shae points out, the very notion of Christian racial reconciliation is flawed because it is always on White terms.

But Christian reconciliation, I argue, favors the dominant because it sees reconciliation and not justice as the virtue. Reconciliation theology holds that if two are separate, the separateness must be a sin in itself and the priority needs to be in removing the separation. Much of this comes from a bad reading of the Luke 17 passage above, somehow removing the very important prerequisite of repentance.

Additionally, it rips the forgiveness from its broader context. One socially above us who continues to berate, humiliate, and strike is not kin. Kin are on similar levels. As Gustavo Gutierrez and bell hooks have said, “Where there is no justice, there is no love. For there cannot be love among unequals.” That Jesus is represented in the bodies and experiences of those on the outskirts of society, the lives of the oppressed according to Matthew 25 and Matthew 5, and that we are blessed when we “mourn with those who mourn” and likewise serve and stand with and among the oppressed. As Sarah Moon (again) makes clear, when the abuser is welcome at the table, the survivor is not. When we privilege abusers, we disinvite their victims and tell them that they are not welcome. So while forgiveness – in its proper place and time – may be a good individual spiritual practice, it is bad universal policy.

Reconciliation Theology is harmful. It is not loving. It is not of God.

We see this in more predictable White male Christian calls to accept apologies from abusers, whether that person be a physically, mentally, or sexually abusive partner or spiritually and psychologically abusive pastor. Sexually abusive youth ministers are often forgiven and moved back into previous roles due to the pressure to always “forgive and see as Jesus sees and forgives.” We see this currently in Jonathan Merritt’s recent article “Why I Accept Mark Driscoll’s Apology… And You Should Too.” Leaving aside the fact that Merritt was not targeted by Driscoll’s rabid homoantagonism and misogyny and therefore doesn’t have much in the game to forgive, what the fuck gives him the power to compel Driscoll’s targets – parishioners, interlocutors, feminists, LGBTQI people – to forgive Driscoll?

Reconciliation Theology does. Again, it is the work of the put-upon, the marginalized, the oppressed to make the leap of faith. And again, that leap of faith is rewarded with a punch in the guts.

Reconciliation Theology has as its virtue reconciliation. Reconciliation, however, is a possible after-effect of justice come to a shattered relationship. (Notice there is an assumption of a relationship to heal in the first place. The emphasis should never be on the relationship because relationships are not static; they are not made in the image of God; they are not of eternal and divine value. People, on the other hand, are. And so what is needed is justice. Making the wrong right is the virtue and should be the goal.

And sometimes that goal means to NOT reconcile or even attempt reconciliation. Sometimes that reconciliation is the sin.

Being as an Act of Political Defiance

The other day, biking home from a late night show downtown, I was able to travel most of the time outside of the downtown region on a bike path. For a few blocks, the road was completely torn up and I reluctantly traveled slowly on the sidewalk. Waiting for the light at a major intersection three miles from home, I decided to reward myself with the remnants of dinner, a coconut doughnut from DD. But the car full of doodbr0s (of which at least one was a d00d-t00tsie?) behind me wasn’t having it. In a bike path section which at this section doubles as a right turn section for motor vehicles, I was expected to get out of their way.

And go where? I do not know. It’s not that I couldn’t have squeezed somewhere else, but this was my space. I got there first and I was merely waiting for the light to change. They could not bare the thought of being blocked from their next batch of beer by a guy on a twenty pound bicycle who would not bow down immediately to the mighty car and the mighty bros who wielded such power. And so they made it abundantly clear that I did not belong on the road. They honked. They yelled and cursed at me to get out their fucking way and get off the fucking road. Repeatedly. I responded but never gave them the satisfaction of turning around. After all, the road is mine too and I shouldn’t have to suffer abuse because some drunk people think my existence is an inconvenience.

It wasn’t the first time that someone tried to run me off the road or what little space is accredited to me and other bike riders. Traveling home from work one day, I had a car of young dudes nearly run me off the road. In this case, since there is no bike path on this road, I was already as far to the right as I could get, but that still wasn’t enough. They honked fiercely and I moved further and further to into parked cars, fearing for my life. Then when they got right in front of me, they vocalized their dissent at my existence. “Get the fuck out the way.”

These two incidents in combination with daily interactions with cars and vans that come just a bit too close for comfort on roads and bridges remind me that bicycle riding is not safe because, despite what the government says, roads are not made for bicycles. Sure, Augusta Ave has a bike path while Pulaski Ave doesn’t. But neither are really for bicycles. I travel down one route all the way because finding acceptable bike paths adds an extra four miles, and much of that territory despite being labeled “bike-friendly” is anything but friendly to me or my bicycle – completely ripped up roads, a bridge without traction, stretches set apart on the map but not in reality, and really, really foul stenches. Even bike paths are just afterthoughts. The roads are made for heavy, fast-moving vehicles and bicycle use and bicyclists are merely an addendum. Our existence isn’t really welcome, and I see that and recognize that.

bicycle race

Bicycle Race – Toby Gaulke via Flickr

I’ve already noted some parallels between how I’m treated being a cyclist for commuting purposes and how a White/Cis/Hetero/Capitalist Class/Able-Bodied/Neurotypical Supremacy culture treats marginalized and oppressed people who buck the system. But what should be noted is that the roads aren’t made for us. They may make concessions, but at the frame of convenience, they will let you know who is in charge and who does not really “belong” in the routes of power and currency.

It seems that drivers will not recognize us until we speak up and loudly. Until we take their aggression back on them. Until we mobilize. For if they only see a few of us, they can run us off the road .

And yet, we are told that we are too loud, too abrasive, too much, too wonky, too naked. Whether or not we obey rules of the road that were not made for us and do not accept us, we are demonized and pushed to the margins.

So, what to do besides give up? Because existence for many is a means of political resistance to the dominant powers. We scream and make our presence known from the margins of the road that we are here, that we are not sacrificial lambs, that we are worthy of respect, safe spaces, rights, justice. Our collective anger is justified – as is our collective joy. We rally, we network, we write our lawmakers, we push, we embody and demand space on these roads. And our “complaining” (as some are wont to call it) is an act of prophecy and justice seeking.

#SorryNotSorry if you’re worried about what the “right time” is, but my body is not on your time and not yours to negotiate. And still, I ride.

Houseblogging Update

A Race

A Race – Susy Morris, via Flickr

Over the last several months, I’ve been writing very frequently at Forward Progressives, trying to balance the world between the political progressive movement there (which reads largely as: anti-Republican) and my more *ahem* extreme views. All the LOLZ, people.

It was doing this that I realized that that space, while slowly growing my crowd, isn’t exactly healthy. Whether defending the use of Trigger Warnings or dismantling the charges of fatherlessness and inherent criminality of Black people in Chicago, I got some really nasty treatment from not just conservative trolls, but progressives (or “Brogressives”) as well – most of whom happen to be white and male.  But honestly, I guess being a white(ish) educated male, I should count my lucky stars that the negativity I’ve had to field in comments hasn’t extended to emails. Or even twitter. Much less real life encounters such as happened to Suey Park for dare criticizing St. Colbert (oh yeah, that was another article I wrote on with threatening Brogressives missing the point and blaming victims).

And it’s not that I have a problem so much with criticism and pushback (well, I do need to step back and evaluate). When I’m criticized, I try to evaluate what they’re saying or how I came across. And sometimes I get it. But often the criticism is stoked in White Supremacy, misogyny, heternormativity, and trans-aggression. And, as in the case of the Trigger Warnings article (and, yes, Trigger Warnings for all of the above) just abundantly abusive. So while that doesn’t deter me from saying what I feel I need to say, I am going to consider more carefully consider, as they say in Christian contexts, the pearls before the swines and which audience is most appropriate.

But there’s only so many days I can take hunting down stories about Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, or Todd Starnes or reading articles from National Review before I want to put my head in the toilet. So I’m limiting my writing there to twice a week, tops and hopefully writing two articles here a week. I want to focus on post-evangelical praxis (which has been one of the main focuses here for the last five years), and more focusing on Chicago politics – particularly in regards to the city-wide dismantling of public good in order to privatize (which my friend Don Washington also covers gloriously and insightfully at the Mayoral Tutorial).

But I also want to encourage you if you can, if you appreciate the work here and can afford it, to consider donating to the Paypal link on the left. Although I work for pay, that work is seasonal and this is one of those seasons when I don’t work for wages. (Which also says that the work I do here I consider work. And even when I do get paid for it – well, let’s just say the hours and the pay don’t quite measure up, #ifyoucatchmydrift). But rent and internet and coffee and research time and bike repairs and you know.

In about a month, I’ll be entering grad school full-time, so we’ll see where that takes us. (Insert winky emoticon).

Evangelicals, Suburbia, and the Mark of Cain

Cain and Abel is the prototypical story of brotherly jealousy-cum-murder. Agrarian brother versus shepherd brother. Both fight over the acceptance of land use, but the Lord finds the shepherd’s sacrifices acceptable and not the vegetable ones. Herds wander, but farmers stay put. I’ve been considering this since my pastor made note of not only how this story ends for Abel, but also how it ends for Cain.

For murdering his brother, Cain cannot remain in his fields – he must wander the country as a vagabond, with his special protection mark. But after some years, he settles again and builds a city.

I am reading this as a critique from a largely shepherding community of the very civilizations that they encountered: Egypt, Babylon, Ninevah. Cities have the mark of Cain impressed on them. Cities are birthed in violence, and that is something to remember in how we approach living situations. Cities have long been the epicenter of violence – both on the creating and receiving ends.

This violence is not borne of the citizens, but of the mechanisms of which civilization bears – industry, empire, colonization, economic injustice and disparity, pollution, exploitation.

And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.
Jeremiah 29:7 (NLT)

The biblical and prophetic witness to the Abels of Israel was to “work for peace” while in the cities. This command I would argue would be extended to all of the people of God. We see it being repeated in Jonah and God’s concern for the inhabitants of the empirical/colonial/conquering city of Ninevah. We are also told to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, which I think is important considering the blood shed by the colonial and conquering Israeli government.

And yet, White Evangelicals – my own background – were among the primary White Flighters, those who not only left the cities to rot under the violence but took with them tools and resources needed to deal with that violence. As if White Evangelicals could leave the Mark of Cain behind them.

They refused to work for the peace of the city and were, en masse, culpable for the unrest, for the insatiable poverty, for the decay, for the water turn-offs.

Retired Cruiser

Retired Cruiser – Chuttlesworth, via Flickr

When White Evangelicals come into the city, it is often as another form of colonialism and conquering. Their churches act as if they’re carrying out terra nullius upon the spiritual landscape. We city folks are aboriginals to be converted and our churches like our rights to our land are void and nonexistent. It’s religious gentrification, values colonialism of white, middle class suburbia. Our values are not valid, our concerns are not valid. People who left us and took the money with them come back with money, to spend on each other as they push us out of the way of our own homes and dismantle our communities.

The missionaries of Spain and England came as emissaries of a military overtaking. The missionaries of suburbia are emissaries of real estate developers and gentrifiers.

So when Evangelicals borne of a post-Cain-ian suburbia complain about living in the city and how the suburbs were so much better, so much safer, so much cleaner, so much better for kids, I sigh. It happens often. Very often. Suburbia may be the womb of contemporary Evangelicalism, but it is also built upon the backs of those left within the city. It is us who have spent these years fighting the crippling effects that their removal have left. It is us that have invested in this city. It is our labor that have created the wealth of suburbia and it is suburbia that has refused to give it back.

“Work for the peace and prosperity of the city” means to work for justice.  Means to partner with us while we seek liberation and peace. To do otherwise isn’t prophetic, isn’t biblical in any sense that is loving.

Blockades and Race Riot Fears

According to activists in Detroit, ten people this morning were arrested for blockading water shut-off trucks this morning. In case you’re not familiar with the Detroit water shut off, here’s a quick run-down. Not all of the activists are black, as one can see looking at the news footage, but they were in solidarity with a black people’s cause and led by a coalition of black and white leaders and preachers. And the water turn-offs continue.

And then we move across the country, to a small town in Southern California, Murrieta. White people there gathered to bemoan how they should not have to receive migrant and refugee children. They blockaded. They carried signs celebrating their nativism, and turning against Obama. They yelled in the opposition’s faces and called them names. And they succeeded, insofar as the buses were turned around. According to some resident friends, these white protesters – who used their bodies to reject brown children and brown mothers with their brown infants – claim victory because they were able to turn away present and future refugee children.  Five arrests were made out of hundreds of blockers – those for obstructing police. Not enough to clear the way for the buses.

Immigrants-rights protesters, though, who blockade buses leaving detention centers are arrested and the way is made clear for buses to continue the deportation process. This happens several times a year. These are white, brown and black people in solidarity with mostly brown people.

I’m also remembering another altercation and another blockade. This one of almost all-white militia members who stop federal agents from removing a white, racist cattle rancher on federal lands. A white cattle rancher who owed much money to the government and who obviously broke laws that he said he didn’t need to observe (as he doesn’t believe in the legitimacy of the federal government). How many arrests happened there? It obviously was not enough to gain access. The blockade was effective and indeed held out for months.

The water shut offs in Detroit are continuing to hit black families and black businesses while steering clear of white-run establishments like the Red Wings hockey arena and the Ford football stadium. Places where nobody lives, where water is not needed for survival and where in total over $30 million is owed to the water reclamation district. In effect, white businesses were effectually blockaded from water shut downs.

What is the justification for this discrepancy between how these blockades are handled by police and other security agents? I’m now remembering last year, when that one-man vigilante task force who lynched Trayvon Martin was let off the hook. And all these talking heads and even the president of the United States, himself a black man, urged black people to remain calm and news stations were anticipating something big from happening. But the anticipated race riots never materialized.

I think we’re learning this year that it’s not black and brown people and their allies we need to worry about. The governments and their security forces are treating white people and particularly anti-POC white people with kid gloves.

They’ve come to find that it’s not people of color that will start a race riot. It’s entitled white people they’re afraid of. It’s whites who would start a race riot.

Gentrification Is Not a Solution to White Flight

Chicago has changed significantly over the last fifty years in some ways. In others, it’s been the same old thing – racial segregation tied to economic apartheid. But where and how this plays out has shifted. From the late 60’s through the early 80’s Chicago – like most other north urban cities still in the thralls of exercised anti-black racism in the post-Civil Rights era – experienced massive white flight.

Myopic Books - Wicker Park

Myopic Books, Wicker Park – by MA1216 via Flickr

Actually, that’s a horrible way to put it. First, white flight didn’t just happen to Chicago and second “white flight” is a problematic label that doesn’t in the least describe what was and is (still) happening. What happened to neighborhoods like Wicker Park, Ukranian Village, Lincoln Park, Humboldt Park, Logan Square, and South Loop is what happened to Detroit – white people decided their areas were too tainted, too impure, too scary. And rather than invest in them to make room for all, rather than welcoming, rather than giving back to the very people they’ve (we’ve) stolen wages, labor and wealth from, white people en masse thought it more convenient to relocate.

More to the point, not only did white people relocate to the suburbs and enclaves, but they took the resources, the investments, the capital, the wealth that was made for them by the bodies, the work and the below poverty-level wages and existence that black (and other POC) made for them. When they found that Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Black youth were enacting on the very violence that had been exacted through economic, political and housing segregation, the White patriarchy decided it important to sever ties with the city and retreat to the suburbs. All the better if they could continue to draw resources out of the city and back into the cul de sacs, of course.

White flight, we must understand, is not a problem primarily because White people and their White solutions left the city. White flight is a problem because White people took the dues owed to Black people with them. They stole and then ran.

After a generation of fleeing, they started coming back. In Chicago, they pushed Puerto Ricans east out of the lakefront territory of Lincoln Park and reclaimed it, all of it, for Whiteness. They also discovered that the beautiful buildings and centralized location of Wicker Park were too much to leave to poor black and Latin@ and even poor white folks, so they slowly reclaimed that too, beginning in the late 80’s. They brought in artists and young people, students. All white, all with a bit more disposable income than the current residents. All a little distant from the current community. All raising property value just enough to begin the displacement of the current population. The residents then begin to see their community erode as they lose grip on what they’ve worked so hard to stabilize – community organizations and resources that are mostly built in and through each other and relationships they’ve built over years, decades, generations.

When you are poor, you rely on each other. When you and your neighbors are being forced out, you lose that support. That is what gentrification is: forcing out of black, brown and poor bodies and destroying their supportive networks. But yet gentrification is often approached as a solution, as a counter to White Flight. As if the problem was that middle class and upper class White people and their White ingenuity and work ethic were what was missing. As if the neighborhoods were deteriorating because White People weren’t here. And as if their presence and their example (yes, that is the argument. Yes, that is what they say) would fix what their theft caused.

The main pro-gentrification argument is that the neighborhood improves and bringing in White people with their white money is the only viable solution to improving the neighborhood. What they mean by that is that the neighborhood wasn’t of value under black and brown management. That people of color and poor people don’t have any value to offer. That the crime and poverty is the fault of black and brown people – not their own theft. They are also assenting that property – that the buildings and lots they are referring to when they say “neighborhood” – is more important than humanity – what those of us being gentrified mean when we talk about the neighborhood. And particularly that property is more important than POC humanity.

See, gentrification isn’t the solution to White Flight. It’s the next step. When gentrifiers fill the neighborhoods and the barrios their parents abandoned, they begin a process of completing what their forebearers started – reclaiming their old homes and furthering the solidification of the permanent underclass.

This is what Detroit is about. Forcing out of black bodies so that the city can be reclaimed. To think it’s about anything else is to miss the big picture.

Hobby Lobby Case: Not the End of the World, But a Revelation

Now that we’ve had some time to review, reflect, and consider the Hobby Lobby case, I’m pretty damned sure that it isn’t the End of the World (TM), but yet a realization that the Song Remains the Same. A revelation, in fact. Oh, you know what another word for revelation is, right? Apocalypse!

All hail Lord Darkseid!

Image

Darkseid

Image

Darkseid

As we’re probably well aware of by now, this case and its neighbors are not about religious freedom of people – they’re about the rights of some to religiously inhabit the spaces, bodies, and options of others. There is no Third Way here, no room for nuance in this case, no dialog to be had with those who believe that their rights to practice their religion take precedence over other people’s lives and bodies. But because I’m obviously a Comp 101 student or a Baptist preacher, I’ll break it down into three fun takeaways from this case.

The Courts’ conservatives aren’t Originalists when it comes to the 14th Amendment

Since the late 1800’s, the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution has been gradually stripped of its meanings to protect Black Americans and reduce the effect that the ideology of personal property has on people. Where it was framed in the context of removing a people from having been considered mere property, from de-propertying them and placing them within full civic and civil rights, the 14th has more often been interpreted to prop up and humanize personal property – literally turning corporations into people. This is a big component behind, of course, both Jim Crow-type laws (which are still being practiced today albeit in less direct ways; c.f., with non-violent criminals) and corporation-as-people rulings (most famously Citizens United). The directly racist patterns that SCOTUS was holding up started being overturned by the Warren Court in Brown V Board, but class is still directly tied in to racism and so racism is still a factor in these recent rulings as they privilege wealthy white men and their corporations over the lives of employees, consumers, citizens, and poor people.

In its decision (pg 3), the majority rule and Justice Alito argued as such:

Protecting the free-exercise rights of closely held corporations thus protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them.

Again, property trumps humanity. And employees are seen as property – belonging to those who own the corporation. Our rights are extended as far as the corporation can extend its grasp on us. Our religious views are now their religious views. Our loyalties are theirs. Our bodies, theirs.

Alito’s blatant humanifying of corporations continues:

Any suggestion that for-profit corporations are incapable of exercising religion because their purpose is simply to make money flies in the face of modern corporate law.

Hear that, America? Your employers can practice religion – the religion of their founders and executives. And they don’t have to respect yours.

The Wars on Women* & Employees are real

First of all, if you doubt that this was an attack on women, you probably don’t have much skin in this game. You probably, like myself, have not been harassed by the douchecanoes of #TCOT (The Country’s Ogliest Trolls) on the Twitter Machines. In fact, what too many men have said to deny this – from slut-shaming women to claims of ownership of women’s sex and bodies due to paying taxes [people are f**ked up in the head, man] to telling random women on the internet that they have to be employed and then make their own choices [whaddafok??] to mansplaining science with nonscience [“Abortificients?” Bro, do you even biology?] – conservative men have outright demonstrated that they know and will pounce on the central target of this ruling. It’s not just conservative men whose arguments demonstrate the deep palate of misogyny in the good ol’ US of A, but also cis male brogressives – either mocking women* or presuming that their needs aren’t important. And while these jabs vehemently and violently deny the truth, they also demonstrate that it is women*, not Hobby Lobby, who were on trial here and had to prove their worth. It was women who were found wanting by five heterosexual men in robes and seemingly unlimited power. Not a one of the conservative five – and only one of the six male justices – acknowledged that women have to be trusted to make their own decisions regarding their own bodies. In a broader scope, that employers feel that it is their prerogative what employees – and particularly women employees – do with or to their bodies when it doesn’t impugn upon their work is beyond the pale and speaks of a patriarchal neo-slavery. 

This is true not just in this case and with women*, but in how Hobby Lobby treats its employees, telling them, for instance, that they should be home eating dinner with their families at night and not with vendors. It’s true with the HR departments increasingly dependent on social media to screen potential employees and it’s true with bosses using the same to keep current employees in line. Women, LGBTQ people, and anybody else who, out of the hours they are under employ, don’t fit the image profile that the company wants to project of itself – regardless of the extra-curricular activities of board members – are under intense scrutiny as automatons for the will of the company. They are increasingly at risk for at-will firings even as these same companies and rulings strip protections for said workers. Workers need to remain undyingly and intensely loyal to what the company wants. Even as these same companies erase pensions, commit massive and random layoffs, coerce employees to attend to and support favored politicians, and send profits into think tanks like ALEC and SuperPACs that support big business interests and fly in the face of little person interests.

But back to the bodies and choices of women. What Justice Ginsberg in her dissent said is true:

Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults.

What Hobby Lobby, their co-defendants and the conservative majority of the SCOTUS have argued for is to reduce a woman’s* options for her health, her well-being, her life choices. While there was no scientific or even faith reason to deny the contraceptives in question, that shouldn’t be reason enough to stop Hobby Lobby and any other closely-held corporation from interfering with a woman’s* rights over her own body.

This of course would include not just Green’s Hobby Lobby and the four-out-of-twenty contraceptive methods they opted out of, but companies like Eden Foods, Gilardi, and Autocam Corp. These companies, led by anti-abortion Catholics, had already filed cases with lower courts recently seeking to opt out of all contraceptive and family planning services covered under the ACA. The Supreme Court is telling the lower courts to re-review their cases under the new ruling. As the US Council of Bishops has made clear, the hierarchy of the Catholic church and most anti-abortion Catholics are firmly against contraceptives. Lower courts had already ruled in favor of the owners behind the Korte and Newland companies who also requested that they also be freed from the shackles of having to provide any sort of help for women who don’t want to be pregnant all the time. So we already know that the precedent is there:

And there’s the un-fucking-mistakable case that the five jurors who agreed with Steve Green and his Cohort of Dominionists are men. Just as those who created this phony “religious rights” argument were also all conservative men. Which isn’t to say that everybody who agrees with this decision is a man or is self-hating, but it highlights the fact that those who don’t need to worry about such decisions nor never truly needed to worry about them are the ones making the decisions for those who do.

Strengthening the case for universal healthcare

This case highlights the ridiculousness of connecting our healthcare with our employment. Healthcare should not be tied to the whims and concerns of the people we work for – nor whether or not they’re able to afford it. Whether we work for Scientologists who don’t believe in mental health meds, or Jehovah’s Witnesses who don’t believe in blood transfusions, or Catholic hospitals who don’t believe in contraceptives or abortion in any circumstance, or just cheap-ass Papa John’s or a string of part-time employers, every single person should unequivocally have immediate, affordable access to full medicinal purposes.These are life-and-death and public health issues and not left to the strongly-held but incredibly ignorant religious beliefs or opinions of dumbass greedy rich people.

So, what is the connection with all three points?

Fight!

Fight!

Fight!

Tomorrow is a new day and next year is a new year.

Fight!

———————

*I say “women” but “those who can get pregnant and other people who can benefit from the pills” is more accurate.