Monthly Archive for October, 2012

standing with: an election call from my body

as i tune in to this election, i feel the bristling dynamism of my internal complexities and contradictions in my body. i felt moved to write this piece, which is basically a call for love to all my straight and/or male bodied comrades who may be considering not voting in this election, or voting third party. i write this to lovingly check your privilege.

i am a post-nationalist american revolutionary. yeah. so i have to stretch to still see anything good as far as options for engaging, and yet i am learning to ‘love this country enough to change it’ as jimmy boggs called us to do.

so from that love, and because of what this election could mean for my body, i write.

first of all, my context is that this is a capitalist nation, in which we only have two parties that get engaged in the debate and race for president, both of whom are encouraged to compete to be the most…competitive, most aggressive and imperial. that’s literally the only kind of person right now who could win (thoughts on third parties at end of piece).

we live in a nation sick with fear, one of the primary generators for consumerism. fear is used as an election tactic at the federal level, and at the local level around policies, ballot initiatives, politicians.

within this nation where i was born, where my ancestors are buried, where my loved ones work and live, where the babies in my life are growing, i don’t want to be manipilated by capitalism, nor by fear.

and yet there are parts of myself which are female, queer, don’t know all the places my family migrated to the u.s. from, parts which are auntie to nearly three children and godmama/auntie to dozens more, parts educated and traveled, the parts of myself rooting in the soil in detroit…these parts have been feeling feelings.

most of all when i come in contact with republican thought:

when i watch the republican party speak of my body, any woman’s body, as a place over which the government should have jurisdiction, imply that there is something my body is supposed to know how to do to stop rape, to stop pregnancies from rape…to hear them say that god would give gifts in this way?…i feel myself simplify. i feel myself separate from republicans, deride them, speak of evil and ignorance, close my heart down. i read the handmaid’s tale recently, and recommend it to all people. in its imaginative dystopia i was reminded of how quickly conditions of freedom can change for the female body.

and when i hear republicans speak of gayness as something that a city might be punished for with a hurricane, gay rights as something that is given and taken by whomever is president – like a dog’s bone, to chew on for a while, empty, retrievable by master at any point…i feel myself grow defensive.

even though i don’t want to get married! i remember being hospitalized a few years ago, and scared, and how grateful i was when the nurse whispered permission for my same-sex partner at the time to stay with me til we knew what was wrong. who could be hurt by such a tenderness, such a care? surely only evil patriarchs lost in barren wastelands devoid of love…see the negativity grow in my heart?

i know there is still desperation to control women, to maintain something familiar for those who have benefited in a patriarchal and heteronormal world. it comes from a capitalist perspective that you should have to compete to have quality of life.

but that desperation, that desire to control everything that we fear or that makes us uncomfortable, works against human evolution. it works against the divine and miraculous in each of us.

i believe, as many believe, that there is a happiness, an evolutionary joy beyond materialism. i have felt it, been held by it, cultivated it in my life and family and community. from that belief and experience, i can feel past my triggers to reach compassion for whatever sadness and isolation occurs in peoples’ lives to hold them in that survival pattern of fear and desperation, judgment and inhumanity.

so really the question is not can i love and have compassion for republicans who hate and fear bodies like mine – i have a family full of them, i know i love them and as they learn and grow, they love me, even with such vast difference and misunderstanding between us. we have seen each other change through grief and love, over time, by continuing to return to the familial space.

and when i see us building the divisiveness in this country, constantly identifying and analyzing who our enemies are, cultivating and playing into a culture of enemies, forgetting that in the majority of things – needing air, water, healthy food, good education, abundance for our families, to feel safe secure and happy – we are the same, and interdependent…i just think we have forgotten who we are.

because we have to understand who ‘they’ are. these people who walk with racism, who desire to control women’s bodies, who devise policy from greed and fear – they are not aliens who landed on our nation. they are the part in each of us that is terrified, that internalizes oppression, that operates from scarcity, that feels love is limited and happiness is out of reach.

rather than reaching a fever pitch of division and hatred this season, how can there be dignity and respect? humane radical engagement in this election that isn’t just a ‘let’s all vote’ invitation, and it isn’t an ‘i’m too busy with the revolution to vote’ dismissal – but accountable authentic political dialogue towards transformation.

i am not an utter idealist anymore, i am not even trying too hard to change republicans. but my body is demanding that i make a legitimate attempt to awaken people in any party who espouse solidarity with me, or love for me, and then in action and word act against that.

this includes those who may vote republican, but even more so, those who might support a republican presidency coming to pass by not voting, or by voting for a third party candidate in this close election.

seriously, how can there be vision for, and action towards, revolution in the face of this comprehensive de-evolutionary system, revolution that doesn’t look like or feel like hate, compromise, or disengagement?

i find that in every instance the answer is love.

because my body requires ongoing movement towards love – in the culture of this country and the policies, as well as on any revolutionary visions we cultivate.

i know that grounding my work in love, always asking what the loving action is in any moment where i can choose my action, builds my personal dignity, fills the source from which i draw energy and inspiration for my work.

i also know that my chances of impacting others with my loving action increases with both physical and political proximity, so recently i have been concentrating on what is my loving action, in this election, towards those who say they are my comrades?

i have seen these comrades, mostly straight, many of them male, in social media spaces, in articles, saying the candidates are basically the same, both war mongering imperialist capitalists. they say fuck this system, this faux democracy, don’t vote, or vote for a third party.

with love, from my queer female body, i ask you to stand with me.

i stand with you in the analysis around our imperialist nation and the candidates within it. i stand with you in concerns around obama’s foreign policy, his border policies, i share your critique.

i also believe we are creating the conditions for post-imperialist foreign policy by building deeper authentic international movements where our work can be standing and acting with and as oppressed people. this being of and with is the next radical step, rather than generating charity and petitions and empty policies for people we are told to pity across a somewhat mythical first world/third world gap.

i believe that looking at poverty, prisons, climate, so many issues, there are no borders around the third world, it is all around us and within us. realizing that will liberate us from the savior-complex that still permeates our international solidarity work, keeps us focusing on eradicating poverty and violence abroad when we haven’t evolved beyond those same conditions at home, and when our nation is still at the forefront of creating those conditions elsewhere.

on the domestic side of things, however, we do have policy in place to ensure women’s decision making power over our bodies, we’ve been building the space for equality in the work place, building towards love being acknowledged regardless of the sex of the loved ones, equality in who gets to fight wars for us (a privilege i don’t long for for anyone, but folks fought for it nonetheless).

and these are reforms, many of them compromises to hold space while the culture actually shifts to see women and queer folk as fully human, works to experience in our collective american body a justice deeper than sex or sexuality (or skin color, ability, ethnicity or class).

but what i need to say is – don’t tell me my body doesn’t count, that the difference in what these candidates think as it relates to my body isn’t enough.

obama would uphold my right to make reproductive choices over my body, believes my body can love whoever i desire. romney will actively work to take away my right to make decisions about my body. romney rolls with people who believe queer people should be put to death and that rape is just another delivery method for babies, a cruel stork.

that should be enough, if you are truly radical, or revolutionary, or even progressive…or even liberal. that should be enough.

more precisely, i want that to be enough, that from your place of straight privilege, and/or masculine privilege, that you can sit down for a second and say the violence a romney presidency would bring down on the bodies of my female and queer comrades is enough to make me show up to this election and vote for obama.

obviously even if women and queer people’s bodies don’t generate solidarity in you, then it can be noted that on every other issue, romney chooses corporate over human growth – climate, federal emergencies, healthcare, etc.

angela davis, in a speech last week in detroit, noted that on every issue that matters to us, obama is the candidate we are most likely to be able to leverage. so we can elect him and continue our work.

but for the record, because my body is screaming it out, standing with me as a woman, and as a queer person, should actually be enough to stop you from super simplistic social media ranting about how obama isn’t che guevara. and it should give you serious pause about advancing third parties which don’t have a base large enough to win nationally, only large enough to take enough progressive votes to ensure obama loses.

i heard years ago a friend quote from a course in miracles, that ‘every act is an act of love or a call for love.’ i hope this writing is seen as a call for love, as the stories of republican hate of women and queer folks fill mainstream media, a call for love as we enter a close election which could vastly change conditions for all women and queer people, a call for love to my comrades who i need to stand with me, this time.


on third parties: i believe in building viable third parties at the local level, towards a time when they have built a local base and can be considered at the national level. i share a lot of their views. i also believe we should have instant runoff voting so a third party vote is not a loss. without that local base or IRV i feel they serve the dual role at the national level of deepening the conversation, while simultaneously weakening radical/progressive impact.

reflections on margaret wheatley’s detroit learning journey

tonight i got the honor of working with margaret wheatley to open a detroit learning journey. folks have come from turkey, brazil, england, canada, and all across the u.s. for this journey.

wheatley is a deep thinker who has worked a lot with organizations and leaders on what is effective. 20 years ago she published a book called leadership and the new science. grace lee boggs read the book a few years ago and began to incorporate some of the ideas into speeches and her own writing, particularly the idea that critical connections are more important in a long-term transformation process than critical mass.

invincible heard those speeches from grace, pursued the book herself and has generated an award winning multi-media interactive album-project called complex movements around these and other concepts at the intersection of complex science and social justice.

wheatley continued developing her thinking on how transformation happens, how communities learn and evolve. she has published a series of books where she is exploring and sharing her learning – dropping into how we listen to each other, and what communities around the world are doing to generate life, to generate cooperation and future together.

a year ago wheatley was speaking at kalamazoo, and a local activist let detroit organizers know. she came to visit, and since then wheatley has been intentionally building relationship with detroit. this weekend is the latest piece of that building.

folks were invited by wheatley to detroit – not to tour the city, but to engage, to understand what is unique about this place and begin to understand place-based education.

we started off hearing the powerful history of the detroit association of women’s clubs, one of the oldest organizations of black women in the u.s., from their current president.

when DAWC purchased their building, the furious white neighbors around them secured legislation that black folks could not walk on the street the building was located on. they had to brick up the door and use the carriage entrance, but they used it, refusing to be blocked or deterred in having the space for social and political gathering.

in such a space we gathered.

we grounded and centered as folks on a journey, lighting candles together to land ourselves in the spirit of openness, learning, shedding light.

then everyone introduced themselves with a question they are holding. the questions were nuanced, thoughtful, and very powerful.

folks from detroit were asking things like how it can be beneficial to detroiters to have folks visit and learn about the amazing work here, how to deepen to commitment and accountability of those who come to see us, and amongst ourselves.

folks visiting were asking things like how to truly engage community, how to show up authentically, how to generate the energy to keep moving forward when it seems impossible.

a question that really stood out to me came from a woman who referenced wheatley’s latest book so far from home: “how can i be more of a warrior, and less of a savior?”

this to me is the crux of the authentic learning experience – which brings the critical connections piece into the present, and the future.

a critical connection is possible when neither person is trying to control or hustle the other. when folks come to detroit not to gawk at what is falling apart, or place organizers here up on a magic pedestal, then something real can transpire. when no one is trying to come save detroit, or save each other – but we see ourselves all as warriors for justice, for the places we love, for the people we are.

then the folks here can share their real human condition, and the struggles of doing work with integrity in a city rife with trauma and corruption. and how fear and hope are both false prophets in that work – that what we need is love and accountability.

in that spirit, everyone can open, open to learning something new, to remembering something deeper than our current analysis…and open to being a conduit of wisdom.

in that spirit of opening, it was such an honor to welcome these journeyers, as someone still landing in detroit a little more every day, and loving it all the time with more breadth and comprehension.

live tweeting presidential debate 2

I am live tweeting the presidential debates tonight. here are some disclaimers, or just general FYIs, about that:

1. I don’t pursue news or consider myself an expert on most issues. the things I know pretty well are octavia butler, being an aunt, organizational healing and development, facilitation and love. I don’t expect those to be the topics up for debate.

2. I’m watching the debate live streaming at home, and in Detroit that coverage can be kind of spotty, so there might be some delays.

3. when I feel frustrated, I make jokes. these jokes are rooted in love.

4. I really really wish there was instant runoff voting at the federal level. since there isn’t, I’m focusing on these candidates.

5. I recently read the handmaid’s tale and it reminded me there is a major difference between these candidates, these parties. one believes in women’s right to make decisions about our bodies, one doesn’t. there are other differences too, but when I hear folks say they are the same, this is the main thing that occurs to me. that and how they respond to the 47% of people not on their side, that’s the other major difference.

6. I know i’m voting for Obama/Biden, and I think most folks know who they are voting for. undecided voters, don’t click this link. my goal is not to shape that, but to examine what is being said by the candidates because this is an indicator of messaging, narrative building, and those who do social justice and media justice have to understand and help shape the messages that impact our lives and our communities.

7. to prepare, I did aikido and brushed my teeth. :-) let’s have fun!

how about a beginning of self-determined care?

my friend b loewe wrote this blog an end to self-care, and i was moved to respond.

hi lovely b :)

thank you so much for putting this out there, i feel the energy of it. and as a community-supported self-care queen on day 8 of a juice cleanse, i have to engage.

my negative feelings on self-care kept me in a state of not caring for myself for years, delaying me in getting what i needed, keeping me in unhealthy movement spaces, feeling powerless and tired.

my community had to intervene. they generated the resources to send me off to take care of myself. if they hadn’t done that, i don’t know if i would be here at all.

once they had intervened, i still had to go through an internal process to get to a place where i determined that i needed this healing, that i wanted to be able to give to movement from a healthier place.

so…i love the idea of community care…but what is that, if not community supporting each other in our self-determined efforts to care for ourselves and our families?

there’s that relationship wisdom, “you can’t change someone else.” i feel that – i know it’s true for me, when people try to change me i root my feet down into the soil of what is.

grace boggs speaks it into movement, echoing gandhi, “we must transform ourselves to transform the world.”

for me this includes self-care. or perhaps more precisely, self-determined care. because the messages we receive are that our lives don’t matter, that we don’t deserve love, or even to exist. to choose instead to value ourselves, our health, and the health of our communities – all as one, not at odds with each other, is radical, it’s self-determination.

and i love the idea you put out that “movement work is healing work” – it absolutely should be, and sometimes it is. and when it is, it’s amazing.

but so much of the movement work we do these days is not structured in ways that promote sleep, much less healing. there are some beautiful flows of intense work, but more often than not, in my work as a facilitator, organizational development lover and coach, what i see over and over again are isolated, exhausted and overworking organizers in endless loops of tasks, conflicts and fundraising. i observe work done in a state of urgency that often leads us to not have time to cook for each other, care for each others’ kids, or even to pursue that “political clarity” which maria speaks of.

when movement is full of individuals with scarce energy and health, that scarcity flows in every direction – it leads to us competing with each other for resources. that’s what this capitalist system wants us to do, compete with each other for what we are told is enough. the shift towards grassroots fundraising is a beautiful response to this – that we generate abundance within ourselves, so our movement work can be self-determined.

that is the same thing we need to seek as individuals – abundance that allows our lives and work to be self-determined, community-determined.

i think that burn-out happens when life is not lived with intention. when we are mindful and intentional, we can begin to experience abundance, not in the material sense, but from the joy of living our lives on purpose.

its a privilege for us to even have this conversation, i recognize that. but there are some people, people with less time and resources than either of us have, who are just beginning to get a tiny little bit of encouragement to take care of themselves, and i would hate to see your words take away from that, or make people feel guilty for that.

i think it matters that we value and love ourselves and each other. and to me, that looks like affirming the radical act of love however it comes, without judgment, whether it’s through a movement retreat, or a yoga class, or knitting, or a protest, or a garden.

so yes, let’s get specific about community care – how does it look to do this so that people are able to do for themselves what they need? some people thrive working long hours with very little alone time…others thrive with two hours of meditation every day, or physical activity.

how do we create communities where everyone can self-determine and ask for what they need, offer what they have to give, where the result is abundance?

long blog short, i don’t think this is either/or. i think this is yes: more health, more care, everywhere. getting more people in more communities talking about what a healthy caring life looks like, how they are already living and caring for themselves and each other, and how we all support each other. and not just how generations from now people might live a healthy live, but how we are and can be practicing health, well-being, joy and justice in the here and now.

because from experience, the healthier i am, the more authentic love and contribution i am able to give to movement, to the next generation in my life. the more i prioritize caring for myself, caring for my community and accepting care from my community, the better and brighter spark in the movement flame i can be.

detroit summer: a poem

as the fall settles in and the temperature drops, i came across this poem i started about detroit in the summer and it gave me a nice memory. its an offering for you:

crickets storm the city
thousands strong
singing
raccoons creep through the brush
feasting
night comes with warm wind
dark starlessness
lit by cop cars
and silent cigarettes

music seeps from car windows
slow now, see these rims
they would sparkle in street lights
but the copper is too precious
a metal
use your imagination

what was abandoned in the snow
now bursts with green
waist high and reaching
squatting and pacing
the grown hearth

and we all coast
between fans, breeze,
cool rooms and cold showers
dressed down to the flesh

maybe we got nothing
but our dignity
our beauty
and this flatland
where up is the only direction

maybe we have secrets
how we survive such a glory
as giving up every single thing
but our smiles

sabbatical book reviews for you!

beloveds – i kept track of all the books i read on my sabbatical, rating them on a scale of 1 (don’t read this) to 5 (don’t let your life end without having read this).

it was my 33rd year so i aimed to read 33 books. i did that, plus a few extra. here are the brief reviews i kept on the journey. happy reading :)

otherland volumes 1-4
tad williams
3.5
my friend nancy dalwin directed me towards this collection and wow. it’s a slow start, but that’s mostly because the ideas are so massive and you are dropped right into a truly other place. it’s all about what’s real and what’s not, and how those with unlimited resources think of the future, and what it means to be sentient. fascinating and exciting exploration of a virtual reality future.

divergent
veronica roth
2.5
read this because a near-stranger in Mexico put it in my hands, and said its kind of like hunger games. it wasn’t as good, but fast and entertaining and with some social critique. would recommend for high school sci-fi club.

Finn
jon clinch
3
saw this on the little outdoor library shelf of the front desk in my cabana hotel in tulum and had to grab it because my favorite little boy in the world is named Finn. gorgeously written, the idea is lifted from side note references to huck finn’s dad. sad story, hard read, racism is so ugly even when the words are pretty.

malcolm x: a life of reinvention
manning marable
3.6
marable was my college advisor and malcolm x is one of the thinkers whose story has shaped my life. there were a lot of critiques of his book and folks didn’t want it out, said it took away from malcolm’s image – i understood that. to me, it made him more human and his story even more powerful, but i also look for that. i don’t know that marable wanted to strip malcolm of his heroic story, but rather paint a deeper picture of a complex man. this is all through the lens of my love for malcolm tho. if you don’t love malcolm, skip it.

broken angels
richard morgan
4
i love the whole takeshi kovacs series (which starts with altered carbon) – the lead character is this emotionally charged superhuman who feels like a 1940s detective at times. morgan writes erotic scenes that wake me up. this book, second in the series, explores human relation to martians, basically to something utterly unhuman, in really fascinating and scary and lovely ways.

woken furies
richard morgan
3.5
more brilliant takeshi kovacs, he really is pushing up against ‘the system’ in this one. the idea of what is fair, what is right, is big in this one and we get to learn a lot more about the anarchist philosopher quelchrist falconer who is quoted throughout the other books in the series, and her thinking and words are exciting. ‘face the facts, then act’ is an actual mantra for me now.

the kingdom of gods
nk jemison
4

ahhh. i got to meet nk last year and it’s wonderful that such a grand, clever, cosmic series comes from such a humble, brilliant black brooklyn woman. this is the third book in the trilogy and all three are delightful and really play with ideas around what is human, what is divine, what is balance between good and evil. and race, class, sex, violence, incest, cosmic action scenes, shapeshifting? it’s all there.

midnight robber
nalo hopkinson
4
i love how nalo writes – this was taught to me before i read it, by dr. alexis pauline gumbs, at the allied media conference in 2011. it’s Caribbean science fiction, it’s about how we handle punishment, build community, build mythology, and our relationship to technology. grand.

dream park
steve barnes and larry niven
3
this was cool, though it definitely felt like it was written by guys who like to game – not so beautiful, but like a fun old fashioned whodunit set in a virtual reality game park.

annals of the western shore: gifts, voices, powers
ursula le guin
4.4
this collection is subtle, gorgeous, intricate and very radical. over the course of the three books, le guin explores what it means to accept your gifts, raise your voice, acquire and hold power. she is with the underdogs and the oddities and the magic ones as usual, and i fell in love with everyone, and i cried at the end of it all.

thirteen
richard morgan
3.5
i mostly like how morgan writes, though it is intensely violent stuff. in this, like in the takeshi kovacs series, morgan plays with the idea of how our desire for security and safety makes us create monsters, and then go deep in to find the humanity in those monsters.

his dark materials: the golden compass, The subtle knife, the amber spyglass
philip pullman
5

this is less a trilogy of books and more a world that you open the books and go over to. it’s a magnificent attack on blind faith, on anything that asks you to submit, to relinquish pleasure…all done through a set of intriguing imperfect characters on the constantly changing landscape of love.

wild
cheryl strayed
5

i am so in love with cheryl strayed i can’t see straight when it comes to her. i loved her anonymously as the author of the dear sugar columns, and when she revealed her identity i rushed to find every thing she’d written. This book wasn’t on kindle when i first looked, then i met this dope older gay couple in hawaii who raved about it and said it was on kindle. i read it while laughing, crying, rooting for her, forgetting where i was, and trying to slow down because it was that good and honest that i didn’t want it to end. it’s about her walking the pacific crest trail for three months on her own. from her heavy bag to wrong shoes to her grief and heartbreaking break-up and terrifying journey and loving nature and all of it, i felt this was a parallel to my journey and a Very Important Book

the host
stephenie myers
3.5
very cool book about an alien invasion and how humans survive and love – also what is human?, what is it we must protect, how we evolve. by the author of twilight, so has a bit of that love story overlay to it that’s kind of high school-y and thick. but good story, good idea.

love
toni morrison
4.5
picked up wanting a physical book in my hand. this is a bitter story about love, and the ways people grab onto each other in life, what grows the heart and what damages it. some big twists in here, brilliant mysterious morrison writing.


changing course

susan wells
3.5
lovely account of the retreat program i am on, the history of it, the changes it puts people through. great for leaders who are feeling burnt out, on how we heal, what we need.

journal of a solitude
may sarton
5

sarton documents her process of being a writer in solitude for a year. she is tough on herself, and so vulnerable, and the result is something every artist and writer should read. she understands humanity as she runs away from it, understands why we create, and wonders if happiness and creativity can coexist really. so good. (with me daily, still)

in the woods
tana french
2
i found this book frustrating. it was poised to be a scary book with one mystery hidden inside another, and that’s true, but it feels like a cheat of a book at the end.

the woman warrior: memoir of a girlhood amongst ghosts
maxine hong kingston
4.8

classic. this book is a mix of stories, memories, myths that altogether paint a portrait of the cultural space between america and those who immigrate here, particularly from china. this book made me feel the longing of family across cultural divides that were crossed for survival, and it makes me think women are the most resilient species on earth.

unquenchable fire
rachel pollack
4.5

truly remarkable and different. i like this story because it cuts so close to home, so much of it is both outlandish and maybe happening right now and that is a great tension to hold as the story unfolds, it’s hilarious, it’s another one that drops you into its world so completely that it’s hard to feel solid at the start, and then once you are in the other world, you kind of want the rapture of it, the key questions about why have faith?, the story telling culture. brilliant.

skin folk
nalo hopkinson
4
great collection of short stories, nalo writes with a distinct voice that balances between futurism and caribbean folklore – i feel like i’m learning and being challenged and expanded the whole time.

white tiger
aravind adiga
4
magnificent hilarious cocky critique of capitalism and racism and the fundamental flaw of societies that operate with servant classes.

friday night knitting club
kate jones
2.5
readable but lacked something for me, though i appreciated the community aspect of it. another part felt like diversity training and pop love. i was entertained, but felt like the book wanted me to feel more than i felt for the characters

futureland
walter mosley
5

apocalyptic science fiction at its best – really mindbending ideas, race/class analysis on point, particularly useful in imagining the future of prisons and justice, understanding class and servant/worker dynamics. How to subvert capitalism at the level of concept? mosley goes there.

cinnamon kiss
walter mosley
2.5
fun. i like his sci fi better, but this is entertaining and keeps the attention and has some wonderful thick woman loving sex scenes!

the known world
edward p jones
5

this is one of the best books that’s ever been written related to slavery. its about black slave owners just before the civil war. it’s so nuanced, it so thoroughly explains how slavery and freedom are internal conditions as much as they are external, how evil the institution is, but also how love and compassion stays intertwined in any human system.

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bonus books

shadow tag
louise erdrich
ooph – this is a devastating beautiful book about privacy, love, longing, truth and lies.

inside/out, selected poems
marilyn buck
powerful, beautiful, haunting. so glad these were published, that her time in prison yielded something gorgeous.

ahab’s wife
sena jeter naslund
‘it was in her nature to love and to nurture; she would not leave those feelings within herself to fester and sour, but instead she chose someone who would receive her gifts gladly. she did not hold herself to be so special that only one special person could she find satisfactory.’
i thought this book was stunning, just stunning. i would love for schools to teach this and moby dick side by side. this is a fierce story.

crazy wisdom saves the world again
wes scoop nisker
brilliant, clear, accessible and funny reflections on religion and science and existence!

lessons from the damned: class struggle in the black community
by the damned
brutally honest, a necessary collection. my favorite essay is ‘the new education coming out of the old’.

read read read!!!

the will to forget

i am trying to see if i can forget certain things – certain people in history who have been misremembered as being really amazing and worth having their names known. i feel like getting to be known in history is this beautiful thing which certain people shouldn’t get.

at least, not forever.

especially not bad people – i feel like people responsible for great violence either get lauded as evil mastermind geniuses or as heroes because all their secrets are kept.

when there is a bad person, the blame for the violence that humans wreak on each other and the planet under evil reign is sort of delegated to that person. so we don’t have to take responsibility for what happened, what is happening, the way we respond to it, the way we benefit.

and i’m learning through relationship with elders that remembering is an ultimate honoring, it’s what the ambitious among us are trained to long for: to matter in history.

we can’t go back, to my knowledge, but can we just take that away from the genocidal dictators and tyrants of time? can we say – what you participated in was wrong, you don’t get to matter anymore, you don’t get a float with parades, or to be associated with an awesome day off – we are moving forward with our scars, but without you.

who gets the privilege of forgetting?
who has the will?

this is something i am just beginning to think.

but for instance, today is a federal holiday in this country, every year we celebrate a mythology built around a man who got lost and then sparked the genocide of indigenous people of the americas – we celebrate him as an explorer/discoverer. the year before i was born, in 1977, another day was born, indigenous people’s day.

if anything get’s celebrated today, it should be that day.

and/or, rather than lifting up one ignorant man, today could be a day when everyone reflects on how we are still reaping the benefits of the genocidal founding of this country. not to wallow in our shame, but for integenerational accountability, to place ourselves in the context of reality.

i know this genocidal inheritance strategy is not romantic in the way nations like.

and anyway, i also love the idea of just forgetting him altogether, or reducing him. remembering that there were many many colonizers, many people who practiced genocide, and that we are living with the multitudinous results of that. but letting him fade into the masses of that violence, not singling him out as a hero or a villian. letting him disintegrate into history – would that be some transformative justice?

today i made lots of plans for work, with other people. work calls, meetings. and in none of the scheduling, and in none of the calls, did we say the name of this holiday, not even to say, “i don’t celebrate [mythological genocidal hero] day”. we weren’t self-congratulatory or self-righteous, just working hard.

where anything was mentioned, it was indigenous people’s day.

my little world.

this day made me wish that indigenous people had so much more of our collective time and attention and love than (a percentage of some people) reclaiming a day…and that the day they do have was on another day totally unassociated with this one.

it made me long in my bones for the authentic now that will allow us to truly let go of the lies of then, with which we are often building and rebuilding the narrative of our american superiority.

it made me long for the humility that admits mistakes, apologizes for violence, honors elders and heals in community.

it’s connected to gifting my attention. what we give our attention to grows. the choice to remember the politics, the social context, the pain – and to forget the person who did it – is a choice. to stop giving him our attention, to unfurl a massive no that means yes: yes we can have a new story for what this place is, and why, and where we are going as a species, towards connectivity, love, resilience.

i am just beginning to think these kind of thoughts but they come from a long line of recoiling from national holidays and hero mythologies. in real life, i have never seen someone both utterly solitary and successful. we lean on each other, we support each others worst and embrace each others best. we remember each others likes and loves and needs, and we care for each other.

we forget what does not serve us. we forget lost men and remember found communities, found histories, found people.

i’m starting to speak definitively again, from my longing.

what i mean is: is this possible?

love beyond sovereignty: a discussion

(the following dialogue is from a facebook conversation launched by jenny lee, in which micha cardenas and i participated deeply for a night. our friends emi, jon, invincible, morgan and leah were also participating with likes and bravos. i asked permission to repost the conversation here because it was a joyful noise! i only edited out the parts where we went on tangents focused on “you’re awesome and i love you OMG!!!”)

jenny lee posts:
“When we engage in love we abandon at least a certain type of sovereignty. In what ways would sovereignty not be adequate in explaining a social formation that was grounded in love? If we were to think of the sovereign as the one who decides, in the social relation of love there is no one who decides. Which does not mean that there are no decisions but, rather, that there would be a non-one who decides. That seems like a challenging and interesting question: what is a non-sovereign social formation? How is decision-making then arrived at? These are the kinds of things that require modes of organization; that require, if not institutions, customs, or habits, at least certain means of organizing the decision-making process. In a politics of love, one of the interests for me is a non-sovereign politics, or a non-sovereign social formation. By thinking love as political, as somehow centrally involved in a political project, it forces us to think through that non-sovereignty, both conceptually, but also practically, organizationally.” – Michael Hardt on love as a political concept

Micha: So do we not decide whether or not to love, or to “fall in love”? Is there a decision to love?

Jenny: i think so. especially a decision of *how* we love. we’re trained not to exercise our agency in determining whether or not and how to love. it seems important to make that distinction between agency and sovereignty.

Micha: oooh, good point! I think we have a choice to some degree. It makes me think of being polyamorous and the way that you can choose to give more attention to someone and know that will lead you to have more feelings for them, or you can choose to manage those feelings and try not to get swept up if you don’t want to. But I think there is often not a choice to fall in love with someone, but there can still be agency in how you react to your feelings, and that’s the hard part to learn.

Micha: reminds me of Adrienne’s blog post gifting my attention – ‘what we give our attention to grows’

adrienne maree: yes, it also really brings up the idea of impact. in the positive use of the concept of sovereignty I have always seen an assumption that the goal is decisions are made by those who are impacted by those decisions. a sovereign nation is led by the people of that nation, ie, we long for the sovereignty of Detroit. but in truth, interdependence means we are all to some degree impacted by each others’ ‘sovereign’ actions, whether or not we want to be. so in a love politic I think one piece of it is attending to impact, within ourselves, and the impact we have on others. this is not the absence of decisions, but the decentralization of decisions and of holding the impact of those decisions. so that when I say I am in love, I mean my community is holding love through me, with me, and at some point I will hold love for others, as we all grow and decide our futures together. utopia? or just the basis for a survival that feels both thrilling and possible and not boring :-)

Jenny: yes! decentralization feels fundamental to non-sovereignty. if we understand sovereignty as the establishment of a center, around which identity forms and decision-making processes flow (like we are a ‘sovereign nation’ because we invest power in a certain leadership entity who we then expect to act in our best interest). a more participatory model of governance would require an investment in the power of our relationships. when those relationships are authentic and rooted in love, trust, etc. there’s less of a need to abdicate decision-making to a representative.

Micha: hmm, but Jenny, love can also mask when someone is making poor or unhealthy decisions on your behalf…i love what berlant says in this interview (and everywhere else) “I think sovereignty is a bad concept for almost anything. It’s an aspirational concept and, as often happens, aspirational concepts get treated as normative concepts, and then get traded and circulated as realism. And I think that’s what happened with sovereignty. So, in ‘Slow Death’ I say we should throw sovereignty out. But people are so invested in it [so] maybe we can’t because you can’t just decide ghosts don’t exist. You have to find a way to change something from within. There’s another way of going at this that also has to do with a different relation to incoherence. Part of the reason I think that queer theory and love theory are related to each other as political idioms, is that queer theory presumes the affective incoherence of the subject with respect to the objects that anchor it or to which they’re attached… Training in one’s own incoherence, training in the ways in which one’s complexity and contradiction can never be resolved by the political, is a really important part of a political theory of non-sovereignty.” but perhaps her disavowal of sovereignty is a very privileged statement, considering indigenous and latin american struggles for centuries over sovereignty…

Jenny: but in that case is it *real love* ? (in the mary j. blige conception of real love)

Micha: omfg i already heard the song in my head before i got to your parentheses – but it seems to me like part of the value of including love in one’s political organizing is to decenter love from a heteronormative one and only forever kind of love and expand it into a more collective affect. i’m afraid mary’s version is more about one person, “i thought you were the answer to the question in mind”, but maybe it’s radically utopian instead!

Jenny: about that contradiction between the ideal of non-sovereignty and the fact of centuries of violation of indigenous peoples’ sovereignty — Invincible Detroit and i were saying today, it’s nearly impossible to relinquish your need for sovereignty, in the face of someone constantly trying to take your shit. but i guess that’s the aspiration: towards a collective risk-taking that could result in either part’s demise, or the liberation of both.

adrienne maree: I think any time we are talking about love it is a privilege…to me this is because ‘real love’ is fundamentally abundant and abundance is the true privilege (striving for abundance of space and life and growth vs abundance of material decay of course) and also talking love and love politic is incredibly necessary work, one of the ways we are accountable to each other in the realm beyond shared victimhood…another piece to throw in here is related to that normative aspect, our socialization around what is normal…what is normal to dream of, strive for and build? once we see our socialization, can we assess ‘normal’ and embrace or reject it? and how do we practice intentional new form, such as a love politic, in an environment where we are socialized towards sovereignty, isolation and ownership as modes of everything from pets to children to lovers to land? especially without rejecting, patronizing or dismissing the very real emotional investment our loved ones have in the ‘norms’?

adrienne maree: also the real love is all good, but how much can we have? I’m aiming for a series of ‘the one’s. a wise friend recently told me she aims to feel that ‘in love’-ness once a year. really reframed my thinking. decentralizing oneness!

the too smartness

i am, and have always been, too smart for my own good.

i know this now, in a way i don’t think i have ever fully known before, because i am watching the too smartness of my niece and nephew in their growth. i have delighted in their intelligence, from the first brilliant responsive kicks in the womb, even their timing for showing up in our lives.

before they could speak i called them cellular geniuses for the speed, strength and flexibility of their lovely bodies. now they are speaking, setting boundaries, fleshing in their personalities, and my delight just grows and grows.

now, when either of them decides they want to do something, they are not interested in any adult redirection or trickery, nor are they at all concerned with arguing. they are not hemmed up by the potential worst-case-scenario impacts, they don’t care if people older than them insist they are embarking on a path of danger to themselves and others – they just want to do what they want to do.

they want to see for themselves.

and in that impulse, i recognize myself.

my child self, who was loved, and read to, and in talented and gifted programs, the me who thought i could outsmart everything from my military dad to discipline to spelling.

my young woman self who thought i could outsmart racism, sexual assault, rootlessness, or needing hairdressers.

its gotten more serious with my adult self, who has at various points been convinced i could outsmart fat phobia, my body altogether, addiction, depression, fidelity, heartbreak, politics, the federal tax system, hierarchy. even love. that somehow i could avoid and ignore the guidance and wisdom of my grandparents, my parents, other experienced people, loved ones, experts, advice columnists, therapists – errybody.

and by outsmart, i don’t mean that i thought i could skip these experiences. merely that i thought i could somehow do them differently, skip the painful bad parts and just experience the awesome parts that i wanted.

there is a brilliance to this – a vividness, an aliveness outside of any measurable intelligence. i live so thoroughly, learning this way. I fling myself into the world.

the way my nephew wants to jump off of high places, the way my niece throws herself off stairs and into streets, the way he drinks and spouts the dirty bath water, the way she puts everything in her mouth first.

now, older than these two beloveds of mine, i feel such compassion for them, such curiosity about what they are learning, and such a deep comprehensive desire for them to learn without hurting themselves in any way.

and then i am flooded with compassion for my parents, grandparents, aunts, ancestors, friends – everyone who has watched me run through this life, so painfully foolishly wonderfully smart.

i am flooded with gratitude for the care, for the warnings, for the hands that caught me when i fell down hard along my educational journeys, for the unconditionality of the love i got just because i was born to two people who loved each other and wanted to parent.

and for the friends who have loved me as i walked in the opposite direction of their guidance. all of these family and friends have loved me tirelessly, abundantly, tenderly.

and i have learned so very much in this short life, because of the paths i took, because of the crises i missed – not because of my intelligence, but in spite of it.

and i am like the child, even now. happiest when i am living at full speed in the direction of the unknown, the possible, surrounded by those who love me uttering soft warnings, reaching out hands that never let me crash, and looking at me with eyes that never seem to tire.