all politics is local

No snappy title for this one.

The AP has called the race, and AG Martha Coakley has conceded.

The Democrats fielded a lackluster candidate against a background of growing dissatisfaction with a Democratic Congress and Presidency, and ran a weak, halfassed campaign.  That should have meant a close race — but it took a really spectacular failure of tactics and strategy to produce this outcome.

State Senator Scott Brown is an anti-choice, pro-torture, pro-war, teabagger and proto-Birther, who promised from the beginning of his campaign to be “the 41st vote” in the Senate, i.e. to march in lockstep with the Republican party leadership no matter what’s right, what’s good for the country, or what the voters of Massachusetts actually want, just like every Republican (excluding Arlen Specter and including Joe Lieberman) does.

And now he’s the next United States Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Now he holds the seat that Ted Kennedy held for nearly half a century.

I can only assume that Senator-Elect Brown’s first order of business, after delivering what I fear will be a smug, gloating victory speech tonight, will be to rush to DC, visit Arlington National Cemetery, and there, twice — once for himself, and once carrying out the will of the majority of Massachusetts voters as expressed at the polls — spit on Teddy’s grave.

I’m sorry, Senator Kennedy.  It’s a disgrace to your memory, and will inevitably redound to the misfortune of our state and our country.

Massachusetts Democrats, AG Coakley, assorted strategists — this was your race to lose, and lose it you did.  A wet paper bag should have been able to beat Scott Brown (Scott Brown of all people!) in this race by at least ten points, so long as that bag had a “D” after its name.  You are a disgrace.

To the rest of the country, I am sorry.  The Democratic supermajority in the Senate wasn’t really doing a lot of good, but I suspect Brown — new whizkid celebrity for the Republicans that he’s certain to be — will be able to do a lot of harm.

Mr. Brown, you’ve won the election: you’ll be my Senator.  I accept that, but I sure don’t have to like it, and I will fight like hell to see you ousted in 2012.  You do not deserve that seat.

And now, if you’ll all excuse me, I have an appointment with a gentleman from Knob Creek.

H2otown Hate Crime

I was going to start this post with something like “there’s nothing worse…” or “there aren’t many things worse…” but every time I started writing something like that, I thought to myself, “well, no, you know that’s not right: many things are worse, you’ve just experienced almost none of them because you’re the beneficiary of so many of society’s structural biases.”  And that’s true.

But without making fatuous comparisons, I feel confident in saying that it is in fact a rather terrible feeling to discover hatefulness in your own backyard: someone burned the rainbow flag that hangs outside the UU First Parish of Watertown.

The TAB now has a more detailed article up.  Apparently this is not the first time their flag has been targeted.

Silence is the Enemy

I am lucky: I was born male in a society that values male persons more than female persons, and, arbitrarily, accords the former undeserved privileges while unjustly denying the latter their full equal rights as human beings.  I am lucky: because of that undeserved privilege, and the way our misogynist culture works, and some measure of random chance, I have not been a target of sexual assault.  I am lucky: I live in a society which, though misogynist, has a relatively effective system of laws, the application of which, even over my three decades of life, has been, on the whole, more closely (if slowly) approaching justice.  The people I know, in my real-world, meat-space life, are lucky: disproportionately few of the women I know are survivors of sexual assault or rape — or at least, as far as I know; but it’s also not unlikely that I simply don’t know about many cases, because our misogynist culture teaches women to be ashamed of, and silent about, having been the victim of crime.

Sheril Kirshenbaum at The Intersection, along with Isis the Scientist, Aetiology, Bioephemera, Neurotopia and The Questionable Authority, has launched a project, inspired by a Nick Kristof column, to bring attention and pressure to bear to try to end the epidemic of mass rape around the world.

Kirshenbaum, taking seriously the idea that silence is the enemy, opens her post by describing her experience with sexual assault.  She’s right: if survivors refuse to be silent and ashamed, it becomes harder and harder for people who’d prefer not to upset the apple cart to pretend the status quo is tenable.

It’s important, however, not to misunderstand this (which I don’t think Kirshenbaum does; she’s just picked a particular focus) as a problem of Darfur, or the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Liberia, or West Africa, or “elsewhere.”  There are certain places in the world — generally, places where a state of war or lawlessness has lasted a long time: mass rape has long been used as a weapon of war, even by our own soldiers — where these things happen in such numbers, and with such brutality, that it can be hard to believe.  The roots of these problems are deep, and are intertwined with histories of colonization and exploitation, and of war, and of poverty.

But we should not believe that we in the “West1” are so much better.  We have, in the United States for example, a functioning government, and relatively fair laws, and no war is being fought on our soil.  But even so, by the most widely accepted estimate, at least one in six women will be sexually assaulted or raped at least once in her lifetime.

Let me rephrase that, actually, because it’s important that we do not linguistically hide the criminals.  Men2 will sexually assault or rape at least one in six women. It’s not just something that happens, it’s something people do.  And like the women of Congo, the women of Darfur, the women of Liberia, like Sheril Kirshenbaum, silence is also the enemy of these women.  Silence is the enemy of the one in six who have been assaulted, and the enemy of the five in six who have not, but who are also in danger.  Silence is the enemy of the men who have been victims of sexual assault, because the weight of culturally-imposed shame falls heavily on them as well.  Silence is the enemy of the men, too, who have never harmed anyone, many of whom simply do not know, because our misogynist culture of shame and silence is not set up for them to know, the true extent and impact of sexual assault and rape.

Two months ago, Melissa McEwan opened a thread at Shakesville to try to help break that silence: the more we understand the extent of this horror, the less excuse we have not to fight to end it.  Silence is the enemy; these stories need to be heard.


1 “West”?  West of what?  We are “the West” only insofar as we are west of “the East” — but it is “the East” only insofar as it is east of us.  Neither, as Edward Said wrote, has any ontological stability.
2 No, not only men; women commit sexual assualt and rape as well.  But the vast majority of such crimes are committed by men, and the problem is inextricably intertwined with our conceptions of “masculinity.”

Quick Hit: Cambridge Phelps-a-Thon

Apparently Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church  (sic) will be protesting in Cambridge, MA in a couple of weeks, over the continuing existence of a Gay-Straight Alliance at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.  This is close to home: I live only a few miles from there, and a good friend of mine went to Rindge.  The gall of these terrible people bringing their hatred here is astonishing, and it makes me very angry.

If you’re angry too, and you can spare some  money, please consider the Phelps-a-thon, which I think is one of the more effective counters to the WBC.  Phelps wants attention; he wants shouting matches with counterprotesters and even altercations, because that raises his profile.  Better to calmly display to him a sign showing how much money he’s raised so far for the causes he hates.

No on Question 1

Or, as Governor Patrick called it almost a year ago, and the editors of Blue Mass Group have been calling it since then, the Dumb Idea.

Question 1, eliminating the Massachusetts state income tax, is worse, really, than “dumb” — it’s an astoundingly stupid idea.

Seriously, if you’re voting in MA, kill this thing.  Even in good economic times it would be stupid, but right now, when we’re no longer even faced with the question of whether we’re in a recession, but of just how long and how bad it’s going to be, the absolute last thing we should be thinking about doing is destroying the government’s ability to invest in infrastructure and services — creating jobs when there otherwise would be none, to help end the recession faster, and helping people hurt by the recession get through it.

Question 2, decriminalizing possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, probably won’t pass, but it seems like a good idea to me; Question 3, banning greyhound racing, is as obviously a good idea as Question 1 is a bad.