July 30, 2008

Hump Day Poetry: Gil Scott-Heron

Posted in Poetry at 9:00 am by The Lizard Queen

I was at the Rock & Soul Museum in Memphis recently and heard this for the first time (at least to my knowledge).  It’s powerful, particularly aloud.  I couldn’t help cringing at the reference to “hairy armed womens liberationists,” and I wonder what Scott-Heron meant by that.  Part of me thinks perhaps it’s a reference to the tendency of news outfits to cover what women look like rather than what they do; the rest of me is put in mind of the ways in which oppressed groups are set against each other so that they aren’t able to effectively challenge the existing hierarchy.  It’s nevertheless a great piece, though; more background info here.

The revolution will not be televised

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion.

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back
after a message about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

—Gil Scott-Heron, 1970

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July 9, 2008

Hump Day Poetry: Langston Hughes

Posted in Poetry at 9:00 am by The Lizard Queen

Let America Be America Again

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed–
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home–
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay–
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose–
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain–
All, all the stretch of these great green states–
And make America again!

—Langston Hughes, 1938

July 7, 2008

The politics of “late term” abortions

Posted in Musings, Politics, Reproduction at 12:01 pm by The Lizard Queen

Via Shakesville comes this post at Bitch PhD with some facts about third-trimester abortions. Here are some thoughts I had on the matter:

Women are not just blithely heading for the abortion clinic in droves in their third trimester because they just don’t feel like having a baby anymore. And even if the very few women who want/need third-trimester abortions wand/need them for reasons someone else might call frivolous, how is that anyone else’s business? What’s the difference between sitting in our comfortable offices and living rooms and deciding whether a woman’s reasons are valid at 26+ weeks and sitting in our comfortable offices and living rooms and deciding whether a woman’s reasons are valid at 8 weeks? I don’t want to venture too far into slippery slope territory, but ultimately it just seems to me that it boils down to either you trust women, or you don’t.

A woman in the comments thread mentions that she’s in her second trimester and at this point, barring major health complications, feels a moral obligation to carry the fetus to term. I can certainly understand that. I can even understand people feeling uncomfortable about terminating a pregnancy during the third trimester. And as far as I’m concerned, people can comment and chat online and in person as much as they want about how a particular medical procedure makes them uncomfortable, or is something they couldn’t go through with because of their personal morals. The problem, of course, is people who decide to translate those morals or that discomfort into legislation.

As to Barack Obama’s recent statement (Liss’s emphasis): Read the rest of this entry »

July 2, 2008

Thoughts on public restrooms

Posted in Civil rights, Conservatives, Gender issues, GLBT issues, Musings, Trans issues at 4:17 pm by The Lizard Queen

What the hell is with the obsession those who insist on gender conformity and/or those who oppose gender identity and expression inclusive legislation seem to have with bathrooms? It seems to apply to conservatives in general (“the ERA will lead to unisex bathrooms!!”), but I continue to be kind of amazed that the biggest pushback against equal rights for trans people tends to focus on public restrooms. Autumn Sandeen posted last week (emphasis in the original):

Bathrooms are the opposition issue with gender identity and expression inclusive, federal employment legislation. I expected that to be an issue, but it’s really clear from the two opposition witnesses it’s going to be the main opposition point regarding any employment legislation that addresses gender identity and expression. Basically, I’m anticipating that there is going to come some standard response messaging to be generated by the non-profits addressing the issue, and/or changing the subject back to addressing the real issue of blatent discrimination against LGB & T people.

Personally, I’m not squicked out by the idea of unisex bathrooms, so these sorts of arguments tend to lose me immediately. I’ve never been shy about ducking into the men’s room if the line for the ladies’ is ridiculous and things are getting urgent, and I’m absentminded enough that I’ve come thisclose to walking into the men’s room (perhaps even to the point of opening the door, seeing urinals, going “oops” and turning around), so, unisex bathrooms? Wev.

It seems like the most compelling aspect of the bathroom argument is the idea that allowing people to go into the bathroom that fits their gender identity could lead to predators having easier access to their potential victims. However, that doesn’t really fly for me. Is the idea that only women who were born with women’s genitals belong in the ladies’ room really the only thing keeping predators out of the ladies’ room in most places?

Furthermore, as Autumn points out in this post, trans women are potential victims just as much as other women – if not more so, given the fact that they’re trans people.

Also, it seems to me that unisex bathrooms would actually benefit a good number of people, such as parents with kids of the opposite sex (when is the official cut off date for when a woman ought to stop bringing her son into the ladies’ room with her?) or people with disabilities who have caregivers of the opposite sex. And goodness knows that if I broke both my arms (dog forbid!), I’d rather have Evil Bender helping me out in a public bathroom than a stranger.

Much of what this boils down to is the fact that I believe trans people are real, complete human beings who are deserving of the same rights as anyone else, along with protections because they’re a frequently-abused minority. I’d wager a guess that the people who are doing the pearl-clutching over the issue of bathrooms believe that trans people are sick people with crazy ideas that they need to be talked or medicated out of (and if that doesn’t work, maybe the ideas can be beaten out of them…). And I’m willing to bet that at least part of our respective viewpoints have been shaped by whether or not we’ve actually met and gotten to know any trans people. So it seems like in spite of the fact that bathrooms are the opposition issue, it’s really just a red herring (though I suppose that was perhaps a given, hmm?).