The Politics of Confrontation

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Lately, I have had some things on my mind.  Often, when I talk to people either in person, over the phone or (most often) on the internet, I find myself accused of being “too negative,” “so aggressive,” or “oversensitive” whenever a subject is broached which is too controversial for polite conversation.  Folks like to tell me not to be “so angry,” and that, instead of focusing on the problems, I should focus on solutions – this gets into that same “It Gets Better,” and “Build don’t Burn” rhetoric that I find, personally, has a bad habit of missing the point.

What is troublesome about this logic is its failure to acknowledge that one cannot focus on solutions to problems if one does not first recognize the problem.  When I am accused to being too negative, it is rarely because I am a hopeless misanthrope who sees no end to human suffering, but most typically because my accuser doesn’t like the harsh realities which they are being made to confront within the context of the conversation. The fact is, folks don’t really like confronting systematic oppression – especially people of privilege (I know, dirty word) – because to confront would mean to acknowledge its existence and the ways in which we may or may not benefit from these systems. I say this as a white person who has worked (and is still working) to unpack my privilege and preconceived notions about race. Also, as a thin, able-bodied AFAB genderqueer person who, despite not really “passing,” gets to move through life with relative ease due to my perceived masculinity. I know how it feels to come to the realization that my being treated like a human being with rights and dignity comes at the expense of others who maybe don’t look like or get around as well as I do. It sucks and of course nobody would want to accept that, but the fact of the matter is your unwillingness to accept reality doesn’t actually change reality.

The reality is that cops can shoot unarmed black boys and girls on public streets in the daylight with impunity. Women can’t walk down the street without being harassed, or worse, and then blamed for it. “Trans panic” is an actual defense that people can actually use in court to get away with murdering trans women. Intersex folks are all but invisible at best and at worst, mutilated and often sterilized by doctors at birth as a means of “correcting” their genitals to make them appear “normal.” I could go on. For days. But let some of these things sink in – this is reality. And if I seem angry about it, it’s because I am. Because I should be. Everyone should be.

The mentality that “we should be focusing on solutions, not problems”; that we need to be “more positive”; is counter-productive and backwards. You can’t focus on the solution to a problem you won’t acknowledge. Solutions come from confronting the issue, head on, accepting that it is an issue and then finding where that issue comes from. We need to find the root – where it begins and how far it reaches. Then we need to attack that root. Like a weed, if we do not get it at the root, it only grows back. This is what I mean when I refer to the White Supremacist Cisheteropatriarchy – the most entrenched systems of oppression, the ones that have infected our minds like disease – this is the root. It runs deep, in our society, in our everyday interactions, in our selves and it’s so big and so far-reaching that when we do acknowledge its existence and power over us, it seems overwhelming – impossible to defeat. I think this is why it is so difficult to confront. I think this is why I get accused of being “too negative,” because when I make the claim that we are all infected with this insidious, seemingly-unstoppable social disease, I am declaring war on something intangible that exists within the individual as well as outside and it seems hopeless.

I think of humanity as one big organism, each individual person is a cell. The social disease causes some cells to attack others, and the organism is essentially killing itself from the inside out. We need medicine. Something to strengthen the cells being attacked so they can defend themselves and survive the onslaught and to weaken those attacking until they give up and eventually stop and something else to immunize new cells as they are created against the disease so that this can be prevented in the future. This cannot happen overnight – it will take a while.

Mind, this is not a perfect metaphor. This is essentially the best I can come up with while drowsy and a little dizzy from antibiotics. Essentially, what I am saying is that we need to confront the power dynamics which create the systems of oppression that have society so jacked up that folks can’t even see the problem when it’s right in front of their eyes. Or worse, they refuse to see the problems because they’re too big and scary to take on alone. The fact is, it’s okay to be overwhelmed and even to feel hopeless when first confronting horrible realities – really, it is. It’s okay because it’s perfectly reasonable; this shit is too big to take on alone, which is why we can’t. One person cannot take down centuries-old systems of oppression, but what about hundreds? Thousands? Millions? There are seven billion human beings on the planet, how many of them benefit from these systems versus those who are oppressed by them?

I am not “negative.” I believe in collective power and grassroots, horizontal self-organization. I have more faith in humanity than humanity has been proven to deserve, given my own personal experiences and what I have learned about the world in my short time here. I truly hate the state of things and I say so, often and loudly, because I can and I must. Don’t tell me “it gets better” unless you’re willing to put your boots on the ground and make it get better. Don’t tell me to “focus on solutions” if you’re not willing to be a part of the solution yourself. Don’t tell me to be “more positive,” you’re naive if you think my hopes for the world are anything but.

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March for Liberation: A Call to Action

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Boy, people like marching these days! There are marches for solidarity, for world hunger, animal rights, ecological justice, racial equality, gay pride, etc., etc., but for every worthy cause which gets only a march when it deserves much, much more, there are dozens of conservative wingnut organizations marching against the freedoms we worked so hard to attain (back when we did more than just march). One of these such organizations is the Catholic diocese of St. Augustine which has taken to organizing a yearly March For Life – a gigantic public protest against abortion rights which floods the streets of downtown St. Augustine with scores of patriarchal prudes and false priests from all over the Southeast and, often, even farther. Since 2007, this event has gone on without so much as a counter-picket until last year when some friends and I decided these assholes needed to be challenged. With only a month to work out the details, we were unable to manage a very large crowd, but all in all, the counter-protest was successful, pulling in folks from Gainesville, Daytona and several locals and Flagler College students. On top of that, some friends of friends even took it upon themselves to pink bloc the pro-life march, scattering wire coat hangers along St. George Street to give the marchers some perspective on the unsafe alternatives to legal abortion.

March for Life protesters walking over scattered hangers

March for Life protesters walking over scattered hangers

This time around we have quite a lot more time for planning, and we intend to make damn good use of it. The March for Life has a parade permit which reserves San Marco Avenue and St. George Street along their route a year in advance and guarantees them police protection for their protest. The next March for Life will take place on January 18th, 2014. Other information, such as speakers and whatnot will be collected as it is released. A number of our local affinities here in St. Augustine have agreed upon a counter-march with the understanding that we will have no such permit. It must also be understood that we do not wish to fall into the dichotomy of the choice-versus-life debate, but that our purpose is broader – our focus has more to do with total liberation from the patriarchy, going deeper than just abortion rights.

Our local resistance groups are small but dedicated, and we strive toward an end to all forms of oppression. The broader purpose of this counter-march pertains to the fact that reproductive rights are not specific just to cis women. Many of those affected by the patriarchy are Queer folks (including trans women, trans men, and genderqueer/non-binary folks), intersex folks, or sex workers – all of whom tend to be silenced or forgotten in the fight for just “women’s rights.” Many of the organizers for this counter-march identify as genderqueer or trans* and feel that the inclusion of Queer voices in the fight against patriarchy is essential to success.

With respect to the fact that there will be no “legal” permit for this counter-march, there are some things potential participants must know:

  • The March for Life is, and has always been, heavily police-protected. It is important to remember security culture – don’t ever talk to cops!
  • Facial coverings (masks, bandanas, etc.) are strongly encouraged for identity protection.
  • Black bloc attire is encouraged.
  • Bring glitter, condoms, smoke bombs, and whatever else you can think to throw (with the understanding that many people bring their poor,
    brainwashed children to this march).
  • Bring flags, banners, and shields because motherfucker, we mean business!
  • Bring friends! Safe, secure friends, to be sure, but friends! Numbers are power, and those conservative fucks have a whole lot of both.

This is not a protest, it is a confrontation. We plan to challenge our oppressors head-on. If you are uncomfortable with direct action, this action is not for you. If you plan to sabotage our efforts, we kindly request that you do not come.

Any and all interested should contact us at march4lib@riseup.net. Out-of-state folks are strongly encouraged to come and we will do whatever we can within reason to help facilitate transportation, food and board – that said, we are mostly a bunch of poor folks who depend upon one another for general sustenance, so mutual aid is encouraged and appreciated. See ya’ll in the streets!