'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Yes, I'm Still Alive 

UPDATE: Turns out that there is dissent among feminists upon the question of supporting Hillary Clinton despite her support for the war in Iraq, and her efforts to instigate a future conflict with Iran:

More than 1,000 feminists have signed a statement criticizing Hillary Clinton and supporting Obama for president - evidence that Clinton's support among women activists continues to decline. The group, "Feminists for Peace", started out with 100 signers before the super-Tuesday primaries, and has 1,200 signers two weeks later.

Clinton's support for the war in Iraq was the leading reason she lost the support of the feminists, along with the fact that "until quite recently [she] opposed all legislative efforts to bring the war and occupation to an end." The group added, "We urgently need a presidential candidate whose first priority is to address domestic needs."

Those endorsing Obama include writer Barbara Ehrenreich; longtime peace activist Cora Weiss; Katha Pollitt, columnist for The Nation; Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times writer Margo Jefferson; women's rights historians Alice Kessler Harris and Linda Gordon; political scientist Frances Fox Piven and actor/activist Susan Sarandon.

"Choosing to support Senator Obama was not an easy decision for us," the group stated, "because electing a woman president would be a cause for celebration in itself." They "deplored" the "sexist attacks against Senator Clinton that have circulated in the media." But, they stated, they nevertheless supported Obama because his election "would be another historic achievement" and because "his support for gender equality has been unwavering."

This group joins other prominent feminists who have turned against Hillary and endorsed Obama, including Kate Michelman, president for 20 years of NARAL Pro-Choice America, the country's leading reproductive rights group, and Ellen Bravo, former director of 9to5, the National Association of Working Women.

Meanwhile an opposing group of 250 feminists has responded with a statement supporting Clinton. Led by historians Ellen Carol DuBois from UCLA and Christine Stansell from the University of Chicago, the group includes writers Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan, CUNY Women's Studies professor Michele Wallace, Blanche Wiesen Cook, biographer of Eleanor Roosevelt, and Peg Yorkin of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

Their statement says that, in supporting the war, Clinton "made a major mistake." While acknowledging that Obama opposed the war from the start, the group declared that his opposition "carried no risks and indeed, promised to pay big dividends in his liberal Democratic district."

Pollitt's decision to endorse Obama on this basis is significant, she has been sympathetic to Hillary over the years as reflected in her columns in The Nation. Obama has, however, voted to continue to fund the war upon entering the Senate. Is his initial opposition a sufficient reason for antiwar activists of any kind to support him? A challenging question, to be sure.

Meanwhile, it is noteworthy that Hillary's supporters in this instance acknowledge her "mistake" in regard to Iraq (thereby typically diminishing the significance of the violence inflicted upon the Iraqi people, but, hey, they can't do anything to facilitate the election of a woman president, can they?), but fail to recognize that she just made the same mistake in regard to Iran. Could it possibly be (gasp!) that she really is a neoconservative hawk? And, if so, are American feminists willing to walk into the cul-de-sac of American militarism in order to witness the inauguration of the first female president?

But an equally important question is the willingness of feminists to accept the confines of the two party system in the US. After all, if leftists globally can reject both Bush and Bin Laden, and insist upon a different social vision, why can't some feminists say, neither Hillary nor Obama? Or, are American feminists imprisoned within the two party system by their social experience, incapable of recognizing a world beyond it, incapable of believing that people can shape this world outside the mainstream political system?

INITIAL POST: The last couple of weeks have been quite hectic, family related concerns and work, but, I'm still here. I hope to post something more substantively soon, but, in the meantime, you might find this interesting. Turns out the some of Hillary's feminist supporters are frustrated with her lack of success in the Democratic presidential campaign.

Clinton's struggle vexes feminists, declares the Boston Globe. The article is enlightening, not only for what it reveals about the legitimate aspirations of women to participate in the shattering of the ultimate glass ceiling by Hillary, but even more so for what it doesn't say.

One goes through the article in vain for any reference to Iraq and Hillary's vote to grant Bush the authority to launch the war. A vote that she has admitted that she made without reading the National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq and its purported weapons of mass destruction program. Another Senator, a conservative Democrat from Florida, Bob Graham, did read the estimate, and was so alarmed by what he encountered that he, unlike Hillary, voted against the authorization resolution, stating his reasons for doing so during the floor debate.

Likewise, one also scrutinizes the article in vain for any reference to Iran, and her recent hawkish vote in support of a Senate resolution declaring the Republican Guard to be a terror organization. Some have interpreted this resolution in light of past ones related to the war on terror, as granting Bush the ability to attack the Republican Guard, and by extension, Iran, without having to go to Congress for approval. Unfortunately for Hillary, a National Intelligence Estimate was subsequently made public that revealed that Iran had suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Some, like Eli over at Left I on the News, believe that there was never any such program.

But, apparently, that's not an issue for American feminists, even though rumor has it that a lot of women and children have been killed by US forces in Iraq, and that an attack upon Iran would have similar consequences. Rest assured, however, as Hillary informed us while speaking in Youngstown, Ohio last night, she has been speaking for the rights of women all over the world.

Perhaps, after this campaign is over, American feminists, at least those who have supported Hillary unequivocally, will reflect upon a philosophy of gender empowerment that requires people in other countries to pay such a terrible price so that a woman can be elected President of the United States. Is this a reflection of a kind of Marxist-Leninist vanguardism that has come to dominant groups like the National Organization for Women, Emily's List and others that have historically supported the Clintons?

If so, one hopes that they are able to remove their blinders, and abandon such a myopic perspective that renders many people around the world, including women and children, many of them of color, into mere sacrificial foils for the advancement of their cause. For now, we can only express satisfaction that some voters have rejected the notion that a woman should be elevated into the White House upon the bodies of dead Iraqis.

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