Pocochina’s Weblog

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let me clear my throat

Posted by pocochina on April 12, 2008

So there’s this fabulous/hateful meme that’s been going around for a while – probably, in fact, certainly since before I began blogging – that makes the assumption that Clinton supporters are not anti-war.  In fact it turns into a pretty ugly assumption that the superior non-Clinton supporter knows all about the Clinton supporter, who she is, and why she is wrong about everything.

Fuck you.  You will not erase me.

I was on the national mall in 2002, alone because I’d missed the early march with the student anti-war group.  I didn’t have a sign to fill my hands; I didn’t know where my friends were in the throng of anarchists, pro-Palestinian protesters, and other garden variety spoiled anti-war college kids (you know, like me).  There has not been a day of this occupation that I have not been against it.  Not a week that I don’t grit my teeth through the rampant sexism to read and try and learn from a lefty foreign policy blogger.  Not a conversation I have had about American military power that my heart has not broken for Iraqi women in  desperate fear.

You will not define me.

Were you this angry in 2004?  Did you donate to Carol Moseley-Braun’s campaign?  Did you show up in throngs to vote for Howard Dean?  I know you didn’t, because I wanted to vote for an anti-war Democrat in the primary and I couldn’t, because John Kerry had locked it up by Pennsylvania.  I could have made a protest vote that wasn’t worth the paper my absentee ballot would be printed on, and besides, party unity and all, it was time to get excited about our eminently worthy yet clearly imperfect nominee.

Pretty similar to 2004, huh, firey anti-war, anti-Washington netroots candidate versus well-intentioned, kind-hearted but initially pro-invasion entrenched Democrat.  I don’t remember the arrows flying this swiftly then.

I’m pretty sure the distinguishing factor between Kerry and Clinton isn’t that Kerry’s from Massachussetts, or that Clinton is clearly a stronger candidate.

All these ideologically pure anti-war democrats, no wonder we lost in 2004.

And you know what, folks, I listened to some speakers, I looked online for anti-war voices, I needed so desperately to find people who cared like the tiny handful of liberal activist political-minded freshman in my acquaintence did – and you know, I’m pretty sure I’d have remembered by now if  I’d been inspired by Barack Obama.

Also, there’s this, which I saw first there but have seen echoed and implied in a couple of other spaces:

There had already been a few upsetting moments, like another older white feminist telling women to vote with their vagina, and that in the oppression olympics, sexism wins the gold compared to racism’s silver. Yeah, Helen Thomas went there.

Can anyone spot the factual inaccuracy in that statement?

Helen Thomas is certainly an older feminist, and she did make comments comparing racism to sexism in the media, but she is not white.  Helen Thomas is a first-generation Lebanese-American.  Helen Thomas is an Arab-American.

Now, shit happens, I’m sure this writer isn’t like, close friends with or a longtime admirer of Helen Thomas, and Ms. Thomas is a fair-skinned woman, so her experience has been different than a lot of women of color in a lot of ways.  I can see that, though I won’t presume to understand it.  But what is nagging at my mind about this statement is that it ignores the utter bravery Helen Thomas has had – to be an Arab-American woman who has, face to face with the President of the United States, stood up for Iraqi civilians. That should be everyday decency in our society; she should not have been the only voice speaking out.  But her identity made her conscience dangerous, and she has chosen every day not to back down.  Her race has been used against her – anyone forgotten Ann Coulter’s slam on how the Secret Service lets “that old Arab” near the president? – in an attempt to silence her criticism of the war.  I cannot fathom what is to be gained – truly gained for WOC and white feminists alike – by whitewashing Helen Thomas.  I can understand disagreement – and in fact, since I believe freedom is for those who disagree, I can accept it joyfully.  But I cannot understand what good it does anyone to, rather than attempt to silence her because of her identity, attempt to ignore part of her identity, because people didn’t like part of her opinion.  The hard right plays up her other-ness when she brings them uncomfortable truths; her supposed allies ignore her otherness when she offers uncomfortable opinions.

Ann praised Helen Thomas in her introduction as “the patron saint of not shutting up” and she is.  But her freedom is not just the freedom to agree.  When asked about the media coverage of the election, Helen Thomas, as an Arab-American feminist who has been working her entire fucking life in the political media, gave her opinion.  Oh, and nice try, but she doesn’t lose credibility because she is old like those other crazy old Hillary-voting hags. (This crazy young Hillary-supporting hag would not have said what Thomas said, but I support her right to disagree.)

It also seems to be a common assumption that all supporters of Senator Clinton, since they don’t support Senator Obama, are white racists.  You will not take away my lifelong journey to unlearn and cast out my ingrained racism. Far more importantly, you will not ignore the men and women of color who support Senator Clinton. We all lose when we marginalize our allies.

Helen Thomas is a Clinton supporter who has always been against the war, too.  I saw her on the street one chilly January day in 2003, on my way to work and her way home from work.  I choked out some star-struck jabbering – “you don’t remember but i met you at a conference and your speech was so great and my friend and i think you’re great and i’m……so glad you’re doing what you’re doing.”

She reached up (she is a charmingly tiny intellectual giant) and poked my Code Pink button and kindly overlooked my inept attempt to tell her how much her courage meant to me.  “No, you keep doing what you’re doing!  We have to show them!”  And she politely excused herself (I’d gotten her autograph already, you know, at the conference) and I stood stunned for a moment at the corner of 15th and G.

You will not erase her anti-war activism, either.  We are so constantly angry that those with the microphone don’t ask the right questions  You will not conveniently forget that she has, because she has chosen to support a brave and brilliant woman for office.

You will not take away that moment that she shared with me, a world-renowned woman warrior standing in the cold to share a moment of respite from the good fight with some stupid teenager on her way to absent-mindedly serve up milkshakes and subs.

You will not erase me.

You will not erase my second cousin, who I didn’t see for years until he showed up at my house on Christmas Eve in fatigues.  You will not accuse me of supporting this atrocity which sends him into danger every day.   You may disagree with me about who will bring him home to his Nonna the fastest, but I will not stand accused of that Christmas breakfast he couldn’t eat, haunted by the specter of his best friend.

I will not be silenced.  I will be heard.

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