Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Guest post: What now? A Parent in Dismay by Kristin King

As the mother of two middle school students, I approached the election with dread. I hoped my candidate would win and the nation wouldn’t be thrown into turmoil. But even if I’d gotten my way, we’d still be in deep trouble. Mass deportations, shredded safety net, environmental devastation, and all sorts of trouble coming our way, not just for the next four years, but for the next twenty. For the next hundred.

So I’ve been a parent for thirteen years, an activist for twenty, and a writer for forty. All these aspects of my life have to come together now and help me build a better world, in the face of deep trouble. I want people to be kind to one another. I want us to share instead of hoarding, accept instead of building walls.

The lessons 

That’s the what I want. But how do I get it? My twenty years of activist work has led me down quite a few dead-end alleys. Too much single-issue politics, infighting, lack of vision, accidentally working with people whose politics I oppose. Some good things too. But here are some of the lessons I’ve come to:

(1) Nothing short of everything will succeed. To me, that means class-struggle intersectional feminism.

(2) We gotta watch our language. I just said “class-struggle intersectional feminism” and most people are going to say, “What?” This blog, people know what I’m talking about. But it’s also ivory tower lingo. Whenever we use language, we should be aware of who it lets in -- and who it keeps out.

(3) We have to organize. The left keeps saying that but doesn’t know what it means. It doesn’t mean “get lots of people out for noisy protests”! That’s mobilize. Do it for sure, but it’s not organizing. Organizing means getting together in an organization.


(4) Organize democratically. Most of our organizations are run by the nonprofit industrial complex. Rich people are at the top of that. If we have any hope of organizing democratically, we have to build new structures, ourselves.

(5) We have to win.

Where I learned them (for example) 

(1) I’ve been thinking about intersectionality this year, while working on a racial equity team in Seattle Public Schools. We got most of it right. When girls of color were sexually harassed by other kids, we were all clear on the links between gender and race. We looked our own privilege up and down, found our common ground, made a plan, moved forward. But there was a class division I was frankly afraid to touch. I’ve also been thinking a whole lot about gender and how the feminist movement did and did not address core issues. Women are not liberated because we can be forced to have babies (by rape and restrictions on birth control) and then forced into marriage or the workplace while we are still doing the 24x7 job of caring for these babies. Short of a universal basic wage or gift economy, I don’t see how that can be fixed.

(2) From a working-class white male, telling me the story of how he’d been flipping conservative neighbors radical by knowing where they were coming from and where the common ground was. If the left coulda done that, instead of going on about stupidity, the current president-elect would have no base.

(3) All the damn times I put sweat and tears into a group only to find it had no chance of growing bigger than eight people. That sucks.

(4) The Washington State PTSA. I went to a convention where a key vote was happening and learned exactly how and why the democracy was in name only. The PTSA was voting on whether or not to endorse charter schools and had put out a voting guide with a “pro” side to the argument but no “con.” When I showed up with a flier listing the cons, I learned that most people considered the whole vote a strategic game. (One day I’ll write up a blog post on that, because it astounded me.)

(5) If you know me, you’ll know I can’t go far without bringing up Doctor Who. Right now I’m thinking about the most grim and emotionally compelling episode I’ve ever watched, “Heaven Sent.” In it, our hero is trapped in a prison, in emotional torment of a highly personal nature. He keeps wanting to give up, but the memory of a dead comrade, Clara (clear, clarity) keeps saying. “How are you going to win?”

What we do now

We organize. As in, build organizations that can sustain our momentum and carry our positive visions forward for the next hundred years. That’s it. Everything feels hard right now, and it is. People will suffer. A lot. But we keep on going.

And then we win.

 Kristin King (http://kristinking.wordpress.com) is a writer, parent, and activist who lives in Seattle. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Calyx, The Pushcart Prize XXII (1998), and other places. Two of her stories appeared in an Aqueduct Press anthology, Missing Links and Secret Histories: A Selection of Wikipedia Entries Lost, Suppressed, or Misplaced in Time. A selection of her short fiction has been collected in Misfits from the Beehive State.

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