And Here We Are…

The U.S. presidential election stunned a lot of my friends.  It stunned me.  There was no way I could see an openly xenophobic, racist, and misogynistic candidate actually being elected the President of the United States.  Indeed, that is exactly what has happened.  It is a small salve, to me, that he did not win the popular vote.  But it is equally sobering that the vote shows a very polarized nation.  And now we have to wait and see what happens, like the rest of the world.

I pondered this election for many a sleepless night and have a few thoughts I’d like to share with you.  I’ve been voting since 1972.  I’ve watched a lot of elections.  I actually remember elections as far back as Johnson vs. Goldwater in ’64.  But this has been one of the craziest elections I’ve ever seen. Being an armchair amateur of U.S. politics and elections, I will attempt to write about what I see, in retrospect, that might help explain what we’ve all just witnessed.  Perhaps it will bring solace and hope.  Perhaps not.  Either way, take it with a grain of salt.

Without further adieu, here are my thoughts:

  1. Hillary (and her hubby Bill) couldn’t escape the baggage of the now forgotten Democratic Leadership Council which proposed a “Third Way” of mixing conservative and liberal ideas together to create a new economy that would offer benefits to business and workers back in the late 80’s to early 90’s. This was the beginning of the Corporate-Friendly Democratic Party.
  2. The move toward corporations for support of Democratic goals changed the Democratic goals, as evidenced first by NAFTA, and the embracing of free trade agreements.
  3. The move toward big money for funding campaigns made the corporations, celebrities, and other rich folks much more influential in setting priorities for the Democratic party. Worse still, the voices of the working class were eventually ignored while the leadership chased dollars of the rich and famous.
  4. The free trade agreements decimated factories, which decimated the working class.
  5. The free trade agreements required concessions from labor to keep their factories open, which again decimated the working class.
  6. The rise of automation had an incalculable effect on the working class.
  7. And the love of money, celebrity, and status became the Democratic Party’s, the Clinton’s, and Obama’s eventual downfall due in large part to the plight of the working class not being addressed.
  8. Have we all forgotten that Obama, when in the Rust Belt some years ago, mentioned how the folks there, the working class who were no longer working, “cling” to their guns and their bibles? Well, what else did they have?
  9. And no one can forget Hillary’s “deplorables” statement because, while partially true, it also was aimed, again, squarely at working class whites. (Nothing like kicking ‘em while they’re down.)
  10. The Democratic Party leaders embraced corporate crony capitalism with the goal of bettering all citizens. I have no doubt they believed this was the best way.
  11. But in so doing, the Party left its roots behind: the working class.
  12. Working class whites rebelled. They gave into fear and hate of that which is different. For they had 35 years of continued economic erosion.
  13. Working class people of color are rebelling due to the Democratic Party not keeping it’s promises to create better lives for all people who have not known economic opportunity.

And here we are.

Hillary, who makes more in a speech than I do in several years, trying to convince voters, and the working class, that she cares about them. I believe she does. But her ties to corporate influence, celebrities, and rich folk appeared more important than issues of the working class.

Obama tried. But he too was consumed by his own “celebrity” status and loved coming to my city, Los Angeles, for fundraisers. Gawd, he and Hillary and myriad other Democratic leaders flew in to L.A. so often to raise money from the rich and famous that it became a running joke every time traffic was jammed on the 405 freeway!

Would that they had spent more time flying in to Pennsylvania, Alabama, Mississippi, and Ohio to commiserate with the working class as often as they went to fundraisers. Just to let them know they care and they are trying.

I’m sure Democratic leadership cares. But then again, I think Republican leadership cares. But I’m also sure they didn’t try very hard to address the issues of the working class.

To me that’s the lesson. Jettison the corporate fundraising, the corporate approach to influence, and get back to your roots, the Working Class, now!

If not, we’re all in for a very rough ride from a charlatan who took advantage of human suffering without having a lick of sense on how to alleviate it.

But hope is not lost.  Perseverance and patience are the order of the day.  Human kindness is still the biggest salve on the planet for bettering ourselves and resolving issues.  Don’t forget, behind all these phobias that are now being expressed; behind the bullying and the hate speech are people who are basically fearful, not knowing their place in society, and in the future.  They’d rather “burn it down” than face an unknown future.  That’s what they’ve told us, in my opinion.  Give them hope.  Give them an economy that does allow them to provide for themselves and those they love.  And, finally, give them compassion even when it is very difficult to do so.  It is our only way forward.

(Clarification: I am not a member of any political party)

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Lawmakers Aim To Restrict Guns for Mentally Ill After Shooting [californiahealthline.org]

California lawmakers are calling for increased restrictions on gun purchases for individuals who are suspected of having mental health issues and could pose a threat to themselves or others, theAP/Sacramento Bee reports. The legislation comes after six people were killed last week by an individual with suspected mental health issues.

Background on Killings

On May 23, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six individuals by stabbing or shooting them and wounded 13 others in Isla Vista, Calif. Rodger had legally purchased three semi-automatic guns and ammunition used in the attack (Dillon/Thompson, AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/28).

The incident occurred after Rodger’s family members had contacted the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department on April 30 with concerns about his mental health. Police conducted a welfare visit and concluded that Rodger did not pose a risk (Pickert, Time, 5/27).

Details of Legislation

Following the killings, California lawmakers proposed changes to the state’s rules for purchasing guns.

Assembly members Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) and state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) have introduced a bill that would allow temporary restraining orders to prevent individuals who are potentially violent from purchasing guns. Under the bill, family members and friends could contact law enforcement if they believe an individual could be a threat to themselves or others, and officers then could ask a judge for the temporary restraining order (Mason, “PolitiCal,” Los Angeles Times, 5/27).

Under current state law, individuals can be banned from buying firearms only if they are involuntarily committed to a mental health facility.

Skinner said, “When someone is in crisis, the people closest to them are often the first to spot the warning signs, but almost nothing can now be done to get back their guns or prevent them from buying more.”

In addition, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said the state should require law enforcement officers to check for weapons when conducting welfare visits, such as the one that took place at Rodger’s residence on April 30. In addition, Steinberg suggested that officers should search the area when called on such visits and speak with roommates and neighbors (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/28).

Reaction

Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, said the new legislation limiting gun purchases is unnecessary. Parades said, “We don’t need another bill to solve this problem. The tools are there — the Legislature and the professionals involved need to be willing to understand and take advantage of the system that is there in place” (“PolitiCal,” Los Angeles Times, 5/27).

Meanwhile, a spokesperson with the California chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness noted that only 30 law enforcement employees in Santa Barbara County undergo crisis-intervention training each year. However, the official said increasing such training still might “not be enough to respond” to such violent incidents.

NAMI California Executive Director Jessica Cruz added that there often is a lack of funding for mental health prevention and treatment, noting that the state has fewer than 50% of the number of psychiatric in-patient hospital beds as recommended by an expert panel (Time, 5/27).

http://www.californiahealthline.org/articles/2014/5/28/lawmakers-aim-to-restrict-guns–for-mentally-ill-after-shooting

Dustin Hoffman Explains His Insights That Every Woman Already Sadly Knows

Many years ago, Dustin Hoffman made the film “Tootsie” with Sidney Pollack.  It was quite a hit at the time.

The story was about an out-of-work actor who impersonated a woman in order to gain employment on a soap opera.  Funny and poignant, Hoffman found new insights for himself about what women experience every day.

Violence Against Women Disguised as ‘Fashion’ [jezebel.com]

Image Intentionally Obscured

by Jenna Sauers / jezebel.com
Bulgarian fashion magazine 12 just published an appalling editorial containing nothing but portraits of models with horrific injuries. It’s a “beauty” spread — the kind of feature that normally highlights a makeup artist’s skills and aims to sell the “new” eyeshadow color of the season — but it isn’t very beautiful. There are models with Black Dahlia-style Glasgow Smiles, models who’ve been strangled, models who’ve had their earrings and facial piercings ripped out, and models who’ve been mutilated with acid. It’s all special-effects makeup, but it’s still sickening. These photos give you an idea the nature of the spread. And it’s hardly the first of its kind.

It’s a given that fashion magazines — like other forms of mass media — often aim to shock. Because they like the attention. Because they like the ad dollars. Because they like the rebellious reputation that shocking us squares confers. But it’s still worthwhile to examine the means by which they achieve that shock value. The high-fashion world in general loves to think of itself as contrarian, élite, and boldly at odds with the tastes and mores of the wider public. It likes to think that it, in fact, leads those tastes. But much of the imagery the fashion industry uses to communicate its messages at best echoes and at worst reinforces some of the wider culture’s most negative ideas about women and girls. As we all know thanks to Joan Didion, “it is possible for people to be the unconscious instruments of values they would strenuously reject on a conscious level.” Fashion, in all its contradictions, is great evidence of that.

The history of fashion is rife with depictions of and references to violence against women. Historically, photographers including Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin had a particular fascination with bloodied, bruised, or dead models, whom they often depicted in sexualized positions (a vein that contemporary fashion photographer Steven Klein continues to probe). The “dead girl” is such a trope of ladymags that it was imitated on America’s Next Top Model — five years ago.

As Margi Laird McHue wrote in her 2008 bookDomestic Violence: A Reference Handbook, this kind of imagery is highly problematic.

Striking examples of the depiction of women as sex objects who deserve to be battered are often found in advertising. In the late 1980s, for instance, many fashion ads featured women who were abused, bound and gagged, or in body bags. These images appeared in department store windows that also featured battered women and women stuffed into trash cans as the conquests of leather-clad men. After protests by women’s groups, the window displays were removed. Mainstream magazine fashion layouts featured women pulled along by corset ties, their necks in choke collars; trussed and restrained in straitjackets and straps; blindfolded; and sometimes stuffed in garbage bags. One Epsrit ad depicted a woman on an ironing board with a man about to iron her crotch; a Foxy Lady ad showed a woman who had been knocked to the floor with her shirt ripped open; and a Michael Mann ad pictured a woman in a coffin.

So although the 12 editorial may be a particularly explicit example of the form, these kinds of images are nothing new. Seeing women shown as the victims of implied male violence — or victims of any violence, frankly — in what is an overwhelmingly female industry, in magazines that are overwhelmingly run, written, and edited by women, has always troubled me. It troubled me back when I was a model, and was asked to take part in shoots that had themes of violence and death. It troubles me now that I merely see these images in the fashion media, which are largely the women’s media.

Why does fashion still think it’s “edgy” to portray women as objects to be beaten and killed? How does the staff of a tiny fashion magazine in Bulgaria get the idea that it’s cool and hip to do a beauty story where all the models look like battered women? (Answer: maybe they read Lula.)

People commonly judge women who are “too” interested in fashion as “fashion victims,” a term that implies interest in fashion is pathetic, pathological, and contrary to the interests of the woman herself. “There’s a lot of ‘dumb girl fashion/capitalist victim’ talk that dismisses fashion consumerism as feminine stupidity,” as Minh-Ha T. Pham has written. Fashion isn’t just stupid girl stuff, writes Meg Clark in one of the most passionately argued (and one of my personal favorite) defenses of taking fashion seriously. “This is society, and self-presentation, and economy, and patriarchy, and sociology, and billions and billions of dollars.”

This empty idea of the fashion consumer as fashion victim — of the stupid Vogue-reading woman too alienated from her own best interests to realize that cosmetics and designers clothes are nothing but frivolous distractions from the important stuff — is of course what 12 is punning on. “Ha ha,” says the spread, “What if women were literally victims of beauty?” Eye roll. If we finally got rid of the idea that fashion is for victims, maybe we’d see fewer victimized women in fashion magazines.

Ultimately, my feelings on these kinds of spreads are pretty much in line with those of Cheryl Wischover at Fashionista, who writes, “Violence against women exists way too frequently in real life for us to want to look at it in a fashion magazine.” Fashion has an enduring fascination with depictions of women as the victims of violence in part because we live in a culture whereroughly one-third of all women murder victims are killed by their partners, where women experience around 4.8 million domestic violence assaults and rapes every year, where nearly one-quarter of women will experience violence at the hands of an intimate partner during their lifetimes. Fashion reflects the wider culture, and ours has a lot of work to do.

Victim of Beauty [12 Magazine] [Warning: full spread NSFW]

http://jezebel.com/5916650/fashions-ongoing-violence-against-women/gallery/1