Reading at Octopus Literary Salon, 9/2/17 (video)

Here is my reading from this past Saturday. I read as part of Perfectly Queer East Bay @ Beast Crawl in Oakland, CA. This was filmed at Octopus Literary Salon. Video produced and compiled by Friend and Videographer Michael Guleff. (Thanks, Misha!)

Beast Crawl Presents Perfectly Queer East Bay–Reading Event

I’ve been invited to read again by the good folks of Perfectly Queer East Bay. This time, I’ll be with two other excellent writers, Anna Pulley and Anand Vedawala, and we’ll be reading as part of Beast Crawl, the East Bay’s literary festival.

Date: Saturday, September 2

Time: 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm

Place: The Octopus Literary Salon, 2101 Webster Street (@ 22nd St.), Oakland

I’ll be reading from my novel Sin Against the Race (pending, 2017). Come and join us for a night of literature, drinks, and fun!

 

March of the Tacky Tiki Torches

Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer, 21st century style.

President Barack Obama enjoyed two terms as president. He continues to enjoy mass popularity around the world to this day. That’s why they marched.

When Donald Trump won the 2016 election via the Electoral College, masses of people took to the streets to protest. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over three million, further casting shade on Trump’s victory. That’s why they marched.

Women continue to assert their rights and power as human beings, despite Hillary Clinton’s loss. They lead the resistance against a sexist president who openly calls for sexually assaulting women. That’s why they marched.

Donald Trump tried to instigate a ham-fisted Muslim ban. Attorneys, paralegals, and citizens from all walks of life ran to airports across the nation to help those affected by the cruel law. The courts invalided the law until the Supreme Court reinstated it in part. That’s why they marched.

Messrs. Ryan and McConnell tried to undo the Affordable Care Act. They did so despite the law’s popularity. They failed because enough Republican politicians realized that their constituents would be hurt by the law’s demise. ACA is a Republican-based healthcare plan (see RomneyCare). But they hate it because Black man. That’s why they marched.

Same-sex couples continue to marry. Transgender identity has forever left the closet. Despite all this, Trump has openly encouraged discrimination against the LGBTQ community. But the hands of time will not move in reverse. People have moved on. That’s why they marched.

Society long maintained the fiction that all the greatness of the world comes solely from the work of heterosexual cis white men. This has never been the case. Women, people of color, LGBTQ folks have always been equal movers and shakers of society despite society’s indifference to them. Under the weight of hatred, these communities thrive. They won’t shut up. They won’t slink into closets or kitchens. That’s why they marched.

It takes a lot of energy to maintain a lie. Look at apartheid South Africa, the Jim Crow South, Nazi Germany. We’re seeing that energy now in Charlottesville, Virginia. Fools marched with tacky tiki torches to perpetuate a world that worships them alone, not for any great accomplishments, but simply for having genes that made them white, male, cis, and heterosexual. And of course in their fear based world, they must show hatred for others in order to lift themselves up.

Donald Trump made some weak statement about resisting violence on all sides. He did not condemn white supremacy, Neo-Naziism, racism, or anything like that. None of those words left his lips. Quite the contrary, his administration is filled with people who harbor the same ideas as the marchers with tacky tiki torches. So his words, as always, rang hollow.

As a matter of fact, they marched because they believe they have an ally in the White House. Having a black president for eight years was likely their worst nightmare. Barack Obama did nothing to attack these yahoos. His mere existence was more than they could handle. Hence, the march with the tacky tiki torches. Donald Trump offers one last hope that never again will they live under a Barack Obama or a Hillary Clinton as their president, ruining their world, breaching their fiction that only they matter.

My husband, sister, and I strolled around the Laurel Street Fair in Oakland, California today after brunch. Under the cloudy skies, folks of all colors mingled and chilled. They ate festival goodies, kettle corn, Jamaican food, hot dogs. They bought clothes. They listened to local musicians jam. The kids played with bubbles blown for their amusement.

We saw the real world, how the world behaves when hate does not lurk. It’s a world that does not require energy to exist because it does not have a fiction to maintain. It’s a world that the marchers with tacky tiki torches fear, because they somehow think that they won’t matter anymore.

Well, here’s a clue. If you think that you need to oppress others to exist, then maybe you need to adjust your thinking.

A world without hate, cold chillin’. Laurel Street Fair, Oakland, CA.

Change, My Dear: Women on Doctor Who

Carole Ann Ford as Susan Foreman

Susan Foreman, an unearthly child. We first saw her grooving to the latest hit on her transistor radio, c. 1963. Her teachers, Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton, thought her very peculiar, intelligent beyond her years, but still very much a child.  Susan seemed from another time. They couldn’t quite put their fingers on it. All they knew about her was that she lived with her grandfather, the Doctor (William Hartnell). When they met him, they learned just how peculiar the two of them really were.

Carole Ann Ford played Susan for just one year. She quickly tired of the part and its lack of development. Though the show’s writers used an old trope to write the character out of the show — they married Susan off — her final story gave the character some depth that had been otherwise lacking. What happened next to Susan has remained a mystery on the show for the past 53 years. How sad that not even the rebooted Doctor Who has explored this territory. How did the Doctor come to have a grandchild? Who were Susan’s parents? And what happened to them?

Caroline John as Liz Shaw

Cambridge educated Liz Shaw did not come willingly to the United Nations Task Force, or UNIT. She was more or less drafted by Brigadier Alister Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney, RIP). UNIT specialized in investigating the unexplainable, the mysterious, things from “out there.” She joined in time to meet the return of the Doctor, who, unbeknownst to UNIT, had been forced to regenerate (from Patrick Troughton to Jon Pertwee) and banished to 1970s England. Liz possessed great scientific knowledge, but was no match to the Doctor’s extraterrestrial intelligence. Still, she held her own against the uppity Time Lord, but again, only for a year.

Caroline John (RIP) decided to leave after just one season. At the start of Pertwee’s second season, the Doctor asked about Liz. She went back to Cambridge, the Brigadier explained, wanting to get back to her own work. The Doctor protested. I need an assistant with scientific knowledge. “What you need, Doctor, as Miss Shaw often pointed out,” the Brigadier retorted, “is someone to pass you your test tubes and to tell you how brilliant you are.” He then said that the new assistant, Jo Grant, would fit the bill perfectly.

Katy Manning as Jo Grant

Katy Manning played Jo Grant for three seasons. While she had an air of independence and spunkiness, she still was clearly the Doctor’s assistant, not his equal. And in her turn, when it came time to leave, the writers at the time again chose to marry off the character.

Her successor stumbled into the TARDIS quite by accident. Literally. Sarah Jane Smith snooped around UNIT looking for a story about missing scientists. She went into the TARDIS and found herself in the Middle Ages. At first she thought the Doctor was behind the missing scientists, but soon found that he was trying to right things. She joined him in the adventure and for many more adventures to come.

Sarah Jane Smith, played by the late great Lis Sladen

Played by the late, great Elisabeth Sladen, Sarah Jane Smith remains one of the most beloved companions of all time. Spunky, fiercely independent, very pro-feminist, she was very fond of the Doctor, but would not let him push her around too much. Their relationship evolved from a paternal one under Pertwee to an almost sibling one with Fourth Doctor Tom Baker. When Ms. Sladen decided to move on, for once, they didn’t marry her off. The Doctor had to go home to Gallifrey and felt he could not take her with him. So he took her home, where she resumed her career as a journalist. Many years later, during the time of the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) we discover that she eventually had a son and that the Doctor had dropped her off in Aberdeen, not South Croydon.

Leela, played by Louise Jameson

Leela, Sarah Jane’s successor in the TARDIS, could have been a hot mess. Leela is a huntress, a savage, one who stabs first then asks questions, maybe. A lesser talent would have played her to script, with grunts and snarls, perhaps flashing in the very skimpy outfit they gave the character to wear. Fortunately, Louise Jameson played Leela, and she played her brilliantly. Ms. Jameson’s Leela became Liza Doolittle to the Doctor’s Professor Higgins. Very intelligent, yet often moved by instinct, she did not allow the Doctor to bully her, but she looked up to him. She also became very attached to their robot dog, K-9 (John Leeson).

When she decided to move on, Ms. Jameson wanted Leela killed off, thinking that an appropriate ending for the character. But the producers at the time thought that would be too violent a death. So they married her off instead.

Mary Tamm as the First Romana

After Leela, we finally meet a female Time Lord, or Time Lady: Romanadvoratrelundar, or Romana for short. Shapely, sexy, a top graduate from the Time Lord Academy on Gallifrey, she made the Doctor rather nervous. (He was quite chaste at the time.) Despite her intelligence, she lacked street smarts, so inevitably she followed the Doctor lead.

The Second Romana, Lalla Ward

Mary Tamm (RIP) originated the role, but left after one season. Being a Time Lady, Romana regenerated, in a rather silly scene where she tried out different bodies. Ms. Tamm’s successor, Lalla Ward, played the part with less haughtiness and increased street smarts, able to maneuver enemies almost as effectively as the Doctor. Tom and Lalla had a brief romance and left the show together. Romana was not married off, however. She declared her independence at the end of her last story and went off with K-9 to start a new adventure, to become the Doctor in her own, parallel universe. Sadly, as with Susan, the show has never followed up on whatever happened to her.

New Who companions stand on an equal footing with the Doctor. Indeed, Ninth Doctor Christopher Eccleston has stated that he felt Rose Tyler, played by Billie Piper, was his character’s equal. However, her character was ultimately “married off” to a clone of the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant), a version that could not regenerate and was part human.

Companion Donna, with whom the Doctor “merged” to create the non-regenerating clone, became part Time Lord in the process. The result nearly burned her brain out, thus her memories of the Doctor had to be erased to save her life. She lost her super powers.

So while women on Doctor Who have evolved from screamers to nearly equal partners, they still remain nearly equal, secondary to the Doctor. Ultimately, it’s the Doctor’s show and he’s in charge.

A crack to this narrative developed during the time of the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi). The Doctor didn’t recognize his old friend and deadly adversary at first. She now went by Missy, short for Mistress. As she stated, “Well, I couldn’t very well keep calling myself ‘The Master,’ now could I?”

Missy (Michelle Gomez)

Michelle Gomez owned the screen with every appearance as the evil Time Lord, the Moriarty to the Doctor’s Holmes. She brought an exciting new energy to the character, first introduced in the 70s during Jon Pertwee’s era and played by Roger Delgado. Instead looking like a classic Svengali, like Delgado’s Master, Missy looked like a deranged, nightmarish Mary Poppins. But during her time on the show, Missy evolved. She turned less evil and began showing compassion for the Doctor openly. She craved their ancient friendship, needed it.

Having gone there with Missy, it therefore seems only logical that the show would “evolve” in terms of casting for the Doctor. How very wonderful that they did. I don’t know anything about Jodie Whittaker, the Thirteenth Doctor. I have never seen Broadchurch, where she worked with Doctor Who’s new, incoming show-runner Chris Chibnall. But then, I never heard of Matt Smith, David Tennant, or Christopher Eccleston either and I liked all of them.

Number Thirteen: Jodie Whittaker

As always with Doctor Who, it’s all about the storytelling. I hope her stories soar.

As for those who have bellyached about the Doctor’s change in gender, I’ve seen three tweets that offer the best responses. The first comes from the Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker, who brilliantly paraphrased the first words of his own Doctor:

Merriam-Webster provides lexicographical shade, something it does with great aplomb:

And finally, this response, more than any other, demonstrates why this change matters, why representation matters. (Wait for it…)

Yes, girls have worn long scarfs, fezzes, bowties, and perhaps even celery sticks. But it’s a totally different thing to see a face like your own represented. A woman will be the hero of the day, not just the accessory of the hero. I hope Ms. Whittaker enjoys her run in the TARDIS and that we all enjoy the flights she will take in the ancient craft.

A Perfectly Queer Reading: July 26 in Oakland

So what have I been doing that kept me away from blogging for about a month and a half? Writing a book. More on that later.

Meanwhile, I’ll be reading from and talking about said book, Sin Against the Race, this coming Wednesday as part of Perfectly Queer‘s reading series. Details!

You Are the Author!

Wednesday, July 26, 7PM

Nomadic Press, 2301 Telegraph Ave., Oakland

I’ll be one of eight authors reading. Please come! Perfectly Queer puts on lovely events and it will be even lovelier if you attend.

Signs of Resistance

A simple message.

Signs of resistance. I began noticing them on my trips for take-out Cambodian food, just here and there. I thought vaguely that I should photograph them, but then wouldn’t, too distracted. But on each viewing, each time I passed, they kept calling to me. Finally, the Oakland Museum of California opened an excellent exhibit of Dorothea Lange, the master photographer of the Depression. She documented the Depression so vividly, capturing the  weatherworn, leathered, downturned, enduring, surviving faces. Not the robber barons, not the Wall Street elite, not the Washington politicians, just people trying to make it. Her images allow us to revisit a time when capitalism exploded, creating casualties from coast to coast. Her example got me off my ass and into the streets to take a few photos of what I saw.

Our era shares a trait with the Depression. They are both times when our country failed its citizens. Institutions and protocols that should have prevented a nutjob from winning the presidency failed. A nutjob won, and we’ll suffer the consequences for years to come, even if he doesn’t serve out his entire term.

It’s healthy to see the signs of resistance. They reassure me. We’re all going through this together. We have each other. We’re telling the world that we know we’re living through bullshit and that we’re not a part of it.

I finally started taking pictures because as Ms. Lange demonstrated, it’s important to capture history. These times are not normal. We should continue to document why.

I took all of these in Oakland.

A block in Trestle Glen has many of these signs.

Laurel District. This is one of my favorites. I like the incorporation of the flag. The Right too often hijack patriotism, making it a bludgeon to attack people with. We shouldn’t let that happen.

Redwood Heights.

Many shop owners have placed signs in their windows supporting the Muslim community, the immigrant community, or others attacked by the Trump regime. This one is from Piedmont Ave.

Some have taken matters into their own hands. From a lamppost in the Farmer Joe’s parking lot.

Redwood Heights.

Upper Dimond. I talked to the homeowner who put up this sign, which dates back to 2002. She said a US Marine once came to her door years ago and thanked her for having it up.

Upper Dimond, just up the block from the last one. Love it.

Lincoln Highlands. Lots of these around.

Our neighbor organized the purchase of these signs. They are up and down the block, as well as all over town.

 

Far, Far Away – My First Star Wars

I recall that my older brothers Louis and Robert asked my parents if they could take me to see Star Wars. They likely said, yeah, it’s good, no violence, no sex. My parents trusted their judgement. They said sure. So on one random, wonderful day, 12 year-old gar got to hang with his brothers. The Aries pack.

They were working on an album with their R&B/funk group Free Life. So they owned a piece of the Hollywood streets in those days. We first stopped by a recording studio, just so I could check it out. My eyes popped at the console. All those knobs and levers. Geeks love knobs and levels. Some string section was laying down tracks for someone’s recording. I can still hear the melody. And I still wonder what recording it ended up on. Will I ever hear that riff again?

Walking further up the street, we ran into Philip Bailey. He certainly owned a piece of Hollywood at that time. The Earth Wind and Fire maestro was producing my brother’s Free Life album. What does a 12 year-old say to a living musical legend? I can’t recall what I said, but I remember him being warm and friendly, down to earth.

I expect this was my first trip to Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the last of the great Hollywood cinemas of old. Just one screen in those days. I loved the gaudy exterior and the footsteps of the past embedded at its entryway. By the time we went, “Star Wars,” in its now legendary logo, stood stories high, painted on the side of the building. It played there for a full year. I wonder if it was the last first-run film to have so long a run at the Chinese or any theater.

A know-it-all friend from elementary school had seen it before me. We still talked on the phone occasionally, even though we had matriculated out of Normandie Avenue Elementary and didn’t see each other much. He liked to brag, put on airs, show off. He once bought some Star Trek something or other because I didn’t have the money at the time to do so. Mom came just a bit too late. She was mad that he one-upped me like that. So he called to one-up me again, going on and on about Star Wars and how cool it was. Either I tuned him out or had a bad memory, because little of what he said I retained. No spoilers ruined my viewing experience, sweetie.

When the movie started, at first I was confused. Are they playing the reels out of order? It seemed like we were starting in the middle of something. I was taking a writing class that summer. The instructor taught that one should always formally introduce characters. Later I would find her advise led to pedantic writing and storytelling. I didn’t know it at the time, but Star Wars taught me that lesson. It threw me into the action. After getting over the “who are they, what’s going on” feelings, I became spellbound.

I saw Star Wars three times that summer of 1977. One of the trips may have been by myself, likely my first solo trip to Hollywood on the bus. One was with the whole family. As a family of sci-fi nerds, from Lost in Space to Doctor Who, we were in nirvana. How my parents loved it. I can still hear my mother’s remarks on every scene to this day.

But that first time was special. Just me hanging with two of my older bros, tasting their world, trying to match their swagger. It was a good day.

How to Kill a Democracy

Only now as our democracy unravels do we see its vulnerabilities. It functions only so long as participants obey long held protocols and precedences. Once abandoned, chaos rules.

Think of driving. You don’t run a red light. You don’t cross the double yellow line. Break these rules and an accident can occur. Last winter, after the nation committed political suicide, I saw someone wildly and freely cross the yellow line on the road again and again. He didn’t care. He looked like he was enjoying himself. The woman sitting next to him also seemed to enjoy the ride. Perhaps he was trying to impress her. Maybe they were both high. He hit no one because other drivers steered clear of him. I waited on a side street for him to pass.

Mitch McConnell crossed the yellow line last year by refusing to allow the Senate to consider President Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee. Like Regina Giddens in Little Foxes, McConnell stood by while the democratic process had a heart attack and flopped off-stage to die.

Republicans in North Carolina, stunned that they did not hold onto the governorship, crossed the yellow line with verve. They subverted the democratic process by passing dubious laws to take power away from Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. Mark Joseph Stern at Slate described their move as “an alarming departure from basic democratic norms.” Among many other things, the new laws would have altered the make up of state election boards, preventing the governor from appointing majorities, as had been allowed previously. Fortunately, the courts blocked most of these laws from taking effect.

They aren’t finished yet, though. North Carolina Republicans continue to pass mean measures out of spite. Example: defund programs for children in Democratic districts.

These type of actions show a willful determination to subvert the democratic process. But they all pale in comparison to actions by the current occupant of the White House.

I don’t see a double yellow line. I think bigly. Believe me.

Consider Donald Trump the Careener in Chief. He sees no double yellow line, other cars, sidewalks, or pedestrians. He sees only himself behind the wheel, looking tough. During the election, he broke precedence by not releasing his tax returns. He engaged in name-calling. He tweeted whatever batshit crazy idea came to mind. All small potatoes. Now that he’s in office, he’s really gone to town.

Trump has yet to meet an Executive Order he does not like. Curiously, his Republican colleagues have also developed a taste for them. Just a year ago, they accused the former White House occupant of issuing too many. How things have change.

They have changed. President Obama, a legal scholar, vetted and prepped his executive orders to a fault, to maximize their influence and staying power. By contrast, Trump’s team slaps them together like sloppy joes, and they hold together about as well. Courts made fast work of the two Muslim immigration bans issued by executive order, much to Trump’s chagrin.

It took President Obama and Congressional Democrats nearly two years to craft the Affordable Care Act. Republicans plan to dismantle and replace it in a matter of months. In the process, the House created a plan that would eliminate healthcare for tens of millions. It would also cause rates to rise for those with “pre-existing conditions,” a term defined so broadly that one could consider birth itself a pre-existing condition.

Trump drove the process behind the Republican’s American Health Care Act. But he accomplishes far more damage when careening solo. Despite flaccid assurances to the contrary, he has thoroughly entangled his family business with the presidency. His children and in-laws have free reign to do whatever inside and on behalf of the White House. To their way of thinking, “emoluments” is just a big fancy word in the dictionary. Thus, we do not know if Trump and his brood pursue policies for the good of the country or for the good of Trump, Inc. No other presidency in modern history has had so many conflicts of interest.

Much careening took place this last week. He fired FBI Director James Comey in a way most bizarre and abrupt. Can you imagine finding out you lost your job while talking to subordinates by glancing at the TV? Trump didn’t even have the decency to call the man on the phone. No doubt he occupied his phone too much with tweeting. While Trump’s surrogates continued to spin the tale that the Comey firing had nothing to do with investigations into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, Trump himself admitted that it did. Later, we learned that Trump apparently asked Comey to stop investigating former national security advisor Michael Flynn.

Shortly after firing Comey, Trump met with Russian officials at the White House. One could call this bad optics, except that no American press were allowed to photograph the meetings. Russian press, however, were allowed. Now we have learned that Trump passed confidential information to the Russians. Vetting? Nah! Trump divulged the info in a fit of braggadocio. Never mind that we gained the info from Israel and did not seek permission to share it. By passing the info, Trump may have compromised the Israeli asset who provided it. Who cares, though, right? Showing off one’s “intelligence” is far more important the abiding by silly rules and protocols.

Careen, careen, careen.

The California Driver Handbook states that one cannot cross a double yellow line, except when instructed by “construction or other signs” because the road is blocked. Otherwise, careening across the double yellow line is illegal, subject to a ticket and possible fines.

Not all of Trump’s careening has broken laws. Most have only broken precedence and protocol. We have a functioning democracy because until now most participants have agreed to obey these unwritten rules. Now that so many Republicans have abandoned them, or careened over them, our democracy lies in the balance.

With Republicans in control of Congress, only they can start the official processes necessary to keep the president in check, up to and including impeachment. They could rise above partisanship and do the right thing. But so far, they haven’t. Again, procedures, protocols, and precedence have no meaning anymore. Look at this another way. If President Obama had done one-eighth the things Trump has, he would have been impeached ten times over.

Healthcare, the environment, international relations are all victims of Trump’s and the Republican’s lack of judgement and observance of protocol. But the biggest victim is our democracy itself. For survival many Republicans have tried to steer clear of Trump. None of us, however, can afford to stand on the sidelines and wait for him to pass. We must continue to resist and speak out so that ultimately he gets kicked out of office.

The Coulter Counterculture

Mario Savio spent his summer vacation in 1964 doing voter registration work in the South. Racist thugs beat him and a couple of his friends, the price of the ticket for many civil rights workers. One thug had to pay $50 for the crime.

Returning to school for the fall semester at UC Berkeley, he intended to raise money for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Things didn’t go quite as planned. Berkeley had a policy banning political fundraising and activities. Undeterred, he proceeded with his activities anyway. Thus begat Berkeley’s famous Free Speech Movement.

That movement’s legacy continues to this day. For the past 50-plus years, students continue to speak on the steps at Sproul Hall, now named for Mario Savio. Groups set up tables near those steps promoting social and political causes, from dances to fundraisers to Jesus to radical queer theory.

Community activists and street performers have taken to Savio Steps. Friend and Free Speech Warrior Stoney Burke ruled the roost on the steps for years, before decamping just north of Sather Gate to the less congested Dwinelle Plaza. (Stoney Plaza anyone?)

In addition to naming the steps in Mr. Savio’s honor, UC Berkeley also hosts the annual Mario Savio Memorial Lecture. Sponsored by a fund established in Mr. Savio’s name, speakers have included Robert Reich, Angela Davis, and Elizabeth Warren.

Mario Savio had no friends on the right. J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI dogged him like they dogged everyone who made waves. Then-Governor Ronald Reagan was also not a fan. So of course it is the biggest of ironies that rightwing activities now cite the movement Mr. Savio championed in their calls for equal representation at the famously liberal university. Last February now-disgraced rightwing provocateur Milo Yiannapoulos came to campus, but had his event shutdown for public safety reasons. A violent demonstration began, causing some property damage and injuring some people.

Provocation continues. David Horowitz had an event shutdown a couple of weeks ago. Apparently, the event could not take place as planned due to public safety concerns.

Undeterred, the Berkeley Campus Republicans made plans to bring rightwing flamethrower Ann Coulter to campus to give a speech. Again, public safety concerns led the University to first cancel the event, but then they backtracked. It’s been a public back and forth ever since, with the campus offering an alternate date and Ms. Coulter vowing to speak on April 27, her original date, whether the campus liked it or not. Folks speculate that she’ll take to Savio Steps and decry the University’s attempt to stifle conservative voices.

Lynne Hollander Savio, Mario Savio’s widow, had this to say about the Coulter controversy:

“I don’t think Ann Coulter has anything useful to say, but it was unconstitutional for the university to bar her from speaking…”
New York Times, April 21, 2017

Ms. Savio also suggests that the ideals of the FSM are being coopted by some folks on the right, like the Coulters and Yiannapouloses of the world.

Mario Savio did not receive payment for speaking on the steps that now bare his name. Stoney Burke received a busker’s salary for the work he did on and near the steps. Ann Coulter was to have received a speaker’s fee in excess of $20,000 for her appearance. Who knew free speech could pay so well?

To the right, everything is a commodity. A motivation to help the Civil Rights Movement propelled Mr. Savio to speak out. Today, right wing bomb-throwers, who spend most of their time belittling others, want to use free speech as a cause célèbre, to stick it to liberals, and as a cash cow.

In his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, now-Senator Al Franken titled his chapter on Coulter “Ann Coulter: Nutcase.” A fair assessment. I don’t deny that even a “nutcase” has a right to speak her mind. I do, however, question the right’s sudden fealty to free speech and the provocative way in which they pursue it.

Mr. Savio did not have large organizations backing him up the way Ms. Coulter does. He did not have a team of A-list attorney’s fighting for his rights in the courts. Furthermore, he fought a system in order to better humanity. Coulter appears to be fighting to further embolden an establishment already drunk with power. And, of course, for her own self-aggrandizement.

Under those circumstances, I’d be shocked to see her take the famous steps, sans a formal audience, sans security, sans perhaps her speaker’s fee, to boldly proclaim whatever it is she has to proclaim. Mario Savio left behind very big shoes. I don’t think they are her size.

UPDATE: And minutes after posting this, “free speech warrior” Ann Coulter is already changing her tune and saying that she might not come after all. Ha! The Young America’s Foundation, which likely bankrolled Coulter’s appearance, pulled out of the event. No speaker’s fee, no speaker. So much for championing free speech.

Lacerate Hate with Levity

Berkeley’s 30 year-old Farmer’s Market has apparently been cancelled this weekend. It’s only been cancelled once before due to a gale storm. This time, it faces a different type of storm. Some might call them stormtroopers.

For the second time in as many months, Trump supporters plan to hold a rally in Berkeley. Their objective is obvious: rile the local snowflakes into violence and create yet another distraction for the Trump Administration. Why talk about his Administration’s ties to Russia or his saber rattling with North Korea or his harsh domestic policies when you can show video of Trump supporters set upon by upset snowflakes in the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement?

I can think of better ways to deal with Trump supporters. Mock them. Make fun of them. Laugh at them. They have anger and hate on their side. We don’t need to challenge them on that front. We have much more potent weapons. Music. Humor. Satire. These weapons leave much deeper wounds. We should never hesitate to use them. Lacerate hate with levity.

Ladies Against Women remains a favorite satirical reaction to right-wing bafflegab. Created in 1980, it mocked Ronald Reagan, Phyllis Schlafly, and others who sought to throw women back to the 18th century.

A more recent favorite is the sousaphone player who mocked a Klan rally by just blowing his horn. Dumpy music with a Wagnerian chaser. His video has over close to seven million views. The Klan didn’t have a chance.

These are the examples to follow. Don’t fight anger with anger. We’re better than that. Be creative. Hit them in ways that they are unprepared for or incapable of responding to.