Category Archives: Political

Only Some Power Comes from the Barrel of a Gun

Content note: article contains some descriptions of violence. It also doesn’t come down on one side or the other of gun control arguments.

In June 2016, someone who doesn’t deserve to be remembered by name shot up a gay club in Orlando. A lot of people shouted for gun control, but myself, I suddenly wanted a gun. In February 2017, two months after I came out as trans, I watched a video of Dandara dos Santos, a trans woman from Brazil, begging for her life before she was beaten to death with a 2×4.

All I could think was: if I carried a gun, no one could beat me to death with a 2×4.

Now, in February 2018, after another mass shooting at another high school, gun control is on everyone’s minds. Students around the country are organizing, because they don’t want to live in a country where every Tom, Dick, and Nikolas has an AR-15.

As an anarchist, I don’t tend to believe in legislative solutions to problems. As a trans woman, I desire to own the means by which to defend myself with lethal force. As a human, though, I don’t like when people shoot people and that people are going to bat so hard to defend people’s right to own the things that shoot people.

In the wake of the most recent shooting, I think it’s important to remember that mass shootings are not just created by access to guns. Mass shootings are the result of the toxic aspects in contemporary masculinity. Mass shootings are the result of homophobia, misogyny, and white supremacy. Mass shootings are the result of a cultural meme — that is, a self-replicating idea that has taken on a life of its own — currently embedded into America.

Yet… mass shootings might also be the result of access to guns. Guns are power. Power — unevenly distributed — is always the problem.
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Strategic Optimism

I want to die in bed, a hundred years old, having lived most of my life in a stateless, anticapitalist society. This is possible. Authoritarianism is not unconquerable. I don’t believe in utopia, per se, and I don’t think an anarchist society would be perfect, but I believe we could live a lot healthier, happier, and more freely than we do now. So I want to win. I believe it’s possible for us to win.

On the other hand, I don’t expect to.

I came to terms a long time ago with my investment in this hopeless cause. Even when I was an eager and innocent baby anarchist, I never believed that a beautiful, black-and-red dawn was about to break across the horizon. I cut my teeth getting my ass kicked by cops trying to stop a war and trying to stop corporate globalization, then moved on to the insurmountable task of trying to slowly shift culture towards anti-authoritarian values. I never expected to win. I try to fight like I’m going to, though.

Acting as though winning is a serious possibility is the only way for it to become even the barest possibility.

Fighting to win, and fighting for what I actually believe in instead of some watered down compromise, has proven to just outright be a better way to live. Furthermore, acting as though winning is a serious possibility is the only way for it to become even the barest possibility.

My optimism is a cynical optimism, a strategic optimism, but it’s optimism nonetheless.
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Let Me Tell You What A Good Job My Friends Are Doing of Destroying Gender

There are a handful of fights going on in contemporary feminism right now, and one of the most heated is about the issue of trans-acceptance. Like any good fight, we can rudely simplify it down to two sides. On one side, you have trans-inclusive feminism. On the other, you have what are generally known as TERFs: trans-exclusive radical feminists. For context, I am a transwoman.

TERFs claim they want to destroy gender. The thing is, though, that us trans-accepting feminists are doing a better job of it.

The fight between these two sides is, fundamentally, incapable of resolution — we both use the same words but we mean different things, so each of our viewpoints is all but absurd to the other party.
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Cede No Ground To Fascists

When the nazis came to town, a friend of mine got in her pickup truck and drove around the entire night. Not just to keep track of the fascists, but to give rides and offer safety to anyone and everyone who felt threatened by them. I know without a doubt she would have climbed out of her truck and intervened more bodily if it had been required of her.

She’s also white and has a rather large and prominent tattoo of Mjolnir, “Thor’s hammer.” She listens to black metal, writes in runes, tends towards misanthropy, and draws strength from the old gods. These are all things a lot of nazis do too. Which is to say, my friend spends a lot of her time in contested cultural terrain. I love her for it.
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I Was A Teenage Anarchist And Now I’m A Mid-Thirties Anarchist

Fifteen years ago today, on February 2nd, 2002, I became an anarchist. I was nineteen, living in NYC, and I attended the World Economic Forum protests. I knew the anarchists by reputation only — they wore all black and they smashed things. They were going to wear masks in defiance of NYC’s anti-mask laws. I wanted to know why, so I approached a man with his face obscured by a black bandanna.

“What’s anarchism?” I asked.

“Well, we hate capitalism and the state.” He was very forthcoming, which I appreciated.

“What do you all do about it?”

“We build up alternative institutions without hierarchy while attacking and interfering with the existing, oppressive ones we despise.”

“Oh,” I said. I pondered this for a moment, but honestly only a moment. “Do you have an extra mask?”

He did, and he gave it to me. Simple as that, I became an anarchist.
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Actions Speak Louder Than Votes

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” —Assata Shakur

I admit, I’m terrified.

(Usually I write blogposts several days ahead of time and put them through several rounds of edits. This one I wrote and posted this morning, because even though I’ve been thinking about, and listening to others’ thoughts about, a Trump victory, I didn’t actually think it was going to happen.)

We don’t know what happens now. We don’t know if all our much-acclaimed checks and balances will keep the status quo of the country (already a totalitarian nightmare of police check points, deportations, stop and frisk, and mass incarceration for many of its inhabitants) intact. We do know that this nation elected an “unelectable” racist demagogue who quotes Mussolini, brags about sexually assaulting women, and isn’t even a very good businessman.

We also know that the Republicans control the house and senate. This isn’t unprecedented: George Bush, Jr. came into office with a republican majority congress as well. Which didn’t go so well for anyone, at home or abroad, though most of us survived it.

But, at least in rhetoric, Trump makes George Bush, Jr. look like a beacon of tolerance and love.
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Lower Leftism: Expanding Upon the Political Map

There’s a simple-but-effective “political compass” used by many people I know. “Compass” has always seemed like a misnomer, and I prefer the word “map.” This map has two axes: left/right economics and libertarian/authoritarian structure. The idea is that individuals, groups, and societies can be placed on the map so that they can be understood in relation to one another.

It’s a good starting point. I’d like to expound upon it by recalibrating it and providing further subdivisions.

Proposed two-axis political map, with subdivisions.
Proposed two-axis political map, with subdivisions.

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Men With Beards Wearing Dresses Are Ruining The Country

I was driving through northwestern Ohio, which from the car window sure looks like a series of small towns strung out along cornfields. No offense to cornfields of course. My high school in Maryland was surrounded on three sides by cornfields. But my phone was broken so I was stuck listening to the radio and I’d made the mistake of tuning in to the local Christian talk radio station.

“Now, they say they just want to use the bathroom,” the announcer said, “but it’s really a trojan horse. What they actually want to do is destroy the nuclear family and drive us away from God.”
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Gandalf Isn’t Running For President

When I was young and naive I half-heartedly campaigned for Ralph Nader. It was the year 2000 and I wasn’t quite old enough to vote but I had a green party pin on the lapel of my corduroy blazer. I’m as embarrassed of my teenage fashion choices as I am of having ever supported third party politics, if I’m being honest.

I had my excuses and talking points all lined up. Not about the corduroy, there’s no excusing corduroy. About the pin. About Ralph Nader.

“He’s unelectable,” someone might say.

“That’s only because we assume it to be true,” I said. “The only reason we’re locked into a two-party system is because people say we are.”

I think I got that line from my friend, the Nader campaign coordinator on campus. Thanks to the Nader campaign, he and I both got to feel like we were part of something important.

Nader lost, and a year later I realized that the only reason we’re trapped in capitalism and statist politics is because people assume we are. People assume revolution is off the table. People assume that taking autonomy for ourselves and defending it is off the table. We, as people, can reconstruct society to be anything we want it to be, and I’d been wasting my time imagining spending that potential on some vaguely-better version of the status quo.

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The Fires Out West

I left Seattle on an Amtrak. Heading north, I saw the Olympic peninsula burning. I was watching a rainforest on fire. Rainforests aren’t supposed to be on fire.

I felt almost nothing.

I’ve heard it called “disaster fatigue.” No one on the train reacted while the announcer told us what we were watching. I’d been a committed environmentalist anarchist for more than a decade, and I was numb.

* * *

People maybe rearranged deck chairs on the Titanic while it sank. So what. What do you want them to have done? Run around screaming?
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