Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Glorification of Grand Juries: Stop. Now. And Publicly Renounce Your Error.

Commence Oblivion 

Stop glorifying grand juries. Even if they're "on your side." Stop it now. Just stop. Trust me. Never trust anyone who says, "Trust me." But trust me: full stop.

Grand juries are rogue entities without oversight of any kind who can swoop in and detain anyone under arbitrary secret surveillance state dicta, without much if any cause, as Manning, Snowden, Assange, Greenwald, Poitras, Potter, et al. have risked their lives and safety, gone to prison and into exile to inform and warn us about. Grand juries symbolize everything about the (surveillance) state (and beyond) we should stand united against. So, stand united against them with us.

When Monday evening the top trending social media topic was "Planned Parenthood Not Indicted About Selling Fetal Tissue, but Two Activists Are Indicted for Producing Fake Anti-Choice Videos" or whatever the SEO gods named the thing that everyone was momentarily paying rapt attention to, a wave of nausea and disgust passed over me. I've heard the horror stories about grand juries: the obfuscation, the complete ruination of lives and livelihoods and personages, the Red and Green Scare chilling effect tactics, the prosecutorial puppetry. Remaining improbably still slightly naive about the General State of Things - here referring to knowledge about grand juries - I was even shocked to see the shibboleths of the liberal anti-forced birth leadership praising the plot twist in the narrative of abortion rhetoric, which let's face it, is not news to BAMF readers, anti-natalists, leftists, among others who can see a scripted story playing out like a fifth grade rendition of "Our Town." Yet somehow I was sickened. Somehow the cynicism has not yet seeped to the very marrow of my bones. Stupid lingering remnants of romantic cautious optimism. How dare I assume that comrades, feminist associates, fellow repro-opponents, like-minded uterine autonomists, and other uncharacterizable (I'm not generally an apt applier of labels) sympathizers would recognize this disgusting and thinly veiled ploy to gain public approval for grand juries by rallying support around their heroic indictment of what are undoubtedly unscrupulous and disgusting individuals preventing women from accessing health care they need to remove toxic parasites from their bodies? What is wrong with me? And, more relevantly here, with you?

Do not glorify grand juries. If you do, you're doing feminism wrong. You're doing communism wrong. You're doing Marxism wrong. You're doing anarchism wrong. You're doing Leftism wrong. You're doing things generally wrong. If you support grand juries under any circumstance, you might be a liberal. You also might be a conservative. You also might be a capitalist. Whatever you identify as or actually are, you're wrong. So please for the love of the hate of the state, stop. Just stop. And renounce your support. Post this. Post a bunch of links I'll include despite BAMF's new approach that does not require submissions to have credible citations and reliable research, be bogged down with Marxian terminology, or include trendy whatever-is-in-style-at-time-of-posting rhetorical strategies. I'm running on instincts here, taking a cue from Salvage. The screeds have commenced.

Presumably, everyone reading this can google. If not, I'm not an Expert but I can and have googled for you. I have personally seen it transpire. I have read innumerable accounts of grand juries ruining lives. I have no other pressing reason to butt up against the organizations with the most funding and public support to continue to provide safe, free/affordable (in some cases) abortions while fighting legislative battles to keep it that way. At this juncture, my reason for harshly criticizing the response of Planned Parenthood, NARAL, National Network of Abortion Funds, and countless others praising the use of grand juries in favor of their cause(s) is because my devotion to smashing the state and communism trumps my need to blindly support abortion providers' and their financial backers' political stances. 

Commence Wolfe

One of the most fundamental differences between liberals and Marxists is the way they conceive of the state. For the liberal, the state is a fundamentally beneficent entity—an expression of a social contract between equals, existing for the good of us all, legitimated by the consent of the governed. If the state is failing to act for the common benefit, acting in an oppressive way, they see these actions as uncharacteristic, as deformations. The problem, they say, is we have failed to get the right people in charge, perhaps due to the pernicious influence of big money or, more often, a barely disguised disgust at the fact that ignorant white trash rednecks are still allowed the franchise.

This view leads to a tendency to think that the problem is not with the existence of grand juries but that they have become perverted by prosecutorial bad apples, that the problem is not with the modern surveillance state, but with the people doing the surveilling, that the problem is not with drone assassinations, but with those whose fingers are on the buttons.

Since the state so often fails to live up to liberal expectations, they must tell themselves stories. One story is that we have Fallen from the wisdom embedded in the Constitution, and if we returned to these principles—principles contrived by and for wealthy slave owners—then things would once again be set aright. Another popular story looks back to a more recent “golden age.” They tell us of the wonders of the great F.D.R., who put our nation on the correct course. F.D.R., the East Coast patrician, was a veritable Fredrick the Great who through his enlightened ideas and out of the goodness of his wealthy heart realized the true role of government and showered the working class with benefits. Then came the dark times and Reagan the Usurper...

Those with a Marxist outlook ought know better. The state, for Marx, has always been an instrument by which one class secures its rule over others. It does not act on the behalf of all equally, but on behalf of those whose rule it exists to secure. Any benefits offered to other classes are but instruments for this end. The “social contract” is a convenient fiction, cooked up to justify this. The influence of big money on government under capitalism is not a distortion of the system but of its essence. Given all of this, the state is by nature in the business of repression.

However, too many people who otherwise realize this remain within the spell of the myth of the beneficent state. They cheer when it scores a victory for “their side.” This tendency must be fought. The bourgeois state does not work for us. Occasionally it will, for reasons of its own, haul some dishonest right-wing propagandists up on charges. But when it does something like this it pays to bear in mind that pro-forced birth activists pose no danger whatsoever to capitalist rule, and that left wing activists and environmentalists do.

Oblivion for the Conclusion

May I reiterate my disappointment? Geez, people, really? No one stopped to consider the implications of this uncritical praise for and gushing over a grand jury? Have we forgotten the very recent Tamir Rice no vote? Have we forgotten the historical persecution of communistsAnd anarchists? Have we forgotten the indefinite detention of and terrorism charges brought against animal rights and earth liberation activists? Tune in, folks. You're next. Once you endorse this, you've always already signed an agreement written in invisible ink, agreed to comply, encouraged more persecution of activists of all stripes. And a lot of others' are next as well. Don't make everyone a bed you don't want to lie in yourself.

Notes from Oblivion:

• This post is the first formal collaboration between me and John Wolfe, as well as the (I believe) second attempt to switch up the structural and stylistic approach to BAMF. Let us know your thoughts about the collaboration, the switch up, and the content.

• Some of the following articles are flawed in various ways, but their validity and relevance remains intact. Grand juries are dangerous, secretive, and CAN AND WILL pull yo' ass up on charges out of the blue. They must be abolished. Get on board. Now.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Rushed Late Night Scribbles on Student Loan Debt Strike Strategy: Part I

When does the student loan debt strike start?

I asked that question a few short hours or long minutes ago. For some it has already begun. There are anecdotal claims that a third of student loans are currently in default; other sources say 17%, or 7 million. There must be an equation that the feds and private loan sharks have devised to calculate risks, costs, and recovery rates. Here are some tedious definitions, statistics, and forecasts for those who choose to wade through them. Numerous people involved in (now apparently called claim to have withheld payment from 5 to more than 20 years. Vice is perpetuating the idea that moving abroad - seemingly to Europe then perhaps to South America - and defaulting on loans is a relatively safe bet and good idea because the loan sharks are focusing on deploying collection agencies on defaulters in the US, who they can more easily track and efficiently penalize. Arguments have been made that countries who refuse to allow US student loan collection entities to harass their residents would gain well-educated, spirited US ex-pats who would enrich their culture.

While the keyboard is hot and the mind is sharp, "I want to live on the abstract plane" and take an aerial view. Perhaps an economist like Doug Henwood or Richard D. Wolff will give us some market-based insights later. For now, I'll tell you intuitively what I think could happen. If 1/3 of student loans are indeed currently in default, then 2/3 are being paid regularly, irregularly, are in deferment, are in forbearance, or are in some other state-sanctioned state of flux that excludes them as being classified as in default. If .5-1/3 of the 2/3 of ostensibly non-defaulted student debtors actively making payments were to suddenly, simultaneously halt student loan payments for 6 to 12 months, it would prompt at least some concessions to our collective demands and at best a collapse of what everyone knows and recognizes as the latest version of the housing bubble and another formation of the dot-com bubble. We know this; we watched it happen. Investments were made, the returns were much lower than expected, growth stopped or declined, the market crashed, the bubbles burst (why such a happy image of bubbles for such a ruinous phenomena?). Fine. The market fails. But it didn't crash and burn. And we didn't get any concessions. Why? No demands. Why? A lack of organized strategy around foreclosures, bankruptcies, and the stalling/failing/sinking of startups.


There are a bunch of "immediate defaulters" (i.e. "starting-gunners") for lack of a more precise, less connotatively pejorative term. Immediate defaulters are likely already factored into the equation that the loan sharks have inevitably always already constructed. That means the interest rates, punitive repercussions, and other strategies to force payment from statistically "reliable" debtors are already built into the system. Interest rates may be higher to compensate loan sharks for what they bet on losing from their profit margins to immediate defaulters. Penalties for defaulting once you start paying, such as garnishment of wages and seizing of homes; ruining of credit lines necessary to buy homes; paying for medical care; and affording transportation in areas where public transit infrastructure is so disjointed and underfunded that having, maintaining, insuring, registering, licensing, fueling, and storing a car is the most efficient/only practical means of going places to earn money to pay for the education that allowed you to be considered for a job to begin with, as well as to the places you spend money because you need goods and services, are more directly threatening than those to the starting-gunners who've never paid at all. Personally, I owe more than $150k in student loan debt, primarily due to borrowing as an uninformed and displaced teen, subsequently as an uninformed, disillusioned 19- to 21-year-old MA student, and finally as a slightly informed, defiant twenty-something PhD student.

My presumptions about (premeditated, conscious) immediate defaulters (I always assumed I'd be one, and I only know three well) run along the lines of: Merchants who have already paid off their business loans and don't report their earnings accurately to the Tax Man who doesn't look too closely at the perpetuator of the US myth of the hardworking, successful, albeit a bit rebellious, independent entrepreneur; wealthy people who hide behind smokescreens of marriage, attorneys, reproductive expenses, and other state institutions because they continue to reproduce the Center, the labor force, the nuclear family; the working class who are accustomed to hiding from the government's attempts to garnish their wages and seize their personal property and even their bodies; the working class who are incapable of navigating the labyrinthine process required to establish an accepted payment plan to keep the wolves from the door and can't afford an attorney or are not wired to pursue and engage with bureaucracy; craftspeople, artisans, artists, and small merchants who sell things in online stores and local markets and street fairs and don't report the income; and those who simply don't care about consequences or aren't aware of exactly how dire they could be (we might say they have nothing to lose but their chains, but I'll not wax idealistic at this hour.).

These cowboys, these cavalier people who haven't paid a dime in ages/ever are to be admired. By me, anyway. I've paid thousands and the loan balance never decreases. You know why. Interest rates. Economic curves. Income-based repayment. You're out of a job precarious person? Ah, well, we won't evict you, steal your unemployment check, and take your car, but we will capitalize the interest that accrued while you used one of the (is it still three?) trump cards of failure that you're allowed as a student loan debt slave. In fact, use all of those cards because then the threats become imminent. You're educated, you have what we know you think we think is earning/producing potential, and you have what we know you think we think is an ethical and moral obligation to pay back money you borrowed from us, you hippie. Why were you taking out loans at age 16 anyway, dropout loser? (That's Doctor Dropout Loser, to you.) It's a credible threat because we assume you're well-traveled and well-read, that you want to maintain your US citizenship and probably live here, and if not here then in a Western or Eurocentric nation with which we have a robust collections agreement. By the way, despite Vice's often tenuous claims, the last time I checked a few years ago, the only place student loan debt collectors cannot follow one is to Cuba (probably on its way off the list if it has not already conceded to US interests, pun intended), Iran, and North Korea. Pretty bleak options any way you slice it, even for my Maoist readers and comrades.

But these cowboys are not alleviating any problems. Renegades are badasses. I love them. One of the top 10 most memorable things anyone has ever said to me was, "Okay, but where are you going to meet another partner who supports the FARC?" Though the nuance of my position was lost on them - as my nuances and all nuances so frequently are lost - the underlying implication of their point is valid. Renegades, rebels, radical fronts, and spontaneous disrupters are badasses. They lay it all on the line. That is admirable, something I wish I were more like. But here are the 2/3 of us, paying our monthly alimony to the spouse we supported for so long that we must now pay to sustain the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed and paying child support if we had someone we value co-sign, like our elderly parents, our established older siblings, our recently deceased grandparents, et al., or we'll lose custody. Luckily I declined the co-signing option, and unluckily they were throwing tens of thousands of dollars at me per semester. TENS OF THOUSANDS PER SEMESTER. In the US, a semester is something like four months. Then there are the couple of summer terms. So I could have gotten $30k for the fall and spring semesters, plus more for summer terms, at any given time. Often I did opt for the maximum amount. When I started college part-time at 14, I paid tuition with money from my fast food job. Once enrolled full-time at 17, I worked a lot and took mid-range loans (say $8k a semester, probably $4k all summer) and lived with roommates. But the further I went down the academic path, the more serious debt sums I racked up.

The Rest of Us

Then there are those of us who intend to pay, have paid what and when we can, and are able to nimbly navigate nightmarish bureaucratic  mazes to enroll in state-sanctioned payment plans as the loan sharks sponge all of our expendable income. It seems we're on our own, but we are many, we are everywhere, we are millions. And this is not to dismiss offhand the courage/ignorance/lack of bureaucratic navigation skills of immediate defaulters. It is to simply state that some of us are wired to Follow the Rules and read tedious wording, qualifications, options, caveats and legalese, which has (as much as I hate to give the Obama administration credit for anything but war crimes and bolstering of the surveillance state) become more manageable for the economic layperson. It's markedly easier to identify, compare, and select from several limited but at long last comprehensible repayment options. 

Communists think collectively. How can we movement build? How can we alleviate suffering? How can we unify as a class? Even while people in other places under other conditions may be suffering more intensely and in different ways, there is always a fight within our own ring, there is always someone to get on the ropes, there is always a stand to take. And this one looks ripe for the taking. Let's assume the cowboy renegades are not having any of our silly ideas about mass movements, unity of struggle, and other people's problems. We'll be dismissed as some kind of privileged opportunists and petit bourgeois whiners by our liberal social justice acquaintances and leftcom and third-worldists comrades, respectively. We should be grateful we even got to go to college, the first might say. Our futile attempts to jab capital's jaw is an impotent waste of time and energy, the second might say. There is only one class that can start the Thing that ends the Thing that causes suffering, the third might say. Then again, I don't know what anyone will say. Nor do I particularly care. I'm playing fast and loose with my BAMF style, structure, and typical approach right now because I want to get this message to you now. 

Don't look to the starting-gunners, don't place your bets on government loan forgiveness under Bernie or anyone else. Look to the millions of people around you who are in eerily similar situations revolving around this singular present-day matter that is so deeply entwined with the financial sector and the state. Ask them how they feel about and what they would do to overturn student loan debt. Look inside and ask yourself what you're honestly willing to actually do about it. What are our demands? The US is begging for a general student loan debt strike (perhaps a general debt strike). You think about it, I'll sleep on it, and always feel free to comment below with your thoughts. Let's see what kind of organizational strategies can be deployed/would work the most effectively to achieve such a feat, for we need a mass movement to tackle such a massive plague. No amount of restless late night thinking and keyboard clacking from me can replace that.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Pro-Abortion Activism: The Most Dangerous Type

All Apologies, Again.

Many apologies to BAMF readers. Both of our current contributors are working on long-form pieces that make consistently generating content in a timely fashion for BAMF challenging. Your favorite contributor, Dr. John Wolfe, is working on a theoretical book that I'm not authorized to disclose much about here while teaching Marxism to our potential future comrades. I recently finished my first novel and irresistible internal and external pleas and demands to edit it and send it out into the world to find its place call day and night. Now allow me to proceed. 

Oh, wait, one more preamble. We've established that the terms used in abortion rhetoric are outdated and ineffective, and, yes, I am painstakingly working toward an entirely new, updated, rhetorically effective lexicon, as previously proposed. Let's try a few terms and phrases on for size to see how they suit us. Feedback about the various terms and phrases employed is more than welcomed; it is solicited and appreciated. Please comment below on any of the many I throw around, as I flail and struggle to develop more useful, relevant terminology to describe precise and nuanced positions and procedures, thereby destroying the gossamer that obscures the actual function of abortion in our society* - which is not to punish some whore for having sex by forcing her to reproduce - but which is to terminate life-endangering parasites in a safe manner at the discretion of the host. This is a social good, as any leftist and/or logician knows. Okay, let's go.

Abortion rights activism is the most dangerous kind of activism.**

This said, there must be a distinction made here, early, between Being (Perceived As)/(Identifying As) Something - such as a gender, an ethnicity, a race, a threat, a nationality, a follower of a religion, an adherent to a political ideology - and Being Someone Attempting To Protect Someone/Something Who/That Is/Are (Perceivied/Identify As) Something. Do not mistake the point: Being a black man, wearing a burka, following Islam, being LGBTQ, being a woman, being a child, existing as an abortion clinic, and providing abortion in the US*** is more dangerous than attempting to protect such intensely persecuted groups/things. So, there are those who are in danger, are discriminated against, are casually murdered at a frighteningly accelerating rate, are stalked, harassed, kidnapped, held captive, coerced, raped, tortured; and there are those of us who notice, become aware of, and become passionate about creating and/or guarding a safe place for the persecuted to exist, deterring and confronting threats of encroachment upon these entities' being, existence, and presence. Here we will focus on the dangers of Being Someone Attempting To Protect Someone/Something Who/That Is/Are (Perceivied/Identify As) Something. 

While there is plenty of evidence to support the claim that pro-abortion activism is the most dangerous type of activism, particularly in this relatively new age of surveillance,***** which seems to have lead to heightened suspicion, fear, propaganda, and video evidence of the spectacle of violence and pain that we watch seemingly on loop, building callousness and numbing our empathy toward those being beaten, kicked, dragged down a street, shot dozens of times, immobile bodies lying around as mundane as chairs around a kitchen table. You've read and/or heard about the latest (and historical) atrocities against women and against abortion providers (because how could you not have?). I have faith in you, dear reader, comrade reader, under-informed reader, male reader, misogynist reader, Reddit brocialist reader, liberal reader, overeducated underpaid academic reader, and all the rest. You know, if not exactly then at very least generally, what's happening to those some of us try to protect. The information about these incidents surround us, permeating the culture we cannot escape, everything we see, hear, read, absorb always already contains it.

The vested interests that protect the control of women's reproductive choices and bodily autonomy (as well as that of nonhuman animals, which we ought to revisit another time) are the powerhouses of capitalism. They rule the world. The military needs disposable bodies to exploit. The tech world needs disposable bodies to exploit. The fast food industry needs disposable bodies to exploit. The Church, all sects of Christianity, and all other religions need disposable bodies to exploit. The propaganda disseminated by these mega ideological superstructures is unparalleled - excluding that of the meat, dairy, and egg lobbies, which is older by 25 years or so and therefore may have a little more pull if the two were ever to bump heads, but luckily for both the contradictions between them are obscured and indeed absolutely integral to the perpetuation of capitalism as we know it in the West because they all rely on exploitation of others' reproductive systems, forced gestation and natalism, and disposable bodies capable of perpetuating the cycle, i.e. viable female reproductive systems.

Casual Pro-Coerced Natalism vs. Pro-Coerced Natalism Terrorists: Thin Line or Nonexistent Line?

The requirements to oppose uterine autonomy for women are minimal. Christian. Muslim. Parent. Man. Woman. Humanist. Child. Woman who has had an abortion. Person who wanted to coerce a woman to gestate and reproduce their own genetic material but she terminated the dangerous parasite. Person who wanted to force a woman to gestate and reproduce someone else's DNA but she chose uterine autonomy instead. The statistically nonexistent woman who has had an abortion and regretted it for various nuanced reasons, apparently often tied to how "planned" the menstrual interruption was. A woman who wanted to gestate and reproduce but subverted the life-endangering reproductive condition due to any number of circumstances. In short, the criteria to be ideologically pro-forced gestation and pro-forced reproduction are very few. 

Interestingly, not alternately but additionally, the requirements to be a danger to repropponents/repro-opponents are only slightly more stringent. The differentiating factors here seem to be:

1.) An unquestioning, unwavering belief that embryos and fetuses are equal to a reproductively capable woman based on some esoteric value scale (probably and usually based in the  teachings of Christianity but not necessarily actually addressed in any version of the text on which their claims are ostensibly based) and, therefore, the subversion of a nonconsensual germination is equal in moral Wrongness to murder,

2.) An extreme sense of entitlement to impose those beliefs by any means necessary on anyone perceived to be defying them, often embodied by a small-town sheriff mentality with an inner dialogue similar to "Welp, if no one else is going to handle this blight on our reputable little town, then I'll saddle up my horse, ride in and shoot those bandits myself," and

3.) A lack of fear of consequences. 

As we've seen numerous times, even as a pro-coerced natalism terrorist is cuffed and taken into police custody (never shot because he's always already a white man), he shouts, "I did it for the babies!" or some similar illogical claim, uncertainty of his actual motives somehow remains, manifesting in media coverage and widespread cultural sentiment. He is labeled mentally ill, an extremist, a loose cannon, an anomaly, a rare exception to the myth of the passive, silent supporters of nonconsensual hostism, when in actuality the passive, hidden supporters of forced hostism create and enforce the ideological conditions under which he is able to carry out these deadly deeds and meet these three criteria. This self-styled small town sheriff cleaning up the bordello whores who must be forced into natalism to rectify their engagement in sexual intercourse only has the three elements that distinguish him from the pack of passive pro-forced birthers thanks to the passive supporters themselves. The ones who donate to the innumerable pro-forced insemination organizations; write articles and books on the evil of anti-natalism; silently pray in self-righteous groups outside of clinics alongside bullies who shout at and stalk pro-uterine autonomists (and who are prone to turn into terrorists) without ever reprimanding or questioning their aggressive tactics; give pro-forced reproduction speeches at churches; distribute anti-uterine autonomy propaganda; and utter negative, inevitably slut-shaming words about a woman who removed herself from a toxic reproductive situation. These are the ones who build, maintain, and encourage the conditions for the terrorist to develop the three necessary elements that set him apart from the gentle lamb of God innocents. Meanwhile, many of them (sometimes not so) secretly praise him and consider him a lifesaving hero. Scott Roeder is a hero to them, and I'm willing to bet something of value to you his commissary comes in as quickly and thickly as George Zimmerman's bail money and support fund did. Why fear consequences when there is a (sometimes not so) silent army of supporters out there ready to watch your horse gallop away to boldly battle a grave evil that could turn our hellbound world around and set it on the Right track?   

What's at Stake

Anyone who dares defy the unending threats are targets in constant danger. Our spouses, children, homes, vehicles, employment, personal information (as far as that exists in this Surveillance Age), and our very lives themselves are perpetually in imminent danger, and we have no way to predict when an attack might happen. As though the ever-present pro-forced birth ideology that permeates all aspects of our culture weren't an effective enough threat, the Internet has made the stalking and murder of interrupters of reproductive labor far easier than in days of yore, or even since the advent of social media. This causes providers to flee from state to state to protect their ability to help women obtain critical and safe medial termination of unwanted parasites, to guard their loved ones, to save their own lives. Clinicians are often bullied and intimidated into quitting jobs, making their lives and livelihoods precarious, as well as causing high turnover at clinics, one of Operation Rescue's stated goals since at least 2004, disrupting the availability of anti-germination services women need. Clinic escorts - volunteer or compensated - are frequently frightened out of helping comfort and protect patients after encountering one of the many threats. So while seemingly scripted and staged legislative battles over defunding major non-natalist and women's healthcare providers and other skirmishes over rules, buffer zones, age limits, waiting periods, and so on might seem important and interesting intellectually, abstractly, from afar, the Real Battle is in the trenches. And every Leftist should be involved in this trench warfare, presuming solidarity is still one of our core shared values, something I deeply hope we all deem necessary for any kind of movement toward communism.  

There are likely other functions of abortion in our society, which seem worth examining another time. 

**There are two probable exceptions to this claim: Animal rights activism and environmental activism. This is due to the nature of governmental infiltration and surveillance of those two aforementioned types of activist circles, a phenomena non-natalists have yet to systemically experience (that we know of). Small town police harassment and other such diffuse, annoying, largely uncoordinated efforts often impede anti-natalists' work, but any comparison between that and the intense scrutiny and demonization faced by animal rights and environmental activists, respectively would be inaccurate. Here are some links if you need proof:

*** It should always already be assumed that this post (and blog in general) focuses on conditions in the US, the place with which I am most familiar and within which I am most aware of the dangers, biases, daily life, and other nuances that even as a citizen of the world, a traveler, and a reader, I cannot speak as accurately about.

**** A historically unprecedented surveillance of women, as revealed here

***** We are not presently addressing the common (liberal) cop-out of "exceptions for rape and incest" that exhibits an absence of critical thought with which were are sickeningly overfamiliar. BAMF should address that at some point. 

A somewhat of sad/ironic/meta sidenote on this post: There is a two to three paragraph narrative-style section missing from the middle that concretely describes exact circumstances and encountered tangible threats, as well as the consequences and outcomes thereof. However, due to the topic of the post I removed it because it could possibly reveal "too much," thereby endangering myself and others, our livelihoods, our very lives. J. Wolfe said, "It is less strong in the sense that the personal narrative gave the piece greater rhetorical weight. The argument is, I think, not affected." That comforted me to an extent, and I hope he is correct. Perhaps this sidenote bolsters any "rhetorical weight" that may have been lost due to the omission.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Toward a New Abortion Rights Rhetorical Strategy and Lexicon

There is a vacuum of relevant leftist rhetoric about abortion. The left has no cohesive abortion stance.

We call for more militant feminism, we hold safer spaces workshops, we volunteer at abortion clinics, we contact legislators, we wave signs, we share our abortion stories, we do what we can in a climate in which even the words that we use to describe abortion are empty husks referring to a battle we are constantly chasing, never initiating, never advancing, never winning. When it comes to abortion rights and access, the left - and I mean you, comrades - is severely lacking a unified, cohesive, effective rhetorical strategy. Patriarchal state control over reproductive power and the degradation of women is fundamental to the accumulation of capital and necessary to the proliferation of neoliberalism (Federici, Caliban), yet we can't seem to agree on how to talk about, much less mobilize around, abortion rights. This is a problem that must be remedied.

"Abortion" is an imprecise term that obscures various situations, numerous definitions, and individual stories. It's an abstract concept, alienated from the individual physical body and the social body.

We use the term "abortion" to refer to an an elective* medical procedure that ends 21% of pregnancies in the U.S. However, medically and practically, "abortion" refers to numerous ways of ending a pregnancy, intentionally or unintentionally. Most people are unaware of the term's vagueness. Here I will list a few types of abortion to illustrate of the vast number of procedures covered by one vague term. 

A "medication abortion" or "medical abortion" involves taking two pills that terminate a pregnancy that is less than 49 to 63 days along with what can be compared to a heavy menstrual period. The first pill is taken at the clinic and the second at home (or wherever one may be). It is simple, safe, and relatively painless. Then there is suction curettage or, in common parlance, "surgical abortion," which involves anesthesia and suction and is usually used to end pregnancies 6 to 14 weeks along. Induction abortion was applied to later pregnancies with great skill and compassion by the late Patron Saint of Abortion Rights Dr. George Tiller, so much so that doctors from around the country sent their patients to him. Then there is IDX or DNX, which was outlawed in the U.S. in 2003 thanks to Rick Santorum, George Bush II, and a bunch of other misogynists. Of course, since the procedure is occasionally necessary, doctors must find loopholes for those who can't afford to hop a plane to get the health care they need.** 

Another type of abortion that can be elective or non-elective is miscarriage. Miscarriage, or "spontaneous abortion," often happens automatically before the twentieth week and usually before anyone is aware of the pregnancy. "Stillbirth" refers to this phenomenon after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Other times, unctions and herbal concoctions are used to cause miscarriages and stillbirths when abortion is culturally, financially, or otherwise inaccessible. Miscarriages and stillbirths can also happen when the pregnant person is brutalized or poisoned. There are many other politically-loaded terms that refer to nothing, to an idea, or to something that means something else (e.g. "partial birth abortion," a phrase invented by a man in the National Right to Life Committee in 1995, "back alley abortion," and "feticide"). It is impractical to identify all possible applications of the term "abortion" in this article due to my limited knowledge, your presumed ability to perform research online, and self-imposed length limitations. And this is the point. The word "abortion" contains so many variances that its fullness becomes emptiness. The term "abortion" hides the reality of numerous, varied, and complex realities, obfuscating what is actually at stake: women's control over their own reproductive labor power and state enforcement of gender (and obviously always other) hierarchies.

"Abortion" and "Work": A Brief Interlude

Like capitalism uses the term "work" to cover up many different types of work (e.g. forced labor, indentured servitude, debt slavery, work done by undocumented immigrants, child labor, "consensual" work, sex work, etc.) to make the large-scale inequalities and abuses within "work" tolerable, acceptable, and ostensibly necessary, the broad, inaccurate term "abortion" obscures complicated realities surrounding the numerous methods and situations causing the end of pregnancies in order to strategically decontextualize "abortion," making it seem simple and abstract, an act to be accepted or rejected, judged right or wrong, in toto. The term "abortion" hides all of these nuances so that the utter necessity of state control over women's reproductive ability and the enforcement of gender hierarchies to the functioning of capitalism, as argued by Federici in Caliban and the Witch, remains hidden and therefore unexamined. 

While pregnancy and birth always seem to be part of a story - a single working woman struggling to raise her child alone, the immature 20-something man who suddenly becomes a responsible father, the heart-warming adoption story of a heterosexual couple who could not procreate but ended up with a houseful of children, the accidental teenage pregnancy from prom night, the urbane lesbian couple who used a friend as a sperm donor, even the virgin who is impregnated by God himself and bears the child who will save us all from a fiery eternity - abortion is an isolated event meant to be forgotten and written out of history for all involved, personally and socially.

Because the terms "abortion" and "work" have been so often drastically contorted and misused by everyone who uses either term, we now tacitly accept them at face value. 
This is a critical strategic error."Abortion is wrong," "I have to go to work," "Abortion should be the woman's choice," "Work is boring," etc. It is not possible for any of these statements to be true because of the vagueness of the terms "abortion" and "work." 

The right is winning the battle for control over reproductive labor, women's bodies, and gender hierarchies with domestic terrorism and successful use of rhetoric.

We could all take notes from anti-abortion propagandists. These people are savants. From "partial birth abortion" (not a medical term) to "personhood" to "fetal pain," these wizards know how to persuade an audience. They have succeeded in manipulating search results to the point that anyone seeking facts about abortion can become confused. They have polluted the main point of access for working class people seeking information about abortion - the Internet. The imprecise umbrella term "abortion" and its toothless cousin "pro-choice" are perfect accomplices in this muddled mess.

"Pro-choice" is an empty phrase that is rhetorically weak, outdated, and useless.

Like "abortion," "pro-choice" means so many things to so many people that it ends up meaning nothing. Some believe it means "pro-abortion," others believe it means "whatever a pregnant person wants to do is none of my business." I suspect the mainstream understanding of the phrase is something akin to: "It's up to the woman if she wants to carry the pregnancy to term or have an abortion. It's none of my business or yours. Plus, the Supreme Court said so." As the most widely-recognized term that signifies acceptance of a person's right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, "pro-choice" (like "abortion") is the term I will use throughout this article and elsewhere until the discourse around abortion rights and access are re-evaluated, reframed, and reinvigorated/reinvented.

The liberal stance on abortion is apologetic at best, which is a concession to anti-choicers' moralistic condemnation of abortion and campaign of terror on abortion providers and seekers.

We expect liberals to be reactionary. Planned Parenthood is defunded; Obama will veto the bill. The last clinic in a rural state is attacked; donations are made. Hillary's view that abortion should be legal, safe, and rare is accepted. Some powerful, disgusting misogynist says yet another degrading thing about women, rape, and/or abortion, and memes are shared and scathing Facebook rants are written. Sexism is called out on Tumblr. It is not enough. The current abortion lexicon is useless, outdated, weak, and reactionary. It is our duty to remedy this.

Liberals are immeasurably more visible than leftists. They have an identifiably cohesive "pro-choice" stance. Therefore, theirs is the default "leftist" stance on abortion rights and access.

Most of the U.S. thinks "the left" means liberals; we don't even enter the public consciousness when they think of "leftists." Therefore, for all practical purposes, the liberal stance on abortion rights is the leftist stance. Their dominance in this narrative space has resulted in relentless usage of terms that have not been critically re-evaluated in decades, at least not in a mainstream or effective manner.*** 

This must be redressed, which is possible with a cohesive, united abortion rights rhetorical strategy and a revamped abortion lexicon. We cannot continue to hide behind the outdated, apologetic "pro-choice" stance. However, the failure of leftists to have clearly differentiated ourselves from liberals in the U.S. may be advantageous when reframing abortion rights discourse and introducing a new abortion lexicon because if a whole new set of terms were rolled out, it would follow that it would be by a wholly different kind of left. 

Everyone supporting current reproductive power relations accepts the current stagnation of abortion rights discourse. All feminists and leftists should be calling for free, safe abortion on demand, as well as working toward a new abortion rights rhetorical strategy and lexicon.

By the important but necessarily limited criteria discussed in this post, European women may have had more control of contraception, reproduction, obstetrics, and abortion in the Middle Ages before the loss of the commons and consequent Church and state imposition and enforcement of gender and racial hierarchies than (U.S.) women do today (Federici, Caliban). Because capitalism requires constant accumulation and new sources of labor power and because control of the reproduction of labor is a necessary element of capitalist accumulation and expansion (Federici, Caliban), failing to actively challenge the existing state restrictions on abortion is compliance with and approval of the entire capitalist system. If you support the destruction of gender hierarchies, access to free healthcare for all, dismantlement of the patriarchy, and, dare I say, abolishment of private property, you must support safe, free abortion on demand, no excuses, no shame, no harassment, no guilt, no barriers.**** 

I will think about and attempt to develop some accurate, meaningful, relevant terminology to potentially replace the outdated "pro-choice" "abortion" discourse in use today. I challenge you to do the same. As always, feel free to point me toward something potentially productive. All suggestions for terms, as well as references to other feminists, theorists, philosophers, and linguists working on a similar project, would be greatly appreciated. 

• Federici, Silvia. Caliban and the Witch.

• Statistics cited in this article are accurate as of the posting date. I highly discourage readers from consulting for any abortion-related information unless you're going to edit the articles for accuracy; every entry on abortion I could find on that site are biased and sexist, and many are inaccurate. This is unsurprising but disappointing because readers know I often refer to Wikipedia for information on other topics.

*I'm using the term "elective" due to the limitations of abortion rights rhetoric at present. Many women's "elective" procedures do not involve much of a choice. Socioeconomic circumstances and systemic misogyny often force women into situations and decisions. Low wages, sexual assault, must I continue? 

**Rich women will always be able to obtain any type of abortion since they are not restricted by the financial barriers of travel, time off work, babysitters, and so on. Access to free, safe abortion is a class issue, a racial issue, and an LGBTQ issue, which always bears repeating.

***One can contrast this to the success of anti-choicers, who have had PR blitzes with unparalleled success. One can also contrast it to the success of the LGBTQ community's largely grassroots and surging online movement to reframe and address outdated issues surrounding the notion of sex vs. gender and many other issues. Both groups (lumping together here disparate groups that have had notable successes in reframing the discourse around dissimilar causes) have been adept at developing and implementing rhetorical strategies that have entered mainstream U.S. culture, and both groups are winning battles every day, as the "pro-choice" camp continues to stagnate and decay. This is not to suggest there is no important pro-abortion work occurring. However, I have not seen any concerted attempts at a large-scale assessment and overhaul of existing assumptions about and terminology used for abortion rights (from those who support access to "abortion"--I hear plenty coming from those against "abortion" access). Here I also would like to differentiate and applaud the success of transgender rights activists in creating an entirely new lexicon (e.g. CAFAB, CAMAB, etc.) that make thoughtful, nuanced differentiations and express very specific concerns. I encourage comments from my trans rights activist readers directing others to reliable resources so that they may educate themselves. For the purposes of this article I, as usual, use the term "woman/women" to refer to those who identify as such. This is not an attempt at erasure of those who do not identify as women but may still become pregnant, or women who need access to clinics for hormone replacement therapy. My post is an attempt to confront the current stale state of abortion rights discourse and to challenge the surrounding accepted rhetoric, without co-opting but while admiring the transgender rights activist community's successes in an often overlapping struggle. I hope I have achieved this goal as gracefully as intended.

****Also, abortion is a social good, which should perhaps be addressed in a future post and should further prompt leftists and feminists to act now in support of my pleas.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Bernie Sanders Sucks — Now Love Him

Another guest post by John Wolfe, the theoretician behind the post that has been trending on Reddit since it was first published, and reigns as the second-most read BAMF post (behind my response to Federici) of all time. From the philosopher you love to love: 

Some Things We Know

Leftists usually display three personality traits: a certain romanticism, a deep cynicism, and boundless anger. Every time major elections roll around, the last two are deployed against the first. We all know the reasons—that elections in a capitalist republic amount to choosing which member of the ruling class will represent and oppress us, and that the choices involved are largely illusory and a poor way to affect real change. Further, simply participating in this tiresome ritual of the ballot box lends legitimacy to the illusion.

This cynicism has found a new target in Bernie Sanders. A number of articles devoted to informing leftists that Sanders is not one of us and his campaign promises no real change have been circulating lately. Given that the contemporary left has such a problem with overcoming sectarian bickering, it is almost a hopeful sign when the Ortho-Trots of the World Socialist Web Site, and the...whatever they are at Jacobin...can unite in denouncing the genial little socialist.

Of course, they are correct. Sanders is from the right flank of the Democratic Socialists of America. He is a card-carrying follower of the Socialist International. Who would expect this man could be anything other than a U.S. version of Hollande? Anybody who has looked into his stance on Israel knows that he is no anti-imperialist. The remarkable thing about the anti-Sanders commentary from the left is that people feel the need to so stridently point out the glaringly obvious.

Elections as Desire-Forming Events

Yet, I still think we have good reason to stump for Sanders. This is the case even though he is little more than a pre-Clintonian Democrat. This is the case even though he will most certainly lose the primary. This is the case even though, if by some miracle he wins the general election, he would most likely continue his party-line Democrat ways. This is the case even though, if by some greater miracle he becomes a radical, the political establishment would prevent him from doing much good. This is because elections should not be conceived as being about the candidates at all, but as about the people.

Presidential elections are marked events in the psychic life of the U.S. Elections of all sorts are frequent in the mess that is the U.S. political system. Local and state elections form the background noise of U.S. political life. However, no one cares much about these—and who can blame them? There is nothing in a school board or soil commissioner race that promises anything different. These elections are, for the most part, the equivalent of changing the oil in your car or flossing, and are neglected* in the same way.

But when presidential elections roll around, there is a real shift in the consciousness of the U.S. population. People become politicized. They feel a sense of agency and ownership over the political process. They begin looking to the future and thinking in terms of what a desirable society might be. The political imagination gets fired up, and new possibilities are disclosed. In short, they feel the intoxication of democracy.

This is, of course, largely an illusion. However nothing whets the appetite for the real thing like a good simulation.

Candidates succeed in elections, insofar as they do, by generating a vision of a possible future society which appeals to the public. Barack Obama did an excellent job of this. His 
half-African identity betokened an end to the traditional power structure. His vaguely progressive talk of change allowed people to see the possibility of a future without endless wars and assaults on the poor. The election of Obama legitimated a certain set of expectations for the future. He did not deliver, but the expectations remain entrenched in the public consciousness to such a degree that Hillary Rodham Clinton now has to unconvincingly attempt to portray herself as a populist who will uphold Obama's "legacy." 

But it is not the case that presidential campaigns merely appeal to existing voter preferences—presidential campaigns are rather desire forming. In this way they are much like advertising. No one wanted an iPhone until Steve Jobs unveiled them in a glitzy press conference; then half the population “discovered” that they had always wanted one. Likewise, as left-liberal as Seattle is, very few people there would have wanted an openly Leninist on the city council until Kshama Sawant mounted her effort and they discovered that they did. The visions presented by advertisers and politicians reveal new possibilities for the future which verify and reshape people's pre-existing desires.

Presidential elections are pure theater, it is true. But one of the main functions of this theater is to set the boundaries of what people can legitimately expect of their future. Between Clinton and the various Republican contenders, the boundaries are currently set at life under the boot of neoliberalism with a patriarchal and religious flavor, or a return to the days of Clintonian neoliberalism. 

Directive: Stump for Sanders, then for Stein

It is in this context that we can see the significance of a Sanders candidacy. He has the ability to portray a future outside the neoliberal consensus as both achievable and sensible, and he has the position and the funding to reach more people than a thousand Marxist bloggers. It is not much, but it pushes the political horizon further left. The anti-Sanders crowd seems to think that support for Sanders will transform genuine leftists into tepid reformists while there is very little, if any, actual danger of this. There is, however, a very real possibility that support for Sanders will cause the population as a whole to begin to accept some leftist goals as desirable and, more importantly, as achievable. More liberals will discover that they are actually socialists, a precondition to building any kind of mass movement in this country.

So support Sanders.

Then, when he loses the primary, stump for Jill Stein.

Then smash the bourgeois state. 

*BAMF fully supports flossing and does it regularly. Oral health affects total health, and we need our health optimized for the struggle. However, we do not disregard or discount the worth of those with poor dental or overall health.
**As always, this submission has been slightly altered stylistically by BAMF; this includes the addition of headers and links, among other slight changes. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Theory and Gains of Excess, Expanded

There has been a long pause in my posts; life has interfered with my writing, as it tends to with the less disciplined of scribes. I will spare you the details and leave it to your collective imagination. Shall I jump right in and address the topic that has been my foremost preoccupation for the past many months, the area in which I've been organizing feminists in the trenches, building community, and protecting women from self-righteous bullies? I'll cease waxing grandiose and explain.

This post is a follow up to my theory of excess, at the request of exactly two readers (the masses!) who asked me to expound upon one passage in particular. The idea has now ripened in my head long enough to make an attempt, and my nearly year-long and seemingly never-ending, never-improving battle with religious extremists in my own neighborhood lends me what might be considered some kind of authority on the matter.

Now for the original quote and post in question. The original example, Abortion Barbie's purportedly successful filibuster, was a socially acceptable procedural strategy that - although the media labeled it successful - in fact, ultimately failed. Only the excessive actions on that particular evening arguably accomplished anything for women's rights and pro-choice activism. Using that example, I claim that gains are made on the margins of socially acceptable behavior, beyond the boundaries of hegemonic political activism, in a space I deem excessive, saying:

Gains are made at the point at which activism exceeds accepted and acceptable standards of procedure. Excess destabilizes the boundaries of patriarchy. Religious fundamentalists consistently attempt to expand and fortify patriarchy by challenging its (constitutionally-based and judicially-enforced) boundaries. Anti-capitalists must challenge those same boundaries in order to destabilize them and undermine patriarchy. I am not promoting constitutional lawsuits or an ALEC of the Left; I am suggesting a distinctly Leftist activism of excess.

Zone of Acceptable Practices

The fundamental idea of my theory of excess is that there is an understood zone of acceptable practices for any given political situation. This zone varies constantly. The boundaries of the zone differ with each issue, circumstance, and set of conditions. The end caps of the zone might not even be identifiable, and if they are identified in a specific instance, they will likely change when applied elsewhere. I suspect that attempts to identify the specific bookends of the acceptable zone of a particular issue is not essential to our understanding of the role of the zone and the theory of excess. The importance, for now, lies in the acknowledgement of the existence of an acceptable zone, not necessarily its exact borders.

One may wonder if there are no identifiable boundaries (or even if there are, they might not matter very much), how we are to determine which activities fall outside, or exceed, the zone. This is a question each activist, each comrade, each feminist, each anticapitalist must ask herself about a given set of circumstances. Perhaps we can approach ways to identify and mark the boundaries in a future post. For now, let's agree that the location of the boundaries doesn't matter as much as recognizing their existence. Now let me suggest that we all attempt to exceed these amorphous boundaries at every opportunity. 

To illustrate the zone of acceptable practices, let's take anti-choice activism. On one end of the acceptable zone (or point on the spectrum, circle, or however you envision it) there might be group discussion and prayer, volunteerism at anti-choice non-profit organizations, and soliciting elected officials to support anti-choice legislation. On the other end of the acceptable zone lies disruptive street preaching in high-traffic areas, displaying enormous gory photos of questionable veracity and unidentified origin on college campuses, and verbally abusing patients and clinicians entering abortion clinics.

Most people occasionally, or even routinely, encounter activism from the acceptable zone as they attend church, pass a clinic, or cross a campus. The general public is aware of and tacitly accepts the range of tactics in the acceptable zone (on "both sides" of a given issue, here abortion, which are fundamentally inevitably similar). They accept it as a matter of free speech, freedom of religion, freedom to peaceably assemble, someone else's business, and so on. Occasionally, they might participate on one end of the zone to adhere to cultural norms or appease their social circle. For example, they might happen to be in church when a prayer for murdered fetuses is said, or they might "like" a relative's anti-choice post on Facebook. However, they are ultimately disinterested in entering the fray; this aloof collective awareness in some ways determines and shapes the acceptable zone. 

Beyond the Zone, Into Excess 


Actions taken within the acceptable zone may or may not be effective, may or may not make a difference, may or may not "count." Roe v. Wade falls within the zone and made abortion more accessible for many women; the Hyde Amendment is also within the zone and denies many women access to abortion. Praying and picketing abortion clinics falls within the zone and happens regularly, yet patients and staff come and go and abortions are performed unhindered; religious conversion also falls within the zone and has undoubtedly caused unwanted pregnancies to be carried to term. I have not yet devised a reliable method of determining whether actions taken within the zone are consistently successful or not.

What happens outside of the zone, on the margins, beyond the boundaries, in the periphery, or however might describe a kind of uncharted no-man's-land of activity is vastly more interesting and has the potential to have far more impact. Sure, religious conversion may stop a medical student from becoming an abortion provider, but assassinating Dr. George Tiller gave many more potential providers pause. And while praying outside of an abortion clinic may bring the occasional patient to tears, mailing defamatory flyers to the neighbors of the OB/GYN and staff and informing their children's school teachers and administrators of the parents' profession causes high turnover, resulting in understaffed clinics, thereby lowering the number of potential abortion providers. Anti-choice activists have gained impressive ground by exceeding the limits of the acceptable zone and entering the land of excess. To protect women's right to safe, accessible, legal, affordable abortion care, the pro-choice movement must learn from these masters of excess and transcend the boundaries of the acceptable zone.

Since the fundamental justification for anti-choice activism is the religious belief that life begins at conception paired with a moral opposition to murder, then their primary motivation would seem to be to convert everyone to their belief system and secondarily to prevent these perceived murders. However, in practice at the clinics, they make no effort to convert anyone. In fact, only two of the usual ten or so weekly protestors at my community clinic will provide the name of their church when asked. Their collective prime concerns seem to be 1.) creating a spectacle to draw the public's attention to the clinic, "outing" it, in a way; 2.) shouting guilt-invoking insults at and intimidating staff and patients as they walk from the parking lot to the door; 3.) gathering information about the doctor's and clinic owner's personal lives in order to harass them in other spaces. They spend little to no time converting anyone or preventing conception. Their actions do not match their motivations; they exceed them. This makes me wonder why our actions simply meet our motivations. A woman needs an abortion, so we make sure she gets from her car to the door, we make sure Roe v. Wade doesn't fall (although it does not guarantee much in these days due to its basis in privacy rights), we make sure Planned Parenthood can give her a discount. The pro-choice position at present is well within the acceptable zone and matches our presumable motivations - safe and accessible abortion care.

Changing Our Demand: Back to Basics


After much thought, I now think access to safe, affordable abortion should is not a sufficient demand. Our primary demand must meet the extremity of their demand--that uninformed, selfish, myopic demand that no one have an abortion no matter what the circumstance. Our demand would preferably exceed their demand, as well as exceed our motivation. After weeks and weeks of reflection, I have tossed around several ideas, ranging from themed abortion trucks (like food trucks, but for abortion) to imposing strict restrictions in an attempt to criminalize childbirth, and time and again as I weigh potential pro-choice excess demands, a powerful and vivid memory returns to me.

During Occupy, it was nearly impossible to find a camp free of sexism, even free of sexual harassment and assault, and took a minor miracle to bring feminist concerns to the group's collective agenda. Women's caucuses popped up around the world in response to this. Those who know me know my role in Occupy Women of Tampa (I have written of transphobia and misogyny in Occupy several times; perhaps I will repost some of those pieces on BAMF someday). Progressive stack was developed to create a space for women's and people of color's voices to be heard over the booming anger of the young, white, able-bodied, hetero men who showed up in Guy Fawkes masks ranting about the New World Order.

Nevermind all of the things that went so terribly wrong in our beautiful historical moment. Something that went right stays with me to this day. There was a march planned through downtown Tampa. Some media representatives were in attendance. Members of the International Socialist Organization were in town from Gainesville and elsewhere to show solidarity with the Tampa camp. Freedom Road Socialist Organization members were also present. Trots and tankies marching shoulder to shoulder. It was an impressive gathering of people. Chants ranged from "Chop from the Top," to "End the War, Tax the Rich, That's How You Fix the Deficit" to "Whose streets? Our streets!" and so on. Someone would start a chant and others would catch on, suddenly several hundred people were speaking in one voice, demanding the same thing: a glorious tableau that many of my readers have surely experienced at some point in their activism.

The moment that continues to preoccupy me occurred about at the intersection of Ashley Drive and Kennedy (SR 60), when we turned onto Kennedy to cross the bridge over the Hillsborough River and approached University of Tampa. I started chanting "Free abortion on demand. Can we do it? Yes, we can!" And someone from ISO with a megaphone near me started chanting it. And then FRSO started chanting it. And then the liberals started chanting it. And then the libertarians, whose positions on abortion were generally uninformed at best and outright anti-choice at worst, began chanting it. It was a simple, classic, timeless demand. And everything was perfect at its core. We chanted it a few blocks, then faded into an anti-war chant.

Every time I attempt to formulate an excessive pro-choice position, my mind returns to that elegant and concise demand. It summarizes my particular brand of pro-choice activism. And I have, for now, decided that this demand is my new focus. Free abortion on demand. No questions. No bills. No picketers. No waiting. No shame. No danger. No guilt.

The political and cultural climate surrounding abortion (in the US) at present is so stymied in disingenuous rhetoric, so clouded by unspoken religious assumptions, so tainted by outdated gender roles, so stagnant with excuses, so muddied with partisanship, that it is easy to exceed the acceptable zone. Even suggesting that a woman have access to 24-hour free abortion is excessive. I am deeply hopeful that someday it will seem silly to consider free abortion on demand excessive, for it will be commonplace. Until then, let us rally.

In the spirit of this newfound clarity, I urge us to spend less time sign-waving, less time tracking anti-choice bullies, less time promoting toothless legislation, less time in meetings about "health care" that don't involve realistic, honest discussions about abortion, less time forming superior rhetorical strategies, less time signing petitions, less time campaigning and lobbying, less time making excuses and concessions ("Obviously, in the case of rape and incest abortion is okay, but..." and "I would never have one, but..."). Let's spend our time collecting money for those who need abortions. Let's present fiery, heartfelt speeches to potential medical schools about the desperate need for numerous quality abortion providers. Let's organize internships at clinics. Let's donate to free abortion funds. Let's approach OB/GYNs and ask them to become abortion providers. Let's donate to clinics to pay for an anonymous patient's abortion. Let's approach abortion doctors and ask them to perform free abortions. Let's reach out to communities and ask women how we can help them get free abortions on demand. 

Embrace the chant, fully understand it and all of its implications, then take action however and as often as you can. Free abortion on demand. Can we do it? Yes, we can.