19 Feb Prophecies
It’s a teeth-gnashing decision when major news breaks just as you’re on deadline with another story, but if you don’t somehow squeeze the latest in, a whole week will have elapsed before you can address it.
As I began writing this blog post, news broke about the Florida high school shooting, and also about the indictments of 13 Russians for infiltrating our social media and affecting our electoral process in 2016. I’ll return to my original planned subject below, but first:
In the wake of the latest school shooting, I realize that I actually have nothing left to say after so many repetitions of this murder-by-political-cowardice-and-gun-culture, nothing except a list of words this country is now sickened by: thoughts and prayers, hugs, trauma, healing, grief counseling, memorials, closure, politicize—and National Rifle Association. Last year there were 18 school shootings in total around the world. This Florida tragedy is the 18th school shooting in the United States since January 1, and we’re only halfway through February. The hypocrisy rises like a stench from Republicans in Congress, Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott, and victim-blaming Trump, as they express sympathy while doing everything to further the proliferation of guns in this country. The students are now organizing for their very lives, and they vow they’ll forge a different future for this country, a prophecy that is heart-wrenchingly beautiful. But they can’t vote yet; that’s up to us. On this and so many other issues, people, we have got to flip Congress this fall.
Then there’s the Special Counsel investigation’s latest proof of how crucial Mueller’s work is. It’s laid out in the new indictment in painstaking detail: how Russian operatives spent an impressive $1 million a month budget to flood Facebook with anti-Hillary agitprop, particularly in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, the very swing states HRC would later lose. The surprises, though, included learning that the Russians actually had boots on the ground, touring the US, organizing Tump rallies, and fomenting attendance at and Hillary-hatred during rallies for Senator Bernie Sanders and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. (Am I the only one who remembers that the photo of Mike Flynn sitting at a banquet table with Putin also unnervingly shows Jill Stein at the same table?) But it was no surprise that Trump, tweeting out from his megalomaniacal universe, ignored this “incontrovertible proof“ that the Russians attacked the US in “an act of war,” as his National Security Advisor General McMaster put it; instead, he was busy raining tweets with his “no collusion” mantra. Not a word about the nation having been attacked. This is equivalent to the president/commander in chief responding to Peal Harbor by saying, “Well, don’t look at me! My yacht was sailing down the coast!”
Mr. Mueller, we know you’re being meticulous, and we predict that you’ll deliver the truths that will save us—a wishful prophecy on which we stake the Republic. But hurry up, please hurry up.
So back to what I had originally planned for today’s blog. You may have read or heard that journalist Joshua Green, author of a book on Steve Bannon, watched the Golden Globes ceremony on TV with Bannon, hoping to come away with some interesting new quotes by him for a forthcoming paperback edition. He sure got them. As the men watched the awards show—with women wearing black in solidarity with the MeToo movement and Oprah Winfrey getting sustained applause for her speech about Time’s Up, Bannon couldn’t contain himself.
“It’s a Cromwell moment!” Bannon reportedly exclaimed, “It’s even more powerful than populism. It’s deeper. It’s primal. It’s elemental. The long black dresses and all that—this is the Puritans! It’s anti-patriarchy. If you rolled out a guillotine they’d chop off every set of balls in the room. You watch. The time has come. Women are going to take charge of society. And they couldn’t juxtapose a better villain than Trump. He is the patriarch. This is a definitional moment in the culture. It’ll never be the same going forward . . . The anti-patriarchy movement is going to undo 10,000 years of recorded history.”
Later, watching the State of the Union speech with Bloomberg Views reporter Michael Lewis, Bannon went on another rave: “The top seven stories today are all guys getting blown up— and these are not small guys. I think it’s like the Tea Party, only bigger. It’s not just Me Too. It’s not just sexual harassment. It’s an anti-patriarchy movement! Time’s up on 10,000 years of recorded history. This is coming. This is real!”
Well, well, well.
Now, first we must leave aside the Cromwell reference, which is pretentious and inaccurate whether referring to Thomas or Oliver. Next, we must leave aside the Puritan reference, a dreary cliché of a simile trotted out whenever women insist on being regarded as more than inflatable sex dolls existing for men’s pleasure—and which is also a false portrayal of the original Puritan (and Pilgrim) communities, who were not anti-sex but were pro-egalitarian; he even gets the color of their attire wrong: women wore gray, men wore black, as a sign of equality and a rejection of superficiality. In other words, we must ignore whatever pretends to be historical fact in Bannon’s reported statements and focus only on his opinions; if we do that, they’re rather perceptive quotes.
Of course, it’s also necessary to leave aside Bannon’s solipsistic egotism that assumes the singular fixation of the world’s women is with his and other men’s testicles, because his belief that they dangle at the center of the cosmos is, frankly, one no woman shares. On the contrary, the preoccupation many men have about their genitalia is a source of bewilderment to women, and of pity (how awkward it would be to have one’s ovaries drooping outside one’s body!); sometimes, it must be confessed, women even find this a subject of considerable merriment, even hilarity.
But generally, women aren’t into real or symbolic castration the way that men and patriarchal traditions are. For instance, I’m encouraged by a new feminist movement of women in Conservative Judaism, women who are not circumcising their sons. This parallels an American trend since the 1970s against universal newborn circumcision. That to me rather barbaric and traumatizing rite, based on Abraham’s mythic Biblical almost-sacrifice of Isaac, was thought at one point to reduce some sexually transmitted and/or urinary tract infections—until scientists pointed out that simple improved hygiene would solve that. After all, you could say the same thing about ears as sites for possible infection, but no one is suggesting amputating ears. Personally, I’ve always been a bit mystified by some feminists who campaign against FGM (female genital mutation) yet circumcise their sons for religious reasons or under their husband’s pressure. Ah, the power of religion, and of family peace-making . . . at what cost!
But back to Steve Bannon. Let’s not forget that he was an early Trump-regime harbinger of guys into domestic violence. There’s so much awful about the Trumpists that fresh horrors avalanche in daily and we forget the old ones buried underneath. Bannon was charged in February 1996 with domestic violence, battery, and attempting to dissuade a victim from reporting a crime. The case was dropped when his (second) wife, Mary Louise Piccard, didn’t show up in court. In court records, Piccard later claimed that Bannon ordered her to leave town to avoid testifying. She said he told her that “if I went to court he and his attorney would make sure I would be the one who was guilty.” Bannon’s lawyer, she said, threatened her, telling her that if Bannon went to jail, “I would have no money and no way to support the children.” Piccard said that she complied, fleeing with the two children “until his attorney phoned me and told me I could come back.” The couple divorced shortly afterwards. Reportedly, Bannon had been angered by Piccard’s having enrolled their children in a kindergarten that also accepted Jewish children. It fits neatly with his anti-Semitism. It all fits.
I could write a book about why some men are so pathologically insecure about the possible loss of their manliness as to think it will be restored by committing violence against women. Then again, I’ve already written that book, The Demon Lover: The Roots of Terrorism, so why repeat myself? Instead, I’ll address the one statement in Bannon’s recent wail of fear that is correct.
The uprising of women in this country is like the tea party, only bigger. It is bigger than populism. What’s more, it’s global.
A truism known to students of history is that at moments of accelerated change, only adversaries really comprehend the truth about each other. For example, during the Civil Rights movement, we foot-soldiers discovered that in many ways it was easier to deal with the honest racism of Southern whites than the masked hostility of Northern liberals. You knew where you stood. On the other hand, hostile Southerners recognized that an empowered population of people of color threatened their white supremacy in lasting and important ways, whereas Northern whites denied that but sensed it nonetheless. Similarly, albeit through his own fog of penile obsession, woman-hater Bannon senses what’s coming.
It’s been coming for a long, long time. The great cathedral of Chartres was built over centuries, with generations of stonemasons and artisans living, laboring, and dying, on its scaffolds, each contributing one small part of the great work from 857 CE through the 19th Century. Building a movement to change consciousness takes even more time. Building a movement from the smothered and suffocated voices of half the human species takes millennia. Building a movement through collecting and connecting similarities from the vast array of differences plus enforced separations among half of humanity takes time. Only with sufficient progress established to make possible the emergence of feminist historians willing to dig for unbiased truths would we learn about early matrilineal and matriarchal societies and the patriarchal overthrow and eradication of them. Only then could we uncover truths about the waves of erasure and recurrence of revolts in every culture on earth: the convent rebellions and Beguine movement in Medieval Europe, the women who fought back during three Inquisitions, the Dahomean Amazons in Africa, the 12th Century harem revolts in what is now Turkey, the 40 armies of 2500 women each fighting for women’s rights during the 1851 Tai Ping rebellion in China. And so much more.
And always it was complicated, because women also had to fight for our children, usually first.
And always it was complicated, because women also had to fight for our men, usually first. Only then could we risk fighting for ourselves—even, if necessary, against those same men.
Sometimes, the task has felt so overwhelming that women dared not acknowledge it in its enormity. But a few in each generation have glimpsed it. Elizabeth Oakes Smith, 19th-Century suffragist, wrote, “Do we fully understand that we aim at nothing less than an entire subversion of the present order of society, a dissolution of the whole existing social compact?”
So Steve Bannon is actually correct about something for the first time in his brutal, pathetic life. You watch. We will no longer let them shoot down our children in our schools and streets. This is out to undo 10,000 years of patriarchal history. We will no longer suffer the beatings, the broken bones, hearts, minds, spirits. It will never be the same going forward. We will no longer tolerate their corruption of our democracy. Women are going to take charge of society.
This is coming. This is real.