October 30, 2007

Georgetown Protest Gets a Wide Variety of Coverage

Two weekends ago the city was marked with several protests, some that erupted into violent actions. My parents were in town visiting and we were up for some DC shopping and dining in Georgetown. Forgetting that a friend of mine had told me about the protest a month before, we headed down to Georgetown for dinner and were surprised to find most of the shops boarded up, cops all over the place, and soon after we arrived the street blocked off to traffic, all because of a protest against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. After walking a little ways down M Street and finding most of the stores boarded up, we decided to find somewhere else for dinner. We missed most of the action, but I heard later that it erupted into a somewhat violent protest, a few storefront windows vandalized and a woman injured by a brick. I later learned that the protest was staged in Georgetown not only because of its vicinity to the IMF and World Bank, but because of the wealth concentrated there. It was an anti-capitalist protest as well as a protest against the World Bank and the IMF. I was interested to see what kind of coverage the event would have and was surprised to find not only the normal mainstream coverage, but also a large amount of alternative media coverage. The blogosphere was filled with response to the event. Many of the posts were however strongly opinionated with phrases such as " LEFTY PROTESTERS IN GEORGETOWN STICK IT TO THE MAN by hitting a woman with a brick: and "Leftwingnuts Make Voices Heard By Hitting Lady With a Brick".
I checked out http://tailrank.com/3402876/Woman-Hit-With-Brick-in-Bloody-DC-IMF-Protest and found a whole website dedicated to tracking the "hottest news in the blogosphere" and filled with a sampling of blogs dedicated to the Georgetown protest.

Radical Cheerleading: A New Means of Activist Expression

“Squad set?” yells Emily.
“YOU BET!” we respond.

She calls out the cheer and we begin. But this isn’t just any cheerleading squad yelling for their football team. We’re the DC Radical Cheerleaders and our chants have nothing to do with team spirit. We scream for stopping climate change, resisting capitalism’s domination, smashing the state, and liberating ourselves from patriarchy.

We don’t look like your typical cheerleaders either. We dress in full red and black. Instead of skirts and vests we wear leggings, t-shirts, dresses, and safety-pinned patches. We wear bandanas around our necks and write RC/DC proudly across our faces. And most of all, we are excited to cheer.

We assemble downtown on Saturday, September 15 to participate in A.N.S.W.E.R.’s March on Washington to end the war in Iraq. In solidarity with the many demonstrators, we circle up and begin to cheer. We begin with “George,” a crowd favorite that ridicules President Bush and the actions he carries out in the name of the “war on terror.”

Dub dub dub dub dubdubdubdubdubdub dubya bush
The shrub!

He says the war on terror
Will make the world fairer
But we know that he’s lying

‘Cuz we see innocents dying

Your civil liberties
He’ll take away
He’ll spy on you all night and day!

‘Cuz I’m a terrorist and you’re a terrorist
And she’s a terrorist and he’s a terrorist!
Its terror! AH! Its terror! AH!
But what is terror anyway?

Nuclear destruction
Genetically modified food
The IMF, the World Bank

It’s all bad news!
Damn, them fascists are some heavy, heavy dudes.

Resist, Resist
Raise up your fist!
Resist, resist
We know you are pissed
Resist, resist
Fight the capitalists
Resist, resist
Show ‘em what they can kiss! Uh!

Of course, no simple listing of these lines can do the cheer justice. Just imagine twenty women yelling, clapping, kicking, and moving. The energy, even on this hot afternoon, is contagious. Crowds gather around us as we cheer. They ask us who we are, because many of them have never seen a radical cheerleading squad perform before.

Conceived by three Florida sisters in 1996, the radical cheerleading movement has spread across the country and across the world. The first radical cheerbook, published as a zine in 1997, describes it as "activism with pom-poms and middle fingers extended. It's screaming 'fuck capitalism' while doing a split." It is a type of Guerilla Theater—attention grabbing and exciting. In the midst of a serious political demonstration, we energize people and provide entertainment. It’s a unique form of activism that’s empowering and fun.

Throughout the day we move through the crowd, performing many other cheers for our fellow protesters, including “Ugly” (about corporate greed), “Hot In Here” (against global warming, set to the tune of Nelly’s song Hot In Herre), and “369” (against the World Bank / IMF). Two other cheers, “Supersonic” and “Fraggle Rock,” are below. One of the highlights of the day was confronting the counter-protesters, the Gathering of Eagles. We were able do drown out their conservative chants with our radical cheers. We also took a break from cheering to dance along with the drum circle. Dancing is great for morale!

After a few hours of cheering and marching, the protest is over. We return to AU, tired but satisfied, and ready for the next action, rally, or demonstration where we can showcase our cheers.

The D is for Deception
The U is for Untrue
The B is for BS, girl you know he lied to you
The Y is for Your war
A we Asked you to stop
The B is for the Bombs nobody asked you to drop

George Bush
Su-see ya later

The B is for our Bodies
The U is for Unique
The S is for Safe sex,
George you know the kids all freak!
The H for Human rights
And the M for My
The F for Feminism waving you buh-bye

George Bush
You motherfucker

Hey George Bush,
Can’t you see
That my body belongs to me!

(Set to the tune of the TV show's opening song)
Take it to the streets
Revolution is so sweet
Something we expect
Is freedom and respect

So radicals of today
We need to find a better way
We need to have a say
Equality’s the way

So stomp and smash the state
It’s time for us to liberate
And Bush can go to hell
Rise up, resist, rebel

For more information on radical cheerleading, click these links:

Jimmy Carter on Darfur

[this post was originally written on October 25th]

I managed to get my hands on one of the elusive Jimmy Carter Engagement tickets and at 1:13 yesterday I saw the former president in person for the first time.
As he walks out on stage, I realize just how courteous, lithe and inspirational the man really is. He waves at us all, accepts the uproarious applause with grace, and of course starts with a joke –he’s already three times better than our current president. As he begins to dive into his speech, the recital hall falls wonderfully silent, save the sounds of camera flashes and shutters. Secret Service, Metro Police and Campus Security stand with their backs to the stage, watching the audience for potential security threats. Their presence isn’t enough to overwhelm the optimism of Carter’s speech, however.
He finishes his story about a New Yorker cartoon and the importance of being an activist ex-president and launches into a discussion on the involvement of the Carter Center in elections, leaders, food and mental health concerns in developing nations around the world. From there Carter speaks about The Elders: Kofi Anon, Nelson Mandella, Desmond Tutu and himself, among others –“political has-beens” he jokingly says. Burma, Zimbabwe and Darfur are the focal points of activism among The Elders. Carter then begins to speak exclusively on the topic of Darfur and the efforts he’s led through both the Carter Center and The Elders to raise awareness of the “crimes against humanity” occurring in Darfur and to “find permanent peace” between northern and southern Sudan. He rejects the term “genocide” in discussing the Darfur question because –he argues- “while the government is culpable” for the atrocities committed upon hundreds of thousands of Darfuris, “the government has not orchestrated [those attacks]”.
Within this very serious discussion, however, the climax of Carter’s speech comes when he says that the momentum of American foreign policy and international opinion of the United States can –and should- change within the half hour needed for a new Democratic president to deliver his or her inaugural address. Carter suggests that five things must be said. First, the new president must declare that the United States will no longer go to war unless there is a direct threat to our national security. Second: that we will no longer torture potentially innocent suspects and hold them accountable to American law without providing them with American rights – full, boisterous applause follows this pronouncement. Next, Carter calls for peace in the Middle East and an increased concern for the environment in “combating global warming”. Carter’s fifth and most important suggestion for the new president’s inaugural speech is a promise to “raise high the banner of human rights” –more applause follows.
On the whole, Carter’s speech reminds me of the importance of idealism in foreign policy: without hope for a better method of dealing with terrorists, ignorance, struggling economies and decreasing resources, what improvements in international relations do we have to look forward to in the future? What we need now is a president who can break us out of this self-destructive approach to foreign policy –power relations are immutable- and show us that there’s a better way to do business. We need a president who can unite our country socially (s/he must defend the humanity and equality between men and women of all sexual orientations) economically (s/he must refuse to sign resolution after resolution to send more and more U.S. money into the soil of Iraq and Afghanistan and instead funnel those dollars back into domestic programs) and politically (s/he must engender bi-partisan support for furthering social and economic equality at home and abroad). Perhaps with a president like that we may begin to solve some of the issues to which President Carter has devoted so much of his life.

Progress in Politics Forum

I'm sitting in the Butler Board Room at AU waiting for the "Progress in Politics Forum" to begin. The forum is sponsored by Women's Initiative and Students for Hillary and will feature 3 AU professor panelists: Sarah Brewer, Allan Lichtman, and Barbara Palmer. According to the AU Student Government Web site, the forum "will examine and discuss the past, present and future of women in American politics from a historical, political and feminist perspective."
These issues are important to expanding the diversity of political debate in America today. The increasing influence of women on the political process has the opportunity to transform political dialogue. This is especially relevant in light of Nancy Pelosi's recent election to Speaker of the House and Hillary Clinton's bid for the oval office in 2008.

The panel is beginning without Allen Lichtman, who failed to show up.
Director of Women & Politics Institute Karen O'Connor is moderating the discussion.

While the panel covered a broad range of topics from the first congresswoman (Jeanette Rankin, first elected in 1916) to the term of former supreme court justice Sandra Day O'Connor, I'd like to focus mainly on the panel's discussion of Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, and the challenges facing women running for national office today.

Palmer discussed whether we, as a country, have gotten past referring to Pelosi as "Nancy Pelosi, the first female speaker of the house," and now think of her only as "Speaker Pelosi." Palmer said when a journalist recently asked her this question, she was inclined to say yes, we have gotten past it, but then she recalled an instance this past summer when the media had a ball covering Clinton's cleavage. Often, the media will cover female politicians' clothes and families far more than they will for male politicians.

I find this appalling, and really, really annoying. Focusing on personal matters and fashion choices obscures the real issues at hand. Though Brewer said in the panel that Clinton does not get as much of this because she has been on the national political stage for so long. However, women's professional dress is a lot less standard than men's (I guess a blue suit and red tie wouldn't fly with Hillary. I know it wouldn't with me!), so we have a lot more room to be creative. Of course, this can create a distinctive look that some wayward journalist might actually think is newsworthy

Back on Pelosi, Brewer said that it is her duality of female stereotypes that contributed to her success.
"She's not the iron lady, but she's not just the grandma that everybody likes," Brewer said, citing Pelosi's traditionally masculine approach to leadership.
"Don't get me wrong, the fact that she's a grandmother of five is the reason she can get away with this.... shes a great transitional person in my mind," Brewer added.

After the panel, I asked Brewer and Palmer whether they thought a single, childless woman could succeed in politics without appearing too masculine. To me, it seems to be a lose-lose situation set up by gender scripts. Either you are weak and nurturing, unable to stand up in a political battle, or too hard and career driven, with no family values. In that case, you probably must be a lesbian too.
Brewer and Palmer cited two examples of young, childless women who have put their political careers first and are meeting with early success: Congresswoman Hilda Soliz of California, and Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth of South Dakota.
However, whether these women or others like them will be able to overcome these hurdles in campaigning for higher offices remains to be seen.

Finally, one interesting point the specifically applies to the topic of presidential debate is how a female candidate can appear strong and tell the American people what they want to hear. Many people seem to have doubts about how a woman would behave in the role of commander in chief. Palmer discussed a question asked at one of the earlier democratic primary debates. The moderator asked what each candidate would do if terrorists carried out 9/11 style attacks on major U.S. cities during their term. Obama and Edwards both said they would investigate who really committed the attacks before responding and would discuss options with foreign allies. Bush, Palmer added, would probably have said the same thing if he had been asked. However, Palmer said Hillary responded that she would bomb them off the face of the planet.
"I don't know if thats what she'd really do, but that was the answer that people wanted, and she got it right," Palmer said.

Does being a woman mean you have to give up what you may really believe in order to appear stronger, less "womanly?" Do women have to give up more to run a successful campaign than men?

Giuliani is most electable?

I've never been good about following politics, and to be honest, I never really cared that much. However, now that I'm eligible to vote in the next election, and because I live in the political capitol of the world, I deem it necessary to get involved and become politically aware. So last week I decided to thoroughly read about all the candidates running in the 2008 election, since I really only knew about them from headlines in the news (embarrassing, I know).

I am a registered independent, and my views do swing both ways, so I thought that I would be most impressed by Giuliani since he seems like the most moderate candidate of them all. However, I was shocked when I was reading about his policy views and how he feels about certain issues that are critical for the next election.

When I was reading about his views on "War and Peace" I felt as if he is a prime example of why foreign countries hate us and the epitome of the superiority complex that Americans have. In one example, he states: "Liberating the Iraqis is something we should be proud of" (http://ontheissues.org/Rudy_Giuliani.htm). As well (from the same site), "Negotiate with Iran, but fully prepared for force". and "We've never won a war while discussing how to retreat". I'm not intentionally trying to pick sides or say that Giuliani is ultimately wrong; however, I was shocked to hear how arrogant he seems to come off, when the whole time I thought he would be a little more liberal in his mindset when it came to the War in Iraq. I live right outside New York City, and I witnesses firsthand how he restored the city and what a people person he is, but this I was not expecting. I'm sorry but backing up your words in Iran with force just does not seem like a peaceful idea to me... I also can see why some Iraqis hate us so much.. because we did barge into their country and liberate them, and no one asked us to. I think that we definitely helped the country to take a step in the right direction, and their country did need to be reformed from its devastated state, but how would America feel if take France for example, barged onto our territory and dictated how the country should be established and ran politically.. Americans would be in an uproar as well. I felt as if Giuliani was very blunt and on a one track mind, when I felt as if he gave off different vibes in the past.

There is a new article out though stating the Giuliani is seen as the "Most Electable Candidate" and it could be very beneficial for the Republican party if he is the front running candidate, especially against Clinton, because a lot of Democrats/Independents who aren't ready for a female voter will vote for Giuliani since he is the most moderate. My question is though, if a major issue of the next election is the War in Iraq, will this be detrimental to Giuliani for those swing voters who don't necessarily want a female President, but are very anti-war as well, given Giuliani's views?