Detroit, War on Women — August 23, 2013 at 11:06 am

Eclectablog op-ed about Netroots Nation ’14 in the Detroit News (+ bonus South African post)


There are two sides to this story

Earlier this month, the Detroit News printed an op-ed from an anti-union corporatist group known as the Franklin Center. This Koch brothers’ funded group is nothing more than a propaganda arm of the corporate-funded effort to destroy unions, stop the regulation of corporations whenever possible, and to pass laws that benefit corporate profits at every level, often at the expense of workers, the environment, and the health and safety of the general public. My response to their odious op-ed, which tried to rewrite the history of labor in Michigan and to demonize the Netroots Nation conference in the same breath is HERE.

I reached out to the Detroit News and asked if they would entertain an counterpoint op-ed from a member of the Host Committee for NN14 about the reality of the Netroots Nation conference, why Detroit is a natural choice for a location, and also why it’s good thing for Detroit that the 3,000+ person conference will be in the Motor City next summer.

They graciously allowed me to respond. The piece ran yesterday. Here is an excerpt:

Why did Netroots Nation choose Detroit to host its 2014 event? Because many of the issues progressives are passionate about are on full display in Michigan in general and in Detroit in particular: Immigration. Women’s reproductive freedom. Collective bargaining and right to work. Marriage equality and civil rights for the LGBT community. Environmental concerns. All of these progressive issues and more are playing out in sharp relief in Michigan.

Detroit’s state represents the culmination of what can happen when we neglect our cities and the people that live in them, and when we favor corporate profits over the people that make those profits possible. It is the progressive moment that is fighting to ensure that people are treated fairly and paid a living wage, have safe working conditions, have equal access to education and other opportunities, have air that is safe to breathe and water that is safe to drink, and live in a world free from oppression. […]

Conservatives and corporatists around the country seem to be taking perverse pleasure from Detroit’s situation and the fact that Netroots Nation is coming to Detroit. But make no mistake: Netroots Nation is proud to be coming to the Motor City. We look forward to showing off a side of Detroit that is not burned-out buildings, crime and other “ruin porn.” Detroit is so much more than that. While our political adversaries revel in glee over Detroit’s problems, progressives are coming to Netroots Nation in 2014 to contribute to a positive vision for the future.

We hope you will join us at the Cobo Center, July 17-20, 2014.

You can read the entire op-ed HERE.

Also this week, a piece I wrote for the South African online magazine Land N Sand was published. My good friend Ulla Kelly asked me to provide them with a post, something that gives a bit of an American perspective on some issue or another. I was a bit challenged to come up with a topic but decided to talk about the fight for equality for women in the United States of America and what lessons can be learned by women facing similar battles across the globe. Here is an excerpt from that piece titled, “Women, equality, and freedom in the United States of America”:

At the turn of the current century, women made up over half of the students at American colleges. The right to a safe and legal abortion was enshrined in law. Women were making significant inroads into politics and the workforce and, although they still didn’t make as much money as a man in the same job, parity was within site. It seemed clear women’s equality was nearly at hand.

And then, suddenly, it wasn’t.

In 2010, two years after the election of Barack Obama as the first black American president, the dying beast of women’s oppression had a death spasm and, in its fearful flailing, won big in the November elections. Men and women (okay, mostly men) with far-right conservative political and social views filled our state legislatures and our national Congress. They wasted no time. Soon, around the country, laws were being passed to restrict a woman’s right to have an abortion. Legislation that would have required equal pay for equal work for women was voted down. In state after state, the percentage of women in the state legislature was dropping. Just a decade or two after making tremendous social and political gains, women again have to fight for their freedoms. And they aren’t always winning.

What lessons do we learn from this? What lessons can women around the world learn, many of whom look with envy at the women in America and the freedoms that they enjoy, even in the face of a repressive patriarchy trying to set the clock back fifty or a hundred years? First, if women are ever to be equal in society, they must be educated and they must have the ability to make their own reproductive choices. Without this, they face a life as little better than house slaves, consigned most of their lives to raising children and being dependent on others.

But there is another lesson here, as well. For women to keep any gains they have won, they must also have political power. They must take their seat at the decision-making table along with men at every level. Without political power, women everywhere face losing their gains at any moment. As unbelievable as it sounds, this is what is happening in United States of America. A country that has served in some ways as a shining beacon of progressivism and positive social change is undergoing a devolution of sorts. And it’s all because those who would take us back in time have the political power to do so.

Education, reproductive freedom, and political power. It’s a powerful mix. It’s an elusive mix. But the struggle to attain these things is worth every tear and drop of blood that is shed. Men will struggle with this, of course, as will some women. But men have much to gain from this, as well because, as Eve Ensler, creator of the Vagina Monologues explained to me, “The liberation of women is not separate from the liberation of men. The freer women are, the freer men are.”

Okay, back to my Very Socialist Vacation in the Very Socialist Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Y’all be good to one another.