It has become impossible not to notice the trend. Whether it is banning the word “gay,” or banning books that contain topics related to human sexuality, or the Supreme Court decision to overturn a woman’s federal right to an abortion, the war on human sexuality and those who are sexually divergent is ramping up on multiple fronts. Even I’ve been a target of this war. Because of my outspoken advocacy for LGBTQ+ youth, I have been labeled a “groomer” by a few figures on the far right.
What is it about this photograph that is so intriguing? This is the Carina Nebula taken by the James Webb Telescope (NASA). We are looking at a nursery of stars, many far bigger than our own sun. And we are also looking back in time. Deep time. Yet there’s something intimate about it, even though there aren’t any pareidolic references for us to easily latch on to.
The overturning of the landmark Roe v Wade case providing federal protection for a woman’s right to choose is both appalling and enraging. Now, several conservative states have already begun outlawing abortion rights. It is undeniable that women’s rights have taken an enormous blow, and the effect will have repercussions around the world.
If you’ve never traveled around the state of Texas, you won’t really get an accurate picture of this odd land of extremes. The cities, especially Austin and Houston, are islands of relative sanity surrounded by a sea of crazy. All this considered, the unveiling of the Texas GOP’s platform should come as no surprise. They have merely tapped into the paranoid, hyper-nationalist, fascist zeitgeist so prevalent among a large swath of its white, Christian population.
As we observe Pride Month, we should remind ourselves that the original Pride Parade was a riot, not a celebration of conformity to society. There were no permits issued to the people who marched down those streets in New York City. There were no corporate, bank or military floats participating. And it was mocked by mainstream press like the New York Times.
I’ve heard that some of the parents in Uvalde are planning to have open caskets at the funerals for their little ones. I cannot imagine the kind of agony these families are going through. And also for the families and loved ones of the teachers who were killed, and one husband dying of a heart attack from grief only days later, leaving four children.
Author’s note: this essay is an updated and expanded upon version of one published in May of this year.
There was a part of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, that is perhaps the most unsettling to me. The protagonist, Offred, is walking past the notorious Wall in the Republic of Gilead. This Wall, once part of a prestigious university in Cambridge Massachusetts, is now being used as a place of public execution, where corpses are left hanging for days to send a message of compliance and terror to the citizens of this authoritarian, theocratic state. Defy “God’s law” and you will suffer the punishment for doing so.
“You are doing many things here in this struggle. You are demanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor. So often we overlook the work and the significance of those who are not in professional jobs, of those who are not in the so-called big jobs. But let me say to you tonight, that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity, and it has worth.
The first Earth Day was in 1970. It came about as a response to a major oil spill off of Santa Barbara, California, in 1969. This, along with Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring which documented the devastation caused by the pesticide industry on birds and other wildlife, the end of the Vietnam War, and the famous 1968 Earthrise NASA photograph of the earth from the moon, galvanized millions of people to protest the destruction of our biosphere caused by war and powerful industries. More than 20 million people took to the streets that day, making it still the largest single-day protest in human history.
I keep seeing the call for a “no fly zone” over Ukraine repeated online and in the media. At this moment in time, there is nothing that would likely assure the end of civilization and our biosphere than NATO implementing such a thing. If they did, then member countries in this military security pact would be obligated to fire upon not only Russian aircraft, but airfields. It would be an act of war. And Putin has already vowed to make those nations pay a high price, as he placed Russia’s nuclear arsenal on high alert.
Let’s take a simple test. Ask yourself these questions: has Facebook ever placed a non-white nation’s flag on the top of the list as a choice for profile photo frames? Has Saturday Night Live ever had a Syrian, or Palestinian, or Yemeni choir open their show? Did liquor stores ever stop selling Russian vodka when it was involved in the Syrian civil war? Did Shell or BP or any other major fossil fuel company ever stop doing business with Saudi Arabia despite massive human rights violations or its murderous war in Yemen? I think the answer to these questions should come easily.
This past weekend, I attended a rally in my home city of Halifax. It was organized to counter the so-called “Freedom Convoy” which continues to hold cities hostage around Canada. Our gathering was intended to build solidarity and care for community. It was encouraging to see so many people come out to oppose fascism. I only wish more showed up.