Moderates Don’t Care If This Country Goes to Hell

By Teka Lark (January 31, 2020)

Being in the United States owing to slavery, and having relatives who are still alive who survived Jim Crow, gives you a unique perspective on justice in the United States.

If you look throughout history in this country, oppression is an ebb and flow. For example, during the Reconstruction Era, the era right after the ending of slavery (1863–1877), there were 1500 Black political officeholders. More than a half-million Black men became voters in the South during the 1870s, and the federal law somewhat protected Black people’s rights. But after Reconstruction, not only did we not hold office, we couldn’t even vote, and by “we” I mean Black men.

When I look at Trump’s impeachment trial my friends that are reasonable and logical say: “Well the moderates will be so disgusted by this that even if he doesn’t get impeached, they will come around?” Come around? Come around to what? This country bankrupts its own white children because they don’t want one tax dollar to go to a college program that might benefit a “Black.”

This country doesn’t have universal childcare because it would rather have white women kill themselves if they don’t have to share with Mexican-Americans. The moderates are racists and nationalists whose retirements are tied to the stock market. They don’t care if this country goes to hell. They’ve sent it there many times before.

The people who are most pro-Trump right now who are trying to suppress the witnesses in the Senate are the moderate Republicans. If they do the right thing, they will be primaried out.


The Social Value of Science Fiction: Asimov, Ellison and Social Justice

(By Joseph Orosco, January 30, 2020)

This year marks the Isaac Asimov’s 100th birthday.  He is perhaps one of the most well known science fiction writers, a pioneer of the Golden Era of the genre.  He is best known for emphasizing “hard science fiction”–the kind that takes seriously describing the scientific elements of a story and theorizing the implications of new technological developments (he was educated as a natural scientist, after all).

In a recent commemorative essay, David Leslie recommends that we turn back to Asimov for the kind of perspective his work allows us to adapt.  Leslie says Asimov gave us a way to get a wider view of humanity’s place in the universe and the responsibility of being an inhabitant on Earth and that such a vision might be what we need today:

“A century after Asimov’s birth, forests burn from Australia to California. Shorelines are swallowed by rising seas, towns ravaged by unearthly storms. Humanity’s insatiable appetites continue to crush the diversity of life, and conflicts draw us ever closer to a fiery end. At such a juncture, we might do well to pick up Asimov’s writings and take flight with him. Perhaps then we can together peer back at our pale blue island, suspended in the void, and gain a saner, more humane and more rational point of view.”

This made me look to see what other science fiction writers had to say about the social value of speculative fiction.  I found this short clip, which I think comes from interviews conducted by James Gunn at the University of Kansas.  It’s grainy and only features men, but some of the interviews express the kind of hope that I think the Anarres Project embodies about the radical imagination and social transformation.  The highlights for me are:

  1.  Harlan Ellison (the writer of perhaps the very best Star Trek: The Original Series episode “The City on the Edge of Forever”) at 1:40 talking about the need to think imaginatively because of the realization of ecological connection on earth.  Science fiction can prime us to be aware of our individual impact on the well-being of the planet
  2. I believe its James Gunn at 3:08, talking about the value of science fiction not so much in predicting the future, but providing a way to envision different alternatives about what the future could be.  Science fiction can help us to change our world by giving us visions of what we might be able to work for and bring about.
  3. At 3:23, Harlan Ellison again talks about how we might think of speculative fiction as a tool that sparks our imagination and makes social change happen in the manner of other forms of literature that have instigated new ways of thinking of human rights and social justice.



How else can speculative fiction nourish our search for social justice?

The Everyday Gray Areas of Harassment Toward Women

By Elle Stanger (January 29, 2020)

When I was a teen-adult, I worked in mall jobs for a couple years. One day, a twenty-something man talked at me for thirty minutes in an empty store while I set up the t-shirt displays: He followed me around explaining in GREAT DETAIL all of the tattoos he planned on getting, where and what and which scummy bro of his was gonna “hook him up”, he even told me his plans to file his teeth into fangs.

Literally thirty minutes. He didn’t buy anything.

Six months later and I’m working at a different location of that retail store, fifteen miles away. And the SAME dipshit comes in and starts reciting the exact same script of all his supposed tattoo plans and fangs, and it was at that point that I realized he didn’t recognize me.

Then I realized that he actually spends his time Doing That to women, all the time.

Things I learned:

-Some people need friends real bad
-Most employment jobs don’t give you tools for dealing with people like this
-Grey areas exist in terms of harassment
-It’s perfectly OK to ignore someone who is ranting their bullshit at you while you’re working
-I never care/enjoy hearing from someone about their tattoo/plans

I wonder if he’s out there, somewhere, STILL doing this.


Kobe Bryant, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Kissenger

By Ted Levine (January 28, 2020)

I’m not a basketball fan, or a fan of any sport, and I don’t care very much about the lives of rich and famous people (except when I do). But the reflection below spoke to me about the complexity of feelings about people who have done some terrible things, but also some admirable things.

I think it’s somehow key to our survival as a species that we have the capacity to, not forgive exactly or necessarily, but to love people who are complex and have done some terrible things at one or more points in their lives.

It’s one of the most fascinating themes in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy. In that series, there is a longevity treatment that allows people to live, and remain healthy and active, for several centuries. It’s not perfect though. Memories start to degrade. So people live out very different careers, and develop and grow into very different people than they were at one point (but not without some continuity), without really much remembering some of their past “lives.” And they can become lovable after having been terrible, and have no memory of the terrible things they did centuries before.

It’s a rich and fascinating thought experiment about human complexity, identity, redemption, restorative justice, forgiveness, etc.

Don’t get me wrong. Kissinger is still evil.

Does the Anti-War Movement Include the War on Black People?

By Teka Lark (January 8, 2020)

In Newark & Los Angeles, when I would go to protest I would have to step over Black people. I would have to step over them on the way to train, on the way to the march. I would have to pass over places where my friends used to live. But now they live in their car, at their grandmothers…. I had a good friend, a comrade try to get a job in NJ ,and this Black man, despite having a college degree, could not get a job. He was political, far left, but he paid for college through the military. It was not his desire to choose this Robert Frostian path, but after much resistance he had no choice but to reenlist in the military.

The best draft the US has is racism and classism. You get some amazingly talented, smart, and able Black people who are highly motivated to not die on the streets of Newark, Los Angeles, Chicago….

You will sign up to do a lot of things when you’re hungry.

I myself was never able to obtain employment in New Jersey, despite having a Masters degree. I was never able to obtain a job that would give me enough money to pay my rent. In NJ a place with the biggest and best paid middle class in the entire United States.

The poverty rate for Black people in Newark is 30%. I would be part of that 30% if I had been born here and was not able to obtain the experience and social capital (social capital is key and hard to come by in places as hypersegregated as NJ) to access jobs in other states that hire Black people.

If you are Black stay out of this place, seriously.

I can’t help but see over and over again college educated Black people in NJ with no job, no prison record, constantly hustling to fight unemployment and underemployment.

But you know, I feel that being a high school drop-out shouldn’t doom you to starvation; but I also don’t feel that being Black should doom you either.

I don’t mean to bash people, but context is everything, I can’t not be Black or pretend that Black people aren’t here when I do my political work, I don’t have the privilege.

I am anti-war and that would include being against the constant war on Black people. I can’t walk over homeless Black people to do a political action, I just refuse to do it. I am willing to do many things, but I just don’t have the cognitive dissonance needed for that kind of thing.


I Live in a Country that Invests in Violence; Why Can’t It Meet the Needs of Justice?

By Jasper Smith (January 7, 2020)

I live in a country that used the military and militias to kill and forcibly remove people from their ancestral lands after tens of thousands of years of living here so the government could give that land away for free to white people to have homes and farms and so oil, timber, and mining interests could profit from “free” land for a quick buck.

I live in a country where 100 million acres of land was given away by the government for free to private railroad companies who sold the land at a profit to build houses and cities.

I live in a country where five white landowners own 9 million acres of land and all African-Americans, over 40 million people, combined own 8 million acres.

When we say the government can house people who are homeless and provide affordable housing in exchange for a third of people’s income, it should sound like a small thing, not a big thing, for this country to do.

I live in a country where for 250 years, it was legal to own another human being based on their skin color and force them to work for no wages and own no property to benefit the land owner.

I live in a country where today, workers lose more money in wage theft by business owners than all the robberies, burglaries, motor vehicle thefts, and larcenies combined. Wage theft is rarely prosecuted, but if it were, it carries only a $1000 fine.

I live in a country where Apple, which has 2-3 times more cash on hand than the US government received $500 million in government subsidies and Google, one of the most profitable businesses on the planet, received $600 million in government subsidies.

I live in a country that just gave away $1.5 trillion in tax breaks and encouraged overseas tax shelters for billionaires and corporations.

When we say the government should tax people and corporations fairly, and spend money on human needs for housing, safe drinking water, health care, education, income and social supports, it should be an easy thing for this country to do, not a hard thing.

The government redistributes wealth all the time. Instead of concentrating wealth for the few which is destroying our communities and the planet, we need to use our government to meet the needs of the people and invest in equity and justice.