Thursday, March 19, 2015

Solidarity For-ev-er! (repeat 2x): E.R.A.! E.R.A.! NOW! (9 Oct. 2014)

            I've recently sent in a contribution for HIV/AIDS research, and, when contacted, I contribute to the local group that helps poor women get breast cancer screenings; and once a year or so I contribute to research on prostate cancer. These are all worthy causes, but aside from using the return-address labels for GMHC and their "Essential Survives to Men, Women, and Families Living with HIV/AIDS" — and aside from what I just wrote (and purchasing [sic] a life-membership in the National Organization for Women) — I haven't done anything more for those causes.

            No ribbons or marches or contacting friends, and when I write, as now, it is to point out that for women in the United States, death by cancer of any sort is less likely than death by heart disease and stroke. Indeed, for White and Black women, heart disease alone — not counting strokes — is the leading cause of death. In 2008, 24.6% of deaths among White women were from heart disease, 21.6% from cancer. In 2008, 24.9% of deaths among Black women were from heart disease, 21.6% from cancer.
            And "HIV Disease" was number 14 out of 15 as cause of death in the US in 2008, ranking behind homicide and tied with congenital malformations.
            Rankings on "Morbidity and Mortality" are more reliable and significant than, say, Newsweek's ranking of colleges and universities, but such grim statistics are only suggestive; and they need to be analyzed in detail. It is significant, for example, that congenital malformations ordinarily kill children and young people 1-24, that homicide is a significant risk primarily for the young and relatively young, and that AIDS kills in the socio-economic prime of life: ages 25-44.
            What I try to stress in my writing and politics are the cold numbers of Morbidity and Mortality tables. And I stress them for the important reason that the sex-related and journalistically "sexy" diseases of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and AIDS are less of a threat than diseases with less powerful political connections like heart disease and "Cerebrovascular Diseases (Stroke)."
            "So attention must be paid" to diseases specific to women and to men gay and straight, and, to American men who are gay: very few men will get breast cancer; no women will get prostate cancer (though there may be something similar); and in the USA — as opposed to Africa — HIV/AIDS has been most importantly a disease among young gay males. And at various times that attention must be drawn by agitation, propaganda, protest, and even disruption: the standard ways political things get done by people not running a country.
            But attention must also be paid to unnewsworthy, "background" threats like heart disease and stroke, and diseases that threaten pretty much everybody: diseases that should inspire causes that can bring together working coalitions of men and women, gay and straight, incandescent White or of color of various sorts.
            Similarly, to get around to my title topic, "for everything there is a time, and a season," as Koheleth saith (Eccl. 3.1), and I think it now a time that my friends (and unfriends) on the Left return to an emphasis on coalitions, and coalitions built around the decorous uniting theme of equality.
            Greater equality of income and, more important, wealth, for a primarily goal, but that will be a tough fight: people with a lot of money are more into Pride than Greed among the deadly sins, and being better off than other people and a whole lot better off — radical inequality — is precisely the point. With a long-term fight over wealth distribution in the background, however, it is time to get to a more immediate, achievable, and too-long-put-off goal: ratification of an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, with the process reinvigorated by a campaign in the 113thor 114th Congress.
            Look, if the old hard-radical feminist critique is correct, there is a monolithic structure of (White, European) male privilege of ancient and awesome power, and therefore not much hope for change. For sure, there'd be no reason beyond altruism for any XY and/or male-gendered human beings to do much for women or anyone else below them in the food chain. But there was never "The Man," and men are far from a monolithic group; and a lot of actually-existing guys have a fair sense of fairness and some vague idea that we are far from the top of the food chain and would be better off in a more equal world.
            And greater equality can begin logically and sensibly with the biggest inequality around: patriarchal/sexist exploitation of women. So:

Section 1: Women shall have equal rights in the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Section 2: Congress and the several States shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

            Rape, sexual assault against women, and domestic abuse will remain issues in the United States, but those are crimes and need to be effectively handled as crimes. The cultural contexts in which such crimes are enabled are bigger and more complex problems; I'll note, though, that "The Law is the great teacher" — schoolmaster? — "of the commonwealth" (as someone said), and a fine teacher of the basics is specific expansion of the US Bill of Rights with an ERA for women. If "The Man" still exists in some sense and has problems with the ERA, then he can be shouted down and out-voted by the gals and guys. If some women worry that the second sentence of section 1 might make women susceptible to conscription, and if war-loving men worry that a country that drafts women would be reluctant to go to war …. Well, it may be my privileged off-White, politically straight, and XY-male privilege speaking — or just my souvenir 1-A draft card (Available for [Immediate] Military Service) — but screw 'em. If there's a literal "existential threat" against the USA, then every American from age 18 to 80 should have our names, health status, and brief résumés in the computer, and if we've got needed skills, off we go to defend the Motherland: with one Member of Congress drafted by lottery each week for the duration, and one Senator a month (I'll insist strongly on that last part: drafting members of the Congress).
            Solidarity forever folks; let's return to some old political priorities NOW, if perhaps just for now. 

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