08/05/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Change I Wish They Believed In

We're months away from the big US election that will alter the course of war in the Middle East, health care for US citizens, and some provide relief from the economy we've slogging through. If a Democrat takes the White House, we'll likely see this country swing back to the Left -- but only just a bit, because the presumptive Democratic candidate is such a centrist. The Republican candidate seems at heart to be centrist, but he's allowing himself to be represented further and further to the Right. So no matter which of the presumptive candidates takes office, life is still going to be hell for people who live out on the furthest reaches of the world's intersecting caste systems of class, age, race, gender, citizenship, looks, sexuality, religion, and ability.
In the upcoming months, there will be no substantive political discussion about relief from these nine authoritarian hierarchal systems of oppression. But our access to health care, shelter, education, and job opportunities depends on our positions on one or more of those social ladders. People who live at the bottom of those ladders die in great numbers, or they kill themselves because they're so messed up by those nine intersected systems of oppression.
During the long campaign to come, we'll hear some talk about race and age, sure. These are the badges of oppression worn bravely by the presumptive candidates of both parties. All the candidates did that. Mit Romney wore his badge of oppressed religion. Dennis Kucinich defied the accepted norm of good looks -- he must've been bullied as a kid. Senator Clinton wears her badges of gender and age proudly and with good grace -- as do the two remaining contenders for the position of leader of the free world. (Does anyone still call the US president that?)

Most of us wear a badge or two of oppression, and that's pretty much all we talk about. We fight for equity in the segregated arenas of our individual oppressions. But neither we nor the presumptive candidates are going to talk in any great detail about how our individual oppressions share a common source: the unconscious, obsessive greed of a decaying, isolationist, God-fearing, capitalist democracy that is today's United States of America.
I don't fear God. I'm afraid of the people who fear Him.

Look, republics and democracies are forms of government whereby the country is ruled by all the people. Everyone's point of view is taken into account before political decisions are made. That's how it's supposed to be. Everyone, regardless of race or religion or class, gender, sexuality, looks, ability, or age. But some people have figured out how to manipulate both republican and democratic forms of government so that the only folks who have a say in the running of our country are those who belong to a narrowly defined, more or less wealthy demographic.

It shouldn't even matter if you were a citizen of this country. If you live and work here, you should have some say. Is that so crazy? Of what value are our borders, in the face of global starvation and the millions of deaths on every continent, caused by easily curable diseases? Of what value are our national borders when the oceans keep rising on all our shores?

In a democratic republic, you should have some say if you're young, or black, or brown or homeless. You should have some say in the direction of our country if you're male, female or otherwise. It shouldn't matter a damn if you're a homo or a hetero. It might matter to your God, but it doesn't matter in a democratic republic. And speaking of God, everyone gets to say their piece, whether you're an atheist, a reform Jew, an orthodox Mormon or a fundamentalist Scientologist. The big deal in a democratic republic is not only that everyone has a say, but also that no one gets to boss anyone else around. Right? That's the bottom line of oppression: someone has assumed the authority to bully you around, and that's determining your quality of life.

How'd we ever come up with bullying as a social dynamic? Oh right ... we put that one together in junior high school. We learned to say "Be like us. Be just like us, or we'll make life miserable for you." Well, how long have the leaders of the free world been out of junior high school? Why are they still pushing forward a government that pays no real attention to life beyond their own welfare or the welfare of people just like them?

US politicians don't talk about class today. They talk about "the middle class" as if there was no such thing as a working class, a homeless class, a ruling class, an upper class and a class made up of everyone who lives on the extreme edges of our culture... an outlaw class. We're not going to hear the presumptive leaders of our democratic republic ever talk about how the "middle class" is part of an oppressive class system. If our political leaders aren't going to speak that deeply about class, then how can we expect them to embrace sex positivity, gender anarchy, or ending religious warfare?

What about race? This past March, Senator Obama gave his famous speech on race. He dove more deeply into the nature and extent of oppression than any politician of my lifetime. Brilliant talk, from the heart. That's when I started to like the guy. He was talking from a place of having been kept on the outside of things. I still have hopes for an Obama presidency, but I fear that speech was a one-off, to get himself off the racist hook of the Reverend White connection.
And age? McCain doesn't talk about what really happens when people in this country get old. Clinton never speaks of gender beyond man and woman. No one talks about sex... they only talk about marriage. And excuse me, but isn't it time to talk seriously about lowering the voting age in this country? Our nation's government doesn't stand up for youth--not where they need someone to stand up for them.

The good news is that the first generation of postmodern theorists and activists is nearly ready to flex its political muscle. Postmodern theory and queer theory are nothing more than non-destructive ways to take things apart -- and ways to put things back together again, better than ever. That's what needs to happen to our nation's government and culture: they both need to be dismantled and reassembled from the bottom up.

I'm calling on postmodern theorists and activists to enter this coming election process at whatever level you can, with the aim of forging a coalition and politic that includes the ever-expanding outer-edge of our erstwhile democracy. That's some change I can believe in.
I'm calling on the presumptive candidates to talk about the intersection of oppressions that's tearing our country apart. That's some change I wish they believed in.

I call on the presumptive candidates to pledge a cabinet position that brings equity to our nation's diversity and intersectional oppression. That's the kind of change I've come to believe in from I've learned in postmodern theory and queer theory.
How about you?

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