Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “gender”

Join The Party

Left Coast Voices celebrates its third birthday this month. We are approaching 700 posts, have been viewed nearly 36,000 times, have over a hundred loyal followers, and have generally had a good time, offering our opinions without annoying too many people along the way.

What I enjoy about Left Coast Voices is that we attract people with a variety of views who can articulate their opinions. You can be a liberal but here that doesn’t mean you have to support everything about our president. Just because you are excited by the potential of the Occupy movement, doesn’t mean you agree with every action.

Our readers think. Our writers think. 

I want to take the opportunity to thank Roger Ingalls and Tom Rossi, who have become regular partners, tying up the Tuesday and Thursday slots. My only regret is that we have not hung out more often at Jupiters – micro-brewed beer, serious pizza, and great conversation. Norman Weekes has joined us on a less regular basis, but we are grateful for his contributions. You are always welcome, Norm.

I believe the diversity of writers is what makes our little community special. You never quite know what article or topic you are going to get and who is going to agree/disagree with whom.

I feel ready to offer up a slot to a fourth person. The criteria are that you write weekly (each contributor gets a consistent day: Tom – Tuesday, Roger – Thursday) and observe the three NOs – no racism, sexism, or homophobic comments. If you wish to write on a specific theme – gender, local grassroots, food justice, environmental, occupy etc., that would be great. If you prefer to choose a different topic each week, that works too.

I will teach you the mechanical aspect of blogging on WordPress and you will find a supportive team behind you. Along with the collaborative nature, there are other advantages. Left Coast Voices has its platform and following. We feed off each others followers  – you are not blogging for your mom and best friend (though they are both very important!). If you have a book or cause to promote in your signature, you are welcome to do so.

If you are interested, let me know in the comments below. If you have something to say, we can help you say it.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Alon

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

 

 

 

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Focus On The Real Issue

What is it with the American press, politicians and the rest of us! Why are we able to discuss every aspect of an issue except the core problem or conflict. I am guilty too. On Monday, I chose to focus on Congressman Rush getting kicked out of the House and even turned to my most trusted source, John Stewart on the The Daily Show.

Congressman Bobby Rush in the House

Mr. Stewart actually isn’t as guilty as the rest of us. He makes his living though satire (and does it exceedingly well, I might add). He is permitted to comb any situation and find a humorous angle to highlight. The rest of us shouldn’t.

It sometimes needs a quality journalist or social commentator to remind us of this. Thank you, Gail Collins for reminding us. Her op-ed in the New York Times, More Guns Less Hoodies, was excellent, and though I am going to lift a few choice paragraphs, her article is worth reading right through.

This is not about the right to wear a hoodie. The hoodie is nothing more than a symbol for racial profiling. “Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum,” a hooded Congressman Rush stated before being served a double technical and sent for an early showers.

Ms. Collins: “This is pretty much par for the course. Whenever there is a terrible shooting incident somewhere in America, our politicians talk about everything except whether the tragedy could have been avoided if the gunman had not been allowed to carry a firearm.

“You would think that this would be a great time to address the question of handgun proliferation, but it has hardly come up in Washington at all. This is because most politicians are terrified of the National Rifle Association. Also, the small band of gun control advocates are busy with slightly less sweeping issues, such as their ongoing but still utterly futile effort to make it illegal to sell a weapon to anyone on the terror watch list.”

But there is little discussion about gun control. Ms. Collins has argued gun control in the past and admits to feeling jaded. Many people just accept that there are certain interest groups that are untouchable. They are so well funded, so well organized, that they are simply impervious.

Ms. Collins chooses to highlight the discussion on carrying guns legally between states. If you have a license in one state, you can take it into many others. Ms. Collins concedes that anyone can walk with his gun around Time Square and many other vulnerable sites packed with citizens. In a country that has instituted many laws curbing citizen’s rights in the name of Homeland Security, this is patently absurd.

I am new to the topic of gun law. There is something far deeper in the American psyche that I, as a relative outsider, am having trouble  grappling with. As left as my politics go, I am keenly aware of the danger of terrorism and willing to have some of my rights curbed for what is, ultimately, the protection of my family, community and myself. 

But this is the same reasoning that doesn’t want almost anyone to walk around thinking he has the right to take a life in anything but the clearest scenario of self defense. We have one police force. They are trained and clearly defined by uniform and procedures. They might not be perfect and we might want to demand improvements and more policemen and policewomen on the streets, but this is the nature of democracy.

No one has a right to walk around with a gun and play God. And everyone has a right to walk the streets without fear of fellow man or woman, regardless of a person’s gender, race, or sexual orientation. This is what makes America great, not the false fear that a gun on your hip makes for a safer society.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

The American Left Part 2 – So What’s Important and What To Do?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a critique of the American Left. I think these criticisms are valid and I stand by them completely. However, my own negativity has sunk into my brain and made me realize that I have only said half of what needs to be said – and maybe the less important half.

Here’s the other half…. or at least a decent start.

I was not specific about what I meant by “teammates” and our failure to accept them – and the consequences. I also complained that we have no coach, and yet I offered hardly a word of direction or encouragement myself. So let me say a little more about why we need to work together, and then I’ll do my best to say how we might start to do it.

Right now, we have many groups striving to be treated like human beings, or like human beings of equal stature to the almost mythical “great white male”. Of course this really refers to a very special class of white male – a class to which I do not belong.

Some of these groups represent different races, religions, or even ages, body-types, or sexual preference/status/identity. And let’s not forget the other class that is being thrown under the bus these days – workers. Some workers are members of unions, others are not. All are being downgraded in our economy. The worth of the American worker is at its lowest point in decades. Teachers and police officers (among others) are being “asked” (forced) to make sacrifices in order to avoid raising taxes on the rich by 3% or taxing corporations at all.

Each of these groups fights for recognition as “real” Americans and “real” human beings – and rightly so. But their fragmented, uncoordinated attacks on the status quo have made moderate gains on a time-scale measured in decades. This is because of a simple and obvious fact: when group A fights for group A, and group B fights for group B, each group is small and almost powerless. They have even been played against each other at times.

Aren’t all of these groups really fighting for the same thing? Don’t we ALL want to be treated like human beings and not animals nor robots? Don’t we all want fairness? Don’t we all want to live in peace, without fear of prejudice? Don’t we all want not to be stepped on by the police, nor by corporations, nor by our government? Don’t we all have a reasonable expectation that we should be able to provide food and shelter for our families? Don’t we all want the security that comes from our own hard work? Don’t we all want some assurance that our children and our grandchildren will live in a decent world with drinkable water and breathable air?

Then let’s work together!

Let’s get started. Today, I want every one of you to go out of your way to shake hands with someone different from you, but who might be a potential teammate in the battle against the status quo. Smile. Ask a question about his or her job, family, opinion on catsup vs. mustard, the weather, whatever! These people are your teammates. None of them is perfect and none of them is exactly like you, nor do they have exactly the same goals or abilities. Great! We NEED lots of different kinds of people.

Next, we need to break free from the superficial games that our elections have become. We can no longer vote for or against someone because of the way he or she looks, because he or she smoked a joint a couple of times, nor even because he or she cheated on his or her spouse. These things are irrelevant. And we can’t be scared off by the anti-tax boo-birds. Nobody is talking about raising taxes on the middle class… NOBODY! We cannot be scared back into the status quo! We need to send a shockwave through our election system… We are here, and we won’t be screwed anymore!

I’m not nearly qualified to serve as this team’s coach. But maybe this team will have thousands of assistant coaches, and I’ll volunteer for one of those jobs. We all just need to keep it in our minds that, together, we can improve the situation of each and every one of the aforementioned groups – and each group will do BETTER FOR ITSELF as part of a larger team than it ever would on its own.

The mixed bucket of crises that we have all faced and are facing has bred a fair amount of fighting and blaming within our team. The opponent is not within. Let’s focus our efforts. Together, with some reasonable changes, we can have comfortable, secure lives in a sustainable world. It’s easy to see how a unifying set of principles could incorporate the goals of groups concerned with the issues of race and gender and such. It might prove more difficult to create a unified philosophy and calls-for-action which combine these types of issues with the imperative of managing our planet and its resources sustainably, but the potential is there and it must be done.

As it now stands, the resources of our country and of the world are being stolen from all of us and used up at a phenomenal rate in order to enrich those who are already very, very wealthy. The fight for the rights of minorities, or women, or whoever will be meaningless if most of us are living (and dying) in extreme poverty in the middle of a colossal toxic waste dump.

The process of taking our resources (unless we can slow it down) will further oppress those who are already oppressed. We’ve seen, recently, how crises are used to justify increased oppression of the lower and middle classes. We must re-prioritize PEOPLE OVER PROFITS. We must reject the lie that profits benefit everyone. It may have once been true in this country, but no longer.

If we can advance this simple set of principles, we will all benefit.

That black man, that white woman, that Chicano, or that Vietnamese woman standing behind you at the grocery store is probably your teammate. That “hippie,” that nerdy-looking scientist, or that artist sitting near you on the train might have some ideas you would be interested in – or might be interested in some of yours. Meet these people. Start talking. Start a movement.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com

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Great News Day

Great news today out of Washington DC: We are hearing first reports of a marathon meeting between republicans and democrats. They agreed on 10 points:

1)    Democrats agreed not to raise taxes while republicans promised that everyone would pay taxes proportional to their income – no tax shelters, no acceptance of ways to ‘save’ on taxes. The additional funds raised will pay for the following:

2)    Cars which do not run on alternative energy or hybrid consumption will cease to be produced in the US as of the end of this year and cease to be imported by the end of 2012.

3)    Non-organic produce will be taxed to pay for all toxic waste disposals. This cost will be shared between consumer and farmer.

4)    Every child in America will receive a personal laptop on entering elementary school. This laptop will have wireless capacity and come packed with educational and fun games as well as e-book capacity.

5)    Teachers will receive salary increases to a mid level company managerial equivalent, along with bonuses for working in low-income areas.

6)    Every young person who finishes high school with university grades will receive financial credits that will cover their tuition at a state university.

7)    Each freshman will receive a hand-held tablet with a yearly credit to buy academic books in electronic form.

8)    Personal finance will be taught in high school, including budgeting, the dangers of credit card abuse, and long-term saving benefits.

9)   America will no longer finance or do business with countries where basic human rights are not observed. These rights include no institutional discrimination based on gender, religion, race, or sexual orientation.

10) Every US citizen will have access to medical treatment without fear of bankrupcy. Every US war vet will have full access to psychological help.

This program will come into effect on April 1st, a day that will hereafter be celebrated as April Future Day. Anyone who objects to the aforementioned may continue to celebrate April Fools Day. These people will not be discriminated against, merely pitied.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

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