• Joia

Today's rhaps is on ... Those Pesky Moderates

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

Frida Kahlo welcoming Trotsky and his wife, 1937

Lenin was far more irritated with the Mensheviks than with the actual enemies of the Bolsheviks. So close and yet so wrong! Leon Trotsky's Mensheviks supported a more moderate vision of change, this side of total revolutionary overhaul. His exile to Mexico in 1937 ended with his assassination by a Soviet agent in 1940.

My Bernie friends, four years ago and now, stop talking to me as soon as I ask the wrong question. I'm used to this, eyes glazing over when it's clear I'm outside the fold, loose, wandering into God knows what mayhem.

For example, I don't understand why Jesus died for my sins because I carry the sins of the men who hurt me. As long as the impregnating fathers are not held accountable while the mothers get punished, I won't understand the Cross. I do get forgiveness, transformation and Grace—I just don’t see what the Gospel has to do with this sin-carrying. That the Identity Pushers, like the Roman governor Pontius Pilate and the Sadducees of Judea, put the dangerous Ones to death? Yes. That happens all the time, in fact is happening right now in Alabama where the "pro-life" governor is presiding over yet another execution of an African American man. His innocence is in dispute. The US Supreme Court sided with the executioners, so the executed one dies for their sins, right? Black carries white, women carry men, poor carries rich...isn't this how it works?

Only a revolution could fix this!

True. Revolutions will erupt when Evil hits a critical mass of deceit and terror. The tragedy is that my Twin Towers may not be your last stand. In other words, I may be ready to give my life and steer my plane into your flaming infrastructure, while you've just gotten to the table to make lists and negotiate deals. Too late. For both of us. All we've got now is impassible TSA lines and beheadings in the desert. Twenty years later and we have—who?—Erdogan and Putin discussing ceasefire in Idlib? Over the Saddam atrocities and brief Arab Spring, the deliberate decimation of Iraqi and Syrian daily life, the destruction of Kurdish hope, the daily droning over screaming and bewildered children, the repercussions of 9/11 soldier on through this rubble, this chain reaction of unspeakable horror. The good reasoning of one-sided justice trickles down a slippery slope of bad logic, enmeshing human limbs and house bricks in its wake, bones and jutting rebar in the crumbling concrete. Well, leave it up to Turkey and Russia now, they'll figure it out.


With Bernie, I heard and hear the policies. I agree. Heath care is a human right and heavy student loans unconscionable. The .01% cannot continue to be sustainably in charge. But he can't work bipartisan across the aisle and unify the party and act presidential because...billionaires? Which ones? Soros, Bloomberg, is Barbra Streisand one yet? Beyonce? Talking to me is not possible because I've swallowed the Kool-Aid, I'm an enemy now?

Great. Madame Defarge is knitting in the corner and there is no middle ground. Guillotine will either get you or it won't. Half a neck will not help you.

Am I mad at the billionaires? Always. Why can't they rescue the refugees at the border of Greece? Why can't they stop police from murdering black civilians? Why can't they save the Amazon, the national parks, prevent the oil slicks? In addition to the medical bankruptcies.

Do I think the billionaires deserve all they have? Never. They took it from the people they stand on. "Giving back" is never enough, as long as they profit immorally off the ones they hurt.

But billionaires now own government. Our choice, should we choose to accept one, is between them.

In 2016 I was not woke enough for people who identified me with vicious white womanhood and I was too woke and dangerous for people who pegged me bleeding heart Berkeley liberal. I was too white and stupid for black intersectionists and too queer for evangelicals. I was too bisexual for lesbians. (I won't go into being too Portuguese or too Anglo or just too Analytic Philosophy for Continental Existentialism.)

What pertains is that I've been "behind the Iron Curtain" in the Soviet Union, in the Ukraine, in Lithuania, in Warsaw, in East Berlin. Flirting with these guys is no joke. Vilnus still had street signs in two languages. These guys have gulags in places you've never heard of. You will end up as forgotten and hopeless as a black prisoner in Angola, Louisiana.*

The fact that much of the US shivers at the word socialist is not like a gross pimple to squeeze in anger—it is historical, rooted in the outrage of the McCarthy years, in the tragic killings of the Viet Cong war years. Face it and educate your neighbors. Talk to them. Burning crosses on their lawns is not a pedagogical device. Shaming and blaming is not a learning style. Did I ever have a belligerent bigot in my critical thinking and scientific reasoning classes? Sure. Over thirty years, many. Did I give up on them, flunk them? No. I am a teacher. I found a voice they could hear, I found statistics they could accept, I found examples that rang true. I taught them how to fish, a lifetime skill. That was my job.

Benjamin Franklin suspected the French and American revolutions that brought us democracy were not indefinitely sustainable, any more than saying vows all dressed up pretty guarantees happy marriage. It's a republic, if you can keep it, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi often quotes the Founding Father. It takes work. But if you're a total uncompromising asshole, I get to divorce you. Not so in the bigger arenas, where the ideologies of identity and purity meet the rest of us less exclusive types. We don't belong. We stagger boundaries, mix up cultural frameworks and languages, stir up different spirits into the cocktails. We are constantly in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like Rasputin we refuse to die in proper Tsarist timing, haunting the palace halls uninvited.

Another quote, this time from Winston Churchill: Democracy is the worst form of government...except for all the others. It's not pretty and tidy, this idea that women and people of all colors and any old peasant riff raff are allowed into the town hall. But without us, this motley crew messing up aristocratic rule, life degenerates quickly into dystopian dictatorship. The wealthy landowners do so well without us! Up in their towers, safely inside the fortresses, pissing into golden toilets, life is good! Olhos fechados, eyes shut, they maintain privileges like a fifth food group, devouring entitlements on dainty dishes set out by compliant servants. If only the rest of us would behave as nicely!

Okay. So from Bernie-world, I look like a house slave, serving up privileges for afternoon tea. But what if I'm infiltrating, getting reconnaissance back to the front lines? What if I'm bringing Underground Railroad maps back into the plantation house? What if I know the language used by the Mark Galli evangelicals who do not support the godless Trump? What if the violation of my teenage body gives me vocabulary to speak to female torture? What if my unwieldy two-spirited desires give me biography to tell stories to everyone at the camp fire, even those who've stopped talking to each other?

Because if moderates and progressives can't find common Resistance in the woods, then Democracy truly cannot survive. We will have Auschwitz über Alles and this Arbeit will not make us frei. A worker's revolution will deteriorate quickly and a state-run Правда—the truth—will headline only Soviet-style lies.

I only cried over one campaign ending—Elizabeth Warren's. She's my university professor demographic and it sucks that she can't make it. The woman who actually won the last election wasn't even allowed in. So we have to keep infiltrating. It's not over.

The symmetry of Trump impeached because he was trying to screw over Biden is not lost on anyone, including the Russians. In Moscow they'd just assassinate him, like Boris Nemtsov in 2015. We don't just need the orange menace out of the White House, we need to clear out the KGB ghosts, too. This is not a game, with Jill Stein bouncing around like a pawn to teach those damn moderates a lesson. This is it, the existence of a democratic nation.

If we can keep it.

7 MARCH 2020


*Written after the US election in 2016:

On Equality

We are all rounded up that day

Yellow stars

Green and purple stars

Pink triangles

Black triangles

Scarlet letters

Blue law breaking

Females and males

Cut and uncut

Crying with fear

Hunger and anger freezing

Our hands, now

Strapped tightly

Against bloody

Backs, the mark

Of Cain still

Smoldering on

Forehead flesh, the grease

And filth of hate

Rubbed into what

Is left of our


Heaved into

Windowless boxes

We are transplanted to


Chambers, where our

Screams vacuum up the

Stale air and the

Minutest symbol of

Our shattered

Identities is

Stripped from our

Shaking frames and what

We know of our



To a tiny spot


Small, it lodges

Deep inside




And our Black



Brown eyes


Our eyes can finally meet

Ah, we breathe

As poison fills our lungs


At last

17 November 2016

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