revolution” : a weekend’s worth of thoughts

sixth avenue, tuesday night after darren wilson was let off the hook for the murder of michael brown in ferguson

sixth avenue, tuesday night after darren wilson was let off the hook for the murder of michael brown in ferguson

These thoughts started on Wednesday, freestyled with two thumbs and no premeditation directly to Facebook:

I’ve been sitting here all morning listening to the rain, trying to write about last night’s revolution in the streets and mostly just thinking, gawking at the images and feelings burned into my consciousness, how many thousands of us were there last night? A swell of rage and support, two black women stranded in their vehicle on Houston, honking and screaming their thrill and appreciation. pushing through that internal wall of not giving a shit anymore, not playing by the everyday rules of traffic and public behavior, because these systems are racist and fucked and every day it makes me angry. art is a release, imagining and enacting a better world is power, I am doing the work but there is just so much of it, always. we live with that and keep going. but to see the guts of the revolution splashed open and spilled out into the streets last night… just a couple months after 400,000 of us were out there for the people’s climate march… the ground is shifting below our feet and all we can do is keep marching.

“Revolution” I reflected afterwards.

What a weird word to use so freely.

What does it even mean?

What does it mean to me?

So strong, so loaded, true or not true?

I made a page just for it in my book of ideas, so I could think about it more:


On the next :




* * *

What would a queer revolution look like?

What would feminist leadership do?

How would this entire culture be structured differently?

Could a peaceful shift be possible in our liftetimes? (or maybe, like, NOW??)

What can we learn from Arab Spring / are there relevant parallels?

Is our government still effective at managing the needs of a society no longer willing to defer to the judgments of privileged white men?

Is it still possible to separate democracy from capitalism? What can we salvage from this rubble? What would we keep and what would get overhauled?

How would things run differently if capitalist goals (ie making money off each other’s backs for personal reserve) were rewritten in favor of collective/humanitarian goals?

What would be involved in a mass cultural shift away from capitalist values? Isn’t this already happening in queer spaces? What are we learning? Can any of it be applied to a larger cultural shift?  Or is it more reasonable to imagine a more contained separatist culture/value system?

And how on earth to deal with the prisons?

And people stuck in the immigration system?

What movements of the past are relevant to these questions, and what can we learn from them?

What is the difference between what flared up in the 60’s, what flared up after Rodney King in the 90’s, and now?

How do we deal with the very natural conflicts that arise between humans sharing a planet?

What if we just said NO? Who would be included in that WE?

What happens next??? Oh my gosh I want to KNOW.

* * *

What IS the revolution now?

The revolution now
has been going on for years
(for those who have been paying attention)
and is recently going
stronger than ever.

The revolution now
is thoughtful
& wise.

We have learned how to listen.
We are learning how to listen.
We are listening.

We think down to the roots
of every belief and behavior we’ve been taught
and reconsider it,
knowing what we do now.

We practice basic human kindness,
which is a practice.

That means sometimes we fuck up,
and need to be accountable for that.

Anger is released without violence.

In our revolution
We are treated with respect.
We treat each other with respect.
We respect each other.

We respect ourselves.

We respect our planet.

We actually consider the future.

* I know there is more to this. The ideas are still coming. Drop me a note with yours? *

* * *

Conflict resolution

I often think our approach to conflict resolution is what will mark us as a movement, long-term.

Conflicts are a natural part of being human together on the planet.

In the current system, how are conflicts dealt with? Prisons, law suits, money changing hands. Shame, guilt, punitive measures rooted in a false hierarchy. Mass incarceration, emphasis on control not rehabilitation, support, understanding. No acknowledgement of the greater injustices at play.

In queer communities, how do we deal with conflict? What does accountability mean? Consensus process has its challenges but there are things we’ve learned from it over the years. But there are also flame wars on the internet, public shaming and shunning, intergenerational misunderstandings where we write people off instead of engaging in the bridge-building that could lead to greater understanding, deeper alliances.

Call-in culture is what interests me the most. There is a great article on the Black Girl Dangerous blog by Ngọc Loan Trần, a Viet/mixed-race disabled queer writer grounded in the US South, which describes their experience/understanding of calling people in – you should read it, it’s called “Calling IN: A Less Disposable Way of Holding Each Other Accountable.”

  • Here are some of the essential points Trần makes:
  • Allow mistakes to happen. Everyone fucks up, and we need each other.
  • Consider what makes your relationship with this person important. Where is your common ground?
  • When speaking with them – identify the problematic behavior, define why you are choosing to engage.
  • Prioritize your own values.
  • Invite them to think about theirs, and where the two overlap.

And then :

  • Talk about it with patience and compassion
  • But also keep it real.

Think about it. If THIS were how conflicts were managed – by people, as part of a commonly-held cultural practice – what impact might it have on the criminal justice system of the future? Could a system of care and rehabilition be created to prevent the prisons of the future? Could communities that hold different sets of values co-exist and thrive?

To be continued.

* * *

P says the word “revolution” makes her wanna barf. P is a salty femme who worked for years on the AIDS movement, then the human rights movement, then the sexual health & reproductive rights movement. Occupy Wall Street made her feel old and jaded (me too). She gets annoyed when I flippantly say “there’s a war out there in the streets.”

And it’s true, I’m being annoying, and going over the top, and yet there IS a shift going on right now, a confluence that I feel certain we will talk about for years. You can’t be transgender in 2014 and not know that things have evolved very rapidly, very recently.

And yet :

I feel slightly uncomfortable and slightly dangerous using this word, yet it keeps slipping out of my mouth and I’m trying to figure out what that means. Influenced by images of Arab Spring – why is this word OK to use for things happening “over there”, when thousands flood our streets after Ferguson and there’s no proper word for what that felt like?

“Revolution” implies urgency, immediacy. But capitalism won’t end overnight, its values have been deeply stitched into the consciousnesses of more or less everyone on the planet. Ending violence is a multi-generational challenge; HIV/AIDS is an emergency that proliferates globally. It is easy for some of us to go about our lives while others are stuck in detention centers, government bureaucracy, the prison of their own bodies due to inadequate health care systems.

And yet – “revolution” implies total overhaul. Which is what this conundrum in its entirety requires. Which is what I sometimes sense we are on the verge of demanding, as the boundaries between movements collapse and our collective voices become ever more powerful. Which – in a way – is what we are doing when we create autonomous queer spaces, when we spill over into the streets, when we go beyond demanding the justice we deserve and just DO BETTER, ourselves, creating models for the future and finding better solutions for the challenges that arise when we try.

Ultimately – I don’t know if it’s better to use this word, or to come up with a new one that doesn’t have the same baggage.

So I’ll end this with an imagination exercise I thought up this spring. Try different combinations of these words like mad libs for further reflection:

What does a
look like/value/consist of/feel like/do

* * *



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