I read Jeanette Winterson’s Sexing the Cherry and Written on the Body because Joe recommended them. Winterson does interesting things with fluidity of time and identity and possibility, interesting uses of sex and history, and i didn’t hate the four books of hers that my town library has and which i read a year or two ago, but i found her overrated. Written on the Body has lots of thoughts on love (and loyalty/commitment and body) that i was tempted to copy down, but i’ve grown weary of the ideas that long-term commitments are necessarily dull and life as a string of love affairs and it being all about sex and the only love that can last forever is when the parties are necessarily separated; it strikes me as adolescent. I want to read the paper Joe wrote for school on Winterson and love in those two books. The end of Sexing the Cherry introduces this eco-warrior, and maybe i’m just burned out on the Left, but it felt gratuitous, tacked on, and too black-and-white. [As a sidenote, an earlier character discusses grafting, which i see as a precursor to “genetic engineering,” and that would be an interesting discussion to have in a nonfiction forum. Continuing on this tangent, this is an interesting article.]
I just finished reading Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out. I thought about giving it to a friend, but it frustrates me that so many of the stories in it are women’s stories and he is, well, not. I understand that lesbianism was a major part of second-wave feminism so there are a lot of narratives of women who came to a bisexual identity through lesbianism/feminism and the problems they had/have, and i’m not complaining about the fact that i’m a generation removed from these women so my world is little reflected in their stories, but there are 47 women’s stories and 19 men’s stories (and 2 gender-ambiguous persons). The fact that both editors of this book are women i’m sure contributed to that.
However, in that book, there’s a question in an interview (Marcy Steiner’s interview with Arlene Krantz): Do you think bisexuality is part of a ceratin personality — are there other things about you that kind of fit in? Like being ambivalent, not in a negative sense, but being open to different possibilities? I don’t think bisexuals are necessarily any more open-minded than anyone else, but i thought it was interesting that for all my interest in consistency and connectedness, seeing how different parts of myself relate to and inform other parts of myself, i hadn’t thought to connect my identifying as queer with my insistence on complexity and multiple viewpoints and all. (Sidenote: Judith Butler says that gender is something we do, not something we are, and that explains why i so often think of myself as nongendered, or rather just don’t think of myself as a gendered individual -- and why [among other reasons] the genderlog, that first Intro WST assignment, was so difficult for me -- because i don’t perform gender much, and we live in a time when what i do isn’t seen as genderqueering but merely as participating in an expansion of what it means to be woman.)
I like this book better (though for the same reasons as the previous book it feels like it’s mostly FTMs and their female partners), but one of the introductory essays reminds me why i dislike postmodernism (though this book says a lot of interesting things that make a lot of sense to me, and if i ever get a handle on this postmodernism thing there’s gonna be a post about it): the idea that there is no single Truth, that there are only the truths of lived experience. This works sometimes, but a lot of times i find it very troubling, and i'm too tired to go into it at length, but like i said, one of these days there'll be a post about post-modernism.
What i remember most about Les Feinberg’s Trans Liberation is her “Universal free health care is a good goal, just look at Cuba.” In this 1998 book she writes:
Today we are witnessing the final stages of the transfer of health care to an industry run solely to make profits. The changes in health care parallel those now occurring in all large businesses and financial institutions. Smaller hospitals and health care facilities are consolidating into large-scale corporations. Hospitals are closing their doors in communities that desperately need them because the facilities are deemed unprofitable. Public health centers are being privatized. Profits are being maximized by downsizing the number of workers and speeding up those who are still employed.To talk about the quality health care and education systems in Cuba seems to me like talking about how Hitler was a vegetarian or Mussolini made the trains run on time, not that i’m calling it actual exaggeration/misrepresentation (though it might be; i just don’t know enough about the situation in Cuba to say either way). There is real crushing of dissent in Cuba, and i’m sure it was going on when Feinberg wrote that book. And this isn’t the supposed “crushing of dissent” that too many Americans nowadays seem to invoke with absurd examples such as people exercising their right to not financially support people whose politics they disagree with (Dixie Chicks, anyone?) -- something activists seem to advocate when it’s in line with their own political agendas, actually -- but actual imprisonment and death for mere dissent. As i said, i don’t know much about Cuba, so maybe the education and medical care systems there are incredibly wonderful, but even if they are, given what a horrible man Castro is it seems incredibly problematic to invoke the example of Cuba without qualification or reservation.
Patients’ lives are held hostage to the greed of the pharmaceutical giants that patent drugs used to treat life-threatening diseases. When I contracted acute cytomegalovirus during a catastrophic illness last year, the cost of one month’s medication was out of reach for me: $13,000 With government deregulation, private insurance companies pick and choose those they feel are healthy, and reject disabled, ill, and elderly people.
Medical science can achieve microsurgical organ transplants, gene manipulation and splicing. In this epoch of rapidly expanding medical knowledge, why is a treatable disease like tuberculosis again on the rise amongst the poor in this country? Why are more and more people being shunted into HMOS where treatment cost is the bottom line? Why are Medicaid and Medicare being whittled away instead of expanded?
Because the productive growth under capitalism isn’t designed to meet human needs. Each hospital, each insurance carrier, is only concerned with its own bottom line.
How can we wage a political battle to expand access to affordable, adequate, and sensitive health care? By fusing the power of the poorest and most oppressed communities, people with AIDS and their service providers, elders, the lesbian, gay, bi, and trans movements, civil rights organizations, the women’s movement, and labor – employed and unemployed.
Together we can demand that the government channel the necessary funds to meet public health emergencies like AIDS and breast cancer. And that welfare, Medicaid, and Medicare assistance be restored and expanded to all who need it. We can demand that every patient be treated with respect, and that every vestige of prejudice must be eradicated from health care.
We can demand that every form of health care be free – from emergency to preventive care, from open-heart surgery to prenatal care, from eyeglasses to dentures, from lab work to drugs. Open the doors of medical schools to all who want an education and eliminate the staggering costs of tuition. We deserve free health care because it is a right, not a privilege.
Do you think that’s a lot to ask for? That it sounds utopian? Well, my partner Minnie Bruce just returned from three weeks of working and living with families in Cuba – a tiny island of 11 million people burdened by the legacy of colonialism and being economically strangled by an illegal U.S. blockade. One of the many achievements of the Revolution that most impressed her was that every single person in Cuba receives free health care – from the womb to the tomb. And preventive care – not just emergency attention. Glasses, braces, surgery, prescriptions – all are free to everyone. Medical schools – all education – is free, too, because education, like health care and a job, is considered the birthright of every human being.
The United States is the richest country in the world, we are often told.
So show us the money!
In fact, the greatest polarization of wealth and poverty in the world exists here in the United States. That’s why it will take a collective fight to win the health care we deserve. Remember how Medicaid and Medicare were won in the first place? By people who got fed up waiting for the next election. They took to the streets to vote with their feet in picket lines and marches and sit-ins and rallies.
It will take just such a mighty movement to provide every human being with sensitive, respectful, and free health care.
Each of us deserves nothing less.
We touched on this in my Intro to Women’s Studies class, but the idea of universal free health care is incredibly problematic. Besides the obvious question of whether you’re really going to cover everything and if not where do you draw the line, is the practical problem of where is the money going to come from? The doctors, nurses, and other staff have to be paid. Medications have to be tested and produced. People talk about how things should be provided free of charge, basic human rights and all that, and while i certainly agree that current systems are flawed, it’s foolish to speak as if there is just this infinite pool of money which could be used to pay for these things. Things that people don’t pay for directly usually get paid for through taxes, and people seem to complain about high taxes and in the same breath complain that the government should pay for more things. And i really don’t know enough about all this stuff to write about it like it deserves, so i’m stopping now.
Sanctions didn’t kill Iraqi children; Hussein did.:
Under the sanctions regime, "We had the ability to get all the drugs we needed," said Ibn Al-Baladi's chief resident, Dr. Hussein Shihab. "Instead of that, Saddam Hussein spent all the money on his military force and put all the fault on the USA. Yes, of course the sanctions hurt - but not too much, because we are a rich country and we have the ability to get everything we can by money. But instead, he spent it on his palaces."
Meanwhile, I read this article on the train to Lille today and was fascinated by the idea of US intelligence operatives being "forced to listen to the Barney 'I love You' song," something that probably ought to be specifically outlawed by the Geneva Convention. Later in the article, though, we learn that "it's a myth that being tortured is effective. The best way to win someone over is to treat them kindly," which makes me wonder if the forced playing of the Barney "I Love You" song is having deep, insidious and unconsidered effects on US intelligence agents.So, i saw this post:
The bad idea that never dies: Seems like every Democratic primary season someone comes back to this one: mandatory community service. The characterization of the problem(s) to which this policy is supposed to be the solution shift around from time to time-- indeed, they've been shifting ever since William James first came up with this shockingly illiberal idea. (Any idea that is born in an explicit attempt to marry militarism to socialism really ought to be regarded with some skepticism.) Sometimes it's rhetorically joined to civic republicanism, with which it really does share some affinities (and so much the worse for civic republicanism), sometimes to Tocquevillean civil society volunteerism, with which it doesn't. Sometimes the emphasis is on all the problems that could be solved with an army of conscripted teenagers; more often it's on the improvements such conscription will make to the character of the teenagers. Ever since I was a teenager myself, listening to endless primary campaign speeches in New Hampshire in the 80s, this notion has outraged me. On lots of topics my teenage outrage has turned into more moderated and nuanced positions; not this one, which still seems to me a basic signalling device as to whether someone thinks individuals belong to the state or vice-versa.I think it's because i'm still in college, so i'm used to community service being required for most every application, but when i first read it i thought he meant that the Powers-That-Be keep trying to make a community service requirement for presidential candidates.
The culprits this year, for those who don't follow the link, are Kerry and Edwards.