American Re-Unions

February 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

I am blown away by the people of Wisconsin, by their strength and perseverance. They’ve touched off a labor movement. Along with the massive 100,000 person demonstrations in Madison, there were solidarity demonstrations in all other 49 states. There were demonstrations to protect Planned Parenthood from Repugnitan attacks on its funding and, you know, its existence. A new group, US Uncut (modeled on the British group UK Uncut) organized its first demonstrations intended to force corporate tax-delinquents to PAY UP before any social programs are cut.

Even our own little union at my university is revitalized by Wisconsin. The contract that we’ve been negotiating for the better part of three years is going to be up for vote soon. The union leadership says they won’t budge on preventing the administration from forcing a work increase and salary cut on our instructors.

Most of our non-tenured full-time instructors make between $30,000 and $33,000 a year. I make more, but I’m well under the average for my position and education.  Our university has the worst pay of all the Illinois state universities. Chicago is not a cheap city to live in. The president of the university gave herself a $43,000 raise a couple of years ago.  Her raise is higher than my salary, and I haven’t had so much as a cost-of-living increase since 2008.

We’ve had two demonstrations in the last week, and both of them have drawn over 250 staff, faculty, and students. This after two years of moribund union membership meetings. I love our students–smart, worldly, driven, diverse and just altogether awesome. They deserve better than having teachers and advisors forced to sacrifice ourselves just to do our work. The admins want us to sacrifice more.

Paul Krugman’s Feb 21 editorial outlines how shared sacrifice is a myth, and how the Rethugs don’t just want our little monies:

But Mr. Walker isn’t interested in making a deal. Partly that’s because he doesn’t want to share the sacrifice: even as he proclaims that Wisconsin faces a terrible fiscal crisis, he has been pushing through tax cuts that make the deficit worse. Mainly, however, he has made it clear that rather than bargaining with workers, he wants to end workers’ ability to bargain.

I like Fred Klonsky’s simple explanation of “shared sacrifice” even better.

Are those doing public service jobs responsible for the current crisis? Did we fail to meet our obligations?

A thief breaks into your home and steals all you own. The police catch the thief and find all your belongings in the thief’s garage. The police split the items between you and the thief.

“Shared sacrifice,” they explain.

Some of the administrators who used to talk to me avoid me now. Today at the rally I saw some of them standing around and glaring at us. This is not what I want because I don’t dislike them personally. It ain’t personal, except for the fact that it is personal for the instructors making $30,000 to our president’s $300,000.

“At least you have health insurance” people say.  “At least you have a job.”

“I wouldn’t have even that much without a union” I reply.

You should have a union too.


Bite My Public Sector Ass

February 18, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’m obviously talking to Wisconsin’s Republican governor Scott Walker who wants to force teachers and other public sector employees to work at gunpoint. But I’m also talking about Tea Party asswipes, Fox News, Glenn Beck, five members of the Supreme Court and their decision to put the last stamp on the corporate state with Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission. And if you don’t think that it’s unlimited corporate monies behind the astro-turf teabaggers and the election of Scott Walker, well, I’ve got a bridge and all that.

Most broadly, however, I’m talking about the 40-years-old assault on the working class and the poor. I’m talking about a labor movement, divided by racism, and totally uninterested in the liberation of women that rolled over and let this assault happen. I’m talking about a Democratic Party that can’t stand up for the LGBT community when the freaking Military (not known for being progressive) can, a Democratic Party that has shifted to the right of Richard Nixon.

This is about corruption. This is about selfishness. This is about a mindset that says “once I got mine I don’t care if you ever get yours.”

I’ve spent days, hell I’ve spent years, asking myself how come people don’t understand that pensions are not a gift and that working conditions matter.  How come people don’t see that no one goes into the trenches of the public sector to get rich? Why don’t they understand that if one sector of society has good working conditions, that strengthens the workers of all other sectors? And you know what? I don’t care why anymore.

I care about stopping this unrelenting beatdown of everything I hold dear. I care about building something better.

As people in the public sector, our whole work is the building and maintaining of a civil society. We do this through education, through public service. We do this for everyone, not just for ourselves because every single human life has value and meaning. Individual freedoms and liberties happen when a society has structures in place that support all people.

The Scott Walkers of this world hate the very idea of a civil society, but the Scott Walkers of the world are selfish and morally bankrupt.

I need, we need, to stand in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin and their magnificent resistance to Walker’s assault. We need to call our representatives and tell them we won’t allow that sort of thing where we live. Call (608-266-1212) or email ( Scott Walker’s office and tell him that he’s made a serious mistake. That the world is watching his every shameful move. That he needs to stop, check himself, and learn some humility. That despite what he may think, there are many more of us than there are of him.

My friend says

February 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

“I read your blog, Jen, but not every day.  It’s a little heavy.”

I cracked up.  “That’s how I feel too.”

I hate the haterz

February 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Reprising my post on a social network:

What. The. Fuck.

How bout we sponsor a bill legalizing the killing of any lawmaker who moves to restrict reproductive rights. On the basis that they’re killing women (this last bit is true).

Oh wait, that would be MURDER. MURDER is WRONG. Except for when it’s us I guess.

In case it’s not clear, even though I’m very pissed about this, I don’t support murder.



Get more attention?

February 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

If I want more attention, then why do I have my eyes scrunched shut?

I am but an extension of my husband.

February 9, 2011 § 2 Comments

I met my husband in the third-and-final year of my MFA program. We were friends for a year before we started dating. I was 31.

A few months later I had coffee with one of my favorite former professors and told him I was dating Marc.  Professor got very excited and said “you know Jen…he’s kind of an Art Star!!!”

“Really?” I said. I didn’t much care at that point because I was super-excited about finally finding someone I loved and trusted and fit with. Someone funny and smart. Someone who didn’t give a crap about my penchant for excessive punctuation. Someone awesome.

“Really!” said my professor. “He’s really well-known.”

“Oh” I said.  What else was there to say? That was my first inkling there might be trouble ahead, and not just for me. Marc’s entire body of work stands in opposition to the very idea of an Art Star.

I’ve never been especially good at putting myself forward, having been trained all my life to keep my very strong personality very strongly in check. But when I did make myself known I was usually well-received. Because I am smart. And creative. And a good writer (I am totally in control of these sentence fragments my friends – never doubt this).

And every once in a while I’d do something totally wild –  like submit a poem for publication, or work to a show, or get a chapbook published. Radical stuff.

Meanwhile a friend called me for the first time in 18 months to ask for my husband’s phone number. Meanwhile one of the vendors in our wedding would send emails only to Marc no matter how many polite reminders he got that all emails needed to go to both of us. Meanwhile friends would ask me where Marc was if I showed up unaccompanied. Meanwhile people in my family are still pissed I didn’t take his name.

Recently, Marc and I were invited to participate in a public art project. Marc replied that he wouldn’t be able to do this but that I might still be interested. I was interested. I would do it.

Since that invitation, Marc has reiterated two or three times that he won’t be participating. I’ve sent two or three emails to the curator. We both talked to the curator in person last week, both of us saying out loud that I’d be doing this.

Today the curator sends an email addressed to both of us: “hey you two. Is coming by around 1pm ok for saturday”?

Sometimes sexism is the big things, the seeming insurmountables – rape culture, the epidemic of domestic violence, low pay, the (conscious or unconscious) training of girl-children into silence. This culture of fear.

But often it’s the small shit, the microagressions, little hints of disrespect that wear away at a person the way weather does stone. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened, and I’m dead certain it won’t be the last.

Meanwhile the thing inside me that is girl, nice girl, good girl is whispering or shouting in my head over and over “be nice be polite you know it’s not that bad he didn’t mean it that way he meant nothing by it BE POLITE BE POLITE BE GOOD.”

I’m sure though, that being polite is not the thing that brings about changes, especially not structural changes. And this is interpersonal, but it is also structural. Even if no harm is meant, I still have to go through all of this thinking about how to deal with this in the best possible way. Which takes so much energy from me. But not just me; this puts Marc into an awkward and painful position as well because these kinds of things matter to him.

I don’t want to be rude or hurtful, especially not when I know someone is well-intentioned. Not being actively hurtful, however, is not the same thing as going out of my way to be polite. I don’t know a polite way to do this anymore. I am 35 damn years old.

Dude. I am not an extension of my husband.

Where Am I?

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