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IS CONFUSION THE DEFAULT SETTING of the 21st century American mind?

As a 70-year old Midwestern secular Jew, born feminist, there have been surprising moments in my intellectual and political life where my “progressive, left” perspective has come face-to-face with the “conservative, right” viewpoint, as if we were standing in the same place. This has made me wonder if the human political spectrum is actually a circle, not a line — or, perhaps more accurately, a spiral.

These moments in my personal political life — and our seeming inability to have productive conversations about our disagreements even as we agree on some things — have led me to conclude that most of us are confused about core aspects of human life, such as sex and gender, language, etc. Curiously, The Nation, a U.S. magazine that I follow and respect, features in two of these moments. Although this blog is not about The Nation per se, I like quirky synchronicities if only because they add a little spice to a long, abstract stew. Be forewarned, this is a bit of a stew, a bit of a rumination.

NOTE: This is still something of a DRAFT. I felt the need to get most of these ideas and quotes out to the universe, even though it feels unfinished in some ways. Hopefully, this next lunar cycle (New Moon, Sept. 6) will show me how to polish it up. Meanwhile, I welcome any comments. Email is best.

Readers of The Nation may be interested in how I first came to the confusion conclusion, related to a 1913 editorial; details are in Section A. Section B identifies a hyper-current confusion, as exemplified in a recent Nation article. Section C tries to summarize the root causes of our confusions, followed by some tools for untangling our confusion (Section D). 

A. U.S. CONFUSION: How did I get here? The Money Question: a post-Charlottesville blog
B. U.S. CONFUSION OF THE MOMENT: Transphobia-phobia, bullyphobia, and reality
C. U.S. VOTER CONFUSION: How did WE get here? It’s a long story…
D. UNTANGLING THE CONFUSION: Real democracy, self-reflection, saying no to bullies

A. U.S. CONFUSION: How did I get here?
The Money Question: a post-Charlottesville blog

In August 2017, shortly after the events in Charlottesville, I wrote this blog Monetary science and healing for white supremacists, Jews, and other confused Americans. As explained in the blog, I first came to the confusion conclusion around The Money Question — What is money, who creates new U.S. money, how does it enter the economy, etc. It turns out that many “progressive, left” monetary reformers believe the same thing as some “far-right” advocates: that the Federal Reserve System is undemocratic, promotes increasing economic disparities, and is probably unconstitutional—all behind layers of closed doors. An Erik Ward essay, reposted right after Charlottesville, led me to remember this fact, that our disfunctional money system was one thing the right and left seemed to agree on. (Ward’s essay does not mention The Money Question, but it does mention Richard Spencer.)

Here is an artifact of 20th century monetary reform that may be of interest to owners and editors of The Nation, a quote by well known anti-semite and monetary reformer, Eustace Mullins. In 1954, Mullins wrote (in The Federal Reserve Conspiracy):

“The Nation magazine was the only public organ, so far as i can find out which pointed out that the issue of the money of the U.S. was being turned over to a body of men who were neither elected nor answerable to elections.” Quoted on p. 526, The Lost Science of Money (2002), by Stephen Zarlenga. I believe that Mullins is referring to this Oct. 23, 1913 editorial: “Ex-Senator Aldrich on the Banking Bill”. The Federal Reserve Act was passed in Dec. 1913.

For obvious reasons, I have been reluctant to use this quote. Unfortunately, many monetary reformers, past and present, are rabidly anti-semitic. Nevertheless, after a few years sorting through who says what, etc., I have to conclude we agree on the fundamental truth about the problems with the Federal Reserve, even though we don’t agree—and we may both be confused—about how we got here re The Money Question.

I hope The Nation of 2021 enjoys this unique compliment and perhaps will renew its interest in questioning the Federal Reserve system and other U.S. money and banking policy, most of which have served since 1913 to (a) erase Congress’s constitutional money power and (b) confuse U.S. voters.

Transphobia-phobia, bullyphobia, and reality

Likewise, based on the publication of Talia Lavin’s recent article, Why Transphobia is at the Heart of the White Power Movement (Aug. 18, 2021), I would hope that The Nation would turn its nuanced journalistic eye to transbully activists and to the women (and some men) who are warning us all about them. So far as I can see, transbully activists are a subset of the transgender community who are trying to erase women and women’s rights and who are sowing major confusion in our common language and in women’s and girls’ lives.

In case I have added to the confusion already, let me say unequivocally that I support every human’s and every generation’s right to question life and redefine words, behavior, and culture according to our individual lights and in relation to “all our relations”, human and non-human. But, as I learned in a recent dream, every human and every generation will ultimately have to explain things based on nature’s design: humans are a sexually dimorphic species.

Lavin’s article made me wonder about the shape of the human political spectrum — line or spiral — all over again. As a reader, one never knows when the title or headline of an article actually reflects (a) the article’s subject, and/or (b) the author’s words. Editors are famous for using headlines and titles to increase ad revenue. But since I generally trust The Nation (as a publication committed first to honest journalism) and Ms. Lavin (as a courageous thinker and articulate writer), I read the article. I clicked and have now gone down this rabbit hole, too broadly labeled “transphobia”.

To put it bluntly, I think this article adds to our confusion about sex, gender, love/hate, the political spectrum, language, etc. I certainly find abhorrent the Nazi book burning of May 10, 1933, including Magnus Hirschfeld’s library that Lavin describes. However, despite the article’s title, two things are true:
1. I’m still a raging leftist feminist.
2. I am not the only leftist feminist who is “trans-bullyphobic” or, more accurately, “bullyphobic”:
a. SovereignWomenSpeak 
Recent event (Aug. 20-23, 2021), including speakers:
— Aime Ichikawa (Woman II Woman), who protested at the Los Angeles spa mentioned by Lavin, but not with the Proud Boys
— K. Yang (The Deprogrammer) whose recent short video includes a clip of the Drag Queen video series mentioned by Lavin: Blurred Lines: The Agenda to Confuse Children about Sex & Gender.
b. Skylar “We are on the political right and the political left.”  The Ride
c. SpinifexPress 
— Transgender Body Politics video book launch (Oct. 2020), by Heather Brunskell Evans
33:00 definition of transgender agenda (as promoted by males and as experienced by women and girls)
— Not Dead Yet: Feminism, Passion, and Women’s Liberation (just published)
video book launch #2—The Americas  anthology by 70+ year old feminists  
d. TERF Collective  
e. WLRN radio   Women’s Liberation Radio News
f. Heterodorx A podcast by Nina Paley and Corinna Cohn 
g. WHRC  Women’s Human Rights Campaign/USA
h. 4W  Fourth wave feminism
i. Plebity/Crossroads  Reclaiming populism  

In other words, there’s a lot of women, apparently left-leaning, not all white, who have identified existential problems with a certain transactivist agenda that seems to be organized by some males who’ve decided to adopt a female persona in order to co-opt and erase the spiritual qualities and nature’s design of femaleness — or to just be bullies. Unfortunately, this particular “transgender” agenda seems to have been adopted whole by society at large, especially the left, as the one-and-only transgender agenda.

Currently, I’m asking myself if this is one of those moments when I agree with people who are far-right in ways that I am not (anti-abortion, pro-nuclear family, rigidly heterosexual, religious fundamentalist, etc.). Specifically we seem to agree that 
— women and men are born fundamentally and biologically different 
— birthright women have the authority to deny men entry into female-only spaces — bathrooms, toilets, sports, deliberative bodies (women’s councils), listservs, prisons, dorms (are there still single sex dorms?), housing, red tents, religious orders, etc.

Along the line of strange bedfellows, let me acknowledge some interesting alliances between “sovereign women” and “conservative” media. (I admit to making an assumption that all “sovereign women” identified above are left-leaning; I could be wrong.): 
—Jennifer Bilek’s (11th Hour Blog) seminal research on funding of the transactivist agenda was published by The Federalist (2018).
—Kara Dansky, a lawyer, was recently on the Tucker Carlson show (FoxNews).
—M.K. Fain (4W), was recently interviewed by Dana Loesch, former spokesperson for the National Rifle Assn.

To be sure, Lavin’s article does not discuss the left’s problems (as represented by the women above) with this particularly male transgender agenda. Nor is it clear if she (or The Nation) is naming transphobia as only a white supremacist thing. Plus, it seems as if Lavin and/or The Nation view human rights through a very narrow perspective—adult-adult love.  In fact, there are (a) many other people (teens, children) and (b) aspects of other people’s lives (privacy, safety, dignity, livelihood, etc.) that are being negatively, ethically, and/or criminally impacted by transbully activists (as shown by the women and organizations mentioned above).

Too many left, progressive people, corporations, institutions, and media have swallowed the conflation of biological sex with gender and are throwing “transphobic” accusations around indiscriminately. In just a few short years, the word “transphobia” has become a term that no self-respecting person wants to be accused of, as bad as misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, or racism. I’m guessing that most readers of The Nation would read the article’s title and tagline and think: I don’t want to be considered a white supremacist so I better not be — or seem to be — “transphobic”. This amounts to transphobia-phobia — a kind of fear of fear itself, which leads to confused, fossilized humans whose maturity becomes quickly stunted when surrounded by similarly fearful people.

I’m here to say that I am as confused as most Americans, about many things. But I’m not confused about supporting girls and women, as I detail in a 2018 blog: U.S. 2018: For Women who are Feeling like Livestock.

Nor am I confused about bullies. In the sense that I try to avoid bullies of all kinds, I am also here to say that I’m proudly trans-bullyphobic — or, more accurately, just bullyphobic. Of course as a mature 70-year old woman, I am not really phobic about much. But the bullying transgender agenda as described and experienced by the women listed above (and many more) is just another thing to resist (especially to prevent direct and collateral damage). This bullying transgender agenda — males trying to erase femaleness, to enter women’s spaces, to steal women’s place in creation, and to violate women’s personal authority as women — is just another reason to insist on women’s public authority. (I have discussed women’s public authority before and am currently writing an updated version of another 2018 blog: Women’s Authority, Women’s Lives: The ERA or the Great Law of Peace.)

Let me repeat unequivocally that I support every human’s and every generation’s right to question life and redefine words, behavior, and culture according to our individual lights and in relation to “all our relations”, human and non-human. But, as I learned in a recent dream, every human and every generation will ultimately have to explain things based on nature’s design: humans are a sexually dimorphic species.

CLOSER TO HOME: A colleague is “bewildered”
Just a few weeks ago a colleague announced a new program for female teens: a 3-day overnight  leadership “summit”. The announcement included phrases like “female and female identifying” and “gender identity”. The application included a question on “Current Gender Identity”.

Over the years my colleague and I have had many conversations about urban ignorance about where food comes from and about the 21st century movement to address reality — nature, food, land, climate, critical thinking, human rights, eyes open, etc. I asked my friend to reconsider. He admitted to being “bewildered” with the “rise” of gender identity issues and asked me for additional information.

I sent him some resources (including some of the women and organizations mentioned above). Then I added a final note about the question: “U.S. Voter confusion: How did we get here?”

In the next section, I share my original list, followed by additional reflections on the root causes of our multiple confusions.

C.  U.S. VOTER CONFUSION: How did WE get here? 
It’s a long story…

NOTES to my colleague (private email, July 2021):
As an old lady who’s struggled with U.S. hypocrisies my entire life, I would add a note on the deeper sources of our collective confusions. Most Americans are deeply confused about everything — sex, gender, money, democracy, capitalism, etc. This confusion derives (I believe) from six things:

1. The U.S. was founded by marketing agents and financial interests.
2. The U.S. population is largely rootless, being largely a nation of immigrants from patriarchal (rootless) societies.
3. The U.S. was founded by and designed for white land-owning men.
4. Our educational systems, both formal (schools) and informal (media, family), teach “words” before “things” — ideas before experience, abstraction before reality. (I wish I could credit the educator who made this observation, but I read it many years ago and don’t remember who it was.) It’s one reason that I’m such a big supporter of school gardens and farms, as well as teaching other living skills, K-12.  
5. Related to the previous item, people are confused between “feelings” and “thoughts”.
6. Most of U.S. society — children, teens, young adults, adults, and elders — do not have the benefit of witnessing or experiencing initiations into life stages. 

7. Corollary to #4 (education) I would add: Worse, the current living generations, including my own (Baby Boom), grew up on TV — sounds and images — before we learned anything about reality — soil, air, water, relationships, etc. I was lucky to grow up in a home without a TV; when I was about 5 years old, my parents pulled the plug on the giant console. It sat in our basement, unplugged and unwatched, until we moved eleven years later. I count that lack of an ever-present TV in my childhood as one of the miracles of my life.

Most importantly for a democracy (and in relation to #6 — initiations), there is no automatic training or initiations for youth and young adults to learn how to be self-governing, decision-making adults in collaboration with all other adults (in a given jurisdiction, venue, etc.). It is this single fact that I believe is the cause of so much of our citizen frustration, depression, and chronic illness. We have been denied our adult birthright.

8. Unlike the Great Law of Peace, the U.S. Constitution has no provision for regular renewal (e.g., every 5 or 10 years), which would be another way to keep our language and political discourse grounded in reality. 

9. One of the best analyses of why Americans don’t communicate well with each other is in this very short essay by Native American scholar, Barbara Alice Mann: Rematriation of the Truth (2011). A core problem is that “Euro-Christians have a fraught relationship with truth and lies…Natives see The Lie as the animating feature of all Western discourse….” 

Prof. Mann teaches humanities (literature) at the University of Toledo. She seems to be an expert on James Fenimore Cooper and Jane Austen, but she has also written numerous books on Native American history, spirituality, and gender roles. 

10. Our American rat-race doesn’t give us enough time to regularly and collectively unload, reflect, converse, clarify, etc., let alone rigorously participate in self-governing. In fact, in one of her books, Prof. Mann articulates a major cause of this rat-race: lack of a guaranteed income, or in her words “unfunded sovereignty” (pp. 212-13, Iroquoian Women: The Gantowisas, 2000):

“It is interesting to me that, in all of the debate furiously raging ever since Bruce Johansen’s Forgotten Founders (1982) rubbed academia’s nose in the fact that the authors of the U.S. Constitution had been strongly influenced by the Iroquoian Great Law, few have noticed the main disparity between Iroquoia and the United States. It was not the political presence or absence of women, or trial by jury, or a standing army, or any of a dozen other, readily spotted political differences that marked the distinction. It was, instead, the failure of the Founding Fathers also to adopt and adapt the Iroquoian system of grass-roots economics that complemented its political base of Ne” Gashasde”’sa’ (popular sovereignty).  

“The true failure of the resultant hybrid lay in the unthinking assumption by the Founding Fathers that European war-lord economics and Haudenosaunee Ne” gashasde”’sa’ could operate in harness without the plunder economics of Europe throwing the political system of  Ne” Gashasde”’sa’ into disarray. By furthermore ignoring the sibling principles of Ne” Sken’no” (Health) and Ne” Gai’ihwiio (Righteousness) as practical tools of economic prosperity (as opposed to mere moralistic pieties), the Founding Fathers sabotaged hopes for real participatory democracy by writing the proprietary economics of Europe into their Constitution. It is this mismatch of popular but unfunded sovereignty bound to the naked exploitation of capitalism that is short-circuiting American Ne” gashasde”’sa’  today, subverting the political will of the people through the undue economic pressures exerted by a financially privileged elite. No such unbalancing access waspossible in the prototype, however, for the clan level where Ne” Gashasde”’sa’ was fomented was also the level at which the confederated economy was managed. Power, will, and weal did not trickle down in Iroquoia; they percolated up.”  

11. Most Americans have no real experience of democracy—of discussing collective issues and coming together to make decisions that benefit everyone. Worse, Americans have confused democracy with (a) personal liberty without reciprocity, and (b) capitalism — the freedom to charge people more than what something is worth.

A related confusion is that since everything in the U.S. is now monetized (commodified), we now have created a society where money is needed for all for survival needs — food, clean air, water, housing, etc., but income is below a livable level for more and more Americans.

Another related confusion is the belief in magical “market forces” over and above public policy. This is manifested in our stubborn addiction to unlimited economic growth as a measurement of a successful economy (GDP instead of wellbeing, sustainability, and equity).

One of the best articulations of this complex of confusions is from the Mohawk nation:
“The renewable quality—the sacredness of every living thing, that which connects human beings to the place they inhabit—that quality is the single most liberating aspect of our environment. Life is renewable and all the things that support life are renewable, and they are renewed by a force greater than any government’s, greater than any living thing or historical thing. A consciousness of the web that holds all things together, the spiritual element that connects us to reality and the manifestation of that power to renew that is present in the existence of an eagle or a mountain snow fall, that consciousness was the first thing that was destroyed by the colonizers.”  p. 123, Basic Call to Consciousness, ed. by Akwesasne Notes, 2005

One need only think of how un-free an astronaut is in space to realize how much we depend on the Earth, air, water, plants, animals, etc.

12. Thousands of years of patriarchy have disrupted women-to-women transmission of women’s knowledge and wisdom. A particularly relevant disruption is second wave U.S. feminism prioritizing “equality” with men over women-specific rights, issues, and authority.

13. Related to #12, young women often don’t have good female role models, especially elders. 

14. Our societies are now primarily built with male words and thinking (restricted “rationality”) without the benefit of female thoughts and dreams (expansive connection to spirit).

One of the most disturbing instances of adopting male language without considering female meaning is the confusion of sex (“making” love) with love (nurturing love). Sex can indeed be loving. But the fact that we use the word “pedophile” when we really mean child abuse shines a light on the language problem.

15. Spiritual techniques and skills, especially direct revelation, have been co-opted by institutionalized religions, which have largely turned our living instincts for personal and communal ceremony into fossilized rituals.

16. U.S. elite people and institutions — rich people, big corporations, media, politicians — have been assiduously opposed to critical thinking and popular sovereignty, going back to the drafting of the U.S. Constitution: 

a. Douglas Amy (Prof. Emeritus of Politics, Mt. Holyoke College), on his great website Second Rate Democracy:
But as we’ve seen, the framers were also deeply suspicious of giving too much power to “the people.”  As the American historian Richard Hofstadter observed, the framers found themselves in the difficult position of “a man who has no faith in the people but insists that government be based upon them.” “There was no better expression of this dilemma … than that of Jeremy Belknap, a New England clergyman, who wrote to a friend: ‘Let it stand as a principle that government originates from the people; but let the people be taught … that they are not able to govern themselves.’”

b. This was re-affirmed in 1892 by then-history professor (Princeton) Woodrow Wilson when he recommended to a national education conference that: 
“…scientific history, involving criticism and examination of evidence, had no place in the schools, for it tended to confuse young people. Scientific history, he declared was college work and not school work” (King, 1964, p. 54). This proposition failed to pass, but another Wilson proposal passed unanimously: to exclude “formal instruction in political economy from school programs” (King). —Quoted in “Monetary Transformation and Education” by Lucille Eckrich, Assoc. Professor of Education (retired), Illinois State University, in The Neoliberal Agenda and the Student Debt Crisis in U.S. Higher Educationed. by Nicholas Daniel Hartlep, et al. (Routledge, 2017)

To come full circle, re money and confusion, Prof. Eckrich goes on to say:
“This explains why public high schools in the United States raised generations of students who know and think nothing about money and monetary systems. That this resolution was proposed by someone who not only went on to become president of Princeton University and then president of the United States but who signed the Federal Reserve Act into law [in 1913] is indicative of the well-paved road to internalized oppression (Freire, 2000) and ‘schooling in capitalist America’ (Bowles & Gintis, 1976) that the vast majority of Americans have trod for more than a century now.”

c. Mass media in the 21st century especially relies on unthinking consumers, using buzzwords, empty slogans, and a continuous stream of emotionally charged noise to (1) prevent reflection, and (2) promote $ extraction. GaslitNation podcast (Sarah Kendzior, Andrea Chalupa) covers it all.

Real democracy, self-reflection, saying “no” to bullies

The only long-lasting solution I know of out of this nationwide, multi-faceted confusion is real democracy — which would include women’s public authority supported by funded sovereignty (a term coined by Prof. Mann to mean basic income for voters). In other words, can we take time for meaningful conversation with less gobbledygook jargon, more defining of our terms, and with real action steps towards updating our U.S. institutions (including the U.S. Constitution)? My Real Democracy webpage has a working definition, some resources, and some transition steps.

Until we get there — to real democracy — perhaps U.S. media such as The Nation can help — with more definitions, discussing terminology, and fewer labels or buzzwords. Perhaps Democracy Now! could host a roundtable that would help clarify the issues, language, motivations, policy proposals, etc., that are perpetrating confusion among young people. 

Another short-term solution (that could turn into the long-term solution — women’s public authority) is women talking to each other and telling the truth, to each other and the rest of the world.

Of course real democracy and truth-telling require on-going self-reflection. Here’s a helpful quote by an anonymous Siberian shaman (interviewed 2018 by Ethno Taiga):
“The majority of people that come visit me, I tell them: Your trouble is that you do not live your own life. If you lived your own life then why would you get into someone else’s life? To allow yourself to diagnose things, to give advices when you were not asked for them. That’s when you cease living for yourself and start living someone else’s life. To begin to interfere with others. And conflicts begin. You have to learn to live first, and become such so that you can give yourself to the world. To become a gift. It’s the state when you give yourself as a blessing.”

Finally, in the interests of taking the time for self-reflection and real democracy, more of us women need to learn how to say no to bullies—whether fossil fuel companies or patriarchy or patriarchy’s handmaidens. I find this quote by Alice Walker, in a 2006 essay, highly relevant. In the context of this blog—confusion—this quote might also go under the category of “strange alliances”: last time I checked Ms. Walker’s website (a couple years ago), it seemed that she’d gone off the deep end re anti-semitism. But her feminist instincts still resonate. I’ll always be grateful that she shared this information about indigenous South American women.

I first shared this quote in two 2019 blogs about impeaching Trump. Here’s how I quoted Walker in the second blog, WHO’S YOUR CLAN MOTHER? Saying STOP is women’s public authority—including Impeachment (Sept. 11, 2019):
4. Impeachment in the Shuar nation (South America)
Etymologically, the word “impeach” means to hinder, prevent, impede, fetter. Of interest is the women’s tradition in the Shuar nation of telling men when to “stop” some destructive behavior.  Examples cited by John Perkins and Alice Walker are cutting down trees, hunting, warfare, but such responsibility to hinder could just as easily be applied to on-going actions by our sitting president.  Here is how Alice Walker described this responsibility in 2002 (italics are Walker’s):

“…I listened to a CD called Shamanic Navigation by John Perkins.  In it he talks about the Swa (sic) people of the Amazon. These are indigenous people who’ve lived in the Amazon rain forest for thousands of years. They tell us that in their society men and women are considered equal but very different. Man, they say, has a destructive nature: it is his job therefore to cut down trees when firewood or canoes are needed. His job also to hunt down and kill animals when there is need for more protein. His job to make war, when that becomes a necessity. The woman’s nature is thought to be nurturing and conserving. Therefore her role is to care for the home and garden, the domesticated animals and the children. She inspires the men. But perhaps her most important duty is to tell the men when to stop.

“It is the woman who says: Stop. We have enough firewood and canoes, don’t cut down any more trees. Stop. We have enough meat; don’t kill any more animals. Stop. This war is stupid and using up too many of our resources. Stop. Perkins says that when the Swa (sic) are brought to this culture they observe that it is almost completely masculine. That the men have cut down so many trees and built so many excessively tall buildings that the forest itself is dying; they have built roads without end and killed animals without number. When, ask the Swa (sic), are the women going to say Stop?”

We are the Ones We have been Waiting For: Inner Light in a Time of darkness — Meditations
by Alice Walker  (New Press, 2006)
pp. 59-60, in essay All Praises to the Pause; The Universal Moment of Reflection
Commencement address – California Institute of integral Studies (San Francisco, CA, May 19, 2002)

“One day the woman who thinks will speak to us again…”
To emphasize the importance for all women to step up, let me end with this beautiful quote from the late Paula Gunn Allen, the last paragraph from “Where I Come from is Like This” (1986 in Face to Face; Women Writers on Faith, Mysticism, and Awakening, edited by Linda Hogan & Brenda Peterson):
“Through all the centuries of war and death and cultural and psychic destruction have endured the women who raise the children and tend the fires, who pass long the tales and the traditions, who weep and bury the dead, who are the dead, and who never forget. There are always the women, who make pots and weave baskets, who fashion clothes and cheer their children on at powwow, who make fry bread and piki bread, and corn soup and chili stew, who dance and sing and remember and hold within their hearts the dream of their ancient peoples — that one day the woman who thinks will speak to us again, and everywhere there will be peace.  Meanwhile we tell the stories and write the books and trade tales of anger and woe and stories of fun and scandal and laugh over all manner of things that happen every day. We watch and we wait.”