". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, November 2, 2018

Falling To Winter: Politika, Health Care, Voting, Haiti

     . . . . Among my current reads is Steve Kornacki's The Red and the Blue: The 1990's and the Birth of Political Tribalism (2018), i.e. the politics of attack confrontation of everything all the time. Why yes, this was the strategy devised by the power hungry, boundlessly ambitious Newt Gingrich. 

It's interesting, infuriating and depressing to go back to these political eras that I've lived through, because we can't just start with Newt and Clinton. Reagan and Nixon and LBJ are in there too. It was with the coming of Reagan I immediately understood the backlash against all the streams of culture and political activism that had given me a life filled with interest and possibility that was never open to my mother. 

It was with the coming of Reagan I first understood that I had the immense great fortune to have born in that window of time in which women could have sex, even be pregnant, without stigma -- in fact a window in time which had never ever existed before in the history of the world, in which a woman could explore her sexual desires, wants, needs and pleasures without the anxiety of the nearly inevitable consequential pregnancy and / or arrest and poverty. It was obvious to me immediately that Reagan's Ilks, if not the man himself, had declared war on woman's reproductive rights = freedom and autonomy. 

Everyone with whom I talked about this laughed in my face. We had Roe v. Wade! We had contraception! Nothing could change now! I was a tin-foiled conspiracy propagating depressing denier of reality. Many of them never even bothered to vote. They didn't think politics mattered and they paid no attention to them as boring and creating depressing thoughts, and offending other people -- and themselves.

Since those days all these same female friends have come around to seeing what I saw then, and they keep sending me e-mails and texts to vote, to donate to candidates, to march, to demonstrate, to send protest messages to an infinite list of politicians in 'elected' or appointed office. They continually inform me of what I was pointing out back in 1982. 

     . . . .Voting is essential -- as it always has been. But it has become far more difficult than it used to be, just like getting medical appointments, or even finding a doctor and hospital within a reasonable distance from where one lives and / or works. In many places, like doctors, dentists, hospitals and supermarkets, voting sites have shut down and disappeared -- or have been repressed, purged, and downright denied. It can mean a whole day to go to where one should be registered to vote, vote, and come back again. If one has a job the employer will not like that, even if one has a job that affords a person access to transportation reliable enough to get the voting site and back again. 

In the very old days when I was a kid, election days were big deals in my rural community. In our part of the country, elections for county, state and federal seats meant driving to the county seat, which took at least an hour.  One dressed for 'going to town' instead of in one's daily work clothes. It was exciting because the voters were not only fulfilling their civic duty (and that voting was a civic duty, and the consequences of elections affected people personally, was something we were brought up with, like Jesus and getting good grades), but this was also an opportunity to socialize and shop. It was like a holiday but it wasn't a holiday. It was especially buzzy on rainy election days because one wouldn't be able to work outside anyway, so the men just stayed with their drinking buddies. So here it is, cold rain, and my dad gets to hang out in the afternoon having beers with friends in the bar. My mom is visiting with various church ladies (she was one herself), relatives and other friends, making more contacts in the county and state organizations to which she belonged, which led her at times to be elected herself president and secretary and treasurer of these organizations -- all giving standing in the community. 

All that seemed to stop in the 1970's, when so many institutions that were the bedrock centers of community life in these rural communities were closed, moved away, centralized, for greater efficiency and greater profit cost cutting.

During my mother's long dying in 1995-1996, more than once every week, they had to drive two hours to the hospital which treated her cancer. The county seat's own hospital had closed not too long after I was born there. The spanking new, brilliantly equipped facility, operated by the Roman Church, whose nurses and technicians predominately were nuns (though not all -- a friend's mom worked there), had opened across the river in the twin city. 

There was too, a smaller, modern hospital in the small town close to our farm.  But both the big brilliant hospital across the river from the county seat, and this smaller one providing close-by service to the community, had long been closed. Medical need meant leaving the county. This made treatment days for my mom even more difficult. 

These movements of service denial to the general public in less densely populated areas rolled big in the 1970's. They were pretty well consolidated by the 1990's. 

And now women in so many places in this nation can't find medical care at all anywhere remotely convenient to where they live. And even more women can't afford medical care at all either, much less insurance. Safe, reliable affordable contraception, pre-natal and post natal care -- how are they to get that?  At this moment of typing the rate of infant mortality and maternal mortality in the USA ranks shockingly high

I've been thinking about all this constantly while reading The Red and the Blue. Yah, I've been paying attention to them all along. And voting. I'll be voting Tuesday too. 

By far, very, very far, the best costume I saw in the context of the annual Village Halloween Parade was the African American gentleman impeccably dressed as President Lincoln, complete with authentic looking stovepipe hat and beard, who merely carried a sign that said, "#BlackLivesMatter -- Vote -- Abraham Lincoln."  Honestly? I teared up.

It's shockingly humid here today, the day el V returns from spending Halloween, le fet Gede and Day of the Dead in a week long celebration in Haiti.  The fet brought el V to talk at the national Cultural and Arts Center about the relationships between Haiti and New Orleans, and it brought a passel of New Orleans musicians (most of them long-time friends of el V too), including the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, to perform, to teach, and to collaborate with Haitian groups and musicians.  There was a reception and dinner at the residency of the US Haitian ambassador (a woman, appointed by Obama, who actually knows her job!).  Pres Hall led them all throughout residency in a second line. All week long, all week long ... such a wonderful time was had by all.

But el V's flight home has been delayed for an hour (the flight he took into Haiti -- to Cap Hatian, not to Port-au-Prince from whence he returns) was delayed for a whole day; he had to spend the night in Miami. So in comparison this isn't so bad. 

He'll be going back in March, leading a Postmambo Haitian Music seminar. It is going to be an incredibly beautiful trip.

And then there's here, and today.

What is interesting today, gloomy and threatening as it is, is that literally, within hours, from Day of the Dead to today, the greatest percentage of the trees in our neighborhood turned from glowing green, to glowing gold and scarlet.

The leaves will be gone by Thanksgiving, leaving the trees'graceful, lacy skeletons bare.

Winter's coming. But no white knights will be, to save us.  We shall have to save our nation and ourselves, ourselves. We must take back the vote!

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