Sunday Reading for the Voter

Threw a kick-ass Halloween party last night and had a blast. Lots of friends and lovers and tons of pirate kids. Went this morning to a GOTV training session. Felt empowered until I was reminded of my non-voting status. Boo. I live in Chicago. I can vote, right Mayor Daley?

  • So what if losing the election turns out to be a better deal? That is the question posed by Drake Bennett in the Boston Globe. Uh, no.
  • It’s victor v. Victor in the‚ĆUkrainian elections going on right now. From the sizable crowd gathered this afternoon outside the Ukraine Consul in Chicago, I say, go victor.
  • Will Hutton in a piece in the Guardian says to forget about the election because American conservatism has already won comprehensively. Of course, he uses Tom Franks’ What’s Wrong with Kansas? Franks is really smart and I am only a third into the book but there is something not right with his thesis. Will say more once I finish the book.
  • Twenty years ago, today, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. If you remember her policies towards the Sikh separatists and the aftermath of her death on Sikh population in Punjab, that picture of Manmohan Singh appears that much incredible. Viva Democracy.
  • Speaking of Democracy, Eric Hobsbawm would like a moment of your time.
  • If an incumbent is up for re-election, the result of the Redskins game is a good one to note. Bush loses.

Limp Politics

I love Kentucky. Mainly because I love Steve. And he represents Kentucky. It is a gorgeous state filled with some truly special people. The senate race in Kentucky is pretty tight. The incumbent Jim Bunning who was gonna win handsomely started acting a tad weird – calling his opponent, Dan Mongiardo, the son of Saddam Hussein because of his dark features. Others read that as the onset of some mental disability in the old-as-dirt Bunning but I think it was a brilliant move. As someone who has dark features and has visited Kentucky many times, that plays well in Lexington. Still, the polls have tightened up and while I don’t think Bunning will lose, his advisors are losing some sleep.

Lately, they have started called Mongiardo “limp-wristed”, and a “switch-hitter”, as well as, not a “man”. Now, that’s what I call a “hard” attack. Mongiardo is single. And he does look like the penny pinching dandy depicted by Norman Rockwell in this ad for Kentucky Bourbon.

To his credit, Mongiardo has responded strongly:

Mongiardo told a group of reporters he is not gay. Then he was then asked can a single man run for office without rumors being spread? “It’s a shame but I’m hoping all of this attention could help me get a few dates,” Mongiardo said.

Ain’t politics fun? I think duels, slurs, challenges to manhood and womanhood do have a place in the political realm. All this liberal whining about being nobler than all that always strikes me as misplaced morality. Politics, at its best, is a playground popularity contest. And if you think back to your playground days, the bullies and the wits won while the “sensitive” kids sat and sulked about their given funny names. Look, for example, what Bush’s entire strategy after the first debate is: LIBERAL from TAXACHUSETS. That is it. If that ain’t school yard name-calling, I don’t know what is [thanks Mark for the tip].

unrelated i: The subaltern is back writing his journal from 1848. It is a good read, if you will.
housekeeping: I am SICK of the spam here. Blacklist ain’t working. Over the weekend I will move to 3.1 since WP 1.3 is still not out. curses.
unrelated ii: I got a trackback from Antibalas! I even thought of going to the Metro show to catch them. Next, Colin Meloy needs a blog….


Imagine, if you can, a Kerry presidency. Really think about it. Doesn’t it feelbetter? Like a tall glass of cool lemonade on a hot summer day? That ticker which runs constantly along the bottom of your screen won’t say “Threat Level: Elevated Threat Level: Elevated Threat Level: Elevated Threat Level: Elevated Threat Level: Elevated”. Tom Ridge won’t interrupt this broadcast to tell you that they are looking at your bridges. John Ashcroft won’t beam at you from behind the eagle seal and say that the biggest, baddest group has been caught and, yet, you will never know who they were or what they did or even if they got convicted. Condi Rice will not interrupt Tom or Tim to say that that was just a historical document. John Snow won’t claim that 1 million jobs were created while you were watching the Factor alone. No child will be left behind.

I am tired of living in anger. I am tired of living in fear. I do not want to hate my government. I do not want to ridicule my president. I would like to believe that those sworn to protect me do not hate my liberties. I would like to go back to making jokes about sneaky, lying, cynical politicians and not having the punchline blow up in my face for lack of irony. Things are bad all around but I would like to have some hope – everywhere.

Kerry is no magic pill for all that ails this world. But, he gives me hope. A new administration gives me hope for new answers, new paradigms, new methods. The world needs a ctrl-alt-del. We need a re-boot. We need a start over.

Bush may win. By hook or by crook. And I will have to live through 4 more years. But, I will not live quietly. I will not keep my head down and hope it all goes away or that no one looks at me. I will raise my voice. I will protest with millions. I will hope that I do something to make a difference.

But, I really, really hope we get a fresh start. My prediction, and my hope, is in the graphic up there.

PS: I am not one to pay any attention to editorial endorsements but this from Economist emphasizes exactly the points I would raise were I to write this blog more lucidly.

updated Nov 3, 12:13 AM CST: Aaj bazaar mein pa-bajolan chalo

Chashm-e Nam, Jan-e Shoreeda kafi nahin
Thumat-e Ishq poshida kafi nahin,
Aaj bazaar mein pabajolan chalo

Dast afshan chalo, Mast o Raqsaan chalo
Khaq bar sar chalo, khon bad-aman chalo
Rah takta ha sab Shahr-e Janaan chalo

Hakim-e Shaher bhi, Mujmaa-e Aam bhi,
Teer-i Ilzam bhi, Sang-e Dushnam bhi,
Subh nashaad bhi, Roz-i nakam bhi

Un ka dam saz apnay siva kon hai
Shehr-e Janaan mein ab ba-Sufa kon hai,
Dast-Katil kay shaiyan raha kon hai

Rakht-i dil bandh lo, dil fogaro chalo
Phir hamien Katl ho aiyn, Yaro Chalo

A wet eye, a shaken life is not enough,
The accusation of a hidden love is not enough,
With feet in chains, Let us go in public today.

Let us go with palms exposed, with a song and dance,
with dirt in our hair, with blood on our chest,
Let us go while the entire city of lovers watches.

For the warden of the city, and the crowd of the commoners,
And the arrows of accusation, and the stones of abuse,
And the glum morning, and the failing day,

Who is there to give them life except us?
Who is ready in this city except us?
Who is honorable enough for the killer’s hand except us?

Pack up your belongings O Injured heart ones!
Let us go friends and get killed once again.
– Faiz Ahmed Faiz, 1959 (Lahore Jail)

[all mistakes in the translations are mine and should be excused]

State Sanctioned Killings

Yesterday, the Lower House of the National Assembly in Pakistan “banned” karokari (honor killings). Specifically, the legal code will now treat such acts not as “crimes of passion” but as premeditated murders and upped the punishment for such a crime.

I know that there are some serious reservations about the amended law, and it’s all about the application anyways, but I have to applaud the Minister of Law, Wasi Zafar, who took time off from much more important business for this measure. Like any other Pakistani, I grew up hearing and reading about women killed just for glancing at someone or even just accused of glancing at someone. I place the blame squarely on the State for that. And not just Zia’s Islamization efforts. Such killings are never prosecuted because they are class crimes as well as gender crimes. Rich, powerful landholders in the villages of Sindh and Punjab are the main culprits in practicing and promoting violence against women in the context of family honor. The local thanay dar simply looks away unless the national media makes a stink and, in that case, a simple FIR is registered and forgotten. If the State cannot protect its most vulnerable citizens, it cannot claim any legitimacy.

Honor. Anachronistically, a woman’s body remains the locus of the South Asian family’s honor. To protect the family name, you put the woman in a veil. To promote the family name, you seek marriage with a family of a higher station. To avenge the family name, you rape or kill your opponents’ women.

How does one combat such practices? The first thing, obviously, is to actually have laws on the books that can be used by those fighting such medieval notions. In that regard, the amendment passed is a crucial step. Second, again obvious, is to actually enforce such laws. No great hope for that in the short run. But, media can play the pivotal role in this regard. It can often shame the government’s hand.

But real change can only come when societal norms shift due to economic or political stimulus. In the urban communities, the economic change is happening as women constitute a growing segment of income earners in the public sphere. These professional women are more likely to assert their rights and have access to support structures outside of the family. In the rural communities, the majority population where honor killings occur, women have always worked in the public sphere and it has not helped them. In that context, I think change can only come through societal shifts brought about by political pressure. Religion, duh, is the obvious marker here. The State must undertake a radical and aggressive educational effort that emphasizes the rights of women in the Islamic world and back that up by cleaning up the Hudood code, doing Madrassa reform, teach-ins, promoting civic NGOs etc. I have little hope that The General is interested much in all that.

For now, let’s see what the State does in this case.