Be More Like Björk
By Camille Guthrie
First sew yourself into a pom pom mushroom
Strut across the thirstland past faerie lights
Shout complaints inside volcanic mancaves
Scout for the last unlocated spring of ylem
Then plait a cottage out of kestrel fluff
Stir potato eyes into a vat of dislocated feelings
Write a luculent novel five winters long
Till dismay ferments enough nuclear energy to power
Your moon buggy beyond the nacaret fields
Stopping only to gather the pollen of the Umbiferous True
Then plunge over cliffs sporting moth wings
Dropping to the bottommost of the besprinkled sea
And make your way up through the rain shadow
On two cat feet in hostile territory
All the while you compose a callithumpian song
To nail a ritual within the astrobleme
So bend dragons and constellate your enemies
Fox on your shoulder spend a month sun-grazing
A hundred hawks exploding before your stride
Which will bring you luck on this godawful day
You must make a new life by yourself like all
Lurching tellurians stuck in eviternity
— Camille Guthrie, Be More Like Björk
Posts from June 2022
As always, border policies and the border cops who enforce them impose horrendous suffering on innocent people, for the sake of inflicting the deplorable, invasive and violent means to an utterly worthless political end. Then they turn around and look at the humanitarian crisis that they themselves have created, they contort their faces into a grotesque mask of feigned pity, and Alejandro Mayorkas of the Department of Homeland of Security will talk on and on about how it is all so awful, and the
traffickers are to blame, and the politicians in Washington and the paramilitary patrol on the border all care so, so very much and they are all so, so very sorry, and this only shows how much harder they need to work at shutting crossings systematically, relentlessly, and completely. So that they can make damned sure to enforce all the laws that keep forcing peaceful, harmless people into these awful conditions over and over again. There is no political policy on earth that could be worth this, no system of control and enforcement that could justify or even excuse hunting people and leaving them no escape but to cram themselves into the back of a tractor-trailer truck in 100 degree heat so they can try to hide while they are trying to get around a goddamned apartheid patrol that never should have set one foot out the door or laid one hand on an immigrant minding their own business. There is no crisis on the border that is not the direct result of the crisis of the border, no humanitarian disaster that would not be instantly and forever wiped away just by letting people cross peacefully where they want to cross, and letting them stay anywhere that they can find a place or a person willing to have them. All you need to do is stand down, let these people cross freely and openly where they choose, and leave them alone.
Nobody needed to die. Not one person. Not one child. How dare you? What else is there to say? What could there be to say in anything other than looking directly at the borders and the government of the United States of America and screaming, screaming, screaming.
I think that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is wrong and deeply alarming. It’s wrong as a matter of principle; its immediate consequences are and will be immensely destructive for women’s individual liberty; and its alarming implications and long-term consequences are likely to be a poison within U.S. American political culture for years to come. Abortion is a woman’s right, an inalienable individual right to bodily autonomy that neither democratic majorities nor state legislatures nor any other government or power on earth has any business infringing, abridging, regulating or overruling. That somewhere around half the states in this country have done so immediately, or will most likely do so within days, is a brutal and heartbreaking display of overweening political power over the most intimate parts of our lives.
I can say more about why if you’re interested — either why I think abortion ought to be recognized as an inalienable individual right, or why I think the Supreme Court ruling is wrong, or why I think it’s awful that state governments may now exercise the power to invasively regulate or prohibit abortion according to democratic rule. For the moment, now that the decision has been handed down, I think it is important to take a careful and realistic look at what the real-world situation is, and to respond accordingly in ways that will seriously address the real-world problem going forward.
State by State
Nothing is over. Abortion is not illegal in the United States. The Dobbs ruling doesn’t claim to make it illegal or hint at any effort to do so. What it does is to put abortion rights into the political process — it removes the Court doctrine that prevented state governments from making it illegal in those states respectively. I think this is an awful decision. But with this decision inflicted, the question is now a question of political organizing and grassroots civil society. The development of safe and effective pills (mifepristone and misoprostol) and telemedicine have dramatically decentralized the technology for safe medical abortions. In about half the states in the country there will almost certainly continue to be pretty vigorously pro-choice abortion laws. (These are a couple of respects, and very important ones, in which the situation now is much better for reproductive liberty than it was in 1973.) Abortion laws, either preexisting ones or new ones passed in a rush, are going to severely curtail or ban abortion in about half the states in the country. Jacob Sullum at Reason has a useful run-down of the effects of the ruling state by state, here:
Here Is a State-by-State Rundown of What Will Happen Now That SCOTUS Has Freed Lawmakers To Restrict Abortion.
Aid and Abet
Part of what’s going to happen is going to be a matter of political protest, state by state campaigning in state legislatures and all of the mechanisms of political process outside of the courtroom. But it’s also worth remembering the absolutely central importance and power of civil society and grassroots mutual aid to provide direct assistance to people seeking abortion care.
One of the most practically consequential things that you can do right now if you are concerned about access to abortion in the states where it is and will remain broadly legal is to give money to abortion funds, especially abortion funds in states with hostile state governments, and especially in states in the Deep South and the Midwest. Abortion funds are mutual aid networks that provide direct support to people seeking abortions in a particular community or locale. Those that are in areas where abortion access is threatened by hostile state governments have been making plans for months to provide access to travel and abortion care in states where abortion remains legal. This is going to be awful, and it’s going to be expensive, but it is work that they are doing and will continue to do.
I give money to support Yellowhammer Fund, an abortion fund in the state of Alabama: [SEE UPDATE BELOW. -RG, 2022-06-29.]
Abortion clinics in Alabama shut down immediately when the ruling came out, but Yellowhammer is continuing to operate and actively soliciting support to help cover the costs of funding travel to states where abortion remains legal.
[UPDATE, 29 June 2022. Earlier today, Wednesday 29 June 2022, Yellowhammer Fund sent out an e-mail statement to their supporters stating (emphasis mine):
We have made the deeply difficult decision to temporarily pause our services for the safety and security of our clients, our supporters, and our staff. During this time we will consult legal experts to reassess how best to continue doing our work in the immediate future. We assure you that we will always continue to fight for Reproductive Justice in Alabama and the Deep South. We will still serve our communities in the best capacity in our new post-Roe reality. This is an evolution not a defeat. I do not currently have any further information on when or if they will resume funding or support for women from Alabama seeking abortions. I hope that they will be able to come back soon.]
The West Alabama Women’s Center will continue to provide birth control and other sexual health services, Marty said. Clinic providers hope to provide services to women on Medicaid.
Lauren Frazier, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Southeast, said the organization’s clinics in Alabama stopped performing abortions before the Dobbs decision came down. They are devoting more resources to patient navigation to help arrange travel for people who need to go out of state.
The Yellowhammer Fund, which provides financial assistance to women who want abortions, said it will have to increase fundraising to cover the high costs of seeking care in other states such as Illinois. The organization also hopes to open a pregnancy and parenting resource center for people who can’t travel out of state and must carry unplanned pregnancies to term, Roberts said.
— Amy Yurkanin, Supreme Court abortion ban: Alabama abortion advocates regroup after Roe v. Wade decision
Al.com, 24 June 2022.
I also support Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund, an abortion fund covering the state of Mississippi (which is the state directly and immediately affected by the Dobbs ruling):
Texas is the largest state with overtly hostile laws that will most likely make nearly all abortion illegal nearly everywhere in the state. The size of Texas and the very long distances to states with more liberal abortion laws (California, Illinois, or across the border to Mexico) make the question of travel resources especially intense. It’s also a state with a lot of very active abortion funds, most of them based out of the major cities. These are all worth supporting; although you should be aware that Texas’s insidiously, catastrophically, fractally awful SB 8 law includes some provisions targeted at abortion funds. As a result, several of these organizations — especially NNAF-affiliated not-for-profits — are temporarily pausing funding or may be reconsidering what they can do legally going forward:
- Fund Texas Choice (Austin)
- West Fund (El Paso)
- Texas Equal Access (TEA) Fund (Dallas)
- Clinic Access Support Network (Houston)
- Lilith Fund (Austin)
- The Bridge Collective (Austin)
- Frontera Fund (McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley)
- Jane’s Due Process (deals with legal support and 1-on-1 case management for young people dealing with Texas parental consent laws)
- Buckle Bunnies Fund (San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Austin and Houston — grassroots network, not an incorporated nonprofit)
Here’s a big list with lots more:
- Nobody’s reproductive rights or control over their own bodies should be subjected to political processes or to the control of governments or ruling majorities. Of course they shouldn’t. Jesus. Individual liberty is inalienable.↩
There is a right and wrong poetry; but I think that I both kind of loathe this poem and kind of love it. In any case, it’s definitely by Alice Notley, so.
As Good As Anything
I don’t see the point of
remembering you; you’re too boring,
Iowa City, Iowa,
much duller topologically than
Needles, California. I’m here
in the Rebel Motel, with
my grape-colored sweater
and maté tea, whose smoky odor’s
bound up with first rooms and foods here
sex and snow. I
write about Needles
Herman and rocks, the story’s called
As Good as Anything,and in it
daft Herman–true local
Rocks is as good as anything.
I figured that out summer after
first love affair in New York:
hung out, home, at a rock shop
inspecting geodes and thunder eggs
Arsenic samples and petrified
What can I say about Iowa City
everyone’s an academic poetry
groupie, I haven’t yet written a poem,
there’s a bar where for 25 cents a
meal of boiled egg and tiny beer.
Really I don’t know what kind of poetry–
what’s the name of the make they
use here–or what kinds of
poetry live people write in the world.
Is there a right and wrong poetry, one might
still ask as I patronize,
retrospectively, the Iowa style,
characterized, as I remember,
by the assumption of desperation
boredom behind two-story houses
divorce, incomes, fields, pigs,
getting into pants, well not really
in poems, well nowells and all
in the costive mode
of men who–and the suicidal women–
want to be culpable for something,
settle for being mean to their wives
and writing dour stanzas. God this is bitchy
I modeled for art classes
that’s rather interesting
the hypocrisy: nobody needs
to paint nude women
they just like to. So here I am
naked for art, which is a lot of
dumb fucks I already know,
same with poetry.
Written and judged by. Those befoibled guys
who think–you know–
the poetic moment’s a pocket in
pool; where can I publish it; what can
I do to my second or third wife now.
Nothing happens in Iowa, so
can I myself change here? Yes
I can start to become contemptuous
is that good or bad, probably bad.
In New York I’d developed a philosophy
of sympathy and spiritual equality:
out the window, easily, upon
my first meeting real assholes.
A rock’s as good as anything
there are no rocks in Iowa
shit-black soil, a tree or two,
no mountain or tall edifice,
University drabs, peeping Toms, anti-war
riots, visiting poets
treated like royalty, especially if
they fuck the locals or have a record
of fighting colorfully with their wives.
You can go to the movies once a week,
like in Needles. You can fuck
a visiting poet; you can be paraded before
a visiting poet as fuckable but not fuck.
You can write your first poems
thinking you might as well
since the most stupid people in the universe
are writing their five hundredth here.
I’m doing that now. What
difference does it make.
I like my poems. They’re
as good as rocks.
There have been few things as utterly noxious and degrading to the intellectual culture of American liberalism in the last half a decade as its increasingly obsessive fascination with the categories of
disinformation as models for political dispute and as explicit terms of analysis and criticism.
Humans get stuff wrong. We do it all the time. We’re biased and blind and overconfident.
All of this makes the very concept of misinformation–and its more sinister cousin, disinformation–slippery at best. Spend 10 minutes listening to any think tank panel or cable news segment about the scourge, and it will quickly become clear that many people simply use the terms to meaninformation, whether true or false, that I would rather people not possess or share.This is not a good working definition, and certainly not one on which any kind of state action should be based.
The battle over the appropriate response to disinformation boiled over in late April, when the Department of Homeland Security announced the creation of a Disinformation Governance Board. There appears to have been astonishingly little thought put into how the public might receive such a declaration, including the board’s rather Orwellian moniker and its equally evocative acronym: DGB.
Several panicked clarifications by Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas later, the board appears to be a relatively small-scale operation focused on an odd assortment of topics, including disinformation originating from Russia that might impact the next U.S. election and the dissemination of false information about U.S. immigration policies by border smugglers. This understanding of disinformation as false information purposely incepted for sinister ends by foreign agents is likely the least controversial formulation of the concept.
Still, as an open letter from Protect Democracy, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute succinctly put it:Disinformation causes real harms, but the Constitution limits the government’s role in combating disinformation directly, and the government can play no useful role at all in the absence of public trust. The announcement of this Board, housed in a Department with a checkered record on civil liberties and without clarity and specificity on its mandate, has squandered that trust.
But there’s a reason the announcement of the Disinformation Governance Board was greeted with such a clamor: The public is increasingly skeptical that officials will honor the limits of constitutional protections for speech, and increasingly aware that the status quo has moved toward censorship by proxy.
At the height of COVID-19, President Joe Biden and his administration repeatedly made what it calledasksof social media and search companies to remove content it deemed disinformation. Again, after having been accused of actual murder by the president of the United States, it seems likely those firms greeted thoseasksas something more akin todemands.
The notion that a government-codified understanding of thebest available evidenceshould be the standard for identifying misinformation demonstrates a spectacular misunderstanding of both free speech and the process of scientific inquiry–and a troubling lack of humility.
— Katherine Mangu-Ward, You’re Wrong About Disinformation
Reason (July 2022).