The untold want,
by life and land ne’er granted,
sail thou forth to seek and find.
– Walt Whitman.
Recent events in the 2020 democrat campaigns for president have led my mind back to memories of the film “Now, Voyager” from 1942. The film is about an “ugly duckling”s transformation and personal liberation from an oppressive, patriarchy-enforcing, matriarch who only thinks in terms of consolidating greater power over others. While the film has a number of now sentimental, dated and, at times laughable, social manners (the focus on cigarette usage especially), its main message of personal evolution from self-loathing through caring and integrity into responsible behavior is what makes it cogent to current events.
In the film, Bette Davis plays Charlotte Vale, a very wealthy “spinster” who is having a nervous breakdown as a result of living under the tyranny of her socially powerful, bitter, manipulative, elderly mother. The film is set within what might be called an example of Wealthy (or White) Anglo-Saxon Protestant – WASP – domination of society in Boston and it is a presentation of how the richest (and thereby most powerful) people must connect with and use their privileges for those who are most vulnerable in order for everyone to become more humane. The key component presented in the story is the message that our achieving a state of beautiful humane-ness primarily rests upon our evolving into a self-effacing concern for the wellbeing of others as a necessary social responsibility. It is a message of proportional social responsibility which borders on an endorsement of socialism.
The cruelties of WASP domination of the so-called United States of America can be traced throughout its history. It was the great efforts for civil rights from the middle of the last century which were the most recent significant attempts at repudiating the domination of private, self-serving money and power in what is called the USA. Since that time, there has been an implementation of an even more socially debilitating, cynical, and delusional belief that liberation from WASP-like oppressiveness is best achieved through making its greed and lust for domination more widespread – as if these perversities will be the greatest expression of an assumed righteousness. Instead of the desire for greater egalitarian growth, the faking USA has become a more dictatorial and debasing display of monetary lust and privatized consolidation of power. This delusional WASP-like propriety is now like a virus which is infecting humanity across all borders – physical, mental, spiritual – around the planet.
The stimulus for my memory of Now, Voyager came the other day when, in response to Elizabeth Warren’s cancellation of her presidential bid, the president of the National Organization for Women – NOW – released a statement which misrepresented history and promoted a lie in a blatant effort to stop the Sanders campaign.
The president of NOW, Toni Van Pelt, was so desperate to push Elizabeth Warren away from possibly endorsing Bernie Sanders that she deliberately limited the focus to the fact that Joe Biden had led an effort which included the approval of the Violence Against Women Act – VAWA – which was meant to reduce domestic violence. This was true, but this focus was used to ignore a huge amount of contravening evidence that Biden has a lousy record in regard to the rights of women, especially poor women. Then, Van Pelt, it seems, could not resist using a lie to try to sabotage the Sanders campaign when she falsely stated that, “Sanders doesn’t have a record” and that he has, “done next to nothing for women and for our issues.”
What Van Pelt has done is unleash an attack on someone who does indeed “have a record” and it is a record which includes an abundance of attempts to support and protect the rights of women which is far better than the often detrimental, racist, right-wing schemes which are almost a hallmark of Joe Biden’s fakery. NOW has clearly jumped in the same capitalist, macho-rewarding bed as Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris ….
Consider these facts.
The VAWA was included within a Joe Biden sponsored bill called the “Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994” as a means of making this bill – which emphasized greater intolerance and greater police force against crimes which were more often associated with racial minorities and which helped increase the quantities of those minorities in prisons – look more appealing to help insure its passage. The VAWA has been cited as the main reason Bernie Sanders went along with the bill – which he otherwise saw as too right-wing.
Until last year, Biden had supported the Partial Birth Abortion Ban. Sanders has consistently opposed this ban because it is meant to restrict the power of women to make decisions regarding their own health.
Biden’s efforts to increase prisons and numbers of racial minorities in prison was then compounded by his support for reducing access to education for prisoners in his support for the perversely titled “Antiterrorism and EFFECTIVE Death Penalty Act” (emphasis added) of 1996. These actions were/are as harmful to women as they were/are to men and they followed the pattern of Reagan era love for incarceration which primarily affected increased numbers of people with darker skin color.
As a senator, Joe Biden successfully sought to restrict the voices of women who tried to tell their stories about interactions with Clarence Thomas and he thus succeeded in helping put Scalia’s patriarchal pet/partner on the so-called Supreme Court.
While Sanders worked for greater integration, Biden worked against busing as a means of desegregating schools for girls and boys.
However, by far the worst example of Biden’s disinterest in the wellbeing of women can be found in his smug, lie-based support for the war against Iraq. It clearly did not matter to Biden how many hundreds of thousands of innocent women and children would be slaughtered, maimed, and left homeless when he proudly helped unleash the horrors of war upon them. He has repeatedly and impatiently insisted that war is a necessity and he has shown little regard for how it overwhelmingly affects women negatively.
There are other examples which can be found which clearly show that Bernie Sanders has a much, much better record of supporting women’s rights and trying to improve their lives.
I am not a Sanders believer (because he is a democrat who uses words as if they have meaning to most democrats and republicans), but when compared to either Biden or Trump, the man is very appealing because he has more often allied himself with necessary changes in priorities.
After Betty Friedan wrote “the Feminine Mystique” she said that she saw a guy carrying a sign which said, “The first step in revolution is consciousness” and this helped her and her colleagues commit to take their consciousness and implement it revolutionarily as NOW. What, to me, is the only way I can make sense of the recent betrayal of that revolution (the stab at the consistent ally, Sanders) by Van Pelt is to see this as a neoliberal (right-wing) reversal of the story seen in the film “Now, Voyager.” As with the democrats as a party, it seems that the privatizing propertied priorities of the WASP establishment have become the religion of what are clearly now the establishment feminists.
For me, the best part of the film “Now, Voyager” comes when Charlotte responds to the man she loves (but can’t marry) when he tells her she should find some man to make her happy. In utter disbelief, she says, “Some man!” because she can’t comprehend how he could have thought she could be so untrue to herself and him. This then leads her to unleash her heartfelt anger because she needs him to be with her spiritually – more than physically.
The betrayal of women performed by Van Pelt is like a reversal of the story in Now, Voyager. Van Pelt seems to want the goals exemplified by the WASP mother in the film and she is willing to settle for a social-dominating status quo which turns a blind eye and a deaf ear toward the truth of the growing bipartisanly implemented, corporately biased injustices – of which she and NOW seems a willing partner.
These oppressive, entrenched, patriarchal priorities are now shared by a range of non-protestant identities. Feminists, Catholics, Blacks, Jews, Muslims, …, the list goes on and on, a WASP-like smugness and deviousness is being promoted by enormous numbers of desperately misguided power-hungry liberals. They are stupidly supporting the traps we are expected to think they oppose.
The organization known as NOW seems to have become NOWW – The National Organization for WASP-like Women – and that is a great shame.
The primal corporatistic drive of economics-power-focused-identity politics is reducing the civil rights of humanity and the quality of the environment to the same level as the bombed-out craters in Iraq which the neo-liberals would vainly have us ignore.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren has lingered nearby the bed full of militarizing corporatists, seemingly unable to see how all of her campaign rhetoric becomes cheaper and cheaper the longer she lingers there. Her decision is between having integrity or undressing for the same, old, privatizing WASP-like, power which has more in common with Trump than with the words she used in her campaign.