Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Why Don't You Write for a Local Paper?

I get the question all the time: Why don't you write an opinion column for a local newspaper? Someone asked me again yesterday, a professional of my generation. I told him why. It is because no Bahamian editor or programme director has the ovaries or balls enough to publish opinions like mine. Not for the sake of progressive living, not even for the sake of readership and greater audiences that would result from the controversies created. It has been my experience that the folks who head up the "news organizations" in this town are are not clever enough to see the marketing value in an heretical voice like mine, not only on this rock but throughout the region. They are hyper-religious moralizers, not journalists at all. I mean really: How many preacher columnists does one freaking paper need? Editors and writers in the local press do not appear to be aware of where they are and what they ought to be doing. The journalists are void of curiosity, they have no questions. (This is the result of they way we continuously tell our children to shut their mouths, the way we slap them around if they do not shut up, but that is another story.) The editors are not really editors at all, or they are too old and out of touch (and racist, and sexist, and homophobic) to be guiding editorial policy in these serious times. If they are not being the mouthpiece for the religious right then they are wanking the tourism industry for cash. They do not care to know what we free thinkers have to say, and they are afraid to know. They do not care to document any movement toward change. Change might cause God to withdraw his grudging blessings, change might cause Old Money Bay Street to withdaw its advertising millions. Why don't I write an opion column for a local newspaper? Because a woman's free voice can only speak the unspeakable in this nowhere place, my opinions are too revolutionary in this land that is more silent water than land, more public relations than free-flowing, empowering information, more touristic whoring and posturing than truthful and useful creation.

He asked what some of those opinions might be, and I told him. First, there is still the shameful and embarrasing fact that our constitution still legislates the inequality of women in this country, and discriminates in particular against poor, unmarried mothers, one of our troubled society's most vulnerable and at-risk groups. There continues to be urgent need for reform that would make them - us - equal and equally protected under the law: Equal to other women, and equal to men. If I "wrote a column" I told him, I would have to speak my truth as a poor, unmarried mother here in my place of birth, barred by law from the right to give Identity to my son because he was born outside of marriage. A woman without a husband is nobody, a mother without a husband is less than nobody, the son of a mother without a husband is nobody's son, according to the laws of my country in the year 2005. I would have to tell the story underneath the story, the one about the failed refferendum and how it was destroyed by the Handmaids of the Bahamian patriarchy. It was women themselves who voted to retain second class status in the constitution, including some who dressed up in Feminist disguises and worked with me and others for years trying to stoke up a real women's movement here, only to appear on election morning in their appropriate party t shirts and obediently voted for the continued oppression of our country's poorest citizens: The mothers who have no husband and no legal names of their own. I could write uncountable columns and editorials and broadcasts about those women, my dear friends who were not my dear friends, my beloved sisters who were not my sisters. I could write forever about women betraying women so that men can be free to go off and make another million, or corrupt another parliament. I could expound on how women voted to maintain an underclass of unmarried mothers, because every patriotic, successful, acceptable Bahamian has to have someone s/he is Better Than. In my opinion, I told him, If any Bahamian editor or programme director has backbone enough to hire me to research and write a series of stories from this view, then let them speak up. Because I would begin right now by recalling where I was that night when the election results were coming in. I was in the car, in a Wendy's drive-thru with our three year old son in the back seat. It was dark out and the man on the radio was talking about "a landslide defeat for the opposition." I was crying. He never said a word about what this meant for us women. Little David spoke. "Mummy why did they vote no for your human rights?" I can't remember what I said. One day I will tell him that Bahamian women had been well trained and voted to create a class of Untouchables, the women who had babies for men who were not their husbands, women like me, children like him. I will tell him that oppressed people need someone to oppress in turn, in order to feel they are successful, or at least, acceptable. One day he will know how deeply I have grieved over this, and grieved over the loss of my sisters: I am lonely for the women they were supposed to be. Which "editor" on this rock would publish me and my heretical womanish views? I got things to say that they are too weak and frightened to hear and they won't do it, not even it if meant that I turned their obscure little joke of a paper into a journal reknown across the Caribbean and the world, a money-making phenom even, an explosion of global readership... Which editor could stand to hire a nobody-little-cripple-island-gal who thinks she is All That? A self possessed woman always causes uncomfortableness in the patriarchies. A crippled, unwed mother who believes she is valuable, and who believes her opinions are vallid and valuable, well, I believe this is just too much for any of them to bear. Which Nassau editor could stand to have me in the newsroom and not be compelled to give me the broken chair, the broken bench against the wall? They are always compelled to do that black crab, drag your sister down, who does she think she is kind of thing.

Secondly, I told him, I believe in a woman's right to legal, safe and affordable reproductive services including abortion. It grieves me to know that as it stands now in this place, abortion is "illegal", which in reality means that poor, unmarried women have no access to affordable abortion services, while we the middle class and wealthy can slip a local doctor a couple of thousand dollars and get a D&C on the down low, or of course, we can catch a plane to Miami and have an abortion for about $300. Once again, it is the most vulnerable of us all, the poor women, the unmarried mothers, who have lost the right to own and manage their own bodies. Those of us "fortunate" enough to make such a choice, may never speak of it, not in polite company, not even to ourselves. Patriarchy has shamed it so, our Womanish Power to make life or not to make it. Not just in this place but all over the world. So many of the world's problems I believe are directly linked to the fact that we women have lost ownership of our bodies, our wombs, our vaginas, our fertilized eggs. If we truly had sovereignty over our womanish bodies there would be no overpopulation, no famine, no starvation. no war. (How can there be war if we do not bear them all these soldiers, so many that we can afford to murder them by the thousands and tens of thousands, and never run out of new recruits?) O yes, I told my friend, I would love to write some columns about this subject for a local news organization. Showing the whole, nightmarish gamut of consequences we all face because of the continued colonization and occupation of the Womanish Body by the man-cultures, such as the dead newborn in a garbage bag on a Nassau bush road, the African children who starved to death last night, the Haitian mothers who are right now struggling to make it through the day alive, the Jamaican mothers whose sons are killing one another in the ghettos, and the woman next door who gets up every morning ready to re-draw her image upon the canvas of life, because always, patriarchal colonization is at work erasing her.

Then, I told him, I would want to write about the need to legalize and decriminalize weed, in this country and around the world. I would write about the lies and propaganda, the racism at the root of this prohibition, how it serves only to create gun-toting mafias, it is this stupid law that has created a terrible criminal element just as the prohibition of alcahol did in America in the 1920s, who get away with murder and plunder (in the name of the obscene amounts of money that prohibition guarentees for them), while otherwise law abiding, hard working good citizens who are also casual pot smokers are continuously being oppressed and even ruined by prohibition laws. In my opinion we need to leave the harmless potheads alone and get about the business of flushing out the rapists, the wife beaters, the child molesters, the violent ones. Who would we rather living next door, a man who grows a little green plant and smokes it, or a man who fucks his own daughter for twenty years? My sad, backward country chooses the latter. If I were to "write a column" I would speak out about the fact that humanity has smoked herbs and taken other concoctions to alter consciousness since the day before the first day of Time, especially shamans, priestesses and priests. I'd speak out about how rediculous and typically patriarchal it is to wage a war on a plant that grows wild all over this planet. I'd be obliged to write about all the evidence for great medicinal value of cannibis and about how the whole world needs to be more like Holland and Canada and in a place I call the Wild Mind. Which Bahamian editor or programme director would have the vision and the courage not to mention the cultural savvy it would take to publish such a radical voice? Which one would choose to take a shocking, daring new direction, one that would get international attention, even respect? Which one would choose to remain stunted, silenced and (yawn) safe?

My aquaintance was happily aghast. He said, O my God that is heresy they will run you out of town what else do you believe? He was smiling.

I answered: I believe Gay folks should be able to legally marry, and have access to all equal protection and inclusion under the law. I believe that when a man is found to be beating the woman living in his home then the Crown must be obligated to arrest and prosecute him, and the victim no longer made responsible for seeking justice. I believe parliamentarians accused of rape and other crimes should be thoroughly and impartially investigated. I believe that clergy leaders who preach violence and hatred should be removed immediately from positions of power and influence. I believe that news editors who tout racism are shameful and deserve vehement public denouncement. I believe that I have the right to a parliament that properly represents me. I believe that "the good old days" really sucked and that today is the best day most of us have ever had. (I could GO ON about how sick I am of hearing foks go on about how great it used to be when everyone in the neighbourhood had the right to beat Jesus into our children.) I believe able-bodied people who steal handicapped parking should serve a mandatory 30 day jail sentence. I believe men who rape, and especially those who rape children, should be incarcerated forever and whoever has enabled them should receive the same. I believe our people need to stop looking to the preachers and politicians and begin looking to the writers and other artists for understanding, inspiration and answers. I told him, I believe that history lied when it said that the Lucayans became extinct ("Dear King of Spain, the people are all dead so you can now own the land, sincerely, Colon.") I believe that while their government fell, and their Goddesses and Gods were driven underground, the People themselves lived on, assimilated, and we are their descendants. I believe that if we were to investigate we would find that the vast majority of present-day Bahamians has Lucayan (non-Europpean, non-African) DNA in their mix. I believe that knowing this, knowing ourselves for who we truly are, will empower us to get ourselves truly free on all levels. I believe that the season for Jehovah and Allah and their cultures of war and death is coming to a close, and humanity is instinctually returning to the Great Cosmic Goddess, the Divine Feminine Creatrix of All, yearning for her balance, her justice, and her amazing, regenerative magick. I believe that ideas like these when spoken can bring down a government, they can rise up a womanish nation, they can save one island gal from hating herself into the grave.

I asked my friend: Which local journal do you think will pay me $150.00 a page to write such stories? He said, I don't think they would like you very much. I agreed. No, they wouldn't, I agreed.

Then I gave him the three blog addresses, telling him, I publish myself, on the World Wide Web, every day, for free, on three different websites. I told him, I have about twenty five regular readers, whom I cherish, because the thought of them out there hearing me makes me laugh, their presence and their witness makes me feel something like joy. Because patriarchy has put so much effort into convincing me to agree to be silent, isolated, powerless and absolutely without influence. (Someone has to do this job for the man-cultures to function.) Patriarchy has brought me down low, but the more my local community has cut me off, the more the world has been opened up to me, thanks to the Internet and this blessed compulsion to speak out. I got my ass kicked, this is true, and me and loneliness are close as sisters. Still, in a moment, I will hit a key and this piece, which has taken me three days to write, will be instantly published to the world. My little websites and personal expressions stand on equal ground with every other website published. The web is a great Equalizer, it is democratic, no, it is socialist, no, it is actually communist. A communist something that actually works and works as it should. The Web is the most equal place I have ever been. The blog is the most powerful publication I have ever made. I am my own editor and publisher, these are my columns now. In this place there is no elitist publishing hierarchy where only a rare and priviliged few are published while a kazillion other great writers spend their lives watching manuscripts molder on the dusty desk. In this place, I told my curious friend, I am moe fulfilled as a writer now than at any other time in my life. I imagine someone could say that I should be more ambitious, that twenty five readers is nothing. But really, it blows me away to think that here I sit in our tiny concrete cottage on this far-away rock in the sea, womanish women in Toronto and Geneva and Shepherd's Town and Sandy Point and San Francisco are reading my blogs/websites/columns, and I am satisfied, amazed, and grateful.

He said, "But you don't get paid." I told him, I have sold my writing before. Actually, I have always undersold it. To sell it I have had to de-sex my writing, make it palatable for male readership, and no salary or trophy I ever received has ever made that kind of whoring worthwhile or honourable. He stared, thinking a new thought: The actual existance of literature, art and culture that is not for sale, but instead created to bless the body, free the voice and liberate the soul. I could see my curious friend was amused and intrigued at the sight and sound I made, me with my torn shoes and drug-store walking stick, wearing red lipstick and my mother's amethyst cocktail ring at three in the afternoon, talking like I was equal to the most noted and esteemed journalists and authors and poets of the world, me and my invisible little blogs. Gosh the Straightlegs really freak out when a daughter of the Broken Foot Tribe believes she is somebody. Sometimes they throw rocks. Lucky for me this one was smiling. I believe because he is probably a Brother Outsider. I believe he will become one more dear reader.
No real poet or storyteller comes to the craft for money. A poet makes poems because she needs to be living in a community where people make and hear poems. A storyteller tells stories because she needs to be living in a community where people tell and hear stories that are deep and wide and magickal. A guitar picker plays because he needs to be living in a community where there are guitar pickers playing. Dancers need a world of dancers, and painters dream of neighbourhoods where one in every household has the painting gift. I am a woman writer wanting to live in a community where all our voices are free to be heard. I do my part on the Web and hope to inspire other women who are feeling oppressed or silenced or alienated to break the silences that imprison them, to get a hold of their own awesome, Amazonian voices, and use them for their own liberation, and for the healing of the world.

Why don't I write for a local paper? I am happier writing for the darling twenty five who read Womanish Words, The Wild Mind and The Solitary Witch. Just happier, that is all.


Nicolette Bethel said...

You go girl.

I'm so glad I found your blog. Let's keep in touch.

Anonymous said...

I'm here, I'm reading, I'm so grateful for your words, my incredibly gifted Sistuh, soul sistuh, you speak for so many... blessings amena amena amena...

Wicked Sistah aka Calypso

Eddie Bethel said...

Whatever you do don't stop now!

And those twenty-five need to be twenty-five thousand. Good to hear from you.

Jeanine said...

very powerful Womanish Words indeed.

I guess I make twenty five thousand and one :>

Love and Blessings Lynn. So good to be back in touch.

SistuhM said...

Woman! You came in my ear like fine spun silk and heady nectar at a time that I needed to know that I ain't crazy, just crazed; through, but not done! Keep dreamkeepin..

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