Monthly Archives: June 2022

A Post Roe World: Fascism has never needed a majority to create a hell-scape in the nations where it rises

The overturning of the landmark Roe v Wade case providing federal protection for a woman’s right to choose is both appalling and enraging. Now, several conservative states have already begun outlawing abortion rights. It is undeniable that women’s rights have taken an enormous blow, and the effect will have repercussions around the world.

But if anyone thinks it will stop there, they are deluding themselves. In just 24 hours, the SCOTUS has also weakened the rights of citizens who are arrested by police, in a country that houses the biggest prison population in the world and suffers from enormous police brutality, especially against communities of colour. And right now, they are targeting privacy rights and the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

As I and many others on the left have been warning for years, this appears to be the beginning of a massive shift toward a bolder and more abusive fascist trend. And the corporate, “centrist” Democrats have only enabled its rise. For instance, just recently pro-Life Texas Democratic Rep Henry Cuellar won in elections, and he garnered the lavish support of non-other than the Speaker of the House herself, Nancy Pelosi.

It should be remembered that fascism has never needed a majority to create a hell-scape in the nations where it rises. A majority of Americans support the right of a woman to choose, but it mattered little because those who control the levers of power have the last say. It seems that Margaret Atwood’s fictional Gilead has been a sort of template for them. We can only hope for a mass movement that will upend this repressive arrangement of power before it is too late.

Kenn Orphan, June 2022

*Photo is of members of the SCOTUS who openly lied to the public about their intentions.

Under His Eye in the Republic of Texas

If you’ve never traveled around the state of Texas, you won’t really get an accurate picture of this odd land of extremes. The cities, especially Austin and Houston, are islands of relative sanity surrounded by a sea of crazy. All this considered, the unveiling of the Texas GOP’s platform should come as no surprise. They have merely tapped into the paranoid, hyper-nationalist, fascist zeitgeist so prevalent among a large swath of its white, Christian population.

In addition to the over the top, antigay/anti-trans rhetoric, the platform also attacks women’s reproductive rights, unions, climate change initiatives, the poor, the Endangered Species Act, gun control legislation (in a state that just witnessed the slaughter of elementary school children), immigrants and refugees (this is where Haitian refugees were recently whipped by officers on horseback), and public health measures to stem the spread of a pandemic. It also ramps up anti-China sentiments, advocates a withdrawal from the United Nations, and dehumanizes the Palestinians and their struggle for human rights (referring to the Bible as a reference for this discrimination and alignment with an apartheid regime). In addition to all of this, the platform employed QAnon conspiracies in questioning the legitimacy of the presidency of Joe Biden. And it reaffirmed the state’s right of secession from the union.

But one thread ran through everything: Christo-fascism. In fact, a narrow interpretation of the Christian Bible is referred to more than once as a justification for bigotry and discrimination. The pathology of theocratic obsession is embedded within Texas culture. And it is worth mentioning a recent town meeting in Arlington, Texas, where an evangelical Christian pastor took to the floor to call for the execution of gay people as “mandated” by the Holy Scripture. His unhinged lust for blood was echoed by many others there who uttered “amen” after every vile point he made.

I traveled across Texas several times years ago. I witnessed extremes in so many bizarre manifestations. Once, while driving down the interstate, I passed by an exit that had a billboard of a Bible verse with the image of a fetus. Obviously, a pro-life proclamation, one of many across the south. Under it was a sign that pointed across the way to a gun shop that boasted little to no background checks for customers. And next to the gun shop was an adult bookstore. This was Texas in a nutshell. At odds with itself and incapable of grasping the pathological contradictions.

Texas, and much of the south for that matter, has never reconciled with its violent, racist and theocratically authoritarian past. And while the north of the country has a rancid history of racism and other forms of social hatreds, violence and discrimination, it is undeniable that the south is consistently choked by some of the most reactionary and fascist cultural miasma in the Western world. The spirit of supremacist hatred is woven tightly into the very fabric of its present. Texas is a state that may come to resemble Margaret Atwood’s Gilead more than any other state in the US, and be proud in doing so.

Now, this essay might appear harsh to some. And I apologize for offending those Texans, some of whom I love, who continue to live there and love their state. To be sure, there positive aspects to the culture and there are welcome changes that have come. For instance, the state’s demographics have been changing, much to the chagrin of many white, heterosexual, Christian Republicans. But the hold this group has on power in the state cannot be denied. It is an entrenched grip on the very levers of control and it is not going to give any of that up easily. Now that the GOP has openly embraced unhinged conspiracy theories and unbridled social hatred, its trajectory toward a more blatant fascism appears all but guaranteed.

Kenn Orphan, June 2022

Photo: A man wears a face covering that reads “secede” outside the Texas state capitol on January 16, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Sergio Flores/Getty Images). I remember seeing similar protests when I was in Austin several years ago.

Stonewall was a Call for Revolution, Not a Celebration of Conformity

As we observe Pride Month, we should remind ourselves that the original Pride Parade was a riot, not a celebration of conformity to society. There were no permits issued to the people who marched down those streets in New York City. There were no corporate, bank or military floats participating. And it was mocked by mainstream press like the New York Times.

It was an answer to violent state repression, persecution, witch hunts, discrimination and theocratic authoritarianism. And it was part of a wave of revolutionary thought which included women’s rights, immigrant and worker solidarity, as well as ecological and antiwar activism.

It also inspired other uprisings. In France, a couple years after Stonewall, the leftist political organization “Front Homosexuel d’action Révolutionnaire” was formed in response to homophobia in the labour movement. And just over ten years later, a raid of gay saunas in Toronto called “Operation Soap” was credited for being “Canada’s Stonewall.”

In the US, the catalyst for radical action took place in New York City at a small, but popular gay bar called the Stonewall Inn. After decades of persecution, queer people had had enough. One night in 1969, the NYPD conducted one of their usual raids. Scores were harassed and brutally arrested for the “crime” of being gay. A riot ensued thanks to the pent-up rage of oppression. Marsha P. Johnson, a Black drag queen, and Sylvia Rivera, a transgender woman, were at the forefront of those protests.

A few years later they were banned from the official parade because more conservative members felt ashamed of their identity, an echo we can see today with some wanting to “sanitize” Pride events of people they deem too radical. But the two defiantly marched ahead of the parade and their courage became a defining feature of the movement to this day.

Over the years, the original revolutionary vision was slowly coopted and commodified as gay people, particularly gay, white men, began to gain more acceptance within American bourgeois society. Unfortunately, many of the early principles were abandoned for more “acceptable” corporate ones. Companies, banks, politicians, police and the military sector moved in, and the bulk of queer people were pushed to the side.

But since the election of proto fascist to the White House a few years ago, the LGBTQ+ community has found itself under increasing attack, along with women, people of colour, immigrants, Muslims and other marginalized or minority groups. Now it has become normal for politicians to employ slanderous terms like “groomer” that attempt to link child abuse with queerness. Books and films are being banned. Antigay and anti-trans laws are being adopted in dozens of states. Pastors are openly calling for violence against queers which, in turn, incites others to act. In fact, we just saw one case of an attempted attack on a Pride event by a mob of white supremacists in Idaho.

Social hatred, be it homophobia, misogyny, racism, antisemitism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, etc. is the poison of fascism. It is its currency. And it entices those elements of society who feel alienated or who believe that their way of life or status in society is threatened. Political opportunists will always seize on this to increase their popularity, power and influence. And one look at history warns us that we cannot expect corporations, banks or a militarized state to be our ally when fascism takes hold. When the chips are down, they will align with power. But none of this should deter us.

The first Pride Parade was a riot. The people who participated in it stood proudly against centuries of entrenched bigotry and they understood the potential costs of taking that stand. But they also understood that our liberation is inextricably linked with that of women, people of colour, Indigenous, immigrants, the working class, those living under apartheid, religious minorities, refugees, the houseless and anyone else who has been marginalized, brutalized or rendered invisible by our society. It was a call for revolution. And in this time of rising fascism, we need that spirit more than ever before.

Kenn Orphan, June 2022

*Title photo is courtesy of Leonard Fink/The LGBT Community Center National History Archive.

Maybe it’s Time to Show the Crime Scenes

I’ve heard that some of the parents in Uvalde are planning to have open caskets at the funerals for their little ones. I cannot imagine the kind of agony these families are going through. And also for the families and loved ones of the teachers who were killed, and one husband dying of a heart attack from grief only days later, leaving four children.

The decision to have an open casket reminded me of Emmett Till, the 14 year old Black boy who was tortured and lynched by a white mob in Mississippi in 1955. The funeral director was shocked that his mother, Mamie Till Bradley, wanted an open casket due to the extensive mutilation of Emmett’s body. But we should all be grateful to her for doing so. In this act of immense courage and agonizing grief, she showed the world the barbarity of racism and its inherent violence.

We don’t know how graphic images would be of Uvalde’s fallen children. We don’t know if the parents would want them to be made public either. And the choice should ultimately lie with them. But images have power. Photographs of mass lynching across the US bore witness to the horrendous racist slaughter taking place. Photos of the war against Vietnam helped to galvanize the global antiwar movement. Photographs of rivers on fire helped people see what industry was doing to the environment.

So perhaps it is time we stop worrying more about people being triggered by upsetting images than the circumstances that made those images possible in the first place. Perhaps a desensitized, atomized, demoralized and increasingly detached public is shown crime scenes, so that real outrage can make legislators and profiteers shake in their boots, instead listening to more of their empty platitudes.

Of course, any step like this must be done with the utmost respect and care. It isn’t for ghoulish pleasure, although there will always be monsters out there who will relish in them. It is for public record and public reckoning. Facing societal demons isn’t easy, but it is necessary if you want any meaningful change to happen.

Kenn Orphan, June 2022

Title photo is grief in Uvalde by Billy Calzada/The San Antonio Express-News via AP

Ten Years and Counting…

Ten years ago today I launched this blog/website. It started out quite simple. Only my artwork was showcased. But after a few months I began publishing essays and articles that I had worked on previously with other publications and websites, along with new ones.

I will admit, I was nervous those first few months. I had written and published before, but never on my own blog. Eventually, my confidence grew over time and this was largely due to the tremendous support and assistance I received from my partner Patrick, my friend Elena who helps with proofreading and editing. and of course my readers and patrons. Today, I am deeply grateful that my readership has grown steadily.

And soon, I hope to launch another site which will focus more on storytelling from the perspective of the first person. Most will be my stories. Some will be fictional. And there will be some guest writers too. I am also leading this into an eventual book. So I hope to see you all there too.

Ten years is a long time. Ten years is a short time. It is all of that. And I wanted to take this moment to thank you all for your support, curiosity, inquisitiveness and kindness.

With love and solidarity, Kenn Orphan.

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!