The right not to be raped is a human right.

This past week saw up-and-coming political pundit and progressive activist Zerlina Maxwell talking about rape, her own status as a rape survivor, and the fact that women shouldn’t have to carry guns in order to not be raped — because boys and men should be taught not to rape in the first place. This is not a new topic for Zerlina (see her excellent “Stop Telling Women How Not to Get Raped”), and she’s not a stranger to backlash.

However, last week the discussion was on television, which gives it much greater kick, and any conversation about guns adds an entire new layer of intensity to the process, and pretty much immediately after she was off the air, Zerlina began to be inundated with rape threats, death threats, racist slurs, and often a combination of all three, across all the various social media platforms. (You can read more about how it’s played out by clicking here to read the reaction of Josh Marshall over at TPM). I’ve tried to be supportive of Zerlina as the week has unrolled, and I’ve tried to help spread the word that her experience is very, very far from unique.

Today I kind of summed of what I’ve been saying all week on Twitter, and I just want to be on the record as saying here what I said there:

Recreating humanity., here’s what occurred to me the other day: We’re a generation engaged in building an entirely new kind of human society. Possibly an entirely new kind of human.

Consider just a few 21st century facts, and then try to project them back 50 years: Openly gay and transgender people serving in our government and legislative branch as we fight for marriage equality. America’s last two Secretaries of State? Women, one of them black, one of them a serious contender for the White House. Black man in the current White House. Well-known and well-respected women publicly and often angrily expressing women’s right to bodily autonomy; well-known and well-respected men supporting them, publicly, and often angrily.

I know I frequently say some version of “Hey, look, things are so much better than they used to be,” but I’m not saying that here. I’m not comparing today to the day I was born. I’m comparing today to every single moment of human history. And we’re recreating ourselves.

Because every single one of the items mentioned above was effectively unimaginable once, and not at all long ago either. If we consider the entire expanse of human history, and then look at the changes wrought in Western society in the last four decades alone, it’s actually quite startling.

Each of the examples I’ve provided (and many, many others that are not reducible to a single sentence or sentence fragment) represents in turn the hopes and dreams and literal blood and tears of uncounted, uncountable people. People who died dreaming only of the vote. Or of a life lived without violence. Or of the freedom to make decisions based on internal truths, rather than external pressures. People who died never, ever imagining the world as it looks today.

What we’re doing today has never been done before. Sure, there was that thousand year stretch when dudes who were brown (roughly and metaphorically speaking) ruled the known world (starting with the dudes in the Arabian Peninsula and eventually leading to the dudes in Istanbul), and one would be hard-pressed not to notice that Asian dudes ruled the Asian Empires — but: a) DUDES, and b) in each of those cases, one had to be of the right clan/color/faith system/what-have-you to wield power or even personal autonomy. The kind of radical, universal equality that so many of us have begun to see as the default of human existence has literally never existed in human history.

And so my point is: That’s why it’s hard.

That’s why it all moves in fits and starts and we have fights about words and about who gets to say what about whom and every two steps forward serve as but a precursor to one step right the hell back. Because we have never, ever done this before. We are creating something New, and we don’t even, really, know how to imagine it yet.

I’m not saying that the battles have be won. They haven’t. They’ll never be won. Every time that something Gets Better, we’ll uncover something else we didn’t realize we had to do. There are questions that my grandchildren will face that I cannot even imagine in 2012.

And having said that: Wow. Think about it. Think about the fact that gay men and lesbians got married before God and family in Washington state this weekend, and then think about the entire rest of human history.

Holy cow.

Update: Speaking of which…. Just look at these pictures from Seattle’s City Hall.

A snapshot of despair: One week in Israel/Palestine

A Palestinian girl holds her brother as she looks at a house damaged in an Israeli air strike in Gaza City Dec. 9, 2011. Source: Reuters/Maan News Agency.

This week in Israel/Palestine:

  1. Sunday: Likud MK Akunis [Knesset member from Netanyahu’s party]: “Every word Senator Joseph McCarthy said was right”.  “Likud MK Ofir Akunis, who sponsored the bill to limit foreign funding to Israeli human rights organization, stood behind Senator Joseph’s McCarthy’s actions in the 1950s.”
  2. MondayClinton warns of Israel’s eroding democratic values. “The secretary of state explains that she is astonished by the legislative initiatives in favor of restricting left-wing NGOs, as well as by the exclusion of women from public spaces and other phenomena.”
  3. MondayFemale Jewish settlers arrested for ‘price tag’ attacks in West Bank. “Seven young settlers arrested on suspicion of vandalizing army property, participating in an incident in which Palestinian-owned olive trees were damaged.”
  4. TuesdayWest Bank mosque set alight in suspected ‘price tag’ attack. “Arsonists attempted to set fire to a Palestinian mosque, Israeli police and residents of a West Bank village near the settlement of Ariel said on Wednesday. Residents of the Palestinian village of Burkina discovered that two vehicles were torched overnight, and that there had been attempt to burn the local mosque as well, succeeding only in burning its entrance.”
  5. Wednesday: AG to Netanyahu: Bills targeting Israeli rights groups’ funds are unconstitutional.   “‘If these bills become law, I won’t be able to defend them against the petitions that will be submitted to the High Court,’ Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein warns government.”
  6. WednesdayFact sheet: Israel’s tightening control over Jerusalem. “The 75 kilometer wall being built in East Jerusalem is an instrument of social engineering designed to achieve the Judaization of Jerusalem by reducing the number of Palestinians in the city.”
  7. WednesdayImmigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver “apologized” to American Jews. “‘We didn’t intend to harm anyone and if anyone was offended, I am sorry,’ Landver said. ‘I don’t have to say I’m sorry, but I’ve been taught that it’s the right thing to do….I’m not really apologizing. If anyone was offended, they should look in the mirror and see their kids when they come back from public schools,” she added, in a reference to assimilation in the Diaspora.” (For background on this, click here).
  8. ThursdayIsraeli official calls negative response of Diaspora Jews to offensive ad campaign as ‘over-sensitivity’. “Absorption Ministry spokesman Elad Sonn characterized the negative response of some Diaspora Jews to the campaign as ‘over-sensitivity’ and said the ministry has no intention of taking down two controversial online videos.”
  9. Thursday: Bill aims to silence the mosques of Israeli Muslims. “A bill proposing to restrict the noise made by mosques will be up for discussion at the Ministerial Committee on Legislative Affairs on Sunday. The proposal aims to prohibit mosques from sounding the nighttime and early morning calls of the Muezzin – who uses a public address system to beckon worshipers to pray – in order to avoid disrupting nearby [Jewish] residents.”
  10. Thursday nightIAF strikes Hamas base in Gaza, Palestinians report civilian casualties. “Early on Friday, Palestinian medical officials said an Israeli air strike hit a Hamas training camp in Gaza City, sending shrapnel flying into nearby houses, killing one civilian and wounding 13 others, mostly women and children. The Israeli military confirmed the air strike early Friday had been carried out.”
  11. Early Friday morningBarrage of rockets strikes southern Israel. “Nine rockets exploded in southern Israel Friday, including one shot down by the Iron Dome missile defense system near Ashdod. No injuries were reported. The barrage followed IAF strikes in Gaza overnight Thursday.”
  12. Friday mid-dayPalestinian seriously wounded by Israeli forces at West Bank protest. “A Palestinian demonstrator was seriously wounded on Friday when he was apparently hit by a teargas canister fired by Israeli security forces in the West Bank…. One demonstrator was shot in the head at close range.” (Click here for a picture of the man shot, Mustafa Tamimi, h/t @ibnezra). UPDATE: Tamimi died on Saturday morning.
  13. Friday afternoonGaza boy succumbs to wounds from Friday airstrike. “A 12-year-old boy who was injured in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City earlier Friday has succumbed to his wounds, Palestinian medical officials said…. Zaalan’s death raises the death toll to five in the past 48 hours.”

And people wonder why I feel such despair.

It’s important to note that there are many people on the ground fighting these developments — all of them, from limitations placed on women in public gatherings, to airstrikes on Gaza — and this past week saw two small victories: Netanyahu decided to “shelve” cabinet discussions regarding the bill intended to limit foreign funding to NGOs, and in an unprecedented decision, a magistrate court ordered a stop to the demolition of an “unrecognized” Bedouin village.

But can anyone blame me for feeling that such news falls very firmly under the headline of way-too-little-far-too-late?

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

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