Monday, September 2, 2013

Finding Nexus: Patriarchy, White Supremacy, American Exceptionalism

A few years ago Nezua wrote about Finding Nexus at his blog The Unapologetic Mexican.
I prefer not to dally too long dissecting the symptoms of manifested underlying ills, but prefer to look directly at those broad reaching paradigms or beliefs that inform them, as regular readers here know...Because if we all are truly interested in forming an ongoing conversation that cuts away the the husk of empty discourse and scoops out the Essential, we have to look not only at the symptoms of hate, violence, authoritarian rule, and oppression, but at the seeds that inform them and keep them entrenched, as well as socially acceptable. These vines are by now thorny and tangled and hearty, but the seeds were planted long ago, and the nourishment is delivered by all of us, and every day.
As we once again begin to hear claims that President Obama is weak due to his recent decision to go to Congress about taking military action against Syria, I can't help but recall that those charges have often in the past been coupled with statements about how he needs to "man up" or "grow a set of balls." In other words, his so-called "weakness" is often conflated with being too feminine (as if that was something really bad). So it likely contains what Nezua referred to as a "nexus."

As I've written about before, I find that nexus in a conflation of power with dominance. Whether we're talking about male dominance over female, white dominance over people of color, or US dominance over the world...all power is defined as having power over others. And anyone who doesn't wield that kind of power is weak.

Until we as liberals break from that perspective in our own minds and lives, we will have nothing but the masters tools to use in our struggle for change. That is why I think President Obama's overriding message is bound up in asking us to unleash the power of "we." He's talking about wielding the power of partnership.

That is anything BUT a show of weakness.
Another important distinction is that between leadership and domination. Effective leaders facilitate the interdependence or collaboration that can create more "power to" -- based on the interests of all parties. Domination is the exercise of "power over" --a relationship that meets interests of the "power wielder" at the expense of everyone else.

- Marshall Ganz
Its a way out of the authoritarian embrace of an imperial presidency. It is a call towards the ongoing work to perfect our union as a government of, by, and for ALL the people. It is a statement to the world that the United States is ready to leave the failed policies of subjugating others for our own interests and move towards a foreign policy based on partnership. It will require all of us to expand our moral imagination. But it is also about how one voice can change the world. Its how "we become the change we want to see."


  1. Somewhat off the main point, I heard a story, a true story, about a group of people struggling to finish a major project for which they were vastly understaffed. They were working 18 hour days and were totally frazzled even sleeping at the office. They were two weeks from deadline when they suddenly got a brand new manager. In great trepidation, they attended their first staff meeting, terrified that it would either kill the project or hamper their ability to even breathe. The manager asked, "What can I do to help you finish?" Someone facetiously said, "Do my laundry!" Others, laughing in exhaustion agreed.

    And that is precisely what he did. He got their keys, did their laundry, and they, refreshed and revived, finished on time and well.

    That is the power of partnership and nurturance as well as just smart. Power 'with' rather than power 'over' always works. Always.

  2. As an internal political matter, this is a good summary of the power of the President's decisions. However, the need for partnership extends beyond our national boundaries. I presume that President and Secretary of State are trying to line up support from the Arab League, Israel, Turkey, and many other interested parties; but are they doing that as partners, or are they twisting arms?

    1. When I've heard PBO talk about this kind of thing he usually focuses on mutual interests & shared goals/outcomes. Check out how he talks about his strategy with Iran.

  3. What do they mean when they say man up? This is the same guy that gave the order to take Bin Laden. Khadafi's no longer with us. He even put everything on the line for a comprehensive health care bill. Seems tough and courageous to me. It seems their version of manning up is more for show. These guys like their cowboys drinking scotch and smoking cigars(hmmm). Throw some tough talk in for good measure. We could use a new political media. They care more for theatrics than results. The debate isn't about the merits of Obama's decision. It's about being a real man? To me he's closer to Kipling's poem about being a man than anything they're about.

  4. This is fabulous stuff, thank you.