Saturday night I sat on a panel with Greg Palast, Rick Perlstein and Ed Yohnka. Matt Filipowicz organized and moderated the panel. It was one hell of a time.
First let me address the issue of me being the only woman and only person of color on the panel. I'm not bringing it up here nor did I bring it up at the panel because I want to beat this horse to death. I do it because I got emails and tweets from friends who still can't believe that panels are produced like this. When I was asked to be on the panel, I did ask who else would be on. I also suggested rather firmly that Matt look for another woman or at least a person of color, man or woman. He told me that he had a few other women and people of color in mind, but those he asked couldn't attend. I racked my own brain to think of others, but I was the fourth person and well, at that point the panel was pretty full. And after Saturday night I can say that the stage was full!
Matt did talk about organizing more panels and we would work hard to make future panels more diverse and with that hopefully the audience would also be more diverse. I noticed around 7:15 that there were three (obvious) people of color in the house – my husband, an Asian American woman and me. I did notice a few more Asian-American men and an African-American woman come in after I was up on the stage. Still the audience was far too white for a full conversation about how to push a progressive agenda not to mention far too white for the neighborhood the panel was being held in.
Now for the content…Ah, the content.
Greg Palast (Correction) Rick requested that Matt introduce us WWE style and Matt did a hell of a job at it. It was the best intro I've ever had and honestly can't imagine that anyone can really top it. My husband did record it, so it'll be up soon. I was introduced first so I ended up at the far left of the stage (appropriate, eh?) but this also ended up meaning that I was the last person to speak. I found that this played in my favor because I was able to adjust my remarks to what the three dudes had just said. And they did hang a few pitches for me.
Palast talked about how we have a Jekell & Hyde president in Obama and that progressives were trying to figure out which one we elected and which one shows up each day. In the end we shouldn't care which one shows up, we need to pressure both to work on progressive issues and ideas. Ed & I spoke well on the fact that we shouldn't have been surprised about Obama. He was pretty truthful in how he stood on issues and how he worked. Ed thinks Obama is much more conservative than I do, but hey Ed knows him. I relayed my story of interviewing Obama at the IL NOW PAC meeting in fall of 2003. I'll never forget that it was fall 2003 because I was breastfeeding my newborn and had to make sure I had pumped at the right time so I wouldn't miss Obama's interview. Despite being a lactivist and breastfeeding in public, I had decided that this meeting was too important for me to be distracted by a squirmy newborn. Hey, they do squirm. I could tell that Obama was a great politician by the way he didn't answer many questions, but gave great responses.
Palast essentially blamed Ashley Dupree for NY Governor Spitzer's failure to hold Wall Street accountable because the news of Dupree & Spitzer came out the day before he was going to file a lawsuit or bill. I didn't catch exactly what Spitzer was going to do because my mind had a bit of a WTF moment. Did Palast really blame Dupree and let Spitzer and his wandering penis off the hook? So when it was my turn, I mentioned this. I framed it in a wider discussion that feminists have been having about how Palin and Hillary were portrayed. That the sexist remarks turn off women, feminist or not. I could see the women in the audience nod along. I'm seriously surprised I didn't a few "Amens" from the crowd.
There was also a good amount of discussion about how we need to think and organize locally. Ed made a brilliant point that while we are engaging on a national debate over torture, Chicago is at the start of the John Birge trial and that Mayor Daley has never been held accountable for his role as states attorney. I reinforced that thought by pointing out that Chicagoans keep voting Daley in despite the corruption and that the wide outrage over the parking meters is a not just a dollar short and a day late, but millions short and a decade late.
It was a great discussion and I hope that my point about pushing ourselves to see the interconnectiveness of all our issues is essential was received well. While Palast is correct that we must focus on the economic recovery of this country, we can't push women or gay rights aside. They are connected. Our entitlement to pensions promised is just as important to our entitlement to paid sick days. Not just to us as individuals, but to us as workers and to our economy. Paid sick days, parental leave and health care must be administered by the government, federal or state, as to not burden companies and provide equal access. Health care is weighing down companies including the auto companies. If we removed that burden, perhaps they would be in a better place to recover. And we'd be a healthier country.
Unfortunately my husband had a migraine hit him with a vengeance just as we were wrapping up. So just as I got my post-panel-recovery beer, he told me he needed to go home. I had just enough time to say hi to a few of the women including someone who came all the way from Wisconsin. Please comment my northern reader! I wish I could have stayed to chat, but I needed to take care of my sweetie. Thanks to all who spent their Saturday night with us. Hope we can get together again soon.