Hello, Gloria? Oh. Well, is Gloria there? Me? Oh, I’m nobody important; I just have important business with Gloria. When will Gloria be — No, I know you’re not her secretary — ohmygod ohmygod, you’re Gloria’s girlfriend! You are SO lucky! Hello?
Gloria! I knew you were there the whole time! How are you, my sister? It is truly an honor to have phoned you. You are my biggest revolutionary hero. I loved you in that documentary about globalization, “The Revolution Will Not Be Privatized.” You were so —
Oh. Sorry. It’s Amber. Amber McGonagall. The activist? I’m on the steering committee for Workers Without Borders? You may have seen me at the anti-war demo in DC last fall? I was marching in an Emma Goldman t-shirt that said, “If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want to Be in Your Revolution.” I’m also starting a blog — thefinalconflict.org. Oh. Well, I’ll send you the link.
Anyhoo . . . uhm . . . as you probably know, there’s this annual conference for progressive folks who want social change? It’s called “Leftists in Struggle with the Left”? It’s where anybody who is anybody gets together to talk about The People?
You know, panels, workshops, literature tables, fistfights. Lots of heavyweight intellectuals and big-name pundits: Noam, Naomi, Cornel. . . . It was started years ago by this one group, but they split up because nobody could agree about class. Then the spin-off faction had a huge fight about identity politics, so that splintered into six identity groups, and I became a member of each of them. But we all formed a coalition to organize this conference, and, since I’m such a fan, they said I could ask you if you could please be on a panel.
Oh, there are several to choose from. Let’s see, there’s one on anger management, “How to Stay Socially Outraged throughout the Bush Administration.” No? OK, there’s “Click Here: Using Email Petitions to Smash U.S. Empire.” And, “How Would Lenin Manage His 401-K?” Oh, there’s a workshop about how to be on a panel — but you don’t need that. OK, here’s one that promises to be scathingly necessary: “Why the Left Ignores AIDS.” But we totally understand if you want to pass on that. . . .
Say, what about the panel I’m organizing? It’s about peace in Iraq: “Visualize Abu Ghraib.” You would be just perfect in it, Gloria.
Why? Because you’ve known pain. Because you’ve gone to jail and written books and been incredibly eloquent in millions of public discussions, standing up for justice and equality.
Oh, I agree — equality is a beautiful thing. Oh yes, everyone is totally, totally equal. It just takes a special kind of person to stand up for equality, that’s all. Plus you’re a total goddess of the struggle and I worship you.
Sorry. My boyfriend says I’m a real star-fucker. But I say, “If I can’t star-fuck, I don’t want to be in your Revolution.” Which reminds me: Besides Iraq, could you please mention something about being a lesbian? We get criticized for not putting gay people on our panels.
Sorry if I sound bitter. You see, I purposely have not married my boyfriend in order to express my anger that gays can’t legally marry. It’s sort of my blow for equality? I just wish, sometimes, that those people would appreciate my sacrifice. Or maybe I feel inadequate for not being more oppressed —
No, wait! I lost focus! Don’t hang up — you’re a goddess, an icon! We need you, Gloria, to stem the tide. You can put radical politics into words the way Che Guevara puts Marxist revolution onto t-shirts. I could never do that.
I could? No, stop. I have to figure — what?
Wow, Gloria, wow. . . . That is the meanest thing anyone’s ever said to me. I do NOT “have to figure things out for myself.” I couldn’t be on a panel; I don’t have the words.
I just don’t. I’m not a star like you; next to you, I’m barely a person. It’s all jumbled up in me, but I eat and sleep with the constant knowledge that the tankers and planes and trucks that bring me my food and mattresses and electricity and things are powered by our democracy murdering and torturing and invading our lives, and none of us can do anything about that, and in the face of this powerlessness, you get a little overwhelmed, OK? You think you’re no good because nothing you do matters and nobody listens to you. So you love the people who can describe what’s wrong better than you can. You look to them for answers, and that helps.
I know nobody has the answer — god, you are making me so depressed! I’ve got to organize a conference here that probably won’t make one bit of difference, it won’t stop one death or feed one child, and it probably won’t even give anybody hope. But it will, somehow, with people like you in it, help me to be me a little longer.
What do you mean, “that’s the problem”? You know, Gloria, I have gone to all the trouble of worshipping you; the least you could do is maybe be on one panel.
Fine. I see. Well, I won’t keep you. I guess I just can’t understand how some demagogues who argue for equality and things can act like they’re above everybody else. I thought you were supposed to identify with the oppressed, Gloria — with me. What about kindness; what about equality —
Susie Day lives in New York City where she writes a humor column for feminist and gay publications. She has also written on U.S. political prisoners and labor issues and thinks her girlfriend, Laura Whitehorn, is hot stuff.