Thursday, September 18, 2008

Night in Belgrade

Lepa has just sent me this letter--and again, I must rush it to all of you--we must all know.

Dear dear Joan,

I am writing to you now while waiting for T. and Z., two lesbian antifascist feminist friends, who went to the police to report today the attack by 10 neo-fascist men who at 10pm last night attacked a group of people walking back from the Fourth Queer Belgrade Festival, just around the corner from my home.

Yesterday was the opening day, and there were about a hundred of us, a big number for Belgrade and a success, there was no violence other then announced already by the neo-fascists on their websites, so we thought "ok, good"...but tonight, the second day, they waited until the last group of people had walked out from the place...and they beat up this guy, his hand is broken, and he's hurt very much, and then they beat up 4 women from the group..

T. and I were at home in the kitchen working, we were not there, when Z. phoned from the urgent medical center at 11pm last night, just 3 hours ago!

So I felt like in the warzone again, remembering anti-Milosevic actions in the nineties, the massacre-parade in Belgrade in 2001, at the moment almost I got the feeling I was in one of the stories of Nadezda Mendelstaim who was writing about the illegal anti-fascist life of hers and her friends in Russia in the times of Stalin in her book "Fear and Hope,"...

So T. and me were phoning , first Stasa from Women in Black who knows all the lawyers, etc...and others, writing the info, then I made tea and sandwiches and T. went of with Z. to the police. I am waiting now until they make report to the police and we can finish the info for the public and I can send it out.

It is 2:30 in the morning here, and I am writing to you, because in these moments of violence one remembers close friends. It all becomes to important!! all the anti-fascist work we do, the little we can make for all of us who chose to love people of the same gender, that is definitely not a choice that nationalists can bear! a non-nationcreation love!

--for lesbian desire, my anti-fascist screams tonight
--for all lesbians and gay men, for queer and other non-heterosexuals, warm songs to sooth the fear

With love, Lepa, the anti-fascist lesbian in the night shift in Belgrade, 20 of September, 2008.

Carol, My Knight in a Red Convertible, d. 1965

You never lived to see these times, my dear Carol, these ways in which we can place loss in a larger place. Oh, those times in your small car in the parking lot of Queens College, when we cut classes to pour dreams into each other. I have carried this image of you throughout the life I was given beyond yours, up and down many stairs, many streets, and over oceans and continents. You have been my deepest loss, but here all your tender strength shines on and you are strong.

Queens College, 1961, where I learned so much from so many

Mark Levy, with whom I taught in the early days of SEEK, kindly sent me these images of an early demonstration on the Queens College campus. Mark is writing an article about the involvement of QC alumni in the civil rights struggle. Mike and Carol lead the way and marching next to me is Harriet. How deeply these friends, who knew much more about organized politics then I did, taught me.
Dear Ones,
Perhaps I have descended into some form of insanity--to be so soothed by my own images of the past. Another kind of intergenerational discourse--the old self with the young. The Palin affair knocked words out of me. Just when I thought a window was opening on the stifling airless room so much of American politics has become, a new national ugliness was thrust upon us. I have added my outrage to the all the swirling posts, I have signed all the petitions and as always I have been moved by the fierce intelligence that sparks throughout the cyberwaves--by the creative political endeavors of the You tube progressive generation that use all their talents in video film making to animate the absurd machinations of the Right. Now all we knew about the myth of the "free market" has proven a home grown truth--workers will bail out the super rich, too big to be allowed to fail--proving Hitler's maxim--if you tell a big enough lie often enough, it has the power of truth, a national truth. If you make enough money often enough, the rest of the nation will come to pay for it. Bush walks out of the bushes, mumbles a few words and disappears back into the bushes. He seems a broken man--he has taken a nation and a large part of the world with him.

I keep thinking of the single mother, the other single mother, who is filmed getting up at four in the morning, taking her child to a neighbor's home so she can go off to one of her three jobs to keep her family in shelter. No one comes to bail her out, too small her life is judged, too small her loves are judged, too small her dreams are judged. Katrinas over and over again. America went Rovian and the ruling classes counted on our obedience. Security, security, security, fear, fear, fear, profits, profits, profits--enough is never enough, too much for too few is how to run a country--keep the rest worrying or even better, dying on too many battlefields. We did not take to the streets when Bush stole the first election--what will we do now? How to best serve an imperfect democracy? The Palin affair and the crises on Wall Street, the language of war our government's only way to speak about security-- what will we do? The Palin affair--a woman, a small time politician, drafted to make McClain look young--a woman, drafted to appeal to other women who feel left out of the national narrative, a small time politician who sees some daylight ahead of her, a small time politician, Palin, who stumbles across the national stage in a big time moment--I will not be in my country of birth for this election--I await my absentee ballet in the mail--but that night when we would all sit around the TV together, my old New York friends, my Arizona friends, I will be sitting with you, with breaths too deep for how deep we could fall or how high we could climb.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Yes, that is your old friend. Try my website again so we can find a way to speak more directly. She is still in New Jersey and doing well. Happy birthday.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Joan at three, holding her left hand in the secret way to ward of violence and in her right, a blue linoleum, red spotted pony who would stay with her

The only surviving image, 1943 c.

My Rarities

My mother and father, Jonas, whom I never knew, on their wedding day, 1926, I think.
This is the only photograph I have of my father.
He died in 1939, six months before I was born.
Regina Nestle, c. 1960s, my only picture of her from my years, in the last apartment that made sense to her, on 18th street and 6th Avenue, so she could be close to her work place, a sportswear company, and its boss, with whom she slept on Friday nights before he went home to his wife and children.
I am at that time when memory becomes history, moving away from the body that lived it, taking up residence in what we call documents and theories and investigative searches, in worn photographs and taped messages. Younger friends have taught me how to use blogs, digital images, to trust the web of human concerns. I do. I have so few documents of my early life, ironically, for someone who gave most of her life to building a home for a people's images, but it is this paucity that moves my heart. I offer them now to an endless stream of human lives in this boundless world of shared cyberspace, a living heaven without gods. The woman who has spoken to you on this site, the woman who cannot live with Palestinians loosing their homes to jack hammers and exclusionary national strategies, the woman who stands with all those who know the terrible pain of the Holocaust cannot be succoured by the death of another people, the woman who has loved other women and queer men, the woman who struggled against the bullies of every decade of her life--at least what she perceived to be the uncaring face of power or of narrow minded certainties or the fear of shameful things, the woman who taught and taught and loved the moments when in that classroom of over 30 years, wonders would walk through the doors and we all learned together the force and courage of words, in the books and from their hearts. My lovers who had to leap over so many of my impediments. My friends, whom I wear down. My words, my words.