DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies, we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation. Abigail Adams
Criticism: The Demon Lover, on the Sexuality of Terrorism, by Robin Morgan, copyright 1989
Robin Morgan, born in Lake Worth, Florida and removed to New York, was enrolled in modeling school when she was two-years-old. By the age of four she had her own radio show, and by age nine she was a television star, playing Dagmar from 195O to 1956 in Mama, based on Kathryn Forbes’ Mama’s Bank Account and its theatre and film adaptations, I Remember Mama, the story of an immigrant family as told by a daughter who aspires to be a writer – Robin has acknowledged Mama’s lessons as a source of her feminine power. Robin eventually defied her own mother and dropped acting for poetry. She attended Columbia University and worked as a literary agent and freelance editor – she would eventually become a contributing editor to Ms. Magazine for many years, and its chief editor from 1989 to 1993.
Ms. Morgan, as Leftist and Yippie, contributed to left-wing, counter-cultural, and anti-war journals in the 1960s, but like other disenchanted young women she became fed up with the male domination of political wings and groups, and she committed herself to radical feminism. She was a founding member of New York Radical Women, and helped create the street-theatre ensemble, W.I.T.C.H., best known for putting hexes on both the male-led right-wing House of Unamerican Activities Committee and the male-led, left-wing Chicago Eight.
Speaking of witches, she wrote her recent, historical novel, The Burning Time (2006), portraying the Inquisition as a war on Irish witches by bigoted men, particularly Bishop Richard de Ladrede and his army, sent over for the purpose. No doubt the women were learned and the men stupid in those days, and the women would rather do without them if they could. For example, Dame Alyce Kyteler, a noblewoman who practices the Craft (Wicca), was delighted to be rid husbands in general –she had had four – and John in particular as she wallowed on goose-feather-stuffed pillows under her goose-down coverlet, and watched the “sliver of a new moon glowing through cloud wisps in a celestial game of hide-and-seek. No chilly drafts –and no complaints from John. Savoring the pure luxury of it, she stretched again, gurgling a low laugh of pleasure.”
Robin Morgan is dedicated to ‘Sisterhood’, a loosely knit, grassroots feminist coalition she sees as the network to implement the only possible solution to the traditional violence of Fatherhood, now threatening to destroy the world of humankind with its higher technology. Just as the struggle of blacks, with the help of a few courageous whites, helped to free whites from their vices, now women can help free men from their viciousness with the help of a few courageous men. If women are to lead the way, they must stand apart in feminine solidarity, a stance from which they should naturally cast a wary eye on those would-be male feminists who are more interested in seducing and perverting the female cause than in obtaining the purported justice of sexual equality.
Given the postmodern and deconstructionist cultivation of ambivalence and ambiguity, not to mention the traditional herd-like behavior of the human majority, extreme stances must sometimes be taken to get much done. Otherwise we are left with the sort of reform that amounts to tinkering with the status quo. Radical feminists deserve our gratitude for talking back and acting up, but they get little thanks since the First World banked hard towards the Right. Of course the Right has its Patty Hearsts in its top ranks, but it is still dominated by men under the influence of traditional Patriarchism. Neoconservative leaders have complained about the “feminization” of our culture, a process that allegedly makes sissies if not unpatriotic cowards of bullies. And of course the Left as we know it would be dominated by its own patriarchal models, who would gladly afford women higher education credits along with bulldozer-operator and fighter-pilot jobs.
Yes, women influenced by radical feminism have won much for both men and women, but the guard is being dropped in favor of implants, and women are being re-assimilated. Who needs liberal studies such as Women’s Studies now that liberation has been won? What library scientist needs to include Women’s Issues in his or her taxonomy now that being a woman is no longer an issue? The remaining feminist radicals are atavistic throwbacks, mere caricatures of their selfish selves; absurd clowns and dissident dikes in need of spanking, slapping around, smacking down and other reform-schooling. Feminists have broken up into more than a dozen ideological camps and are at each other’s throats – perhaps an instinctive hangover from thousands of years of competing for mates? Good women are standing behind and slightly to the left of their confident strongman again, where they smile and nod in agreement from time to time during his cock-and-bull campaigns. Wherever a great man exists, a woman is behind him; the bigger his gun, the safer she is, at least from the clutches of other men. Never mind the fact that he might be just another conman and terrorist in the sacred home and abroad.
Robin Morgan refuses to succumb to reassimilation or to the defeatism of those who say feminism or love or peace is no longer worth talking about when the world is at arms-as-usual. Blah, blah, blah, they say: Why talk things over when people are out to get you? It’s better to make a pre-emptive strike and call the horrendous results the necessary evil of a just war. But Ms. Morgan insists on fighting the good fight, the spiritual jihad that may somehow undermine the demon in man someday. That is her career, after all. She keeps saying the same things over and over again, hoping against hope that men may remember things from their repetition and eventually act on what they’ve learned. Morality after all is expressed in timeless platitudes; the sin is in not restating them in some seemingly original way for the sake of a capitalistic copyright. Sometimes her personal grammar is not clear enough for righteous thinkers. For example, instead of saying that all men are terrorists at heart, she says that our concept of terrorism today is a figment of an impoverished imagination:
“Yes, the murder exists,” Ms. Morgan admits. “The fear exists. The grief exists. But yes, the terrorist is a figment of our imagination – and more, a figment of our lack of imagination. The terrorist is the logical incarnation of patriarchal politics in a technological world. The terrorist is the son practicing what the father has practiced, and claiming to have found his identity in doing so.”
It does not take much of an imagination to see that war is highly organized state-terrorism, and that the men who wage it are akin to the violent men whom we call terrorists because they have some cause to do violence but do not have their own state or uniform or nation. Why did not the terrorists get themselves a flag, don uniforms, climb into a truck and attack the nearest military base with machine guns instead of flying planes into the dual phallic symbol of American military and economic domination? Yet Ms. Robin’s most hysterical detractors, especially men who naturally resent being demonized, resort to their own hackneyed phrases when criticizing Demon Lover. According to them, her book reveals a confused gazpacho of jargon, feminists boilerplate, hysteria, polemics, and just plan nonsense, and when these revelations are made at college, the shrill and dreary ideology subsidized with tax dollars is called women’s studies, the bane of tradition scholarship and high civilization itself..
But let us continue with our women’s studies: In Demon Lover, Ms. Morgan attributes age-old terrorism to the tyrannical-father-versus-rebellious son patriarchal system and its death-religion. She claims that our male-dominated, ecstatic death-politic approach to life is a form of group psychosis, and that its fundamentalist-based institutional religion constitutes a hateful lust for annihilation: “All organized religion… has always been a political movement, consistently articulating a politics of Thanatos, and just as consistently targeting women as the worst impediments to that politics.”
A patriarchal state is naturally a warring state, either preparing for war, making war, or recovering from war. Terrorized women, fearing for their lives, cooperate with the predominantly male terrorists, even participating in their crimes: She quotes Patricia Hearst: “What happened to me happens to women all the time. I’ve been kidnapped, held prisoner, threatened, beaten, humiliated, raped, battered. I’ve been lied to and lied about and disbelieved. The only difference between what happened to me and what happens to other women is that mine was an extreme case.”
A number of Ms. Morgan’s observations are certainly applicable to the moronic plutocracy of the United States; for instance, “When power and wealth are combined with ignorance… the result is societal violence, making almost inevitable – in the patriarchal pattern – the enforced ignorance and terrorist violence of groups like the SLA.” Since men are natural-born terrorists who only mind their manners when intimidated, they might easily be led by gangsters into doing what they would rather do, turn the world into a bloodbath. The usual either/or, friend-or-foe, “Those who are not with us are agin’ us”, attitude shall justify the mass suicide/homicide.
The F-type or fascistic – right-wing authoritarian – is well known for its either/or attitude, its intolerance for the essential ambiguity of life, hence rational man would impose his totalitarianism on his hysterical woman and terrified children at home, and terrorize those abroad with his militant state apparatus. Of course the implication that nice Americans are like Nazis is politically incorrect in the United States. Decent, law-abiding citizens of pre-Nazi and Nazi Germany were also quite nice. The German neoconservatives or Nazis agitated against the right of women to work outside of the home and to receive the same pay as men: Women belong with children, in the kitchen, in church. Of course the German New Conservatives, fathers of the current neoconservative movement in the United States, agitated against contraception, abortion, and homosexuality – abortion was banned in 1934.
Robin Morgan notes that our own Oliver North was a typical nice guy, the poster-boy kind of hero neoconservatives adore. Ronald Reagan called him a “national hero” although he was characterized by many others as a “terrorist”, a term that made him chuckle. “This is the man who had adventuristically waded through scores of illegal and covert murderous actions with a boyish grin on his all-American face. And this is the ‘born-again’ Christian who states that he has ‘a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as a driving force’ in his life. This is the anti-reproductive-choice zealot, one who is ‘pro-life’ and whose car bumper sticker boasts ‘God is Prolif-ic.’ None of this terrorist tradition is contradictory in the context of a hero.” American heroes like Oliver North are trained to cut the cord to their mothers, who represent life and who are therefore the ultimate destroyers of what a man should value most of all – death. Wherefore he must be born again, not to a woman but to a powerful father-figure. Yet he, the born-again hero, the successful terrorist, will appear to be normal; and he is normal in his terrorism, for “the hero is only the average man writ large.” The representative terrorist might even be elected to Congress or the White House.
Ms. Morgan is not mystified by the fact that “those people most enamored today of the fetus’ ‘right to life’ are usually the same people who support capital punishment, compulsory military service, and increased funding for armaments. To the ‘savage mind,’ the taboo at the core of all taboos is that blood cannot be cleansed except in the fire of male contest, whether for territory, wealth, power, fame or souls.” Women shed blood to bear children; men shed it to murder them, and must rid themselves of the life-affirming women who stand in their way: witness, for mythological instance, the sadistic Babylonian brutalization of Tiamat by her son Marduk in order to create a patriarchy.
“A lack of ambivalence cannot tolerate complexity or compassion,” Ms. Morgan unambivalently stated. “A lack of ambivalence is the hallmark of leadership – in the State-that-is as well as the State-that-would-be. Indeed, the State-that-is trains its sons in this lack.” Boys must be trained for manhood, and that includes making sure that, instead of living for a cause, they die violently for a cause – those who object to this shift from wanting life to lusting for death are deemed traitors. To be men – she quotes Paulo Freire – is to be oppressors: That is what manhood and its violent religion is all about. It would make things and people scarce hence more valuable by destroying and killing them.
“Religion is not about awe and joy…. Religion is about terror…. In the balance between these two figures – the jealous god and the satanic rebel – our lives swing perilously, and have swung so for centuries. The coming of the messiah has always meant revelations of the apocalypse: the end of the world.” The secular manuals of terror are simply the sacred texts paraphrased. Indeed, violence is the main subject of patriarchal literature – high levels of violence are encouraged in the media and fed to children while depiction of sexual love is discouraged if not banned. A man learns to behave well, publicly, on the streets of his town, while satisfying his violent tendencies behind closed doors in his castle; or abroad, where he calls the innocent murdered men, women and children “collateral damage.”
Ms. Morgan mentioned the terrorist tactics of the Sicarii and Zealots who fostered uprisings against Rome: “Their aim was to intensify Jewish lack of confidence in local Jewish authorities, and to incite such hatred between Jews, Romans, and Greeks that all negotiations would be impossible.” Today real men are not to worry too much about random killing, for they were given their mass-murder license and a religion to purge blood-guilt long ago. When their ethics are questioned because millions of innocents are killed, they shall revert to such excuses as necessary evil or collateral damage. “It’s not coincidental that random murder of average citizens, including those in no way connected to power, emerged as a strategy of insurgent struggle after the random murder of average citizens had become a ‘legitimate’ military tactic conventional wars.” We note that when push comes to shove, it is all right to nuke entire cities – many American men said they wanted to turn Baghdad into a “parking lot” just for the hell of it during the first military-industrial-energy complex war on Iraq. As for the role of women, they must cooperate in the usual crimes against humanity or else; an ancient instance: Jewish women and children were given no choice “about either the campaign of terror or the mass ‘suicide’ of Zealots at Masada, a suicide now honored as the exemplification of heroic self-sacrifice, yet they too perished in a heroism defined by their men.”
The very nature of a patriarchal state, rooted as it is in the family under terrifying fatherhood, is violent: The State bestows power on the terrorists who win. “Far from being a threat to the State, terrorism is the means by which men under patriarchy judge one another fit to succeed. Our “family man” is the Latin “pater familias,” or “owner of slaves.”
Of course the son or next generation is bound to rebel. A terrifying backlash against the State at home may follow the State-sponsored terrorism of the United States abroad. “Anti-State terrorism seems to emerge most violently in those countries where, a generation earlier, acute State terrorism and literal fascist philosophy was the rule.” We note that the aim of the 9/11 terrorists was largely symbolic, made for the media; there was a huge media uproar and the entire nation panicked. If the paters familias, the patriotic paters of the fatherland, had been watching over their brood, the “lucky strike” would not have occurred; but they were too busy backbiting and looking out for themselves, according to the competitive American Way of Gilded Individualism. We imagine that a new, homegrown generation of terrorists might arise when things go south; they may not refrain from killing hundreds of thousands of their kind, doing a great deal more damage than al-Queda by simply going after the vulnerable public facilities in their own neighborhoods –May the Patriarchs forbid it!
As fate would have it, Robin Morgan was living a few blocks from the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attack – she saw the second tower struck. She provided her “Sisters and Friends” all over the world with graphic reports of the events over the next few days, via bulk email. On Day Two, she thanked them for their condolences and for offering her places to stay, noting “astonishingly” that many of them cited her book Demon Lover as an appropriate analysis of the root causes of the demonic attack. And, “even in the midst of deep sorrow and grief you have renewed my belief that art, attempted clarity of thought, and a stubborn politics of transformation do make a contribution, make a difference. But so far, as we know all too hideously, not enough.” She asked the recipients of her email to feel free to share her communiqué with their networks, and asked them to do all they could do to educate people on why such tragedies happen:
“It is not just ‘madmen’ or ‘monsters’ or ‘subhuman maniacs’ who commit dramatic violence, but that such acts occur in a daily climate of patriarchal violence so epidemic as to be invisible in its normality – and that such acts as this attack come from a complex set of circumstances, including despair over not being heard in any other way; desperation over long-term, even generational, suffering; calcification of sympathy for ‘the other’; callousing of sensibilities, blatant economic and political injustice, tribal/ethnic hatreds and fears, religious fundamentalisms, and especially the eroticization and elevation of violence as a form of ‘manhood’ and ‘solution.’ Violence is psychosis – but it’s a psychosis that contemporary incumbent leaders of most nations share with their insurgent opponents.”
Terrorism has been commonplace for centuries, yet it serves the violent propensity of the neoconservative authorities to declare a violent, “infinite” world war on terrorism in the name of so-called democracy and the Terrorist Almighty. Mind you that every political family has defended terrorism as a bona fide principle of action, and that many are the terrorists who became heroes because they were victorious, perhaps founding their own fatherland. But terrorism is warranted today only in defense of democracy; that terrorism includes pre-emptive defense. Of course that defense, trained even to war in time of peace, is glad to have an enemy.
We recall that in 1986 ‘terrorism’ was the main concern of U.S. citizens, but in no one year in the 80s were more than 30 U.S. citizens killed in terrorist incidents. 23 were killed in 1985, yet over a hundred were killed by lightning. Seven U.S. citizens were terrorist victims in 1987 – three of them accidentally. Prior to September 11, 2001 and the U.S. president’s declaration of an infinite war on terrorism, the world was more pacific than in previous decades. In reality, there was little political violence in comparison to period of the world wars and the so-called Korean and Vietnam police actions, even though the neoliberal globalization vaunted by American-style corporatism in the name of consumer democracy and capitalist profit had in fact wrought unprecedented social violence and inequality. Of course we should not forget that the U.S.-led sanctions in Iraq had by some estimates killed over a million Iraqis, the overwhelming majority of them women and children. At last the sole superpower had a Global Satan to replace the Evil Empire.
The Crusaders who marched East over strange lands to rid themselves of domestic crime had their anti-Christ in Mohammed: “Mohammed was seen as Anti-Christ,” wrote Michael Fox in People of the Crusade (1997), “and resistance to Islam concentrated the will of Europe into a high and holy aim, drawing together rough, lawless people demoralized by too many years of invasion. It came to seem, to many of the best reforming minds in the West, that the very stability and safety of their society depended in a large way on the resolute fight against the power and claims of Islam.”
God needs Satan; the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombing was a patriarchal-god-send to the neoconservative administration, whose presiding officer had named Jesus Christ as his political hero during his political campaign. The Crusades and the persecution of Jews in Jesus’ name proves that the Redeemer is a tribal god in the minds of his born-again worshipers; when their bloodlust contradicts the new testament, that of love, they revert to the old, and, as frustrated Jews, claim that the new must fulfill the old.
Wherefore the Terrorist Almighty has his awful, arbitrary sway over the minds of men; or rather they have created him to justify their terrible conduct. There is nothing new under the Sun, said the Hebrew imperialist whose empire wound up shrinking despite the increase in trade thanks to his camel-technology innovation. For Ms. Morgan and other like-minded women, all men are trained terrorists – men and women alike fear the sound of a male footstep behind them, and for good reason, but they fear not the dainty female footstep. The “new” terrorist haunting us is the same old terrorist armed with higher technology – the higher the technology, it seems, the lower the morality.
Ms. Morgan reported from terrorized Manhattan that she had watched sophisticated people sobbing in the streets. People had lost their jobs; they worried about their sons in the military; they were unnerved by security checkpoints; they mourned, felt wounded, humiliated and outraged. The sad scene reminded her of sights she had seen when she worked for UNRWA – the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees. “And I see my friends like Zuhira in the refugee camps of Gaza or West Bank, Palestinian women who have lived in precisely that emotional condition – for four generations.” Yet liberal New York City under attack by demonized Arabs brought out the best in people, including its mean-minded mayor; he had ignored the threats on the horizon while cracking down on jaywalking and window-washing beggars, but he rose to the disastrous occasion in the eerie limelight of Ground Zero.
In any event the Big Apple is more civilized than Jerusalem, the epitome of patriarchal residence Ms. Morgan has described in Demon Lover as hell on earth, an idolized hellhole for patriarchs of various hostile persuasions: “Jerusalem, the holy city, is for me an uncivil hell. In a smoldering populace, factions barely coexist by ignoring one another, repressing one another, or avenging themselves upon one another… Small riots, clashes, street friskings, car bombings occur each day as matters of no consequence. The secular Israelis are at civil war with the Haredim, the ultra-Orthodox Jews. The latter have been torching bus-stop shelters postered with ‘pornographic’ bathing-suit advertisements. They have also been firebombing movie theatres that stay open on the Sabbath, attacking and throwing stones at Israeli women wearing slacks, and gaining seats in the Knesset. Some secular Israeli’s have responded by bombing Orthodox synagogues…. None of the men wear veils or children. The men wear guns. The tourists wear Bermuda shorts and cameras. This makes it easy to tell them all apart. Jerusalem is the only place in the region where I encounter street sexual harassment – and it is from Israeli soldiers, catcalling and making sucking sounds…. To wander too near the Orthodox Jewish section is to invite being stoned or beaten. The suburbs boast homes that are walled compounds…. In the camps I was not afraid, yet in Jerusalem I am afraid.”
Global Sister Morgan noted in her email that a mosque had already been firebombed in the U.S.; Arab Americans were hiding their children indoors; two murders had been classified as anti-Arab hate crimes – one of the victims, a Sikh, had been killed because he wore a turban, yet “there were not nationwide attacks against white Christian males after Timothy McVeigh was apprehended for the Oklahoma bombing.” As for Christians, she observed that Christian leader Jerry Falwell blamed the 9/11 attacks on “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists and the gays and lesbians… the American Civil Liberties Union”, and others who would secularize America; another prominent Christian America leader, Pat Robertson, whose organization had campaigned for President Bush, concurred with the placement of the blame.
Ensconced in her Greenwich Village nest, Robin said she had not yet hung an American flag, nor had she pinned a red, white, and blue ribbon to her lapel in the aftermath of the attack. Instead, she wept for the city and the world and clung to a different loyalty, “affirming my un-flag, my un-anthem, my un-prayer –the defiant un-pledge of a madwoman who also had mere words as her only tools in a time of ignorance and carnage: Virginia Woolf.”
What is to be done? Again, as men fight, fight, and fight, women must talk, talk, and talk. Robin Morgan believes that women, confronted with violence, must talk back, despite the fact that they might be violently chastised by self-righteous men who, in the heat of the moment, prefer war to peace, and for that cause will dismiss any objections with the back of a hand. One of them said, “Yeah, Mohammad Atta was probably turning in his grave at the thought of radical feminists talking about the psychosexual politics of terrorism.” But Robin Morgan is not deterred by the childish patriarchal prejudice of her critic and his demented cousin in terrorism. “I urge you to write letters to the editors of newspapers, call in to talk radio shows…. Talk about the root causes of terrorism, about the need to diminish this daily climate of patriarchal violence surrounding us in its state-sanctioned normalcy….”