Worth the Conversation

Dear Legislators, Wayne LaPierre, NRA members, and all those opposed to common sense gun control:

Please hold off on your masturbatory monologue about the Second Amendment for a moment and tap into your humanity for once.  Can you sense the collective heartbrokenness of a nation grappling once again with a gun wielding terrorist committing horrific mass murder or are you already in your state of unreachable orgasmic bliss at the thought of stockpiling even more guns and putting firearms in the hands of every man, woman, and child in America?  Because if there is any humanity left in you at all, I have some questions for you.

Have you not had your fill of blood flowing in the streets? Are you thirsty for more, still?   Do the screams of terror have any effect on you? Do you even look at the faces of those shocked and grief-stricken by the sudden and violent loss of a loved one?  How can you listen to families try to encapsulate the lifetime of a loved one cut down by gun violence and say out loud that it is not time to talk about guns?   How many more must die before it is time to simply have an honest conversation about gun violence in this country?  The images of the lifeless bodies of children massacred inside a school did not move legislators to put forth changes to protect the public from gun violence and if that image didn’t motivate us to do better as a society, I cannot fathom what will.  The question remains – how many more people need to be murdered before you are motivated to action?  How much more blood needs to stain your hands before you feel the weight of your complicities?

Do you really imagine the world safer where every man, woman, and child is armed and carrying a weapon to work, school, sporting events, dances, concerts, places of worship, political rallies, playgrounds, malls, banks, restaurants, bars, hiking trails, parks, road trips, beaches, auto repair shops, the DMV, retirement homes, hospitals, amusement parks, weddings, funerals, family reunions, courtrooms, grocery stores, and college campuses?

Weapons of warfare have no place in our society.  Weapons manufactured to kill masses of people have no reasonable use among the general public or in our police departments.  Weapons capable of killing the maximum number of human beings with minimal reloading can only serve the purpose for which they were made.  Until we stop the flow of these murderous instruments into the public, we will continue to see horrifying mass murders and mourn the loss of innocent lives while offering empty gestures of “thoughts and prayers” that serve no purpose other than to fill the void left by our inaction.

Addressing gun violence with legislation will not stop every act of gun violence, nor will it stop hunters from hunting, collectors from collecting, or those who wish to own weapons for personal protection from owning a gun; but if it can prevent the death of one of your loved ones from being killed at the mall, a concert, or movie theatre, isn’t it worth the conversation?

I hope you’ve had your fill of suffering and death and can find your way out of greed and politics to help make the world a little safer for all of us because my heart was not made for times like these.  We must find the balance on this issue before the heart of America is broken beyond recognition and repair.

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Remedial Education

Growing up in Alabama was a real education on what not to do, who not to become, and what constantly being on the wrong side of history (science, education, equality, etc.) looks, sounds, feels, tastes, and smells like. I never imagined that at almost 50 years old I would witness some of the same fights during the Civil Rights Movement that I learned about in school being played out in my country…in 2017.  I never fathomed that our nation would be challenged once again with the embodiment of those screaming, white faces twisted with hatred, belching out cruelty against African Americans in the images I saw in history books, documentaries, and museums.

I have seen the KKK march in Alabama.  I’ve heard hate-filled rhetoric and ideology from the pulpit, in the classroom, at family gatherings, and in the workplace.  I know what it sounds like.  I detect the stench of it right away.  I have seen disgust and loathing in the eyes of those who denigrate fellow citizens, our human brethren.  I have felt my skin craw and my blood boil many times as folks speak uncensored to me assuming because my skin is white that I have the same despicable views as they hold.

Over the years, I have watched displays of shock and disbelief, jolted that I would have the audacity to say anything.  I have been on the receiving end of rants that portrayed me as too politically correct, uptight, self-righteous, and militant.  I have been met with stunned silence and avoidance. I’ve been told that I’ve hurt feelings and been accused of tarnishing character.  Numerous times I’ve been asked why I care. The answer is so simple, I am always astonished at the asking.  I care because I believe in equality, humanity, decency, kindness, and love.

We’ve put humans on the moon.  We have humans on a space station orbiting our planet.  We’ve seen our “pale blue dot” from quite a distance thanks to our ability to learn, grow, include, work, and dream.  Yet we refuse to see our own reflection in the eyes of our fellow human beings.  We refuse to hear their voices.  We refuse to listen to their experiences.  We refuse to acknowledge their pain.  We refuse to take ownership of our part in their pain. Instead, we say loudly to those hurting, “Yeah well, I have pain, too!  My ancestors had to work hard, too!  I’ve experienced hard times, too!”

Listening, acknowledging, empathizing, and understanding are important tools to help bridge this divide.

Although some wounds need air and the light of day to heal, the scarring will always be visible – it must be for us to remember and for future generations to learn.

Milestones and Hindsight

Last Saturday marked the milestone of the current administration’s first 100 days in office.  I am reposting my first blog post entitled: Blindsided: Election 2016.  It is just as raw and applicable for me today as the day I wrote it.  It captures my disbelief, disappointment, and anger at my fellow Americans, the fragility of our democracy, and my own failure to persuade and inspire.

Before this last election, I hardly ever spoke about politics with anyone other than my husband and close friends and I certainly did not engage in much political posting on social media. But now, for the first time in my life, I can think of little else.  I actually fear for our democracy and the future of our country.

I can honestly and unequivocally say that if Donald Trump had won the nomination of the Democratic Party, I would not have voted with my party.  If any other candidate on the Republican roster had won the nomination and the presidency I might have been disappointed, but I would not be as concerned, horrified, and embarrassed for our country as I am today.

So, to those who hated Hillary Clinton more than you loved our country and cast your vote like you were playing craps instead of selecting a qualified leader of the free world — self-described “patriots” who love “your” country, worship the American flag and obsess over protocol during the Pledge of Allegiance, but who, apparently do not bat an eyelash at the current administration pissing all over the U.S. Constitution and the intentional deconstruction of our government — it is time to wake up and stand with your fellow Americans to save OUR country.  Look, we all make mistakes.  We all get it wrong sometimes.  What matters now is recognizing the clear and present danger this president poses to our nation and working together to remove him from office before our country is damaged beyond recognition and repair.

Blindsided:  Election 2016

The reason I am having so much trouble processing the results of the 2016 election is because I really didn’t think that Donald Trump was electable.  I didn’t think it was possible for him to get anywhere near the White House due to his self-disqualifying statements and actions, not to mention his complete lack of qualifications and experience in governing.  I didn’t believe the American people would or could ignore his lack of decency, his outrageous vulgarity, his sophomoric behavior, his dangerous rhetoric, and his ineptitude as a businessman, much less the prospect of his leadership of an entire nation.   To me, the stakes were clearly defined.  I thought that given the choice between possibly the most qualified candidate to ever run, who had a lifetime of service to her country (flaws and all), and Trump’s outlandish, reckless, and unpredictable behavior, the country would choose the safety and security of our nation and its citizens over partisan politics.

I was wrong.

I gave my fellow Americans WAY too much credit.  You see, I didn’t realize that these “patriots” would rather burn the country down than support a democratic president. They’ve proved that – not just in this election, but in the two prior elections and the last 8 years of obstructionist politics, rather than actual governing.  They checked reason at the door along with their values, and gave the presidency to a thoughtless, reactionary, inexperienced, narcissistic buffoon with a huge chip on his shoulder.

So, for those who voted for Trump:

Thanks for showing me how your “patriotism” works.  I understand you better now:  party over country, obstructionism over governance, and power over the people.  I hear you.  I see you.  I have learned the lesson well and I will remember.

I see your “Christian values.”  Thanks for showing me how you spread God’s love, albeit, apparently for “whites only.”  Thanks for the lesson on forgiveness, which I have come to understand only works for Swaggart, senators with “wide bathroom stances”, and loud-mouthed rich dudes that grab pussy.  It’s no wonder there is none left for any Democrat or a woman who deletes emails.  I have come to realize that Trump’s lack of transparency and deleted emails are lumped in with Bush’s email scandal which were grandfathered in and are now covered under God’s grace.  Lastly, dear Christians, thank you for freeing up the use of all foul language including the word “pussy.”  I don’t ever want to hear another self-righteous gasp or objection to the use of profanity, as you have given up your right to be shocked and offended by supporting one of the most indecent (by any standard), vulgar, unscrupulous, profane candidates ever to run for the presidency of the United States of America.

I see your hypocrisy. No, actually, I smell it and the stench of it fills our nation.  There seems to be a collective amnesia for most Trump voters.  Trump supporters call for the acceptance of the President-Elect while they scorn protests and the burning of effigies, call such exercises of our First Amendment rights “unpatriotic” and “un-American” and falsely claim that President Obama was simply accepted and given a chance to lead.  They seem to have forgotten all the denials, protests, nooses hanging from trees, effigies of Obama being burned, and unseemly behavior and comments during the last two election campaigns and the last 8 years of obstructionist politics against President Obama.  It has slipped their collective mind that the GOP leadership is on record saying they wanted President Obama to fail and planned to block him on every hand – even before he got started.

Now it is 2016 and the Republican candidate (who, by the way, propelled and promoted the “birther” movement even after the election of President Obama), Donald Trump —this ridiculous excuse for a human being, much less, leader of the free world —is President-Elect and we should just accept it without objection? Can you even begin to comprehend how insulting that is? After all he has said and done, after all his demonstrations of ignorance of even the most basic workings of our government, after all the insults, after all the inciting of violence, after the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan (THE KKK!) – and we’re just supposed to accept him as our leader, our representative to the world?

Candidate Obama ran his campaign on hope and change.  He had experience in government.  He served his community, his city, and his state.  He offered real solutions to real problems.  You may not have liked him or voted for him, but at least he was qualified to run and hold the office. Hillary Clinton ran on the idea that we are “stronger together” and like her or not, had real world experience in government and service to this country. The President-Elect ran an extremely divisive and hateful campaign that fanned the flames of fear, ignorance, and intolerance.  He incited his crowds to violence, even offering to pay their legal fees.  He ran a campaign that promised to bring back an America that never existed, except in the minds of those whose eyes glaze over as they look wistfully into the distance to some make-believe place where they feel a sense of peace and safety —a place, no, a delusional state that envisions a perfect time where all of life’s problems were solved by the likes of Beaver’s dad and Sheriff Andy Taylor.  America is not now, nor has it ever been a situation comedy from the 1950’s and ’60s.  These ideal times portrayed on little black and white screens were a diversion —a diversion from the real world full of scary people doing and saying scary things.  We needed a little escape back then, but escapism wasn’t supposed to last for decades.  Hard times have always existed for folks; there is no perfection to go back to for any of us.  If you had a perfect childhood, then good for you!  Your parents managed to make the world feel safe and secure for you, but now you are an adult and it is time you started adulting.

Your President-Elect is perhaps the most unfit of any candidate to ever run for the highest office in the land, not to mention that he is completely devoid of any of the values or morals you claim to hold dear – values that are supposed to represent your party’s platform.

So, congratulations.  You won the presidency.  I hope it was worth it.  You lost your integrity, credibility, and all the respect I had for you and your party.

Common Sense, Common Ground

Most beliefs and values fall within a spectrum.  Ideas that may seem contradictory or polarizing at first glance may not be mutually exclusive.

For example, it is possible for one to support Black Lives Matter and be supportive of police officers.  A person can acknowledge the difficult and often dangerous job with which law enforcement officers are tasked and still require them to be subject to the laws they are sworn to enforce.  One can be against police brutality yet be supportive of police officers and praise their hard work and positive contributions to society.  Reminding officers that they are not above the law is not an act of aggression toward law enforcement; it is reiterating the oath they took to protect and serve.

Upon hearing the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” one’s first response should be empathy.  Another human being’s plaintive cry, “My life matters; don’t shoot me down in the street as if I don’t matter!” should give us pause.  Shouldn’t our response be an expression of concern at the questionable circumstances and a statement like, “Yes, your life matters and justice should prevail”?  We could acknowledge our collective humanity and allow truth an opportunity to reveal itself, but that is not what usually happens.  We couldn’t even allow those impacted by traumatic events to express their pain and anguish in their own words; instead, we put out competing “White Lives Matter,” “All Lives Matter,” and “Blue Lives Matter” statements.

We didn’t even allow space for their grieving, for their demand for justice and due process.  Some went to work immediately to discredit and smear the dead, digging up any and all flaws— real and perceived— for the public to judge.  The officers involved in such cases are almost always given the benefit of the doubt, with little interest in investigating the possibility of wrongdoing.  It is not unreasonable to expect an officer to rely on his/her training rather than respond the way a civilian might in the same circumstance.  But if that expectation is too much for an officer, then perhaps law enforcement was not the best career choice for that person.

When an officer falls, whether in the line of duty or otherwise, s/he is deemed a hero.  But no one digs into their past to see what failings they may have (domestic violence, behavior unbecoming, excessive force, etc.).  The public holds their lives in very high regard without question. Not everyone who wears a uniform is a hero and not everyone who wears a hoodie is a criminal or a thug.  We must stop lumping everyone into these boxes.  We are all individuals and we all make choices each day for which we are accountable.  No one is above the law, but no one should be crushed by it either.

In another example, one can believe in the Second Amendment yet also believe in gun control.  Regardless of the reason for gun ownership (hunting, target shooting, self-protection, collecting), these are deadly weapons and should have some restrictions.  It is reasonable to do everything possible to keep firearms out of the hands of someone on the “no-fly list.” It is not outrageous to try to prevent individuals with a history of mental illness or domestic abuse from getting their hands on a gun. The general public does not need assault rifles, rocket launchers, or other weapons of war.  These types of firearms serve one purpose: to kill as many humans as possible.  That is the only reason they are made— for war. Common-sense gun control should not be a partisan issue.  Most do not suggest that all guns should be removed from the public or that we should stop hunters, target-shooting enthusiasts, collectors, or those wanting weapons for personal security from owning guns.  If you need an assault weapon to kill deer or elk, you need to better develop your skills as a hunter; you certainly do not need an AR-15.  Arming every person in every place is not a solution, it is a recipe for disaster and tragedy.  The Wild West can be entertaining on screen, but I certainly don’t want to live in a society where the fastest gun is deemed justice.  Do you?

And again, one can believe that a woman has sovereignty over her body and at the same time value life.  A woman’s right to choose what happens to her body is a human right that should be defended.  No one would think of telling a man what he can and cannot do regarding his body—especially his reproductive organs— so why is it difficult to understand that a woman has the same right?  Sex education is crucial to lowering the number of unwanted and unplanned pregnancies.  All individuals should be educated about the human body, sexual activity, reproduction, preventing disease, preventing unwanted pregnancies, respecting the bodies of others, and the psychological and social impacts of sexual activity, pregnancy, and child rearing.

Valuing life should not stop once an individual exits the birth canal.  Forcing a woman to have the baby of her attacker (whether by rape or incest) is cruel and unusual punishment.  It further victimizes the woman with nine months of pregnancy, labor, delivery and then, if she doesn’t give up the child for adoption, she must take on a lifetime of responsibility for the child she never wanted.  What kind of life does a child have with a parent who never wanted him or her?  Consider how it must feel to look at the face your child and see your attacker every day?  I don’t believe that is a humane way to treat a woman or a child. Many factors may influence a woman’s choice to have a child or to terminate a pregnancy—failed birth control, divorce, break-up, sexual assault, incest, career, education, financial instability. Or she may just not want to have children.  Whatever the reason, her choice to have a child or terminate a pregnancy is hers.

Why does the “passion” some express for life seem to end when the life is no longer inside a woman’s uterus?  For some, being “pro-life” means forcing a woman to have a baby.  It has nothing to do with valuing life.  If one values the life of another, one would seek to help those who need assistance in raising, feeding, housing, and educating children and making sure they have affordable healthcare and wellness programs.  Valuing life means making sure senior citizens have all that they need without having to choose between taking medication, paying bills, or eating.  Valuing life means caring about those with mental illness or those who suffer from addiction.  Valuing life means caring about those who are most vulnerable among us.  Valuing life means not shielding child predators to protect a university’s image, a clergyman’s reputation, a coach’s standing in the community, or a family’s “good name.”  Valuing life means speaking out against cruelty and brutality, no matter the victim or the perpetrator.  Valuing life means respecting those in military service, not just when they are deployed, but when they return hurt, wounded, or lost. Our service men and women should be supported when they return to civilian life with mental health services, job retraining, assistance with fitting back into their families, communities, and the workplace.  Valuing life means respecting the right of others to peacefully exist even when we disagree with them.

Some final examples:  One can feel national pride and respect for the American flag while defending the Constitutional right to burn the flag in protest.  One can disagree with the content of another’s speech, yet defend his or her right to exercise that freedom of expression.  One can be opposed to war, but support the men and women who are serving in the military.  One can instill the values of one’s religious faith in one’s children and be passionate about the separation of church and state.  One can believe in scientific evidence while having a spiritual practice or expressing one’s faith.

Protecting the rights of others does not diminish one’s own rights.  The success of my sister is not my failure.  Strength and empathy are not mutually exclusive.  Patriotic liberal is not an oxymoron.  Environmentalist and capitalist can cooperate and coexist.  These things are possible if we use common sense and find common ground.

Wake Up!

“Not my circus, not my monkey” is a phrase often used to describe detachment from a situation.  I have no children.  I will never worry about my offspring and the future they might have, and I could simply live out my life as I see fit without caring about the serious issues that we face given today’s political upheaval and the uncertainty that our nation faces.  However, I have people in my life for whom I do care and who have children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  It does matter to me what kind of future they will have.  I care about what kind of planet we leave them, what kind of government they inherit from us, and what conditions will exist in their America — if the United States survives the current threat against her.  I find it unfathomable that so many on the political right and those who label themselves as conservatives or Christians would put this president’s and Steve Bannon’s reckless plans to “deconstruct the state” ahead of the future of their own children and grandchildren.

When the polluted land, water, air, livestock, and wildlife begin to spill over into the lives of human beings, the most vulnerable will be affected first.  The children, the elderly, those with weak immune systems, domesticated animals, and pets will experience the worst effects quickly.  Sickness, illness, and disease will take many lives before it attacks the strongest of us.  It is possible that some will then realize the importance of safe, clean water, land, and air.  Maybe they will make the connection between the pollutants in the environment, crops grown in contaminated soil, livestock that grazed in fields saturated with pollutants from oil spills, fracking, coal mining waste, pesticides, and chemicals and the people, horses, dogs, and cats that suffer and die from drinking polluted water or eating contaminated substances.  When hunters find fewer numbers among their wildlife targets and are unable to eat the ones they do kill due to contamination throughout the eco-system, maybe the importance of preservation, conservation, and protection of wildlife and the environment will become clear and non-negotiable.

Some will say, “I told you so” or “you should have listened.”  Unfortunately, it will probably be too late.

When rising sea levels take out family and friends in America’s coastal cities and our warming planet causes droughts unlike any we’ve had in our lifetime; when F5 tornadoes wipe out entire cities and towns with regularity and massive hurricanes swallow up seaside communities; when earthquakes caused by fracking shatter locations that have never experienced a single tremor from tectonic plate movement; and when sea life dwindles due to warming oceans— then maybe we will all understand that scientific evidence is not dependent on one’s “belief system.”

No one will find joy in saying “I told you so” or “you should have listened.” We will have only unbearable grief, sorrow, and scarcity.

When the roll back on safety regulations in the workplace frees up companies and corporations to do more hiring and rake in more profits, the American worker who gets hurt or killed on the job will be replaced quickly by another and the injured worker or his/her family will have no recourse.  How will they pay for the medical bills that pile up— that is, if they can afford healthcare at all? What will happen to workers who spend their lives working for a company or corporation that simply decides to fire them or lay them off just before they could retire?

When the fiduciary regulations that protected the investments, retirement, and pensions of hard working Americans from unscrupulous advisors are completely gone, what will the average American consumer do to protect his/her life savings?

When Americans find themselves dependent on clean water and uncontaminated food grown in other countries, what will be the cost of feeding one’s family?  When only the extremely wealthy can afford clean water, uncontaminated food, the best medical care, cutting-edge technology, personal transportation, education, participation in legislation and government, and when only they control access to all the information that the public receives, it won’t matter whether you wake up or not.

No one will even need to say, “I told you so” or “you should have listened,” because we will have awakened too late.

What will happen when today’s average middle-class American family finds themselves suddenly in poverty?  What will become of those already below today’s poverty line?  Do you think “Big Brother Trump” will save you?  Do you think that he or Steve Bannon care about your petty little needs?  What does one pull himself up with if he no longer has any straps or boots? Trump will be gone and his offspring will continue to live out their wealthy lives while the rest of us are left to fend for ourselves.  We will finally wake up and realize that we were fools.  We were the perfect mark for the grifter, the gullible target for the con man.  We will wake up, but it will be too late.

I implore all who place a high value on the future of their families to wake up now and see the clear and present danger the Trump/Bannon coup represents to America.  Find your patriotic spirit and love of country, fight this reckless agenda, and beat it back beyond repair.  The future of your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren is at stake.  Remember, as a childless individual, I have no “horse in this race.”  What I do have is empathy and hope for your children and a citizen’s desire to make the world a better place for others, or at the very least, to not make it worse.

Don’t hit the snooze button!  Wake up!  Wake up now!

Open Letter to Barrack Obama

I want to apologize for letting you down.  You deserved so much more from me and I am sorry I did not get more involved in my government during your presidency.  I’m sorry I wasn’t more active in our democracy when we had one.  I voted for you twice and was so proud to call you my president!  You were counting on me and others like me to be more vocal and active during your time in office.  I guess I thought that you, your cabinet, and all the elected officials and the millions of folks who voted for you would raise their voices, come together, and do what was best for our country.  I assumed that I was not all that important and that my voice was not really needed.  Sure, I sent a few letters and emails to my elected officials, signed a few petitions, and made a few calls during your presidency, but I could have done more.  I assumed that the American people who were aligned with the Republican party would tire of their elected officials not doing any work and obstructing forward motion all during your administration — even if the things they were opposing were originally Republican ideas or concepts they had pressed for in the past.  I underestimated their resolve to weaken our democracy by refusing to govern.

I went on with my life, grateful to be self-employed, to have healthcare coverage, to have more equality for the friends and family in my life who are LGBTQ, to feel safer knowing that Bin Laden was no longer a threat, to know that our economy was not going to tank into a depression, to know that we were more respected around the world, to feel hope for the future of our nation and our planet, to know that empathy, inclusion, tolerance, generosity, and compassion were values that my president possessed and demonstrated, to know that learning, growing, evolving with wisdom and knowledge were admirable traits for a leader, and to know that my president cared about liberty and justice for all people.  I was comfortable.  I took you and your leadership for granted.  Again, I am sorry for not being a better citizen for you.  I didn’t always agree with all your decisions, but you have always had my respect.  You earned it.  You must be very disappointed in me and others like me.  I can’t blame you; I’m disappointed in myself, but I’m not without hope.

Today I feel uncomfortable.  I watched and listened as some of my friends and family “justified” their choice to cast their vote for a reckless, unprepared, and unqualified person for President of the United States of America.  I engaged in conversations with them, listened to ascertain how they were leaning, and why.  I shared how, if the shoe were on the other foot and Donald Trump had been the Democratic nominee, I would not vote with my party, but would seek out another candidate to support.  These people are kind, generous, hospitable, and of good character, so I just couldn’t fathom that, when the chips were down, they would make a mark next to his name on their ballot.  I am disappointed that I was not more persuasive, but I thought he had done most of the damage to himself.

I am in unchartered territory.  I wake up in a state of disbelief that this caricature of a man is our president.  I am almost afraid to watch the news, read the paper, listen to the radio, or check the internet, but I am more afraid not to know that is happening.  I am angry almost every day as I watch what is happening to our country.  I see how easily our democracy can slip away if we, as citizens do not get and stay informed, band together, and motivate ourselves and others to action.  Some days I am so weary of it all that I consider moving to an eco-village somewhere tropical and spend my days meditating, doing yoga, listening to music, and forgetting about all of this political nonsense.  But then, I realize that I am a woman of a certain age and I owe it to my ancestors and to the people who will be here when I am gone to do better, because I know better.  I owe it to the women who fought for my right to vote and to those who fought and still fight for equality.  I want to be a better citizen.  My voice does matter and I can choose to be a force for equality and goodness in the world.

I have been writing letters, sending emails, calling, responding on social media platforms, and signing petitions to my elected officials.  I have used the contact page on the White House website to send a message to the president almost every day since his inauguration.  I watch the news, read articles and do research to ascertain whether information is true or not, and I share links about things that are important to me.  I even started a blog a while back to help me vent my frustrations, share my thoughts and opinions, and develop my voice.  I plan to get involved more in local groups to combat gerrymandering, support those in the community who feel vulnerable because of the current administration, and participate in other organized protests when I am able.

Caring, serving, engaging, marching, protesting, writing, holding my elected officials accountable can be exhausting.  I am a private, quiet person and a self-described homebody, but I feel compelled to do something.  The stark contrast the current president has provided gives me a nightmarish vision of the future of this country.  My heart hurts thinking of what we will lose if we allow this president to continue being a puppet for white nationalists, fearmongering, radicalized, religious zealots, and gluttonous billionaires bent on making America produce for their greedy gain.

I believe there is more good than evil in the world, but often the evil is so dark it can seem insurmountable.  I believe that the kindness of ordinary people on any given day far outweighs the meanness and cruelty of any one person or group set on harming others.  Most people are decent, helpful, caring, and compassionate; as a nation of citizens, that is who we really are.  I know that whether or not we practice a religion, we can all be kind, we can all try to follow the Golden Rule that is present in most religions.  I hope I can join with others concerned about the direction of our country to save our democracy.  I realize that we all love our country and want it to be better today than it was yesterday, and even better tomorrow.  I know that just because Democrats, Republicans, and other parties don’t agree on everything, it doesn’t mean that we don’t agree on anything.  We have to start somewhere.  I would like to see an administration made up of multiple political parties who hold more moderate and less radical views and who seek a seat for everyone at the table.

Finally, I want to say thank you.  I appreciate your service to our great country.  Thank you for your example and your leadership.  “Thank you” seems insufficient when I think of all you endured and all that you did and tried to do for all of America’s citizens.  Your service and dedication to our nation, to equality, and to humanity is humbling and inspiring.  I’ll see you out there.

With a grateful heart,

A Fellow Citizen

 

 

The Weight of the Day

Today as our nation observes the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we remember his life, teachings, example, service, and his legacy to our nation and to humanity.

Dr. King’s commitment to non-violent civil disobedience to facilitate social justice and change revealed to America and the world the ugliness of fear, hatred, and violence and, simultaneously, the resilient resolve, courage, and character of those who would not be denied their humanity nor their citizenship: those heroic Americans who dared to say, “We exist, we matter, we are equal, and we are just as human and just as American as you!”

Historical documents and images of the fight for civil rights are difficult to view. White faces contorted with anger, hate, and meanness, screaming at children walking into a public school, should make us cringe with embarrassment and shame. The atrocious behavior of civilians, law enforcement, and the military as they brutalized and sought to dehumanize African-Americans and those who stood with them is recorded history. The attack dogs, water hoses, beatings, and other horrendous treatments against unarmed peaceful American protesters exercising their Constitutional rights was on full display for the world to see.

It is inconceivable that with all the lessons of the past there are still those who run with abandon toward the “wrong side” of history.

So, today I can’t help but be saddened that this year’s observance for one of the greatest champions for human rights comes just four days before the inauguration of a person who has demonstrated in word and deed the willingness, if not the desire, to destroy progress made toward equality and human rights.  The fact that the first African-American president will hand the White House “keys” over to a privileged, unscrupulous, unqualified, unprepared man endorsed by the KKK is more than I can fathom on most days, but especially on this day.

To my friends, family, and all who are beautiful varying shades of Black, Brown, and Beige; those who are LGBTQ, whose love knows no societal or religious boundaries; those who are religious, traditional, and those who are not; those who suffer health challenges (including mental health) and cannot afford medical care; those who experience hunger and homelessness and suffer lack; those whose tribal lands continue to be raped and pillaged by corporate greed; those who feel despair for their children’s future in the face of the denial of the obvious: you are not disposable. You are not forgotten. You are our brothers and sisters. You are our fellow human beings.  Millions of Americans, most of the world, and history are on your side.  We will weather the difficult times ahead together. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.

It is my hope that the light within each of us will fully illuminate the darkest corners where ignorance, fear, and inhumanity reside and dispel all their myth and power. Apathy, anti-intellectualism, greed, indifference, and enmity may have a day in the spotlight, but empathy, altruism, compassion, and goodwill will continue the journey toward liberty and justice for ALL.  We cannot go back. We will not go back.

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”  -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

Defying the Legion of Doom

Around this time of year, celebrations of the season give most people’s voice a joyous and generous tone, but in recent years a militancy can be heard in the voices of some calling out “Merry Christmas” while aiming a dead-eye stare (worthy of Clint Eastwood) and eagerly awaiting the proper response – lest the respondent reveal himself to be an enemy combatant conducting a “war on Christmas.”  It doesn’t matter that no such war exists or that some may celebrate one or more of the several other holidays that share the season or perhaps not celebrate at all. 

While some are busy weaponizing their holiday greeting and fighting an imaginary war to defend against a non-existent threat, a real and imminent threat is rising from the incoming administration of Donald Trump.  His gathering team presents legitimate concerns to American workers, people of color, people of non-Christian faith, women, the LGBTQ community, the poor, public education, civil rights, our natural resources, and the future of our country and of humanity.

The President-Elect has paraded a virtual Who’s Who of the worst possible appointees to various cabinet and diplomatic posts.  This cast of almost villainous proportions has voiced its intentions on every front. The only logical assumptions are that this Legion of Doom means to:

  • Dismantle the public education system by replacing science and educational standards with religious ideology
  • Remove protections and regulations for workers so that large companies and corporations are free from culpability for job safety standards, leaving little to no recourse for substandard working conditions or company negligence
  • Rape the land and pollute water sources to enrich their coffers, disregarding environmental protections and the populations who depend on those natural resources
  • Roll back the advancements made by the Civil Rights Acts, the Voting Act, and the Marriage Equality Act
  • Tell women what they can and cannot do regarding the health of their own bodies and punish women for making decisions about their own lives
  • Install their own Christian version of Sharia Law. They may condemn other countries for ruling by religious ideology, but they seek to impose their own twisted interpretation of biblical principles and Christian policies to govern the U.S. 

Almost every day since his candidacy, the President-Elect has demonstrated his lack of knowledge of everything from the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and how the branches of government work, to conflict of interest concerns, foreign policy, and the scope of the presidency itself.  These cabinet appointments will advise the president and set policies that will have real- world effects and consequences for America’s citizens.  Many of those appointed are on record indicating they want to eliminate the very departments they will oversee or have obvious conflicts of interests with those departments.

What can one expect when these radicalized fundamentalist Christian extremists, millionaires, and billionaires are running the country? Remember, these are those among us who think the genocide of the indigenous peoples of this land was God’s will so we could inherit our “Manifest Destiny”.  These are those among us who think that violating the rights of our Muslim brothers and sisters by creating a registry will keep them safe.  These are those among us who think that “separate, but equal” was a good system and that Jim Crow laws were justified because white privilege and supremacy was God-given.  These are those among us who think other Americans need to be “cured” by conversion therapy to be worthy human beings.  These are those among us who refuse to accept science and facts.  Instead, they believe the world is 6,000 years old and was created in six days, despite evidence to the contrary.  They deny facts regarding climate change at the peril of our species.  These are those among us who profit from war and scarcity.  These are those among us who believe in getting out of paying their fair share, despite being the most able to pay their fair share. 

They have shown us who they are and we should believe them. They do not have our best interests at heart. 

We must not give tyranny a chance to lead.  We must not wait and see what happens, especially based on the choices already made and the direction indicated.  The continued militarization of law enforcement against citizens and the apparent militarization of the incoming administration; the return of McCarthyism, with possible retaliation against professors in our educational institutions and against scientists researching climate change; the blatant disregard for freedom of the press; and other serious threats against our democracy and our fellow citizens —all these should heighten our awareness and our resolve to take all actions available to hold our leaders accountable at all levels of government.

I offer no apologies for speaking out against racism, homophobia, misogyny, and xenophobia.  I offer no apologies for believing that we are all created equal. I offer no apologies for furthering my education.  I offer no apologies for defending a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body. I offer no apologies for feeling compassion towards immigrants, refugees, the poor and less fortunate. I offer no apologies for resisting tyranny.  I offer no apologies for loving my country and my fellow man.   

Mourning Humanity

The sun is shining and the snow is beautiful, but today I feel broken.  The following is an excerpt from a poem I wrote called “Broken” and I think it accurately reflects how I feel today.

There are days I just surrender to the darkness.

I curl up, close my eyes, and let the darkness engulf me.

I go quietly because it seems imminent and inevitable.

It is as if I can only survive if  I let it win a few here and there.

To get along in the world during these dark times, I wear it like a shroud

and move about only as necessary.

I feel that I must give it some days or it will grow so strong and powerful

that it will fight to take all my days and I will cease to exist.

 Today my heart breaks for the people of Aleppo.  What can any one person do in the face of such blatant brutality, such inhumanity?  I feel sickened and lost for words.  So, today I weep.

I weep for the people of Aleppo. I weep for the women of Aleppo who choose suicide over rape.  I weep for the children of Aleppo who will never grow up.  I weep for those fleeing and leaving behind loved ones who may never know their fate.  I weep for those who flee only to be rejected by other human beings too paralyzed by fear and intolerance to show empathy and compassion.  I weep for Newtown, Connecticut on the 4th anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy as they continue to endure the unbearable grief of so much senseless loss.  I weep for those parents who not only deal with the murder of their children, but have also had to cope with the heartless bastards that harass them and other residents with various conspiracy theories.  I weep that we haven’t done more to prevent these types of tragedies.   I weep for the family of the 73-year old man with dementia shot seven times by police (SEVEN times). I weep for Walter Scott’s family who have yet to see justice for their murdered loved one, despite clear video evidence.  I weep for all the Tamir Rices, Trayvon Martins, and Emmett Tills of the world.  I weep for the indigenous peoples fighting to protect the natural resources upon which they and their families depend.  I weep for their fading vision for their children’s future as Rick Perry gets tapped to oversee the Department of Energy while sitting on the board of Energy Transfer Partners – the owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline project.  I weep for the lack of empathy, compassion, decency, and humanity in the world. 

I can’t help but wonder who will come to save us when our time comes.  Will the rest of the world watch in horror from the safety of their homes?  Will their hearts ache for us?  Will we wonder why they silently watch us being slaughtered?  Who will stop our tyrants?  If we manage to escape the tyranny, will we find compassion or fear and intolerance?  If it is true that we reap what we sow, we need to start some serious sowing of compassion and intervening action. 

Tomorrow I may be more hopeful, but for today…today, I need to weep.  My spirit needs tending to and so I will be back when I am done weeping.

grayscale-dock

 

 

 

Distress Signals

I am feeling distressed and with good reason.  Current events are rather disturbing.  I search to find ways to direct my frustration and anger into creative, constructive, and cathartic outlets.  I want to listen, understand, and speak from a place of empathy, compassion, and kindness – it doesn’t always work out that way, but it is a goal.  I am only human and I feel angry and frustrated right now and that is okay.  These feelings are valid and can be motivating in productive ways, so I am sharing a few observations regarding recent events.

So, on Sunday a white man walks into a pizza joint in Washington D.C. with an assault rifle and fires at least one shot. Other firearms were found in the restaurant and in the suspect’s vehicle, according to police (as reported by CBS).  Edgar Maddison Welch is arrested by police.  This is the end of this part of the story.  He survived his encounter with police despite wielding a lethal weapon, firing that weapon, and posing a real danger to civilians and law enforcement alike.  He will no doubt have his day in court.  I will skip the rant about the dangers of dumbasses too lazy to fact check stories they read on the internet or hear on the “propaganda channel”, aka, Fox News and the despicable practice of willfully spreading fake news (noting here a difference between satirical writing/programming and actual propaganda).

Contrast what happened to Welch with the following:

Walter Scott, a black man from South Carolina was stopped in 2015 for a broken tail light and ended up being shot 5 times – in the back, in broad daylight by a police officer.  Most of the incident was caught on tape, including the officer dropping an “object” near the body of Mr. Scott.  Today a mistrial was declared in the case against the officer accused of murdering Mr. Walter Scott.  I will skip the rant regarding the fact that a career in law enforcement is a choice and seeking to root out those among them who are unfit to serve is in their best interest.  However, I would like to point out that identifying the problem is the first step to finding a solution. Police officers need to be held accountable for brutality.  If one thinks himself above the law he cannot be trusted to enforce the law. 

In North Dakota law enforcement agencies (public and private) shot unarmed protesters and their horses with rubber bullets, used tear gas, mace, sound cannons, attack dogs, grenades, tasers, and water cannons (in freezing temperatures) against peaceful protesters.  Thanks to modern technology and social media the truth was told in pictures, videos, and first-hand accounts of the excessive use of force against tribal members and their supporters protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.  During the course of these protests over 70 different law enforcement agencies have been involved in actions against American citizens peacefully exercising their rights.

These are not isolated incidents.  Events like these happen with a frequency that I find unacceptable.  It is imperative that we educate, motivate to non-violent action, and persuade others to do the same.  Most importantly, we must remain vigilant – that is the only way to see justice prevail and equal treatment provided under the law for all citizens.

I am convinced, now more than ever that “no justice, no peace” is not a slogan and it is not a threat…it is an inevitability.  Where there is no justice, how can there be peace of mind, peace in one’s heart, peace in one’s actions?  It has been right here in our Constitution the whole time – “…in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility …” Stop paying lip service to the idea of patriotism when you see a flag burning or someone take a knee to protest the national anthem (both of which are protected by the First Amendment) and actually put your patriotism in action by supporting liberty and justice for ALL (even those with whom you disagree).

I believe that peaceful non-violent protests can bring about change.  American history provides plenty of examples of such changes, but these changes seldom come easily.  They are hard fought, messy, and historically have come with severe sacrifice and too often, brutality against our fellow human beings.  Knowing history doesn’t keep us from repeating it, but learning from it might.  I hope so.  There is still time.