Posted by: minnow | February 19, 2017

“Freedom”

William Wallace’s famous last line in the movie Braveheart often comes to mind when I listen to conservative Christians.  In general, I’m struck by how legalistic most are.  When I look back at my own life, I have to admit my adult children’s religious upbringing was steeped in religious legalism, and for this I am sad.  As a parent, I wish I’d seen it sooner, taught them to question the information handed them.  I wish I could have given them permission to step out of line without feel they might disappoint God.

As an adult looking back, I can see where and how I was taken in and why ultimately religious propaganda failed. Often set through the language of love, brainwashing in the fellowships I attended was accompanied by smiles and plenty of hugs. People desperate to fit in, longing for family, and/or geared to please authority became malleable. Specific displays of  loving concern such as tears, hugs, praying for one another, and lots of smiles, overflowed during alter calls or small group meetings. Prophetic words prayed over people highlighting their destiny as leaders, roll as prayer warriors, and children of the King were intoxicating.  We cheered: God is love.  We’re the family of God.  Bible up; Devil down.  Even, freedom in Christ. But the tenants taught from the platform were never unconditional. And while we gave lip service to a God that loved the whole world, what loving God in return looked like, was made crystal clear.  Ultimately, my own discernment was seen as divisive and my questions as proof of an un-submitted spirit.  The Men of God in the House of the Lord (and they were all men) were not to be doubted, because the Bible (according to patriarchal Western interpretations of English translations) is very clear.

Fast forward 10 years to the 2016 presidential election. Evangelical leaders, like James Dobson and Franklin Graham, took on the arduous task of convincing their followers that the front runner for the GOP, the man who would (thanks in part to them) eventually be crowned President of the United States, is a Christian.  Denying all evidence from his past and present behavior and ignoring his racist fear mongering throughout the campaign, these leaders not only proclaimed this man’s faith to the world but insisted he must be supported in order to save the nation from the anti-Christian likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Church, you have been brainwashed. You have been taught that anyone who does not believe exactly as you believe–about God, about the government, and about the foundation of the United States–is A). wrong, B). therefore the enemy, and C). as the enemy unworthy–unworthy of your trust, unworthy of your consideration, and unworthy of God’s love.  As extreme as it might seem to those on the outside, the jump from point A to point C is not actually a big one.  After all, your fight is against the spiritual forces of evil! And, God surly does not love evil. So, how could these men of God–Dobson, Graham, some of your own pastors–be wrong?!

The trouble is point A.  This type of thinking creates enemies in every facet of life not overtly controlled by your particular belief system.  For eight years the right painted Obama as anti-Christian, despite his history of church attendance and personal integrity.  For over 20 years they painted Clinton as worse than anti-Christian, despite her knowledge of scripture, personal testimony, and years of civil service.  For years, thousands, hundreds of thousands, believed that message.  Then, in 2016 a racist, sexist, xenophobe rose to the top of the Republican Party.  Some evangelicals tried to make excuses for their candidate’s vile rhetoric and ugly behavior saying things like, “He’s a baby Christian.” and “God’s ways aren’t always our ways–just look at King Saul.” (Saul who 1 Samuel 8 tells us was not actually chosen by God but was in fact a rejection of God by the people).  Yet, while many stuck with the plan and voted for the GOP candidate, others experienced a crisis of faith, a moral conflict which continues to assault their minds and spirits today.  They could see that the GOP’s King Saul was no more ordained by God than I Samuel’s King Saul.

You may not have been able to vote for Hillary Clinton, but I suspect, you were sickened by what you saw and were glad when the election was over. Now life could finally get back to normal if only those crazy protesters would quit…then maybe…

Yeah,…good luck with that.  The Holy Spirit wants to waken you.  And the Holy Spirit is not easily thwarted.

Christianity, (evangelicalism) has been split in two.  Some may hear that as end times prophecy.  Don’t go there.  If you need to put it in a historical context, think of it as a different kind of Azusa Street. Matthew 7:2 tells us we will be judged in the ways we judge others. One side of this split reads the Bible like a book of law that allows them to treat humanity like a giant game of Wack-a-Mole. Christianity has become their prison. The other side chooses to leave judgment up to God.  Their goal for the United States is to honor the separation of Church and State established by the Constitution. They are political only in so far as hate makes love political. Their moral imperative, as followers of Christ, is to treat all people with equal respect, equal value, and equal rights. In order to achieve this end, those who have been discriminated against, via our ignorance or our prejudices, must be protected.  These individuals do not seek, or receive, extra consideration by gaining our protection, but rather they seek–and we must see they receive–equal consideration under the law.

I pray the Holy Spirit continues to work in our hearts. In the mean while, if you want the United States to reflect your religious views–practice them and it will.

 

Posted by: minnow | February 17, 2017

News Conference

On February 16, 2017 the President held a news conference supposedly to announce Alexander Acosta as his new pick for Labor Secretary in light of Puzder’s dropping out of the running.  He also hinted he had a replacement for Flynn but the ex-Navy Seal he asked, declined.

After his announcement about Acosta, the President decided he needed to malign the media, spending several minutes and making multiple jabs at the press through out the hour and a half “news” conference.  He seemed to be mostly obsessed with his version of  “fake new” getting a hold of real leaks and reporting what was said, when those conversations were supposed to be confidential, or was that classified, or maybe just not what the President wanted people to know. Yet, he assured us his administration is running smoothly. There aren’t any problems except that the bad media is getting information illegally and reporting it. Hmmmm…Smooth, Mr. President.  The information in the leaks which concerned  him the most regarded his ties to Russia and various staff members’ conversations with people connected to Putin.  In other words, he still insists Flynn was just doing his job even though 45 called for Flynn’s resignation.  Our Commander in Chief even tried to say while so far it’s only been little stuff, if the press leaked something important while he was dealing with, say North Korea, it would be really bad.  Of course, he neglected to mention having had a phone conversation about the North Korean security crisis while in a crowded dining room at Mar-a-Lago last weekend.  Oops.

More than once the President insisted he owns nothing in Russia, has no loans in Russia, and no deals with Russia.  He hasn’t got a deal, but he wants to make a deal with Russia which is why he hasn’t done anything in response to Russia’s spy ship off our coast, Russia’s testing of ballistic missiles, or the Russian aircraft which buzzed a US destroyer.  Evidently our President thinks Putin is afraid the climate in the US isn’t conducive to deal making, but the President really want to make that deal. His strategy for making this happen is to build Putin’s confidence in him by not reacting to Russia’s threats toward America and broken treaty agreements.  (I guess we’ll get the details later as to what that “deal” the president really wants to make might entail.  I suspect it might be spelled OIL.  The GOP did after all confirm Rex Tillerson).

In addition to continuing to call CNN fake news (because they report things he doesn’t want reported) and the New York Times a failing newspaper (despite their on-line subscriptions being the highest they’ve been since 2011), the President told more than a couple lies on Thursday. So, let’s fact check the news conference a little, shall we.

Beginning near the beginning, NO his was not the biggest electoral college margin since Reagan. 45’s margin is in fact 46th out of 58 elections.  His 304 votes puts him behind both Obama’s wins of 332 and 365, both Clinton’s wins of 370 and 379, and George HW Bush’s win of 426.  This man obviously cannot stand having others beat him.

The President’s insecurity might also explain why he bashed the media by claiming their approval ratings were lower than those of Congress. The truth is in the latest poll from Gallup Congress has a distrust factor of  55% while Newspapers and Television have a 36% and 40% distrust factor respectively.  It might also be worth noting that while the Rassmussen poll shows 45’s approval ratings at 55% 10 other polls (including FOX News) show him below 50%. Gallup weighed in at 38%.

45 told another whopper when he stated that Clinton gave Russia 20% of the United States’ uranium. It simply didn’t happen.  Russia bought a major stake in a Canadian company, Uranium One, which has mines in the United States. While Clinton was Secretary of State at the time, she was not personally on the panel that oversees the types of transaction as Uranium One.  It should further be pointed out, 20% of our uranium capacity is a far cry from 20% of our existing uranium.

Resuming an old theme of denigrating the courts in order to discredit them, the President repeated the falsehood that the 9th Circuit court has the highest number of overturned cases.  Both the 6th Circuit Court and the 11th Circuit Court have had higher records.  BUT, that’s not actually the point.  Most cases which go to appeal are overturned.  It’s part of the reason cases are appealed; if the likelihood is not high a case will be decided differently it doesn’t move to an appellate court.  Putting it into perspective a little further, the number of cases which see an appellate court are miniscule. Only 11 to 15 cases a year from the 9th Circuit Court, which sees approximately 12,000 cases annually, are accepted for appeal. (That’s .00125 percent of its cases).  45’s remarks are exaggerated for the sole purpose of creating an issue where there is none.

Finally, 45 bragged that no president before him has accomplished so much so quickly.  Perhaps  that’s because past presidents understood the difference between a democratic republic and an authoritarian regime.  Perhaps past presidents didn’t actually attempt rule by executive order.  And just maybe past presidents did have a lapdog Congress so drunk with their own power they were willing to pull the democracy right out from under the feet of the American people.

Posted by: minnow | February 7, 2017

Dear Republicans in Congress

I understand some of you may still be feeling giddy from your newly acquired power–the House, the Senate, the Executive Branch and soon the Judiciary.  You got it all! And the only thing you had to do to get all this power was lie a little or keep your mouths shut. I bet you hardly know what to do first now that you’ve won.  The possibilities are endless. Maybe you will decide to take the breaks off Wall Street.  Dismantle the Affordable Care Act, you know the healthcare plan you nicknamed Obamacare just to make it less palatable. Perhaps you will dissolve the EPA. Who needs clean air or water?  Flint has survived for years now without it. I bet one of the first things you do is sell off our public lands to the highest bidder.  Your “friends” with money will be able to get more oil and gas and coal that way.  Or, maybe you want to focus on gutting public education with a voucher system so only the rich can afford to be educated and the rest of us can keep populating the service industries and trades.  Oh, I know, your first big order of business will probably be to open the way to privatizing the penal system.  The for profit owners could even charge the inmates rent, thereby creating a permanent class of indentured servants.

Didn’t you think we could read between the lines?!  Americans aren’t stupid.  Despite career politicians treating us as if we are.  Our worst quality is that we had too much faith.  We trusted you who have made a career in politics to actually care about serving the common good. Most in your party who voted for the President did so because he promised to drain the swamp not fill it with alligators. But, thanks to YOUR leader your party has woken the cynic in your ranks. And, it has woken the realist, and the hard working activist on the left.  So, we are going back to our roots, to the place President Obama got his start.  And we will rise–one community activist at a time.

Progressives will rise because even though you have shown us now, by passing The President‘s cabinet picks–Flynn, Puzder, DeVos, Sessions, Tillerson, Zinke, Mnuchin, Mulvaney, Price, and Pruitt–that you have no interest in representing Americans or America’s interests, we have opened our eyes. We are tracking your votes.  We are following the money.  We know who and what you support.  And, WE DON’T LIKE IT!

So, before you completely destroy Her sovereignty, before you totally  decimate Her beauty, before you manage to gut Her of all Her compassion and liberty and justice  WE THE PEOPLE will organize.  We will fight.  And we will win. All those calls you tried to pawn off as robots, they were an awakened electorate. So take heed–we are not going to settle down.  We are not going to compromise with the devil.  We are not going to quietly fade into the background or be intimidated by your Bully. Comparisons of Your President to Hitler aside, America is not Germany in the 1930s.  History is our ally and we can learn from the past.  You may feel giddy with power right now but your glee will not last.  Yet, our passion for what is just and what is good will!

Posted by: minnow | January 29, 2017

To My Progressive Friends

I get it; I’m mad as hell and everything in me wants to break glass. If only doing so would achieve a purpose and not simply make a mess. {sigh}

I, too, did not understand women belittling other women for marching. And when someone suggested the resources it took to pull off the January 21st Women’s March could have been better allocated, I was incensed. How dare they!  We were marching for every woman! even those who CHOSE to remain ignorant.  Just a couple days later, I heard myself lamenting the annual waste of resources by the Right to Life March and their continuous support for GOP candidates who say the right thing but who make laws and policies which burden the already burdened poor, single parents, unwed pregnant women, etc. When I heard myself doing the very thing I was so frustrated by the other side for doing I started thinking…I must find a way to connect with those who do not see what I see because until a larger portion of this nation stands up for freedom and justice for all we will be lost.  The disenfranchised, the ignorant, and even the vilified do not trust that government or even other Americans care about their pain.

I understand how difficult this sounds–they don’t want to understand–they’re burring their heads in the sand–if it isn’t hurting them, they don’t care–If they can’t see how evil this is they’re blind OR WORSE.  Educating the masses seems impossible especially when those in control are doing their best to discredit the media and blur the facts.  Taking time out to build relationships with and share our lives with people who don’t want to change seems unreasonable especially when there is so much else going on.  But we must keep trying. We must find and then build on our common values.

Believe me, you are not alone in your frustration and anger. I, too, have felt overwhelmed by the unending assaults of Trump and his minions. I have seen post after post warning about the coming days.  And, the next day it is worse than I imagined the day before. I’ve read and sympathize with the hundreds of FB posts decrying the danger and insanity of it all.  We all feel powerless at times. This is not my America.  I don’t recognize her. And, I often feel helpless to keep up with the onslaught, the attack of the values and beliefs I have held my whole life! But that’s just it–I am not ready to let go of those beliefs and values.  I am not ready to let my nation be overrun by the greedy self-interest of a few men at the top. I am angry and I will not go down without a fight.

Even though unqualified people  have been selected to run Trump’s cabinet despite the tireless efforts of people like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Saunders to expose their lack of experience, conflict of interest, and ill intentions, we cannot quit.  Even though his executive orders threaten to wreck havoc on not only the United States but the world we cannot surrender our convictions.  The moral conscious of our nation is at stake. The key is staying connected, making new connections, and celebrating every victory. At the same time, if we do not hold our outrage in check, if we give in to the temptations of petty name calling or blaming the other we risk become filled with the very thing we are struggling against–hatred and fear toward the other.

So in the spirit of celebrating our victories I want to share a recent story.  Shortly after Trump’s ban of Muslim immigrants, protesters showed up at Kennedy airport to demand the previously vetted refugees be allowed to stay. And last night (1/28), Judge Ann Donnelly blocked part of Trump’s order.  We are indeed stronger together.  Additionally, the attention brought to the President’s ban by the protestors brought to light Trump’s well documented conflict of interest. While the president has no business dealings in the seven countries he banned, he has business dealing with several countries not on the list including the EAU, Egypt, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. The fact that the banned countries have not threatened the US with terrorist attacks in over 25 years where as the countries not on Trump’s list have been part of US terrorist attacks is sure to be problematic.

I know what I ask is mammoth. Building relationship with with people who do not think the way we do and not giving into the despair inherent in such efforts will take courage and determination–a strength of character which will be challenged at every turn.  But remember we stand on the right side of history and in the end it is history that will tell our story.  When my grandchildren and great grandchildren learn about this time in history I want there to be no doubt in their minds as to which side I stood.

 

Can we be honest about the presidential election a moment? And I don’t mean can we look at the facts and then look at the “alternative facts” as if “alternative facts” are equally valid or anything other than a lie. “Alternative facts are NOT valid.  They are not facts they are lies.  Facts do not come with multiple choice options.

FACT, Trump did not score an electoral landslide. His win ranked 46th out of the 56 elections listed in the electoral college records. He lost the popular vote by over 2.5 million. And NO evidence has emerged to support his claims of voter fraud despite his continuous obsession. We do however have evidence showing Russia interfered with the election, evidence FBI Director Comey sat on until his hand was forced post-election. We also know Comey made a statement that “more Clinton related e-mails” were discovered and would be investigated. Not surprisingly, his announcement damaged Clinton’s campaign and the e-mails in question were duplicates. Collusion? I hope we find out, but doubt the investigation ordered by President Obama will be continued.

PROBLEM # 1--The transition of power occurred and the powers that be, with a few notable exceptions, seem more than willing to muck around in the swamp with Trump no matter how ridiculous or dangerous he becomes.  Case in point, Monday night in a meeting with Republicans and Democrats, Trump claimed he won the popular vote had it not been for voter fraud. Tuesday, Trump’s mouthpiece to the press, Sean Spicer without any evidence repeated the claim. And when asked, Rep. King of Iowa and Senator McConnell from Kentucky, both Republicans, refused to denounce the claim, instead leaving open the idea he might have information they didn’t have.  The lone voice of reason from the GOP, Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, suggested (much more politely of course) that Trump put up or shut up.  Perhaps in response to the Senator, but more likely because Trump hates to lose or maybe because he needed a distraction from a more sinister plan, Trump tweeted on Wednesday he would ask for a “major investigation”.

PROBLEM # 2.–The implication of the investigation is clear.  If government shows concern, even fake concern, for “fair” elections, it can more easily control who votes and who doesn’t.  Since 2006  when Indiana implemented the first voter ID laws 35 other states have followed suit.  Trump’s current whining about unverified fraud paves the way for more states to jump on the voter ID bandwagon.

But, isn’t avoiding fraud a good thing? Of course. But here’s the catch, voter ID laws only monitor in-person voter fraud which is the rarest form of fraud.  Between 2003 and 2005 only 9 people were accused nation wide of in-person voter fraud and only 5 were found guilty.  Additionally, voter ID laws are more burdensome for the poor and elderly thus suppress the vote in those demographics.  Ironically, since Trump called attention to “duel registration” as part of the problem, his daughter, Tiffany, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, were each found to be duel registered.  But remember: duel registration is not illegal–voting twice is.

PROBLEM # 3.--Trump uses tweets to obsess about seemingly silly matters.  It is a distraction technique he has mastered. And, we need to recognize it when its happening so we can look to see what else may be going on.  So, what emerged this week that hasn’t gotten as much attention?

Several executive orders have come from Trump’s desk with promises for more. Early in the week Trump put a gag order on the EPA and several other agencies.  He cut federal funding to sanctuary cities and set aside government funds to build a wall on our southern border. There was also talk of collecting a border tax to help pay for it. He reinstated the Mexico City Policy or Global Gag Rule. And, he issued a memorandum to the Commerce Secretary to review federal regulations in order to streamline and expedite manufacturing permits.  Trump put a freeze on all federal hires and asked for the resignation of nearly all the top State Department officials. He also signed an order removing all the roadblocks to the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline.  (Can you say conflict of interest). Still, the first thing he did this week was to void President Obama’s Mortgage cost reduction plan which would have helped low income and first-time home owners. His very first action was to take a direct shot at America’s working class.

PROBLEM #4–brings us somewhat full circle.  Trump and his spokesmen continue to criticize, contradict, and vilify the press.  Their behavior serves two purposes.  Operating on the theory “if you repeat a lie often enough people will believe you” the King of the Birther Movement has perfected the art of lying.  Backed by Conway, Spicer, and Bannon, Trump will continue to single out legitimate news sources, like CNN, by calling them fake news whenever they paint him in a less than flattering light or whenever they report on truths he doesn’t want covered.

Secondly, by criticizing legitimate news sources, and calling them the “opposition party”as Trump’s chief strategist did on Wednesday, Trump and his team feed distrust, confusion, and fear.  Fanning these fires got Trump elected and he’s counting on it to increase our vulnerability and his power.

But, the FREE PRESS is NOT the opposition.  Facts and information are essential to a thriving democracy.  The only need a president has for shutting down the free press is to acquire more power and hide his true agenda. When a President threatens to show his might and send federal troops into a city the day after the mayor of that city was critical of the president (like Trump did this week with Chicago) warning bells should be clanging in your ears.  Trump and his cohorts must be monitored and we need a free press willing to ask the hard questions and go after the real answers if we are going to protect our freedom and this democracy.  

Posted by: minnow | January 25, 2017

Where to from Here

Today the crisp January air was invigorating. I enjoyed–enjoyed–multiple games of mini-table tennis with my youngest daughter over the weekend.  We laughed.  Her playful exaggerations and animated behavior FAILED to overwhelm me. Yet, two days before that I could not have made this statement.  I wouldn’t have noticed the sky or the air.  I probably wouldn’t have even gone through the motions of playing with my daughter.  And I most certainly would have gotten annoyed by her fake-drama if I had.  SO what changed?

Friday (1/20), my grayest day since the election, Trump was inaugurated.  But Saturday, Saturday my world regained its color.  And today, today the sky was a delicious, perfect blue, the kind of blue you doubt when you see it in a photograph the hue is so intense.  But, Trump is still president, so what changed?  Saturday January 21st Women Marched.  And, they weren’t alone. Men, children, and people who identify as non-binary joined them.  I even saw dogs carrying signs.  Hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands of people swarmed to Washington DC, state capitols, and major cities throughout the US. People from remote locations joined those marchers via social media. And all around the world more and more gathered together to show their solidarity and their concern.

Until the March I had felt numb, emotionally drained and mentally in a fog. At first, I vacillated between rage and helplessness and later fell into doubt and fear.  I wasn’t sure how to keep going, what I needed to do, if I could actually get up, go to work, and talk to people. I consumed more hours of Angry Birds than I care to admit wrestling with what a Trump presidency meant. Even though my personal world had not changed, my safe spaces felt suspect. I didn’t know who I could talk to without becoming angry, without offending someone, without falling apart. I wanted to find somewhere to hide but there was no place insulated enough.

In his Memoire, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl described his experiences during the Holocaust.  After describing how much was lost by each of his fellow prisoners–their possessions, their clothing, their hair, their traditions, their names, he told his readers,

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way…

Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstances, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.

Obviously my circumstances are not nearly as bleak as Frankl’s yet, his words still ring true.  I can choose my attitude toward my circumstances and toward my future.  I have control of this one thing.  After the election, across the country, people were shocked by the results of the election. Some, including me, experienced depression or grief.  Personally, I felt like something had been stolen from me and I didn’t know how to get back.  It took me 73 days to realize what it was, 73 days to recognize IT wasn’t taken from me; I had let it go.  It sounds corny to call the thing HOPE and VISION but essentially that is what I had abandoned.

A political blogger throughout the election, I should have been excited to go to the Women’s March at my capitol.  It was barely an hour’s drive.  But, I couldn’t make myself do it.  I didn’t dare risk getting home after the march and sinking further into the hole that seemed to be swallowing me. I was afraid by temporarily feeling buoyed by like minded souls only to return to my little rural town where there are so few democrats I haven’t dared to talk politics with anyone face to face. I was afraid I would be buried under the isolation and dread I had been feeling so intensely. So, I opted for the computer screen.  After all, I could always turn to Angry Birds if thinking about the next four years became too oppressive.

As I watched and listened my mind began to thaw.

The more I heard, the more I understood–even though I may be isolated in a small town in a red state literally millions of people across this country and throughout the world are out there with me. People.  Standing.  United. Since Saturday I watched Day One turn into Day Two and Day Three as a movement begins to unfold.  People did not return to their communities and fall back into their same old routines.  They, WE, got organized, remembered we have the numbers, and emerged determined to have a voice.  TODAY, you can join the movement.

If this is all new to you, here are a few things you can begin to do right now:

  1. Make a list. Find out who represents you at the state level, what party they belong to, and how to contact them. Keep this list on or near your computer and/or phone.
  2. Do the same for your federal representatives.
  3. Pick 2-3 issues YOU care about.  They don’t have to be the most important issue to anyone but you.  Follow what happens in these areas and keep track of how your representatives votes when bills come up concerning them.
  4. Call your representatives’ offices BEFORE important votes to tell them how you expect them to represent your interests.  Feel free to start slowly and increase your activity as you feel more comfortable.
  5. Pick a candidate you can support and volunteer once a month to help them.  Or attend a city council or school board meeting once a month.
  6. Finally, CONSIDER RUNNING FOR OFFICE YOURSELF.

We can make our voices heard. We can choose the mindset with which we face the future.  Today, I choose HOPE.

 

 

Posted by: minnow | January 16, 2017

A Lesson from Dr. King

In his final address, I Have Been to the Mountain Top, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, had God asked him in which era he would want to live he would have passed over each time period right up until his own and he would have land right there. With a reputation for focusing on racial divides, King was in Memphis at the time to support the striking sanitation workers, having recently turned his attention toward what he understood was an even deeper divider of men–poverty. The next day Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
I do not know if I could agree with Dr. King’s choice of when to live. I am not sure I would want to know how greed and fear has held us, since his death, in such slow motion that at times we seem to be racing backwards. In his address, King reminded his listeners that, “whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it…He kept the slaves fighting among themselves.” Then King urged his audience, “Now let us maintain unity.” I believe, had he lived, Dr. King would have broadened his sphere of advocacy and influence to include not only Black America but poor hispanic America and poor white America as well.  I could be wrong, but as Martin Luther King gave his speech that day in Memphis to people getting ready to march in support of better pay and better treatment of the mostly Black sanitation workers, I believe his eyes were focused on a fight they had not yet imagined, a struggle which would require people of color to link arms with white people, people of one faith to stand shoulder to shoulder with people of another faith, straight people to hold hands with people in the LGBT communities, a battle King believed was right around the corner but as it turns out was over fifty years in the future, the injustice of growing income inequality plaguing America today.
The haves, the wealthiest 1% in America, are doing everything in their power to hold on to their power.   And so far so good. Leading into the most recent election, they managed to keep the rest of us fighting among ourselves, fearful of one another instead of them.  They used the fear of lost jobs and a disappearing way of life to fuel distrust, even hatred toward people who do not look like “us”, pray like “us”, or love like “us” despite the fact “they” are more like us than the people holding the pursestrings.  Those in control let us believe and at times lead us to believe undocumented workers, refugees, and immigrants are stealing our jobs, when in fact, most manufacturing jobs have been lost to automation and will never “come back”.  But, the tough talk worked.  We elected a bully and his gang without understanding that “we”–all of us together who do not belong to the 1%–are the only ones on the playground the Bully now controls.
The majority in the House and the majority in the Senate are poised to undo every safety net that has ever been built for the poor, the  working class, and women. They plan to deregulate banks and undo environmental protections.  The Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare) is already in process of being dismantled and women’s healthcare via Planned Parenthood defunded.  If Trump’s pick for Sec. of Education has her way, funding for public education will be siphoned off and land in the pockets of private education instead.  Civil rights including voting rights seem to be on the chopping block.  The guarantees of the first amendment to free speech, the right to assemble, and a free press exist now under the shadow of an oppressor’s hand.
As Americans–Black, White, Native American, Muslim, Christian, Gay and Straight, Americans of all shapes, colors, creeds, genders, and age groups–the time has come to muster our courage and heed the wise council of Dr. King, “Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis.”  It has been nearly 53 years since Martin Luther King delivered his I’ve Been to the Mountain Top speech. 53 years. Today (1/16) we celebrate more than the man.  We celebrate his achievements, his wisdom, and perhaps most importantly, given the event that is scheduled in just four short days, his vision.
When he spoke to those who had gathered with him to support striking union workers and to engage in a peaceful protest for justice, for truth, for equality, and for human dignity, I believe he was also speaking to us, this day, as we face an uncertain future.  In the words of Dr. King:
Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness…Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.
Let us not allow King’s challenge to pass unanswered. We must bind our hearts and futures together if we are to overcome fear and replace it with courage, thwart the power of greed and substitute the potency of generosity, defeat the emptiness of hate and distrust and exchange it for the fulness of compassion.  The time is long over due to finish the work King started in Memphis.
Posted by: minnow | December 29, 2016

Dear Trump Supporters

Josh Moon tries to explain Trump supporters in his column from the Alabama Political Reporter saying, “we in Alabama – in a number of conservative strongholds across America – have somehow started confusing bravado with actual strength.”  Bullies, like Trump, and make no mistake BULLY assesses his character perfectly, not only mask their insecurities through big talk and little forethought, they attract others who are equally insecure and who do not want their fragility found out.

Secure people don’t look like Trump and his supporters. They don’t hate other people.  They don’t blame other people or groups for their own lack of success.  They don’t continually draw attention to their resumes.  They don’t need to tell others they are strong, or capable, or smart.  Secure people simply are who they are.  They do the work in front of them and others, out of admiration, point out their strengths and successes, use them as role models, and follow their lead.

Frankly, I no longer care WHY you supported Trump.  I do still care about what he and his unqualified, band of bullies plan and whether or not the equally inept Congress will help them beat up the Nation or hold them accountable.

These  people’s are Trump’s best for the nation.

Steve Bannon is Trump’s chief White House strategist.  Before signing on with Trump in August, Bannon was the executive chairman of Breitbart News Network. Bannon himself labeled it “a platform for the alt-right”.  If you are unfamiliar with the alt-right think of the white supremacists and anti-feminist in suits and ties.  Their latest hate vehicle–social media.

Rex Tillerson is his pick for Secretary of State.  Tillerson has been cozy with Russia for 2 decades. Putin awarded him Russia’s Order of Friendship in 2013.  As the CEO of Exxon Mobil, his oil dealing with Russia are currently blocked by U.S. sanctions against Russia which were left in place just last month because Russia refused to agree to a cease fire against the Ukraine.

For Attorney General, Trump picked Jeff Sessions.  In 1986 he was deemed too racist to be a judge.  He is anti-immigration and thinks the only bad thing about the KKK is they smoke marijuana. As AG, he will provide the president with legal advice and determines what legal cases the federal government pursues.

Trump tapped Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA. Ironically, EPA stands for the Environmental PROTECTION Agency.  Pruitt has received over $300,000 in contributions from gas, oil, and coal companies.  He currently has a law suit pending against EPA.  Can you say–conflict of interest?

Ryan Zinke* is Trump’schoice for Secretary of the Interior.  Charged with protecting public lands Zinke’s dismal track record caring about the environment seems par for the course for Trump.  Zinke favors fracking, for example, and stands against the Endangered Species Act. He received a 3% favorable mark from the League of Conservation Voters. That’s an F folks.  (*If you read the article, also read the first comment).

Betsy DeVos never taught in, went to, or sent her children to public school, yet she is Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education.  DeVos tried for years to funnel public money to private education in Michigan and will undoubtedly do the same as Trump’s flunky.  She has fought teacher’s unions for years believing teachers should not have the right to protest.  No wonder some believe she is public education’s enemy #1!

A retired neurosurgeon, Ben Carson, Trump’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development pick, described himself as not  experienced enough to run the Department of Health and Human Services. Yet, somehow childhood poverty qualifies him to run HUD.

Trump’s pick for the Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, not only wants to abolish the ACA, he plans to cut Medicare benefits–you know the tax you paid into for years, that isn’t connected to the budget, is self sustaining, and covers your health care after you retire.  He also believes insurance companies shouldn’t be required to cover birth control and is anti-abortion rights. Price is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, not to be confused with the larger and more reputable AMA. The group Price champions is responsible for spreading medically questionable information like: immunizations cause autism.

Though some believed his promise to drain the swamp, Trump’s former financial advisor, Steve Mnuchin, is his pick for Secretary of Treasury. Prior to jumping on board the Trump cruise ship Mnuchin both worked for Goldman Sachs and was CEO of Dune Capital Management, a hedge fund. Trump and Mnuchin are alike in some ways–both made their first million through inheritance, have had business dealings plagued by racial discrimination accusations, and could be the poster child for the 1% who have taken from the 99%.

Michael Flynn, Trump’s chosen National Security Advisor was fired as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency after only two years.  He has shared security information with foreign countries without permission and is extremely anti-Muslim.  Like his boss, he is impatient and outspoken, not risks our national security can afford.

As a final example of Trump’s picks, Andy Puzder his nominee for Labor Secretary is described by Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project, Christian Owens, as the least suited person for the job. Owens contends, “Puzder will be there for his low-wage-industry CEO buddies, who are now salivating over the prospect of rolling back the Obama administration’s efforts to raise pay for low-wage workers, improve workplace safety, and increase corporate accountability.” Clearly, Puzder won’t be there for the American worker.

The net worth of Trump’s groupies is $4.5 billion dollars plus, a 60% increase over the cabinet they will replace.  Instead of draining the swamp, Trump has filled it with alligators.  So dear Trump supporters, when good paying jobs don’t return from China and you must choose between working for less due to “Right to Work” laws or having the plant close; when Obamacare is repealed and your premiums–the insurance companies raised to begin with–go up again to make up their lost revenue and you suddenly can’t afford your prescriptions and your previous medical condition won’t be covered; when your children’s schools can’t afford new technology, books, or building repairs and teachers are no longer willing to subsidize their students’ education materials with their own dwindling paychecks, when your sons and daughters are sent to war because our president couldn’t keep his tweets to himself or we must protect “our oil” (in someone else’s country) or “we’re gonna show those blankity-blank-blanks they can’t tell the U. S. what to do”, remember you elected this Bully because he was going to Make America Great Again. His failure does not need to be yours.  You are not stuck choosing bravado over truth and integrity. Real strength, Alligator wrestling strength, will be needed if we are going to take America back from the Bullies.

 

 

Posted by: minnow | December 25, 2016

Happy Chanukah!

Posted by: minnow | December 17, 2016

I Do Not Believe

That’s not a very popular thing to say this time of year.  As a little girl learning Santa and the Easter Bunny weren’t real changed my perspective.  One Easter Mom simply made the announcement: the Easter Bunny wasn’t coming to our house any more.  I didn’t believe her. So, Easter morning I got up and hunted for treats in all the usual places, but Mom was correct; he’d quit coming.  I probably already knew the Easter Bunny and Santa were Mom and Dad but my spirit was bruised a little anyway. Santa still showed up the following December (Mom was a bigger fan of the Christmas traditions than the Easter ones ), but the season had lost its magic.

As a parent, I wanted the joys of the holidays to last for my children. I also was against intentionally lie to them.  So, I told my children lots of stories about Santa.   We enjoyed secretly filling stockings on Christmas Eve and hiding eggs for Easter morning. Our fun lasted well beyond the time our children might have quit “believing”.  In fact, all the way to adulthood my children filled one another’s stockings in secret and took turns wearing a Santa or elf hat to hand out presents Christmas morning.  But, this post isn’t actually about the pros and cons of telling your children Santa is real.  It isn’t even about childhood disappointments though that comes a little closer.

The truth is, a foundation from my childhood has been pulled out from under me and I feel like I’m toppling over.  I’m not talking about a childhood fairytale most children simply grow out of believing as they mature, like Santa Claus. I’m talking about my faith in America.  A fundamental piece of my identity has crumbled and I don’t know how to stand straight anymore.  Those who stand up straight are usually proud of something, confidant, and ready to face the day. I don’t feel at all ready and I am certainly not proud.

I was taught though she has faults America was basically good.  We were birthed during a revolution to end tyranny.  We stood against a monarch who saw tax revenues instead of people.  Brother battled brother to preserve a Union and to free the slaves.  We joined our friends in Europe and defeated Hitler and the Nazis, madness and fascism.  We lost JFK, and King, and Bobby, but the Civil Rights Act was passed, and the Voting Rights Act was passed, and separate but equal was debunked. We resisted communism, saw a wall come down, and the break up of the U.S.S.R. When America witnessed oppression, discrimination, and intolerance she put on her white hat and went to the rescue.  We were the beacon of freedom and justice for all.  Even if it meant doing battle with ourselves, as a nation we banded together, looked to the greater good, the truth that would serve the whole, and righted the wrong.  That was the America I believed would prevail, the America I trusted, the America I pledged my allegiance to.  That was the America of my childhood.  But today that America stands broken, like me, she looks to be toppling over.

After 50 plus years of believing in a dream, I have woken up. What I’ve awakened to is not a good nation with flaws we can overcome by majority rule or by ignoring them as we’ve done in the past, but rather a fragile framework which depends entirely on the good character of her people, including her leadership but not exclusively, to function as she was designed to function.  If we the people are not willing to stand for more than our own self interests, if we the people are not willing to see the “other” as deserving, if we the people are not willing to look in the mirror and be repulsed by the greed, the bigotry, and the fear staring back at us, if we the people are not willing to do the work to change what is wrong, our national integrity–that which is good–will not survive.

Before Trump, I could tell myself we were taking steps in the right direction. Small steps to be sure, and for those waiting to be recognized painfully slow steps, but steps never the less.  Today, the veil has been ripped.  The election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence followed by Trump’s assault via advisors and cabinet picks on the principles and values I thought were American makes it impossible to believe anyone but the very wealthy will benefit from a future America.

The religious right and the white working class who supported Trump are in for a rude awakening. Deals like Trump’s Carrier bribe will provide some camouflage, but until Americans are working for nothing like their overseas competition, the working class will continue to loose ground in terms of jobs.  As more Unions are broken, wages will freeze.  Re-training programs will stagnate or never materialize.  The safety nets for the unemployed will disappear and those young enough will likely be funneled into the military or turn to crime.  Privatized prisons will provided an unpaid labor force, the new indentured servants.  NGO’s, including religious organizations, will be expected to pick up the slack in order to care for the poor and disabled. And, while Donald Trump will placate the religious right as long as it benefits him to do so, his current alliance should not be misunderstood as a submissive embrace.  Trump submits to no one, including God.

The biggest difference between Trump’s America and Hitler’s Germany is: America’s military has nukes and we already spend several times more on our military than our closest adversary, which until recent events was Russia.  With regard to our Second Amendment rights, I’ve always said our guns are no match  for the fire power of our own government.  Today I will add, do not be surprised if it’s a President Trump who decides who can own a gun and who cannot.

THIS is not my America. But all too soon, it could be the nation in which I live.  I pray I am wrong.

 

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