Posted by: minnow | June 22, 2019

These Camps by Any Other Name Still Stink

AOC’s use of the term Concentration Camp is accurate–whether defined by Merriam-Webster or by history. What we need to remember is the mass murder of Jews and other undesirable groups in WW II concentration camps (which is the association the GOP and others don’t want us to make) was deemed the “final solution”. Sadly, the United States might just be getting started. Although we may not like the perception, America has become (if we weren’t all along) a country that is quite capable of severely inhumane treatment of INNOCENT people. And whether or not we like that self perception we aren’t going to solve the problem by quibbling over semantics.

What matters most are the deplorable conditions and treatment children receive in these facilities. While alarm bells have rung over recent deaths of children in these detention centers, immigrant deaths is not exactly a new problem. According to the Nation more people died in fiscal year 2017 than in any single year since 2009. In February, The New York Times reported that the Justice Department received more than 4500 complaints of sexual assault in the last four years alone, with an increase noted since 45’s policy to forcefully separate children from their parents. Additionally, Newsweek reported this week (6/20/19) that the current administration actually insisted it is not part of their job to provide immigrant children with basic hygiene products, like soap and toothbrushes, and sleeping on cold cement floors is adequate care. According to a Wall Street Journal article from October 2018, “It costs about $750 a day per child to keep children in such emergency shelters, according to government data. The average permanent shelter spends about $250 a day per child.” Think about that for a moment. The government is paying someone between $250 and $750 dollars a day per child–let me say that again, between  $250 and $750 dollars a day per child–to house children, yet can’t even provide them with a toothbrush! But yeah, don’t call them concentration camps because that, um, might conjure a negative image.

Well here is a negative image to try and get out of your head–A 17 year old mother and her premature baby were discovered by an advocacy group at the McAllen processing facility instead of in a hospital. Or this–A 2017 report on sexual assault and physical abuse in DHS component agencies indicates that while there were 33,126 complaints between 2010 and the time of the report only 570 were investigated. Or, this:

Related image

Children being held in cages under armed guards. PHOTO FROM WASHINGTON ENGLISH CENTER

To be clear–if this behavior existed under President Obama, or any other president, then that was wrong and we should have addressed the issue a lot soon. But, who started it really isn’t the problem now. THE PROBLEM IS children are being forcefully separated from their parents at our borders. The problem is children are being held in cages, not getting the medical care they need, and are not kept safe. The problem is how we treat these children causes long term trauma. The problem is the government is having difficulty reuniting parents and children. The problem is drugs are not being stopped, gangs are not being stopped, and other criminal activity is not being stopped; children and families are being stopped. The problem is for profit facilities are making a hell of a lot of money to do the bare minimum and they are doing the bare minimum badly.

Obviously, the United States needs a comprehensive immigration policy overhaul. However, the likelihood that will happen under the current administration is next to nil. Even so, you SHOULD be calling or emailing your Congress men and women to register your complaint about the current situation. Humanitarian legislation is currently being considered in both the House and the Senate. One of these stop gap measures must be passed. Your Representative and Senators need to know you’re appalled by the conditions being reported and that their lack of action will bite them in the butt later. We also need to start working NOW to replace this administration and the members of Congress who continually obstruct attempts to address the HUMANITARIAN problem at our border.

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Posted by: minnow | June 20, 2019

If Not Now–When?

At 20%, Congressional approval ratings are in the toilet. The public sees Congress as not caring about the American people, unable to solve the problems the country faces, and more interested in playing politics than doing its jobs. Some will tell you that it doesn’t matter who is in control. They point to Obama first two years as president when Democrats controlled everything and plainly state Congress didn’t get anything done then either. However, perceptions are not always the same as reality–and the newest members of the House want you, the American public, to take a closer look.

The House is passing legislation. While media has been focused on “will they or won’t they Impeach”, the House has tried to protect preexisting conditions in healthcare, lower prescription drug prices, take care of veterans, save net neutrality, establish background checks for gun purchases, provide disaster relief, protect public lands, and pass the Equal Pay Act. Bills addressing these issues and more languish in the Senate gathering dust on the Senate Majority Leader’s desk. Meanwhile, McConnell and company ram conservative justices down the throat of the judiciary. 45 saw his 100th nominee confirmed the last week of April.

So with the 2020 election seemingly around the corner what should we do? Obviously the presidential race will receive the most media coverage. The first primary debates are scheduled for June 26 and 27. Elizabeth Warren will be the headliner for the first night, with Cory Booker and Beto O’Rourke nipping at her heels. Biden, Sanders, and Buttigieg will vie for top spot on night two, but Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand will make certain the ladies are not left out. This match up might mean fewer people watch night one compared to night two but it could also mean Warren establishes herself as the front runner to beat since Biden will no doubt spend at least part of his night in defense mode. WATCH BOTH DEBATES! Pay attention to what candidates actually say and figure out what resonates with the viewers. If we want to change the way Washington does its job–and we should–we must get involved NOW.  Armchair politicking works just about as well as armchair quarterbacking.

Although the top spot generally garners the most attention and what happens presidentially influences elections up and down the ballot, changing Congress will change Washington.  Shortly after the mid-term election, Five Thirty Eight‘s election analyst Nathaniel Rakich spent a little time predicting the future concluding it will continue to be an uphill battle for Democrats in 2020. 2016 proved running against 45 will not be enough for a presidential candidate to win. And it won’t be enough for a congressional candidate either! We must champion men and women who actually want to represent the people and who take key issues–healthcare, climate change, getting big money out of politics, immigration, and criminal justice reform–seriously!  We must elect these people and we must insist they keep their word!

Obviously, we cannot track every race or donate to every candidate that needs help. So find out who your Representative is and if your Senator is up for election. Do what needs to be done in those elections to elect the most progressive candidate possible. Below are lists of Representatives and Senators who are considered at risk. If your candidate appears on these lists that is where you should focus your time and resources. If not, consider helping a candidate from another state and on election day and the days running up to the election work to get out the vote.

Every member of the House is up for re-election. Several Democrats are considered vulnerable. Once the primaries are decided, these races need to be fiercely defended. Incumbents for these races include: Finkenhnauer in Iowa, Golden in Maine, Kim in New Jersey, Small in New Mexico, Rose, Brindisi, and Delgado in New York, Horn in Oklahoma, Cunningham in South Carolina, and McAdams in Utah. Fewer Republican seats appear to be vulnerable and must be vigorously challenged. These include: Woodall’s in Georgia, Bacon’s in Nebraska, Fitzpatrick’s in Pennsylvania, Hurd’s in Texas, and an open seat in North Carolina.

These Republican Senate seats are up for election: Mitch McConnell (KY), Lindsey Graham (SC), Thom Tillis (NC), Lamar Alexander (TN), Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Susan Collins (ME), Bill Cassidy (LA), John Cornyn (TX), Tom Cotton (AR), Steve Daines (MT), Mike Enzi (WY), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Cory Gardner (CO), Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS), James Inhofe (OK), Martha McSally (AZ), David Perdue (GA), James Risch (ID), Pat Roberts (KS), Mike Rounds (SD), Ben Sasse (NB), and Dan Sullivan (AK). Alexander, Enzi, and Roberts announced they are not running for re-election which means Tennessee, Wyoming, and Kansas will have two “new” candidates to choose from. According to John Isaacs, writing for the Council for a Livable World, incumbents Doug Jones from Alabama is the most vulnerable Democrat and Cory Gardner of Colorado is the most vulnerable Republican. In addition, seats in Maine, North Carolina, and Iowa could also be turned blue. Additionally, Democrat Tom Udall of New Mexico is retiring so even though it is traditionally a blue state Republicans may focus some attention there as it’s considered open.

Congress’ 20% approval rating is OUR FAULT! We haven’t held our representatives accountable. We haven’t replaced the do-nothings with visionaries and problem solvers. And, 46% of those who could vote, haven’t voted! 2020 is our chance to change that fact! The time has come to prove there is no longer a magic middle in American politics. We have those who work for the wealthy–for big banks and CEOs who made million dollar bonuses after American taxpayers bail them out of trouble and for corporate giants who get away with paying no taxes despite billions in profits–and those who work for the rest of us, who see America as something better and more valuable than the profit margin for stockholders. But, we need the discouraged and disenfranchised to renew their strength and get to work. You can be that someone in 2020!

Posted by: minnow | June 17, 2019

Mourning

I woke up to heartbreaking news Saturday morning–both at a personal level and on a national scale. My friends’ trans daughter/niece was taken by suicide. I do not know what precipitated the suicide, if this kind and sensitive young woman had been assaulted or bullied, if she was tired of carrying the enormous weight of the current political and social climate in the US, or if she wrestled with a health issue, like depression. I do know any one of those options could be the case and the grief felt by her family and those who knew her would still be as deep. As for the other news, it seems Rev. Patrick Boyle was allowed to pretend he speaks for God while instead spreading hate at the “Make America Straight Again” New Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church conference in Orlando, Florida. Boyle’s type of preaching contributes to the toxic atmosphere rising in our country today. And, it’s really no surprise people are dying because of it.

I remember wondering, when I studied the Holocaust in high school, how it was possible for the people of Germany to be so callous. How could they watch while their friends and neighbors were rounded up, crammed into ghettos, later sent to concentration camps, and eventually murdered? But the truth is we don’t have to look far to find similar situations beginning to occur in America, right now. I’m not the first to make this comparison. Eye witnesses point to our southern border and cry out for the madness there to stop. We are caging children, ripping them away from their parents, and allowing them to die. Understanding how the holocaust happened in Germany is truly no longer difficult. The truth is, our own behavior before and during World War II is nothing to brag about. We did not begin to care about the Jews until pictures of emaciated survivors, piles of gassed bodies, and mass graves started showing up after the war. The truth is, our own lack of compassion turned asylum seekers away back then just like we are doing now, only back then we didn’t separate the children from their parents first.

Just like the Jews were not the only targeted group in pre-World War II Germany, the people  begging for refuge at our southern borders, while perhaps the most visible as far as the media is concerned, are not the only people at risk in the United States. POC, non-Christians–especially Muslims, and those in LGBTQ communities are also singled out for attack. Our own president uses vile names to refer to the refugee families at our border in order to dehumanize them. POC are accosted in public, sometimes by law enforcement but more often by ignorant white people embolden by the bigots they listen to. Right wing religious voices, like Patrick Boyle, Robert Jeffress, Franklin Graham, and James Dobson, routinely portray LGBTQ people as evil, dangerous, and even undeserving of life. All these leaders enflame their followers to hate and refuse to take responsibility for the violent results.

As people’s lives are threatened, as their security and freedom is whittled away by fear turned to anger and hatred, the name of God is sullied. While the Church remains silent, children are dying in cages. While the Church remains silent unarmed POC are shot down in the street by “peace” officers. While the Church remains silent LGBTQ people are assaulted, denied services, lose their jobs, rejected by their families, and ejected from the military. While the Church remains silent worshipers are shot in their mosques and their synagogues. While the Church remains silent, voices of hate lift up the name of God, spew their venomous rhetoric about these others, and pound new nails into the feet and hands of Christ. I do not understand the god they proclaim–it is surly not my God. But even more pressing–I do not understand the silence of the Church. And I cannot let silence have the final word.

Advocates for reform, like Martin Luther King, Tammy Baldwin, Elie Wiesel, Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, and the list goes on realized–realize–that silence is deadly. Silence allows evil to exist, to grow, and to gain power. Silence makes room for and contributes to trauma and destruction. Silence serves the tyrant and leaves the oppressed vulnerable. Some are beginning to stand up and be heard. An openly gay man and several people of color are running for president as Democrats. A few voices within the Church, like Rev. William Barber, John Pavlovitz, and Nadia Boles Weber, are beginning to break the silence. But if hate is going to be drowned out, If the redemptive love of God is to be lifted up, we must add to their numbers.

 

 

Posted by: minnow | May 27, 2019

Memorial Day

I’m one of the lucky few. All the soldiers I have known who went to war have come home. Far too many people cannot say that. MEMORIAL DAY remembers those who made the sacrifice of their lives so that we might know liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those who made it home deserve our respect and our care but this day, MEMORIAL DAY, is to honor the fallen.

As you encounter veterans today please recognize that this day may be especially difficult for them. They may be remembering friends and family members who did not make it home. Some may be suffering survivors guilt as a result. America has been engaged in war for 147  of her 243 years as a nation. That’s well over half of her existence. During these wars 949,503+ soldier, as estimated by the Department of Veterans Affairs and reported in a 2017 Memorial Day article by The Los Angeles Times, lost their lives in battle. Today, even while we honor the dead more American soldiers will join their numbers. The Global War on Terrorism is the longest single war in American history and has cost more lives than were lost on 9-11. For many veterans coming home does not end the war they fight it only makes their battles invisible to those around them. An estimate 20 active duty soldiers as well as veterans commit suicide every day. These victims of war also deserve our respect.

There are many political issues concerning war, soldiers, veterans, and foreign policy that we need to wrestle with especially as the 2020 election approaches. But today, let us set aside our political issues. Let us recognize those who died defending a country they believed in, fulfilling a duty they felt obligated to fulfill, and facing an enemy on whom we, as a nation, declared war. Their sacrifices, their deaths, are burdens we all must carry. And, they cannot be carried lightly. Their lives had meaning. Their deaths should not go unnoticed. Let us not confuse the living with the dead. The blood of the dead paves the road to our future. Let us remember them. And, let us honor them by acknowledging what they gave to secure what we have.

Posted by: minnow | May 14, 2019

Such a Time as This

Today I learned another Democrat threw his hat in the ring as a candidate for president. Another well liked governor, this one from a red state, thinks he has what it takes. Another middle aged, white, male–surprise, surprise. I have nothing specific against Governor Bullock, from Montana, but, as a presidential candidate he’s just more of the same, back to politics as usual, and an attempt to forget America elected 45.

Bullock says all the right things, vowing to “take our democracy back” in his announcement address. He even some has evidence to support he means what he says. He pushed a red legislature to expand Medicaid in 2016 and to fund a pilot program for preschool education in 2017. In 2015 he signed the bipartisan Montana Disclosure Act which was upheld by the Supreme Court last February. MDA requires political committees to make public the donor names of committees that spend money on state-level elections. Finally, as a test balloon for today’s announcement, Bullock declared last summer he supported a ban on military grade semi-automatic weapons with removable clips and magazines of 10 or more. Later he clarified, it was something we should consider and he wouldn’t take guns away from hunters and  law abiding citizens. Hmmm… At any rate, Bullock offers Americans a “centrist Democrat” who  isn’t the front runner, Joe Biden. Huh?

The problem with Bullock, and frankly with Biden, is that middle America has all but vanished. The underbelly of old school politics that touted Reagan Democrats and Clinton Republican has been exposed. The facade is a fraud, a mask old white men in suits wear to hide behind while they manipulate the economy making themselves rich. True, blue-collar Democrats, like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have warned us about these political realities their entire careers. Sadly, it took the symptom of a 45 presidency to reveal how sick our democratic republic is. If candidates like Bullock and Biden had the country’s best interest at heart, they’d set egos aside and put their energy and political capital elsewhere.

So, what should they have done?

Well, Biden should have picked, and then thrown his support behind, one of the qualified women currently running. Period. Championing women is where America needs him most. It’s where he’s done the most good in the past and it’s how he could best serve now. As a “moderate” Democrat, Biden’s endorsement in the primaries might have thrust a particular candidate forward. It certainly would have sent a message of solidarity and resolve to the country–a message that we are in this together and that Democrats hear the people shouting, “We want to control our country”. As it is, Biden’s presence in the race reveals that the Democratic party still has far too many people willing to do politics as usual.

Bullock’s better choice might have been more difficult to make, but it would not have been more difficult than a run for the presidency to achieve. In 2020, Governor Steve Bullock of Montana should have taken on Senator Steve Daines of Montana. Plain and simple. As much as I wish it wasn’t true of my home state, being a white male here has its advantages. America needed Bullock to help turn the Senate blue, to remind Montanans that we can value family, hard work, our faiths, community, independence, the land, and freedom–without selling our souls. Instead, he’s one more example  that suggests playing politics is still more important to some Democrats than making government work for everyday Americans.

Before Governor Bullock announced his presidential bid I wrote him urging him not to run. I told him, he’d have my tireless support if he ran against Daines in 2020, but that if he announced for the White House I would work just as tirelessly against him. I still make that pledge. Some may call it hyperbole. After all, what can a middle-aged woman, on a limited budget, in a conservative state that takes over 9 hours to drive across, do? The truth is–not much. I can and I will VOTE. I can and I will be out spoken about what’s happening in this country, why we should all care, and what I think we need to do about it!

The first thing we need to do is understand this: the candidates who pledge to take us “back to a better day”, even just a time before 45, are not looking out for America’s best interest. Our past, distant or otherwise, is not a dream we should want to relive. The fake bravado with which we have regarded the rest of the world was born long before the 2016 election. Our decisions as a nation to enslave, intern, segregate, subjugate, marginalize, and demonize various people groups tarnish the ideals our Constitution points us toward. Our focus on profit margins, our insatiable consumption, and our inclination to horde belies our self proclaimed greatness and instead paint us as arrogant and afraid rather than free and brave.

Bullock and Biden are products of an era best left in the dust of progress. Don’t get me wrong, the Governor and the former Vice President are far from the self-absorbed, politically dangerous, whiner in the White House. These two men have served our country with personal and professional integrity. BUT, that is simply not enough.

America needs risk takers, problem solvers, and out of the box thinkers. We need to do more than tell ourselves we’re the envy of the world–we need to live up to our self proclaimed reputation. I believe the world is in crisis. And, America is on the brink of destruction–self destruction. It won’t happen tomorrow, but if we do not change course–it. will. happen.

For our first 243 years America proved that we could withstand all external threats. But, the danger we face today is not foreign. It will not be defeated with bombs, or boots, or other traditional weapons of war. It will only be defeated, if America wakes up and realizes our house is on fire.

Posted by: minnow | May 12, 2019

What Would My Mother Do?

I don’t know how well I knew my mother. She played her cards close to her chest and few strong emotions, or passions, ever escaped.  The phrase to describe my family: private…to a fault, originated with her. Most of what I understood about her was observed, or deducted through story telling (an activity I loved about my family). Mom was well liked, intelligent, well-read, kind, but also no nonsense. She enjoyed being with my father, socializing with her friends (most of whom were sorority sisters), reading, playing cards, going to the theatre–especially musicals, and (I think) interior decorating and party planning. (She had a talent for it at any rate). My mom was fiercely loyal, conservative, not particularly religious but a woman with a strong moral core. Professionally, she was stylish in her attire and well informed. I believe I would have liked her had I met her as an adult, though we may never have traveled in the same circles.

My mother and I were not particularly close. I allowed a heated exchange when I was in the fifth grade (the only time I ever remember my mother raising her voice to anyone) build a permanent wall between us. After that, as long as I did not demand attention via misbehavior, she left me alone and I told myself I preferred it that way.

This year I turned 60. At times that feels a whole lot older than at other times, especially these days when there’s trouble in the world and I feel helpless to do anything about it. “These days”–that phrase reminds me of the song from Fiddler on the Roof, “Do You Love Me”. Tevye, the father figure in the story, asks his wife if she loves him. Their daughters have been carried away by feelings of love and he wants to know if her feelings for him have grown over the years. She avoids the question by talking about the “trouble in the town” and their “daughters getting married” but he persists. The first time I saw the movie version of Fiddler on the Roof was with my parents. I remember watching my dad gently reach over and take a hold of my mother’s hand  during that song and I’ve never been able to watch that scene since without thinking of my parents.

So, what’s with the sudden nostalgia?

I miss my mom. It’s that simple. More than I ever remember missing her before. And, with the trouble in our nation I want to know what she would think. I want to know if she would be angry about the direction McConnell and 45 have taken the Republican party. I want to know if she would see what is happening with a sense of urgent concern or if, like far too many other upper middle class Republicans, she would point to the stock market and the low unemployment numbers and try to assure herself that everything was going to be fine, that the ship will right itself.

You see, my mother was never particularly outspoken–certainly not in public–though I knew she had strong opinions, a formidable character trait with deep roots. She did not appreciate spectacle, self-righteousness, or hyperbole, so I know at least that part of 45 would disturb her. My mother’s views were anchored to concepts like, personal accountability, civic responsibility, and intellectual integrity. And now, I want to know what would win out, if what is happening in the world would have pushed her out of her silent observer modality and into an activism, or at the very least the encouragement of activism. I want to know if the feminist and humanitarian I always gave her credit for being, would rise up to be heard. I guess what I really want to know is if I would have her support, her guidance, her wise encouragement and if we would stand together.

At 60, I face a society that does not honor age, does not value women, and does not embrace personal change. These facts leave me vulnerable. I believe the systems that, in my mother’s lifetime, were the pillars of society and seemed indestructible–government, church, family, and education–are cracking and at risk of collapse. And I see that our society, which relies on these institutions, has become less secure because their power brokers have been willing to sacrifice their stability for personal, immediate, gain. Even though those in power have doubled down on their efforts to maintain control and those who do not yet feel in danger of falling may not want to hear that our structures are unstable, those of us who see the danger must rise up. We must sound the alarm. WE must right this ship.

We cannot simply go back to the way things were, for the way things were brought us to this point. We have reached the place in our journey where we must forge a new path if we are going to preserve the integrity of our principles. The only way to repair our foundations is to recognize the threat to their existence comes from within and then to remove the rot. I believe more Americans have anchored their lives to the principles my mother’s life exemplified–personal accountability, civic responsibility, and intellectual integrity–than have given in to blame, self aggrandizement, and intellectual fraud. I believe those voices–if they choose to be heard–can still make a difference, that it is not too late, that our destruction is not inevitable.

I believe the women in my family–my Mother, her Mother, and my Great Grandmother before her–would stand with me, if they could. I believe, as we look toward an uncertain future, these women would encourage me to embrace the challenge, to forge a better path forward for the whole, and to never give up hope that the greater good will prevail. So, that is what I choose to do. That is how I  honor my Mother on Mother’s Day.

Posted by: minnow | April 28, 2019

A Record Number

A record number of women are running for president and any one of them, including Marianne Williamson, would be better than the person currently holding the office. But just being better than 45 is not where we should set the bar. So, I won’t suggest we consider Williamson. As for the rest of the women in the pack, we ought to take a closer look.

With the integrity, intelligence, experience, and proven successes of these women we honestly have no reason not to vote for one of them. Four have proven themselves as senators and before that, as lawyers. One was a state Attorney General, another a law school professor, and yet another a military veteran before becoming a state Representative. Yet, I keep hearing things like–“But is the country ready for a female president?” followed by the wringing of hands and the ridiculous suggesting that to learn from what happened to Hillary we should not push so hard for “a woman”.

Really!?!

I get “being a woman” can’t be the next president’s only qualification for the job but let’s face facts–Hillary Clinton was the most qualified person to run for the presidency in my life time, possibly in forever. And still, the media covered her like being a woman was her greatest, sometimes her only, accomplishment. Not every slight, women in this race face, qualifies as sexism. However, we must insist the media does its job and considers the qualifications and policy proposals these women put forth.

As for a few of the male contenders…Like much of the country, I’m surprised by the rise of Pete Buttigieg to the level of serious candidate. And while he might attract younger voters, the Mayor is weak on substance. So, if he wants to be a serious contender for the top spot he’s going to have to up his game. Progressives love Bernie, no question. I voted for him in the primaries and was sickened by how the DNC treated him in 2016. But this is not 2016. We should thank Sanders for giving progressive issues a platform, but age and gender hurt him and frankly, we still need his presence in the Senate. Beto couldn’t beat Cruz. Enough said. Former Vice President Biden was the left–15 years ago. He deserves our thanks for his years of unselfish service but if this election turns into a fight for the middle–Democrats will lose. THERE IS NO MIDDLE. Senator Cory Booker is the last male candidate I want mention. He’s a phenomenal fund raiser, especially via PAC money and Big Pharm, which could be a red flag for some progressives. He’s been a strong voice on the issue of income inequality, and like Kamala Harris, was a fierce presence during the Kavanaugh hearings. Yet once again, what he brings to the table is not unique and his presence is needed in the Senate.

Did you know Senator Kristen Gillibrand can speak Mandarin? I’m guessing if you do, it’s because you saw the same FB meme I did and not because the mainstream media has seen fit to think her language skills are much of a story, despite their fawning over Buttigieg’s. In her launch for the presidency Gillibrand asks: Will Brave win? She pits her optimism for the country against 45’s fear mongering and has a record worth promoting. She’s a passionate advocate for the #MeToo movement, voted against the Wall Street bailout, and rejected corporate and individual PAC money. Gillibrand’s views have become more progressive with her move from the House to the Senate as she’s co-sponsored a Medicare for All bill back in 2017 and has voiced strong support for the Green New Deal.

Representative Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii and Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota are the underdogs in this group of strong female voices. In her announcement, Gabbard, the youngest woman running and an Army National Guard veteran, made her military stance clear, stating, “We must stand up… against powerful politicians from both parties who sit in ivory towers thinking up new wars to wage [and] new places for people to die.” The statement was met with cheers. Klobuchar sees herself and a strong supporter of unions and the working class. She’s tired of the divisiveness in politics and wants to turn our obstacles into opportunities.

The biggest criticism against Senator Kamala Harris is that she’s cautious–plays it safe and close to the vest. Like Booker, much of Harris’ campaign money comes from law firms and lawyers, securities and investments, and real estate. She has carefully built her political capital–for this moment–and seems to be swinging for the fence. On the trail, Harris is for reparations, legalizing pot, reasonable gun laws, and the Green New Deal–despite voting “present” when it actually came up for a vote. She is eloquent, poised, and pointed–a strong contender.

Elizabeth Warren is my personal favorite, for several reasons. She makes the economy, racism, and campaign finance reform issues worth talking about. She’s not afraid to offer up policy specifics, like easing the burden of school loan debt and affordable healthcare. And finally, Warren knows how Washington works. She has not been sucked in to the power for the most willing puppet exchange, and thus far has managed to avoid being eaten alive. Given the vindictive natures of the current occupant of the White House and the Senate Majority Leader Warren’s survival in politics is no small feat.

All the ladies running for president of the United States have impressive resumes. Some of them are already proposing legitimate policy changes and a workable progressive direction for the country. Even so, they still poll in the single digits, if their campaigns have registers at all. SO YES, we need to talk about THE WOMEN running for president. We can’t let gender become their only message. We must make sure these women are seen, their voices heard, and their ideas given a platform. MADAM President–should only be the icing on the cake.

Posted by: minnow | April 17, 2019

Jeremiah from American Idol


It is difficult to watch our children, friends, and acquaintances suffer when part of our society tell them they are less than because of their sexuality. Most Americans understand that being LGBTQ is not a choice. Some would say all humanity is on a spectrum with regards to what attracts us to others and to what degree our gender and our sexuality define us. Others are much more binary. We justify our outrage at those who are “less accepting” or not “completely affirming” because of the pain we’ve watched our loved ones go through. But sometimes our anger gets in the way of being truly affirming. Let me explain, we, “the enlightened”,  aren’t as willing as we should be to let the rest of the world walk out their own journeys. We preach “loving is more important than being right” but we don’t always practice what we preach when we’re the ones who have to give up the “being right” part. In other words, unconditional love is not some pendulum we get to swing really far to the left because those other guys swing it really far to the right and that’s how it balances out. Hate is hate. Love is love. And, unconditional love is not on a spectrum.

So, why am I even thinking about this right now? Two words: Jeremiah Harmon.

Jeremiah’s audition for and participation on The American Idol has captured the attention of all kinds of viewers. And while Jeremiah’s talent is evident, the story American Idol seems to be telling about Jeremiah is what’s good for television ratings. Growing up in in Maryland, singing in his father’s conservative Baptist church, much like one of the Idol judges, Harmon recently came out as gay. Missing from the AI audience since his coming out–Harmon’s family. Though I have not been following Jeremiah’s rise on American Idol (I don’t watch the show), his interview in OUT magazine was brought to my attention by a group of LGBTQ advocates who often refer to themselves as Mama Bears. Though private on FB, this group goes out of its way to encourage LGBTQ people, like Jeremiah, when they may be facing rejection closer to home.

Sadly, as Jeremiah’s story plays out on social media, he looks more and more like the rope in an ugly tug-o-war than an actual person. I believe without hesitation that being gay is no more a sin than being straight is. I also understand how some people who do not accept that truth could think they are loving Jeremiah unconditionally. And in fact, Jeremiah states publicly (in the OUT article) he feels loved by his family, so those who insist on a different version of Jeremiah’s story run the risk of thinking they understand more about him and his situation than he does.

Religious people–on both sides–like to talk about unconditional love–a lot. For the religious Right, God’s love is unconditional, until we don’t accept His Son as our savior and then we’re thrown into a fiery pit and tortured for the rest of eternity. For many people the dichotomy between these two “truths” is glaring. Still, some manage to believe and it dictates how they interpret the rest of their lives. For other religious people their beliefs are not based on specific doctrines so much as science, human nature, and the big moral questions surrounding freedom, equality, and justice. Pointing out hypocrisy and proclaiming unconditional love is big in their verbiage. And with that pair, they beat up the “unloving Right”–oh the irony.

The “get off the hook” of unconditional love seems to be: we don’t have to love people’s choices. We only have to love people. So, the antigay folks love the sinner but hate the sin because they tell themselves being gay is a choice. And, the opposite side loves the hypocrite but hates the hypocrisy because they tell themselves the real choice is believing being gay is a choice. So long as we tell ourselves we’re just objecting to their choice and not who they are we let ourselves off the hook.

Still, we do not unconditionally love Jeremiah’s family if we do not give them space to wrestle with their faith. But even more telling perhaps, we do not love Jeremiah unconditionally if we affirm his gay identity but fail to affirm his telling of his story. Sometimes in our zeal to be affirming to the greater LGBTQ communities, or any group that identifies as “other”, we make assumptions about how individuals should navigate the waters they are in, and those assumptions–our truths–become conditions we place upon the other. Barack Obama experienced a similar backlash when people questioned whether he was “black enough”. Believe me–anyone who is LGBTQ is LGBTQ enough!

The caution I want to give my friends who fervently support and affirm LGBTQ people, who want them to know we accepted them and they are worthy of love–Yes, acknowledge their pain, offer them comfort, encourage their growth and their healing, but do NOT demonize the love their parents, their families, have for them. Love, parental, family, love is what will begin to crack open closed minds. Love casts out fear and makes room for change. Our love, our unconditional love for the other, including those whose blindness and ignorance hobble them, will win the struggle, so long as we never offer anything less.

 

Posted by: minnow | April 6, 2019

Character Matters

The greatest attribute President Obama brought to the White House–Good Character–should be the minimum we require of a candidate running for office. Good Character is why “I Like Ike” made sense. Good Character is what we tell school children made George Washington and Abraham Lincoln special. Sure, we have had presidents of weaker character than Washington, Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Obama. But history has not ignored, excused, or celebrated their flaws. And while 45’s supporters lead by people like  McConnell and  Graham choose to ignore, excuse, celebrate and even take advantage of this president’s worst tendencies, the rest of us must not let this betrayal continue.

Character matters. The field of Democrats running for president is rich with people of good character. In fact, the more I listen to them speak, the more I look into what they’ve done and what they want to do, the more impressed I am. That said, a couple question marks have already risen to the surface and voters must weigh how serious they think these deficiencies are.

Former Vice President Biden is considering a run. Even without an official announcement Real Clear Politics had him polling as the front runner in every poll through out March. But, Biden has a problem. According to  Lucy Flores, former Nevada State assemblywoman, he put his hands on her shoulders, sniffed her hair, and kissed the back of her head just before she spoke at a 2014 campaign rally. His actions she said, caused her to feel “uneasy, gross, and confused.” Flores is not alone; other women reported similar behavior from the former Vice President. These previous accusations were brushed off as harmless “Uncle Joe”, chalked up to societal attitudes that once were seen as “the giving of a blessing” from the patriarch of a “family”. But, is that explanation enough?

In response to the Flores charge, Mr. Biden issued a statement which read in part,

I may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised at what I hear. But we have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention.

In a video response that came out  Wednesday, the Former Vice President  said,

Social norms have begun to change. They’ve shifted and the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset. And I get it. I hear what you’re saying…and I will be more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space.

The charges against Biden should be taken seriously. Women deserve to be heard. Yet, along side the accusations is a political record, with regard to women, which also ought to be taken into consideration. Biden was the original author of the Violence Against Women Act. He has been outspoken in its defense ever since. Like many of us, Biden’s views on abortion have evolved over the years. Ultimately, he believes the Roe V Wade decision handed down by the Supreme Court should stand, though he approved the ban on Partial Birth Abortion in most cases and believes government money should not go to provide abortions. If he decides to run his positions on these and other issues will be more thoroughly reviewed. But for this post, the issue is character. Should Biden’s past “old school” behavior toward women negate him as a candidate for President? It doesn’t for me. The jury is still out for the rest of the country.

Another strong candidate facing a character question is Senator Elizabeth Warren. After years of being called Pocahontas by the President, Warren took a DNA test and shared the results with the public. Rather than settling anything however, Warren’s choice seems to have muddied the water.  The major issue–did Warren ever benefit by the suggestion she might have some Native American ancestry–has not been talked about much, mostly because the short answer is No, she never did. What else do we know? First, the Cherokee do not recognize Warren’s DNA test as proof of anything. Secondly, Warren herself was not trying to claim tribal citizenship. And, finally we know something we’ve known for a long time, 45 is a racist bully who thinks he’s clever when he calls people names.

Should Warren’s part in the Pocahontas/DNA fiasco disqualify her from running for president? Of course, each voter needs to decide that for himself or herself. For me, it does not. Warren is so strong on issues that look out for the middle class I am willing to call her decision to take and publish a DNA test, misguided.

The last candidate I want to bring up is the mayor of South Bend Indiana, Pete Buttigieg (Boot-uh-judge). Some narrow minded people will undoubtedly call Mayor Pete’s character into question and they will do so for one reason and one reason only. They are self-righteous zealots, who feel justified in applying their twisted religious beliefs to everyone else. They will proclaim that the Mayor’s character is lacking because Pete Butigieg is gay.

Let us actually look at what makes up the character of this man. Before Mayor Pete was elected (and re-elected by a 80% margin after coming out as gay) South Bend made the list of the top 10 worst mid-level cities in the United States. Buttigieg brought it back from the brink. 15,000 jobs were added. Unemployment went from 11.8 to 4.1. A population which had been hemorrhaging grew by 1%. He took a seven-month unpaid leave from his job as mayor in 2014 to serve a tour of duty in Afghanistan, where he earned the Joint Service Commendation Medal for his counterterrorism work. Buttigieg knows 7 language including Arabic, which is unique in itself, but it becomes a matter of character when you read the story of Mayor Pete showing up to the ER to interpret for the mother of a gravely sick child. Finally, Pete Buttigieg is a man of faith, a faith that calls him toward his progressive ideals. And he’s not afraid to talk about either.

In this election–character–matters. Look for it!

Posted by: minnow | March 25, 2019

Politics Spoken Here

Fair warning I talk politic–often. I also talk religion. Again, often. In fact, I often talk about them at the same time. The truth is, my personal faith impacts my political views. If you don’t like talking politics (or religion) I was probably never your FB friend or you have probably already blocked me, unfollowed me, or de-friended me. If you haven’t, you may want to consider it or be ready to scroll on by at an increased rate from now until November 3, 2020.

As the political season gets underway I will intentionally post about different candidates, what they say, what I agree (and don’t agree) with, and why I believe they’re worth checking out. I will have favorites and I will undoubtedly ignore some. This blog will focus primarily on the presidential race and key Senate and House races, but I am certain I will be involved with and vocal about my state politics as well.

Over a dozen democrats have already entered the presidential race. Most seem to support at least some of the same things I do. Only a couple, so far, are completely off my radar. Those who know me know I lean progressive so I prefer that candidates with progressive ideas rise to the top. That said, if 45 remains the only GOP or obvious nominee, I will without question vote for whoever wins the Democratic nomination, even if I’m not currently looking his or her way.

Candidate with plans and policies, rather than sound bites and nay-saying have my attention. I am absolutely more interest in what a candidate is willing to work for than a bunch of empty promises. I want specifics. I want goals and I want action. My advice to the presidential hopefuls (especially those who already hold office): If you don’t have a priority list, if you aren’t already working on possible solutions to the problems we face then stop talking. The GOP has shown it won’t cross 45. It doesn’t seem to care one wit about anyone who isn’t white, male, wealthy, or some combination of the three. So, it’s up to the Democrats to give us something to care about!

I care about issues. Campaign financing, systemic racism, healthcare, climate change, the national debt, public education, a broken immigration system, a failing justice system, and our crumbling infrastructure are my top nine. I will find out what the various candidates have to say on these topics, and will blog about what I learn. In fact, I’ve  written my first piece already. You can find it here.

Putting my thoughts in a blog helps me understand my priorities, but I hope these posts get some feed back. I hope you share your thoughts and what you’ve learned elsewhere. But, just because I’m inviting engagement don’t mistakenly think anything goes. I will absolutely delete vulgar comments and will block those who spew hate. Defend your positions, back opinions up with facts, avoid calling people names, and and think before you engage.  I promise to do the same.

 

 

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