Posted by: minnow | September 12, 2017

Shoulda Coulda Woulda

As the most qualified person to have ever run for the presidency Hillary Rodham Clinton should have been the unanimous pick. We could have had a smart, capable, compassionate president.  Clinton would have kept favor with our allies and caused concern among our opponents. The EPA would still be protecting the environment. The Department of Education would still be focused on a quality public education. DACA children and Muslim immigrants would still be welcome in our nation. More than 60% of the appointments that should have been made by this point in her presidency would have been made, including the appointments of several key Ambassadors–South Korea, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Geneva, Turkey, and more.

As a feminist, I was more than disappointed by the results of the 2016 election; I was depressed. For months I was depressed. How did we not only NOT elect the most qualified person on the planet but also end up with HIM? Wake me up from this nightmare. Someone, please, explain this to me! …I get it.

But in all honesty Hillary, you and the DNC should have known better.  We all should have known better. You and the DNC were sadly, tragically disconnected from the hearts and minds of the American people. You, and the intellectual, reasonable, comfortable folks on the Left. You–WE–failed to see the anger, not on the part of feminists like yourself and like me who felt it was a woman’s turn, but the anger on the part of the working class Americans who needed someone to understand what was happening to them. For your part, you played by the rules after a life time of having the rules shoved in your face. You met every criteria and then some. But, the game changed without most on the Left realizing it. Waiting your turn was no longer enough. Playing nice was no longer an option. Being more qualified than every single man in the room no longer mattered.

I admit, I haven’t read your book.  I would probably agree with most of it. But, if you blame Bernie Sanders for your loss, you only prove how disconnected from the heart and soul of the American people you still are. Bashing the man who tried to hand you the play book for the new game you found yourself in, is simply sour grapes. I’m sorry being the best wasn’t enough. I can’t begin to understand your disappointment and frustration after years of taking the hits for other people. The whole situation is unfair. It stinks.  But it’s over. The election is over. And we MUST move on. Let history sort out the mess. I can almost guarantee, you will be vindicated.

TODAY–Democrats need to stop looking backwards in order to blame someone for Clinton’s loss. The DNC screwed the Democrats by playing old school politics. Clinton was never going to win just by playing by the rules. That she was the most qualified candidate both when she ran against Obama and when she ran against 45 didn’t matter. Hillary Rodham Clinton had too much baggage, not because she deserved the baggage–SHE DIDN’T–but because the “Good ol’ Boys Club” doesn’t work for women and the GOP and the religious right would rather lock arms with a Nazi sympathizer than let THAT WOMAN win. She was smart.  She was savvy. She adjusted her image like a chameleon. She stood by her man. Nothing that would actually matter received our attention. The Right sold their collective soul and the Left was a deer in the head lights, unable or unwilling to see how the game had changed.

If 2018 or 2020 is going to be any different, Democrats need a makeover! But, it must be more than cosmetic. Sanders, Warren, Booker, Kennedy, and Harris are currently the Democrats strongest voices in Washington. If the Dems want to take back the House and make a run on the Senate in 2018 and 2020 they must listen to these voices. Democrats must get the pulse of the people. And who better to help them with that than Bernie Sanders. They must fight to get big money out of politics. And who better to help them with that than Elizabeth Warren. They must championing younger politicians–men and women, but especially people of color. And who better to help them with that than Cory Booker, Joe Kennedy, and Kamela Harris.

We live in a world of soundbites and memes. Twitter puts the topic on the agenda and Facebook gets the ball rolling. 1000 word blogs and multiple page policy papers might be able to flesh out some details but the fact remains: we now live our lives with 140 characters. The intellectual snobs on the Left must rise to the occasion or plan on writing their shoulda, coulda, woulda swan songs into the apocalypse.  It’s not going to be easy; but it really is that simple.

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Posted by: minnow | August 20, 2017

Are You White?

Read this. Read about “Hate that Doesn’t Hide” by Roxanne Gay. It appeared in The New York Times the week after a Heather Heyer was murdered by a white supremacist in Charlottesville, VA. Or read this one by Aliyah Frumin and Amanda Sakuma about being a Muslim-American in the aftermath of 9-11. Or this personal narrative from Nick Valencia, a third generation Mexican-American who was told to “go home” by a white woman because he dared to speak Spanish. Read “Native Americans: We’re not your mascot” by Simon Moya-Smith. Until you do, until you decide to educate yourself about the experience of racism in America, until you seek guidance and insight from those most closely impacted by a racist, white America, you have nothing germane to add to the conversation, nothing anyone else needs to hear.

Harsh, you say? Absolutely. It’s about time.

My goal here is not to shame you. Shame tries to hide in the corner. Shame immobilizes. My goal is to ring the alarm, TO WAKE YOU UP! Many of us watched the events in Charlottesville unfold and had the novel experience of being shocked. “That’s not America,” we told ourselves. But the painful reality is–THAT IS AMERICA, the very worst of America to be sure, but America none the less. And, until we are willing to look at that reflection square in the mirror, that truth about who we are, we. will never. change.

Rose Sampley gets it.  Read her post. A young, white woman from the South, she knows removing from the town square a statues of a man who fought to preserve the “right” for one man to own another and who was willing to cede from the Union and declare war on his own country in order to maintain that right, is not the same as rewriting history. In fact, it is just the opposite. It’s correcting the revision of history these monuments have allowed.

For the past century, monuments and parks and schools and roadways carrying the names of Southern traitors and oppressors have served as an ugly reminder to people of color. “We are still here,” they threaten. “If we can’t own you physically, we will still own your mind and the minds of white people.” Until recently, these messages were only repeated in whispers. Saying anything close, at least in public, could be career ending, especially if you were a politician. Yet, even under the cover of politically correct language, the underlying culture of racism and bigotry was built. And it has been carefully–calculatedly–maintained.

By honoring traitors in the public square, by pretending they were brave soldiers defending their families and an idyllic way of life, without acknowledging the immoral brutality of slavery and the growing hatred of racism we camouflaged the truth. The idea we might today feel sympathy for a white nationalist who is fired because of the racist slurs he or she flings at another person, betrays just how deeply our white preferences are entrenched.  Neo-Nazis, the KKK, Vanguard America, and other white supremacist groups promote the removal of people of color (and Jews) from the United States. They claim the U. S. was and should again be a whites only nation. They encourage violence and spew hate. Just because they use their “right to free speech” they do NOT deserve our sympathy. Their words and actions deserve our outrage. Their fabricated myth of what America once was is a lie! And, spewing lies and hate, marching while waving torches, carrying weapons, and chanting Nazi slogans, and threatening others with physical violence should have consequences!

Are you white? Talk to people who aren’t. Ask them tell you their story of race in America. AND LISTEN. Don’t talk back. Hear and try to understand what they have to say. Don’t stop at one conversation. Don’t defend your ignorance of how others have been treated simply because the same words the same gestures have come from you, personally. Decide to be educated and start to observe how others black and brown and white are treated. Begin to wrestle with the fact that while all people may be born equal in America, all people are not treated equally in America.

Posted by: minnow | August 17, 2017

So You Object to the Rewriting of History

And, to the fabricating of truth.

Well, I’m right there with you.  So here are a few HISTORICAL FACTS for those who think the conflict in places like Charlottesville, Baltimore, Helena, and Gainesville is about history, statues, or equally valid points of view:

  • America has never been a pure white nation. Black slaves arrived on our shores in 1619. Spain (Hispanics) had control of what we now call Florida and New Mexico before Europeans landed in Jamestown and in 1691 today’s Texas was a separate Spanish providence. The first Asians landed on our shores around 1750.  And, Native Americans were here before any other people group. Period.
  • The South’s attempt to cede from the Union was an act of treason.
  • Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were not American heroes. They were not great American generals. They do not deserve to be immortalized or honored. They were traitors. Their side lost. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox effectively ended the Civil War. Every single southern state reaffirmed its allegiance to the U. S. Constitution before it was readmitted. The fact Lee was never imprisoned is due to his support of President Johnson’s plans for reconstruction, his vocal approval of the end of slavery, and his original opposition to succession.  Though his citizenship was eventually reinstated, he was never again allowed to vote and some of his property was permanently seized.
  • The descendants of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis have publicly stated  they wish to see the statues of their ancestors removed from the public square and transferred to historical museums where they will be seen in the proper context.
  • History belongs in museums and history books where it can be explained, understood, and a learning tool.
  • And finally, white privilege has less to do with how you treat others than with how you, as a white person, are treated.

If you are white and believe it is time our nation wrestles with the question of race in America you may need to understand your own privilege a bit more before calling yourself an ally. Undoubtedly you do not think you treat others as less than because of the color of their skin, but do you recognize the ways others treat you as more than because of the color of yours? Do you understand how people of color see you in your role as an ally? Did you even consider that question something you should ask yourself?  We must not over advocate on behalf of those society has marginalized. Instead, turn the microphones in our hands over to them. Whenever possible their voices, not ours, need to be heard. So in that spirit, I highly recommend you read and heed these words from Courtney Ariel.

In the aftermath of Charlottesville, the question: “What’s wrong with calling out both sides?” has continually received air time. Consider this question as a response, for what reason are you calling out both sides? Every American must understand–one side arrived in Charlottesville intent on abusing our First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly in order to spread their racist propaganda and carry flags of treason under our flag of freedom. The second group showed up like the soldiers on the shores of Normandy to defend American principles of freedom, equality, justice, and truth. Members from one group shouted racial slurs and hate-filled rhetoric, were armed with knives and guns, carried torches as they chanted and marched, and ultimately plowed a car into a group of peaceful protesters, killing one and injuring at least 19 others. The other group defended (some forcefully pushing back against that which both insulted and assaulted) our Constitution, our national heritage, and individual citizens. There is NO MORAL EQUIVALENCY here.  There are NO EQUALLY VALID talking points.

If these words sound judgmental to you–they are! Hatred, Neo-Nazi propaganda, physical aggression, and domestic terrorism deserve nothing short of our harshest rebuke and our absolute refusal to submit or be intimidated! We do not need a declaration from Congress to know the United States is at WAR.  We are fighting for our national soul.

The outcome of this conflict will not be decided by a single battle. Charlottesville was not a lone skirmish. In words most millennials understand, “winter is coming”. We must decide now on which side we stand. Our silence, our vacillating, and our reluctance to get involved paints us with the same brush strokes history painted the German people after World War II. But we. have. no. excuses. because we. have seen it. before.  We must not allow a racist, narcissistic leader bribe us with the promise of economic growth. We cannot allow this evil to snuff out what most of the world once regarded as a shining city on a hill.

Choose.  Choose this day which god you serve–money or freedom, fear or courage, silent self interest and the spoils of war or the unfettered voice of truth and justice.  Choose where you stand and where you fight.  Choose who you stand beside and what you fight for. Ultimately, this war will be won or lost in the hearts and minds of the American citizen. History is being written. Choose yours.

Posted by: minnow | August 15, 2017

No Time for Rose-Colored Glasses

I do not wear rose colored glasses.  I do not tell myself out of ignorance or fear that everything will be alright. I am a realist. At least I thought I was a realist before 45 became our president.  The first 200 days of 45’s presidency have emotionally and mentally overwhelmed me.  I have been depressed and angry and afraid and shocked and confused and rendered helpless, stuck, and agitated ALL AT THE SAME TIME.  Day after day after day a new outrage clamors for our attention, insisting it is more urgent than the problem from the day before. For eight months, saner minds have attempted to sort through the chaos and triage the situation. Yet only one thing is clear–America is in crisis. Immigrants face increased peril. Old people face increased peril. Women face increased peril. People of color face increased peril. Those who identify as LGBTQ face increased peril. The poor face increased peril. Non-Christians and the “wrong kind of Christians” face increased peril. This nation, as a whole, faces increased peril because our democracy and our Constitution are under attack.  We are in danger of being destroyed from within and no one seems to know what to do.  Not since the Civil War have we come so close to self destruction. And even so, the walking out of this evil rampage against our principles, against our institutions, against the very moral fiber of this country, is just getting started.

If you need proof of the evil we face, just look at the events which took place this past week in Charlottesville, Virginia.  If you doubt this truth ask yourself why it took the president two days to condemn by name the KKK, white supremacists, and Neo-Nazis who brought hate and violence to American streets and why few on either the left or the right have expressed surprise or dismay that it took him less than 24 hours to begin to walk his statement backwards.  If you have any questions about the increased threat we as a nation face since this administration and his apologists in Congress lay siege to our democracy ask those who resisted the spread of hate over the weekend in Charlottesville.  Ask the members of Black Lives Matter who were spat on and beaten.  Ask the clergy who attended to the wounded and called false on the anti-semitic and racist slurs chanted by far right “Christian” hate groups. Ask the friends and family of Heather Heyer who was murdered and the 19 others who were intentionally run down while peacefully protesting the presence of the self-righteous white evil in their midst.

In my own state, the debate over the removal of a fountain commemorating the Confederacy and commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy  has brought the issue of racism close to home. Richard Spencer and his mouth piece, The Daily Stormer, already terrorized the peaceful community of Whitefish, Montana last winter. Must we prepare for another onslaught? Will we once again be a target for the Alt-Right?  According to this article, The Southern Poverty Law Center lists Montana as the #1 state with the highest concentration of hate groups in America.  Granted we have wide open spaces and a low population so an argument could be made that the numbers do not represent native Montanans.  Still, Montana is my home and this statistic is alarming.  I want this statistic to be more than skewed; I want it to be non-existent. But, the only way that will happen is if the good people of Montana stand up, speak out, and rid our state of Hate.

In the wake of Charlottesville, many on the left question the wisdom of the direct confrontation of the extremists on the Right.  Instead, they ask, shouldn’t we just ignore them, let them fizzle out, and hold peaceful protests at a later time?  Isn’t non-violent passive resistance a better strategy? While MLK fought racism in the 60’s using such a philosophy, his success was due in part to the fact that those who held office at the federal level were people of high moral character, at least that is the face they needed to show the public.  In this hour, the moral character of our elected officials in Washington is in question.

If truth, equality, and justice are to win the day we must weed out those politicians who have thus far neglected to stand up for every American. We must elect leaders and representatives who are willing to serve their constituents regardless of the party with which they affiliate, the color of their skin, the faith they profess, the gender with which they identify, or the economic status they have achieved. We must be willing to expose deception, advocate for fairness, and defend freedom. And in the end, if we are going to sustain the peace we ultimately desire, we must win the day but we must not become vindictive victors. One of the casualties of this war for the soul of our nation cannot be our moral character or we will have won the war for our enemies.

I will not borrow troubles from an unseen future, but neither will I don a pair of rose colored glasses.  The time to wake up is now. The time to resist is now. The time to take a stand is now. We cannot be ignorant of the specter of hate hanging over our country.  Claims of ignorance no longer hold water.  Racism is not morally ambiguous.  We have no immoral equivalence on the left for the vile rhetoric spewed from the mouths of the Alt-Right–the Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the KKK. Bigotry ought not be greeted with indifference.  And, hatred should never be shielded by tolerance. 45 may not overtly acknowledge the putrid stench radiating from his base but it permeates through out their ranks and they hail him their hero. Like a rabid animal, racism, bigotry, and hatred must be put down.  This disease must be eradicated before it infects the entire population.

Posted by: minnow | July 13, 2017

“WHEN DID HEALTHCARE BECOME A RIGHT?”

He yelled via caps on Facebook.  Honestly, I’d never asked myself that question.  Certainly the majority of people in the world don’t have healthcare as a right.  They live in developing nations where access to healthcare is the issue, never mind the cost. But here, in the US we face a different problem. Cost is the issue.  The majority think it’s too high.  A few, sadly most of whom are the same few who currently hold the power, couldn’t care less.

The ACA gave 20 million people healthcare who otherwise could not afford it.  Some, who already had healthcare, were angry because premiums increased.  People didn’t realize (or were fooled by the rhetoric on the Right) that insurance companies, not the ACA itself, increased those costs. Now, after undermining the success of the ACA, the GOP has come up with an alternative plan.  If you were upset with rising premiums before, just wait.  42 million are at risk of losing healthcare and insurance companies will want to recoup their losses somehow.  Dozens of pre-existing conditions will no longer be covered.  Rates will be connected to age, with seniors losing out.  And while it will be perfectly okay to go without insurance for a time, under the House GOP plan providers will be allowed to charge a 30% fee from those who have a gap in their coverage.  The Senate plan is…well since few have seen it we aren’t sure, but it’s safe to say similar.

The GOP argues equal access–They give everyone access–but as we know access in America isn’t the issue.

In order to distract us from the real problem–HOW MUCH HEALTHCARE COSTS (and why)–supporters of the GOP plan have flooded social media with memes, posts, and stories suggesting we are unreasonable to expect old men to pay for maternity care, or the middle class to pay for poor people who smoke.  Seriously!? Are we really unreasonable to expect insurance to function the way it was designed to function–as a pool of resources that everyone contributes to so those who have need can dip into it when their particular need arises, regardless of what their need is!?

In truth, people do a lot of things which do not serve their best interest.  They eat bacon and highly processed foods.  They drink highly sugared or diet soda.  They don’t get enough exercise.  They put chemicals on their skin to look and smell better. Even though these are socially acceptable behaviors their practice costs us at a health level. Should we calculate the risk factor of each and every thing we do and charge insurance accordingly?  
Have we, as a society, truly come to the place where making sure the “undeserving” don’t benefit from a compassion based system is worth neglecting those in sudden need? If wanting equitable and affordable healthcare for all makes me a bleeding heart liberal, so be it.  I proudly stand on the side that believes a happier, healthier work force is a more productive work force.  I gladly side with those who believe taking care of the weak and vulnerable is a moral imperative and distinguishes us from the Godless. I don’t even mind if you call me a socialist since from what I have seen socialists stand a long side the masses, the working class, those who produce the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the roofs over our heads.  Healthcare is a right–if we want to claim our faith as a motivating factor for the decisions we make.  Healthcare is a right–if we want to claim justice as a foundational principle.  Healthcare is a right–if we believe America can ever be a great nation. My right to life should not end the minute I was born.
Did you know, it used to be illegal to profit from healthcare? Now it’s a multibillion dollar FOR PROFIT industry. SINGLE PAYER HEALTHCARE is only one way to help the masses find some degree of stability. But, while we, the people, know the answer getting our current Congress to agree with us is a different story.  The GOP had six years of the Obama administration to come up with the better plan than the ACA (Obamacare).  They couldn’t do it.  Despite all their bravado and bluster the plan they finally rolled out breaks every promise they made to take care of middle class America.  WE MUST FIND AND ELECT REPLACEMENTS for ALL those in Congress who have proven once again they are only interest in representing special interests and the wealthy elite! 
Hold Congress accountable in 2018!
Posted by: minnow | May 14, 2017

Stuck in the Middle

Once again I stand on a seemingly deserted island.  Fundamentalism to the left of me and extreme LGBT advocacy to the right.  I wish I knew how to build bridges, how to blow away the chaff of offense and present the hurt and anger to God so God could saturate the situation with grace and peace, healing and comfort.  The mom who wrote this post agonizes because her religion demands she sever all ties with her son and she thinks she must “turn him over to Satan” in order to comply with what she’s been taught.  The woman who wrote this post thinks the author of the first post is heartless and deserves to be ridiculed, based on what her post does.  To me, both stand lost and clearly in pain.

I do not believe issues like who started it or who is hurting more or even who is right and who is wrong about the fate of the young man in the story have a whole lot to do with what is so grievous about these two posts.  But, let me be clear before I talk about that: the adult son of the first poster has been wronged.  His mother’s rejection of him may have been prompted by her religious conviction, nevertheless those convictions are grounded in a faulty understanding of scripture, an authoritarian manipulation of emotion, and a misguided, if not overtly damaging practice of one’s faith.  She (and supposedly her husband) have harmed a child God placed in their care. I pray the injury can heal and the damage undone, though in all likelihood we will never know how those prayers are answered.

I don’t know the woman who wrote the second post.  I don’t know where she identifies on the gay-straight spectrum.  I don’t know if she’s married, has her own child or children, is supported by her family of origin, or had to manufacture a family from friends because hers rejected her. The words in her post are biting.  I believe they spring from a place of personal pain and not simply empathy for someone else.  Their force has venom and claws and I feel myself recoil when I read them even though I am not their target.  I want to reach out to her, to hold her, and to let her know she’s not alone.  I sense her pain; hurt people so often hurt others. Yet, I also want to stop her, to caution her not to make the same mistake that so offends her.

In part, the second blogger wants to shock the first out of the vegetative state in which her unquestioned belief system has placed her.  I, too, wanted to scream–“Wake up!”  Still, battering those who have been battered rarely gets the results one wants.  In general, a public flogging rarely results in private reflection, though it often makes us better at hiding.  Believe me, I understand the temptation; I have spent far too many arguments parroting tone and words in a desperate attempt to force the person I’m talking with to understand how receiving hateful words feels.  But these battles spiral. The self righteous indignation and vicious retorts returned to me exposed my failure to make the enemy feel my pain.  Sometimes when those who have damaged us are no longer around we take our anger out on others.  Perhaps the mom from the first post is a surrogate for the second.  Whatever the case, I choose to believe her passion stems from a desire to defend a young man who has done nothing to deserve the abusive punishment which has been brought against him.  If this is true, her motives are good even when her methods are unhealthy and unhelpful.

My years under the influence of multiple fundamental Christian fellowships helps me understand the dual agony of the first women as much as my freedom helps me understand the purposes of the second.  A warped version of a once loving religion has manipulated a loving mother into thinking her son must quit being gay if he is to escape hell.  This same religious spirit threatens her own salvation if she shows sympathy toward her son.  It has deceived her into believing rejecting him could somehow lead him to a repentance he doesn’t actually need.   Instead, we–in the Church–are the ones who need to repent.  In countless ways  we have separate ourselves from God. We do so every time we judge, abuse, condemn, and reject others and every time we judge, abuse, condemn, and reject ourselves.

All through the Gospels we witness Jesus opening His arms to others–to those eager to learn, to those hurting and afraid, and to those floundering in the limits of their own thinking.  The New Testament tells us repeatedly to avoid the judgement of others because it will mess us up; we will end up bringing judgment on ourselves. If I am angry at anyone in this whole scenario, I am angry at those who highjacked the Gospel, who have replaced its message of love and hope with fear and condemnation.  The Mother and the Advocate in this story both want to love the man at the center of their posts but they are each blind, unable to see their own salvation in the love of Christ.  What Christ asks of us with His out stretched arms is not easy but love is the answer for both these women, just as it is the answer for us.

Jesus rejected injustice.  He entered the courts of the powerful, denied their authority over His life, and gave Himself up.  He did not quit loving His Father when he sat with sinners, dined with the Pharisees, or broke bread with His disciples. He walked out His love for the Father. We may be guilty of either or thinking but Jesus never was.  “My ways are not your ways,” declared the Lord and He sent His Son to show us what He meant.

Posted by: minnow | May 9, 2017

Demand an Independent Investigation NOW

 

I have started 5 posts since May 5.  Obviously I haven’t finished any of them yet, but stuff keeps triggering my thoughts. Even so none of it fell in the urgent category so I jotted down a few thoughts and figured I could always come back to it later.  Then today, I hear the President fired the director of the FBI, James Comey, on the recommendation of Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.

Yes, that’s right, the same FBI director who announced his office would reopen its investigation into Clinton’s e-mails 10 days before the election but failed to mention that the GOP candidate and his campaign were also under investigation has been fired.  But that isn’t all.  Just after his confirmation, Sessions, the man who recommended 45 fire Comey, needed to recuse himself from the investigation into the President and his campaign’s involvement with Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. You see, Sessions had met with the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, twice during the 2016 campaign but failed to disclose that information during his confirmation hearings. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  In fact, if this were a Hollywood movie we’d all be giving the plot a cynical, “Naaaah, come on. We’d never let that sh@# happen.”  And yet, it’s happening.

If the time is ever going to come for politicians to set aside their party differences and–for the security of our nation–demand we hold an independent investigation into Russia’s interference with our election and the President’s knowledge of Russia’s interference, that time is NOW!  Impeachment proceedings were brought against President Clinton for less.  The only other president to fire someone in the middle of an investigation which implicated him was Richard Nixon.  We must call out the President and demand he quit meddling in the cause of justice.

I’ve written both my senators urging that they request an independent investigation.  Now I urge you, let your representatives know you are watching.  Tell them you want action.  Put pressure on Washington by raising the bar of your expectations.  When we unite, we can make a difference.  Democrats and Republicans alike must be warned the electorate is no longer willing to sit idle while Washington ignores our concerns. If they refuse to listen and act on our behalf we will show up at the ballot box and let them know–Americans not Russians, the people not politicians, votes not money run this country.  They have until November 6, 2018 to show us who they represent.

Posted by: minnow | April 9, 2017

Weathering the Storm

I tried to stay off FB and away from politics for a while…The “a while” lasted about 3 days for FB, for politics about 5.  But, I need to redouble my efforts, especially with regard to politics.  As soon as I started reading updates on issues (like the status of the Gorsuch confirmation and the missile strikes in Syria) I felt a physical heaviness settle over me again.  Tears literally welled in my eyes.  Obviously, I am not yet recovered from the melancholy which enveloped me after the election.  If just one group–the erratic petulant President,the greedy GOP Congress, the assenting religious right, FAKE news and its adherents–presented in the troubling ways we have seen played out on a daily basis since the inauguration, I might weather this storm better and still feel safe staying informed.  As it is however, the sheer number of issues bombarding my news feed, e-mail, and FB threads overwhelms me.

I feel helpless.  I have no extra money to give to candidates I want to elect, charities I see helping, or international NGO’s.  My tiny conservative town houses a pretty homogenous population.  Everybody knows everybody (most everybody is related) and the kind of groups I would get involved with don’t exist here because…well, because we got Church and family and a bigger city about an hour away.  But, I don’t have the freedom to travel or the multiple hour chunks necessary to volunteer if I did.  I blog. Yet lately, blogging seems like little more than preaching to the choir.  And so, I feel helpless.

I am not the only one feeling an increase of post-election stress and anxiety. Professional psychiatrists report an upsurge in their case loads and more than ever before the topic of politics comes up in their sessions.  Helplessness, along with a good dose of anger leads to frustration, hopelessness, depression, and at times violence.  Yet, knowing others out there feel just as helpless and stressed as I do is small comfort.  Self-care is a term making its rounds, but what does it mean?

A few weeks back I announced I had dropped some people from my FB friends list. (Shortly after that is when I took my first break from FB). The decision was an attempt at self-care, which in part backfired. (Some friends left on my list felt threatened by my announcement and I felt shamed and frustrated by their response.  It was, perhaps still is, messy).  You might be thinking–once burned why try to explain, again.  While it seems I am explaining, I am actually trying to better understand self-care.  When do we get to say, “To hell with the rest of the world, I need to_______!”?  Of course, the addendum sub text here is: without suffering consequences.  And the answer, much to our dismay, is: NEVER.  All our actions, reactions, and inactions have consequences.

I am slowing learning part of what successful self-care entails, includes anticipating the consequences and determining how much weight to give them.  For example, dropping a toxic family member from your FB friends list may have different consequences than dropping a toxic acquaintance.  Some could argue, toxic is toxic pitch them both.  Still, if you cannot escape a relationship altogether taking such advice needs to be carefully considered since in all likelihood you will eventually be forced to navigate your decision with the toxic individual (no matter which option you choose).

Several years ago now I decided to “get healthy”.  Doing so is an on going process.  Just when I think I’ve turned a corner and am successfully navigating the river of life my boat hits another set of rapids and I must refocus my attention.  My inability to do something to change the current political situation is not going to change any time soon–AKA: rapids.  I can, and will, vote for Rob Quist in Montana’s upcoming special election but that is a drop in the bucket compared to the needs presented by our current political climate.

One reality I do understand is that without a larger stage, no amount of ranting from me about 45, the silences of those who call themselves Christians, the GOP lead Congress, or the milk toast and at times complicit media, will actually advance the causes or positions I care to advance.  So, I must reassess how I utilize my time and energy.  My passions have not disappeared, but how I walk them out must change.  If it doesn’t I’m likely to capsize.

For a while I was most angry, actually if I’m honest I still am, about how silent the majority in the Church has been.  I resonated then and do today with every word written (over two years ago) by John Pavlovitz in his post, Waiting for Easter: A Eulogy for Jesus. Yet, I started to say “For a while” because deep down I long to find a place of empathy in my heart rather than all this anger.  I want to cultivate understanding and compassion within myself so I can restore a connection with the Church I left physically a decade ago but from which I had felt emotionally abandoned long before.  My disconnect from the Body collective, as well as from individual members, is where I carry most of my grief.  It is the closest I get to identifying the pain Christ must have felt when he called out to His Father, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabach-thani?”  The one place love promised to prevail proved as fragile and fallible as the individuals, like myself, who at one point proclaimed its indestructibility.  Without Christ the Church is a whitewashed tomb.  Yet, I am as helpless to produce, even within my own heart, the Spirit of Christ as I am to change the Nation’s political climate.

And so, as the Church heads into Holy Week with its rollercoaster of pomp and pageantry mourning and celebration, I will not fail to pray for Easter.

 

Posted by: minnow | April 8, 2017

Shock, Ummm,…and Distraction

Please do not mistake 45’s reactionary bombing of Syria as concern for the citizens of Syria.  Nor should you assume the Administration has a well thought out plan with regard to Syria’s use of chemical weapons, the terror perpetrated on the Syrian people by their own government, or the ISIS stronghold in that country.  His reasons could be many but none of them have anything to do with compassion, logic, or policy.

45 has proved he could not care less about the Syrian people.  His immigration and refugee policies reveal a fear mongering, racist mentality which is not only unbecoming for a political figure in the United States but the antithesis of who Americans have claimed to be since our beginnings.  Yet, they are the essence of this administration. In my opinion, the President is doing what he has always done–using an emotionally charge situation to manipulate the American people and the press.  He was desperate for a distraction from his plummeting poll numbers, the Senate’s shoving Gorsuch down our throats, and the ongoing investigation into his collusion with Russia.  59 Tomahawk missiles provided a big distraction.

His pre-election threat to “bomb the hell out of ’em” is looking more and more like the foreign policy “plan” 45 has chosen to engage. Of course, there is one minor adjustment–the Administration didn’t go after ISIS.  That the press so quick hailed the air strike as presidential is shameful and possibly as disconcerting as the fact that the President warned Russia (or was he seeking permission) before he sent the missiles.

The conflict in Syria is not a simple case of good guys VS bad guys.  Like healthcare, Mr. President, it’s complicate. It requires, deserves, more than reactionary military might. For those who want to understand, at least a little, what makes it so dicy, this brief put out by the BBC explains how they Syrian people are not only fleeing from Bashar al-Assad, their own president, but are also in danger from ISIS, Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, the Kurds as well as other “support” nations and groups.  Sometimes some of these groups are fighting one another and sometimes they join with each other (sort of) to fight a common enemy.  Syria is a mess and the President’s actions did nothing to improve the situation.

If 45 truly wants to be Presidential, he should open our doors to the “beautiful babies” being gassed by Bashar al-Assad.  He should be in the situation room so he’s available as the events unfold not dinning at Mar-a-Lago.  If the press wants to praise those who are actually bringing relief to the situation, who truly show compassion, strength, and courage, then they should give a shout out to groups like The International Network for Aid, Relief, and Assistance.  This organization goes into high conflict areas to provide medical aid to children. They are not the only group with boots on the ground but they are definitely one of them.

No one has given Bashar al-Assad a pass.  That said–the Administration has not earned the cheers and high-fives it has received.  With no clear Middle East policy, with no plan to go after ISIS, Hezbollah, and al Qaeda, and with an uninformed and divided Congress, 45’s go it alone, shoot first ask questions later, go big or go home mentality should be seem for what it truly is–a dangerous and potentially deadly game of shock and mirrors.  It is a costly distraction.  And, Americans may be paying for it with their lives.

 

 

 

Posted by: minnow | March 30, 2017

Entitlements

Entitlements is an interesting word. It means having the right to something. It also means holding the belief that one is inherently deserving, privileged over another.  In today’s America the word entitlement is often thrown around like a dirty word–implying that those who receive certain services aren’t actually “deserving”, AKA the typical welfare recipient.  More recently however, the conversation about entitlements has expanded, pointing out others who receive benefits from government that result in great wealth.

Big corporations are subsidized by the government to the tune of several billion dollars a year.  We justify this assistance–tax cuts, and incentives–because corporations provide jobs, goods, and services we can’t afford to lose.  In our current political climate, all a corporation needs to do is threaten to move or lay off workers and politicians panic.  Government could, just as easily, through import taxes and levies, make it less attractive for corporations to relocate out of country. Yet, politicians don’t take that route which makes one wonder.

Even if the government didn’t subsidize corporate America, people with money are still more likely to get more money.  How? Because they have excess.  Wealthy people invest. Investors get money from the interest off their investments. The hard work of those who borrow–often for things like school, housing, and to start new businesses–creates the money that goes into the pockets of those with excess due to the interest charged on the money which is borrowed. We call it “free money” because it requires almost no risk and very little effort on the part of investors (though it’s hardly “free” to the borrower).  The have-nots, no matter how hard they work (and the vast majority work quite hard), rarely make enough excess to invest.  Thus the gap between the “have a lots” and the “have a littles” gets wider .

Interestingly the Bible condemns such behavior. Check out Lev. 25:37.  In fact, in the Old Testament among God’s chosen people the sale of land was not supposed to be permanent and in the year of Jubilee land returned to its original owners.  Talk about a serious redistribution of wealth.  Today, at least in America’s capitalistic mindset, wealth redistribution is a horrifying concept.  Even though the ultra rich could never have gotten rich without a robust, hard working middle class, most seem to believe they are entitled to what they have and are extremely reluctant to see the world any other way.  Socialism they say, makes people weak, dependent and unwilling to work for themselves.  Conveniently they ignore how little investment capitalist actually labor.

The kind of socialism people, like Bernie Sanders, talk about is an attempt to level the playing field.  Sanders wants the haves to give back a larger portion of their “free money”. He wants the borrowing middle and lower class who have given them their “free money” to reap some of the reward.  So he, and a growing number of us who agree with him, would like to  increase corporate taxes, unearned income taxes, and inheritance taxes.  Might some “undeserving” people also be helped if we as a people make this kind of social contract with our fellow citizens? Probably.  But, that’s a risk worth taking if it means those who benefit the most from a strong economy end up baring a bigger portion of the overall burden for the social good.

Another social welfare hot button is healthcare.  Many people believe healthcare should be the right of everyone, rather than a privilege of wealth.  To this end Sanders, and others, have advocated for a single payer system, which basically is medicare for all.  In a single payer system all American citizens would be covered and 95% of households would see a decrease in healthcare costs.  So what’s the problem?  In a nutshell–for profit insurance companies and drug pharmaceuticals don’t want to give up their billions in profit every year. So to secure that end they contribute to various campaigns.  In other words, the problem is purchased politicians who do not represent the will of the people.

Politics does not have a lack of ideas.  Politicians, (the ones calling the shots at the moment) have a lack of character. And, we, the people, have a lack of will.  We must do the difficult work of replacing long term politicians who have shown themselves to be in the pockets of corporate America and the wealthy elite.  We need to build relationships with one another and refuse to be taken in by negative ads paid for by political PACS which are funded by special interests. We must elect representatives whose first priority is the people and who will demonstrate their commitment to us by legislating campaign finance reform.  A wealthy corporate executive should not have more power in a democratic election than a middle class school teacher but until we get big money out of politics by replacing paid for politicians the wealthy elite will continue to have a bigger voice.

Greed and elitism are not American values.  At least, they aren’t the values I want to demonstrate or pass on to my children.  The time has come to send that message to Washington.  In the next few months five special elections are slated in California, Georgia, Kansas, Montana, and South Carolina to replace representatives who have taken other jobs, most in 45’s cabinet.  Only one of these positions was originally held by a democrat–California’s 34th District.  Of the other open seats, Montana’s has the greatest chance of switching from Republican to Democrat which is probably why the Republican candidate has received more than a million dollars from contributors outside the state of Montana.

I didn’t start this blog planning to plug Rob Quist’s quest to be Montana’s sole Representative.  Still, it’s easy to see how I got here.  There’s nothing elitist or entitled about Rob Quist.  He cares about Montana because he understands what it means to live close to the land, to work hard, and to be a good neighbor.  If middle class America is going to regain its voice in Washington, people like Rob Quist deserve our votes.  Don’t sit this one out, Montana. Vote Rob Quist as our U.S. Representative. Replace Zinke with a man for the people.

 

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