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.

 

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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.

 

Posted by: minnow | March 26, 2017

Through the Glass Darkly

One of the best things I did as a parent  was ask my children: Who do you want to be?  When they had a problem with one of their siblings, when they wanted to quit, when they had been hurt, I asked them to shift the focus to the end of the issue and decide what outcome they could live with so they would know where to put their efforts.  Though I was not always consistent about asking them this question, when I did they usually wanted a restored heart, a fulfilled goal, a healed relationship.  Getting to those places became easier once they understood they had a place to aim which wasn’t only connected to the problem or hurt directly in front of them.

Recently, I needed to ask myself the same question.  I don’t like looking in a mental, emotional, or spiritual mirror any more than I like looking in a physical mirror.  Still, not enjoying it and not needing it are two entirely different things so…stand in front of the mirror I must as I ask: Who do you want to be?

Returning my gaze is a woman dominated by anger and disappointment.  When not “performing” at work, my brow is almost always furrowed.  My shoulders droop.  My hands tense.  And, my lips twist into a question mark or frown.  A pained, sad expression dominates my countenance even when I prefer to be joyful.  I do not understand how or when this woman arrived in my body but I do not like her and I want to show her the door.

Though anger and sadness are not evil in and of themselves, when left to fester they can cause harm and even become dangerous.  A couple different conversations–in person and via private message–have made me realize the anger and sadness I feel has not found a healthy release.  I may be able to justify my recent blogs and Facebook rants aimed at Republicans or the Church over political and social justice issues. Yet, being right and being heard are not the same thing.  If my anger is the first, or only part of what I have to say that readers see or understand my reason for writing has failed and even done more damage then good.

Who I want to be–a passionate, creative, discerning, and healthy individual–and what I want to accomplish–fight for equality, encourage the down trodden, and advocate for justice–are not served if my anger over shadows the truth, my frustration blurs the problem, and my judgment fails to point toward revelation and redemption.  Yes, I am angered by corruption, cruelty, and unfettered greed.  I am frustrated by intentional ignorance, the power of fear, and the exploitation of peoples’ need.  These problems cause me to want to shake my fists in the air and rage at the powers that be. But to what end?  Despair?   In truth, I have been able to do nothing to change our current political climate.  My own cynicism is growing.  I feel as though I am sinking into a bitter, helpless void.  It is not a comfortable space.  SO…

I have decided to a break from politics, and if I can ween myself from the addiction, from Facebook altogether.  I need to engage in some kind of productive activity. I need to create a clear head space so I can wrestle with the how part of the who do I want to be question.  I currently have seven books sitting on my desk and bed stand that I have intended to read for quite some time.  I have a half a dozen art projects started but have not taken the time I need to complete them. I have been distracted by the end of the world as I knew it (not to be overly dramatic about what’s been bombarding my thoughts these days).

The truth is my world, and my perceptions of the world beyond my little corner of it, has shifted.  And, I need to figure out how to function within its new parameters.  I’ve lived more than half my life but that doesn’t mean I should spend the next portion of it focused on dying.  At approximately my age my grandmother “wished” she had learned to play the violin.  Twenty years later she told me if she had only started playing when she had told herself she was “too old” she would have had twenty years of playing, twenty years of enjoyment doing something she had always wanted to do.  Twenty years from now I do not want to have that kind of regret.

I am not going to promise that I will be back.  I know only that, 1). it is time to look in the mirror and wrestle with my reflection.  And 2). I want to be intentional about the path I decide to walk.

 

Posted by: minnow | March 12, 2017

The Pieces of the Puzzle

Have you ever put the border of a jigsaw puzzle together only to feel like all those left over pieces couldn’t possibly fit?  For the first month of the new Administration the craziness and chaos felt like it didn’t fit. Irrational tweets, illegal bans, unqualified cabinet picks, unsubstantiated claims, and a GOP leadership who couldn’t or wouldn’t rein in their guy. Day after day we faced an all too real Saturday Night Live skit.

From The Wall Street Journal to the Huffington Post, print media tried to explain the phenomenon that hit the White House. Talking heads predicted, commentators surmised, and bloggers from coast to coast offered their two cents. Yet the madness continued. Anyone who dared to point out the plethora of lies pouring from the Administration were berated and labeled fake.  Conway, Spicer, and Miller defended the defenseless and most of the press left their blather unchallenged.

Even more frightening, the enablers in the Republican dominated Congress happily fly under the radar which is POTUS. We seem to be watching a race to see who can inflict the most damage the fasted–45 or GOP leadership.  The President’s unprecedented behavior and irrational accusations have pulled so much focus that the wrecking ball legislation in Congress has floated along relatively unchecked.  BUT BE AWARE! While the President may have more power to harm the American people in the short term, the harm inflicted on the people by Congress is far greater and will last much longer. Unless 45  manages to get the US into a nuclear war (which may not be too far fetched) the betrayal from Congress could also be more costly.

Key benefits and safe guards for the American people are already on Congress’ chopping block.  The first step to deregulating corporations and subsequently making re-regulating them more difficult was the passage of the Midnight Rules Relief Act. Basically congress can bundle regulations established in the last year of an administration, vote them all down together and require Congressional approval of each one separately before it could be enforced.  Not only does this legislation impact environmental regulations which would be damaging enough, it also affects paid sick leave, school lunch programs, and most importantly–the rights of individuals to form class action law suits. Make no mistake government in the hand of the current GOP leadership is not a friend of the people. The current power in Washington has no intention of representing OUR wishes.

Ready for some additional bills Congress hopes to pass or already has while Americans aren’t looking. The 115th wants to withdraw from the United Nations. It made an initial attack against Dodd-Frank by by passing a law that ends the requirement for gas and oil companies to disclose payments made to the US and foreign governments which allow commercial development.  Congress has also begun the process of defunding Planned Parenthood which may make cold hearted conservatives cheer but will leave hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of women and children without affordable healthcare.  This includes prenatal care, STD tests, and cancer screening.

Evidently, leaving millions without healthcare is not a problem Republicans find too disturbing. Along these lines, they actually have a plan now to repeal the ACA (Obamacare). While their plan does away with mandatory coverage, it allows insurance companies to charge a 30% penalty for those with gaps in their coverage. Translated this means, if you can’t afford healthcare now it will become even more costly to get it later. The GOP also plans to cover cost with tax credits but, “Estimates from congressional budget analysts and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget kept showing that the credits would be both too small to provide enough help to lower-income people and too expensive overall for a GOP determined to slash federal spending that the ACA has required.” Additionally, Money Magazine and Rolling Stone explain that while pre-existing conditions can’t be denied they will be a reason for more costly insurance, older consumers will pay more under the GOP plan, and medicaid expansion will be phased out.  Finally, premium support will be capped at the rate of the Consumer Price Index plus 1 percent.  In 2016 this was 3.1%.  Meanwhile premiums rose by 25% in the same time period. Thus, the poor and much of the middle class will again be without insurance.

Oh well, perhaps we’ll save money by letting private investors (foreign and domestic) rebuild our infrastructure.  Though this idea originated with 45, Congress is sure to catch on. We have just one small catch, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao insists the federal government can’t pay for it all. Normally this means taxpayers need help from wealthy corporations which also benefit from a strong infrastructure.  This time however, wealthy corporations that might initially foot part of the bill will be allowed to charge tolls for the use of the roads and bridges they help build.  In other words, the corporations (not government) will get their money back through tolls while the people not only pay their portion of the cost through taxes but then again every time they drive. It works like this: “I’ll loan you some of the money to build,” says the private investor. “You then pay (possibly my company) to do the building. Then I’ll charge a toll from everyone who uses what I’ve built (even though taxpayers have also helped via taxes). Finally, I get to increase the toll whenever I need a little extra cash.”  Sound fair?  Yeah, not to me either.

People like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders represent the first line of defense against the fleecing of America by the wealthy elite and their puppet Congress–both morally and economically.  Red flags, like the resurgence of for profit prisons coupled with rounding up undocumented immigrants, bring the picture of our puzzle into focus. And, it isn’t pretty.  Resisters–protest is important, but it isn’t enough.  Get organized.  Find intelligent, compassionate people willing to step up. Then, get them elected! The world needs Americans willing and ready to fight.

Posted by: minnow | March 6, 2017

SPECIAL ELECTION

Now that Zinke has been confirmed as Secretary of Interior Montana is one of five states to need a special election or new appointment to replace a person joining 45’s cabinet.  We actually have an unique opportunity to lead the efforts to push back against POTUS, his support team, and the GOP power in Washington. Interestingly enough, Montana is the only one of the 5 to have a Democratic governor and at least one Democratic senator.  In other words we are not a completely RED state. Several Democrats voiced their interest in running for Zinke’s spot. In the end, State leadership selected Rob Quist to go up against the yet unnamed (though probable big money raiser Greg Gianforte will get the nod) Republican candidate.  The election will be May 25th.

With so much at stake, I must admit for this progressive, Quist is a disappointing choice.  He has no experience running a campaign.  He has no experience raising money.  He has no experience writing a bill, functioning on a political committee, working with other politicians, or fighting for important issues on any political front let alone in Washington D.C. But he sports a cool cowboy hat, plays a mean banjo (or so I’m told), and has a penis, which evidently means a lot to Montana Democrats.  I hear he’s on the progressive side of the issues but, I’ll need to take him at his word since he has no track record.

Folks, from my perspective our democracy is going to hell in a hand basket. And, I am angry that with so much at stake the Democrats decided an experienced woman on the correct side of the issues we’ve been told are SO important is somehow less electable than the inexperience man. I don’t know how to sell that to my son or his friends who felt betrayed when the DNC was so overtly anti-Sanders. Why should they trust those who have betrayed the progressive voice, yet again?

Maybe Rob is on the same side of the issues I am on but since we only have his words, I’m simply expected to trust that he is. I’m supposed to give him my money. I’m ordered (for the good of the country, because we must resist 45, because our very democracy is at stake) to vote for Quist and to tell others to vote for him as well. (If we can each get 20 we’ll turn this state purple). The reality is Rob’s biggest claim to fame is he was part of the Mission Mountain Woods Band which toured all over the state over 30 years ago and since then he’s been a big advocate for the arts.

I have to tell you, as a woman I’m pissed. As someone who cares about education, the environment, public lands, LBGT rights, gender equality, immigration, Social Security, healthcare, and the economy, I’m pissed. I feel betrayed, again.  I feel unheard, again.  I feel ignored, again. Yes. Yes. Of course, yes! I will vote for Rob Quist.  He’s closer to a progressive than anyone the GOP will put up, especially Gianforte. But, I can’t in good faith say I trust he’ll actually represent my best interests or my son’s or his friends’ because I have nothing on which to base that kind of confidence.

Let me just give you a little head’s up and then I’ll keep these kinds of opinions to myself, at least until after the election.  The so called undecided voters in Montana, and I believe through out the country, are simply not voting.  They are “undecided” because they can’t make up their minds between mediocre and meh.  They are frustrated with the status quo and tired of politicians who don’t have a backbone.  While the GOP has been taken over by the religious right, tea partiers, and bigots, Democrats have ignored their base for so long the base has given up hope and is staying home.  46% of eligible voters did not vote in the most important presidential election in my lifetime–and I’ve been voting for 4 decades.

I heard every excuse in the book for why Amanda Curtis wasn’t selected but every excuse boils down to the same thing.  Traditional Democrats are not willing to fight for progressive ideology. You have convinced yourselves (even though it has proven to be less true with each election) the only way to win is to snag a few moderate voters from the GOP.  Meanwhile the middle has moved further and further to the right.  Hate to break it to you, but Democrats–you are the middle voter. There aren’t any others hiding in the bushes. So, unless you want a People’s Progressive Party to rise up and start fighting with the GOP over your votes, you need to get reacquainted with your roots.

Democrats need to champion the working class and the disenfranchised, you need to listen to women, and yes, you need to light a fire under the butts of the millennials.  If you don’t, if you keep pushing the status quo, keep playing the safe game, keep insists unexperienced men are easier to elect than experienced women, and keep trying to sell us the notion that soft spoken white guys are more palatable than persistent, articulate, hard hitting women, the only place you’ll be hearing about Democrats is in the history books.

By all means folks, vote for Rob Quist.  I hope he is elected.  I plan to vote for him and will encourage others to as well.  He’s certainly more reasonable than the guy whose comment about Social Security was that Noah lived to be 600 and worked every day of his life.  But honestly, that’s a pretty low bar even if it brings a ton of money with it.  2020 is right around the corner.  What is this party going to look like then?

Posted by: minnow | March 3, 2017

Lessons from History

I am tired of being told to settle down, to find something positive to focus on, to give POTUS a chance, and to quit dwelling on our mistakes.  A recent letter, from C. T. Ripley, to the editor of the Billings Gazette in Montana suggested we need to stop talking about WWII internment camps as if we did something wrong by protecting American citizens.  I could not let this letter stand.  AMERICA must decide to learn from our mistakes. We need to remember the horrific things we have done out of fear so we learn how not to be afraid.  In response to Ripley I wrote:

I cannot let  C. T. Ripley’s letter stand.  When we call rounding up American citizens, allowing their homes and businesses to be taken without compensation, and placing them in camps with armed guards, little food, and few resources “common sense”, we can no longer claim to value justice or freedom.  The reason compassionate people talk about one of the blackest marks on America from the 20th Century is so we do not, in the 21st Century, repeat our grave error in judgment. 

Ripley’s letter stated, “I empathize with the internees…, but had they been interred by their own countrymen as suspected American sympathizers their fate would have been far worse.” Ridiculous! They were interned by their own countrymen—Americans were their countrymen!  That’s the point. To prove their loyalty, many sons, husbands, and fathers of the  interned fought for the United States during WWII.  For their service, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion, comprised almost entirely Japanese Americans received 9,486 Purple Hearts, 8 Presidential Unit Citations, 559 Silver Stars, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, and 21 Medal of Honors. Approximately 18,000 served in the 442nd and 6,000 as part of the MIS.  800 died in action.

If we want to preserve our Constitution, if America wants to continue to be the champion of individual liberties and justice, we must stand against any action that singles out one group of people based on the color of their skin or the nation of their ancestors.  We must NOT repeat the mistakes of history.

For the first time in a long time,  during his address to Congress, POTUS sounded rational, calm, at times even “presidential”.  But, like I said in my last blog, I will judge POTUS, his supporters, and Congress based on their actions not merely their words.  So far those actions make me worried for the future of this nation.  So far, the Administration’s actions and those of the GOP cause me to doubt the stability of our economy as well as our security.

When one part of the citizenry is threatened, we all are threatened.  When one group of people has unfettered power, all others are at risk of loosing their self governance and protection from harm.  When our laws, and especially the Constitution, are applied to some more than others, we all are at risk of unfair treatment under the law” and of losing our individual rights.  Differences in ethnicity, gender, religious believes, sexuality, and age are not reasons to fear our fellow Americans.  The presence in your neighborhood or school or congregation of someone who is “not like you” does not put you at risk of harm; it puts you in danger of learning something new, making a friend, and even changing your thinking.  And if your response to the “other” is open then perhaps your goodness will put them in danger of the same.

Posted by: minnow | March 1, 2017

So How Did POTUS Do?

When 45 sticks to the script he actually sounds quite intelligent.  He speaks in complete, coherent sentences. He even can appear to have a heart.  The post speech talking heads all seemed to agree last night’s address had fewer references to himself than any speech they could recall. And while singling out individuals who had suffered loss at the hands of undocumented immigrants was seem by some as unfairly maligning immigrants, using Bill Owen’s widow was a powerful move.  Of course, it may backfire if Owen’s dad gets the investigation he wants but in the short term it humanized our new president a little at a time when he needed it most. But, what did our new president actually say in his address?
A quick Fact Check of 45’s speech last night reveals he hasn’t stopped fabricating the truth.
Once again, 45 accused immigrants of costing the US billions of dollars.  Do they?
Ultimately the statement is FALSE. Over the long haul, the positive financial impact of immigrants out weighs the short term expense.
He took credit for saving millions on the F-35 fighter.
This statement was also FALSE. Most of these savings were secured under President Obama.
POTUS claimed a massive tax cut for the middle class.
In FACT, the most massive cut benefits the top. On average his plan will result in an over $200,000dollar savings for the richest 1%. Additionally, the proposed program cuts which will allow for the tax relief hurt working class Americans by removing safety nets.
He stated that 94 million Americans are out of the labor force.
In TRUTH however, his figure included every teen and adult 16 and older. Some of these people are WORKING in school instead of for pay, a good many have RETIRED after working their whole lives, and another percentage are stay at home moms who WORK taking care of children and/or aging parents.
The President also bashed immigrants by saying the vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism since 9/11 were foreign born.
The REALITY, however is quite different.  Home grown, born in the US, terrorists actually account for over half the terror attacks in the US according to both the Justice Department and Homeland Security.
Additionally, POTUS took credit for jobs he hasn’t created and asserted that the ACA is collapsing without providing evidence to back up his assertion.  He waxed eloquently about working together but directed his most critical remarks to the Democratic side of the chamber.
The President bragged about cutting red tape in order to get the economy rolling again. And, no doubt removing protections from the EPA and deregulating big banks and Wall Street will have a short term positive effect on the economy. However, we are not so far removed from the public bail-out of 2008 that we should be blind to the dangers of an unfettered banking system. Even as our politicians betray us, the public should be seriously concerned about the long term impact of deregulation. We should also be aware of how disastrous and expensive failing to protect our environment can become.  For the past 35 years the EPA has committed over a billion dollars a year to cleaning up hazardous materials.
The last big announcement made by POTUS was a proposal to increase the military’s budget by $54 billion dollars. However, when the military can’t account for $6.5 trillion dollars from its past budgets, increasing their budget should be laughable. Since POTUS thinks his get rid of two regulations for every new regulation created is so clever perhaps he should apply the same thinking to the Pentagon—for every new dollar of spending they “need” they ought to cut two dollars of waste or at least be forced to account for it!
While most commentators can’t seem to get over how eloquent and civil the President can sound when he’s reading someone else’s words, I plan to wait for actual policy to be enacted before I take those words at face value. If the last 30 days have taught us anything, they surly taught us things are not always as they seem in this new administration.  45 may be the most unpredictable political figure  in Washington but but he is not the only politician we need to watch. the newly empowered GOP, hiding behind their lightening rod President, may soon inflict just as much damage as 45 already has.
Posted by: minnow | February 25, 2017

The Free Press; the People’s Voice

When Senator McConnell said he hoped Democrats would treat the new President the way President Obama was treated by Republicans his message was insincere, even if he only meant 45’s cabinet picks.  President Obama’s nominees waited an average of 35 days for confirmation, with his nominee for Attorney General taking a full 161 days. Just for perspective, President George W. Bush’s nominees waited 16 days on average. In truth, Senator McConnell wants his guy to be treated better than how he and his cronies treated President Obama. For eight years their behavior was both partisan and petty. President Obama was the only President to literally need to show his birth certificate.  President Obama was the only President to face 500 filibusters in the Senate,  the only president to be denied a budget hearing, and the only president denied a hearing for his Supreme Court Justice nominee. Senator McConnell himself made the public announcement that the top priority of the GOP would be to deny President Obama a second term. And, although they failed, McConnell and his gang did everything in their power to achieve that end.  So today when Senator McConnell whines about Democrat obstructionists he actually knows his GOP has an exclusive on that particular market.

Another fact about the last eight years is: President Obama set a high bar when it comes to political and social discourse.  Ideas are up for discussion.  Policy can and should be debated, actions analyzed, and rhetoric criticized.  But personality is not to be maligned without irrefutable evidence to back up each and every claim.   My sincere hope is the men and women of Congress give our newly elected President more respect than the man deserves. Congress should respect the office and the Constitution which established that office.  As part of the electorate, I expect them to maintain the high bar set by President Obama.  I expect them to refrain from belittling, name calling, and mockery because such behavior reflects negatively on them and does nothing to confront the very real threats our current President poses.  And while most are arriving late to the party, this administration must be held to account.

The level of dishonesty, betrayal, and menace America has experienced from the White House since the inauguration IS NOT NORMAL.  We cannot afford to be distracted by playground charades or barnyard banter in response.  We must be clear about the difference between the petty whining perpetrated by the GOP for the past eight years and the serious danger we face today. POTUS, Bannon, Spicer, and Stephen Miller among others, do not have the American people’s best interests in mind when they enact and defend bans on people who pose no actual danger to Americans. They are not looking out for our safety when they rescind individual civil rights, threaten military action in our city streets, and ignore or make light of real attacks made by  home-grown individuals and hate groups.  They are not watching out for American interests when they only allow journalists access to White House briefings who routinely stroke their egos, ask soft questions, and report favorably about their actions.  

If you are not alarmed by the events of the past month you have either not been watching or your personal privilege has made you comfortable, and blind.  The President undermines the Constitution by his abuse of executive power. By-passing Congress, who alone has the ability to make law, levy taxes, and allocate money, his order to build a wall on our border and his threat to place a tariff on Mexico to pay for it are an over-reach of his authority. Our civil liberties are under attack by POTUS as well. His refugee ban has harassed innocent American citizens, sullied blameless immigrants who hold valid visas and green cards, and created fear where none is warranted.  Rescinding  President Obama’s protection for transgender students has left some of our most vulnerable citizens even more at risk and do nothing but placate the Religious Right. Additionally, several of the administration’s cabinet picks–Betsey DeVos, Scott Pruitt, Steven Mnuchin, and Wilbur Ross–are poised to compromise the effectiveness of or completely deconstruct the departments to which they’ve been appointed.

Yet, given all that, 45’s most treacherous  and revealing  behavior continues to be his relentless attach on the free press.   As a president Thomas Jefferson may have been critical of the press, but as a Founding Father he had a different opinion and with good reason. Writing to Edward Carrington, a delegate to the Continental Congress, Jefferson said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”  In other words, Jefferson understood how vital access to information is to the public good, and not just information but truth.

Unlike Jefferson, our current president and his followers labels every fact they don’t like, fake. Paris Dennard, for example, tried to tell Don Lemon of CNN that a story about 45’s travel expenses was fake.  And, while it certainly does not show the President in the most flattering light, the $10 million dollars tax payers have shelled out for his multiple weekend trips to Mar-a-Lago is real.  Fake News is the garbage Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer have tried to peddle to the American people about a massacre in Bowling Green and voter fraud in California and New Hampshire. They spew assertions without evidence, lies which have been repeated despite being proven false, and misinformation that far too many Americans continue to swallow hook, line, and sinker.

Make no mistake, 45 and friends want power. They are interested in personal gain alone. And, they do not want to be questioned. Frighteningly, the GOP leadership, who could at least hold them at bay have so far been more interested in courting favor.  If justice and freedom are to prevail the American people must resist the agenda of this President and defend the fourth estate and the People’s voice.

Posted by: minnow | February 19, 2017

“Freedom”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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