Category Archives: progressive politics

The GOP, Russian Bots, and the Infection Damaging the Soul of Our Nation

My fellow Americans,

We have always disagreed with one another – once to the point of civil war. We drew the lines between us that exist to this day but wise leadership has pointed us to our potential as a nation built on ideals and, as Dr. King said, our arc is bent toward justice.
At least it was.

Until the infamous ‘Contract with America’ and the bile spouted by Newt Gingrich and his ilk, we were able to avoid a repeat of allowing our divisions to lead to mutual destruction.  Instead, we inched toward  redemption.
Then Gingrich came along and championed the notion of zero cooperation, so much so that our system of ‘finding a third way’ was obliterated. Or it the process of obliteration had its  beginning in that moment. It was  completed when the GOP was taken over by the Tea Party that was built on a platform of  ‘no compromise, no way, no how.’

Privileged white men were reacting  to the threat of change. Their racism, sexism and homophobia nurtured distrust, even hatred in the body politic. And so began their concerted effort to divide the union.

Side note: being a union is hard work. Harder than making a marriage work or blending a family. Add to that an atmosphere manufactured to encourage distrust, hate, and rejection on both sides and we have a recipe for a disaster of epic proportions, culminating with Trump.

The work of conservative extremists is almost done. Between threats to the fourth estate, upending agencies that protect the citizenry, lies, and trashing the norms of civility, Trump has brought us to the brink of self-destruction. And guess what? The nemesis of my childhood, a large chunk of the nation formerly known as the USSR, is fanning the flames of our distrust and dislike (dare I say ‘hatred’?) of one another. They are doing this with bots infiltrating our social media, stoking the fears and anger of both the left and the right.

So I beg you, fellow Americans, to refuse to be baited. You can be conservative and I can be a flaming progressive and we can still figure out how to make it work. We can take a breath and recognize the way our fear of one another is being manipulated. You can be straight, white, a person of color, black lives can matter as well as the lives of queer, trans, redneck, feminist, disabled, old, young and even female people, but we all need to be smart enough not to be manipulated and  baited into distrusting and disliking one another. We need to be political athletes that can compete with one another, respect each other’s strengths, and identify each other’s weaknesses. In the end we are both necessary to play a vigorous  game of democracy.

After too many years of the GOP and it’s ‘win at all costs’ philosophy and knowing that Russian bots are working to alienate us from the inside, it is time to refuse to participate.  It’s the only way to cure what ails us.

 

I Will Not Be Your Enemy

We can choose not to be enemies.
We share history that is the source for all our struggles, self-definitions, failures and successes. For minorities and women much of that history is bad, even despicable. We have been oppressed, terrorized, marginalized, and repressed. But we have also built communities, resisted the dominant paradigm, and survived unimaginable violence to our bodies and psyches.

So how can we choose to not be enemies? Perhaps more importantly, why should we make that choice?

Women have the front seat on how for us to critique finding common ground with those who would oppress us. I hate the patriarchy and its systemic power to dehumanize one group of people and elevate another. I hate it for the same reasons I hate racism. And ableism. And heterosexism. I hate them all for the the boundaries of ‘us’ and ‘them’ that   form a temple of fear.

Women love men: we love husbands or fathers or sons or friends or all of the above. We do it while existing in systemic patriarchy that devalues our existence and codifies laws about our bodies. Here’s an example: I love my dad. He supported my every dream and did not reject me in the face of questionable choices. He is the first feminist man I can remember – though he would have cringed to be called that. Loving him did not eliminate the ways I was sexualized by a man as a child, groped as an employee, or give me the right to be in charge of my own reproductive health. My dad was my ally even while he benefited from being a man in ways I can’t even imagine.

I don’t want to make the mistake of dehumanizing and demonizing ‘the other’ any more than I want to be demonized myself.  Where will that get us? How will we make meaningful change if we repeat the same patterns?  The real ‘demons’ are systems that oppress.

What if, instead, we worked to find value in our differences rather than fear them? What if to give to one didn’t mean to take from another? What if we embraced the idea and the fact that we are all in this together? That to survive we must reach across the divide? If we are to survive as a nation we must find our way back to one another. We will always have things to disagree about so let’s treat this like a momentous disaster and rally around so that all survive.

Our goal can’t be that we are lock-stepped in agreement about our beliefs. Instead, let’s find ways to see the humanity in one another, to listen to the concerns we have, and to work together for solutions to this nation’s problems that require compromise not only by the oppressed.  Believe it or not, we used to do something like it. The opposing party was referred to as ‘the loyal opposition’. The idea was (and is) to take the best of both sides and find a solution of compromise that meets the needs of both. More compromise may be required by those who have traditionally held power but we can do this if we find our will.

The depth of our polarization deafens us to one another’s needs and will defeat us if we are not careful. For me, it starts here.
I will not be your enemy.

Come and Meet Me in the Middle of the Air



Somebody (everybody!) needs to remember that we share a national identity  that is only possible when we are willing and able to have difficult conversations. We have become ‘the other’ because we are a different color, gender, national origin, ability, age, or political identity. The problem is that the idea of our democracy only works when we are able to reasonably disagree with one another.
Those of us in the Judeo-Christian tradition have the sound advice of the prophet Isaiah (1:17-18):

learn to do good;
seek justice,
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.

18 Come now, let us argue it out,
says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be like snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.

“Come now, let us argue it out” or as translated elsewhere, “Come, let us reason together”.  The problem for  us as a nation and society (or one of many) is that we don’t seem to share the values upon which we were founded. Those values have always been our pride and our curse.  There is a gospel song that invites us to ‘meet in the middle of the air’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VGHfpvkI1c

From the beginning issues have been strongly argued from many sides. Big issues. Moral issues. Deeply personal issues. Issues that, even though we went to war with one another, the idea that we are one nation triumphed. We must  learn to “argue it out’  no matter how difficult the conversations are. Otherwise, political identity supersedes the ideas upon which we are built. Beware, it is happening right now. The era of Trump has obliterated national and cultural norms. (By which I mean things we have mutually accepted and agreed to without codification. For example, we would not call for our political opponents to be jailed.)

We must talk to one another. Unfortunately, it is the task left to the Left. Because talking to one another requires respect, curiosity, and the willingness to listen through another’s fear. We need to be patient and safe enough to the other person to hear their viewpoint. We need to stay calm. We need to do all this because WE recognize our connectedness even when the other side does not.

Let us have the difficult conversations without seeing ‘the other’ as enemy.
To save ourselves we must save us all.

I Recommend

I confess that I am an eager student of history and political science.
I like informed, scholarly works and  personal narratives of historic moments.
Given all those caveats, here are some books I heartily recommend.

What Happened by Hillary Clinton is an honest assessment of the 2016 election told from the perspective of candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. It is bruising and truthful. As a woman close to her age, who shares  many of her experiences – as a mother and a woman-as well as the historical context of the women’s movement, I encourage anyone who wants to dive deep into the election to read this book. She has been savaged by the press both during the election and about the book. If you choose to read for yourself the story of one woman at the cusp of history, do yourself a favor and read What Happened.   https://www.amazon.com/What-Happened-Hillary-Rodham-Clinton-ebook/dp/B01MYE7QP0/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1517241096&sr=1-1&keywords=what+happened+hillary+clinton

The Dangerous Case of Donald Trumpedited by Brandy Lee M.D, M.Div. is a collection of essays by 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts assessing Donald Trump’s mental status. These are all well respected scientists and educators who feel compelled by their moral and civic ‘duty to warn’. While academically solid, the essays are extremely readable and give much needed insight for those of us observing the erratic behavior of the President. https://www.amazon.com/Dangerous-Case-Donald-Trump-Psychiatrists-ebook/dp/B07262SJDC

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, by Michael Wolff is an peek inside the current workings of the White House. It’s stuff we knew, or at least suspected, and stuff we were afraid of and found is true. Wolff’s reputation has been muddied by those who claim he lacks journalistic integrity (e.g. reporting ‘off the record’) but he has answered those claims by stating clearly he was not there as a journalist. Perhaps a minor detail but one that speaks to the integrity of his work. Reading it is like watching a train wreck that you can’t look away from. You will see in riveting detail the narcissism and sociopathy examined in The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, (see above).  Put this one on your list. https://www.amazon.com/Fire-Fury-Inside-Trump-White/dp/B077G9ZMTC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1517241175&sr=1-1-spons&keywords=fire+and+fury+inside+the+trump+white+house

Dark Money: the hidden history of the billionaires behind the radical right, by Jane Mayer. If you care at all about the future of American democracy then read this book. Ms. Mayer has done extensive research about a systemic plan by a group of billionaires to fundamentally alter our political system. I might sound like Henny Penny scurrying around shouting “the sky is falling!” but I am not. I am not a conspiracy theorist nor do I ignore well-researched facts. The read is a little depressing but very well written and researched. Add it to your list. https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Money-History-Billionaires-Radical/dp/B01A7BVFZK/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1517241222&sr=1-1&keywords=dark+money

How Democracies Die, by Daniel Zipblatt and Steven Levitsky. This book is written by two scholars (Harvard professors) who study the life and death of democracies throughout the world from the 1930’s forward. It looks at the demise of democratic governments that is not through revolution but  through insidious changes that accrue over time. They also offer solutions. The authors provide a sober look at where democracy in the U.S. stands today, underscore important ‘norms’ that are not codified and how far we have left them behind, and propose solutions to the current state of our democracy.   https://www.amazon.com/How-Democracies-Die/dp/B078KPCRJZ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1517241265&sr=1-1-spons&keywords=how+democracies+die

The links above are to amazon, but please  support  your local feminist bookstore! They can be all ordered through Charis Books and More       http://www.charisbooksandmore.com

They are all worth the read. Or the listen. I recommend.

The Power of Women Unleashed

T

Something powerful is happening.
Pundits talk about it, observing from a distance.
Talking heads dismiss it, claiming it will go the way of Occupy.

But they are missing something important. They are missing the convergence of awareness. The Women’s March, #metoo, #timesup…women are woke. And they are woke across class and racial lines, sexuality and gender lines, and making inroads into all the lines that  historically divide us.
They miss the point.
The point of #metoo is that almost every woman (and among my many acquaintances the number stands at 100%) have been sexually harassed, assaulted, abused, or raped.
That should take your breath away.
These same women have systematically made less money for doing the same jobs as men. Or have been passed over for deserved promotions. Hence, #timesup.

With the past election we got woke to the systemic hatred of women. Okay, people still find it difficult to say that women are hated but look at the treatment of Hillary Clinton by men in the media. Even progressive men. Look at the explicit sexism of the Bernie Bros (and we’re supposed to be on the same side). Look at Chris Matthews. Look at her treatment by Trump. For many of us, it confirms our own experiences. For many it is a getting woke moment. For some, it is still difficult to acknowledge a symptom one has studiously ignored.

We are erasing the imaginary lines between us. Not ignoring our differences, but recognizing how keeping us separate has kept us down. We refuse to acquiesce to the way it’s always been. We are held up by the women who have gone before us from Eve to Ester, Mary to Prisca, Sojourner Truth to Margaret Sanger, Shirley Chisholm to Gloria Steinem. Young women and old women, girls, maidens, matrons, and crones are stepping up and speaking out.

Yes we have growing pains and we don’t need to be perfect, but we must be authentic. What is important is that we refuse to  be numbed to the evils of sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, and ableism. We must stay woke to our interconnectedness.  It is time to  unleash our power and VOTE, and RUN for office, and REPRESENT.

Advent Revolution: Be Like Mary


Godde is shocking and if you aren’t shocked by  Godde then you haven’t been paying attention.
Since forever the clash of the religious has been between piety and justice. Righteousness and goodness.  Godde always strains towards the people we reject, devalue, or dehumanize. Or should I say ‘demonize’ ?  And then she goes and does something radical by inviting the people one least expects (or likes) to be Godde-with-us.
Like women. Like foreigners. Like children. Like the outsider and the oppressed.
Can you see Mary, mother of Godde-with-us, in the picture above? If not, then maybe you have been looking in the wrong places. Morality doesn’t lie in transcendence (the way Mary is usually depicted), it lies in the gritty choices of everyday life. Is what I’m doing benefitting only me or is it in service to the greater good? Do I choose to make money over clean water and air? Fair wages? Accessible healthcare? Does my vote reflect not only my interest but also those of  the  most vulnerable among us? Do I place more value in the humanity of a person than their adherence to my sexual, gender, or cultural norms?
These are the questions we need to be asking. These are the concerns to which Mary calls us to when she is overcome with thankfulness and sings an ancient song of liberation and freedom:
‘My soul magnifies our Godde,
47     and my spirit rejoices in Godde my Saviour,
48 for She has looked with favour on the lowliness of her servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is her name.
50 Her mercy is for those who hold her in awe
    from generation to generation.
51 She has shown strength with her arm;
    and has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 She has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
53 and has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.

This is what counts as shocking to those who believe that their religion saves them from eternal damnation or that the amount of money they have amassed shows that they are favored by Godde. Which, in a way, is seductive because it gives the impression that we are in control. If I remain a virgin till marriage, don’t come out, don’t transition, don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t curse, don’t wear make-up… then I can control my fate. But piety never protects us. Instead, it  sets up the juicy conundrum that men can both objectify and abuse women with impunity. In the name of God.
 Godde calls us  to revolutionary actions not pious acts.  Mary is overcome by Godde and her response is to give voice to Godde’s call for liberation and freedom.
In these days when we look for Godde-with-us, check out the places you don’t usually look and the people with whom you don’t feel comfortable. Women who are pushy. Immigrants. #Me, too. #Black lives matter. They are doing the holy, revolutionary work of Godde.

 

Believe Us: #metoo

Something has changed. Women are unleashing tsunamis of memories and experiences in unprecedented ways and it as wonderful as it is pain-filled.

Ask any woman. Any. Woman. You will hear the stories of physical or verbal sexual assault and abuse. You will hear stories of how we are silenced because we need the job or the apartment or the healthcare or the church. You will hear stories that have lain dormant or relegated to the sanctity of the therapist’s couch for too long. We have been silent and silenced too long. Now that we are speaking out, there is no turning back.

Many of us who are not black are aware that black parents must, at some point, have ‘the talk’ with their children about racism and the inherent personal danger, ugliness, and hatred associated with it.

There is a similar talk that women have with girls. If not mother or grandmother, then teacher or mentor, neighbor or aunt, co-worker or congregant. It goes something like this:

Here is a dime (or quarter, or always have your cell phone with you) keep it with you and call if he gives you any trouble. Be careful how you dress because men can’t help themselves. Don’t be alone with that guy. A man will always try to take what he wants. Don’t walk alone at night. Always check the back seat before you get in your car. Have a whistle on your keychain. Use your keys as a weapon. Carry mace in your purse. Don’t set your drink down if you are in a club. Don’t go out at night. Don’t go out alone.

And then there are the messages we get that are often unspoken but assumed:

Say something and you’ll lose your job.
No one is going to believe you.
You asked for it.

Well, guys, I think you’ve just lost control because women are speaking up and speaking out. You don’t believe us? Do you really not believe us? You’ve never heard how men talk about women when left to themselves? You’ve never said those things yourself? You’ve never used your physical, political, or social power to coerce a woman? Or never seen another man do it? Really?

You don’t believe us? Well, too bad because we believe one another. We have centuries of experience with systemic sexism. We had it happen to us, to our daughters, to our friends – whether in something as tragic as rape or sexual abuse, or as rampant and dehumanizing as cat calling or unwelcome touch.

We aren’t going to make excuses for your behavior anymore. We are not going to undermine women who have the courage to speak out. The curtain was pulled back when thousands, millions of us say #metoo. We are not going to accept that this is ‘just how men are’. We want to believe you are better than this. Stand with us and make it unacceptable to use, coerce, or abuse women sexually or any other way.

And here is how you can begin: BELIEVE US.

Will Enough Ever Be Enough?

Somehow it is never enough.

Killed:
Columbine 15
Sandy Hook 20 children 8 adults
Charleston   9
The Harvest Music Festival 58
Pulse night club 49
Virginia Tech 32
First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs: 26
San Bernardino: 14
Edmond, Oklahoma: 14

This is a short, non-comprehensive list. But somehow it is not enough.
Not enough to strengthen gun laws.
Not enough to wrestle political power from the NRA.
Not enough to stop making a false distinction between terrorists (brown) and mentally ill (white) shooters.

Can we not agree that mass murder is a terrorist act and that anyone capable of committing those atrocities has significant mental health challenges – no matter their brand of political or religious fanaticism,  no matter the color of their skin?
Can we agree that there is ABSOLUTELY no need for any civilian to own an automatic weapon?
Can we agree that a bunch of armed white supremacists are not ‘a well-regulated militia’?Can we agree that arguments made by the gun lobby are specious and self-serving?
Can we agree that gun culture also leads to increased violence against women and children?
Can we agree that we are afraid?
Can we agree that enough is enough?

Stopping gun violence is a feminist issue.
Between 2001 and 2012 more than 6,400 women were killed by intimate partners using guns — more than the total number of US troops killed during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. Women in the US are 11 times more likely to die this way than women in other high-income countries.   https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sarah-clements/gun-violence-trump-america

Can we agree that enough is enough?

In the 1990s, politicians backed by the NRA attacked researchers for publishing data on firearm research. For good measure, they also went after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for funding the research. According to the NRA, such science is not “legitimate.” To make sure federal agencies got the message, Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) sponsored an amendment that stripped $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget, the exact amount it had spent on firearms research the previous year.

Can we agree that enough is enough?
And if you believe enough is enough then make your ‘thoughts and prayers’ have hands and feet. 
-Write, email, and call your senators and representatives. They hear from the gun lobby enough. They need to hear our voting voices loud and clear. http://act.commoncause.org/site/PageServer?pagename=sunlight_advocacy_list_page

-Give as you are able to anti- gun violence organizations. The NRA is a powerful lobbying group that represents gun manufactures more than its membership and can pay politicians for votes.  https://giffords.org/   

We must change the conversation so that it is completely and utterly ‘populist’ to support gun control.  Because enough is enough.

 

 

Bernie and the Women’s March Conference

Progressives and people of conscience need to be a united front against the insanity that took over the White House in 2016 and has been pervasive in the Republican Party since the advent of Gingrich.

That being said… we all know that is not how progressives/liberals work. We have to engage in endless arguments about the minutia of policy. Which makes our policies better. We don’t work in sound bites or tweets. It takes more than 140 characters just to name an issue much less define it. We have “marshals” at every turn reminding us who is included and who needs to be included. Hundreds of voices from thousands of experiences of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, ability, age… all seek and demand input. I’m proud of that. I am proud that is who we are and how we work. It is also the reason we are vulnerable to simplistic ideas expressed in short phrases. That, and the fact that the Right uses our diversity to divide us. Hell, we do that all by ourselves.

Which is why I hesitate to say anything at all about my argument with Bernie and the Women’s March. We desperately need to be a united front against the travesty of the Trump regime. We desperately need to unite to vote Tea Party Republicans out of office (the no compromise party that puts its extremist values above the well-being of the nation). We desperately need to humanize political discourse.

With apologies to those whom this does not apply, I find Bernie followers to be the worst. I don’t disagree with or deplore their ideas but I know in a democracy ideas are compromised both as part of our tradition of governing and of our legislative process. We cannot afford to mirror the Republican Party in some inauthentic search for purity. None of us is so elevated that we do not need to listen to one another.

Bernie supporters were hacked and played by Russia and many still believe the lies  circulated about Hillary. During the election, many of his supporters behaved like (and were) privileged, cis-gendered, white men. They demanded immediate change, not understanding that change is an ongoing process filtering through laws, family life, work relationships, religious life, community, and political life. Those without privilege could have informed the conversation were not that so many Bernie supporters absolutists. He dismissed women’s issues (e.g. Planned Parenthood) as unimportant and failed to understand the centrality of our issues to his economic and social agendas.

Right now I am angry because Bernie is the opening speaker at the Women’s Conference in Detroit. I’m sorry if you don’t understand. As a feminist of 40+ years I have seen this before. It is not about inclusiveness, it is about privilege. Invite all the men you want, I would welcome them, but let them come to  listen. Imagine a white person being the opening speaker at a Black Lives Matter conference. Could she or he speak as well to the issues as a person of color who has lived them? The choice is tone deaf. I will leave it there.

So now what? I don’t know the answer but let’s start the conversation. It is one thing to disagree, even vehemently, and quite another to dismiss and demean one another. We are ALL needed to turn this horror around. If you are angry that I am speaking my truth, be angrier still at those who are subverting democracy. If you are angry that I don’t trust Bernie, show me that you are trustworthy and don’t dismiss me because you don’t think my ideals are pure enough. If you get that women’s issues are human issues and that no political theory is valid without a substantial critique of issues that effect women then I will work with you. If you begin to listen to those of us outside your wheelhouse, I will work with you. Me and my feminist hoards will work with you.

 

Whose Rights?

                    Some days I’m not sure how much more sorrow we can navigate as a nation. After the brutal terrorist attack in Las Vegas, after Sandy Hook, after Pulse, after daily multiple murders that have become seemingly routine, have we been dulled to our outrage?

           And then there is the knee-jerk response from the right and the NRA: now is not the time to debate gun laws. Well if not now, when? When we have time compartmentalize our anger and grief? When we can make the people whose lives were taken and the ones who suffered loss unimportant? During election years when the NRA can buy the votes it needs? When?

What’s wrong with now?

If I hear one more 2nd amendment advocate tout that ‘this is the cost of freedom’ I believe I will hurl. We need to amend or void the second amendment. Amend it to include the six words when serving in the militia. Read Justice John Paul Steven’s well reasoned 2014 argument here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-five-extra-words-that-can-fix-the-second-amendment/2014/04/11/f8a19578-b8fa-11e3-96ae-f2c36d2b1245_story.html?utm_term=.aabb5e76d28d

My question today is: whose rights?

Rights enshrined in the very body of the Constitution are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The 2nd Amendment, as currently interpreted, infringes on those rights. The lack of sane gun control costs thousands of people their lives each year. Not only in mass shootings but in domestic violence incidents, and because of negligence that gives access to weapons by toddlers and adolescents.

NOW we need to focus on our citizens’ right to life. Maybe even come to understand that the ‘right to life’ includes enough to eat, a place to live, and healthcare. And the right to liberty. Because people are afraid to go to concerts, shopping malls, and sporting events. Women are afraid of their partners. And those fears imprison us. Finally, though happiness may be difficult to qualify, it has been snatched from thousands of our citizens by gun violence.

Why are some rights privileged over others? Why does your right to own a weapon trump my right to live? Our priorities are skewed, friends, in so many ways. But let’s begin here. Let’s begin by advocating for our right to stay alive.

Let’s give new and urgent meaning to the phrase ‘right to life’.