I already protested that guy! Voting can stop the merry-go-round

Until the presidential election in 2016, I was not involved in activism. Even now I would not call myself an activist, because my efforts are inadequate and inconsistent as I try to balance with other life obligations.

But there was a moment in college when I was moved toward activism, if only for a moment…

In the 1980s, back when rape was called “date-rape” in college settings, my privileged university was happy to look the other way. Fraternity houses were given a mere slap on the wrist, a letter of condemnation, when it occurred in their houses. And it was occurring with disturbing frequency.

I participated with fellow students, primarily women, in a series of demonstrations  themed, “Take Back the Night.” These were night vigils during which we walked with candles and signs in support of the young women on campus who were victimized. We were only slightly successful at the time, moderately impacting the administration’s stance.

One experience at a frat party helped me relate. My girlfriend’s guy friend and his pals  invited us to look at a loft they constructed in their rooms. We kindly, and perhaps naively,  followed them through the halls to see the loft. From the doorway I said that it looked cool and one of them suggested I sit down to try the couch underneath. I crossed the room to the loft and as soon as I sat down was surprised to find he had closely followed my footsteps and plopped himself directly beside me while his friend closed the door while ushering my girlfriend farther down the hall. He lunged toward me and draped his arms around me. Luckily I had not been drinking and had swifter reflexes than him, so I was able to slide low to escape his circling embrace and get up and out of the room before he got off the couch. It was ridiculous. I had only just met him 15 minutes earlier.

So of course when I heard the allegations by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford I believed her, understanding how quickly these things can happen. And after watching her credible testimony and Brett Kavanaugh’s incredible tirade, it was clear to me how true her allegations were.

It also occurred to me that I already protested this guy. Kavanaugh was a senior in college while I was a freshman, so we were contemporaries though at different schools. Essentially, he was the partying privileged frat boy I was raising awareness about, pleading to the administration for real consequences for these young men’s actions. (I’m tired and don’t have time to protest things that should have been addressed years ago. Get me off this merry-go-round!)

But it doesn’t matter to Republicans. If it did, they would not have elected Trump, a self-admitted molester of women. Nor, if women and decency mattered to them, would they have shoved through Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing without a full investigation and despite his ludicrous behavior. Abuse against women is a mere side effect of being drunk with power, and they need power to advance their agenda, right? My Republican friends think they are adhering to core values, because they feel the end justifies the means. The problem is that there is no end. There is simply a continuing downward slide of morals and debasing departures from laws and norms that protect us and our democracy.

In my many years of voting, I have voted both Republican and Democratic in general elections depending on the character and service record of the candidates. I eagerly tune into the national conventions of both major parties, hopeful to be inspired and see the best of humanity emerge. On the national stage in recent years Republicans (not just Trump) have continued to disappoint and now seriously alarm me. What they tolerate  in pursuit of power is indeed, dare I say it, deplorable. I hope for party reform out of both parties, but right now mostly I hope we have checks on power.

The days of staying open-minded to both parties are over for the time being. We cannot equivocate and pretend there is parity between the parties. For this election, we need to understand that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We simply cannot have all three arms of federal government, and 30+ state houses ruled by Republican majority. It is rotting our country’s moral core to be so out of balance. So for this election, voting Democratic is the patriotic thing to do to reset the dial and recover some checks and balances.

If you are Republican, relax, this does not mean that everything will turn Democratic overnight. Of the 14 heavily gerrymandered states, 12 states are gerrymandered in favor of Republicans, while only 2 of them are gerrymandered in favor of Democrats. Despite talk of a blue wave, it will be extremely difficult for Democrats to win in most places despite a hefty voter turnout. Democrats need to hope for a landslide of voter turnout in order to squeak a win.

But you can make a difference in making a small but important shift toward a balance in the force.

Vote. Encourage and empower at least two other people to vote. Do you have a friend who has moved and needs to request an absentee ballot? They need to act now, possibly by today or tomorrow, in order to request an absentee ballot, depending on locality. Call your friends today and remind them to register, request ballots, and vote!!! Also double-check your registration to make sure you have not been purged from the voter rolls.

Go to Vote.org. Also check out BallotReady.org to learn more about all candidates on your local ballots.

Women’s March Chicago: Big, Beautiful Historic, Sober, Determined

womensmarchchicago-vote-triumphant (2)

How was the Women’s March today? Depends on who you ask.

“Big!” Says my sixteen year old son. “Lots and lots of people.” Considering he is over six feet tall I suppose he had a good view of the crowd and the pink hats. He also was not at the Women’s March last year and so his biggest march was Earth Day with roughly 45,000 people. Today’s crowd was more like 300,000.

“Beautiful!” said the police commander when my friend asked him how it went. Peaceful and pleasant almost to a fault. Right before the march an organizer said, “Remember to be respectful of each other and public property.” And we were.

“Historic”, said our friend who also was impressed that it marks the anniversary of the birth of a Movement.

“Sober and mature” I thought, compared to last year’s marches which swelled beyond expectations. Last year in D.C. everything felt electric as people rushed with outrage and urgency to defend Americans and the nation’s ideals.  Now both their heads and their hearts are in the game. People know better how to proceed, how to pace themselves, how to win the long game to restore this country.

I saw ‘Dan Biss for Governor” signs. Meanwhile, JB Pritzker wound his way through the crowd near us , accessible to folks for chat and pics. Lisa Madigan gave one of the most inspiring and focused speeches. Basically she said,  “1. You can do anything (you already do, like build businesses, teach, volunteer), 2. You are powerful, 3. We are more powerful together. 4. Get out there to vote and run for office.” Powerful message we can think on, and act on!

My recommended 2018 To Do list:

  1. Register to vote
  2. Ask everyone you know to register to vote–friends, neighbors, sales clerks, the mailman, (I remind telemarketers who call my home)
  3. Stay alert for rallies, marches and other organized activity in your area. See PersistList.org for happenings in Chicago and/or sign up for your favorite causes who will send you alerts.
  4. Stay informed about candidates as we approach elections. Go to ballotready.org for information about candidates up and down the ballot, and triangulate news sources for good information.
  5. Let’s all get in formation and march to the polls for 2018!

Heed MLK Jr.: Women’s March Chicago this Saturday, Jan. 20 at 11 am (Columbus & Congress)

LADY LIBERTY IS STILL WATCHING YOU!

This Saturday heed the warning of Martin Luther King Jr.

“…And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights….” Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have a Dream”

Were moms and men, women and children, simply blowing off steam when they marched in last year’s Women’s March? Will they be content to return to business as usual? NO!

The reasons I marched are equally true today if not more true. This administration has proven to be even more bigoted, cruel, incompetent, and corrupt than we warned last year. The president has continued to falsely bash Americans and American institutions, eroding the fabric of our democratic society.

If you add up the hateful things Trump has said about women, Muslims, Mexican-Americans, American cities, FBI, Intelligence agencies, journalists, free press, judges, Congressional Democrats (and Republicans!), his own “loyal” staffers, foreign allies, (and fill in blank___!), and then add up who Trump has endorsed or failed to condemn…

…it becomes clear that he has no interest in protecting Americans, and upholding American laws and American ideals.

Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans remain complicit. It is up to us to “Show me what democracy looks like!” See you this Saturday!!

Women’s March in Chicago

Sat, January 20, 2018

11:00 AM – 12:30 PM CST

Add to Calendar

LOCATION

Downtown Chicago –

302 S. Columbus

Chicago, IL 60604

View Map

 

OTHER LOCATIONS NATIONWIDE

Blogging blossoms into book pursuit

I started blogging in September of 2016 as a light pursuit, mainly as a method to engage my cyber-tuned boys. I ended up writing 60 blogs in the 12 months that followed, mainly about politics, and primarily as a method to help me digest the news of the day in a productive manner. As frustrating as it is to read the news these days, it is even more frustrating if it all becomes overwhelming or blurs together. Blogging helps avoid the blur.

For the last two months I’ve been on hiatus from blogging (my apologies to loyal followers). Not because I’m losing interest, but rather because blogging is blossoming into a fuller pursuit. I have been busy lining up ducks to write a book about what America really is, and really could be, in the context of our history and dearest dreams. Think of it as a guideposts for the American citizen. My man-on-the-street interviews are taking on a new meaning in this context. Also, I have been spending more time reading and researching about past civilizations, American history, economics, and citizenry.

I will also get back to blogging about news of the day, though. Someone has specifically asked me to write about the tax plans pending in Congress (check out Eric Zorn’s 9 reasons not to be thankful for the GOP’s tax plans , and a quick summary of why they are ridiculous, and how taxes will likely increase). Also someone asked me to write a “catch-me-up” piece so it is easy for them to understand the most important things that happened last year in national politics. The genesis of this request is that they finally feel ready to start getting involved now (yay!), and do not want to feel ignorant entering the political sphere.  For starters, let’s consider if democracy has been holding up. So some thoughtful blogs on these topics are forthcoming.

Meanwhile, if you have any interest in hearing more about my book project, please contact me. I am collaborating with a dear friend on this project and we welcome more input and voices. The topics we plan to cover so far include: economic inequality and concentration of wealth; how we talk to each other in a civil society (freedom of speech, civility, truth, and misinformation); education and healthy communities; racism and other-isms; gender equality; rule of law and social justice; models of self-governance;. These topics will help us triangulate on what a successful America looks like.

We are especially interested in interviewing regular Americans (not just experts) from across the country who represent a variety political positions and philosophies. So if you care to be interviewed yourself, or nominate someone, just let me know.

Also, in case you are interested, here are some books that are currently fascinating me:

  • Guns, Germs and Steel
  • How to be Alive: A Guide to the Kind of Happiness that Helps the World
  • Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide

 

Nazis, Trump, Confederate Statues…Don’t Blink

Nashville-Suffragettes

During spring break my family traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, where we were struck by the variety of monuments. Accustomed to the Land of Lincoln, we now saw presidents Andrew Jackson and James K Polk revered by their home state. We also saw confederate statues and symbolism (check out this monstrosity) and learned that Eastern Tennessee supported the Union during the Civil War, while the rest of Tennessee went with the Confederacy. We also saw several statues of women, like the one pictured above commemorating the “Perfect 36” that gave women the right to vote, as well as a bust of the pioneering Dr. Dorothy Lavinia Brown. And most impressive was the giant Athena statue in the full-scale Parthenon replica in Centennial Park.

I almost blogged then about the feelings these statues aroused. Now that the controversy over removing confederate statues has risen to the national consciousness…the time seems ripe to talk about statues and what they mean to us.

First of all, I was inspired and gratified by the images of Athena, suffragettes, and Dr. Brown. As a woman, these made me feel especially empowered and inspired to strive and contribute. That is good. Also they made me realize and lament the dearth of female statues back home. Not so good. (BTW – It shouldn’t be hard to erect statues of women or even girls, but remember the uproar  over the little “fearless girl” on Wall Street?)

Second, I was a little mystified and intimidated by the existence of confederate statues. I did not consider then how I might feel if I were a person of color, but I could imagine now that I would feel pretty awful: resentful, threatened, abandoned, invisible. On a positive note, it did make me curious to learn more about local history.

Fast forward to this weekend in Charlottesville…Our country suffered a series of moral blows when Neo-Nazis descended on Charlottesville, Va., ostensibly to protest the towns’ decision to remove a statue of Robert E Lee, but more notably to “Unite the Right” and conjure up the biggest white supremacist rally for the past several decades. See the Vice News 22-minute video depicting the Neo-Nazi perspective.

The white supremacists armed themselves (guns, helmets, sticks, chemical irritants, shields) and marched in a Friday night surprise, carrying torches and chanting Nazi slogans (“Jews will not replace us” and “Blood and Soil”). By the next day the towns people came out to bravely protest what was obviously a pro-Nazi rally. Some time after the rally was broken up by police as an unlawful assembly, a white supremacist sympathizer murdered the valiant Heather Heyer and injured at least 19 others by driving his car across a pedestrian mall into a group of people, terrorist style. (See the similarities between white nationalists and jihadists)

Then the moral blows kept coming as our President failed to condemn the hate groups by name on Saturday, and tried to make people believe that blame lies on “many sides”, relying on the proven Conservative tactic of False Equivalence (more recently referred to as “both-siderism”) that confused and misinformed voters last year. He waffled in his tone and purpose over the course of four days, giving an “insane press conference” on Tuesday. Many feel he has given comfort and hope to white supremacists. Meanwhile, the most powerful man in the world has proven once again that he gets his talking points directly from Fox News.  Together they have perpetrated the idea of an alt-left (What alt-left?,  there is no left equivalent to ethnic cleansing groups, not even Antifa), and suggest that it justifies the poisonous alt-right. The moral blows have turned into gut punches delivered by our very own President as America attempts to vomit on itself.

Now more people are seeing Donald Trump for who he really is, the paranoid, divisive  and racist leader who Hillary Clinton warned us he would be over a year ago.  Prominent Republicans are starting to voice it out loud, like Senator Bob Corker from Tennessee who questions Trump’s stability and ability to understand “the character of this nation” and “what makes this country great”.

People are starting to realize that Trump and his White House Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, represent a tangible and dangerous link to the Alt-Right, that Trump’s numerous anti-semitic campaign tweets and racist retweets were intentional to stir his hateful political base. And some people may also know that Russia has intentionally allied with and infiltrated white nationalist groups and used cyber techniques to push Breitbart and Alex Jones conspiracy platforms into the path of Republican voters, carrying the hatred and paranoia of white nationalism into the mainstream.

So what about confederate statues? It might be helpful to first understand that a large number of confederate statues were erected during times in our American history–Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras–when people were attempting to keep black people in their place. These statues loom over citizens on their way to courthouses and civic centers. Meanwhile, if we are actually commemorating Civil War heros rather than glorifying its transgressors, then why not depict emancipated black people? Why not show the bravery of everyday people who fought and died and suffered to make change happen?

Mayors are now acting swiftly to remove or cover the confederate statues for the sake of safety. My suggestion for these confederate statues? Move them to museums for context, or to graveyards that have a high proportion of confederate soldiers. Otherwise move them away from the center of town and provide historical context.

Many people feel the Charlottesville tragedy is a pivotal moment in this Presidency and perhaps this Nation’s history.  The Neo-Nazi’s feel it is their equivalent of the Beer Hall Putsch which will reinvigorate their cause. Others hope it is the dawning of an understanding that we need moral and political leadership to end systemic racism.

If we were to memorialize this pivotal moment with a statue, who would we depict? The Neo-Nazi leader who came with guns? The white male organizer of the “Unite the Right” rally? The ACLU leader who litigated the group’s First Amendment right to protest? President Trump with his words in quotes, though they were deemed inadequate at best and harmful at worst?

Well, I nominate Heather Heyer. She went to the rally even though she feared for her own safety and  didn’t want to die. She overcame her fear so that she could stand up against hatred, to defend us, to defend America. Heather also advocated for others to do the same. She did not blink in face of evil. She would not let a statue, or its violent proponents, send us backwards in time on progress that has already been hard fought and won through blood and sacrifice, love and bravery. She is a hero who deserves to be remembered.

History has its eyes on you… Hamilton, Candide, and Wonder Woman

The last couple months were packed with entertainments and philosophical exchanges with family and friends. The upshot is that we cannot escape from politics right now, even when we are enjoying ourselves. Here are some highlights.

We enjoyed an excellent musical production of Candide produced by the Musical Theater Works company in Evanston. Yet there was a nagging something that tarnished enjoyment, for me at least. This story reminds us that good art is timeless. Voltaire could not have predicted Trumpians any better. How impossible it was not to picture Trump in the vain brother, Melania in the shallow jewelry-loving Cunegonde, etc. Ultimately the main characters were revolting, even Candide whose professed innocence belied his murdering selfishness.

Similarly, we finally got our family to Hamilton in Chicago. This was so well done and anticipated that people were laughing at jokes before they finished, and singing along in certain spots. Yet, my experience of it was filtered through my awareness of current political events. You are supposed to weep at the loss of a character toward the end. I did, a little. But my sobbing moment was when Washington revealed his haunting awareness that, “History has its eyes on me”. I took this to heart. I took it personally. This is the moment we will answer to later in our lives.

We have choices in what we believe and what ideas we surround ourselves with, even what ideas we entertain ourselves with.

Do we entertain ourselves by reading dystopian Atlas Shrugged as Paul Ryan recommends to inform our world view? Or do we read Steve Bannon’s apocalyptic obsessions?

Or do we choose the messaging that typifies us as Americans, uplifting, promising, liberating and empowering?

My top pick this summer is Wonder Woman  (a must see movie, though you will cringe at Steve Mnuchin’s name in the credits) which captured the essence of our modern-day conflicts in our quest to save humanity, “It’s not about what they deserve, it’s about what you believe”.  And also, “If you see something in the world that isn’t right, you can either do nothing, or you can do something about it.”

Greed, Fear and Racism, or Something Worse

bald_eagle_watching_in_pa_ci_2

National Republicans, and the national conversation during the 2016 Presidential Election, have already led me to the conclusion that greed, fear and racism were driving principles in the new Republicanism (and old conservatism).

These driving principles fuel things like white flight that create self-fulfilling prophecies in now hurting neighborhoods. After having experienced that myself in Chicagoland, I was interested to learn about old Louisville in Kentucky from a resident when we traveled for spring break. These principles allow white people to pull the ladder up behind themselves on immigration under the guise that “I just want them to obey the laws of entering our country” while ignoring our own history. Also, these driving principles allowed people to be easily cowed and manipulated by lies and misleading information and regime-toppling propaganda (enter Russian internet trolls retweeted by Trump).

Bill Maher expressed the same exact thing–greed, fear and racism–so it caught my attention. But he goes further to explain the otherwise inexplicable behavior of the current White House leadership. Would be funnier if it weren’t true.

  • Click Here (late night language)  My teen tells me this is trending on YouTube. Maher doesn’t even mention all the examples he could, like rolling back clean water rules, but he sums it up with the simple truth.

Let’s break free of the ugly instincts driving current politics and foreign influencers, I prefer rhetoric and policies that stand for generosity, bravery, and love. Let’s rise above our base instincts so we can be the Americans we are supposed to be and “Fly like an Eagle…”