My letter to Sen. Lindsey Graham about health care

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Photo by Politico

 

When I was in Washington, after I had been released from jail. I met Lindsey Graham in a crosswalk as I was going to the Metro.

I introduced myself and showed him a photo of my son. We spoke briefly and it was very cordial, and as we parted, I begged him not to vote to strip away access to health care for 33 million people.

Last week, he introduced a bill to do just that.

Here’s the letter I faxed to him this morning:

Senator Graham:

You might remember me. I stopped you in a crosswalk in Washington a few weeks ago and introduced myself. I told you I’m from North Carolina, and you smiled and called me your neighbor.

I showed you a photo of my beloved son, who died because he couldn’t get access to health care and ended our conversation with, “I beg you, sir, please don’t vote to take away access to health care from 33 million Americans,” and you said you would consider it. You actually went back into the Senate Chamber and voted against that first bill.

This is my son, Mike Danforth. I miss him every moment of every day.

Real people die when they lose access to care. Each year before the Affordable Care Act became law, 45,000 Americans died prematurely because of lack of access to health care. That’s one every 12 minutes.

At 4:48 p.m. on April 1, 2008, it was my precious son whose heart stopped beating. I would rather it had been me, but I didn’t have that choice because I couldn’t make any insurance company sell him coverage and without that coverage, I couldn’t get any doctor to give him the care he needed. Yes, he went to the emergency room, but as I’m sure you know, they were only required to stabilize him, so instead of a diagnosis and treatment for the cancer that by that time was blocking his colon, he got a laxative and a bill.

My son worked 30 hours a week in a restaurant and attended college full-time, majoring in history with a minor in philosophy. He was also a volunteer, helping people get and stay sober. With all this, he still maintained a 3.75 GPA.

I know you like to call yourself pro-life, so I’ll tell you that when I was first pregnant with him, I had a rare virus that my doctor said could cause birth defects. She advised me to have an abortion and try again, but that child was real to me already. I chose to continue the pregnancy, and I never regretted that decision because he was such a remarkable human being.

My son was brilliant, kind and wickedly funny. His work saved lives. I know this because so many people told me their stories after he died. One mother came up and hugged me and said, “Had it not been for Mike, my son would have died. Mike literally picked him up out of the gutter and saved his life.”

Mike needed a colonoscopy every year, but no doctor in Savannah, Ga., would do one for him, even though he had a one-in-four chance of developing an aggressive form of colon cancer. It would have cost us about $60,000 over the course of his lifetime to do the screenings and remove any polyps, but we said no, and instead shelled out nearly $1 million for his care and he died anyway. So don’t tell me we can’t afford it because I know it’s a lot cheaper to take care of people before they get really sick.

I tell you this about my son because you appear to believe that people who can’t get a job with insurance coverage, or who were born with a “pre-existing condition” are morally inferior. They are not lazy. They are not worthless. They are not looking for a handout, and even if they were, they don’t deserve to suffer and die the way my son did. No one does.

I have been doing health care advocacy work since my son died and I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t deserve health care. Not one, although I have questioned whether the selfish, greedy people responsible for my son’s death deserve anything.

You see, I consider the people who withheld care from my son to be murderers. Their inaction killed my son as surely as if they had put a bullet through his heart. Actually, putting a bullet through his heart would have been more humane than the three years of suffering he endured.

To be eligible for Medicaid, my son had to leave his wife because she had a late-model car and some student loan money for tuition in the bank. My son applied for disability and waited 37 months for approval. He was dead nine days before his first check came. He applied for food stamps, and with no income and no wife he was offered $10 a month. He refused the offer.

If so many people hadn’t loved him so and been willing to care for him, my son would have died on the street.

Life without my son borders on the unbearable every moment of every day. All I can do is beg for you and your colleagues to care enough about human life to shore up the Affordable Care Act, or to pass Medicare for all.

Consider the words of Jesus (I believe you consider yourself to be a follower of Jesus) in Matthew 25 (paraphrased here for modern times):

“For I was hungry and you voted to cut Food Stamps, Meals on Wheels and school lunches.

“I was thirsty and you voted to allow polluters to poison my water.

“I was sick and you voted to strip me of my access to health care.

“I was in prison and you allowed corporations to profit off of my misery.

“I was naked and you told me to get a job, but you wouldn’t ensure I could make enough to buy clothes.

“Whatsoever you did unto the least of these, you did also unto me.”

I beg you to think about this and then withdraw the bill, or at least your support for it.

Oh, and the day I met you I had just been released from jail for disrupting the Senate. I was one of the people who chanted, “Kill the bill!”

I had been hauled from the gallery a few minutes before the chanting began because in my hand was a 5×7 photo of my son – the same one I showed you in the crosswalk. The guard called it a poster.

When the chanting began, I joined in and was arrested, along with 31 other people who are truly pro-life.

I didn’t have to join the protesters.

I could have not been arrested. I could have stayed home and been alone in my grief, but I do this in his memory and because no one should die the way my son did. No one. And I will fight with every breath left to me to make sure no one does – not even those who would take access to care away from 33 million of their fellow human beings.

Your “neighbor,”
Leslie Boyd
Candler, NC

 

 

 

We are not a moral nation. Why does this surprise you?

Image by CNN

All over social media these last couple of days, I see people who are shocked, shocked, I tell you, over the Occupant ending DACA.

“I can’t believe this,” people are posting with all due righteous indignation.

Really? This surprises you?

I do believe what’s happening.

This is a nation built on the blood of enslaved people.

This is the only nation to have used a nuclear bomb.

This is the nation of Jim Crow and strange fruit.

It is the nation that abetted the political famine in 19th Century Ireland and then exploited the people escaping that famine.

This is the nation that refused to stop Stalin in the USSR as he killed millions through purges and political famine (an entire class of people, the Kulaks, were starved when they balked at turning their farmland over to the state).

This is the nation that turned away boatloads of Jews who were trying to escape genocide in Hitler’s Germany. And many Americans wear the symbol of that attempted genocide today while chanting white supremacist themes.

This is the nation that wiped out 90 percent of the people we found living here already when we “discovered” it.

This is the nation that turned a blind eye to genocide in Rwanda in the 1980s, to the genocide in Cambodia in the 1970s …

This is the nation that started a preemptive war with Iraq, the consequences of which will echo through the decades to come — perhaps longer.

This is the nation that refuses to pass laws allowing people to make enough money to support themselves when they work full-time.

This is the nation that allows people to die horrible deaths rather than offer access to lifesaving health care.

This is the nation that forces young people to mortgage their futures to get a college education.

This is the nation that cuts funding for Meals on Wheels, food stamps and free and reduced-price school lunches.

This is the nation that allows corporations to poison the water supply with farming and fracking chemicals in the name of profits.

This is the nation that allows privateers to run prisons for profit and to assess its future “inventory” based on fourth-grade reading scores.

We are not good people. We are a nation of thugs.

You and I may be righteous people, calling out the crimes committed in our names, but this nation, collectively, is not just or moral.

We as a nation committed these crimes and continue to commit crimes.

If our people won’t put a stop to these policies by getting out and voting for something better, we can not call ourselves a righteous people.

The best intentions don’t always translate to the best donations

If this were your home, would you want a used prom dress? Please think before you donate.

 

Twelve years ago, I went to Ocean Springs on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi with a group of volunteers to help people get back on their feet.

The organization I was with, Hearts With Hands, set up camp at a local Little League field and started offering boxes of supplies — toiletries, cleaning supplies (for people who still had a home to clean), diapers, water …

People rolled down their car windows and their stories poured out. I remember some of them still.

There was the mom and dad and little girl who appeared to be about 4. Their home had been destroyed, so they just wanted toiletries, and maybe a new toy or a couple of books for their daughter.

“We lost everything. Everything,” the father said.

“We’re staying with my parents,” the mom added.

Then the little girl spoke up, sounding tired and frustrated.

“When can we go home?” she asked. “I just wanna go home.”

A tear trickled down her father’s cheek.

“She doesn’t understand,” he said. “I don’t know what to tell her.”

Later a woman came in by herself. I asked what she needed.

“Everything,” she said.

“Toiletries a good start?” I asked.

She started sobbing and rested her head on the steering wheel.

“I hadn’t even thought of that,” she said. “Yes, I even need toiletries.”

I reached in through the window and hugged her.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, again and again as she clung to me, sobbing.

These people did not need your old winter coats with the broken zippers. They did not need your old prom dress or your old underwear.

Maybe your heart was in the right place, but we had mountains of clothes that no one would ever wear because there wasn’t the volunteer-power to sort them, and when we tried, we found only about 1 in 20 articles were actually something someone in the disaster zone could use in the 100-degree heat.

On the drive down, I crocheted a light cotton baby blanket, and when I encountered a woman with a 7-month-old baby, I gave it to her. The baby had loved his old blanket, but the family barely escaped with their lives. Mom and Dad didn’t have time to look for the treasured old blanket as they ran from the rising flood waters.

We had one volunteer who was a teacher in Ocean Springs. She had cruised through town the day before she came to us, looking for signs that everyone had escaped their homes during the storm. You could tell because rescuers had painted a big orange X on each home. In one quadrant of the X was a number, and that was the number of bodies found inside the home. This teacher had seen mostly zeros, but two homes had had a 1 in that quadrant. The teacher had no way of knowing who that number represented, but she knew her students and their families were hurting. Her house had lost part of its roof, but everyone escaped and now they were helping those less fortunate.

I believe people are mostly kindhearted when they donate, but some of us don’t stop to think about what people really need. Most of us have never experienced the total loss of everything we own.

Think about it. Your favorite coffee mug, that wonderful photo of you with your grandmother, the trinket your great-grandfather brought with him when he came from Ireland in 1855, your hairbrush, your heirloom quilt …

Suddenly, it’s just you and the clothes on your back in 90-plus-degree heat.

What do you want?

Certainly not someone else’s old underpants. Certainly not the bridesmaid’s dress that’s been cluttering up someone’s closet since their cousin’s wedding in 1986.

You want clean, comfortable clothes and shoes. You want a toothbrush, toothpaste and some soap, a washcloth and a towel and maybe a good book.

The organization with which I volunteered was a Christian charity and they included a Bible in every box of supplies. When I heard about the plan to do that, I doubted the wisdom of proselytizing, but just about everyone I saw open a box, lifted out the Bible first. No one handed it back. These people had lost everything, including the family Bible, and getting another Bible was huge for them.

Children need simple toys — books, coloring books and crayons and other craft supplies that can be used in a shelter or a motel room, perhaps a good stuffed toy to hug when trying to sleep in a strange place with hundreds of strangers around you.

People need flashlights and batteries, bed linens, pillows and snacks.

But most of all, organizations need money to fund their work. Your money can buy people what they need and it can buy from regional and local businesses that also need the cash to help fuel the recovery.

There are a number of reputable organizations offering help to those in need right now, and as with every crisis, there are a whole lot of disreputable thugs willing to take your money and run. You have the responsibility to find one that’s getting the most for your buck.

So, before you write a check, do a little homework. I’m including links to some highly recommended charities that are doing great work in and around Houston.

And donate the bridesmaid’s dress to a theater company.

Here’s a start in your search for reputable charities:

https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=489

https://ghcf.org/

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0074-giving-charity

http://www.houstonfoodbank.org/

http://www.houstonhumane.org/

 

Killing the Affordable Care Act with a thousand cuts

When people can’t get insurance, they die. It’s that simple.

 

If you need health insurance through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace, I can’t help you.

Something happened last night that makes it illegal for me to answer your questions and it is a deliberate attempt to take away our access to health care.

For the last four years, I have been a Navigator, a volunteer who helps people get health insurance. But as of today, I no longer can answer your questions.

We have been muzzled by funding cuts.

You see, there’s a rule that we can only work as volunteers through agencies that were funded to oversee us. That was to protect consumers from charlatans who might steer them the wrong way.

But this administration realized that if they cut the “advertising” funding (more accurately, outreach funding), agencies wouldn’t be able to pay the person who oversees the volunteers, and without that person, the volunteers wouldn’t be able to do their work. We could be silenced.

I haven’t seen this in the news yet, what with Harvey and Irma and Mueller and all.

It’s just not big enough news.

But it will be enough to keep a lot of people from getting the face-to-face help they need.

Make no mistake, this is a direct attack on the ability of some 33 million people to get health insurance, and with it, access to lifesaving care.

When Congress failed to kill the ACA, the Occupant of the White House swore he would find a way to do it, and he has decided to do it through seemingly innocuous funding cuts.

It’s no accident that the outreach budget was cut — that action muzzled thousands of volunteers who were trained to help. Don’t think the Occupant didn’t know that.

Consumers will think we didn’t need that “advertising” budget because everyone knows you can just go to www.healthcare.gov and get insurance.

But what if you hit a bump in the road? It’s easiest to get past any hurdles if you’re sitting with someone who understands the process and the law. Yes, you can call the 800 number, but what if there’s a 20-minute wait? A navigator would have answered the question then and there. It’s just another way to make the process less simple and less convenient.

I know what happens when people can’t get access to health insurance — they lose access to care, and they die. I have watched it happen. That’s why I became a Navigator.

On Tuesday, I’ll return the laptop to the agency where I volunteered. I’ll still take the training to qualify as a Navigator for 2018, but it’s not likely I’ll be able to use that training to help anyone.

By law, I can’t help you.

But let me know if you have any questions, I can point you to the answers. And if I happen to be in the room when you’re shopping for insurance, I will help you point the cursor to the right place on the screen. I can explain any jargon you have trouble with — kind of like your own personal dictionary.

We’ll call it my little act of resistance.

 

 

 

Stop minimizing trauma if you haven’t experienced it

In Chapel Hill, NC, a statue known as Silent Sam sits on the campus of the University of North Carolina. Activists want it removed and people are holding vigil there until it is gone.

 

Twice this morning, I felt compelled to answer memes about how people who are triggered by events or even physical things in their paths should just quit whining.

One of the memes had a white woman crying with a caption about how we should feel sorry for her because of the statues.

My reply was that she was white, so it was highly unlikely it was from statues of people who owned and hideously abused her ancestors. Science has found the trauma from that is still encoded into the DNA of the descendants of slaves.

Most of these monuments were erected either during the Jim Crow or Civil Rights eras. They were put there to remind people that even though the Confederacy was gone, its rules still applied to black people and that those rules would be enforced — with force.

They were meant to instill fear in people of color. That was their purpose. Get it?

The woman in the meme — and the person who posted it — didn’t lose a great-uncle to lynching in the 1940s or ’50s. Her mother never suffered the indignity of being sprayed with a high-pressure fire hose to “cleanse” the streets of her and her friends.

She never had to attend a school named for the oppressors of her ancestors or listen to her parents talk about being beaten and jailed for trying to register to vote.

She has not had an unarmed uncle, a brother or a cousin shot by a cop who thought he might have smelled pot and then gotten away with it because the victim reached for his wallet and the cop “feared for my life.”

She never had to go to a segregated school where everything — from the building itself to the books and equipment — is inferior. And although this was addressed with desegregation in the 1960s, schools are very nearly as segregated now as they were in the Jim Crow era.

People of color are 16 times more likely to be shot and killed during a routine traffic stop.

The corporate-run prisons use fourth-grade reading test scores of students in these segregated schools to determine their future prison populations.

My reply ended with, “But OK, stay in your cozy little world where nobody ever tried to kill you because of the color of your skin. It must be very nice and warm and cozy there.”

The other meme was about how people can choose how to respond to triggers by choosing to be OK.

My response was, “Obviously you’re never been raped or lost a relative to lynching.”

I can’t choose to be OK when some trigger takes me back to the moment of my son’s death or to being molested as a child. That’s why these things are called triggers.

When you pull the trigger to a loaded gun, it goes off. Those traumas are the bullets. Get it?

You have no right to tell anyone else how to react to walking by a statue every day that glorifies the people who caused your trauma — the trauma that’s written in your DNA because this person who’s being glorified was among those who fought for his right to own you. And you walk on a street named for another of them and go to a school named for yet another …

You’ve never been followed by security guards when you walk into a store because you’re black so you must be a criminal.

You have no right to tell a person of color the cop isn’t going to hurt him after you’ve seen on video the murders of innocent people who look like you and then seen the victim vilified in the media because he might have been jaywalking or the cop thinks he might have smelled pot, and then watched the murderer walk free, even with video evidence against him or her.

In the NFL, murderers, abusers and other criminals get to play again, but a single man who knelt rather than stood for the anthem of the nation that still oppresses people who look like him is blackballed.

It is time for these monuments to be removed from the public square and placed in context in museums and cemeteries.

We need to start thinking about how to replace the monuments to hate with monuments to the courageous people who fought — and continue to fight — racism and oppression.

We need to build monuments to the people who were bought and sold and endured hideous torture before perishing as the property of others.

We need to build monuments to the abolitionists.

We need to build bridges of understanding so more of us understand the trauma others endure, even if that trauma doesn’t affect us. That’s called compassion and empathy. We should try that for a change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to renew and refresh

Setting up camp. Faith, on the left, is the youngest; Robin, on the right, is the middle sister. My brothers-in-law, Tim (Robin’s husband) and Alfred (Faith’s), are left to right on the other end of the table shelter.

 

For a couple months now, people have been advising me to take a few days away from everything.

I resisted because, well, the orange menace in the White House and Congressional Republicans trying to take health care away from 33 million Americans and all.

But then my two sisters decided to come to North Carolina for the eclipse, and they reserved campsites near the totality zone, about 40 minutes from my house. I was invited to pitch my tent on my youngest sister’s site.

The campground has no cell phone signal. The most I could do was send a text here and there, so all I could do was hang out with my sisters, go for walks and relax.

One of us went out every day for ice and news so we could be aware if a war started or something, but for the most part, we basked in the quiet.

My next-younger sister scoped out the best place for us to watch the eclipse without going into Brevard. We wound up going about 3 miles up from the campground to a small picnic area. We arrived at 7 a.m., certain the little clearing would be inundated with people before 9 a.m., but just a few people showed up — two young friends of mine, a biker from Connecticut, a woman from Swannanoa, a family from Raleigh and a young man who appeared to be almost unaware of anything around him except for the eclipse.

The sun, in total eclipse.

It was a small group and most of them were there by 9 a.m., so we got to know each other, shared lunch, joked, taught everyone how to speak with a New England accent and learned some Appalachian phrases.

No one asked me about health care. No one expected me to take the microphone and speak. No one asked me to write a few words for a letter to the editor or to a member of Congress or the state legislature.

I was just the oldest surviving Boyd sister (we lost my older sister to cancer 11 years ago), the loudmouth, ball-buster to Robin’s poetic sensibility and Faith’s quiet observance of everyone. I fear she’ll write a novel one day and we’ll all be portrayed too accurately.

For most of the trip we didn’t talk about my activism. We talked about our childhoods and our children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

We watched a group of families with eight or so small children and they reminded us of the group vacations our family took with the Davises and the Bainses when we were little. We had the run of the campground. We always met other children, and all the parents kept an eye on all the children.

Robin just retired and is a little unsure what lies ahead. She was trying to think about something she could do, and she came up with a project to visit all the subway stops in Boston and write poetry about what she finds. Faith’s husband will be her guide, since he’s a native of Boston.

I love the idea. She is a gifted poet.

When I sighed and said I wished I could do something like that, both sisters looked at me as though I had just said I wanted to become a short-order cook or a prison guard or something.

“You have a really important project,” they told me. “You’re working on getting people the health care they need.”

It was the first talk of who I have become since my son died. I was transported back to the present. I was reminded that I can’t take a permanent break from the work I do.

Robin’s retirement work is to wring beauty from the mundane. Faith is a devoted grandmother to two special-needs children. Me? I’m the brassy loudmouth who was created for the work I do now.

There were 700 of us and 30 of them, but the anarchist youths who came to Sunday’s peace vigil in Asheville succeeded in disrupting the vigil with violent chants, air horns and drums.

 

We held a peace vigil in Asheville on Sunday and about 700 people came out to denounce racism and violence and to remember and honor the three who died in Charlottesville, Va.

As we were about to start, a rowdy group of about 30 young people came running onto the scene carrying banners. Most of them weren’t old enough to vote and most of them were dressed in black. All of them were white. Some covered their faces with bandannas.

When we started speaking, they started blowing air horns, drumming and chanting violent slogans.

They told us they were Antifa, short for anti-fascists. They’re also anarchists. They came to disrupt and they did.

Unfortunately, the amplifier we have used for rallies for eight years died on us, so we had to try to speak over their noise. They wanted their voices heard and they were intent on blocking anyone who disagreed with them.

So we sang. We sang “This Little Light of Mine,” “We Shall Not Be Moved” and “We Shall Overcome.”

And we chanted: “We will not condone violence,” as they chanted, “Black Lives Matter! Blue Lives Don’t,” and “Kill the cops!”

A number of us tried to talk to them one-on-one, and what they want is chaos. That was their answer. They want to “tear it down!” They want to kill all police. They want government gone because our current government is corrupt.

I allowed them to speak as long as they didn’t promote violence. One of them came up and grabbed the microphone, which was sitting on the ground. She thought she was going to take over the vigil. I offered her the “stage,” a 2-foot wall at the front of the space near the Vance Monument, and she spoke about how she thought all white allies were racist because they have no idea what black people want (she was white).

When I talked to one young man about my commitment to nonviolence, he called me a coward. I thanked him for talking to me and walked away.

They appropriated other people’s belongings (including my umbrella) to hold up their signs and then called us names when we wanted our things back because we were leaving. One young man accused me of assaulting the woman who had my umbrella when I took it from her. But it was fine for them to assault a news reporter who came to cover the vigil.

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a ruder, more inconsiderate group of people, or people who are so fully unaware of their own privilege.

We welcomed them when they arrived, we were happy to have them participate, but they didn’t come to participate, they came to disrupt.

Several people I knew who came for a peaceful demonstration left. Others tried to talk to them but came away with the impression that they only want their views to be heard and no one else’s thoughts mattered.

The group that pulled down a Confederate statue in Durham the next night also identified as Antifa. They at least were a diverse group and from what I hear, they weren’t chanting, “Kill the cops.” So, while I’m happy to see the glorification of a system that owned human beings shut down, I’m not happy to see the kind outburst I saw on Sunday from a group of people who are doing all they can to promote violence for their own glorification.

These young people — most of whom were not old enough to vote — think violence and chaos is the solution to the world’s problems, as though they have the experience or the wisdom to solve the complex problems we face as a nation and as a planet.

Our government is corrupt as hell. Our entire economic system is a nightmare for most of the population right now. But to tear it all down and say we should each fend for ourselves is not a solution.

But there was no reasoning with the members of this group. I tried to speak to several of them and not one wanted to hear what I had to say. They shouted me down, calling me cowardly, racist and homophobic.

Yes, I’m white. So are they. There was not a person of color among them. I’d be OK with that if they weren’t calling me and others these hateful things as though they were the only ones who could be allies against the system.

The Vance Monument, which towered over us, is a tribute to a slave-owning former governor. The ground on which we stood still carries the shame of having been a slave market. I suggested we could consecrate this ground and rededicate it to justice and equality. The crowd applauded, and the Antifa folks chanted, “Tear it down!” But they weren’t talking about just the monument, they were talking about everything — all of it.

We held our vigil in spite of them. We will do the same if they show up again. Only next time, we will have an amplifier, and we will spread our message of peace.

I was so disheartened by what happened on Sunday, as were my fellow organizers. I want everyone to have a seat at the table, but I can not ally myself with people whose only aim is the violent overthrow of everything, and the members of this group who I spoke to on Sunday advocated nothing more than violence.

Violence begets violence. Hate begets hate.

There is a better way.

Love trumps hate. Yeah, that was another one of our chants.

 

This can not be allowed to abide among us

Carrying cheap citronella torches and shouting racist slogans, white terrorists held a rally. Not surprisingly, it turned violent.

 

Last night in Charlottesville, Va., a mob of white supremacists, mostly young men, marched to protest the removal of a statue glorifying the Confederacy on the eve of a rally to celebrate white power and their fear of losing it.

Marchers surrounded a church where people were praying for unity, chanting “We will not be replaced,” “White lives matter,” Jews will not replace us,” and other slogans, as they marched.

The issue is that the city voted to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, which protesters say offends their delicate white sensibilities. The statue is still in the park, pending a court ruling on whether the city can remove it.

I understand that some white people are afraid of the future because they don’t consider people of color to be their equals and they don’t want to cede their white privilege to them.

Life was easier for them when the color of their skin gave them a pass they didn’t necessarily deserve. Now they have to deal with removal of the symbols of their former unquestioned power and it scares the hell out of them.

Change is never easy, especially when you believe you’re being suppressed simply because you no longer have the power to keep others down.

Their fear is real, but it is misguided. You don’t have to give up your rights to allow others to have theirs.

Perhaps they fear that minorities are becoming the majority and if they behave toward white people they way they themselves were treated, there will be trouble.

When you hold power and misuse it, I suppose you should fear what happens when you lose power.

But here’s the thing: Those people in the streets last night, carrying cheap Home Depot citronella torches and Nazi and KKK banners, chanting racist slogans and threatening the people inside that church — I have friends who were in that church, and they were scared — did so with the help of police, who didn’t disperse them immediately.

I have seen reports of just one arrest, and a friend who is there now warns us to stay home because both sides have provocateurs and both have weapons. It is not safe there.

What happened last night — and continues today — is a page right out of 1930s Germany, and the Republicans (and most of the Democrats) in Washington have yet to roundly condemn it.

Where the hell is the outrage?

Yes, all my progressive friends have called this out.

But those in power — the people with real power — have done little.

Had those protesters been carrying a Black Power banner, immigrants’s rights pickets or a Quran, the National Guard would have been mobilized and we would be cleaning the blood of the protesters off the streets of Charlottesville this morning.

I know this is true because I live close enough to Charlotte, NC, to have been there the day after police shot an unarmed black man, and the Guard was mobilized within hours to combat people who were protesting the death of an innocent man, not just the removal of a symbol of white power (the kind of power, by they way that allows for police to get away with gunning down unarmed black man after unarmed black man after unarmed black man).

Can you see the racism yet?

Too many white people go on about their business after these murders, relieved that it isn’t their sons being shot in cold blood because a cop says he smelled pot and feared for his life. And to rationalize their complacence, they vilify the dead black man. He was selling illegal cigarettes. He smelled of pot. He might have stolen a couple of cheap cigars. He was jaywalking.

What these people don’t see, sometimes even after it is pointed out to them, is that jaywalking is not a crime punishable by death, and not just that, but without so much as a single day in court.

The white mob in Charlottesville last night was a terrorist mob. If Muslims had done that, we certainly would call them terrorists. But when white people do it, they’re just voicing their discontent.

Violence erupted when the white marchers encountered counter-protesters, one of whom apparently sprayed the demonstrators with mace, and fights broke out. I don’t condone that. If we are to rise about the hate of the alt-right, we must not be violent. Violence is what we are protesting. If we commit it ourselves, we become that which we oppose.

But there were no reports of arrests.

Imagine no arrests if the protesters had been black.

Wouldn’t have happened.

Imagine the outrage if the protesters had been anything other than white. Can’t you just hear Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell calling for stern reactions and punishment to the greatest extent the law allows? Can’t you just imagine the Twitter storm emanating from the White House?

But the White House embraces the fascist movement. Staff members working for the Occupant are more than a little sympathetic.

Overt racism has been rude and inappropriate for the last several decades, but it is enjoying a return to power under this administration, which emboldens racists. They know they can get away with their hate when the people in power share their views.

Frankly, I think the divisions in the Democratic Party are promoted by these people so we can’t interfere with their rise to power, nor their hold on it.

We must work together to defeat this. We can not bicker over whose fault it is that this administration even exists.

We have to work as one. We have to rid ourselves of this hate.

This can not abide.

 

 

 

Consider your privilege

At Wednesday’s kickoff of the National Poor People’s Campaign, Bishop Dr. William Barber II called for a commitment from those present to work on various aspects of the Poor People’s Campaign. Hundreds came forward to offer, time, money, their very bodies, to the campaign.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about my privilege lately as I hear people vilify the poor and people of color.

“Poor people should obey the law,” says one white man who can afford to pay the $185 court cost that comes with the $15 speeding ticket. That same white man probably had no fear of being dragged from his car, beaten, shot or thrown in jail for “resisting arrest.” It never occurs to him that he could be jailed indefinitely for not having the money to pay court costs, or even be shot leaning over to get his registration and insurance card from the glove compartment. Then, as he’s bleeding out, the cop concocts a story that he smelled pot and feared for his life and gets away with your murder.

I know when I was stopped for speeding a couple of years ago, I was well aware of all of that. Later, as I wrote out the check for $195 — without ever seeing any official of the court, so I have no idea why I was charged $180 — I realized there was a time in my life I would not have been able to come up with the money.

That inability would lead to a bench warrant being issued, which could have landed me in jail at this time and in this place.

Oh, and your constitutionally guaranteed access to an attorney here in North Carolina comes with the proviso that if you are found guilty, you will have to pay the lawyer.

Now, add in the fact that many people who are not guilty consent to a plea rather than a trial because they don’t want to risk jail and you have innocent people being penalized by crippling debt just to avoid jail — and if they can’t pay up, they go to jail.

In other words, if you work at a low-paying job, you are more likely to land in our broken “justice” system, and you’re very likely to be caught up in the system for a long time, to wind up going to jail and then losing that low-paying job.

I don’t want to hear the cry of the privileged that these people should just look for better jobs — there are no better jobs for people who aren’t college-educated. And don;t pontificate that perhaps they should have made better choices when they were 16, like you did. You likely had choices; a lot of kids in poverty don’t. The good manufacturing jobs are gone, replaced by jobs that pay $10 an hour or less. Minimum wage is less than half of what it takes to live. Mom and Dad can both work full-time and still not be able to make ends meet.

That’s not laziness, that’s deliberate abuse on the part of a nation whose laws permit this abuse.

Here in North Carolina, we have honed the abuse of poor people to a fine art. We are the only state ever to take away an earned-income tax credit. We are the only state ever to cut the duration and the amount of unemployment insurance compensation. We have refused to take the federal money (that WE paid in federal taxes) to expand access to health care to a half million human beings.

We have so vilified poor people that when I talk about my son’s death from lack of access to health care, Republicans’ first reaction is to ask, “Was he working?”

That’s right, “Was he working?”

I spoke to a woman today whose 7-year-old son has autism. She wants to get him a therapy dog because he responds so well to animals. But the cost is $25,000 (it costs about $20,000 to train one of these dogs). She lives on disability because she has frequent seizures and other serious health problems. The organization told her there is no grant money to help low-income people get these dogs, but they put up a page for her son at their own web site. She is not permitted to put up her own Go Fund Me page.

What this tells me is that unless you’re wealthy, you can’t have one of these dogs. She is poor so her son is very, very unlikely to ever get this help.

She is not lazy. She worked until her health would no longer permit it, and she would work again if she could, although she likely would not find a high-wage job where she lives.

This is a person who deserves the help her son needs. She doesn’t love her child any less than people with money love their children. Her little boy deserves the help he needs.

Last night, I attended the kickoff of the National Poor People’s Campaign at a Antioch Baptist Church in Charlotte.

I stood with people whom others think are undeserving of anything — even life itself. I held their hands, sang with them, cheered with them, hugged them and cried with them. Now I will work with them to make sure they are afforded the dignity they deserve.

This is a fight for the soul of our culture.

Will we choose money over our soul?

Will we choose hatred over the love every major religion commands of us?

I’m standing on the side of love.

If you want to know more about the National Poor People’s Campaign, visit https://poorpeoplescampaign.org/.

 

 

Mark Meadows is afraid of ghosts

I was told I had to surrender this photo of my late son to be allowed into Mark Meadows’ town hall. I’m thinking he’s afraid of ghosts. It’s the only explanation I can think of.

 

I went to the Mark Meadows town hall the other night, but I wasn’t permitted in.

They wanted to confiscate the photo of my son that I always take to these things. I had it with me at his town hall two years ago. I had it with me at the Patrick McHenry and Robert Pittenger town halls as well. I carried it with me in Raleigh and Washington. I had it with me when I met with Heath Shuler and when I was blocked from speaking to now-Sen. Thom Tillis, who had me arrested rather than speak to me.

I have plenty of copies of the photo, but I will not surrender any of them to people who want to deny the truth about my son’s death.

Mark Meadows leads the Congressional “Freedom” Caucus, which rejected the first House version of Trumpcare because it didn’t take enough away from people.

Meadows is wealthy beyond my imagination. He can afford to buy his insurance and pay the co-pays. Hell, he can afford to get whatever care he needs without insurance.

But instead of understanding his privilege, he tries to deny that care to people who aren’t wealthy and then paint them as lazy bums.

Mark Meadows calls himself “pro-life” and “Christian,” but his behavior doesn’t line up with either one. To be pro-life, one must support life even after it exits the birth canal. To be Christian, one must offer aid without asking whether the recipient deserves it. Christ taught us that by example and then in Matthew 25, Christ tells us what will happen if we refuse to care for those least able to care for themselves, what he called, “the least of these.”

Mark Meadows has proven to be a tough political opponent, partly because of the huge sums of money he commands, and partly because the people of this district tend to believe his lies about why we can’t have universal access to health care or a living wage as minimum wage.

This is when our party has to come together. We have to remove him from office, along with others who share his selfish, destructive and immoral policies.

We have a candidate, Phillip Price, who seems to hold some pretty great ideas. He’s new to politics as are many candidates this year, including a contender against Patrick McHenry named Kenneth Queen. I’ll devote an entire post to him tomorrow.

 

a world of progress site | woven by WEBterranean