For Women’s Equality Day, let’s defend women’s health

pp POSTER

Today marks the 95th anniversary of woman suffrage. That’s a big deal to me. My grandmother was the last generation of women who were denied the most basic right of a citizen — the right to vote.

But that didn’t mark the end of the Women’s Movement. Today we still make just 77 cents on the dollar as compared to men.

We still are less likely to get promoted into higher management and more likely to lose our jobs because we take time off to tend to sick children. And understand that we are the ones expected to stay home with sick children.

Men still think they can tell us whether and when we can have children. Remember the Congressional hearings about contraception in 2012? All of the panelists and all of the witnesses were men. When Sandra Fluke made noise about the injustice of that, Rush Limbaugh called her a slut.

Conservatives in state legislatures and in Congress — nearly all men — keep trying to take our right to contraception away from us.

When I was getting married in 1971, I had to sign a paper stating that my wedding was less than 90 days away before my doctor was allowed to prescribe the Pill for me. It was illegal for a doctor to prescribe any kind of birth control for a woman, and the law was so paternalistic that it was the doctor who would be punished, not the woman.

Now there’s a new push to close women’s clinics, especially Planned Parenthood.

No matter where you stand on the morality of abortion (I say it’s only the business of the woman and her doctor), Planned Parenthood prevents far more abortions than it performs.

Low-income women get their health care from Planned Parenthood clinics. That’s where I got my care when my kids were young and I was a single mother struggling to make ends meet. I had my annual checkups and cancer screenings there, and I got my contraception there. When I had bronchitis, I got antibiotics there. The clinic likely saved my life.

I was at a counter-protest last week and the people who wanted to close down Planned Parenthood were among the rudest, meanest, nastiest anti-life people I have ever encountered. Their behavior shook me to the core. Apparently, fetuses matter more than their mothers because these people didn’t care that women die when they lose access to health care. In fact, some said the women who get care there deserve to die.

Well, I have news for these creeps. I can be as loud as you are. I can make as many signs and I can fight just as hard for women’s lives as you fight against them.

I’m not good at the violence they so love to promote and perpetrate, but I can love better than any one of them, and I will fight for women’s access to health care with every ounce of strength I have.

We have to draw the line now. We can’t let them take away any more women’s health clinics, whether or not the clinics perform abortions — which, by the way are still perfectly legal.

Women’s lives matter.

 

 

Don’t you dare tell me about “God’s plan”

pp rallyI helped organize a counter-protest this morning to an anti-abortion protest in front of Planned Parenthood, and while I was able to keep my cool for the most part, the level of misinformation and the lack of critical thinking skills left me shaking my head in dismay (and muttering the F-bomb under my breath).

We set up across the street from Planned Parenthood and they began to trickle over to stand in front of us to hide our signs. I stood my ground in front of one man as he tried to push his way past me and threatened to call the police because I was standing my ground. He pushed me again.

“Sir, what you just did is classified as assault. If you don’t move away from me right now, I will call the police and I will press charges.”

He pushed again.

“I’m trying to save babies,” he said.

I stood firm. “I’m trying to save women. Now, move away or I will call the police and I will have you arrested for assault.”

I stared him down and he moved on.

I stood in front of another woman and she started yelling at me.

“I’m 73!” she said.

“I’m 63,” I answered. “What does that have to do with anything?”

I asked her if she’s for universal access to health care. Naturally, she said something about the poor babies.

“What about the poor women?” I asked.

“I’m a Christian,” she said.

“So am I. What about the already-born?”

I told her I chose not to have an abortion when I was advised to, and then my son was killed by a health care system that wouldn’t take care of him because he couldn’t get health insurance.”

God took your son,” she said. “God has a plan.”

I lost it. Fortunately, my rabbi friend, Wolff was standing there and folded his arms around me.

“What took her son,” he said to the woman, “had nothing to do with God. Her son was killed by greed, not God.”

Meanwhile, I was sobbing and mumbling, “fuck off,” into his chest so she wouldn’t be able to hear me.

“I used to be an agnostic,” she said. “I tried every religion there is before I was born again.”

Wolff tightened his arms around me and glared at her silently.

The woman backed off, and the next time she tried to talk to me about how God took my son, I excused myself, turned around and walked away. I don’t need to talk to someone with the critical thinking skills of a rock.

“I wonder why it’s God’s will when greed kills your son, but not when a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy,” Wolff said.

Great question.

Another man carrying a Christian flag tried the God thing again. He had overheard me speaking about my son.

“Bless you for choosing life,” he said. “God will bless you because God has a plan.”

I glared at him and said, “God didn’t kill my son. A greedy doctor did by choosing to let him die rather than save his life. Please just leave me alone.”

Then another woman asked why I seemed so angry because she, after all, was so loving with her anti-abortion sign.

I told her I’m angry because my son died and she and her friends didn’t seem to care about that at all.

“Oh, you’re angry because you couldn’t kill your baby,” she said.

I couldn’t even imagine where that had come from, so I explained that I had chosen not to have an abortion, but that our broken health care system had killed my child.

“So, you wish you had been the one to kill him?” she asked.

“Fuck off,” I said and walked away. That was when I had to leave. I can’t stand having someone think it’s OK that people are dying every day from lack of access to health care, that if you close women’s clinics, women die, and then turn around and call themselves “pro-life” or “Christian” because they want to limit women’s choices.

A few of the people I spoke to  wanted to see alternatives to Planned Parenthood open up, wanted to see everyone have access to health care, were anti-death penalty and anti-war. I really liked talking to them, even though we disagreed on abortion.

But the vast majority of people I encountered were ready to hate me without knowing anything about me. All it was about was their view of God and trying to force it on me. The Romanian man I met said it beautifully.

“God is there to love us and help us through the worst of things. We honor that by loving each other, even if we don’t agree.”

As we were speaking a teenage girl said to me, “God has a plan.”

“Please don’t tell me about God and plans,” I said. “If you ever lose a child, perhaps you’ll understand where I’m coming from here. God had nothing to do with my son’s death; it was a greedy corrupt system where he couldn’t get insurance and he couldn’t get care. Planned Parenthood took care of me when I was uninsured and they gave me contraceptives. When I got sick, they treated me and probably saved me life. They helped me prevent an unplanned pregnancy, so you could say they helped me prevent having to have an abortion.”

A young man stepped forward and tried to tell me something about pregnancy, speaking over me as I spoke to the young woman.

“First of all,” I said, “Never talk over me. That’s just rude, and it won’t save the lives of any pre-born children, OK? And since you’ve never been pregnant and never will be, you have no place lecturing me on pregnancy.”

Let me just say it one more time for emphasis.

God did not take my son from me. God had nothing to do with it. My son died from greed. He died from a broken health care system. He died from negligent homicide.

If we take women’s clinics away, women will die, and while they may not matter to you, they matter to me and to all the people who love them.

A united front is dangerous to the enemy

We must stand together if we are to defeat the corporate forces.

We must stand together if we are to defeat the repressive corporate forces in this country.

A few days ago, a young woman saying she was with the Black Lives Matter Movement interrupted Bernie Sanders during an appearance in Seattle.

Turns out she was a provocateur — a self-described “radical Christian” and a Sarah Palin follower.

I won’t go into her choices here — they’re hers to make — but I will question people’s reaction to her action.

Several of my older white friends have said they no longer will support the Black Lives Matter Movement because of this one woman’s actions. I find that short-sighted and, quite frankly, deeply offensive.

The Black Lives Matter Movement came together in reaction to the deaths of unarmed young men. I lost a child to injustice and I can tell you, this movement is more than justified. I stand with these young people because we all need to stand together.

Whether or not this woman was affiliated with BLM isn’t the point here. The point is that her actions shouldn’t drive away those of us who believe in what Blacks Lives Matter is doing. I will continue to stand with Black Lives Matter.

The right-wingers in this country are more than pleased that we seem to be able to be split apart into smaller, less effective groups.

Even more important than that, who are we to tell our youth how to run a justice movement? The worst thing we can do as elders is to tell others “we’ve always done it this way, so you need to listen to us.” Remember, racism and other injustices are still with us, so we weren’t as right as we would like to think we were.

We had our youthful movement, and it did accomplish a lot. But we still have young, mostly black men and women being enslaved by a prison system that captures them right out of school. Private prison companies predict how many people they will have by assessing third-grade reading scores.

States run by old white men are restricting voting rights with laws that they know will affect blacks, poor people, elders and college students.

I recently was criticized for a comment on a Black Lives Matter page on Facebook and asked to take my comments to a White Allies page. In other words, let’s stay separate. We’ll keep the black people on one page and whites on another. How the hell does that help anyone? If what I say offends you, tell me why. How else are we going to unite and defeat the real enemy? Let’s have a discussion.

At the Proctor Institute in Clinton, Tenn., a few weeks ago, young people from the Black Lives Matter Movement reached out to us elders because they want to learn from us — and we eagerly met with them because we, too, have much to learn.

Look, I’m an old white woman. I know that. But I am most definitely affected by injustice toward anyone. I lost a son to an unjust health care system that deliberately neglected him for no reason other than he couldn’t afford to pay for his care. I sat by his side and held his hand as he breathed his last. Every time an unarmed young black man is shot and killed, I weep for the mother who didn’t even get to say goodbye to her child. I can’t know what it us to be black, but I do know what it is to lose a child to injustice, and if you haven’t been through that, you can’t know how it feels. That doesn’t mean you can’t be a passionate advocate. And I am grateful for every advocate for justice.

I am deeply, deeply invested in the justice movement. I am more than eager to learn from young people, from black and brown people, from anyone who will work toward a more just world with me.

This isn’t the 1960s. We didn’t have Facebook and Twitter. We didn’t have cell phones that could capture injustice in action; we had to rely on television cameras for that. Times have changed, but injustice hasn’t.

I have no right to tell anyone today that they should fight injustice the way we did 50 years ago. After all, we didn’t end war or racism or sexism. This generation has new ideas. I look forward to working with them.

 

 

Why #blacklivesmatter

A group of elders and youth met to talk about how they can work together.

A group of elders and youth met to talk about how they can work together.

Have you wondered why the hastag isn’t about all lives mattering?

Well, I have a story for you.

I’m in Clinton, Tenn., at the Children’s Defense Fund’s Proctor Institute, a week-long retreat of preaching and workshops devoted to social justice for children.

Of course, that means social justice for their parents and others who love and care for them, but let’s start with children.

I listened to a panel of three teenage boys today who have lived through unimaginable horrors.

One young man’s father left before he was out of diapers. His mother went on to have several more children and then sank into deep, deep despair and hopelessness as she struggled to care for her children.

By the time he was 8, this young man had lost his first friend to a bullet.

As his mother was unable to care for the family, he was left to care for his siblings.

“We ate toast for a month once,” he said. “I knew I had to do something because I couldn’t have my family eating toast every day.”

He is entering his senior year in high school as a star athlete and his prospects for college look good. But it pales in the face of the losses he has suffered.

“I have been to 12 funerals since my freshman year,” he said. “I have lost all my friends. All of them.”

Next to him sat a young man who was expelled from school after the school’s safety officer lied about him making racist threats.

“I asked him why he lied. I asked him why he thought I could even BE racist, since he was the one with the power.”

This kid finished his school year online, making excellent grades by going to the library every day to do his work on the computers there.

At dinner, I sat next to a man who spent 17 years on Death Row for a crime he didn’t commit. He is grateful to be out in the world again.

“Want to know the first time I ever set foot in Tennessee?” he asked. “When I was brought here in shackles and chains to stand trial for a crime I didn’t commit.”

He finished high school and became a paralegal while in prison.

Black men are 27 times more likely to be shot by police. They die in the streets in their own neighborhoods because no one cares what happens to them. Their schools are neglected.

One young man from Philadelphia said today that 40 inner-city schools have been closed in his city and a $1.3 billion prison built in his neighborhood.

Another told me about how friends have been suspended from school for not wearing a belt. Suspension often means involvement with the “justice” system, and for-profit prisons are just waiting for this new inventory.

I have met a group of youths from the Black Lives Matter Movement. Several also are in the Moral Monday Movement. I know their stories, and the atrocities they face would never have happened where I grew up because I lived in a pretty much all white town.

I listened to them today as they met with a group of “elders,” both black and white.

The idea was formed at the breakfast table when someone said they should gather with their elders and form a coalition to seek social justice for people in poverty. Not just black people in poverty, although the majority of people in poverty are people of color.

At lunchtime, dozens of young people met to talk about what they might do in such a coalition, and at 4:15, more than 50 of us met in a small room to talk about how we might work to improve the lives of people in poverty and how we might get government to work with us.

Tonight, the youth are writing a document asking the predominantly black protestant denominations to work with youth. They will present it at national conventions as an item to be adopted.

You can’t call these kids lazy or stupid. They are smart, dedicated and desperately hoping to bring about change in peaceful ways, if that’s possible.

It was deeply rewarding to sit in a room with these young people who want to seek the wisdom of those of us who participated in the Civil Rights, the anti-war and the women’s movements in the 1950s through the 1970s. We are eager to hear their ideas and to work with them.

The lives we change will be mostly black and Latino because more of them are in poverty. But we all will benefit from the lifting up of the least of these, as Jesus called the people in the margins.

Yes, all lives matter, but right now, institutionalized racism affects — and kills — more black people than white, and we need to recognize that. We need to change that.

 

 

Just expand Medicaid already!

Photo by the (Asheville) Citizen-Times There I am, holding Mike's photo, wearing my T-shirt and looking hardass.

Photo by the (Asheville) Citizen-Times
There I am, holding Mike’s photo, wearing my T-shirt and looking hardass.

I never thought I was a radical, but I can feel myself trending in that direction.

I took part in yesterday’s Medicaid Expansion Coalition’s Day of Action, but the action was a spate of press conferences. We were all over Facebook and the evening news. It raised awareness. But no one in the state legislature likely changed their minds about expanding Medicaid.

Dr. Shannon Dowler, medical director of Blue Ridge Community Health Services, was eloquent as she spoke about the people she cares for. It was heartbreaking to hear the stories. I wish legislators had heard her.

This event was not my normal way of approaching Medicaid expansion. I guess it made me realize how my life gave birth to a radical, albeit a nonviolent radical.

I didn’t speak at the event, and I’m glad about that. The event’s organizers know me. I am not one to mince words or speak in approved phrases. Most of the other organizations have programs serving thousands of low-income people. They have a lot to lose. I don’t.

So, I stood behind the speakers, wearing my “Expand Medicaid” T-shirt and holding a photo of my son.

Plenty of words have been spoken over the last two and a half years, and plenty of actions taken. Still, the governor and legislative leaders refuse to expand Medicaid, an action that would allow a half million people access to health care.

People are dying every day. In North Carolina alone, five to seven people die each day from lack of access to health care. The governor signed a law when he first took office that ceded his authority to expand Medicaid to the legislature, and legislators have made it clear they don’t care about these lives.

Perhaps if they had sat next to their dying child, holding his hand as he breathed his last and slipped away, these legislators would have more of a heart for these lives we’re losing.

Instead, they assume it can’t happen to them, that the people who are dying somehow brought their poverty on themselves and deserve their fate. Then they go to church and proclaim themselves “pro-life.”

Since I represent no one but myself here, let me say this:

If you aren’t in favor of saving these precious lives, you are NOT pro-life.

When you say people don’t deserve health care, you lose all credibility with me.

If your support for life ends at the end of the birth canal, you are anti-life.

When you call yourself a follower of Christ and then allow people to die just so you can make a mean-spirited, cynical political statement, you’d better stop and read Matthew 25:31-46.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is the passage where Jesus says, “Whatsoever you do unto the least of these, you do also unto me.”

It’s the text where Jesus describes Judgment Day, and it has informed my actions all my life. I’m not perfect at loving everyone. It isn’t always easy helping “the least of these” because their numbers are increasing so fast and their stories are so heartbreaking.

Some of my colleagues, whose life’s work is helping those in need, have to be very careful of what they say and do because they need the funding to continue their work.

I’ve already lost the worst thing anyone can lose; I’ve lost my child. Nothing can be worse than that.

 

 

 

It isn’t about hate?

Photo by Evan Vucci/AP People wave Confederate flags outside the hotel that President Barack Obama is staying the night, on Wednesday, July 15, 2015, in Oklahoma City.  Obama is traveling in Oklahoma to visit El Reno Federal Correctional Institution. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Photo by Evan Vucci/AP
People wave Confederate flags outside the hotel where President Barack Obama is staying Wednesday in Oklahoma City. Obama is in Oklahoma to visit El Reno Federal Correctional Institution. 

When President Obama arrived in Oklahoma City last night, he was greeted by a crowd of people waving the Confederate battle flag and shouting their displeasure.

While it’s true the majority of people there had come to support the President, this group of about 80 people made the whole city look bad.

I support their right to be there, and to heckle the country’s first African-American president with a symbol offensive to most African-Americans. It’s all protected by the First Amendment. However, when you scream hateful things at someone while waving a flag you know to be offensive to him, you lose your credibility when you say the flag is not a symbol of hate.

I know I said awful things about Bush, Cheney & company, and I stand by those things because it was about policy. I was willing to give Bush a chance after the Supreme Court anointed him, but he blew it all on two ill-advised wars, one of them an illegal invasion of a sovereign nation that had nothing to do with the attack on 9/11.

President Obama has just finished crafting a deal with Iran that will bring them back into the world economy and allow for inspections of their nuclear program. He did it without “boots on the ground” or bombs in the air.

He did it quietly and without fanfare — and without public saber-rattling.

And he was attacked as soon as the deal was announced.

War is big business, and if we stabilize things in the Middle East, there might be no more war there. That would make the Military Industrial Complex unhappy.

And if, as our president wants, we revamp our “justice” system, big jail corporations lose money.

The right wing rules by fear — fear that Muslims are coming for us in our sleep. When I was a child, it was the Communists who were coming for us in our sleep. That’s why we fought in Vietnam, so we wouldn’t have to fight them here. That’s why we fought in Iraq, so we wouldn’t have to fight them here.

Do you see a pattern? Of course. But Fox News viewers won’t see it because they’re swallowing everything the fear-mongers have to say.

This president, although I disagree with him on some issues, has accomplished a great deal in spite of every effort by the Republicans to derail him.

Hate him all you want, but history likely will judge him as one of our best, and Bush will go down as our worst.

 

Why Bernie?

Bernie

I am more excited about the candidacy of Bernie Sanders in 2016 than I have been about any candidate since Bobby Kennedy in 1968.

Bernie is within shouting distance of where I stand on every important issue, especially on health care, and he has held these positions for many years.

The first time I met Bernie Sanders was in Washington, DC, when I was speaking at a memorial service for people who died from lack of access to health care. At the time, the death toll was one every 12 minutes.

I had used that statistic in a memorial service I held in Asheville, NC, chiming a Tibetan bowl every 12 minutes to signify another death, no matter what else was happening in the service.

The NC Council of Churches heard about the service and invited me to participate in one in Raleigh. That led to an invitation to speak at a national memorial service sponsored by the National Council of Churches in Washington.

Several members of Congress attended the service, including Bernie. After I spoke, he walked over and hugged me. Just like that. It was genuine and caring.

I met him again earlier this year in Raleigh, and although I’m sure he didn’t remember me from the memorial service six years ago, he did show compassion and caring again when I asked what he would do about health care. I showed him my son’s photo and asked whether expanding access to care was a top priority, he answered passionately that every human being deserves access to quality health care. When he was done speaking, he came down from the podium, hugged me and promised once more to work on universal access to care.

  • He supports a woman’s right to control her own body and has worked to keep women’s health clinics open.
  • He is against the kind of free trade agreements that steal jobs from Americans and allow big business to abuse workers in other countries.
  • He is against fracking and is for making those responsible for destroying the environment to clean up their messes.
  • He is for making Election Day a national holiday and other measures that would expand Americans’ access to the ballot box.
  • He is for improving our nation’s infrastructure using tax dollars gained from increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations.
  • He is for raising the cap on Social Security taxes for wealthy Americans.
  • He supports a living wage, demanding that no one who works a 40-hour week should live in poverty.

Already, he has closed the gap in New Hampshire, pulling just about even with Hillary Clinton, and while I think it’s time for a woman to be president, I also think policies are more important than gender, and Bernie is right on all the issues.

I believe he can do this if those of us who believe in him will vote in the primaries and in the general election.

Let’s do this!

 

 

Two huge decisions

 

aca

Last night, for what seems the millionth time since my son died from medical neglect, I cried myself to sleep. But the tears were different this time. Mixed with feelings of loss were feelings of gratitude that the Affordable Care Act is finally safe from the wolves on the Right.

In fact, in his opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts pretty much scolded opponents, telling them the law will not be overturned unless Congress is able to do it.

Then today, in an opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court upheld the right of any two consenting adults to marry. My tears were strictly tears of joy this time.

From Justice Kennedy’s decision:
“The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change.
“Changes, such as the decline of arranged marriages and the abandonment of the law of coverture, have worked deep transformations in the structure of marriage, affecting aspects of marriage once viewed as essential. These new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution. Changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations.”

rainbow flag

I wish I was home in Asheville tonight for the party, but I will do my celebrating here in New Jersey with friends.

The screamers on the right have gotten it wrong again, and in both these cases, their defeat is complete.

The people who call themselves “pro-life,” but assert that it was OK for 45,000 Americans to die each year from lack of access to health care, can go away now.

Of course, the first reaction from House Speaker John Boehner was that he will keep trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. I imagine the haters will try to pass a Constitutional Amendment again, defining marriage in their own narrow view, but that won’t happen. Too many people get it that we all deserve the freedom to marry the person we love.

Too many people understand that the Affordable Care Act is saving tens of thousands of lives a year, even as opponents continue to block Medicaid expansion in nearly half the states. That, by the way, is causing the deaths of 17,000 Americans a year.

While that’s a lot better than we were doing, it is still 17,000 human beings. That’s the same as wiping an entire small town off the map. You can’t say that’s OK and continue to be credible when you call yourself pro-life.

Justice Scalia huffed and puffed over the Affordable Care Act decision, calling it “pure applesauce.” I don’t think he’s happy about being a relic, and I would think Justice Thomas may realize his status as a relic of a more hateful time any day now.

I have friends and family who are getting health care now who couldn’t get it before the ACA, and they would have been booted out of coverage had the court ruled the other way. I would have lost coverage.

I also have friends whose marriages were affirmed by the decision on marriage equality. When my friends Bruce and Christopher were married this year after more than 20 years together, I wept through the entire ceremony. Christopher said he could hear me sobbing on the video, and he loved it.

It may well be the most joyous wedding I ever attended.

Thank you, SCOTUS, for getting it so right two days in a row. I never thought I’d be able to say that about this court, but there you go. Miracles happen.

 

 

 

 

Let’s stop pretending we’re a civilized nation

names

I’m trying to wrap my heart around the terrorist act in Charleston, SC, that left nine innocent people dead. It isn’t easy.

In the aftermath of this horrific act, I have seen apologists for the young terrorist say he’s been withdrawn and lonely in recent years.

Others have said it was an attack on the Christian faith.

The NRA says the availability of guns had nothing to do with it.

And the flag of hate still flies at the Capitol Building in Columbia.

Nine human beings are dead, their lives snuffed out by a hate-filled young man whose father gave him the gift of a weapon for his 21st birthday.

When the terrorist is apprehended, we see him being led off wearing a bulletproof vest, just in case someone wants to hurt this poor misguided white boy.

As I looked at that image, a flood of images depicting the rough treatment and the murders of young black men came to mind. And some still have the nerve to say we are “post-racist.” I think we’re more “post-civilized.”

When President Obama said people in “other advanced nations” don’t have this kind carnage on a regular basis, I wanted to remove the word “other” from his speech.

How can we call ourselves civilized when we make excuses for white terrorists while we condone killing blacks who carry no weapons?

We have the nerve to call these victims of our racism “thugs,” while calling a blatant act of racist terror an attack on Christianity.

How can we call ourselves civilized when we allow people to die from lack of access to health care?

How can we say we’re an advanced nation when we restrict voting rights, pay workers slave wages, take reproductive decisions away from women, cut funding to education, take food out of the mouths of children by cutting food stamps, send poor children to prison for missing school and advocate indiscriminate use of guns (but only among white people)?

We are quick to blame the victims of our institutional violence — an NRA board member actually blamed the death of the pastor, a state senator, on his vote to ban guns from churches.

Want to know what’s really sad? A 5-year-old girl knew enough to play dead when she saw a white man with a gun.

I don’t care if this man has a mental illness; he got a gun and killed nine human beings because of the color of their skin. I am an advocate for people with mental illnesses —  I sit on the board of our local NAMI affiliate — but I can’t advocate for a society that shrugs off this kind of violence again and again and again …

I seriously doubt anything will be done to stem the violence in this country; I seriously doubt we as a society will move to restrict guns in any way. In fact, as this terrorist was executing black churchgoers, the general assembly here in North Carolina was debating loosening what few restrictions exist here.

I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t know how to protect my black friends or my biracial great-granddaughter, who will cheerfully tell you she’s black.

I would pray for peace, but it’s not God who will bring it. We have free will and we use it to perpetuate institutional and individual violence. It is up to us to stand up and call out people who think we need more guns and more excuses.

There is no more time for silence on these issues. Every one of us needs to work to make us a truly civilized society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They’re getting meaner

His prayer interrupted, Rev. T. Anthony Spearman is about to have his hands forced behind his back to be handcuffed. He offered them out to be cuffed in front of him, but was treated roughly and charged with obstruction.

His prayer interrupted, Rev. T. Anthony Spearman is about to have his hands forced behind his back to be handcuffed. He offered them out to be cuffed in front of him, but was treated roughly and charged with obstruction.

I was in Raleigh yesterday for the Moral Monday on voting rights. Once again, there were 10 arrests.

This time, though, the police were a little meaner than previous times.

Rev. T. Anthony Spearman was praying, his hands clasped in front of him. He held them out to be handcuffed when police approached and they told him to put his hands behind his back. He asked to be cuffed in front and they pulled his hands apart and very roughly cuffed him behind his back. I thought they were going to knock him over.

A few minutes later, they approached Rev. William Barber and told him to put his hands behind his back.

“I can’t do that,” he said. “I need my cane to walk.”

They were about to pull his hands behind his back when the General Assembly police chief intervened and told them to cuff him in front.

Right after that, they approached Yara Allen, our movement’s song leader and Rev. Barber’s aide.

“I have a fractured foot,” she said. “My balance is off. I really need to be cuffed in front.”

Two cops grabbed her arms and pulled them behind her. They were not gentle.

“Please,” she said. I have a fractured foot. Can’t you see I’m wearing a boot?”

I thought she would land on the floor.

As the police cuffed her, she began to sing, and she continued singing as she was escorted, limping, to the elevator.

She, too, was charged with obstruction.

Linda Willey shows off her arms, badly bruised by cuffs that were too tight.

Linda Willey shows off her arms, badly bruised by cuffs that were too tight.

Linda Willey was cuffed behind her back and asked that her hands be cuffed in front of her when as she was being processed to be loaded onto a prison bus and taken to jail. The police obliged, but the cuffs were so tight that her arms were badly bruised.

The thing is, we have a right to be in that building. It belongs to us. The people in that building are our employees, charged with doing what is in the best interests of the people of this state.

Instead, they continue to pass laws that hurt low-income people, children, the elderly and people with illness and disability. When we exercise our constitutional right to address our legislators, we are turned away, arrested for “trespassing” on public property and violating fire code and noise regulations that change weekly.

In Florida and in Wisconsin, people occupied the legislature building for weeks; here in North Carolina, we are arrested within an hour.

I am working to save the lives of people who need health care but have no access to it. The legislature could change that with one vote, but they refuse to do so.

Others in the movement are working to restore voting rights, to restore the earned income tax credit, to restore funding to education, to restore women’s right to make their own reproductive decisions and more.

This legislature has led us dozens of years backwards, and we need to turn it around. To more than 1,050 of us, that has meant getting arrested for attempting to exercise our Constitutional right to address our legislators.

As we continue to come back, week after week, year after year, they become angrier and angrier at being questioned.

Now they’re starting to get rough with us. They need to know that won’t stop us. We will keep coming, again and again, regardless of their attitude, regardless of whether they’re rough with us.

We stand on the side of justice, and we will not go back.

 

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