It’s my vote, not yours

We can’t afford to do this anymore. It’s time for Medicare for all.

I’ve taken a lot of criticism lately for saying I won’t vote for anyone who doesn’t support a single-payer health care system.

Here’s the thing: You don’t get to decide who gets my vote, not in the primary and not in the general election.

I have good reason for my position. I call it the Dead Kid Card (only because that’s what my son called it before he died from lack of access to health care). I suffered a loss most parents only have nightmares about. I sat beside my precious child as he breathed his last, and his cause of death was neglect for profit.

My son should not have died, nor should any of the half million people who have been murdered by our profit-driven “system” since his heart stopped beating.

Universal access to care was proposed by Theodore Roosevelt more than a century ago, and we’re still waiting. The rest of the world has found ways to do it, but we still prostrate ourselves before the altar of profit. We spend twice as much per person as any other system in any advanced nation, and our outcomes are always the worst among the industrialized nations. Hell, Cuba has better outcomes than we do, and that’s because everyone has access to the care they need.

I’m not willing to wait any longer. I believe enough people have died, and it’s time to stop the unnecessary deaths so some insurance executive can take home another few million dollars and stash it in an overseas tax-sheltered account.

Health insurance companies are parasites. They add nothing of value to our system, but they suck billions of dollars out of our economy, and they deny lifesaving care that causes the deaths of tens of thousands of people every year.

OK, so now you’ll argue that some people love their plans. Well, I have a couple of problems with that. First of all, Medicare for all will get care to everyone, not just the few well-to-do people who have their access to care but don’t even think about people who have little or no access. That’s called selfishness, or greed. Remember, Jesus never said, “I got mine, get your own.”

Secondly, we know that 70 percent of employer-sponsored plans are high-deductible — meaning you have to spend $1,000 or more before you see a penny in coverage — The average deductible is $3,000. This is in a society where nearly half of the people say they can’t pay a surprise bill of $400 without borrowing money.

No one can make me believe that most Americans love their health insurance in light of those statistics.

And it’s getting worse.

According to a study by The Commonwealth Fund, (https://www.commonwealthfund.org/ ), median household income in the United States between 2008 and 2018 grew 1.9% per year on average, rising from $53,000 to $64,202. But health care costs rose 6 percent per year in the same time, and the Affordable Care Act has been in effect for about half of that time.

“The most cost-burdened families live in southern states,” said Sara Collins, lead author of the report and vice president for health care coverage, access and tracking at The Commonwealth Fund.

In general, those states tend to have lower median incomes, so even if the sticker price for premiums and deductibles is lower than in higher-income regions, health insurance costs take up a greater share of Southerners’ income.

The next argument I get is that people who work for insurance companies need their jobs. Well, jobs administering Medicare will be plentiful. Even managers will be needed, although the CEOs who have been skimming billions in our national treasure can go and live on their blood money because they won’t be stealing any more from us.

The longer we wait to do this, the worse things are getting, as for-profit companies take over health care systems, especially in rural areas.

Rural hospitals are cutting services or closing altogether, especially in states that refuse to take the federal Medicaid expansion money that their citizens are already paying for. Here in Western North Carolina, women in labor have to travel up to two hours to get to a labor and delivery facility. Ambulance rides can cost up to a whopping $40,000. People are dying because they have to call an Uber because they can’t pay for an ambulance.

Under the current administration, the Affordable Care Act’s protections have been weakened. Premiums and deductibles have skyrocketed. Since the mandate that everyone buy insurance has been lifted, people of moderate means have dropped their coverage so they can afford to pay for food and shelter.

Meanwhile, plans have become more and more restrictive, putting drugs and care on tiers so that if a doctor comes to see you while you’re in the hospital and they are not on Tier 1 in your plan, you could be faced with thousands of dollars in uncovered care. That lifesaving antibiotic could wind up costing you $300 per pill.

So, when I hear a candidate say we can wait for Medicare for all, my response is, “Nope.”

Our corporate overlords may not care if you die from lack of access to care, but I do.

I will not vote for someone who thinks people can wait for health care, and you have no right to tell me I have to. People are dying NOW, and we have to fix this NOW. I really don’t care if the rich don’t like it. They’re not the ones I’m worried about.

My vote will ONLY go to someone who’s ready to fix this.

Forgiveness is a tricky thing

The killer of Botham Jean is embraced by her victim’s brother, who tearfully told her he forgives her. Photo by Slate

Christians believe we are redeemed — forgiven for all our sins — if we believe Jesus died for us.

Some Christians seem to interpret that as license to commit sins, knowing God’ll forgive because, well, Jesus.

I’m not so sure. On the one hand forgiveness is more about me than you. I never sensed any remorse from my grandfather for molesting me throughout my childhood, but I had to forgive him. I had to let it go so I could cease allowing his abuse to define me. But I also kept my distance from him because I knew he wasn’t safe.

I would love to see the doctors who refused to treat my son, knowing he would die, suffer some consequences, but that’s not going to happen. I can’t allow them to live, rent-free, in my head, so I have let go of my anger and outrage. If any of them approached me and said they wanted to work with me toward Medicare for All, I would stand with them as brothers and sisters in the fight.

But, as my mother’s pastor once described it, sin leaves a scar. He pierced a piece of paper with a pencil (the sin), then removed the pencil to show a hole — a scar. The sin is gone, but the damage is still there.

Watching an African-American man hug the woman who murdered his brother in cold blood sent a chill up my spine. I didn’t feel comfortable thinking, “Awwww, that’s so Christian of him.”

And my mind went back to the young man who murdered nine African-American people in an act of racial hatred in Charleston, SC. The survivors of the massacre, family members and others stood in front of microphones and offered forgiveness to the unrepentant racist.

That made me uncomfortable, too.

It seems people of color keep forgiving the people who murder them, but the other side of the coin — the remorse on the part of the killers — is blank. A blog post by Rev. Karyn Carlo that I read yesterday called it “cheap grace.”

Cheap grace is a scenario where someone is called to forgive again and again and again, but the object of forgiveness keeps committing the same sin. The phrase keeps spinning in my head.

We keep allowing black people to forgive white people for killing them, and all too often the white people walk free. Systemic racism continues while black people are still called to forgive. Jail sentences are more common and more lengthy for people of color. Schools are poorer and still segregated. Access to health care is worse. Access to the vote is far less and getting worse.

If Botham Jean had walked into her apartment “by mistake” and shot her, he would be on Death Row. But we assuage our collective guilt by saying “Awwww …” when we see his brother embrace and forgive the woman who murdered him.

I can’t quite force myself to say, “Awwww…” anymore. I want to see issues of racism dealt with. I want to see real justice.

As a white woman, it’s not my place to forgive the killer of Botham Jean or the racist who slaughtered nine people in Charleston. It is my place to listen and follow. It also is my place to work toward racial economic and social justice.

Why do I feel so angry all the time? Why doesn’t everyone?

With my vacation half over (I spent a week on Cape Cod camping with my sisters and leave tomorrow to spend a few days with friends before my granddaughter and her husband and daughter come to visit next week), I feel rested and restless at the same time.

I had an argument with my sister over whether we should shoot for an immediate move to Medicare for all, or whether it should be done gradually.

“I’m done with gradualism, ” I told her.

During the 12 minutes we’d been talking about this, another person died the way Mike did. I’ve heard every argument, and in the time it will take you to recite them to me, another person will have died the way Mike did. When you add them all up, it’s about a half million human beings, just in the 11 years since Mike died.

And now you want me to wait some more. Are we waiting until my other son dies? Maybe one of his kids or grandkids? How long are we supposed to wait?

I didn’t get all this out before she yelled at me to let her finish her argument. In that time, another person died. and since that time, another 100-plus people have died. I turned my head and started reading something on my phone because I didn’t want an ugly scene, but I knew I couldn’t convince her I’m right. She pays through the nose, but she has access to care. She had surgery in the last year for a condition that would have killed her had she been uninsured.

I can’t even begin to say how grateful I am for that.

I tried to tell her all this, but I just started crying instead because even after 11 years, the pain of my son’s death is as fresh and raw as ever, and in the time I took to try and explain that, another American died from lack of access to health care and his or her family is plunged into the same endless grief I experience every day.

Meanwhile, children languish in filthy cages with no sanitary supplies and no beds, separated from their parents in a strange land where they don;t know what people are even saying to them.

Meanwhile, the Earth continues to burn, hurtling us toward extinction in a few short generations.

Meanwhile, we contemplate war on Iran.

Meanwhile, the water in Flint and dozens of other American cities is still poisoned.

Meanwhile, the election districts are still gerrymandered and the elections are controlled by two utterly corrupt parties.

Meanwhile, the wealthiest of us continue to steal and hoard our wealth while half of our families live near or below the poverty level because those with the most money won’t pay a living wage for a week’s work and then they get to call poor people lazy because they don’t have enough money to meet their basic needs.

Meanwhile, we all go about our business, taking care of ourselves but not noticing how much trouble we’re in as a nation, as a species.

Meanwhile, a third of our nation continues to defend the hatred and ignorance spewing from the Oval Office, and we have yet to rise up in sufficient numbers to prod our so-called leaders into action to remove this criminal from office.

All the while, complacent people scream at me to “VOTE BLUE, NO MATTER WHO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

No. No to all of it.

I will not shut up. I will not wait. I will not be patient. And I will not vote for another Wall Street-sponsored candidate.

I’m done with all of it. This is more than a national emergency, it’s a planetary one. It’s about our continued existence as a species, and you’re asking me to wait patiently?

Every day we wait, dozens more people die.

Every day we wait, children in Flint and other cities face irreversible brain damage from lead in their water.

Every day we wait, people languish in jail, losing their jobs and homes and children because they don’t have $500 bail money. So they wait in jail for months to be tried for a crime they may not even have committed.

Every day we wait, we edge closer to extinction.

Wake up. Stop waiting for somebody else to save us. We have to save ourselves, and we can’t do that by being patient.

Denying food to the poor is violence

Have you ever had to go to bed hungry?

I have. I know what it feels like to only have enough food for the kids to eat supper, so you say you had a big lunch and assure them they can eat their fill as your stomach growls.

And when it causes you to lose a few pounds, people tell you that you look great, and they ask, “What did you do to drop that 10 pounds?” you smile and shrug because you don’t want to say that you go without supper a couple nights every week so your kids can have enough to eat. There was –and is — a stigma to being poor.

One person, a close friend, once asked me why I didn’t just make more money, as though that were an option I had overlooked.

I was working full-time, but my kids’ dad wasn’t paying nearly what he should have been, given that his income was four to five times greater than mine.

I was in the biggest group of people in poverty in this country — single white women. I was working and trying to pay rent, utilities, a car payment, child care and all the other things a family needs to pay for just to scrape by.

That was 40 years ago, and people are still being asked to make it on the same income I had in 1979. And they’re being called lazy and immoral by people with more money than they can ever spend in one lifetime.

Now this administration is attacking food stamp eligibility, narrowing the number of people who can get the help they need to feed themselves and their children, all with absolutely no consideration of how we might get some of these people out of poverty.

Will we raise the minimum wage to a living wage? Nope. People just need to work more.

Well, it takes double to triple minimum wage to be able to afford a one-bedroom apartment in every single county in the nation. That means a single mother who has two children must work two to three full-time jobs to be able to afford a one-bedroom apartment.

So, she works 16-hour days and then we criticize her for not being there for her children.

If mom drops health insurance because that $50 monthly premium is also about one-third of her monthly grocery budget and then she gets sick, we criticize her for wanting a “handout.”

The problem here is that when you make public policy that impoverishes people, you shouldn’t then be allowed to criticize them for being poor. When the only jobs people can find are part-time or in the “gig” economy (meaning freelance, with no health benefits, no paid vacation or sick days and absolutely no job security) and the pay is less than $10 an hour, and then you work three of those part time jobs for a total of 80 to 90 hours a week, you shouldn’t need food stamps to put nutritious food on the table, but you still do.

This is not a moral failing on the part of the poor person, as much as you might like to think it is; it is a failing on the part of policymakers and of everyone who supports these immoral policies, including you, if you’re one of the people clapping gleefully at each cut of public assistance.

I have to keep saying this to “Christians:” Jesus never said, “I got mine, get your own.”

What Jesus did say was “For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat. I was cold and you didn’t offer me your cloak. I was a stranger and you didn’t welcome me. … Whatsoever you did unto the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you did also unto me.”

Poor people are mentioned more than 2,000 times in the Bible, and not once are we told they are lazy or immoral. We are called to help them, as are the adherents of every major world religion.

Every faith has a version of the Golden Rule, which calls us to treat others the way we, ourselves, wish to be treated.

When we ignore the immorality of policies that impoverish, sicken and kill other people, we become the oppressors of those people. And when they sicken and die, their blood is on our hands.

Morality — compassion, empathy, the ability to love — is supposed to be written into our DNA, but we seem to have found a way to ignore that small voice that tells us we need to help.

Cutting food stamps means denying other people the food they need to live. If you think that’s OK, you’re wrong. It is violence. It is immoral.

If you’re not standing up to say this is wrong, you’re the oppressor. You’re the sinner. And you have the blood of innocents on your hands.

The least we can do is listen to each other

I offered Pete Buttigieg a photo of my late son to remind him that we need to fix health care now. He accepted the photo. I hope he looks at it now and again and understands the urgency.

The first thing I noticed about Mayor Pete Buttigieg is that he’s not much taller than I am and that I probably outweigh him, unless his bones are made of lead. I could whup him in a fair fight — if I weren’t committed to nonviolence.

He came into Greenleaf Christian Church on Sunday and took his seat in the pew cross the aisle from me. He struck me as humble. He smiled at the people around him and waited for the service to begin.

He looked a little overwhelmed as his Episcopalian sensibilities were rocked by the jubilation of worship at Greenleaf, a church led by a black pastor but with a diverse membership of people of all races, from all kinds of backgrounds, gay and straight, able-bodied and with disabilities, rich and poor. But as the singing continued, he smiled and eventually got to his feet and clapped and rocked with the rest of us.

Mayor Pete had been invited to speak and answer questions at the Poor People’s Campaign Moral Congress in June, but had been unable to attend. When Rev. Dr. William Barber II, co-leader of the Poor People’s Campaign, invited him to answer the same questions as the other candidates fielded, Mayor Pete, accepted.

I never got the sense that this was a dog and pony show, produced to make us believe Pete Buttigieg is the answer to all our prayers. He sat through a two-hour service, sang with us, listened to the sermon and seemed to enjoy it.

I never got the sense that Rev. Barber wanted to promote him or tear him down. The Poor People’s Campaign is political in that it works to change the public policies that impoverish people, but it does not endorse candidates.

Rev. Barber has no problem with Mayor Pete’s (or anyone else’s) sexuality. Instead, he explained why sexual preferences and/or identity aren’t important to him.

“I don’t ask an airline pilot if he’s gay,” Rev. Barber told Buttigieg. “I ask whether he can fly the plane. I don’t ask a surgeon whether he’s gay, I ask whether he can do the operation.”

I don’t agree with Mayor Pete on some of the issues, but he appears sincere in his desire to serve and to try and tackle some of our biggest problems.

My problem with his policies is that he’s advocating incrementalism in the minimum wage and in health care, and I’m done waiting.

People who make $7.25 an hour — less than half of what it actually takes to live in any county in the nation — deserve to have relief now, not in four years, because by the time a $15 an hour wage is phased in, living wage will be $20. It’s not a matter of waiting patiently to be able to feed your family, it’s a matter of economic justice. People need relief NOW. So, how about we redirect a small percentage of our bloated “defense” budget to subsidize small businesses and nonprofits for a couple of years instead of making the poor wait?

So, I’m sorry, Mayor, but we need better on wages.

We also need immediate action on health care. A single-payer system was advocated by Theodore Roosevelt more than a century ago. I think that’s long enough to wait.

My patience left me with the unnecessary death of my son in 2008, and it has not returned as the death toll continues to mount — a half million Americans dead since my son’s heart stopped beating.

I was privileged to talk to him about health care for a minute. I told him about my son as Mike’s picture appeared on the screen. I told him a half million people have died since I had to do something no parent should have to do — bury my child.

I wanted to ask him, “Isn’t that enough? If not, when will it be enough? After we lose another half million? “

Instead, I stuck to the script and gave him the facts on what’s happening here in North Carolina, whose legislators have steadfastly refused to expand access to health care to a half million of the poorest people in our state. Three of them die every day. I asked him what he plans to do to assure every human being on American soil has access to health care.

His answer was a public option that would allow the wealthiest among us to keep insurance companies in business and in control.

He did say that if someone shows up sick and isn’t insured, that person will be enrolled, retroactively, in the public plan.

“Everyone will have insurance,” he said.

My problem is that as long as these greedy, immoral thugs are allowed access to our health care system, they will continue to work to pervert it to serve their needs, not those of the people. We can’t allow them so much as a foot in the door.

Health insurance companies need to be banned. For-profit providers need to be banned. Health care should never, ever, ever be for-profit because profit-mongers will always find a way to deny people what they need to make a few more dollars of blood money.

At the end of the event, Mayor Pete came over to shake my hand and say how sorry he was about my son.

“You’ve already been graced with four more years of life than he got,” I said. “So, if you would like, if you think being reminded of how bad things are in our health care system will help you move us forward, you can take my photo of him with you. Look at it. His name was Michael and he was dearly loved.”

Mayor Pete reached out and took the photo, thanked me and then stood for a moment looking at it.

I believe he’s sincere, and he wants to, as he put it, “be useful.”

I want him to be more bold. I want him to stand up to the immorality of the 1 percent and say we need to address these issues now, and not some unspecified time down the road.

I am glad I met him. I found him intelligent and sincere in his desire to address these problems; I just want him to be more eager to get it done now.

When I put a photo of Mayor Pete on my Facebook feed yesterday, it blew up with people being disrespectful. That really bothered me. To me, when someone reaches out and wants to talk, I want to listen, even if we disagree.

There are people who don’t deserve my respect and one of them is squatting in the Oval Office right now; another leads the Senate, and still more of them are in our courts and legislatures. They spew hate and seem to enjoy the cruelty of racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation for profit. These people don’t deserve respect.

On the other hand, someone who is well intentioned, but with whom I disagree, I will treat with respect.

Perhaps being a reporter and having to treat people with whom I disagree vehemently with respect taught me to listen better, to understand that the only person who agrees with me on everything is me.

I still will not vote for someone who won’t support Medicare for all in the primary, and I’m not sure what I’ll do in he general election.

But I liked Mayor Pete personally. I believe his desire to turn things around is sincere. I also think he might come a little closer to my views with time and maturity.

I had one prayer going into yesterday’s event: that we might move him toward a vision of a better nation, a more just nation, and that he might drop his incremental approach to racial, social and economic justice.

Is it really ‘kindness?’

Ellen DeGeneres is defending her friendship with the former president, saying it’s always best to be kind. But being kind to him is a show of disrespect toward the people who died as a direct result of his policies, both foreign and domestic.

Kindness is a wonderful thing, and we really do see far too little of it in this toxic culture.

But is it kind to say George W. Bush is a good man? Or is it maybe an undeserved absolution of his crimes?

I do believe most of the really horrible crimes in the Bush administration were perpetrated by his vice president, Dick Cheney. But Bush was the boss. He approved those policies, including an illegal and ill-advised war on Iraq that cost hundreds of thousands of lives; torture; “extraordinary rendition,” or the kidnapping and torture of people who hadn’t been convicted of any crime; the shaping of public policy by corporate people who stood to gain billions; the failure to move on any of the issues that affect people in horrible ways.

Despite all these things, he walked away a free man, able to start painting his dogs, his feet in the bathtub, whatever. He’s carefree, and that seems to be a sign to me that his crimes don’t cause him any trouble at all.

What bothers me is his lack of remorse for all of it.

It’s one thing to be kind to someone you disagree with — as much as I oppose the current occupant of the White House, I do have a number of friends who voted for him — but disagreeing on policies is one thing; being friends with the people who put those policies in place is quite another. Believing the lies is one thing; perpetrating them is quite another.

To treat him kindly is a form of disrespect toward the many, many people who died as a result of his administration’s policies, both foreign and domestic.

I’m working on being kinder, especially on social media. I do not allow disrespect of others on my wall — I will block repeat offenders after a single warning.

But, let’s face it, it’s hard to be nice to someone who thinks poor people are lazy because that’s what they’ve been fed by Fox News and others. It doesn’t take a whole lot of critical thinking skills to see through the lies. On the other hand, when you’re working two jobs and you still can’t make ends meet, you don’t have a whole lot of time and energy left over to do the research on your own.

Kindness is important, and we do need to be a whole lot kinder to each other. But people who commit the kind of crimes perpetrated by the Bush administration don’t deserve our kindness. They need to face consequences for their actions. If we think a woman who steals a coat deserves the same sentence as a cop who shoots a neighbor in cold blood after walking into the wrong apartment, we’re more than a little confused about the meaning of consequences.

We live in a country where justice is for sale. Rich people pay a tiny percentage of their wealth for serious crimes while poor people sit in jail for months for lack of access to cash for bail, losing their jobs, homes and even their children.

I think if we’re going to talk about kindness, we need to talk about kindness toward those people Jesus referred to as “the least of these, my brothers and sisters.”

It would be kind to guarantee access to health care for everyone.

It would be kind to pay people a living wage in exchange for a week’s work.

It would be kind to make sure children in poor school districts got the same quality of education as kids in wealthy districts.

It would be kind to hold cops accountable for the murders of unarmed black men.

It would be kind to take immediate and serious action on climate change so that our grandchildren will inherit a habitable planet.

It would be kind to offer real social, economic and racial justice.

I’m happy to be kind to people who disagree with me; I will not be kind to the people who tell the lies and make disastrous and lethal public policies.

When will we stop pretending this is normal?

If we don’t act now, we sentence the planet to death./NASA image

While we’re all going about our daily business as though everything were normal, a petty dictator is amassing power in Washington and dismantling the Constitution.

While you’re at work, he’s filling lifetime judicial seats with cronies loyal only to him, thanks to an equally hate-filled and corrupt Senate Majority Leader.

While you’re running errands, he’s covering up his illegal activities and disobeying subpoenas from Congress.

All of our social compacts are being broken, our confidence betrayed.

He’s enacting policies he knows will exacerbate climate catastrophe.

He’s locking children in cages at the border and refusing them vaccines and medical help.

He’s starting to round up homeless people and talking about rounding up people with mental illnesses instead of raising the minimum wage, getting help for people with mental illnesses or doing anything about the unfettered access to guns that the NRA wants on the streets so it can make more money.

This administration is holding people in cages, forcing toddlers to attend immigration hearings alone — no parents, no attorneys, just the tiny toddler and the judge.

ICE is training more and more agents while the ones already out there flout the law by detaining people they have no right to round up in the first place. American citizens with Latin-sounding names are being denied passports or having them revoked. American citizens have been held in camps for weeks on end with no idea what’s happening to them. One young man had agreed to be deported just to get out of the detention camp when his case was discovered and he was freed.

People are dying in these camps and now the petty dictator talks about using community police to help round up homeless people to be placed in similar camps.

Still, we go about our business as though everything is normal while he and his cronies drum up support for another war-for-profit. Then they’ll recruit poor people with the promise of free college when you get back — if you get back — from however many times they can deploy you to the combat zone.

It’s called the poverty draft, and if you’re above needing that to look forward to a decent life, you still ought to care.

Meanwhile, women’s rights, civil rights, voting rights, LGBTQ rights, labor rights and more are being eroded at an incredible pace.

Striking auto workers are being denied their health care. All workers are being denied a living wage. In some states, government workers are denied collective bargaining rights.

Regulations that protect us at work, home and play are being overturned and we have no recourse in the courts because they’ve stacked the courts with their own people.

Doesn’t any of this bother you?

I met a man who was an activist in the Philippines during the time of Ferdinand Marcos, and he told me he thinks most Americans are still too comfortable and still in denial of what’s happening.

If ever there was a classic case for impeachment, it is this one, this time, this president. But Democrats in the House and Senate still worry whether it’s politically expedient, when they should worry more about the state of the Constitution, which, by the way spells out impeachment as the job of Congress in cases such as this.

The Amazon is on fire in a politically motivated attack against the indigenous peoples who were there first and against the Earth itself.

We allow our politicians to scoff at environmental activists and others who are working for a better world, and their lack of action could sentence us all to death within a couple of generations.

An election isn’t going to fix any of this, especially when both political parties are in the pocket of the 1 percent. It won’t matter whether you go along with the overly simplistic “vote blue, no matter who,” you’re going to lose. The fascists are firmly entrenched and we need to take to the streets.

Too many of us still go to work, run errands, take vacations and otherwise live as though there were no emergency, but there is, and the entire planet is in peril.

We don’t have any more time to take care of climate change gradually. We are on the precipice of economic and social collapse on a scale not seen since the end of the Bronze Age.

Tomorrow, I’ll join millions in a strike and for climate action; on Saturday I’ll take part in a public event to promote peace. On Sept. 30, I’ll march in Greensboro with the Poor People’s Campaign.

On days when I’m not taking action, I will continue to write to legislators, to call and visit them and let them know that I see them and I know how they’re voting.

I likely will do more civil disobedience.

I do this because I have great-grandchildren and I want them to live.

Skip the online petitions and polls; get out and do something

Mark Kelly wants your contact information so his people can ask you for money every day. If you donate, your contact information likely will be shared and others will ask for your money. Again and again and again …

Every day on social media, it’s the same thing: a one-question instant poll asking whether I think the occupant of the Oval Office is racist, whether Joe Biden is too old, whether pollution is a bad thing …

“Sign the petition!”

“Tell Congress you want sensible gun laws…”

“Tell Congress to protect our Second Amendment rights …”

None of it demands you get off your butt and do anything. Just sign and go on scrolling and looking at other people’s dinners and reading celebrity gossip.

But one thing you do accomplish when you take these “instant polls” or sign on to petitions that likely won’t ever be delivered, and even if they are, nobody’s going to act on them, is that you give your contact information to some marketing firm and your inbox is going to be inundated with requests for money.

That’s all they want. Your money. They’re not going to accomplish any policy change, but they have your information and they’re going to ask you for money every damn day.

Bernie needs $1 to make it to a million donors.

Mayor Pete will fight for you if you answer one question: Are you happy with your health care plan?

Elizabeth Warren needs to know whether you support consumer protections.

Sign the petition and tell Congress to protect Israel. Or Palestinians. Or Russian workers. Or the people of Hong Kong …

“Let’s put Gov. Inslee on the debate stage …”

I see dozens of them every day, and I like to comment: “I’m not giving you my contact information so you can use it to clog up my inbox with demands for money.”

I don’t answer instant polls and I don’t sign online petitions.

Neither should you.

These “polls” aren’t scientific and they’re useless as a result. And I’ve never heard of an online petition changing public policy. The only aim is to raise money, and they won’t stop, especially if you donate.

Now they know they have a live one, and they’ll tell their friends.

Have you ever tossed food to a single seagull at the beach? That gull will call all its friends, and before you know it, there are a dozen or more gulls flocking around you, trying to get at your lunch.

That’s how these marketers work. Suddenly, you have a dozen e-mails a day asking for you to sign petitions and donate money.

So, what should we do instead?

Show up.

Show up at your legislators’ offices with your demands for action.

Show up at events to learn more about the issues, so you know more than you’ll learn from clicking a yes or no button on Facebook.

Learn what you can about the issues you care about, about the pros and cons of policies and how they affect real people.

When ICE is in town, take groceries to families who are afraid to leave their homes.

When City Council wants to sell off a piece of public-owned land to a private developer, show up and demand the land stay in public hands, or if the sale is for the development of “affordable” housing, make sure that housing is truly affordable, not $1500 for a one-bedroom apartment.

Educate yourself and act on what you know, and then help others learn.

If you’re tempted to post a petition, find a fact sheet and post that instead.

Oh, and make sure you’re registered to vote, and then vote. If we all use the ballot, cheating is less likely to work for those who steal elections with voter suppression laws and gerrymandering.

You can check your voter registration status here: https://www.vote.org/am-i-registered-to-vote/. If you thought you were registered and you’re not, you’ve probably been purged and you need to re-register. Do it now so you don’t get screwed out of your vote on Election Day.

The instant polls and fake petitions are a distraction. Please treat them as such.

Guns are the problem

Guns are the problem.

You can deny it all you want, but that’s the truth. Guns kill people. Sure they have to be in the hands of someone, but you can’t have mass shootings without guns.

Take the guns out of the hands of these angry white racist misogynists and the carnage will stop. It really is that simple.

Someone commented to me yesterday that cars kill people too. The difference here is that guns are manufactured expressly for the purpose of killing, I told him. Cars are made for transportation and accidents happen. People drown in bathtubs, too. Big deal.

He tried to tell me guns have purposes other than killing people. What about hunting, he asked.

I told him my father always brought home dead animals from hunting, and if that’s doing it wrong, perhaps I’d better talk to other people in my family who hunt.

Also, hunters who want to eat what they hunt don’t use assault-style weapons because you can’t eat an animal that’s been shot with one.

The problem is guns.

If these angry white men couldn’t get their hands on guns, we wouldn’t have mass shootings.

We need to regulate guns to keep them out of the hands of men who have been convicted of domestic violence, men who threaten people who disagree with them on social media, men who are members of “incel” (involuntarily celibate) groups, men who strut about in public with their assault-style weapons slung from their shoulders, thrilled that others “respect” (really, fear) them and believing it somehow will make their penises bigger.

Because guns are the problem.

It is not mental illness, either. The VAST majority of people with mental illnesses don’t shoot anyone. In fact, they tend to commit fewer violent crimes. Women have mental illnesses, too, and at the same rate as men, if not higher, but we don’t shoot up Walmarts, theaters or anything else. And the rest of the world has pretty much the same level of psychiatric illness as we do, but they don’t have the mass shootings because they don’t have unfettered access to guns.

Every now and then you’ll read about a person with a knife who manages to kill a couple of people and injure a few more before being stopped, and the gun lovers will say, “See? Knives kill people too!”

But had the knife wielder had an assault-style rifle, the death toll would have been a whole lot higher.

The problem is guns in the hands of angry, racist white men who think they should own and control everything and everyone.

The problem is the racist pig squatting in the Oval Office, egging them on so that he can watch with unconcealed glee as people he wants us to see as enemies are slaughtered.

The problem is Republicans who won’t do anything about gun violence because peddling fear is what gets them elected again and again. Well, that and cheating.

The problem is that right-leaning judges have been pushed by the NRA to interpret the Second Amendment as unfettered access to high-powered military-grade weapons.

The Second Amendment actually says, ” A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Do you want to join a well regulated militia? You know, attend meetings and take gun-safety classes? Do military drills? Have supervision?

Probably not. These gun enthusiasts want unfettered access to guns they see as toys.

The problem is that guns are everywhere and angry white men love to use them in place of the giant penises they wish they had.

Time to move the Overton Window back to the center

If he’s the nominee, we’re in trouble.

Have you ever heard of the Overton Window? That’s the movable political “center.”

Back in the 1970s, the Democratic party stood for universal access to health care, a living wage and more. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society was to be a program that would mostly end poverty in a single generation, but it was overwhelmed by the Vietnam War It was, however, a Democratic ideal, and Robert Kennedy would have continued those policies. The Republican Party platform at the time looked about like the Democratic Party platform does now.

Under Ronald Reagan, the conversation moved way to the right, and it continued to do so, fueled, at least in part by Fox News once it hit the airwaves. Suddenly, “liberal” was a dirty word and government was bad — always bad, no matter what. The Overton Window was parked squarely in front of conservative Republicans, and it has moved steadily to the right ever since.

The conversation kept moving rightward until today, the very things that were in the 1976 Democratic Party platform are considered “far-left,” or “socialist,” even though that’s exactly what the majority of Americans want.

Our two parties now represent 1960s-era Republicans and fascists, and both sit well to the right of center. Wall Street is trying to get the Democrats to put up another 1960s-era Republican against the fascist currently squatting in the Oval Office, and too many of my Democratic friends are rolling over and saying they’ll vote for that.

Sorry, but I’m not so sure I’m willing to do that again, and I know millions of others feel the same way. I’m not saying I won’t vote blue unless Bernie is the nominee, but it had better be someone who will work toward those same traditional Democratic values, because even if I get in line and vote for the moderate, as I did last time, millions of others will not.

A “moderate” (a 1960s-era Republican) will not win in 2020.

The DNC needs to understand that.Republican opinion writers are telling us we have to put up a moderate, but that’s just so David Brooks and his ilk will have somebody they can vote for. Well, I don’t give a damn how David Brooks and other moderate Republicans vote, I want a Democrat — a real Democrat, and I hope the DNC understands that I’m not in the minority.

I want health care and sensible gun laws and real action on climate change. I want private, for-profit prisons banned. I want minimum wage to be a living wage. I want prison camps for migrants and the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And the majority of Americans want those same things.

The ball is in your court, DNC. You can play to win or play to lose, but don’t blame me when Uncle Joe goes down in flames.

Stop denying your privilege. It’s truly offensive.

Last night, somebody shocked me by telling me I was talking “nonsense” when I insisted out current health care “system” is broken, and that we have to move to single-payer.

“We need to preserve our system,” she said, and proceeded to try and shame me into supporting Joe Biden or another “moderate” who’s beholden to the profit-mongers currently in charge.

I was appalled that anyone knowing how I lost my son to this mess would say that to me.

I told her she was talking privilege.

She has the privilege of being covered by an insurance plan she can afford, co-pays, deductibles and all.

She has the privilege of not needing immediate help that’s just unavailable because she can’t afford it.

She has the privilege of not having watched someone she loves more than life itself draw his last breath because nobody would help him.

She has the privilege of being able to wait for politicians get off their asses and do something about the 35 million Americans who have no insurance, and the millions more who have insurance with a deductible so high they can’t afford to use it.

She claimed she has no such thing as privilege, that she just wants people to be able to get health care.

But she can’t see that tens of millions of Americans are going without while she calls me stupid for wanting them to get immediate access.

She probably thinks we can wait a few years for the minimum wage to hit $15, too. But if you’re making $7.25 an hour, you can’t wait for that raise. You need that money now. If you think otherwise, your privilege is showing.

If you hold the people at our borders in contempt because they walked a thousand miles with their children to escape drug gangs — gangs that are the direct result of US drug policy — your privilege is showing.

If you think our policy of incarcerating people — non-citizens or citizens — in private, for-profit prisons, not feeding them enough (I know about conditions in private prisons because my brother is in one) and then “contracting” their labor out to the highest bidder, your privilege is showing.

If you think the people in Flint and other cities with lethal contaminants in their water can wait for it to be fixed, your privilege is showing.

If you think it’s OK to keep somebody in jail for months as they await trial for a nonviolent misdemeanor like falling asleep on a park bench, causing them to lose their jobs, housing and even their kids, just because they can’t come up with $250 cash bond, your privilege is showing.

If these things and other atrocities perpetrated by the fascists in Washington are OK, it’s because you have a warm bed, clean water, access to health care, reliable transportation, enough food — in other words, privilege.

If you think poor people are just lazy and only want a handout, your privilege is showing big time.

And if you’re white and male and you don’t see any problem with the way things are, you’re particularly privileged.

When you have such privilege and you deny it, I find that deeply offensive. When you call me stupid because you can’t see your privilege — even when it’s pointed out to you, you are even more despicable to me.

When you have such great privilege and you deny it, you are willfully ignorant, and there are few greater sins in my book.

I know it’s hard to recognize our own privilege, but we must if we are to move toward a just society for everyone, not just for you.

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