Step up or shut up

Yesterday’s crowd at the Women’s March in Asheville.

Yesterday’s Women’s March in Asheville was enormous — by all reports, as big as last year’s (I was in Washington last year, so I can’t verify personally, but I believe the people who were here). The entire block surrounding the Vance Monument was packed with people, and the crowd stretched down the hill past the Fire Department.

Still, before the march was over, people were all over social media complaining that it was poorly organized.

The march here, which drew between 8,000 and 12,000 people, was organized by a small group of Asheville High School students who saw that no adults were stepping up to organize one. They arranged to get Memorial Stadium a half mile from downtown, although they didn’t have the money for proper amplification or parade permits to close down the streets between the stadium and the Vance Monument.

These are new organizers with no experience putting together an event of this size, yet they stepped up and put on a massive march.

The first complaint I saw was a post from a veteran protester/organizer and I called him out in the comments. I asked whether he had offered his help, which I already knew he hadn’t.

Others complained they didn’t know where Memorial Stadium was. My response: It’s in your city. If you don’t know where it is, Google it. These 17-year-olds did an enormous amount of work; they didn’t need the added burden of having to hold your hand and lead you to the event.

Author Michelle Alexander in Asheville Thursday evening.

Thursday night, attorney and author Michelle Alexander told 1,600 or more people at an event at UNC Asheville that we all need to do more. I thought it was funny when one woman turned to me and said, “You do enough. Really.” I can do more. We all can do more.

Alexander, who wrote “The New Jim Crow,” was right about the perilous times in which we live. Our very Democracy is at risk. We all need to step up. In a time when we can’t get half of eligible voters to the polls and our institutions are being attacked by a foreign power, we can’t sit home and hope somebody else will organize protests for us.

And when a small group of teenagers does step up, it is deeply offensive to me to hear adults who have more experience and more money complain that it wasn’t good enough.

Last year, as I was organizing a bus for the trip to the march in Washington, someone from another organization demanded I charter a second bus because she had 25 people wanting to go and my bus was filled already. I offered to help her get a bus and show her how to keep track of everyone, but she just called me selfish and went away.

I wasn’t always an experienced organizer, either, but I learned. It’s really not that difficult. My catalyst was the death of my son, although I had reported on a ton of protests in my job as a journalist, and that job also prevented me from getting involved. But I knew the basics because of that, and after I left journalism, I organized rallies and bus trips to events in Washington and Raleigh, and I continue to organize on the state level for the national Poor People’s Campaign.

So, instead of looking at a Facebook event page and complaining that you don’t know where the event is to be held, or hoping that the sound system will be adequate, go to the page and comment that you’d like to help. Ask what the organizers need, and then do something. It could be as simple as helping set up and maintain a Go Fund Me campaign, managing a Facebook event page, recruiting speakers, making phone calls or writing a press release.

If you’re not willing to help, you have no place complaining that it wasn’t good enough, loud enough, organized enough.

Get off your ass and do something. Believe me, there’s more than enough for all of us to do in this fight.

 

Why NOT Oprah for president?

 

I love Oprah — as an entertainer, as a human being, but not as a candidate for president.

 

I don’t want Oprah to run for president.

I know, I know, now you think I’m being racist, but hear me out.

We don’t need another entertainer in the White House. The two we’ve had –Ronald Reagan and the current occupant have both been disasters.

I’m not saying Oprah is in this class; I’m saying she’s a consummate entertainer. She’s charismatic and brilliant, and by accounts I’ve read, a kind and compassionate woman who has experienced poverty and tragedy in her life.

But she’s not who we need in the White House right now.

What we need is someone with political and public policy experience, not someone who knows how to make a good speech. If my pipes burst, I’m going to call an experienced plumber, not someone who is willing to learn on the job. My basement is flooded now and I want someone who knows how to deal with it now.

Abraham Lincoln is said to have had a squeaky, high-pitched voice. So, although he was brilliant and eloquent, his voice probably made his speeches less than rousing. What made him great was his political courage, his leadership skills, his willingness to do things that would not have polled well in his time.

Lyndon Johnson was a dick by all accounts, and he made some serious mistakes with respect to Vietnam, but he pushed through Medicare and Medicaid and civil rights laws — all politically unpopular in his time. He wanted to end the war in Vietnam so he could fight the war on poverty. He never got to do that because of the power of the war lobby.

What we need is someone with the courage to fight special interests and the understanding of how to do it.

What we need is someone willing to stand up to Big Pharma, Big Insurance and the rest and get single-payer health care passed, someone with the political know-how to make compromises without climbing into bed with these lobbies.

We need someone who understands energy policy well enough to overcome all the power of Big Oil and get us on the path to renewable energy technology.

We need someone with the political skills to pass a Constitutional amendment getting rid of Citizens United.

What we need is someone who’s willing to end our wars and bring about an economy of peace.

Today is Martin Luther King Day, in this the 50th anniversary year of his assassination. I remember his life and his death, and I remember what he stood for. And I’m not sure he would have been an effective president, either. His place was with us in the streets, demanding the politicians and policymakers do right by the nation and its people. He admitted that he was not a policymaker, and he called on policymakers to do the right thing.

How are we ever going to get racial, social and economic justice if we just keep electing the popular kid to lead us?

Ignorance of public policy and how it gets made is not a quality I want in any politician. I want the people we elect to be specialists, not prom kings and queens. The captain of the football team is knowledgeable about sports, but not curriculum. He might not be the best choice for school board.

Oprah might be just the person we need to help us hold those we do elect accountable. She might be a great resistance leader, although I have yet to see that side of her. Is she willing to stand up and tell truth to power? Her speech at the awards show was rousing, but she never called out the pretender in the White House by name, and what has she said and done since, while she’s not in an evening gown at a podium in front of the cameras?

Don’t get me wrong, if she had public policy experience, if she had a record we could point to and say, “yes, she signed on to the renewable energy bill,” or “she helped to write and introduce a bill for single-payer health care,” or even that she had read and understood these bills.

But she has not.

I know she’s a quick learner, but just who are the people with whom she will surround herself? Are they more of the corporate-friendly Democrats who have done little or nothing to raise minimum wage to a living wage? Are they people who say we can’t get single-payer done right now? Are they unwilling to fight for public education and unions?

I don’t want that again.

The reason I supported Bernie Sanders was not because he was an old white man, it was because he promised to work toward a single-payer system right now. And yet, I sincerely hope he doesn’t run again. It is time to pass the baton of leadership to the next generation. Yeah, go ahead and call me ageist because of that, and call me racist because I don’t support Oprah. Don’t look at my history of work for racial justice, just look at this one issue this one time and judge me. After all, it’s not about the past or the future, it’d only about right now, this moment, when we all love Oprah, and if we don’t, we’re somehow flawed.

Instead of talking about why I disagree with you, just walk away and call me names. That’s exactly what the corporate overlords want from you. I got a lot of that when I posted a selfie of me and Sen. Cory Booker, because he voted against a bill that didn’t benefit pharmaceutical companies — probably the largest employers of his constituents.

No one is going to be perfect, people.

So, what do I want? I want us to find people to run for office who will be good, even great, public servants, people who understand the complexities of public policy and who know how to work toward a better future, just as I would want an experienced plumber and not someone who can learn on the job, when my pipes burst.

We have to stop being a society that rewards ignorance because we want a president with whom we’d enjoy having a beer and watching a game.

I’d love to see Tammy Duckworth, a combat veteran, a woman of color, a woman of proven courage, and now a woman with public policy experience, toss her hat into the ring.

See what I did there? Instead of just complaining, I proposed a solution. Let’s be willing to do that, OK? Let’s be willing to talk things out instead of calling each other names the moment we disagree.

 

 

 

All I want for Christmas is social and economic justice

This is not a joyous day for too many of us.
Some of us are without loved ones, perhaps for the first time.
Some of us are without a job and therefore without the means to participate in the way convention tells us we must — there is joy in giving, so we must consume, consume, consume, spend, spend, spend.
I spent a part of yesterday — Christmas Eve — talking to people who don’t even have a home, nevermind a tree all lit up in splendor.
We live in a time of historic economic and social inequality. Those of us who have something are encouraged to belittle and discriminate against people who have less — even against people who have nothing at all.
I’m working on an article about how cash bail keeps people incarcerated because we in this culture assume poverty equals guilt, if not of the crime for which we throw you in jail, then of being “lazy,” of wanting a “handout.”
One woman said to me, “I don’t have any way of knowing the date or even the time. I live under a bridge.”
But she spent 23 days in jail for the crime of missing a court date for sleeping in public.
“I cried a lot,” she told me. “But what can I do?”
Another young man has been homeless ever since he was released from foster care seven years ago with no skills and no help.
“I had marijuana paraphernalia,” he told me.
No pot, just the paraphernalia.
And he landed in jail for weeks, without a conviction.
We’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty in this country, but poor people are thrown in jail and left there because they can’t come up with a few hundred dollars to pay the bondsman.
That $100 you have to come up with for the $1,000 bond routinely set for people who trespass or fall asleep on a park bench in the sun, that $100 is food for a month. That $100 is a quarter of a disability check for someone with a mental illness who could be stabilized and more than happy to contribute to society if they just had a place to call home.
Instead, we follow them until they fall asleep, exhausted, on a park bench and arrest them for sleeping in public. That arrest then bans them from the city’s parks, and if they so much as sit on a park bench to rest, they can be arrested again for trespass.
Rev. Amy Cantrell, who operates BeLoved House in Asheville, NC, says she has seen police follow people they know are homeless and arrest them as soon as they sit down.
Amy works with people who society considers disposable and every year, a dozen or more die.
The year my son died from medical neglect, one of them was a man named Tommy McMahon. It was February and it was cold. We had just learned that morning that Mike’s cancer was back and we were in Cary with him. He was napping and my husband and I were in a motel near his house when I got a call from a colleague who asked for some sources for a news story about a homeless man who had died the night before.
Tommy had gone to the emergency room with difficulty breathing and was diagnosed with pneumonia. They gave him some antibiotics and released him to the streets. It was in the 20s that night and he was sick, so he balked at going back out. Someone called the police and Tommy was brought to jail, where he died that night, alone in his cell.
I think of Tommy every year at this time — when the days are shortest and the nights are longest and coldest, when I know people are out in the cold with nowhere to go to get warm.
I think of Tommy when I see a homeless person being harassed and told to leave a place of business because they don’t have enough money to be considered worthy of society’s respect.
I think of Tommy when I see a tent in the woods along the side of the road and I know the police might show up and slash it because it’s illegal to camp just about anywhere they might pitch a tent against the cold and rain.
I think of Tommy when I see someone huddled in a doorway and I know they’ll be told to move along so the sight of them doesn’t disturb customers.
I think of Tommy when I remember that, although my son died of medical neglect, at least he had a warm bed and people who loved him.
I think of Tommy when I remember that the person I follow was born in a stable because no one would give his parents a warm place to be on that night.
I like to think Tommy is in a warm and loving place now, that his soul is nurtured and fed, even though his body was not.
On Christmas, I think of the people who have nothing because it seems nobody else wants to.
Today, I’ll celebrate by serving lunch to people who have little to nothing. I’ll hug them and I’ll tell them I care — because I do.
My sister and my son aren’t with us anymore. Neither is Tommy McMahon. But there are more than enough people with whom to celebrate the birth of a poor child who would change the world, and I don’t need to buy — or get — a new Buick to do it.
All I need is the spirit of the one whose birth we celebrate, the one who told us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, heal the sick and welcome the stranger.
May your day be as blessed as mine.

Now let’s get to work

Democrat Doug Jones speaks to supporters during a rally in Birmingham on Monday, the day before he was elected to the US Senate, (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

 

The defeat of Roy Moore is not some huge, history-altering victory.

Never has a major political party put up such a flawed candidate — a man who pursued teenage girls and is accused of groping and even raping them, a man who thinks giving black people the vote — and, yes, even their freedom — was a mistake, a man who has been removed from the judicial bench for refusing to follow the Constitutional ban on religion in the courtroom.

And he was barely defeated.

I mean, by what, 10,000 votes?

We did not turn the tide. We merely gave the soul of our nation another breath before it goes under for good.

We have yet to reauthorize funding for CHIP (which covers 9 million CHILDREN) and community care clinics (which offer access to care to some 26 million Americans) and we still could lose the Affordable Care Act (which gave 33 million Americans access to health insurance). That’s 68 million Americans whose access to health care is at risk.

Net neutrality could go away as soon as tomorrow.

The tax “reform” package is still alive.

We still have not restored the Voting Rights Act.

The minimum wage is still just about one-third of what it takes to live in this country.

People still rot in jail because they can’t pay exorbitant court costs or cash bail.

Corporations still are considered people under the law.

Women’s access to reproductive care is still in danger.

There’s more, but I think I’ve made my point here.

What happened in Alabama is a relief. I know I didn’t realize I had been holding my breath for weeks until I heaved a sigh of relief about 11 o’clock last night.

But make no mistake, the Democratic Party is not what saved this nation yesterday, nor did white, college-educated women; it was African-Americans, who came out in force — at 26 percent of the population in Alabama, they cast 30 percent of the votes in spite of massive efforts to disenfranchise them, and 96 percent of them voted for Doug Jones, the former prosecutor who finally brought the murderers of four little girls in Birmingham to justice.

Believe me when I say the Republicans will fight back and they will fight dirty because that’s how they roll. They can only win by cheating and they will cheat.

We have to turn out in force to defeat them. We must register voters and get them to the polls. We will have to combat lies and foreign interference. We will have to fight at the ballot box because they are taking over the courts with blinding speed.

Yes, today we should celebrate the victory in Alabama, but we have no time to rest. By tomorrow, we all must be back at the work of saving this country.

Our work is not finished; it has only just begun.

The Democratic Party needs to come back to us

We’re supposed to be helping the poor, not punishing them or blaming them.

 

I have taken a lot of heat over my decision to leave the Democratic Party.

There have been pleas of “Come back! We need you!” But the party continues its slide to the right in an attempt to get voters who are far more conservative than the party’s traditional base.

This started in the 1980s, under Reagan. The word “liberal” became a curse and most Democrats abandoned it. Selfishness and greed became American values and there was no voice crying out for our values.

Reagan won a second term by asking “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Well, perhaps many of us were, but too many were not. Most of us had not yet begun to suffer from the diminishing rights of workers. It took a few years for the dismantling of unions to affect most of us.

The tough stance on crime was more of a tough stance on minority populations because that’s who’s urban and poor. Want proof? How about two forms of the same drug carrying vastly different punishments? Powdered cocaine is exactly the same, chemically, as crack, which is cheaper and so used more often by people with less money. This sent legions of young black and brown men to prison, where they lost their votes. Most were never re-enfranchised.

Democrats didn’t protest very much.

Want to help end poverty? Join the Poor People’s Campaign. Visit www.poorpeoplescampaign.org to learn more.

Women, who finally won the right to make decisions regarding their own reproductive systems in the 1970s, began to see those rights infringed upon as the religious right demanded we all live by their standards, and Democrats said, “We have to respect people’s religious beliefs,” instead of “Our Constitution demands we respect your beliefs; it also demands that you can’t impose those beliefs on the rest of us.”

Republicans did all they could to vilify poverty and we Democrats did nothing to combat that. We could have told the stories of people working two and three jobs just to make ends meet, but we allowed the Republican Party to dismantle Aid to Families with Dependent Children and replacing it with TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), which is, as the name says, temporary. It carries with it unrealistic work requirements and offers little or no help digging out of poverty.

Since then, we have allowed incursions on funding for food assistance, education and every other strand of our social safety net because “some people just want a handout.”

We buried working Americans under mountains of debt and then blamed them because they couldn’t pay out-of-pocket for college or their cars or the everyday items they needed as their wages diminished.

And Democrats did nothing but repeat talking points about “personal responsibility.”

Health care became out of reach as insurance premiums soared and fewer people were able to even get insurance because of pre-existing conditions and the expense of both insurance and care skyrocketed. Every year, the company I worked with charged more for less, and Democrats did little to nothing. One former colleague told me she would have to take out a $5,000 loan if she or her child got sick, just to meet the deductible.

When the Democrats finally did something, they started negotiations to the right of center, choosing a plan developed by the right-wing Heritage Center and not even fighting for a public option or agreeing to take away the monopoly status the insurance companies still enjoy (unlike every other industry, they are exempt from antitrust laws). We didn’t even put price controls on Big Pharma.

We went into two illegal wars and most of the Democrats in Congress jumped on the bandwagon and voted for them because the American people thirsted for revenge against anyone who might have had anything to do with 9/11. But neither of those wars was against the state that had produced the terrorists (Saudi Arabia).

At every turn, the party has sided with the oligarchs. We’ve gone along to get along.

We didn’t prosecute war crimes.

Jesus Christ, we didn’t even prosecute war crimes.

And now we’re losing CHIP. That, for those of you who don’t know what the acronym stands for, takes access to health care away from 9 million children. Should they have to get jobs?

We caved and caved until things got so bad we allowed a toxic narcissist, a sexual predator, a pathological liar and racist, to enter the White House. The next in line for the White House is a “Christian,” with all the values of the Taliban, and right behind him is another “Christian” whose policies would cause hundreds of thousands of people to starve or die from perfectly curable illnesses.

Their bullpen is so deep we may never regain power.

But the Democrats continue to pander to the right, forcing Al Franken to resign while continuing to allow a sexual predator in the White House and the probable seating of a man who assaulted teenage girls while he was in his 30s. They talked us into shooting ourselves in the foot.

And before you start talking about zero-tolerance, please remember that it used to be the right that only saw black and white with no shades of gray. I was assaulted throughout my childhood and I have suffered a number of unwanted kisses as an adult. I can tell you there is no comparison, so stop comparing them.

Al Franken was stupid, but he has admitted his transgressions and apologized, and Democrats sent him packing anyway rather than face criticism from Republicans.

We have been played like a cheap violin, and I am done.

When Democrats introduce legislation to raise the minimum wage immediately to $18 and tie it to inflation, when they introduce a bill to take away the monopoly status of insurance companies and regulate pharmaceutical prices, when they start standing up for unions and women, when they at least protest the inhumane policies of the right, perhaps I’ll come back.

But today, I’m done.

I will work and vote for the better candidate who actually has a chance of winning — almost always a Democrat — but I no longer will affiliate with the party until its leadership grows a spine and starts fighting for the people again.

 

I am leaving the Democratic Party. Here’s why.

I am done.

I stayed when the Democrats refused to push for a single-payer health care system because they didn’t want to anger Republicans, who they knew would never go for it.

So they didn’t even try.

Instead, we got a system that was designed by the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation, and the Republicans weren’t even happy with that because they don’t care if people die.

I stayed when the Democrats refused to even look at the war crimes of the Bush Administration because they wanted to look forward, not back.

So the hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths in a war for control of oil will go unpunished. The lies, the torture, the illegal prison in Guantanamo Bay will go unanswered.

I stayed when the Democrats manipulated the primary election system to nominate Hillary Clinton, a competent but terribly flawed candidate, simply because it was her turn. That manipulation allowed a malignant, sociopathic, narcissistic, sexual predator to take the White House, assisted by a foreign power.

I stayed when the Democrats didn’t fight harder for my right to control my own body because they didn’t want to offend the fascist “Christians” who want women to be forced to breed cannon fodder for their wars.

I stayed when Democrats refused to fight like hell for a living wage. When I wrote a resolution for an immediate hike to a $15-per-hour minimum wage, others in the party changed it to a desire for that to be phased in over five years.

If you’re making $7.25 an hour — about one-third of what it takes to live comfortably in this country — you need that money NOW, not in five years, when it won’t go nearly as far.

I stayed even though Democrats haven’t even talked about poverty or race in any campaign since — well, hell, I can’t even remember, although I wrote about my disgust in a column after the 1992 election.

I stayed through battle after battle for the soul of this nation where the Democrats refused to even show up.

And now they wonder why voters aren’t enthusiastic enough to vote. Wake up! It’s because no one is fighting for them.

I stayed because I hoped we as a party would demonstrate some sort of moral fortitude and was disappointed again and again.

I stayed as Republicans played their game of making us demonstrate our “morality” while they played dirty tricks and tolerated — even defended — inexcusable lapses in morality by members of their own party.

I stayed even though the Democrats didn’t even call out the breathtaking hypocrisy of the Republicans.

The push for Al Franken to resign was my last straw.

I say this as a woman who has survived countless episodes of sexual violence starting when I was 3 years old.

This was not about sexual improprieties, damn it, it was about manipulating us into getting rid of one of the most effective fighters we have in the Senate. This was a witch hunt designed to co-opt and pervert the #MeToo Movement.

They got what they wanted, and they will seat Roy Moore, who has more than a dozen women testifying he made inappropriate advances toward them while they were still children and he was in his 30s. And they will not investigate the charges against him because they have no conscience and no shame.

And Democrats played right into their hands.

Why couldn’t we have said Franken would be pressured to leave when and if Moore went away?

Why couldn’t we have waited for the investigation Franken himself called for?

The Democratic Party has not fought for anyone but Wall Street since the 1990s. The party has not tried to fix a horribly broken justice system. It has not done anything to stop the slaughter of young men and women of color by a militarized police. It has, in fact, promoted the militarization of police.

The party did not stand up against Bush’s illegal war in Iraq. Its members actually voted to send our people into harm’s way based on lies. And then, when the lies were revealed, it did nothing to rectify the situation.

The party is in the lap of Wall Street. Its policies further the economic inequalities that plague our nation and the world, since it leads the effort to spread the policies of Wall Street around the world.

It has not stood up for me or what I believe in for decades.

Yes, there are differences between the two parties, but not enough to keep me engaged with the Democratic Party. I have resigned my position as an assistant precinct chair.

Last summer my son left the Republican Party for its lack of morality.

Today I do the same as I depart from the Democratic party.

I will fight for the soul of this nation as an unaffiliated voter because the party I supported, both with my vote and with my checkbook, has become as corrupt as the people it claims to oppose.

 

We can’t go much lower

Jesus wouldn’t want anything to do with this, I guarantee it.

 

The level of hypocrisy is breathtaking.

Republicans say Al Franken needs to resign because he may have kissed women (adults) without permission and he was in an extremely inappropriate gag photo.

But they believe Jesus supports Roy Moore, who was banned from a shopping mall for stalking teenage girls when he was in his 30s and who has had nearly a dozen women come forward to report inappropriate sexual advances toward them when they were under age 18. Moore also was removed from his court bench twice for failing to follow court orders to remove Christian symbols from his courtroom.

That’s not the Jesus I know.

The Jesus I follow (not worship — he never wanted to be worshiped, he wanted to be followed) demands we care for the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and give drink to the thirsty. He demands that we love our enemies. That’s the one I have trouble with when my enemies want to strip 68 million Americans — including 9 million children — of their access to health care, to keep millions of people in poverty while further enriching the 1 percent at the top of our deeply immoral economic system.

For decades, the policy of the Republican party has been to take from the poor and middle class and give to the very wealthiest. They don’t care if people die, just as long as every pregnancy results in the live birth of a person they can neglect and kill later.

The so-called tax “reform” bill is proof of that.

The failure to reauthorize funding for CHIP and community care clinics and the sustained attacks on the Affordable Care Act prove that.

It is more important to Republicans for these deeply unjust and immoral policies to be carried out than the saving of my life or yours.

I walked through all three Senate office buildings in Washington yesterday, delivering letters begging for the re-authorization of CHIP and community care clinics and the shoring up of the Affordable Care Act. The letter had a photo of my late son and a reminder that when you strip access to care away from people, they die.

Republicans care more about moving wealth up than they do about any human life, and then they call themselves “pro-life,” and Christian, when they are neither.

As a party (and I won’t judge the intent of individuals here) Republicans are anti-life. They are pro-war, pro-death penalty, pro-gun and pro-corporations. They choose support for these things over support of human life every single time.

Every. Single. Time.

And then they invoke Jesus.

Well, when Jesus said to care for the sick, he didn’t mean to turn people who can’t pay away. He didn’t mean to attack systems that help people who aren’t wealthy so that tens of thousands die from medical neglect every year.

When Jesus said to clothe the naked, he did not mean that we should keep minimum wage at about one-third of what it actually costs to live and then criticize people for not being able to buy coats and shoes for their children.

When Jesus said to feed the hungry, he did not mean we should cut food stamps, Meals on Wheels and free and reduced-price meal programs in schools.

When Jesus told us to visit people in prison, he did not mean we should turn over control of prisons to profiteers, who would starve prisoners to squeeze a little more money out of it.

When Jesus said to give drink to the thirsty, he did not mean offer only water laced with lead to poor children in Flint, Michigan.

When Jesus said to spread the Good News of redemption, he did not mean to discriminate against people who don’t have white skin or discriminate against people who don’t share your religious views.

When Jesus said not to hate, he meant you should go ahead and make that wedding cake for the gay couple who want to celebrate the joining of their lives.

When Jesus told us to love one another as he has loved us, that is precisely what he meant. He did not mean we should elect sexual predators to powerful positions because they are as mean-spirited and hate-filled as Republicans are today.

He didn’t support unfettered access to guns.

He didn’t support corporations as people.

He didn’t support racism.

He didn’t support misogyny.

He didn’t support war.

He didn’t support fascism.

He did not support the economic terrorism of keeping people who can’t make bail or who can’t pay court costs for minor infractions of the law in jail for months or years.

Jesus wants nothing to do with today’s Republican party, I guarantee you.

Jesus is weeping for the poor in this nation. And he will judge the people who have harmed them.

Get ready to sit with the goats on Judgment Day if you support the likes of Roy Moore or if you believe Jesus would. If you call yourself Christian and you don’t know what that means, read Matthew 25, starting at verse 31.

If you really want to work toward a more just society, join the Poor People’s Campaign (www.poorpeoplescampaign.org).

 

The false equivalency of Roy Moore and Al Franken

Sen. Al Franken has a background as a comedian, so, yes, we will find inappropriate stuff there.

Al Franken did a stupid thing. He posed for a photo where he pretended he was about to grope a sleeping woman’s breasts.

The woman who took the photo said it was staged. Franken apologized and called for an investigation of the incident.

The woman in the photo claimed he kissed her, without her permission. If this is true, it is an assault. But given the conflicting testimony, and the fact that no one else has come forward with the same kind of story, I want to see the results of an investigation before I join the Franken-should-resign chorus. If he did, indeed, assault this woman, he needs to go. If he did not, his call for an investigation, his apology and her acceptance of it, are OK with me.

I say this as a survivor of assault that began when I was 3 and continued throughout my childhood.

I say this as a survivor of assault as an adult.

I say this as a woman who has been groped and harassed in the workplace.

I say this as a reasonable human being.

Moore, on the other hand, “dated” a number of teenage girls while in his 30s, and according to the testimony of not one, but five, women, he attempted to get physical with them.

Moore’s brand of religion is no different than that of fundamentalist Islam or Judaism. It denigrates women. It considers us the daughters of Eve and guilty of her Original Sin, which is seduction.

In this world view, women are evil and must be controlled by men. We can not make our own decisions, we can not be left to our own devices. We are not equal in any way, and we can be owned in much the same way as a dog. The only difference is that we are trained to please men sexually and we are good for nothing more than bearing their children and cleaning up their messes.

In this world view, we have no rights of our own, and we can be married off as soon as we start menstruating so that our husbands can train us to be good servants to them.

Moore is not a pedophile by definition — pedophiles are attracted to pre-pubescent children and Moore “dated” adolescents.

He believes he did nothing wrong, and according to his religious beliefs, he is correct.

But according to social mores, according to the rest us, who do not subscribe to his backward religious views, he is a menace.

Like Mike Pence, he would love to legislate his views, views that would take legal rights away from women and people of color. Remember, this is a man who has complained in public about “new rights” given to black people in the 1960s.

In Moore’s view, women are always at fault when they are assaulted because their mere existence tempts men.

And don’t tell me I don’t understand his religion — I was raised in it. My parents never subscribed to it, but I went with friends to a church that believed all this drecht, and I suffered for it. I was part of that church, although I was able to walk away when I was 18 and saw just how harmful its theology was. Many of my friends were trapped in it by parents who bought these beliefs. They were forced to choose between their families and sanity.

So, yes, I can defend Al Franken while I call out Roy Moore. And I don’t think I’m rationalizing or being hypocritical.

To say their offenses are equal is just plain false. Moore is driven by a self-righteous, wrong-headed world view in which women are there to please him, care for his needs and bear his children, and he wants to force the rest of us to live by that world view. That is not the same thing as a bad joke, which is what the complaint against AL Franken seems to be.

I’m trying to look at the whole person here, and I can’t see any equivalency between a religious zealot and someone who got into politics to try to fight the takeover of Congress by people like this zealot.

As for the current occupant of the White House, he is a confessed sexual predator who only complains about sexual predation if it comes from someone who doesn’t support him. He is fine with a man who wanted to marry a teenage girl and train her to be a good wife, much the way others would train a circus animal, but he thinks Al Franken is a pig.

I’ve taken some time to think about this, and unless there are more complaints from women who have been victimized by Franken and until there is the investigation that Franken himself called for, I’m not going to join the call for him to resign.

Unlike Moore, Franken has a long history of defending women’s rights and the rights of people of color.¬†Yes, what he did was stupid and in poor taste. But if that were the bar, the Mango Menace should have been gone before his political career ever started.

 

 

 

The tarnished tiara

A little like the tarnished halo I envision my son wearing.

Today is my 65th birthday. It would have been my son’s 43rd.

This is the 10th birthday I have celebrated without him. I thought about that as I lay in bed at 8:30 this morning, the time he entered the world 43 years ago.

He enriched not just my life, but the lives of pretty much everyone who knew him. He was smart, wickedly funny and kind. He was also a self-proclaimed jackass, as were his two best friends, James and Christian. The three of them together created a shitstorm of hilarity — unless, of course, jackass was not your thing.

Michael spoke his first word at 7 months. It wasn’t Mama; it was mouse. See, he had this little squeaky mouse and he dropped it. I picked it up and gave it back to him and he said, “Mouse.” Clear as day.

I thought he couldn’t actually be saying mouse because he was seven months old, but he dropped it again and again, and each time I handed it back, he said it again.

He pretty much didn’t stop talking after that. He drove his teachers nuts. He distracted everyone else in the classroom. But, in his defense, he was bored. The teachers who allowed him to read books years ahead of the abilities of other kids his age were the ones who got a little peace.

Mike, age 6.

When he was in the fourth grade, a teacher took away the collected works of Edgar Allen Poe because she thought it would give him nightmares. I had to call her and try to explain his tastes in literature to get the book back.

I got calls at least once a week about how he was being disruptive in class, and each time, the teacher had insisted he just do the work his classmates were doing. Well, if he finished the assignment in five minutes and the rest of the class took 30 minutes, that’s 25 minutes for him to be bored and trying to find ways to amuse himself.

As I said, the teachers who found him something to do were the ones who got a little peace and quiet.

When he was in fifth grade, they forced me to put him on Ritalin. He hated it, I was against it, but the school district threatened to call child protective services and report me for being neglectful. I was afraid they’d try to take him from me, so I allowed it.

A couple of months later, Michael came to me and said he hated the medication, that it make him feel like “not-me.” So we made a deal: He would contain himself. He would be conscious of his impulses and not let the teacher know he hadn’t taken his medication, and we would see how long he could fool them. It was three months, and in that time, an attorney friend of mine said she would fight the district for me if they tried to force the medication on us again.

When the teacher called and said, “Someone forgot his meds this morning,” I was able to tell her it had been three months since he had taken a pill and we would not allow them to force us into medicating him again.

The solution, of course, was to allow him to read in class when others were finishing their work, and he read science fiction novels.

But in his adolescence, he turned to drugs and alcohol. He said years later that the Ritalin had been the gateway drug, the thing that turned him onto mind-altering substances. I don’t know if that’s true, but he believed it.

He sobered up when he was 22, and he spent the remainder of his life helping other people get and stay sober. He saved lives, but there was no one with the ability to do it who would move to save his life when he couldn’t buy insurance at any price.

His doctor wrote in his medical record, “Patient needs a colonoscopy but can’t afford it.”

Later, when the symptoms started, he went to the emergency room three times. But the ER only has to stabilize you, and he left with the wrong diagnosis and the wrong medications three times. A doctor finally agreed to do a colonoscopy, but he didn’t tell Mike that his colon was entirely blocked. He just sent him home and wrote in the record, “couldn’t complete procedure. Next time use peds scope.”

I couldn’t get an apology for that from Memorial Health in Savannah, where the doctor is on staff. An apology was “too much to ask,” even when I offered to sign a written promise not to sue.

My son was a remarkable human being. Through three years of pain and suffering, he never lost his sense of humor — and he maintained his sobriety.

Mike had an incredibly foul mouth, and my penchant for dropping the F-bomb likely is just him channeling through me. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking by it.)

I understand his wise words are still quoted in the rooms in Savannah and in the Triad here in North Carolina. He had the wisdom of a very old soul.

I was told earlier this year that he’s very, very proud of me. That came from a woman who introduced herself to me with the words, “You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I have a message from your son.” I thanked her, and as I started to walk away, she added, “One more thing. Did you know he stands behind you when you speak, and he’s smiling?”

Then I knew she wasn’t crazy because I feel his presence sometimes. And I know he’s smiling because he loved nothing more than being the center of attention.

Before he died, he asked what I planned to do with the Dead Kid Card (he had spent three years playing the Cancer Card). I told him I planned to work for universal access to care because, as my T-shirt says, “Everyone deserves health care. Everyone.”

I have been arrested four times — so far — in this work. I don’t go into legislative office buildings to get arrested; I go to plead for the lives of every human being who can’t get access to care. I go, hoping against hope, that I can change one mind, two minds … enough minds to get a health care system that doesn’t reject human beings because they can’t pay.

This work is my life now. I stand for the people Jesus called “the least of these.” You can arrest me, make me do community service (which I do anyway), throw me in jail … but unless you kill me the way this system took the life of my precious son, I will keep on doing what I do with every ounce of strength, every breath and every beat of the heart left to me.

Happy birthday to me, and to Mike. The tarnished tiara is in memory of you, my sweet boy, as is all the work I do.

 

I was the victim, not the perpetrator.

 

I was 3 here. My older sister was 6.

 

I was 3 the first time I was violated.

I don’t remember a time when my body was mine. From that first violation until I was almost 12 and I finally told him to stop, my abuser owned my body.

I remember the hush money. I can still see my chubby little fingers closing around the quarter — which was a lot of money to a little girl in the late 1950s.

I didn’t really need the money to keep me quiet because I knew I was the one at fault. I must have had one hell of a precocious come-hither look. Or maybe it was the way the lace on my ankle socks rested on my patent leather dress shoes.

In the theology I was carefully taught at church, any abuse was my fault because I was a daughter of Eve and therefore just as guilty as she of original sin, which was, of course, seduction.

Sex wasn’t discussed. Bodies weren’t discussed. Our vaginas were referred to as “down there.” Questions about anything to do with sex were answered with, “You’re too young to know that.”

All the while, I knew that; I also knew it was dirty and never to be mentioned because good girls didn’t talk about anything that went on with “down there.”

So, in this atmosphere of secrecy, my grandfather got away with molesting me for eight years.

As an adult, I was raped repeatedly by someone who was supposed to love me. He loved me so much he insisted we have sex when he felt like it, no matter how I felt.

I was never alone if he thought I would be naked. He followed me into the shower to grope me. Even when I changed my clothes, there he was, groping and sometimes insisting I satisfy him because it was my “duty.”

Since I had said yes, even once, that was license for him to take what he wanted whenever he wanted it. At the time, his actions were perfectly legal.

I know I am not alone in either of these experiences.

At work, I was told I was less than a man. I made less, even though I often did the job a lot better than men in similar positions.

If a colleague groped at me or made passes at me, it was my fault, or it was, “That’s our Bob! Heh, heh.”

At every turn I was made to feel less than men.

Sometimes, there was a boss who was on my side. When I sold ads for the weekly paper, the Rockland Review, and a client cornered me in a back room, I was able to escape because I knew not to let a man get between me and the door. I was a mess when I got back to the office. The boss heard me out, then he went to the business owner and told him if he ever touched me — or any other employee of the paper — the boss would educate him about proper behavior with a baseball bat. The man tried to say I had been flirting with him, but my boss wasn’t having any of that.

“Why would she flirt with you?” the boss asked. “You’re a creep.”

That’s another thing — the number of men who think they’re irresistible, or who want to make a woman feel guilty for rejecting them.

There was the military recruiter, Navy, I think, who made a pass at me while I was there to interview him for a story. Within moments of my arrival, he was suggesting we continue the conversation at his apartment.

I said no.

“What, don’t you find me attractive?” he asked.

“Frankly, no,” I said. “I find you offensive and I’m sure your superior officer will find your remarks as inappropriate as I do.”

That shut him up.

But standing up to men who think they’re entitled to sexual gratification because you have a vagina doesn’t always work. Some men think they can take what they want.

They might insult you: “Well, I don’t know why you’re saying no to me. It’s not like you’re beautiful. You should jump at the chance.” Yes, a man actually said this to me.

Or they might try to just take what they want because, well, they’re bigger and stronger and you have a vagina, which is the perfect place for him to park his penis.

That’s why I know to carry my keys pointing out of my fist so I can gouge your eyes out if you think you’re going to force yourself on me.

That’s why I don’t get into elevators alone, and if everyone gets off and a man gets on, I get off.

That’s why I don’t take the stairs at night.

That’s why I check around my car before I get in.

That’s why I don’t offer rides to men I don’t know well. I mean, really well.

That’s why I don’t answer the door if I’m home alone.

That’s why I ask to see ID when a repairman comes to the door, and it’s why I don’t let anyone in unless I have called for a repairman.

You get the gist.

In all the flurries of “Me, too,” I have seen a few men, and my heart goes out to them.

But even more, I have seen women — friends — divulge for the first time that they are among the women who have been harassed, abused or assaulted. I know even more women who still can’t come out and say it in public.

I have also seen a few men try to mansplain why men are not at fault. I had it out with one who insisted women lie.

I hated to drop the F-bomb on another person’s time line, but I did. He wouldn’t stop, no matter how many women came on to tell him he was wrong. He just kept defending his position, through dozens of posts, until I womansplained that his behavior — insisting he was right even after it was clear he was wrong and not shutting up until everyone agreed with him, even though he was clearly wrong — was a hallmark behavior of an abusive personality.

Another man posted a “me, too,” but then went on to say it was an ugly woman at work who harassed him. So, does that mean he would have been less offended if a pretty woman had suggested they have a sexual encounter?

I called him out and other men came on to defend him, calling me a drama queen. One man even went into great detail to mansplain how men really aren’t the problem here. I dropped the F-bomb again and blocked the offender.

So, here’s the reason for harassment, abuse and assault of women: Men who harass, abuse and assault women.

It’s a culture that sees men as entitled and women as at fault.

It’s a culture where women and children aren’t believed.

It’s a culture that doesn’t value women but sees us as vessels of men’s pleasure and the source of the children who will fight their wars.

It’s a culture that will place an admitted sexual predator into the highest office in the land.

It’s a culture that “protects” victims of sexual predation by not naming them, as though they were the perpetrators.

Well, my name is Leslie Boyd and I was the victim of many, many crimes. And I’m here to say we women are coming for your male privilege.

#MeToo.

 

 

 

 

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