Stop pressuring people to vote your way. Your privilege is showing.

He makes a lot of us uncomfortable and you don’t have a right to demand we vote for him.

I have something important to say, and I need to be heard.

I don’t agree that Biden is the answer to any of our problems and I don’t want to be forced to vote for him.

I also don’t want to have you calling me names and telling me to fuck off because I don’t agree with you.

First of all, he is not yet the nominee, so trying to force me to pledge fealty to the failing candidate of a party that is fast becoming irrelevant before he’s the nominee is just cruel.

Let me tell you why. Twelve years ago today, I was trying to prepare for a life without my beloved son. I was facing every parent’s worst nightmare and I was terrified. And I am forced to re-live those final six weeks of his life every damn year.

Here we are, a dozen years after I promised my son I would fight like hell to prevent other people from dying the way he did and you’re calling me every name in the book for refusing to swear to vote for a man who won’t do a damn thing to fix a health care system that’s even more broken than it was 12 years ago.

When my son died, an American was dying every 12 minutes from lack of access to health care; today it’s once every eight minutes.

The Affordable Care Act isn’t working and Biden has said he won’t move toward a real fix for it. He has said things will stay the same.

So, here I am, grieving for my son with a pain that has not gotten any better since he breathed his last, and you’re screaming that I have to get in bed with the enemy.

So my choice is a man who doesn’t care that someone dies once every eight minutes or one who’s pretty close to gleeful about it.

Stop telling me to shut up and vote for someone who thinks things are fine, especially since the nominating process isn’t half over yet.

Stop telling me I have to vote for a man whose actions toward women are disrespectful of their personal space and dismissive of their concerns about dominion over their own bodies.

Stop demanding I vote for a pro-war, pro-Wall Street candidate when it violates everything I stand for.

Stop disrespecting who I am and what I stand for.

I have not said I won’t vote for this demented old creep; I have said I don’t want to.

I understand about the Supreme Court and all the rest.

But we don’t have time to waste on climate action and he will waste time. I have grandchildren and great-grandchildren and I want them to inherit a planet they can inhabit.

We can’t keep putting off giving low-wage workers a chance at a decent life with a living wage, paid sick leave and access to quality health care.

Your insistence on everyone getting in your boat assumes that we all have ladders to climb, and too many of us don’t. As the saying goes, you can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you don’t have boots.

Your intransigence proves your level of privilege. You can wait four years for things to get better. Too many of us can’t, but that doesn’t matter to you.

It isn’t enough to vote for Trump-lite. The status quo is not good enough, and if it is for you, then you need to open your eyes and check your privilege. You need to see how too many around you are suffering. Open your ears and listen to the stories of people who can’t provide for themselves even though they’re working two and three jobs.

Joe Biden is NOT good enough.

If forced to vote for him, I will, but he will not win. It will be a replay of 2016, and we will get four more years of the current mess. And then you’ll blame the people who just can’t bring themselves to vote for more of the same.

I refuse to get angry with people who can’t face a Biden presidency because the thought of it leaves me utterly without hope.

So before you yell at me to shut the fuck up, maybe you should try to understand that I don’t want your child to die the way mine did. Maybe you should look and listen to the 140 million Americans who live in or near poverty, who have no hope of a better life if they have to live — and all too often, die — without the changes we need.

We talk a lot about getting in line, but nowhere near enough about where that line is headed.

Yes, I am pissed off. You bet I am.

This is my country, too, and I’m just trying to make it a better, more moral place for the people I care about. And I care about everyone.

A dozen years and still no health care for all

Mike with his niece, Meghan, in 2000. His brother’s children adored Uncle Mike because he was so funny and kind.

Twelve years ago today, as I was driving into work, I got the phone call that would change my life.

I can still hear his voice. “Mom, the cancer’s back. There’s no cure. The most I can hope for is a year.”

There wouldn’t be a year. In fact, six weeks later, to the day, he would breathe his last.

I can’t describe my feelings that morning — the same feeling I have today as I re-live the trauma of learning there would be no hope for my son to realize his dream of going to law school to become a legal aid attorney because “poor people deserve a good lawyer, and I plan to be the best.”

I couldn’t cry because I had to get into work, and I knew once I started allowing myself to feel what was happening, I would lose control. My husband would be in the office a half hour after I got there, so I would say nothing to anyone until I could talk to him. If I spoke to anyone about it, I knew I would fall apart.

I sat down at my desk and shuffled papers, looked at my schedule, checked my phone for messages, checked my e-mail. None of it registered; I had to just go through the motions until my husband got there.

But when he did, and I walked over to his desk to tell him, I fell apart. It was all I could do to stay on my feet. I couldn’t breathe except to take in air with each wracking sob.

I don’t remember much about the next few minutes except that my colleagues stepped in to hold me up while my husband went to tell the managing editor that we were leaving to go to Cary and be with Mike. The editor never came out of his office to speak to me.

This day begins the most terrible six weeks of my life, re-lived now for the 12th time. Each year, the pain of losing him comes back, as fresh and new as it was 12 years ago.

The most painful part of it all is that it never should have happened. If he’d had access to an annual colonoscopy, he would still be here, probably a legal aid attorney working with people in Durham. I imagine him in the fight to end cash bail, working to get people who are awaiting trial released from jail so they wouldn’t lost their jobs, housing or children.

If we had a health care system like those in the rest of the industrialized world, he would still be here, still be a jackass who loved nothing better than a good practical joke, still cooking gourmet dinners for all of us, still complaining about bad drivers and traffic jams … still Mike.

But we have the most backward system anywhere in the so-called developed world, a system that killed 45,000 or more Americans each year in 2008 — a half million since it robbed me of my son.

The Affordable Care Act stemmed the tide a little for a few years, but we made the mistake of leaving insurance companies in charge, and they have perverted the system to their advantage with $6,000 deductibles. According to ehealthinsurance.com, in 2018, the average deductible was $4,328 for an individual and $8,352 for families.

Nearly three-quarters of employer-sponsored plans have deductibles of $1,500 or more, and the average family spends about $20,000 per year on health care costs. With more than 40 percent of Americans saying they can’t pay a $400 surprise bill without borrowing money, it’s hard to imagine how any but the wealthiest Americans can say they love their insurance plan.

That’s the “progress” we’ve made toward a more just and equitable health care system in the 12 years since I promised my son I would fight for access to health care for every human being. In fact, a new study from Yale University places the annual death toll at 65,000-plus, which means an American dies once every eight minutes.

I remember pieces of that day so clearly. I remember the shock of seeing how much weight he had lost in the few weeks since I had seen him last. I had trouble catching my breath.

I remember my daughter-in-law coming over to Mike’s place (they had been forced to split so he could get Medicaid here in North Carolina) and I remember his best friend and roommate, James, telling me of his fear of coming home from work and finding Mike dead.

After we had spent a couple hours with Mike, we checked into our hotel. My husband took a nap, and unable to even think about sleeping, I walked over to the electronics store across the street from the hotel. I was looking at photo printers, wondering how to connect them to my computer. As always, I thought Mike would be able to answer any questions I had about it, and then I realized he would be gone soon, and I almost fell to the floor. I don’t remember the walk back to the room, although I do remember how cold it was, and that I didn’t have a warm jacket with me.

I went to Target to get an inexpensive jacket — a red Converse zip-front hoodie — and I saw an exasperated mother with a fussy toddler. I wanted to stop and tell her how precious that child was, even though he didn’t seem so at the moment. I wanted to tell her to hold him close and love him because he could be taken from her by a system that preys on people rather than cures them.

I kept walking instead because I didn’t want to look like a crazy woman.

I’ve been working on this a dozen years and we are no closer to health care justice than we were when my son’s heart stopped.

I am the family member of just one of more than a half million corpses from this carnage, and every one of us has to live with this indescribable pain. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone — not even on the policymakers who allow it to continue, unabated, or to the corrupt insurance company executives who bribe policymakers to leave them in charge of such an immoral system.

I want desperately to see change. I want to see an end to these unnecessary deaths that rip families apart day after day after day — one every eight minutes.

So, stop telling me we need to get there gradually — it’s been too gradual already, and for every eight minutes we delay, another body is added to the count.

You want to call yourself “pro-life” or even moral? Stop supporting politicians who say we can’t afford to care for everybody. We can afford it, and we must.

It is 12 years past time for my precious son, and my pain is as terrible today as it was on this day 12 years ago.

I will never get over it.

I will never move on, not until every human being has full access to quality care.

No more war, and no more online petitions

Assassinating a beloved leader is not the way to make friends in the Middle East, and online petitions won’t sway anyone to stop the march toward war.

The pretender in the Oval Office is working like mad to get us involved in a shooting war in the Middle East because death and mayhem is the perfect distraction from his other crimes.

And if you think that petition on your Facebook page is going to make any difference at all, think again. If you sign an online petition, it gives the organization putting it out there access to your contact information, and your inbox will be clogged with demands for money. That’s about all that will happen.

I’ll say from the outset that I’m anti-war. I have been all my life.

I came of age after the generals lied about Tonkin to get us to escalate the conflict in Vietnam because we had to stop the Commies over there before they arrived on our shores.

I have lived through numerous petty conflicts (Grenada and Panama in the 1980s) and major blowups (Iraq/Kuwait, Afghanistan, second Iraq) and lots of saber rattling. In the end, the war mongers wound up richer and the rest of us got nothing.

Wars are fought for the profit of the wealthy, and if you don’t think that’s true, look at the spikes in the stock values of the military industrial complex and the price of gas. If you’re invested in that stuff, you’ve already made a profit.

I’m not certain how we stop this seemingly inexorable march to conflict, but I do know it won’t be averted by any online petition.

I don’t know of a single time online petitions worked to stop a war — or even the confirmation of a breathtakingly unqualified judge.

We have to be there in person — hit the streets, visit the offices of legislators. I don’t think phone calls will work, and I’m not sure anything will work to sway Republicans, who appear to place party above the safety of the planet and every human being on it.

I don’t know how you fight that, but I am certain it won’t be because Mitch McConnell and Mark Meadows looked at a million signatures. In fact, I think even 10 million signatures won’t sway them. I think they would laugh and say, “Fuck them!” and go to war in the Middle East.

And now Iraq is expelling US troops, which will allow Putin’s people to move in. Assassinating General Qasem Soleimani played right into Putin’s hand. We got rid of a general who wasn’t friendly to Putin and who was a national hero to his people, and our influence in the region will be replaced by Russia’s.

We’re going to hear a lot of lies in the coming days. We’re going to see a whole lot of flag-waving and chanting of “USA, USA!” We’re going to be told every Iranian is a spy or a terrorist, when the truth is the spy/terrorist is squatting in the Oval Office and his accomplice is the leader in the Senate.

Our only way forward is to be in the streets and in the Capitol.

Please, do not, I repeat DO NOT fall for the online petition ploy. Sitting on your ass typing in your name and address so Move On can get your contact information and clog up your inbox with requests for money is not the solution.

The time has come for real action — getting out into the streets the way they’re doing in France and Hong Kong. It is the only way we can defeat the oligarchs, who have managed to take over almost everything.

When our demonstrations get in the way of their profit, they will listen. Until then, they have us trapped.

I am NOT calling for violence, I am calling for millions of us to be in the streets, stopping traffic, stopping commerce, and in their offices so they can’t conduct business as usual. They can arrest thousands of us, but if we keep coming, they’ll have to listen.

As Rev. William Barber says, “You can be woke, but that isn’t enough. You must rise up.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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