More legal lynchings. When will it stop?

Marcus Deon Smith, the man killed by Greensboro, NC, police, who hog-tied him.

On Sept. 8, Marcus Deon Smith was experiencing a mental health crisis in Greensboro, NC,when someone called police.

Yes, someone should have called police because in North Carolina, as in most places, there is no other alternative for someone in a mental health crisis.

It’s what happened next that’s the issue: Police hog-tied Smith, and he died.

For someone in crisis, being handcuffed and put in a police van is more than frightening. The person likely doesn’t understand what’s happening. By the very definition of severe mental illness, the person is confused and detached from reality.

So, rather than try and talk him down (which ALL cops should be trained to do), they treated him like an animal. They hogtied him, and he died.

I can’t even imagine the horror of his final moments.

Greensboro officials responded by saying hog-tying is an accepted form of restraint for a human being.

An accepted form of restraint. For a human.

So, of course, it’s not the officers’ fault that Smith died. He shouldn’t have been mentally ill in public, I guess, although I wasn’t aware that it was a capital offense.

Then, earlier this week, police shot and killed Jemel Roberson outside of Chicago near a nightclub where he had just apprehended a shooter. In other words, Roberson saved an unknown number of lives when he chased the shooter down and tackled him, only to die at the hands of a trigger-happy police officer.

Police claim they warned him a number of times to drop his gun — but they obviously didn’t wait for a reply, if, indeed, they did issue a warning.

 

Police Fatally Shoot Black Security Guard Who Detained Shooting Suspect

Here’s what witnesses had to say to NPR:

“Jakia Woods lives in a house adjacent to Manny’s parking lot. She said officers already on the scene had asked Roberson to release the suspect, and Roberson was complying, when another officer came through the bar’s back door.

‘”Before [Roberson] could get up off of him, the officer comes flying out this door gun up,’ Woods said Tuesday afternoon while standing on her porch. ‘He says, ‘Get on the ground,’ and before he says ‘ground,’ he fires the first shot.’

“‘Everybody is screaming and hollering,’ she said. ‘Even the officers were screaming and hollering, ‘He’s one of us. He’s one of us. He’s a security guard. He works here.’ ”

Witness Adam Harris told a television news crew that he saw the same thing. “Everybody is screaming out, ‘He’s a security guard!’ ”

But officials still claim he was issued a warning and didn’t comply. Even if he was issued a warning, was he supposed to get up off an active shooter? The cop couldn’t wait a couple of seconds for a reply?

It seems like almost every day, white mass murderers are taken alive. Hell, Dylan Roof, who executed nine people in a church in Charleston, SC, because they were black, was issued a bullet-proof vest and fed before being delivered to jail.

I was called racist last week because when the person who murdered 12 people in cold blood was identified, and even before there was a photo, I posted, “I’m betting it was a white man.”

I was right, of course, but trolls started having a field day on my news feed and I had to block almost a dozen of them.

If you can’t see the real racism around you, every day, across the entire country, I think the chances are you’re racist yourself.

Look at the news. Time and again, black people are shot and killed, and if they weren’t actually committing a crime, police find a reason to vilify them.

Michael Brown may have stolen a pack of cigars. Or he may not have, but he did argue with the shopkeeper. He was shot dead in the street by a cop who couldn’t have known about the altercation.

Philandro Castile died because an officer said he smelled pot and got scared.

Eric Garner was selling single cigarettes and suffered the death penalty at the hands of police officers who joked with each other as they watched him die.

Black and brown men die mysteriously in custody, like Freddie Gray Jr., 25, who died in a police van in Baltimore. No one was convicted of a crime.

Jesus Huerta died, supposedly of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, while he was handcuffed in the back seat of a police car in Durham, NC. The teenager had been searched before being placed in the car, and his family said he didn’t own a gun.

The list goes on and on.

Meanwhile, white men are shooting people in bars and churches, synagogues, movie theaters, malls, grocery stores … but it’s black and brown men who get killed by police.

This is institutionalized racism at its meanest, and if you don’t think we’re a racist society, let me ask why black and brown people are the ones most often targeted by voting “reforms.” Let me ask why predominately black neighborhoods are split among two or three voting districts to water down their combined votes. Let me ask why white men who shoot multiple people are so often taken alive, while black and brown men are shot on sight, even after not committing any crime.

I fully expect to read that Jemel Roberson smoked pot in high school or was caught shoplifting when he was 5 because no black man is guiltless and police are always right.

Shame on us for allowing this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The time for resistance is now

A white male terrorist killed 11 people in a synagogue on Saturday, and the pretender in the White House responded by saying they should have hired an armed guard.

I don’t even know where to begin. The violence of the last week has hit me in the heart so hard, I can’t even begin to put the feelings washing over me into words.

Children in cages and the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice who was so obviously unqualified for the job, despite the objections of millions of women and men, and bombs being mailed to prominent Democrats, weren’t bad enough, now we’re killing black people and Jews just because they’re black people and Jews.

We have a pretender in the White House claiming that armed guards would have prevented the unspeakable tragedy in Pittsburgh, even though the white male terrorist shot three armed cops.

What’s worse is the thought that people should have to worship behind armed guards. That’s preferable to banning military-style assault weapons in this country because the NRA owns Congress.

It all goes back to who has the money and power in this country, and in the last four decades, that money has bought all the power.

This is NOT the last gasp of white supremacy. This is the ascendance of absolute power for upper class whites and the war economy.

The overwhelming majority of Americans want sensible gun control laws, but we can’t get them through Congress.

The majority of Americans want campaign finance reform, but we can’t get that done.

Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election, but the Republicans cheated and placed their pretender in the White House, and they’re cheating in this election by tampering with voting machines, suppressing the vote and intimidating voters.

We have 800 military bases around the world. No one else has anywhere near that number. We are wasting our resources on a war economy because that’s what the ultra-wealthy want to protect their resources. War means profit, and they don’t care how many lower-income people die for their profit.

We don’t matter to them. We are expendable.

And even though we have abolished the draft, lower-income people have no other recourse if they can’t afford college. It’s called the Poverty Draft when the only way to a better life for young men and women is to go into lifelong debt or risk their lives in overseas adventures set up by the Pentagon.

When our nation spends about two-third of its wealth on the war machine, it prevents us from modernizing our infrastructure — or even keeping up with its decay. It takes money from research into renewable energy and necessitates our war-for-oil policies. It takes money from education — which the ultra-wealthy see as welfare, anyway.

And it makes us a more violent nation, especially when our so-called leader refuses to roundly condemn violence and racism — when he is, in fact, a violent racist and misogynist.

And the fact that he gets away with his violent rhetoric, with putting children in cages, with insisting we need a wall to keep immigrants out because they are “other,” means we no longer can call ourselves a functioning Democracy.

When he was a candidate, he said he could shoot someone in the middle of Manhattan and get away with it, and he was right. The Republican Party has condoned his every evil move.

Violent racists have been emboldened by his insistence that “there are good people” among the Nazis chanting, “Jews will not replace us.”

Back when racism and violence were considered inappropriate behavior, we thought we’d never see the likes of Nazis again, but now we’re nurturing them.

When George W. Bush was in the White House, he suggested we might “reform” Social Security and his approval ratings tanked. But now, when Mitch McConnell (the man who broke the Senate) suggests it, there’s hardly a ripple.

With the lack of regulation in the markets, we’re being set up for the worst economic collapse in history. The Great Recession will look like a little dip in comparison.

And it’s all because avarice, racism and disregard for human life are the new normal.

I’m not sure voting will be the solution anymore. We have broken down the walls between the branches of our government. If the Liar in Chief wants to nullify the elections, he owns the Supreme Court now, so he can.

We have been warned repeatedly, but we have ignored it. Remember the derision Hillary Clinton faced when she talked about a vast right-wing conspiracy? They don’t care who knows about it now because their takeover is pretty much a done deal.

And now, white male terrorists aren’t seen as the ones at fault when they walk into a synagogue and declare open season on Jews. The fault lies with the victims because they didn’t choose to worship behind armed guards.

Well, I stand with my Jewish siblings today, and my black and brown siblings because we are all children of God.

When you attack them, you attack me. I will not be silent in the face of fascism.

 

 

 

 

 

Not all men? Really? And do all lives matter?

Just shut up and listen to us.

OK, I’m going to sound like an angry woman here again — mostly because I am angry.

I wasn’t at the keyboard five minutes this morning before I saw a post that said, “not all men.”

Well, duh. I never said it was. I told the man this sounded a bit like “all lives matter,” and he set about mansplaining to me why my feelings aren’t valid.

Let me survivor-splain why they are.

I know not all men. I’m married to one who gets it. I have a ton of man friends who get it.

The problem is, it’s enough men.

The problem is it’s systemic.

The real problem is, we never know which men.

See, not all men harass women, but pretty much every single woman on the planet has been harassed, attacked, raped, abused, molested, paid less, dismissed, interrupted … All of us.

And then we’re blamed.

Am I safe getting into that elevator with the man alone?

What about the man walking behind me in the mall parking lot? Is he going to grab me?

If I stop into a bar and have a drink, who’s going to think I’m there for him?

Ask me all the reasons I quit wearing heels as a young woman. Among the reasons are the fact that I can’t run as fast in heels as I can in flats, and the fact that some men are going to think it’s a come-hither thing.

This is not paranoia. This is as real as it gets. I know because I have lived it.

I know I’ve avoided being attacked at least once by being prepared. Back in the early 1980s, three men approached me one morning while I was walking in Paterson, NJ. I had my keys and the blade of a small knife sticking out through my clenched fingers. They walked past me. But I wasn’t in the office 10 minutes when I heard a woman walking alone in the same place I was had been attacked just a minute after I passed by. They stabbed her and stole her purse. Had I not shown I was willing to fight, I would have been the one attacked.

If you’re a man, tell me what measures you take every day to protect yourself.

I mean every day.

Every. Damn. Day.

Let me give you an example: Last night I was driving home from Raleigh. It’s a four-hour drive, and about three hours into it, I had to pee something fierce. There was no way I was going to make it home, so I stopped at a rest area.

It was 10 o’clock at night and the rest area was all but deserted. There was one other car, and a lone man standing outside the building, smoking a cigarette.

I stayed in my locked car, debating whether I should just pee in the car and get it cleaned later. Fortunately, another car with two people in it came along.

Witnesses.

I got out and went into the rest room, keys jutting out between my fingers in case I had to gouge an attacker.

So tell me, Mr Not-all-men, have you ever had to even think about doing that?

And if someone did attack you, have you not reported because you know you’ll be blamed for your own attack?

I have.

Has anyone ever told you a woman who was raped somehow asked for it?

I’ve heard it again and again.

Remember when the Kennedy kid was accused of rape? One of the reasons the young woman was blamed for her own rape was because she took off her pantyhose to walk on the beach. So tell me, if you’re going to walk on the beach barefoot, doesn’t that involve taking your socks off?

But she was at a bar.

So was he.

But she had a drink.

So did he.

But she was dressed up.

So, that means you get to have your way with her? Her attire is a personal invitation for you to screw her? I’ll bet that’s not what she thought when she was getting dressed.

How about the politicians who say educating females will get rid of rape? Know what they’re really saying? It’s our own fault for being prick teasers. And you know what? Our very existence makes us prick teasers.

So, don’t tell me not-all-men. I know that.

Instead, roll up your sleeves and stand with me.

Listen to me. I know more about this than you do. Every woman does.

If you do that, you never have to tell me not-all-men. If you have to say it and then you feel you have to mansplain it to me when I question your willingness to fight misogyny with me, methinks you doth protest too much.

 

 

I’m not just an angry liberal, I’m an infuriated woman

 

Poor Eve. It was all her fault. It still is, according to old white men.

The Republicans have — once again — thumbed their noses at women and let us know just how they feel about us.

They think we’re liars.

They think we live to seduce and then destroy men.

They think we’re powerless to stop them.

I have never been angrier about the abuse of women by white men in power.

It was an old white man who violated me when I was 3.

No one would have believed me if I had said anything then, and people have questioned my honesty since I divulged in my 30s — 30 years after the abuse began.

Why didn’t I say anything? Because it was my word against a pillar of the community. Because when adults had to choose between my story and his, they would have chosen his and punished me for lying. And he still would have had control over my body.

When my ex-husband decided he didn’t need my consent to have sex with me whenever he wanted, the law of powerful white men was on his side, not mine.

I wasn’t allowed dominion over my own body in 1971 when I got engaged and went to the doctor for birth control. In Massachusetts in 1971, the law of powerful old white men decided I couldn’t have birth control unless I was married, and I was so unable to make decisions about my own body that I wasn’t the one who would be punished if I tried to take control of my own reproductive system — it would be the doctor — an old white man.

When a man wanted me to give him a blow job in exchange for me making a sale, I went back and told my boss. The pig denied it, but my boss believed me and threatened him with real trouble if it happened again.

Another white man asked me out to lunch and as soon as we were in the car, he pulled his penis out and asked for a “massage.”

At work at a small newspaper in new Jersey, I sold ads. Another sales rep, a creepy old white man named Bob, decided I would be his next conquest. I told him no every day, often several times a day. He made a habit of trying to grope me every time he was within reach. After a couple months of this, I went to the publisher to complain, and all he did was laugh and say, “That’s Bob.”

For the first time, I fought back. I told him to give me his home phone number, which he was stupid enough to do.

“If I call now, your wife will answer, right?” I asked.

His face fell.

“If I tell her what a fucking pig you are, she won’t be happy, will she?” I said.

Then I held up the slip of paper.

“Ladies, I have the phone number for Bob’s wife here. If he ever gropes you, if he ever makes another pass at you, please ask me for the number. I’m happy to share.”

I quit a short time later, but Bob was kept in check because I gave every woman that phone number.

A couple of years later, another white male boss bragged that he liked to keep the heat turned down to 65 degrees in the office because the women’s nipples got hard and he enjoyed that.

Every morning I went and turned the thermostat up to 70. Every hour or so I checked to make sure it was still set at 70. I left him notes letting him know what I’d overheard and promised to report him if I found the heat set below 70 degrees.

But people still ask why I didn’t report my grandfather. Am I SURE it’s not just “recovered” memories? Trust me, the memories are real.

Do I remember the room? Yes. It was a little room in the attic. Do I remember walking up the stairs or coming back down? No. Do I remember who else was in the house? No. Do I remember what either one of us was wearing? No.

But I remember his hands on me — all over me. I know what happened, even though he died in his bed and everyone else still thought he was a fucking saint. He was so good with children, after all.

Having people question Christine Blasey Ford’s motives in telling her story, or accuse her of lying, is the same as telling me I’m lying.

And I don’t care that he didn’t actually get to rape her. He intended to, and she knew it. She was fighting for her life for all she knew.

I’m tired of people asking why she was at a party where drinking was going on. He was at that party, too. Being at a party where people are drinking is not an invitation to be raped.

Wearing a short skirt is not an invitation. Having dinner with someone, having a drink, walking on the beach, just our very existence, seems to be reason to say we tempted him, and all he did was take what we really wanted to give him.

We are not here for your pleasure. We actually aren’t all that interested in you or your accomplishments or the size of your penis. We don’t care about your flashy car or your decked out apartment. You are inconsequential.

Brett Kavanaugh is a sexual predator. The creature currently squatting in the White House is a sexual predator. They flaunt it every day with their hate-filled rhetoric toward women. They flaunt it with their ramming through the nomination of an unqualified, active alcoholic, lying partisan hack to the highest court in the nation.

Damn right we’re angry. Women have had about enough of this.

More of us die at the hands of people who are supposed to love us. More of us live in poverty. We make less money for the same work. We do more of the work in the home, when when both partners work outside the home.

We are the Daughters of Eve, the people Evangelicals say are responsible for our own abuse and all the violence against us, and we are pissed.

We are coming for your white male privilege.

Look behind you. We’re gaining ground.

 

Here’s why women don’t report

This is me with my older sister when I was 3 and she was 6. This was the year my perpetrator found me too irresistible to keep his hands off me. Notice the come-hither look I must have used to tempt him.

Let me tell you what trauma does to a person so that you might understand why women don’t come forward.
I was 3 when I was violated. I remember his hands on me. But I don’t remember the exact date. I remember the room, but I don’t recall going in there or leaving. I remember my chubby little fingers closing around the quarter he gave me — the hush money. I remember knowing what happened was wrong, but also knowing I couldn’t tell anyone, so the abuse continued until I was 11 and told him he had to stop or I would tell.
In Sunday school at the Evangelical church we attended, I learned that all girls are the daughters of Eve and therefore guilty of her original sin (which it turns out is seduction), so we have to be controlled by men, who always know more than we do. So, long before the abuse ended, I knew it was my fault.
Sex was a filthy thing, so no one ever talked to me about what to do if someone molested me. It was just assumed no one would be that dirty unless I offered myself up. It must have been my come-hither look at age 3 that started me on the path to hell.
If I had come forward, I would have been treated like Christine Blasey-Ford. I would have been called a liar. I would have been blamed. I would have been told it must be my fault. I was, after all, alone in a room with my grandfather, who was a good, upstanding member of the community — a school janitor, crossing guard, church sexton. People loved him because he was so good with children.He would have denied it and I would have been punished for telling such a filthy lie.
Had I come forward, I would have been accused of destroying his life, even though he was the one who destroyed mine.
I live to this day with a sense of shame, even though I know I have no reason to be ashamed. I still have to remind myself that I was the victim of a crime. I was never at fault.
So, when friends and family tell me they want to see more proof, I tell them I need no more proof. The reason she was reluctant to come forward is clear — just look at how she’s being mocked and criticized — blamed for her own assault.
“She was at that party.”
Well, so was he.
“She was drinking.”
Yup. So was he.
What was she wearing?
Why should it matter? What was he wearing?
She doesn’t remember the date.
Why should she?
She doesn’t remember how she got to the party or how she got home.
In the scheme of things, those things weren’t etched in her memory the way the assault was. That’s a classic response to trauma.
According to people who know Brett Kavanaugh’s drinking habits, he has lied under oath about his underage drinking. 
So, we know he’s capable of lying, but we still prefer to believe him and not her.
This is white male privilege at its most damaging.
He’s still under consideration for a seat on the highest court in the land, and she had to abandon her home because of death threats to her and her children.
These old white men care nothing about those of us who have suffered sexual violence. They “protect” us by withholding our identities, as though we’re the ones at fault. When we do come forward, we are attacked, accused of being at fault.
This whole episode has triggered anxiety in me like I’ve never suffered before, and this predator may be rewarded with a seat on the US Supreme Court, just like the pretender squatting in the White House.
Criminal behavior is rewarded if you’re a white man, but the truth destroys the women who come forward.
Do not EVER ask me why women don’t come forward. If you have read this and still don’t understand, you likely never will.

A summer of losses causes one to think about the future

This is part of my husband’s and my “logical” family, taken 27 years ago on a hike in Pennsylvania.

It’s been a difficult summer. My husband and I lost two dear friends and a cousin in the space of a month.

We had planned two trips to New Jersey this summer to visit friends who have been together since childhood; we took four, two of them for funerals.

The original core group of boys met in fourth and fifth grade, and as the years went on, they gathered more friends and spouses, who played softball (or cheered on the team), vacationed together and gathered twice a year, in January and July.

We went to weddings and mourned the deaths of parents, and now each other.

Friendships like these are rare in today’s mobile society. People move and make new connections, and most of the time, many of the old connections are lost.

This group is my logical family (as opposed to biological), and the unexpected death of one and the lost battles to cancer of the other friend and my cousin were paralyzing.

Grief is an odd thing. It seems to be cumulative — each loss compounding the others. It comes in waves, and it’s not just for the most recent loss, but for each of them. For my father, and my sister and my son and these dear friends. It’s one of the most difficult things about aging.

But the loss of these friends reminds me of what’s important, of what I still have and what I want for the future.

I still have three sisters and a brother, a son, four grandchildren, a great-granddaughter, two daughters-in-law and two grandsons-in-law. And I still have a ton of logical family.

I’m reminded that we each have a limited time on this planet and we need to think about what we will leave behind when we go.

I would hope my legacy is a positive one, that I leave behind a better world in some small way. That’s why I’m so active in social causes. No one should go hungry or without shelter or health care in a world of plenty. No one should die at the hands of a cop because of the color of his or her skin.

Humans are an angry lot — we never seem to be at peace with what we have. We want more, more, more, and we’re not willing to ever admit we have enough. So, a few gain power and take even more, hoarding it in overseas accounts so they don’t have to pay taxes and contribute to the common good.

I’ve thought a lot this summer about how much I do have. I see war-torn places where people don’t have power or running water, where crops can’t grow because of the danger farmers face in times of war, or because the water is being co-opted by those in power. There are places where it’s not safe to go outside, even for a short time.

We Americans haven’t faced that since the Civil War, and I don’t think most of us are aware of how many problems in the world are caused by our own greed and short-sightedness.

The American “war on drugs” has caused instability throughout Central and South America, and now we’re punishing people for trying to escape the chaos we’ve helped to create.Build a wall, my ass — we need to open the gates the way we did in the early 20th century. There is great strength in diversity.

Our policies created Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and even Manuel Noriega (remember the Panamanian “strongman” from the 1980s?), and when they tried to take the power we gave them in a direction we didn’t want, we went to war and killed them.

We are not the good guys, and it’s time we acknowledge that and begin to work toward a more just society. It’s long past time to stand up and demand justice — economic, racial and moral justice for each of us.

I can’t bring myself to watch the Senate hearings to confirm Brett Kavanaugh for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, but I have friends there protesting, and soon I will join them.

We need to stem the tide of greed, racism and hate. We’re not here for long; we should make our time matter.

 

 

‘It’s not what we serve …’

Rev. Dr. Shannon Spencer speaks to volunteer servers at 12 Baskets Cafe.

A year ago, I was arrested in Washington for disrupting the Senate as its members prepared to debate repeal of the Affordable Care Act. I was  sentenced to 48 hours of community service.

I went straight to 12 Baskets Cafe, where I’ve volunteered a couple of days a week since — long after my sentence was completed.

Almost every Tuesday and Thursday, you’ll fine me standing near the door, scraping plates into a large compost bin. My position allows me to greet everyone who comes in and to make sure people have had enough to eat before they leave.

I see all kinds of people, not just poor and/or homeless, but working people, retirees who want to stretch their budgets with some good, nutritious food.

The cafe is in Kairos West Community Center off Haywood Road at State Street in West Asheville, and it was classed as a community center when the permits were issued for the cafe to open.

The Rev. Dr. Shannon Spencer, who opened the cafe through the nonprofit Asheville Poverty Initiative, puts it simply: “It’s not what we serve, it’s who we serve.”

Apparently, that changes everything. When you help people who have nothing, you become a “shelter,” and the city tries to shut you down.

The excuse is that there’s a school nearby and people have found some used needles in the area. So, the cries of, “Save the children!” begin, as though no people who suffer from addiction should be allowed to travel in circles that come within a few hundred yards of a school or church.

The trouble began when a group of itinerant people came through, enjoyed lunch and then set up camp in the side yard of the cafe.

The television news came in and interviewed tourists across the street at Sunny Point Cafe, and the tourists didn’t like looking at poor people while they were on vacation.

So, the local newspaper jumped on board to do a story and no one spoke to anyone from the cafe, even though there’s someone there who can speak every single weekday from about 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The story just said no one was available for comment.

When I worked as a reporter, the story would be held until someone could speak for the cafe. We didn’t print one-sided stories without several attempts to speak to someone. I have encountered public officials who refused to return calls, and in those cases, the stories that ran detailed attempts to reach someone — “So-and-So did not return seven calls to his office, three to his home and six to his mobile phone over the course of three days.” This one would have read, “We tried to call 12 Baskets at 6 p.m. one night.”

So, viewers and readers are left with the impression that homeless people are doing drugs in the yard, that neighbors are at wits’ end with the chaos and cafe staff are allowing it, when the reality is that our neighbors support us. Some bring us food from their gardens, others come in and enjoy a meal.

The problem here is that we live in a society that drives people into poverty with low wages and few worker protections and then vilifies them.

Many of the people who eat at the cafe are working; some have disabilities that keep them from working. A number of them are in recovery from addiction, and some are still using.

Every one of them is human. Every one of them deserves the dignity of a good meal and human contact.

If we’re a community center when working people eat with us, but an illegally operating shelter when our patrons are poor, the problem isn’t with us, it’s with the community.

If you want to know more about the cafe, come have lunch with us. The food comes from some of the best restaurants in town, from EarthFare, Mission Hospital and others. We seem to specialize in curry dishes from Indian restaurants’ buffets, but we have fresh fruits and vegetables, breads, muffins, pasta dishes … it’s different every day, and it’s all delicious.

What’s more, the company is wonderful. Just because people don’t have homes doesn’t mean they don’t deserve respect and human contact.

The name 12 Baskets, by the way, comes from the story of Jesus feeding the multitudes from 12 baskets of fish and bread.

Yeah, if you have to ask what Jesus would do, the answer is in our name. He took 12 baskets of food and fed 6,000 because they were hungry. He didn’t ask whether they could pay, he just fed them.

 

 

Fight poverty, not the poor

If I hear another person tell me poor people need to get a job, I may become violent — or at least verbally abusive.

Did you know most poor people who can work, do? Did you know that the vast majority of jobs being created in this economy are low-wage and part-time?

There was no real recovery after the meltdown of 2008. What there was, was a reset that took away most of the last of the living-wage jobs and left us with jobs that don’t pay the bills and don’t offer benefits like vacation, sick days, health insurance, disability insurance, a pension or 401K plan …

So, when a few people began camping outside 12 Baskets Cafe here in Asheville, the local (Sinclair Broadcasting) television station interviewed people and broadcast a story that seemed designed to stir people up.

Across the street from 12 Baskets Cafe (which the news station called 12 baskets) is Sunny Point Cafe, a real magnet for tourists because it serves local food prepared really well.

So, the WLOS TV “news” crew interviewed tourists, who knew nothing about 12 Baskets Cafe. The tourists, of course, don’t want to look at poor people in their vacation spot.

“Oh,” they say, “these people are bathing and sleeping right there by the road, where we can see them!”

The TV “news” reports that “12 baskets … gives food to homeless people.”

Wrong. 12 Baskets Cafe rescues food from restaurants, grocery stores and caterers and serves it, restaurant style and free of charge, to everyone who comes. And not everyone who comes is homeless.

The people who live and work in the neighborhood support the cafe, no matter what the “news” tells you. People stop by often with food from their gardens. One woman brings fresh flowers every week.

12 Baskets Cafe is a place where everyone is treated with the basic dignity that should be offered to every human being. Just walk into the space and see people looking after each other’s children, people enjoying conversation with others they’re meeting for the first time. The volunteers who serve and clean up are encouraged to sit down and enjoy a meal and good company.

This is a positive space, a loving place, and the food is good. People were paying $10 a plate for it the day before.

In a time when some 40 percent of food is thrown away, no one, no one, should go hungry.

Part of the problem here is that the powers that be would love us to think there isn’t enough to go around, so perhaps we won’t realize they’re pillaging our resources while more than 140 million Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, just one check away from financial disaster.

Well, there is enough to go around. There is an abundance.

What we all need to understand is that poverty is a political construct. When you send all the money to the top 1 percent, nothing trickles down.

Economic science shows that money given to the wealthy is stashed away, hoarded, because they don’t have to spend it. On the other hand, every dollar spent on food stamps generates $1.73 in the economy (https://www.cbpp.org/research/food-assistance/snap-boosts-retailers-and-local-economies).

When you give low-wage people money, they spend it on necessities. When you give rich people money, they stash it in an offshore account.

When you deny people a living wage in exchange for a week’s work, they become homeless, sick and hungry. It really is that simple.

Homeless people aren’t lazy or morally inferior. They’re people like you and me who have been forced into poverty by bad public policy.

Perhaps it’s time to change the policy-makers so we can have enough food, a living wage, decent public education, health care and affordable, safe housing for everyone.

 

Is it a valid question or is it a troll?

This is all about critical thinking skills, which are sorely missing in too many people.

You see a post on Facebook asking a question about the Creature currently squatting in the White House, say, “Is it OK to fat shame…?” As soon as you see it, you laugh and share with a resounding “Yes!”

You have just aided and abetted a troll.

This is what trolls want — to create division and get people all riled up at each other.

For example, one post asks whether Bernie Sanders should run again in 2020. It goes on about how the current occupant was 70, blah, blah, blah … The first response was to call people who don’t think he should run ageist. No civilized conversation, just right to name-calling.

That’s exactly the response the people at Hash It Out and their ilk are looking for. Go ahead, visit the Hash It Out Facebook page and look at the stuff they’re generating.

Another post asked whether Melania should divorce her husband. Like that’s any of your business or it would affect the danger he poses to our nation.

It’s the best example out there of what I’m talking about. Every post is deliberately provocative and divisive.

And even though there has been plenty of information out there about what the trolls are doing any why, the Hash It Out posts are all over Facebook — even though they are exactly what we are being warned about.

We’re told to watch out for deliberately provocative posts, and as soon as we see one, we share it.

Yeah. let’s fat-shame the current occupant of the White House. Let’s make fun of his hair and slut-shame his wife. Let’s call everyone who doesn’t think Bernie Sanders should run again ageist. Let’s trash people who don’t think cannabis should be legal.

Let’s not discuss the pros and cons of these things. Let’s not talk about the real issues. Let’s just post simplistic, mean-spirited memes from Hash It Out — God forbid we should create our own posts or start constructive conversations.

Here’s what the BBC has to say about how troll farms operate:

“Prosecutors said Russian operatives would work shifts to make sure their posting times matched the timezone of the area they were pretending to be based.

“But the work was round-the-clock. When the operatives – they called themselves ‘specialists’ – weren’t posting, they were learning and getting feedback on writing style. They were said to be constantly monitoring the viral success of their approach, tweaking and adjusting to maximise retweets and the spread of the message. The team is also said to have had a list of US public holidays, and appropriate content ready to go so they would blend in.

“According to court documents, the IRA took several measures to hide its tracks, duping the technology companies who were unaware, or unable, to stop what was filtering through their systems.”

It’s lazy and it’s dangerous to share this stuff. It plays into the hands of the people who are trying to destroy our Democracy, and they’re winning because we won’t be responsible and learn about and discuss the issues.

Here’s a good rule: If the post only asks you to type “yes,” and/or like and share, if the post doesn’t present any real points to discuss, if your first reaction to the post is purely an emotional, “Fuck, yeah!” it’s probably generated by a troll.

Please resist the urge to type “yes” and share.

The only way we can stop the trolls seeking to divide and conquer us is to ignore and not share their posts.

From here on, every Hash It Out post I see will generate the following response: “You realize this comes from a troll farm, right?”

I am going to start unfriending people who keep sharing them.

We have a lot of work to do to try and restore our country to a working Democracy. I intend to do the work and I don’t intend to waste time and energy on people who just want to sit and share trolls’ clickbait instead of showing up to register voters, work for candidates, and most of all, have real discussions on real issues.

There’s too much at stake to waste time with people who will provoke division but who won’t do the work.

 

Incivility as the new “normal.”

When you see abuses like this, speak up. We can’t allow these terrible things to become the norm.

You never know who has a gun.

That’s what I told the sheriff’s deputy I spoke to yesterday when I called 911 to report a woman who tailgated me for several miles, shaking her fist and taking photos of my license plate with her phone.

We started out at a stoplight, and when it was safe to go, she just sat there, so I beeped. She didn’t move, so I beeped again, and when she still didn’t move, I drove around her, thinking maybe she was broken down.

As soon as I pulled out, she laid on her horn and took off after me. Every turn I made, she followed. At one intersection, I put on my turn signal and she did the same, so I went straight instead. She followed, still shaking her fist and  taking photos of my car with her phone as she followed a little too closely.

When we had to stop for road construction, I’d had enough. I opened my car door and hollered, “I’m dialing 911 NOW!” I held my phone up so she could see me dial, just as traffic started to move. She turned left and took off like a bat out of hell.

The sheriff’s deputy I spoke to said I had done the right thing. If I’d been able to get her license plate, she’d have had to answer for her actions. But she was behind me and North Carolina only requires one plate, on the rear of the car.

She got away with her aggression, but maybe the fact that someone dialed 911 instead of being intimidated by her threats will make her think before doing it again.

I don’t usually call police on people  but when I feel the person really is about to become violent toward me or someone else, I’ll do it. And by that I don’t mean being black at a swimming pool, napping in one’s own dorm, delivering newspapers or otherwise making racists uncomfortable by existing too close to them for their comfort.

And it’s not just violence that’s increasing. More and more, people are just plain rude and deliberately mean. Just last week, I was visiting a friend in the hospital. The friend is a transgender woman. A woman. But one nurse, a middle-aged woman, kept referring to her as “he.” I politely corrected her the first time, as did my friend, who said, “It’s she. I am female.”

Not five minutes later, the nurse did it again.

“It’s she,” I said, a little more firmly than the first time. The nurse said she was sorry.

Within a minute or two, she did it again. This time I was firmer.

“The proper pronoun here is she. You need to use it, this time and every time.”

It was not a mistake on her part. When you do it three times in five minutes, what it says is, “I don’t get trans because I’m not, so you will conform to MY reality and if you don’t like it, I really don’t care.”

Had she done it again, I would have gotten up and gone to Human Resources to report her. My friend has enough problems battling serious health issues with no health insurance, without being disrespected by her caregiver.

People see the rude, uncivilized boor in the White House and assume it’s OK for them to go with their basest instincts. It’s fine to just say whatever mean thing is on your mind. It’s OK to hate people who aren’t like you. It’s OK to threaten violence — even commit violent acts — if you feel like someone has dissed you, even though you’re free to dis anyone else because, well, you make America great again by doing that.

These behaviors must never be seen as normal, even when they happen routinely. We need to call them out each and every time.

So, with that said, what about interrupting the dining experiences of Mitch McConnell and others who are slashing this nation’s safety net, robbing Americans of their rights to vote and to control their own bodies, whose policies push people into poverty and then punish them for being poor? Is that too rude?

I say it’s not the same thing as threatening violence on someone who just drove around you when you were taking pleasure on holding them up at the light.

I say it’s not the same thing as disregarding someone’s humanity and making it conform to what you think it should be.

The abject cruelty of Republicans at this point in history must be confronted, and its perpetrators made to feel uncomfortable.

They have stripped millions of people of their access to health care. In my book, that’s murder.

They’ve done nothing to stop ICE from stealing children from their parents at the border and then losing them in the foster care system. Stories of the abuse come to light every day — from the toddler who apparently was never bathed in more than two months of custody, to children in cages and the 1-year-old forced to appear in court as a defendant without representation. How does one defend oneself in court when one is too young to talk?

We have to challenge these abuses every time we see them. We have to stand up, even when it’s just one nurse disrespecting one patient.

This is something each one of us can do.

If you’re feeling paralyzed by the enormity of fascism taking over, remember that you can speak up about the smaller, everyday indignities these people are foisting upon us.

The creature currently squatting in the White House has emboldened the haters — the racists, homophobes, misogynists, gun-toting “Christians” and other small minds, the liars, the haters of every stripe. They think they’ve won, and if we don’t fight back at every turn, they will be victorious.

These are dark days, but our country has been through times like these, although not with someone so incompetent, so cruel, so inept, so dishonest, so small-minded in the White House. That part is unprecedented.

But we abolished slavery, we outlawed Jim Crow, we gave women the vote, we freed the captives from Japanese internment camps.

We can do this, but we all have to work on it, every moment, every day, every time we see it happening.

If you see a white person harassing a person of color, step up and defend the person of color. If a white person calls the police on a person of color for walking, napping, swimming, eating or otherwise just living, speak up.

This meanness must be challenged. Every. Damn. Time.

 

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