A deadly budget

Sorry, GOP, but you can’t call yourself pro-life while letting children go to bed hungry.

If the powers that be in the Republican Party want people to die, then they got it right with this budget.

Cut Meals on Wheels and stop feeding hungry children.

Get rid of the arts, cut funds for medical research, zero-out PBS and slash funds for education.

And while we talk about how Americans have equal opportunities, let’s cut assistance for college students and then we can call them lazy when they can’t go to college and minimum wage is still less than half of what people need to pay their bills.

Oh, and let’s not help poor people in cold climates to heat their homes. So what if they starve? It’s their own fault for living in a cold place. They should move to Florida or Texas or something.

While we’re at it, let’s slash after-school programs so families that are struggling to get by on minimum wage have no safe place for their children while they work. And then when their children get in trouble, we can say their parents are to blame for neglecting them.

Well, maybe they shouldn’t have children if they can’t afford it, right? Then, why are we closing women’s health clinics? That’s the only place many low-income women have to get reliable contraception. But then, these clowns don’t think women should have access to contraception. Or abortion. We are, after all, pro-life, aren’t we?

Oh, and let’s cut programs that offer nutrition to pregnant and nursing mothers. If the kids don’t get good nutrition for brain development, then they won’t need college anyway.

And we can get rid of programs that help people with their rent in emergencies — you know, if the car breaks down or someone gets sick.

And speaking of getting sick, the GOP plan for health non-care is breathtakingly cruel. It seems intended to kill poor people.

But, hey, let’s fund war. Lots and lots of money in this budget for more war, and for a wall we don’t need, since Mexicans aren’t coming here in great numbers anymore.

I have a question for people who call themselves Christian or pro-life: How can you reconcile your support for these lethal policies that target the poor with surgical precision?

Have you read the red print in the Bible? That’s the stuff Jesus says — and in case you’ve forgotten, Jesus Christ is the person Christians are supposed to be following.

I wish the Pope himself would write to Paul Ryan and tell him his policies are deeply, grossly immoral.

I don’t think anyone can make the occupant of the White House a more moral person. I think he believes his only concern should be with the wealthy and powerful. I think he’s just too cruel, willfully ignorant and immoral to change his ways.

But the Republicans are skipping merrily along, allowing him to wreak havoc across the country and around the world.

This is evil on a massive scale. We must resist. We must persist. And we must find a way to enlist Republicans in the cause. This is not about party; this is about morality. This is about fighting the greatest evil the world has seen since Hitler and Stalin. We can’t afford to lose.

 

Sixteen in one day is no coincidence

The Jewish Community Center here in Asheville, NC, received a bomb threat yesterday.

That, in itself, is scary enough, but ours was just one of 16 Jewish centers that received bomb threats yesterday.

Sixteen in one day. That’s not a coincidence.

Ever since the person occupying the White House was elected, hate has been on the rise. Bigots and racists have gotten the message loud and clear: Hate is in vogue again.

The incidents began immediately after the election. A Jewish friend of mine in Florida came out of synagogue and put her grandson into the back seat of her car, and as she drove off, she was followed by a pickup truck with bumper stickers supporting the person who won the electoral college vote and sporting a confederate flag. They pulled up alongside her car and began shouting anti-Semitic remarks.

Muslims began to report being harassed, as did LGBTQ people. Sporadic reports came in of violence, threats and vandalism at mosques, synagogues and cemeteries.

In the month after the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center documented nearly 1,100 incidents of bias-related harassment and intimidation like the one my friend experienced.

Last Wednesday, a white man walked into a restaurant in Olathe, Kan., and shot two Indian men, killing one, while shouting, “Get out of my country!” A third man, a white man who tried to intervene, also was shot and is recovering.

The man in the White House said these incidents have nothing to do with him and his rhetoric, but I disagree. When you rail against immigrants, when you say all of Islam is evil, when you ban Muslims from traveling into our country and detain and search and harass anyone who looks Muslim at the airport, when you fail to mention Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day, when you appoint a known white supremacist as your chief advisor, you encourage hate.

It used to be unfashionable to be a racist, but now they are emboldened by the election of one of their own.

What’s worse is that no one in Congress is calling for an investigation into this coordinated effort to intimidate Jews — and let’s not pretend that’s not what this is because 16 bomb threats against Jewish centers in a single day isn’t a coincidence.

I sent faxes to both my senators and my representative, calling on them to denounce this hate and to call for a federal investigation, since this went across state lines.

I ask you to do the same.

I stand with my Jewish brothers and sisters. I also stand with my Muslim, LGBTQ and immigrant brothers and sisters from around the world because I take seriously the commandment to love my neighbors — and all of humanity are my neighbors.

 

 

Holding out hope for the party

Kitty Schaller holds my favorite sign from Saturday’s rally.

I was ready to make a very public exit from the Democratic party if Tom Perez won the chairmanship, but other events Saturday raised my hopes for the party.

It started with the precinct cluster meetings in the morning. I’m vice-chair of my precinct (45.1 in Buncombe County, NC), and in previous years, the chair, John Parker, and I had to scramble to get five people out to a meeting so we could have a quorum. We had to make calls and get people to the meetings so our precinct wouldn’t lose our “organized” status.

“Can you just stop by for a half hour while we vote on resolutions and elect officers?” we begged. We were able to keep organized, but barely.

Yesterday, instead of begging for people to show up, we had 16 people, several of whom were young and progressive. The others were from a retirement community, and I was afraid they might be conservative Democrats like the ones who killed several progressive resolutions last year, but they were old-style progressives who decided to become active again so we could take our party back from pro-corporate influences.

Last year a conservative banker convinced people to vote against a resolution calling for re-regulation of the banks and against a resolution calling for a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. He wouldn’t stop talking until he had the votes to defeat these two resolutions.

This year, the banker was nowhere to be seen and both resolutions passed unanimously, along with resolutions calling for an immediate raise in the minimum wage to $15, plus one calling for a single-payer health care system. In all, we passed nearly a dozen progressive resolutions, all unanimously.

I wrote two resolutions — the ones calling for the $15 minimum wage and Medicare for all — and most of the precincts passed them without amendments. One precinct leader asked if the minimum wage resolution could be amended to phase in the $15 over three to five years. I told them no. If you’re making $7.25 an hour, five years without a living wage is not an option. The raise is needed now, and in five years, inflation adjustments should have it up to about $20. People need to be able to feed, clothe and shelter their families NOW, not in five years.

“Well, these a pretty conservative people,” the precinct chair said.

“Those are the very people we need to outnumber to take the party back,” I said. “Go ahead and write your own resolution, but mine stays as is.”

These new party activists were Bernie Sanders supporters, determined to move the Democratic Party back to its FDR progressivism, back to the days when LBJ signed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. They were inspired by the organization, Our Revolution, which is comprised of progressive fighters.

I left the precinct meeting with renewed faith that we can do this.

From there, I went to speak at an Our Revolution rally downtown. We had 500 people turn out to call for improvements to our health care system, from support of keeping and improving the ACA, to a public option in the marketplace, to single-payer.

I told my son’s story and reminded people that 45,000 Americans died the same way every year before the ACA took effect. We’re still losing 15,000 to 20,000 in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid.

What I saw yesterday was a determination to take the Democratic Party left again.

When it was announced that Tom Perez won the party chair election, we were encouraged by the fact that the election was close and that our candidate, Keith Ellison, is now the vice-chair and that Perez has vowed to work closely with him.

I am encouraged. We have to remember that the Republican right wing has worked since the 1960s to achieve what it has, and that in one election cycle, we progressives have made remarkable progress.

So, let’s follow the Indivisible playbook. Let’s take this nation back in the 2018 elections, despite gerrymandering, despite voter suppression laws. We are the majority. If we work for this, and most importantly, if we vote, we will not fail.

An open letter to my anti-life members of Congress

Me and Mike on his wedding day.

Dear Sen. Burr, Sen. Tillis and Rep. Meadows:

You know me.

You know me because for the last nine years I have hounded you and others about the importance of access to health care.

I have hounded you because nine years ago yesterday, I got a call that every parent dreads.

It was about 9:45 a.m., and I was on my way to work.

“Mom,” he said, “the cancer’s back. There’s nothing they can do. I might have a few weeks, maybe a few months.”

It was as though I had been punched in the chest, full force, by a very strong man.

“How do I begin to say goodbye to everyone?” he asked.

The next six weeks are etched on my heart, burned into it like a cattleman’s brand.

I am forced to relive the death of my child because he couldn’t get access to health care.

He was uninsured, not because he was lazy — he was as hard a worker as anyone I’ve ever known. He was a full-time student, working in a restaurant and volunteering with his 12-step group to help other people get and stay sober.

But a birth defect — one that left him vulnerable to colon cancer — was a pre-existing condition, so no insurance company would sell him a policy. Without insurance, he was unable to get the cancer screenings he needed, and of course, he developed cancer.

He went to the Emergency Room when he got sick. He went three times and left with the wrong diagnoses, the wrong medicines and a bill because the ER only has to stabilize patients. I’ll bet you know that when you tell people they have access to care there when they really don’t. My son was given laxatives and pain pills when the problem was a malignant tumor blocking his colon.

By the time anyone did anything for him, he was vomiting fecal matter. Can you imagine that?

No, I guess not. You and your families have access to care whenever you need it.

By the time he got any care, it was too late to save his life. He was forced to leave his wife to get Medicaid. It took 37 months for his disability to be approved — he was dead nine days before his first check came.

Michael was lucky because the many people who loved him did all we could to make sure he had a place to live and food and clothing — and even a few little luxuries like a cell phone.

But all the love and support he had weren’t enough to save his life — all because insurance companies wanted to protect their profits.

My son died on April 1, 2008. I sat beside him, his hand in mine, as he breathed his last.

I had believed I would die when he did. I couldn’t imagine that my heart would continue to beat after his stopped.

But there I was, heart beating, lungs inhaling and exhaling. I was too devastated to cry.

Have you ever had that happen? Something so horrible that you can’t even cry because you’re so paralyzed? It’s not something I would wish on anyone — even you.

So I decided I would work to make sure everyone — not just every citizen, but every human being — gets access to health care.

We managed to make some progress with the Affordable Care Act. Some 32 million Americans have gained access, saving tens of thousands of lives every year, and now you want to repeal that law.

And you still call yourselves “pro-life,” and “Christian.” You are neither, and I pray you will face judgment for your crimes.

Since it’s unlikely you’ll ever lose a child the way I did, let me tell you what it’s like.

I would give my own life to have him back in the world. I so miss those late-night phone calls that began with, “Hi Mom, I knew you’d still be up.”

I miss the calls that started, “When are people going to learn to fucking drive?” when he was stuck in traffic.

I miss having him in the kitchen, eating an entire loaf of fresh-baked bread with the proclamation, “The only thing wrong with this bread is that it’s not at my house!”

I miss watching cooking shows with him, punctuated with, “Oh, you know what?” which was followed by an idea for a recipe. We both wrote a lot of recipes. I had hoped we would write a cookbook together someday.

I miss slapping his hand away from the turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving, and I miss him emptying the entire gravy boat onto his plate so I had to refill it for the rest of us.

I miss how much he loved his wife and his nieces and nephew, his brother, his many, many friends, and me.

I cry most days because the pain of losing him hasn’t gotten any better. On our shared birthday, I go with a friend to where we scattered his ashes and I sing Happy Birthday to me, while my friend tries to drown me out singing it to him. I miss that Michael and I used to sing it that way.

See, I told him he could have the birthday when I was done with it. It was a joke on each of the 33 birthdays he had before we were robbed of his life by a broken health care policy.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that I was advised to have an abortion when I was pregnant with him, but I CHOSE not to. I am much more pro-life than you are because I believe life is sacred even after it exits the birth canal.

Now you’re talking about repealing the ACA, which would condemn tens of thousands of Americans to slow and painful deaths. It would condemn tens of thousands of families to suffer the same loss mine has.

But you don’t care about that because your friends profit so much more when people suffer the way my child did.

I have a fantasy: You know the passage in the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus sorts the people in to goats on his left and lambs on his right?

I have a fantasy of you walking in and confidently sitting among the lambs, only to have Jesus say, “Excuse me, you’re in the wrong seats. You belong over there on the left. I was sick and you told me I was lazy because I didn’t have a job with insurance. I was hungry and you voted to take away my food stamps and then you voted to keep my wages too low to be able to afford decent food and shelter.”

Then you say, “But we never saw you sick or hungry …”

This is where Jesus cuts you off and points to my son and the tens of thousands of others like him.

“Whatever you did to them, you did also to me.”

Sincerely,
Your constituent, Leslie Boyd

 

 

My pussy hat is purple

In a sea of pink, I’m the one in the purple pussy hat.

I was going to wear pink — I’ve knitted eight pink hats so far — but as I was looking through my yarn stash and I found this skein of lavender wool, I thought of my grandmother.

Lavender was my grandmother’s favorite color. She used to dress one of us four girls for Easter every year, and you can tell by the Easter morning photos which one of us was the lucky one because she was dressed, head to toe, in lavender, with black patent leather shoes and white gloves.

My grandmother was born in 1888, and when she came of age in 1909, she didn’t have the right to vote.

It occurred to me as I held that lavender yarn in my hand that I could reach back and touch a time when women couldn’t even vote.

I said something in a Facebook post and a young woman answered that women’s rights were long established and not going anywhere.

Something snapped. Here’s this young woman with no sense of history, and I felt as though I had to say something.

I told her that women couldn’t sit on a jury until 1961 — within my lifetime and probably within her mother’s lifetime.

When I was in high school a girl who got pregnant had to quit school, but the boy who got her pregnant could stay.

When I was 18 in Massachusetts, it was illegal for a doctor to prescribe — or even discuss — contraception with a single woman. I had to wait until 60 days before my wedding to get a prescription, and the system was so paternalistic that I wasn’t the one who could get in trouble — the doctor was.

When I was married to my first husband (1972 to 1977), it was perfectly legal in many states for him to rape and hit me.

I couldn’t get a credit card in my own name, and my friend, who was a pharmaceutical sales rep with a master’s degree in nursing and an income of more than $50,000 a year (a fortune in 1975 and more than double what my then-husband made), couldn’t get a mortgage on a $35,000 condo.

We could be fired for getting married and often were fired when we got pregnant. If we were single parents, we still couldn’t get a decent job because men believed we should be home with our children and that we should stay with our husbands no matter what.

Women still aren’t guaranteed the same pay for the same work.

In fact, women have no equal protection in the US Constitution — the late US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said as much less than five years ago. What this means is that women have no grounds under the US Constitution to sue for discrimination (Read the 14th Amendment — it specifies men and does not include women).

In this culture, rape is seen as a woman’s fault. Where were you? What were you wearing? Why did you get in a car with him? Why did you invite him in?

Where was I? I was on a date.

What was I wearing? Dress and heels as is appropriate for a nice restaurant.

Why did I get in a car with him? As I said, we were on a date.

Why did I invite him in? I had a nice time at dinner and we were in the middle of an interesting conversation, so I asked if he would like a cup of coffee.

But all this, apparently, gives a man permission to “lose control,” and the blame is on the woman for being such a slut that she went out on a date.

When William Kennedy Smith was accused of rape in 1991, the victim was criticized for taking off her pantyhose. My question was: If you’re going to walk barefoot on the beach, are you going to wear your socks?

But he got off because she was such a slut that she took off her socks to walk barefoot on the beach.

I was just 3 years old the first time I was violated. Go ahead, try to make that my fault. I must have had a hell of a come-hither look, huh?

We have come a ways, true, but we do not have full equality.

We need to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. It’s still out there and it is finding new life. It has been re-introduced in North Carolina, Virginia and Nevada, among other states.

We have demanded that other nations include gender equality in their laws, but we have yet to do it ourselves.

We need to guarantee women the same pay for the same work, and we need to give women equal access to high-paying jobs.

We need to re-examine our attitudes about sexual violence.

We need to ensure than women have access to safe and effective contraception and that your boss’s religion can’t affect your access to it.

Just 25 years ago, I handed a prescription for birth control pills to a pharmacist, who told me I needed a note from my doctor because the insurance company didn’t cover contraception for women, and they needed to know it was for therapeutic purposes (which it was).

I told him the prescription WAS a letter from my doctor, and that he would fill it or he and the insurance company would face a lawsuit. It was none of their business what I was taking the pills for, only that my doctor had prescribed them for me.

I’m not sure my threat would have been effective except for a young man I knew casually was standing nearby. He was using testosterone patches following testicular cancer surgery, and no one was asking why, he said.

“If I can fill a prescription for hormone therapy and she can’t, that’s discrimination and I would be very happy to testify on her behalf,” he said.

The pharmacist called the insurance company and told them he no longer would ask the purpose of birth control pills, but would fill doctors’ prescriptions, and if they wanted to object, he would join my lawsuit.

I got my pills.

But I’m tired of fighting for equal treatment when I am as capable and smart as any man.

And young women need to know that a lot of these rights we enjoy are not guaranteed and can be rolled back.

My Facebook friend was quite taken aback when I told her just how tenuous our rights are. My advice to her was to find and join a chapter of NOW and start fighting.

It’s your turn, Millennials. Come join us. We want your input because the way we’ve always done things has yet to get us full equal rights. We welcome you to the fight with open arms.

 

The modern scourge on our communities

Last week I wrote about the flooding of our communities with opiates, and later that day, I learned a friend had just lost her 25-year-old grandson the epidemic.

Yesterday, another friend almost lost her 30-year-old son to it.

That makes three people I know dead in the last year and countless others struggling to stay alive in spite of it.

And today, the person in the White House announced he would cave in to pressure from the drug companies and decline to regulate or even negotiate with the drug companies.

Let me tell you a little about what kind of pain that decision will cause.

Yesterday, I had lunch with my friend, who brought along the program for her grandson’s funeral service. Just seeing his photo made me cry as I thought about the lost potential. We talked about him, and about his father, who also is battling this same addiction.

This death has planted the seeds of radicalism in my 74-year-old friend, just as my son’s death did to me.

“You’ve been here,” she said. “Where do I start?”

I told her to learn everything she can about opiate addiction and its history. I told her how the British flooded China with opium in the 19th Century and that she should look at the parallels with the modern opiate epidemic here.

Big Pharma can claim innocence, but its executives have to know how many pills are out there, and that they’re not all being consumed legitimately. Of course we can’t prove it — these people have really effective ways of covering their tracks. They’re not leaving any smoking guns for us to find.

But they put immense pressure on legislators and others to turn a blind eye to their abuses and to blame the victims.

They knew when they were promoting these pills in the 1990s just how addictive they are, but they convinced us people don’t become addicted if they just take the pills for pain.

Turns out that’s not true. I had a friend who got addicted while taking them for severe back pain. He stopped after he had surgery, but he had to go through withdrawal, and it was miserable, and he felt their pull on him for the rest of his life.

My son continued to take them after severe burns over 40 percent of his body. He did need them for the pain, but after the pain was gone, the pleasure the pills offered was too strong a pull for him and he abused the pills for years before he was able to get off. I still won’t say it’s for good because addiction is a chronic and progressive illness; it has a way of pulling its victims back in.

We as a society are very good at blaming victims for their circumstances. Yes, my son continued to use the pills. But his insurance company paid for the prescriptions for a long time. Then they tried to worm out of paying for in-patient rehab for him.

I’m certain his case is not unique.

Addiction is an illness that causes you to lie to yourself, as well as to others. You tell yourself that you are in control. See, you’re just taking six pills a day. But then you’re taking eight and you tell yourself that’s OK because you’re still going to work and functioning. In fact, you’re functioning better than ever, thank you.

When my son’s doctor refused to prescribe any more pills, he went to a pain clinic an hour from home, across the Florida state line, and a “doctor” there gave him what he wanted.

The son of my sister’s friend turned to heroin, which is cheaper. That’s what my friend’s grandson did, too. Now they’re both dead.

These lives don’t matter to Big Pharma, because like the tobacco companies, they’ll just recruit more addicts as their victims die or go into recovery.

Policy makers obviously don’t care about the lives lost because they’re not moving to make any changes based on the deaths.

Here are a few facts from the American Society of Addiction Medicine:

  • Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2015.
  • From 1999 to 2008, overdose death rates, sales and substance use disorder treatment admissions related to prescription pain relievers increased in parallel. The overdose death rate in 2008 was nearly four times the 1999 rate; sales of prescription pain relievers in 2010 were four times those in 1999; and the substance use disorder treatment admission rate in 2009 was six times the 1999 rate.
  • In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, which is more than enough to give every American adult their own bottle of pills.
  • Four in five new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers.
  •  94% of respondents in a 2014 survey of people in treatment for opioid addiction said they chose to use heroin because prescription opioids were far more expensive and harder to obtain.

If that doesn’t convince you there’s a problem, and that it is not the fault of the people who fall prey to Big Pharma, I don’t suppose anything will.

 

 

The new opium war

In the 19th century, the British sent tons and tons of opium into China knowing full well its addictive properties and the health problems and deaths that would follow.

The British wanted to trade with the Chinese, but the insular nation wanted little to do with the outside world. China’s ruler insisted that instead of trading for British goods, it would only sell the porcelain and tea the British people wanted for silver. The British didn’t want to deplete their silver reserves, so they developed a work-around — they sent opium into China illegally, demanding payment in silver, which they then used to buy Chinese goods.

In other words, the British sabotaged an entire nation with opium. People who are addicted are not interested in fighting for their rights; all they care about is getting more opium. And even though the sale of opium to China was illegal, the British could always find a corrupt official who would deal with them.

The mess finally led to two wars, known as the Opium Wars, which the British and their allies (France and the United States) won.

So, what does this have to do with today?

In the 1990s, drug companies, particularly Purdue Pharmaceuticals, came out with a new pain killer called Ocycontin, and almost immediately, it began to be abused.

But Purdue and the others kept insisting it wasn’t addictive if taken properly, and doctors continued to prescribe it, even where it wasn’t necessary, when something else could control the patient’s pain. The experts, after all, insisted it was safe.

Over the last 20 years, millions of people have become addicted. I know a number of them, and in the last year or so, three have died of overdoses. One died of a pain pill overdose and the other two died from heroin overdoses. People who are addicted to pain pills often turn to heroin because it’s less expensive.

Pain clinics began to spring up, especially in Florida. These weren’t legitimate pain clinics, but places where people who were addicted could go get an easy prescription.

Patients go in by the droves and are called back to see the doctor a dozen at a time. The doctor asks whether they’re still in pain and they say they are. The doctor writes each of them a prescription.

Now, are these addicts paying attention to their rights being taken away by the 1 percent, bit by bit?

Not so much.

Are they watching while our so-called leaders march us toward a police state?

Nope, they’re looking for more pain pills.

And, if they’re caught, they’re thrown into a justice system that makes them pay their own costs, which for many means there is no escape. People tend not to hire ex-convicts, so paying the tens of thousands of dollars is impossible.

So the question becomes, was this mass addiction deliberate, or are the 1 percent just happy with the coincidence?

That’s not a question I can answer, but I suspect it’s deliberate now. It’s the perfect distraction because not only does addiction take the user’s mind off what the 1 percent is doing to rob us blind, it also distracts the family and friends of the addict, who tend to concentrate on trying to get help for the person.

I refuse to take opiates. I don’t care how much I hurt. If I’ve had surgery or an injury, it will heal and I can manage pain with ibuprofen, naproxen or Tylenol until it does.

If I had cancer or another painful and terminal condition, I probably would agree, but as it is now, I don’t fill prescriptions for opiates. I’m not going to chance it.

I’ve seen what opiate addiction can do. It disables, then kills.

We know this, but we continue to addict more and more people, then we conveniently blame those people for their illness and tell them we don’t have enough beds in rehab to help them kick the addiction.

It seems to me this is deliberate now. Perhaps it wasn’t in the beginning, but it is now.

‘Relax. Give him a chance.’ Nope. Done.

It’s hard to know where to start and we’re only five days in.

Of course, those of us who stood against this man from the beginning knew what would happen, and here we go.

Two oil pipelines got the OK to be built through pristine wilderness and Native American lands, even as one in Iowa has burst and is leaking toxic oil into the environment.

We’re going to build a wall to keep out Mexicans — who, by the way, aren’t coming in such great numbers.

We’re going to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace Medicaid with block grants, then kill Medicare and offer seniors vouchers to buy insurance they can’t afford and that won’t cover what they need covered. Tens of millions will lose access to health care and hundreds of thousands of innocent people will die because their lives don’t matter.

People from predominately Muslim countries can’t come here anymore, even if they’re refugees and their lives are in danger. Their lives don’t matter.

The global ban on funding for any agency that even mentions abortion is gone. This means women’s health clinics will close and women will die because their lives don’t matter.

We will cut funding that helps save lives around the world and retreat from treaties we have signed. We will strand the United Nations, which depends on funding from us, because lives around the world don’t matter.

Just today, the entire top level of staff at the State Department abruptly resigned, leaving the nation’s fate in the hands of inexperienced, unqualified people.

We have stopped informing the public of scientific research that conflicts with the lies the 1 percent want us to believe. We have silenced the Environmental Protection Agency and cut off its ability to fund education and research.

The man in the White House has told us we need to get our news from him and not the news media and then he endorsed Fox News, making this the first time in our nation’s history that we have an “official” news source.

Social media accounts for the national parks have been shut down, as have those for the EPA.  Public phone lines into the White House have been shut off.

Journalists are being arrested for covering the news.

In case you don’t know history, this is fascism. This is real.

In less than a week, we have gone from global power to insular, xenophobic nation. We are seen by the rest of the world as selfish, sexist and racist, homophobic and Islamophobic.

Make America great again? In less than a week we have become small.

 

 

So, what’s next?

Nine of us spent the day together, much of it holding hands to make sure nobody got lost. What a day!

We birthed a movement yesterday.

Millions of us came out to tell the people in power that we will not tolerate the dismantling of the social contract we have built over the last 300 years.

We came out and showed the world what a peaceful demonstration looks like. More than a million people in Washington demonstrated without a single arrest. Not one.

While we waited in a line a half mile long to board a train to the city, we sang freedom songs, chanted and learned a little about each other.

Things even got silly as we chanted, “What do we want? A RIDE! When do we want it? NOW!”

It took us four and a half hours to get from the bus to the rally, but we never lost our cool. We were part of it from the moment we stepped off the bus, together in our desire to pursue justice and prevent the carnage the 1 percent wants to release on our country.

Signs ranged from simple two-word slogans (Dump Trump) to profane (This pussy grabs back) to clever (Can’t comb over sexism) to profound ( I march because she deserves every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve her dreams).

One of my favorite signs from the Women’s March in Washington.

My little group of nine women never got into the march area because there was no room. We got close and then couldn’t move in any direction until someone else moved back and we followed, all holding onto each other. We did that three times as we tried to get across the mall to meet the North Carolina delegation, and weren’t successful.

No matter, we were there. We were part of history, and we won’t ever forget that.

While the official government count was 500,000, the mayor of DC said at noon (as crowds of us were still trying to get into the city) there were 680,000. Before the Administration shut down its Twitter account, the Metro Police estimated 1.5 million people. Now, there’s a real fact.

This is as close as we could get.

Then, the alternative-fact-er in chief came out and said he had 1.5 million people at his coronation.

He did not. Metro Police told us there were empty seats on every train into the city on Coronation Day. An elevator operator at L’Enfant Plaza told us he was able to squeeze in a quick nap or two, but that on March Day, he hadn’t had a single break.

There are those who say the march was all white people whining about losing, but the diversity was everywhere I looked. I walked beside blacks and whites, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Pagans and more.

This was not about losing an election (which actually, we didn’t, since we won the popular vote by 3 million). We were there for a purpose: to tell the people in power that we expect them to use it with wisdom, compassion and justice.

Now we have to show them we mean it.

I know how wonderful yesterday felt; I’m still basking in the joy of its solidarity. I plan to spend all day today basking in it.

But we have work to do, and lots of it.

What is your next step? What will you do to ensure we keep our liberties intact and move forward rather than backward toward hate and division?

The man who won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote by 3 million is already talking about “alternative facts.” I call them lies and I will continue to call them out. We all have to do that.

They know that if you repeat a lie enough times, people begin to believe it. It’s how we got climate change deniers. It’s how people came to believe Hillary Clinton is a murderer. It’s how that man “won” the election.

This government already is talking about dismantling the entire social contract we have built — public education, Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, the Environmental Protection Agency, Veterans services, disability services and more.

They actually are in the minority, but the public apathy they have fostered, the distrust of government, have had a profound effect on our elections.

We must vote, at the very, very least. As they try to take away our votes with laws aimed at suppressing the votes against them, we have to turn out in numbers so large that they’ll still lose.

And our votes must be informed votes. We must learn about the issues so that the “alternate facts” don’t blind us.

We need our legislators to know our names because we call, write and e-mail each of them at least once a week. If enough of us do that, they’ll know we’ll send them home if they don’t do OUR business.

Several years ago, when I approached Rep. Mark Meadows and introduced myself, he sneered, “Oh, I know who you are.” I was thrilled. I’m trouble.

We all need to be trouble, to keep showing up at demonstrations and letting our legislators know that we’re watching what they’re doing and how they’re voting.

We need to run for office, locally, at the state and at the federal levels.

I felt an energy yesterday that I haven’t felt in many, many years. There was an air of hope that we can change the course of history, and I believe we can.

But we won’t change anything if we just go home, share photos and say, “I was there.”

One friend, a former editor, just bought the Internet domain, www.alternativefacts.me, where I believe he will call out lies. He’s known to call out fake news posts; I assume he’ll do that and more with his web site.

You don’t have to build a web site, but you can call out lies on social media when you see them. Before you share a story, find another source so you know it’s true. I’m pretty careful, but I’ve been fooled a couple times when I didn’t check.

It is our job to continue the work we started yesterday.

We birthed a movement. Now we must nurture it, grow it, work for it and make sure it makes the difference we need.

What are you going to do next?

 

 

 

So many issues, so little time

Don’t know what to do? Begin by showing up for rallies, demonstrations and protests.

Several conversations lately have centered on how to be an activist without being overwhelmed.

These are difficult times for those of us who believe in justice and equality, and there have been attacks on every front.

You can’t work on everything.

You can, however, choose one or two issues and devote yourself to that.

You can stand in solidarity with others who are working on different issues.

You can show up at rallies and demonstrations.

You can visit, call or write to legislators and insist on being heard. If they won’t see you when you visit, leave a letter. If they won’t take your calls, leave messages and then send e-mails and snail-mails.

So, your first job is to set your priorities.

What’s most important to you?

Remember that all of these issues need work and you should go to where your passion resides.

For me, it’s health care and women’s equality issues.

For some of my friends, it’s racial equality and voting rights, which I’m also passionate about. I will show up for rallies and I will write to legislators.

But I have learned all I can about my issues. I am the go-to person in my circle of resistors because I have read the Affordable Care Act and I know the statistics surrounding it.

I understand how women die when women’s health clinics are mis-labled deliberately by opponents of abortion, a procedure that takes up only 3 percent of clinic resources. These clinics are shut down because people don’t understand that they offer cancer screenings, health checks, contraception, information and more and that women die when they lose that access to health care.

Some of my friends have extensive knowledge of workers’ rights issues, education, environment … and I depend on them.

Make a list of policies you support and ask legislators where they stand on those policies. Know your legislators’ voting records. You have one state representative and state senator, one Congressional representative and two US senators. You should also know where your governor stands on these issues.

I have one friend who’s on a mission to make her representatives tired of hearing from her. She calls them about everything and reminds them she is a constituent and she’s not going away.

Once you have your list of policies you support, prioritize them. Pick your one or two issues if you haven’t already.

When you write, call or visit concerning these issues, use your own words. When we use form letters or sign online petitions, no one pays attention. If your issue means that much to you, take a few minutes to write what’s in your heart. If you need help expressing your feelings, ask a friend.

You do not have to be arrested to be effective. If you attend a rally or demonstration, take photos so that there is a record of the event and of the numbers attending.

I remember being at a rally in Washington, DC, with 5,000 people before the Affordable Care Act was passed, and Rick Sanchez in CNN reported, “Dozens of people showed up at a rally today …” But the video footage told the real story. It was dozens of people all right — hundreds of dozens of people.

When media misrepresent what’s happening, post your truth on social media, then write to the media outlet that lied. Call them out with letters to the editor and phone calls. Include your photos.

What’s going on today is the result of decades of increasing voter apathy. We can’t afford to sit back anymore, and millions of us are beginning to realize that.

We must care about what’s happening in our country, and we must work to make others care.

So, go ahead and take that first step. Decide what issue or issues you will call your own and get to work.

Seek out others who are doing the work and organize, even if it’s a half dozen people at a letter-writing party, you’re doing something that wasn’t being done before.

You can make a difference, you just have to decide to do it.

#Resist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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