Walking around the Legislature Building the other day, talking to Democrats and Republicans about the necessity of expanding access to health care, it happened again: Every Republican asked me whether my son was working when he got sick.
I gave them my usual answer: Yes, he was working and he was a full-time student with a 3.75 GPA. Now let me ask you a question. When did unemployment become punishable by death?
Every one of them replied, “Well, you know, some people just want a handout.”
“No,” I replied, “nobody wants a handout. I’ve worked with people in poverty. I’ve been in poverty. Nobody wants a handout.
“And another thing. Health care is not a handout. Never. Health care is a basic human right.
“And do you know what we call people who deny basic human rights to others?
“We call them fascists.”
I’m pretty sure every one of these Republicans calls themselves a Christian, so I’d like to offer a little pop quiz to them.
Question 1: Jesus is walking along and a blind man approaches him, begging for help. Does Jesus:
A) Tell the man he needs to get a job with health insurance.
B) Ask to see the man’s health insurance card and then say, “Oh, this isn’t covered under your plan. We can squeeze you in this afternoon, but you’ll have to bring $2300 cash. We don’t take checks.”
C) Tell the blind man to go to the Emergency Room so someone can take a look at him there.
D) Heal the blind man, no questions asked.
Question 2: Jesus is walking along the road and he feels as though power has drained from him. He turns to see an old woman, stooped low, who has had vaginal bleeding for years. She has touched the hem of his robe, hoping to be healed. Does Jesus:
A) Recoil in horror at the unclean woman and demand she be removed from his presence.
B) Tell her she can get free feminine hygiene supplies at the County Health Department.
C) Tell her she’s guilty of Eve’s Original Sin and what’s happened to her is exactly what she deserves.
D) Smile and say, “Your faith has healed you,” as she stands straight, no longer bleeding and thanks him profusely.
Question 3: Jesus is walking along and a man comes to him in a panic. The man’s son is possessed by a demon and the father is afraid it will kill the child. Does Jesus:
A) Tell the father there’s no such thing as demons and he should take the child to see a good neurologist.
B) Tell the father this looks like a mental illness and that’s not covered under his employer’s plan, but the next time the child has a “fit,” the parents should call the police, who will come and handcuff the boy, throw him in the back of a squad car and take him to the ER, where he’ll be handcuffed to a gurney until a psychiatric bed becomes available. Could be a couple of days.
C) Tell the father the demon is punishment for his own sins, so he’d better figure out what he did and pray really hard for forgiveness, and if he prays hard enough, the child will be healed. If the child remains possessed, it’s because the parents aren’t praying hard enough. (The irony here is that the disciples asked why they couldn’t heal the sick and Jesus told them their faith wasn’t strong enough — just in case you thought I didn’t know my Bible stuff.)
D) Heal the child, no co-pays or deductibles charged, no questions asked.
I’m not going to tell you the answers. You can figure them out for yourself. I think if you’re the Christian you say you are, if you read the words of the man you claim to follow and take them seriously, you’ll get the answers right.
I think if you truly believe we can and should allow people to die because those of us with the privilege of access to health care think they’re somehow undeserving of what we have, then you’ll fail this quiz.
What’s worse, though, is that you fail as a moral human being, no matter what faith you claim.
Recently, a “Christian” grocery store sent out a mailer claiming Heaven has walls, a gate and a strict immigration policy, and Hell has open borders. Then it uses the hackneyed phrase, “Let that sink in.”
On a Facebook post about this, a woman commented with a quote from Revelations certifying that, indeed, Heaven is gated and guarded. I suggested that a fevered hallucination by an old man alone on an island isn’t the best way to make public policy, and, of course, she went off. After a couple of exchanges, where she called me some nasty names, I replied that she probably should pay more attention to the words printed in red, since, as a Christian, she’s supposed to follow those words. I told her the theology of hate and exclusion is pretty effed up in my opinion because I don’t get any racism and bullying from those words in red. What I do get is the Greatest Commandment, which is in two parts: Love God, love each other.
I grew up among “Christians” who wanted to exclude everyone who wasn’t their brand of “Christian.” In fact, there was constant talk of taking over the country.
This was in the 1960s, when we were actually making progress on social justice issues, and they hated it. They hated giving the vote to African-Americans. They hated giving women the power to live on their own and manage their own finances, get credit in their own name, control their own bodies — to be human in our own right. They were vocal and mean-spirited about their hatred of anything different, and they used the Bible to back up their narrow-minded views.
There was actually a guest preacher at my church in 1969 who, from the pulpit, said, “We are doing God’s good work in Vietnam, killing those godless (racial epithet for Asians).”
I approached him after the service to say I don’t think God wants us killing any of God’s children. My pastor scolded me for being disrespectful, but I countered that I was being very respectful — respectful of the lives of God’s Asian children.
These so-called “Christians” ran candidates for school board to try and get their narrow-minded, mean-spirited views into the schools. They took over local elections and then moved on to the state and national levels.
The creature currently squatting in the White House is their creation, and they embrace him because he is as filled with hatred as they are.
It took them decades, but they are powerful now, these so-called “Christians.” Jesus would be appalled at their interpretations of his words.
I have no patience for hate, bigotry and exclusion in the name of Jesus, a man who preached love and inclusion.
For 30 years, I had to hold my tongue when faced with these things because I was a reporter and I had to be unbiased. Franklin Graham thought I liked and admired him when I interviewed him. Maybe that’s why I’m so vocal about it now. Because silence in the face of injustice is, in itself, an injustice.
People who call themselves “Christian” and who spew their hatred in the name of Jesus are just wrong. Christians have used the Bible for generations to uphold racism and misogyny, and we need to call that out every time we see it.
We can’t allow religion to be used as a club to beat those who are already down, and we can’t stand by while the public policies of hate embraced by these “Christians” continue to harm and even kill our impoverished brothers and sisters.
We’re all feeling it — that sense that something’s about to come crashing down.
I find myself checking my phone for headlines far more than I ever did before, wondering what fresh hell awaits as I do it.
I wake up with a sense of dread over what the fool in the White House is going to do today, and I go to sleep fearful of what he’ll do before the sun comes up again.
Day after day, the outrages pile up — the refusal to disavow racism, and in fact, a flaunting of it, from calling a political opponent Pocahontas because she claims some Native American heritage to saying “some good people” were among the fascists marching in Charlottesville, Va., and calling a black man a “son of a bitch” for taking a knee in protest of racism in America. He refers to countries where people of color are in the majority as “shitholes.”
Every day, some important regulation is rolled back, regulations that govern our treatment of the environment, the food supply, labor, students, women, immigrants and children. If it’s there to protect us from corporate greed, it’s a target.
And Mitch McConnell, a man I like to call Traitor Turtle, protects him at every turn, helping him to dismantle the government. His hypocrisy is breath-taking.
Still, a vocal minority supports them, probably because they love to hate. They love having permission to hate anyone who disagrees with them or doesn’t look like they do. They embrace ignorance, and the Republican party McConnell leads celebrates their ignorance.
Remember, the Creature admitted to being a sexual predator before he was elected, and he shows no sign of having any respect for women as human beings. He appointed a sexual predator to the Supreme Court and mocked the man’s victim — and the Republicans in the Senate voted to approve this completely unqualified nominee.
I keep asking how much damage will be allowed before we finally put a stop to it.
But there are some bright spots. We’re finally beginning to see some rebellion against the Creature currently squatting in the White House, and it’s great fun to see Nancy Pelosi toying with this overgrown toddler. Her expertise in politics and her intellect stand in stark contrast to his immaturity and ignorance. He’s used to being the boss and of being able to fire or sue anyone who displeases him, and he can’t do that now. The best part of it is that she obviously doesn’t care what he thinks of her. She will not permit him to interrupt or talk over her. She calls him out on his lies. And she does all of it without raising her voice.
And then there’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who’s driving the patriarchs crazy with her refusal to bow to their idea of how a “lady” behaves in the House and her popular ideas for fixing our broken systems. She just might succeed in leading us away from oligarchy and fascism. I love her mocking of Mitch McConnell. Give her a few years’ experience in the House and I’ll support her for whatever higher office she wants.
There’s the way the kids in MAGA hats taunting a Native American went viral with its condemnation of the kids, the school, the young man’s mother blaming Black Muslims for her son’s racist behavior. That kid’s nasty smirk is up all over social media, as are those of his classmates. His racism, his sense of white entitlement, have been roundly trashed.
But too many Native Americans still live in abject poverty as our government keeps trying to exploit their sacred lands for profit.
Too many African-American children go to schools that are ill-equipped and falling apart, and then are targets for cops with guns, who claim to be in fear for their lives even though the victim was unarmed — and then they get away with murder.
Too many LatinX people are afraid to live their lives — whether or not they are documented.
Too many people of every race and ethnicity are poor or living on the edge while our government refuses to raise minimum wage to a living wage. Instead, they cut taxes on the wealthy and impose more taxes on the poor, all while calling people who need help “lazy.”
Too many young people are forced into the military to fight our needless, profit-producing wars on foreign soil through the poverty draft — a promise of benefits after four or five tours of duty in combat zones. And when these young people finally come home, suffering from depression and PTSD, we ignore them.
And, still, too many people are dying from lack of access to health care.
Yes, I’m overwhelmed.
No, I won’t give up, and neither should you.
For the first time in my life, I can’t imagine how this will be resolved.
Knowing government the way I do as a history buff and a journalist always made me feel a little safer in tough times.
But this is different. This is bad on a whole other scale than Richard Nixon or George W. Bush.
I was a young adult during the Watergate hearings. We had no way of knowing how far Nixon would go to protect his presidency, but in the end, he had a shred of decency in him, just enough to know he had to resign for the good of the nation.
But what we have now is an incompetent fool in the White House, a creature who’s obviously mentally ill and very dangerous. He’s a pathological liar, a sociopath and a hate-spewing bigot who cares nothing for anybody other than himself.
His vice president is just as dangerous as he is, a fundamentalist “Christian” who wants to transform this nation into a theocracy.
We have chaos in the Middle East, much of it caused by our oil policies and by our blind support of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians, led by people like Pence who want Armageddon to come so Jesus will return, and today we hear that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government is being dissolved and new elections are being called for the spring.
And, while I’m happy to see American soldiers coming home, I fear the abrupt manner in which they’re being removed from Syria and Afghanistan will cause massive instability.
Wall Street is in free fall, thanks to this creature’s ranting about firing the Fed Chair, his trade wars, his insistence on $5 billion to build a wall most of us don’t want, his firing of anyone who tries to talk sense into him and his denigration of our allies.
Our government is partially shut down, meaning 800,000 people are without a paycheck (although Congress is not among them). Half the Cabinet is missing and the other half is incompetent. I mean, a man with the nickname, “Mad Dog” was considered to be the most moderate person in the room.
And Mad Dog Mattis was tasked with keeping this slovenly, tantrum-throwing toddler in an old white man’s body in line.
I don’t think we can survive another two years with this creature in the White House, but I don’t see Republicans moving to remove him before the damage is too severe to repair. This man could cause worldwide economic collapse, but the Republicans continue to sit on their hands, and the Democrats are doing nothing to force them out of their stupor.
He has fired the Secretary of Defense and replaced him with a businessman who has no experience in government. That’s right, we have a novice in charge of the largest military in the world. He fired the Attorney General and replaced him with a lackey. He seated a sexual predator and drunk on the Supreme Court because he knew Brett Kavanaugh would give him anything he wants in return. A hallmark of this administration is the ineptitude of all its appointments. Each federal agency is being led by someone who wants to destroy it.
I fear this creature’s supporters will resort to violence if he’s removed from office, but if he’s not removed, I fear even worse consequences for all of us.
Maybe we do need to tear it all down. Maybe a total collapse would allow us to remake society in a different way, with real rules for the wealthy and true equal opportunities for people who happen to be anything other than white and male.
But right now, today, as we look ahead to the new year, it looks bleak.
In my 66 years, I’ve never felt as though things might not be OK in the coming year. Even during the Cuban Missile Crisis, I had faith that the government could avert nuclear war, that there were people in charge who understood the weight of their decisions. That’s not true now. What we have is a petulant toddler let loose to wreak his havoc.
May we survive another year as a nation, and as a species.
It’s been awhile since I posted anything, mostly because I just don’t know what to say. Outrage after outrage happens daily and there’s no sign of it letting up.
We’re all waiting for Robert Mueller to lay his cards on the table, tantalized by the morsels he’s tossed out so far.
Meanwhile, children are being held in for-profit prisons for the crime of having parents who want a better life for them. Some of them are dying.
Republican legislatures continue to try and suppress the vote even as we’re left reeling from the level of their election fraud — hundreds of thousands of votes suppressed in Georgia by a Republican candidate for governor, enough to steal the election; thousands of uncounted absentee ballots in Florida, enough for Republicans to steal the election; a couple thousand absentee ballots tampered with in North Carolina, probably enough to steal the Congressional election.
In Wisconsin, the Republican lame duck legislature ripped authority from the incoming Democratic governor, just as they did here in North Carolina two years ago.
And in this Christmas season, when Christians are celebrating the birth of one whose parents could find no room at the inn, we turn away desperate people whose homelands are made treacherous by our imperialistic policies. We call them criminals and rip their children from their arms.
And because of the administration’s Muslim ban, a woman from Yemen can’t get into the country to say goodbye to her dying 2-year-old son. This is cruelty at its ugliest.
Meanwhile, we allow this administration to destroy the planet with its policies that are bought and paid for by Big Oil. We allow the carnage caused by unfettered access to guns to continue. We allow huge chemical companies to poison our food and water with pesticides and herbicides.
The thug currently occupying the White House spews hate and threatens our First Amendment rights, appoints people to positions where they can pillage our heritage, and people who claim to be Christian cheer him on, vilifying the poor and the immigrant as though the poor and the stranger are the people who are ruining this nation.
This country was built on the backs of slaves, indentured servants and immigrants, but few of them attained any power because that was already reserved for white men, who feel free to abuse everyone else at will. Although we claim to be a land where anyone with drive can make it big, we reserve wealth and power for the few.
Just thinking about all we have to overcome to bring about justice can seem overwhelming, but if we don’t bring about justice for everyone, the 1 percent will be the only ones to prosper.
We can’t allow all these outrageous behaviors become the norm. We can’t accept this deep, deep immorality.
I still have hope that we can fight the 1 percent and win such humane policies as a living wage for everyone, safe housing, a good education, health care, universal suffrage, a justice system that works for everyone, a reduction in the military budget …
We can’t effect these changes through social media, although it’s a great tool for educating — or mis-educating — people, as Russian hackers know all too well.
We have to show up. We have to vote in such numbers that their cheating won’t be enough to keep them in power.
We have to take to the streets when they steal elections. We have to be ready to do nonviolent civil disobedience.
And we have to stop accepting their lies. That means we have to work to learn the truth, and we have to call out lies.
There are some people who won’t accept the truth. These people are known as the Republican “base,” and they account for no more than 30 percent of the voting public. They won’t be convinced they’re wrong by anything we say or do, so we have to work to educate the people who will listen, who will see the injustice of putting children in for-profit prisons, the insanity of unfettered access to guns and the immorality of keeping people in poverty.
I believe we can do this. That’s why I work to organize for the Poor People’s Campaign. I’ve been arrested numerous times trying to talk to legislators about health care, and I have no plans to stop trying to speak truth to power.
Please understand that you don’t have to be arrested to work toward justice. Those of us who don’t stand to lose out jobs can do that.
But you do have to show up. You have to vote in every election, and you have to educate yourself before stepping into the voting booth. You have to let your legislators know you’re watching through phone calls, letters and e-mails. If you can, you need to show up at rallies and other events. The more people they see in the streets, the more they know we mean what we’re saying and we have the support to get rid of lawmakers who vote for unjust laws and policies.
In this coming year, I refuse to let up. I refuse to be quiet. I refuse to stand down.
As one of my favorite freedom songs says, “I am not afraid, I am not afraid. I would die for liberation, for I know why I was made.”
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.
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.
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.