We have crossed the line into an uncivil society

Rachel Alexander was one of the 102 victims of Sunday's massacre in Orlando. She faces mounds of medical bills.

Rachel Alexander was one of the 102 victims of Sunday’s massacre in Orlando. She faces mounds of medical bills.

Rachel Alexander is one of 53 surviving gunshot victims from Sunday’s massacre at Pulse, an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Fla., and she has another problem — finding a way to pay what will be massive medical bills.

It wasn’t enough that she was targeted because she frequented a business that caters to LGBT people; now she faces lifelong debt or bankruptcy because the state where she lives has chosen to not expand Medicaid, and even if she does have insurance, the deductibles and co-pays will be massive.

In other words, not only can we as a nation do nothing about gun violence; we can’t do a damn thing about access to health care, either.

The money from the Gun Lobby has been used to bribe Congress into total inaction on access to guns, and the money from Big Pharma and Big Insurance has prevented adequate access to medical care for millions of Americans, especially in states like Florida.

The Affordable Care Act provided some badly needed insurance reform, but it left the insurance companies intact and still in charge. It provided insurance coverage to some 22 million Americans, but because the Supreme Court voted to reject the mandate for states to expand Medicaid, it left another 22 million Americans uninsured, and millions more with insurance plans they can’t afford to use because of high deductibles and co-pays.

If you’re in your mid-20s, as many of the victims were, and you work an entry-level job, that $5,000 deductible you have to meet before you start getting benefits might as well be $5 million.

The 102 people who were shot by a religious zealot (and, according to some, a self-loathing gay man), who despite being on the no-fly list was able to buy an AK-15, were victims of a society that cares not at all about human lives, and now the 53 survivors face choosing between a lifetime of debt and bankruptcy.

If you’re not outraged by this, you’re part of the problem.

If you think we don’t need to do something about access to guns, you have bought into the hate and malice being peddled by the NRA and others.

If you don’t want your tax money to go to paying for health care for everyone, and you consider yourself a Christian, a Muslim or a Jew, go back and read your scripture because all three sacred texts talk about loving and caring for each other. Nowhere do any of these texts tell us to adopt an I-got-mine-get-your-own attitude.

If your member of Congress is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Gun Lobby, Big Pharma and/or Big Insurance and you vote for him or her anyway, you are part of the problem. If you don’t vote, you are part of the problem.

We have crossed a line here, and I think it was after Sandy Hook, when we failed to do anything about access to guns. We are no longer a civilized society. We are devolving into chaos.

It’s long past time to fix this. We must pass sensible gun laws. We must offer universal access to health care.

To do this, people of conscience must vote. We must vote in every election, in every race. We must demand better or we never will return to being a civilized society.

If you want to help Rachel, you can visit her Go Fund Me account at www.gofundme.com/laurawillprevaill.  To donate to a fund for all the victims, visit www.gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund.

If you don’t know how to reach your member of Congress, visit www.house.gov/representatives/find/.

Where do we go from here? Some thoughts on guns and zealots

shooting scene

I don’t even know where to begin. Fifty people dead at the hands of a religious zealot in Florida and everyone wondering how this could happen.

I do have some thoughts on how this came about, and what we might do as people of conscience.

First of all, understand that Muslims are not the only religious zealots. So-called Christian zealots who denigrate LGBT people are as much at fault as Muslim zealots.

Zealots of any stripe are dangerous. Timothy McVeigh was a terrorist and a “Christian.”

So this man was a zealot who happened to be Muslim. It is not a reason to hate all Muslims, and be assured that the majority of Muslims are not happy with this man, who, by the way, I refuse to name. He doesn’t deserve the publicity.

Next, every one of us who supports restrictions of any kind on LGBT people can share in the blame for this. Did you vote for Amendment One in North Carolina? That was a vote to deny LGBT people equal rights under the law. And if your religion is the reason you voted for Amendment One, you need to go back and read about the separation of Church and State in the Constitution.

Do you support the bathroom restrictions in North Carolina’s Hate Bill 2? Then you support singling out people who pose no threat. You also support further marginalization of an already marginalized group of people and you target them for harm by making them “less than” or “other.”

These kind of actions feed the hate of zealots, makes them feel more comfortable in their hate, and in their mind, justifies it.

My late sister was married to the love of her life, who also happened to be a woman. Her marriage in 2007 was one of the happiest days of MY life because it allowed her the protections that come with legal marriage. She deserved that as much as any straight person I know.

Next, let’s talk about support of the NRA and its extremist agenda of assuring unfettered access to guns for everyone.

Not everyone should have a gun. Mandatory background checks and regulations specifying who can not have a gun are a necessity if we are going to keep people safe.

The man who killed 50 people and injured 53 more in Orlando was on the no-fly list because of suspected terrorist leanings, but he was able to buy a gun capable of that carnage. A friend on Facebook asked why this guy wasn’t on the FBI’s radar, but he was; he was just able to buy that gun because the NRA has bribed so many members of Congress that we can’t even have a law denying a gun to suspected terrorists.

And please don’t give me crap about Second Amendment rights because you’re probably one of those people who voted to restrict the rights of LGBT people to marry, and that’s a violation of their First Amendment rights. You can’t worship the Constitution in pieces — you either want the rights it conveys or you don’t.

You also need to realize that the Second Amendment conveyed the rights of gun ownership within “a well regulated militia,”  not unfettered access to every weapon ever devised.

Perhaps we need to start listening to reason. Perhaps we need to start showing respect for each other and listening to real concerns on both sides.

I don’t want to take everyone’s guns away. I choose not to own one, but if you are a law-abiding citizen who wants to hunt or who wants to own a gun for personal protection, I don’t have a problem with that.

I do, however, have a problem with semi-automatic weapons.

I do have a problem with people being able to buy a gun without a background check.

I do have a problem with a suspected religious zealot being able to walk in and get a gun even though he is considered too dangerous to get on an airplane.

We have become a circus in this country. A crazed, insane, zealot-run circus. We refuse to talk to each other and what’s worse, we refuse to listen to each other.

These 50 people are dead because we can’t get Congress to pass a law denying guns to suspected terrorists.

These people are dead because we allow the vilification of innocent LGBT people without challenge under the guise of “religious freedom.”

Well, your freedom of religion should not restrict the rights of others. That’s what freedom of religion means. You worship in your way and you don’t get to impose your beliefs on me. You don’t get to have a theocracy that aligns with your beliefs.

It’s time to start having a real and reasoned conversation in this country, about guns and about religion.

Let’s lock out the NRA and other powerful, moneyed hate groups and start to talk to each other, and more importantly, to listen, with respect, to people’s concerns.

 

 

 

 

 

The way forward

Josh Brannon, Congressional candidate for the 5th District in NC.

Josh Brannon, Congressional candidate for the 5th District in NC.

I met Josh Brannon two years ago at a Moral Monday event. He was running for Congress in NC District 5, opposing Tea Party darling Virginia Foxx.

This year, he’s running again.

Before Bernie Sanders ever announced he would seek the Democratic nomination for president, Brannon was running on an almost identical platform. It’s the same platform he’s running on this year.

Here in my district, the 11th, we have Mark Meadows, a far-right extremist who was one of the architects of the 2014 government shutdown. In 2014, we put up an incredibly weak candidate, a man who is homophobic and Islamophobic and who had pretty poor people skills.

This year, we have Rick Bryson, a native of Bryson City (yes, the town is named for his family), who has a plan to draw good jobs to the region and who will support progressive policies across the board.

Rick Bryson, candidate for Congress in North Carolina District 11.

Rick Bryson, candidate for Congress in North Carolina District 11.

So, here’s the deal. We can work for people like Josh Brannon and Rick Bryson, people who will lead us to a better, fairer, more progressive future, or we can sit and whine because Bernie didn’t take it all.

You can’t change the direction of the nation in a single vote, much as we who supported Bernie wished it to be so.

The extremists on the right started small. I remember hearing in the fundamentalist church I attended as a child in the 1960s that “we” needed to start with school boards and town councils and work our way up; that this was the only way to take over the country.

And that’s what they did. As a reporter, I learned the buzz words they used to identify one of their own in an election.

“Family values,” “traditional values,” “creation science,” and more. When I heard these words, I knew to ask questions about policy, and most of the time, the true colors of a religious zealot came out.

Asking a Right to Life Party member about nuclear policy, I got the answer that we kill more people with abortion than with nukes. I asked about economic policy and got more of the same. No matter what I asked, the answer was about abortion. In a race that was nonpartisan, that was important for people to know.

School board members decide what will be in our schools’ curricula whether they will learn the science of evolution or the religion or “creation science;” whether they learn the truth about human reproduction or the proven failures of “just say no” abstinence education.

We all know now what happens to education, health care, voting rights, workers’ rights and more when we elect right-wing zealots to state legislatures. Just look at places like North Carolina, Kansas and Texas.

When we don’t vote and the zealots do, we get what they want, not what most Americans want.

Still, most of us sit home on Election Day, especially in off-year and primary elections. I don’t know what people who don’t bother to vote are thinking when they decide not to go to the polls.

And I understand that we who supported Bernie Sanders are really, really disappointed that he didn’t win.

But we have to remember that a president can’t get a whole lot done without support from Congress, and if we allow the radicals and zealots to control Congress, we won’t see any progress toward a more just society.

So, my fellow Bernie fans, we must work toward a Congress that will allow progress and not regression. We have to get out there and roll up our sleeves for people like Josh Brannon and Rick Bryson.

So, just because your choices for president aren’t your first choice, it still is wrong to sit out an election — any election, from school board to city council to state legislature to Congress to president.

Get out and vote this year, even if you can’t bring yourself to vote for president. There are plenty of people down-ticket who will make this a better nation, but they can’t do it without our votes.

The morning after

Looks like this is the match-up for November.

Looks like this is the match-up for November.

 

It appears we have a Democratic candidate, and it is historic.

Millions of racists are about to show their sexism, and millions of poor losers are ready to let the nation crash and burn because they didn’t get their way.

Welcome to the world of politics, Millennials.

Hillary Clinton was not my first choice; Bernie Sanders was, and I was as passionate in my support for him as anyone.

Most people who know me understand that my most important issue is access to health care, and Hillary Clinton has said she doesn’t see us ever getting to single-payer. Bernie promised me he would fight for it.

I met Bernie twice and told him how my son died from lack of access to health care. Both times he hugged me and said, “I’m working on this, I promise you.” He will keep working on it in the Senate now and I have to be OK with that.

Movements take time and revolutions rarely achieve their goals at the voting booth.

So, rather than flip the bird at the country, I will vote for Hillary and hope that we who supported Bernie will pull her to the left.

I say this because I don’t believe violence is the answer, and the fuck-you attitude of some of Bernie’s supporters will only lead to violence.

Here is why I don;t think writing Bernie’s name in or voting for Jill Stein is the solution:

Four years ago, when the Democrats here in North Carolina ran Walter Dalton, an incredibly weak candidate, people shrugged and said, “So, let the Republicans take it all, and then we’ll win it back because people will be so pissed off.”

I told one friend I thought that was a dangerous tactic, and I was right. The damage the extremists have done in this state is epic, and some if it will never be fixed.

Coal ash pollution is forever, as are fracking chemicals (which have yet to be unleashed, but the General Assembly has approved their use and the governor signed it).

The 8,000 or so people who have died from lack of access to health care because these people refuse to expand Medicaid can’t be resurrected. They are gone. Ask their families how your attitude worked for them.

The children who are in our schools are missing a decent education as teachers stage a mass exodus from the state, and those kids can’t get that opportunity back.

There are damages that can be fixed, but they will take time. Rebuilding our state’s reputation will take a generation or more.

So, go ahead, flip off the candidate that could prevent these things on a national scale. Sure, let Trump take it and see how quickly we’ll be at war with China or North Korea, or both. Watch things escalate in the Middle East. See how long it takes somebody to use a nuclear weapon. Maybe we could start a pool to see who comes closest to the date and time. Bonus dollars for a reason for the mess. (“China insulted my wife.”)

Vote for Trump and watch your Social Security and Medicare disappear. Watch your Supreme Court become a rubber stamp for the wishes of the extremists and billionaires. Watch your water become too polluted to drink while what little drinkable water is left is privatized and sold for profit. And watch as minimum wage is abolished and your children are forced to subsist on $2.50 an hour.

Hillary Clinton is the most examined candidate of all time. She has endured a quarter century under the microscope, and no one has found anything concrete. She did not break the law with her e-mails, even though her detractors want to believe she did. She did not cause the embassy in Benghazi to be attacked — the Republicans in Congress who denied her request for funding for security there are far more responsible for that fatal attack than she was. She didn’t kill Vince Foster.

Hillary may not be as slick as her husband, but she is highly intelligent, and she is highly qualified.

I will vote for her, and I will hold her feet to the fire because movements take time. It took the right-wing extremists decades to take power, building a strong base as they climbed; it will take us time to get it back.

You can be more constructive by encouraging the formation of a viable third party in time for the next election, but there is no excuse for allowing a Trump presidency. None whatsoever.

So, instead of whining, get to work. You’ll never get anything if you don’t work for it, and sitting in a corner flipping the bird and sulking will get you nowhere.

 

 

 

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Forget the jacket and look at the candidate

Hillary in her Armani jacket, which was criticized for being too expensive. Photo from CNBC

Hillary in her Armani jacket, which was criticized for being too expensive. Photo from CNBC

So, Hillary Clinton wore a designer jacket during a speech about income inequality. Big deal.

She’s wealthy. She can wear what she wants. Did anyone ever criticize any outfit worn by a man in a campaign because it was expensive?

In fact, we don’t even care what men wear. But when it comes to the first woman who actually could win the White House, we have been all over her choices.

Just look at what was in yesterday’s Washington Post, written by Leah Bourne:

“The polished outfit was in stark contrast to the fashion choices Clinton has made in the past. As first lady, Clinton wore frumpy pastel “skirtsuits.” As New York senator and secretary of state, she attempted a more serious look, wearing pantsuits in a rainbow of colors — so mocked that they sparked memes. In comparison to Michelle Obama, who’s become known as a style icon during her time in the White House and appeared on the cover of Vogue twice, Clinton has never been able to nail down a personal aesthetic that works for her.

But now, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, whose dowdy and matronly style has haunted her throughout her entire political career, is making her first real effort to play the fashion card.”

Do we refer to men’s clothing choices as “frumpy,” “dowdy,” or “matronly?” Do we then criticize them if they try to look better?

No and no.

I am a supporter of Bernie Sanders, but I know bullshit when I smell it, and I’m getting an overpowering stench right now.

Hillary Clinton’s style has nothing to do with her ability to lead the nation, and while I find her a bit too cozy with banks and big corporations, I will admit she is eminently qualified to be president, unlike the presumptive Republican nominee, and I will vote for her in November if she is the Democratic nominee.

Trump calls her “shrill,” and every network covers it. Trump, who can’t even string together a coherent thought. Trump, whose house looks like a bomb of gold paint exploded in the living room. Trump, whose megalomania, misogyny, and racism and sociopathy oozes from every pore. Trump, who believes he doesn’t need advisors because he has a very excellent brain.

But he’s a man, so it’s OK.

This whole kerfuffle over Hillary’s clothes is nothing more than sexism. We don’t attack her views; we attack her clothes, her hair, her voice and her laugh (which, by the way, I love).

Bernie Sanders is my first choice in the primary because I agree with him on the issues. But Hillary is competent and, if she wins the nomination, she will have my vote in November, no matter what she wears.

 

 

 

 

Mansplaining, explained

mansplaining

Another woman friend has un-friended a man on Facebook because he refused to stop accusing her of claiming all men are guilty of abusing women.

Now, my friend has been abused. She also has said a number of times that she knows not all men are abusive. But this guy keeps coming to her posts and repeating that she shouldn’t be such a man-hater because not all men are abusive.

Methinks he doth protest too much.

Look, guys, we know how we feel and we don’t need you to tell us.

We also know what our own life experiences are and how they affect our views. Again, we don’t need you to tell us.

During my Facebook shitstorm the other day, one man kept telling me why he isn’t bothered by being called honey and that I should share his view until I finally blocked him.

Later, another male friend came on and said he really couldn’t understand why it bothered me so much. He has lived in Texas for a long time and it’s part of the culture there. When I said I want the respect of not having my experiences invalidated simply because his were different, he agreed.

That’s how simple it is.

Try this, guys: “Oh, I see our experiences are different. OK, then.”

Or this, if you want to continue the conversation: “Wow, we have really different experiences. Tell me more.”

Mansplaining is when you try to tell us why we should share your point of view, even when our own experiences leave us with the exact opposite view. It’s when you close your mind to our perspective while insisting we be open to yours.

What that does is tells us our experiences don’t matter to you. It tells us that you think we have to conform to your view because it somehow is superior to our own experience.

It tells us our opinions are not valid because they don’t align with yours and that we are the ones who have to rethink our world view so it matches yours.

It’s telling us you want to protect us from one thing or another when we have not asked for your protection and you have not asked us whether we need it.

Mansplaining is condescending and disrespectful,  and if you haven’t figured it out so far, let me tell you it’s deeply offensive.

We don’t need you to explain our lives to us, OK? If that bothers you, too bad.

If we point out to you that what you’re doing is mansplaining, it’s time for you to stop talking.

Not later, NOW!

bernie hillary trump

I’m feeling beyond frustrated today as I listen to the acrimony between Hillary and Bernie supporters, each blaming the other for the demise of the Democratic Party.

I support Bernie because I want someone who will fight for universal access to health care now.

Yes, I know it will be blocked by Republicans, but if we start negotiations in the middle, we wind up with an agreement right of center and with millions of people still without care.

When President Obama and Nancy Pelosi took single-payer off the table, we lost all hope of getting that public option that would have given me a choice to buy into Medicaid. It would have offered competition with the insurance companies, which now have a legal monopoly. What we got was a half-assed solution that, although it offered millions of people the chance to buy health insurance, it shut out millions more and left the for-profit insurance companies in charge of the system.

We’re seeing employers stop hiring full-time employees rather than give money to the insurance companies. We’re seeing people having to buy high-deductible plans that they can’t afford to use, so they’re getting nothing for their money.

About once every 18 to 20 minutes, an American dies from lack of access to care.

But sure, let’s do it incrementally. Let’s tell the bereaved families of these people who are dying that they have to be patient. After all, we don’t want to offend those who support the system as it is.

There are very real and very high stakes in this election. Each election cycle, the corporations gain more ground and we the people lose. We can’t get a living wage, we can’t get universal health care, we can’t get affordable housing, we can’t get reasonably low rate college loans for middle-income kids, we can’t get big money out of politics.

But rather than focus on all that, we follow every move of Donald Trump, who’s only doing as well as he is because the media have decided he’s the story.

You see, in case you haven’t noticed, the media write the scenarios and we blithely follow along.

Four years ago, the media started saying the Republicans would take the Senate in 2014. It was an unlikely scenario, but the media kept repeating it until it became reality.

Now the media are saying Trump will beat Hillary if she is the nominee, and you can bet it will become a self-fulfilling prophesy unless we the people wake up and start thinking for ourselves.

Four years ago, the Democrats ran a lame candidate here in North Carolina, and he was beaten by Pat McCrory (#OneTermPat). As the election neared and Walter Dalton trailed, several Democratic friends told me they thought it was OK.

“Let them have it all and people will be so pissed they’ll send them packing,” people said.

Well, here’s what really happened. We cant expand Medicaid — in fact, we’re about to privatize it, and we’re cutting funding for the care of medically fragile children. That’s right, we’re going to let sick children suffer and die rather than ask the wealthiest to pay their share of taxes.

Our schools are suffering and being choked to death as we give more money to for-profit charter schools. Our teachers are among the lowest paid in the country, and our per-pupil spending is the lowest in the nation. Our once-proud university system is being cut down, bit by bit. In fact, some of our state universities are about to be starved to death, including some traditionally African-American schools.

We can’t raise the minimum wage, so people are in desperate need for social programs, like food stamps, which are being cut. Child care costs as much as college tuition, and we’re cutting programs that help parents afford it while refusing to pay a living wage.

If you lose your job because of discrimination, you can’t sue in state courts, and you have the shortest duration and the least compensation in the country on unemployment. The GOP did that almost as soon as McCrory took office.

Cities and counties can’t set their own wage levels or discrimination policies because of HB2, which most people think is just about bathrooms.

We are well along the road to becoming a third-world country in terms of the life of average citizens. Income inequality is at record levels, global warming is at the tipping point, we keep fighting pointless wars, and no one seems to notice.

We’re so complacent that half of the right-wing nuts who want to establish a state religion and allow people to die in the streets rather than give them access to health care are running unopposed.

Un-o-fucking-posed!

So the predictions of people finally waking up if Trump wins the election are wrong. If North Carolina is a predictor, and I believe it is, people will allow him to set up a fascist state because we’re too distracted by the media’s shiny issues to do anything about it.

It was like talking to a wall.

 

me_n_pat.jpg

I had a choice this morning. I could stand with protesters outside the Governor’s Western Residence in Asheville or I could try to get into the open house to address him personally.

I decided to try and get to him.

We started driving to the residence, but when we turned up Town Mountain Road, we were told we’d never get in unless we went to First Baptist Church and waited for the shuttle.

We waited for almost an hour. The event was supposed to start at 9:30, but we didn’t get onto the shuttle until 10:20. When we got to the house, we were told we had 15 minutes, so I went outside, where the governor was standing beside the fire pit.

I approached.

“Hi, I’m Pat,” he said.

“I’m Leslie,” I said and lifted up the photo of my late son. “This is Mike, who died after being denied access to care.”

He noticed a microphone on my collar. Robin Carter had placed it there in case she was able to video the encounter. She wasn’t allowed.

“I’m not talking to anyone who’s miked,” he said.

“Well, perhaps you’ll listen,” I answered.

I told him about Mike and about how five to seven people are dying every day in this state because he and his colleagues in the General Assembly have refused to expand Medicaid.

He countered that he tried to talk to President Obama about adding a work requirement, and I told him 70 percent of people who would be eligible for Medicaid work already, and virtually all of the rest are unable to work. I told him how hard a worker my son was, and that he was never looking for a handout, just someone who would be willing to help him stay alive.

“People who need Medicaid aren’t lazy, and they’re not greedy,” I said.

I didn’t add that the people who block access to health care are the takers. I was trying to be calm and polite.

“Well, Medicaid was a mess before I took office,” he said.

Yes it was, because in 2010, the Republicans took over the General Assembly and slashed funding so badly that the Republican secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services resigned rather than preside over such carnage. Before 2010, North Carolina’s Medicaid program was a national model.

But I didn’t have time to tell him that because he had already interrupted me to say he’s expanding access to Medicaid for people with autism.

I told him my benchmark is whether it would have given my son access to care, and adding in a few hundred people wouldn’t have done that. I also told him I don’t think privatizing Medicaid will work any better than privatizing mental health care a decade ago did.

He was happy to talk about the implosion of the state’s mental health system because that was done before he took office. I could see his eyes light up.

“Yes! That system is a mess, and so is treatment for addiction,” he said. “We really need to do something about that.”

But since the majority of people who have addiction don’t respond to treatment the first time, what should we do?

Prevention. That 14-year-old who had surgery probably doesn’t need opiates to deal with his pain, at least not for more than a few days, McCrory said. You give it to him for a month or more and you’ve created another addict.

Of course, this means we can’t have legalization of pot and the windfall of tax money that would come with it, but that’s an issue for another day.

My friends, Robin Carter and Matt Graunke wanted to talk about HB2, but we got the same answers he’s been giving to the media.

“I was on NPR,” he said, as though NPR only interviews reasonable people. He also said the law is about privacy, but when challenged about the privacy of a trans person who only wants to go into a stall and pee, that was different, of course.

He talked about wanting to protect women and both Robin and I said we had been assaulted or abused in places other than rest rooms by people our families knew and trusted, and that since we are adults now, we think women should have been consulted about whether we even think we need protection from trans people in bathrooms.

Frankly, I think we need protection from people like the governor and his friends in the General Assembly, because while they’re distracting us with talk about trans people in bathrooms, innocent people are dying — five to seven people every day, week in and week out, year after year.

When he said he felt sorry about how my son died, my question was whether he would be willing to say that to the 8,000 families of people who have died since he signed the law denying Medicaid expansion. Every one of those families is in just as much pain as mine.

But, hey, after many, many attempts to talk to him, after two arrests for “trespassing” on public property, after being locked out of the state house so he didn’t have to talk to me, I finally got some face time with him.

I only wish I had been able to make him see how his policies are killing innocent people.

At least he didn’t tell me he’s pro-life.

A primer on HB2 and why it’s not going away

Anti-HB2 signs left in the doorway of NC Senate leader Phil Berger

Anti-HB2 signs left in the doorway of NC Senate leader Phil Berger after a rally to oppose the law.

On March 23, the North Carolina General Assembly met in special session to pass House Bill 2, or what would become known as the transgender bathroom law.

The outrage was immediate, as it should have been. Transgender people are being forced to use the bathroom assigned to the gender that they no longer identify with.

If you think you don’t know anyone who is transgender, you probably just don’t know who was born with a penis and who was not. You’ve been peeing with them for a long time, I assure you.

The media went wild with news of the bathroom bill. Companies, sports events, entertainers and tourists pledged to boycott North Carolina, costing the state tens of millions of dollars. That fueled even more media attention about this awful bathroom bill.

Except it isn’t a bathroom bill any more than the motorcycle bill of three years ago was about motorcycles (in case you don’t recall, that “motorcycle safety” law is chock full of restrictions on women’s reproductive rights).

Sure, Article One is all about hating transgender people and denying them the right to use the appropriate bathroom, and that’s just wrong on every level.

But read on.

The law goes on to deny people in North Carolina the right to sue for discrimination in state courts. Instead, we’re supposed to go to federal court, which is much more expensive, likely much farther away and has only one-sixth the statute of limitations (six months versus three years). Most people can’t do that.

The law also takes away the power of local governments to set their own discrimination policies or minimum wage. This, of course, helps keep people in poverty so those in power can criticize them as lazy.

But the bathroom part of the law is what’s making headlines and it has fired up the ultra-conservative base.

And this is exactly what the thugs in power planned.

The furor over the clearly unconstitutional bathroom part of the law has drawn attention away from the rest of the law, which is just as egregious.

The US Justice Department has informed the state that this piece of the bill is a violation of US Civil Rights Law. The state can fight that, and if it does, here’s what “leaders” are hoping for:

With a Republican candidate the base isn’t willing to support, the NC GOP puts the bathroom piece of the law on the November ballot. This will bring out their base, who may or may not vote for president, but will vote down-ticket for Richard Burr, Gov. McCrory, Republican candidates for Congress and these very legislators who crafted HB2.

Like Amendment One, which enshrined hatred into the state Constitution, they know this piece of the law is unconstitutional and will be overturned.

But they have what they want: Republicans elected and the rest of the law intact.

Even if they don’t fight the Justice Department decision, the NC GOP has most of what it wants because law has a clause that states if part of it is overturned or repealed, the rest survives.

And there you have it. HB2 is a naked power grab, fueled by hate and written by thugs.

Meanwhile, suicide hotlines are reporting an increase in the number of calls from transgender people. People are being dragged out of bathrooms because they’re not masculine or feminine enough to satisfy some bigot. Men are going into the women’s bathrooms at Target to check on people and “protect” women.

The worst part is that a majority of people who voted for this law are running unopposed for their seats this fall.

In other words, we’re likely to see a return of the thugs to power because no one wanted to get involved and run against them. We have the government we deserve.

 

Rick Bryson will represent we the people

Rick Bryson, candidate for Congress in North Carolina District 11.

Rick Bryson, candidate for Congress in North Carolina District 11.

This really is a first for me, announcing in public my support for a Congressional candidate.

I spent 30 years as a newspaper reporter, then six years running a nonprofit, so it was inappropriate for me to support candidates officially and openly.

But this year, I’m speaking up. We can’t allow the reign of the right-wing to continue, and Mark Meadows is about as far to the right as a person can get. Our option in 2014 was another candidate who stands far to the right on issues such as women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and true religious freedom (he is blatantly anti-Muslim).

This time, we have a chance to vote for someone who truly has decent human values. He believes, as I do, that anyone who works a 40-hour week should be able to pay their bills without government help. That means we need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. If we do that, we won’t need to pay for food stamps or rent subsidies for people who work full-time.

Bryson believes that access to quality health care should be a basic human right and that we can’t allow the Affordable Care Act to be diminished; instead we need to add to its protections by making access to care universal. He points out that the pharmaceutical industry has four lobbyists for each member of Congress. I don’t imagine the health insurance industry is far behind.

Bryson wants to see more support for public education, not less. He wants an intelligent electorate with decent critical-thinking skills. That’s not what Mark Meadows wants; he has supported privatizing education.

We have become very adept at blaming the victim in this country by labeling people who need help as “takers,” but these people are left behind by bad public policy, and the corporate shills who sit in Congress now are only too happy to take more away from working people and give it to the super-wealthy by privatizing public programs like Social Security and Medicaid.

The people here in Western North Carolina have suffered the loss of thousands of good manufacturing jobs, many of them with union protections, which have been replaced with low-wage jobs. The state has been able to force workers into these jobs by cutting unemployment compensation to the bone and shortening its duration.

Rick Bryson proposes a project similar to the Research Triangle, but sprinkling it across Western North Carolina. He calls the plan Generation NOW. It would bring higher wage telecommunications, clean energy, bio-medicine, agribusiness, computer modeling, recreation, design, and other similar jobs to the region.

Anyone who knows me knows my most passionate issue is health care, but we can’t fix health care and nothing else.

I find Rick Bryson’s stands on all the issues to be reasonable and kind. He is intelligent and articulate, and he loves these mountain communities because he has deep, deep roots here. His family has been here for generations (Bryson City is named for them).

I can’t think of anyone who would represent the people of District 11 better than he will.

The best way any of us can help is to turn out on June 7 (early voting starts May 26) and vote in the primary. We can do this if we work together, and if we don’t, we stand to lose a lot more than an election in November.

 

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