Your greed and ignorance are not harmless

The right wing in this country loves to blame the victim.

Poor people are lazy and don’t deserve any help.

Sick people are at fault for their own illnesses.

Women deserve to be raped.

People of color deserve to be shot in the street, even when they’re unarmed.

They also expect the things they want to be paid for — you know, the roads they drive on, the electrical grid and the water systems they use, the military that gives their tiny dicks a hard-on.

Their attitude is “I got mine, get your own,” as they pass laws that make it impossible for others to get their own.

If you haven’t seen it, you need to watch Jimmy Kimmel talk about how his newborn son almost died but was saved because he had good insurance.

No one should have to watch a child die from neglect the way I had to.

And then Rep. Mo Brooks (R., Alabama) claimed that if people live a “good” life, they won’t “get” pre-existing conditions.

I had someone come onto my timeline this morning on Facebook who buys into that crap, hook, line and sinker. He claimed that people with pre-existing conditions should have taken better care of themselves, that their conditions come from personal choices.

I called him on his bullshit and he claimed it wasn’t victim-blaming, but a harmless point of view.

No, your point of view is harmless only if the outcome doesn’t harm someone. If you take away the pre-existing condition clause of the Affordable Care Act, more people will die the way my son did. That is not harmless.

My son was in no way responsible for having a birth defect. It was in no way his fault that he couldn’t find a doctor in Savannah, Ga., who would let him pay for his care in installments. My son did not choose to get colon cancer, and nothing in his lifestyle caused it. But my son died because he didn’t have — because he couldn’t get — insurance.

I have been healthy all my life, but I developed asthma a few years ago. Having insurance means I can manage it and it doesn’t get worse — and more expensive to treat.

My best friend developed type 2 diabetes in her 50s because she has a genetic predisposition. She exercises every day and eats very, very well. Because her insurance also pays for glucose testing supplies, she can manage her diabetes. Without insurance, she would develop life-threatening — and extremely expensive — complications.

My husband’s family has heart disease all through it, so no matter how much he exercised, no matter how healthy he chose to eat, he still developed coronary artery disease and needed bypass surgery, which saved his life.

My son didn’t deserve to die, but people still try to place the blame on him.

When I went to speak to a newly elected state senator about health care and told him Mike’s story, his first question was, “Was he working?”

Not, “Oh, my God, how does this happen in America in the 21st Century?” but “Was he working?”

My answer was that he was working and he was a full-time student with a 3.75 GPA, and he was a volunteer.

But then I had a question for him: “When did being unemployed become grounds for the death penalty? When did death for unemployment become part of the penal code?”

He had no answer. But he’s still against expanding Medicaid in North Carolina because he still thinks it’s OK to blame the victims of our society’s greed and self-centeredness for their own suffering.

Perhaps that’s more comfortable for them than facing the truth — that public policy is a moral thing, and that their willingness to let people die rather than have compassion for them is immoral on its face.

The person on my Facebook thread this morning asked why I get so upset over his “harmless opinion,” and I told him his opinion is neither harmless nor correct. I had pulled four instances of people with pre-existing conditions that were not their own fault. I had told him about how his opinion had led directly to people’s deaths, and he persisted in saying people are responsible for their own pre-existing conditions.

What’s worse, he said I should know that children can stay on their parents’ plans until they’re 26. He was unaware that that’s a piece of the Affordable Care Act, and that’s not my opinion, that’s fact.

Until 2012, you were off your parents’s plan at age 19, unless you were a student and then the cutoff was 21. And if you had a pre-existing condition like little Billy Kimmel’s heart defect or my son’s birth defect, you somehow deserved to die.

It’s time we face the immorality of our public policy on health care, on the minimum wage, on education, on workers’ rights, on the environment, on housing, on income inequality.

It is not the fault of the victim, it’s the fault of every one of us who believe selfishness and greed are “harmless opinions.”

 

 

 

Was Jesus a Republican? Nope.

This morning, my friend, Josh Brannon, said on Facebook that there are no Christians in the Republican party and it led to a lively discussion, which was joined by a couple of people who took umbrage to that statement.
Oh, the indignation of these poor Jesus-loving people — people who then turn around and reject everything Jesus ever taught in their public policy.
Let me explain why I think Josh is right.
Nine years ago, my son died because Republicans blocked any improvement to our for-profit system of health “care.” They are trying now to dismantle what little progress we made since, and that progress would have saved my son’s life. Indeed, it has saved tens of thousands of lives.
Republicans want to close women’s health clinics even though doing so would mean innocent women (who get their care there because it’s affordable if you can’t get insurance), will die.
People are hungry, but Republicans have cut funding for food stamps and agree with de-funding Meals on Wheels and WIC (Women, Infants and Children).
People are working for a minimum wage that is less than half of what it takes to make ends meet, but Republicans refuse to raise minimum wage and then accuse people of being lazy and use that as an excuse not to help them.
Republicans support opening private, for-profit prisons, which prey on the misery of people, especially low-income people, who have committed even the pettiest of crimes.
The people on the far right wing of Christianity made up this thing called prosperity theology, which says that Jesus will bless you with money if you’re a good person.
The far-right wing of Christianity also believes that women are inferior to men and must be controlled tightly because women were the ones who brought men down with original sin (sex), of which women are ALL guilty, even now. That’s why Vice President Mike Pence won’t have dinner with a woman who’s not his wife — because men can’t be expected to control themselves around women. Poor things can’t resist women’s sex-crazed advances.
Don’t try to say this isn’t so to me because I was raised with this stuff.
God took my son from me because of some egregious sin of mine (probably for not being a submissive woman). Right-wingers have told me this.
I rejected all of this theology as a teenager. I couldn’t read the red print (the words of Jesus, for those who don’t know) and in any way align it with the policies of the Right.
In other words, I couldn’t be a Christian and a Republican. To follow the teachings of Christ (love your neighbor as yourself, feed the hungry, heal the sick, comfort the dying, visit prisoners, welcome the stranger …), I could not be a Republican.
When I told a Republican lawmaker about my son last week, his first question was, “Was he working?”
Really? “Was he working?” Not, “What happened?” Not, “Oh, I’m so sorry.”
“Was he working?”
As a matter of fact, he had a job and he was in school full-time, with a 3.75 GPA. And he volunteered several hours every week.
I asked the politician when unemployment became a crime punishable by death. I thought the death penalty (which I oppose) was reserved for murderers.
My son was working AND he needed help.
But the “Christians”, the party of “pro-life” blocked any effort to allow more Americans the access to care they have, and they continue to try and walk back any progress we have made.
Which brings me to another anti-life point: Republicans favor the death penalty, and they are so stubborn about carrying it out that they have killed innocent people in their insistence that every person sentenced to death is killed. They have blocked appeals in which there was exonerating evidence.
Now let’s fast-forward to Judgment Day as described by Jesus himself in the Gospel of Matthew:
The crowd is divided into two groups, of lambs on the right and goats on the left.
Jesus turns to the right and thanks the lambs for feeding him when he was hungry, offering him a drink when he was thirsty, clothing him when he was naked, visiting him in jail and caring for him when he was sick.
Of course, the lambs claim they never saw him sick or thirsty or in jail or naked and Jesus tells them, “Whatsoever you did for the least of these, you did also for me.”
Next he turns to the left and admonishes the goats for refusing to help when he was in jail or thirsty or hungry or naked or sick, and they protest that they don’t remember seeing him.
“Whatsoever you did to the least of these, you did also to me,” he says, and then banishes them from his presence.
In other words, Jesus himself tells us that if we reject people in need, we reject him. And you can’t be a Christian if you reject Christ.
On Josh Brannon’s thread this morning, there was plenty of “Christian” indignation, but there was not one person able to say anything that would align Christian behavior to Republican policies.
Forget about prayer in school. Think about morality in public policy.
If you want to be both Republican and Christian, you need to work to inject some morality into the policies of the party.

Unbeatable? Really?

Mark Meadows is my congressman.

I say that with a deep sense of shame and frustration. He is somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun and not quite as modern.

Meadows leads the Freedom Caucus, which believes in nothing more than its freedom to take basic rights away from the rest of us.

It was Meadows who inadvertently saved us from Trumpcare by refusing to vote for it because it didn’t take away enough. It left mandates for coverage of mental illness and addiction, and Meadows objected to that.

Meadows has no respect for human life, although he calls himself “pro-life” and “Christian,” even though the only life he supports (other than his own, of course) is that of the fetus, and the last time he followed any of the teachings of Christ — well, I don’t know when that might have been.

He is an advocate of taxing the poor, not raising their wages and not giving them food, shelter or health care. He sees public education as a form of welfare, and he wants all forms of welfare abolished.

Apparently, he thinks Jesus actually said, “I got mine, get your own.”

So, why is such a despicable character still in office?

Because my party shrugs its shoulders and says, “His district is gerrymandered and the Koch Brothers fund him.”

OK, so we just give up? That’s it?

This last time we put up a pretty good candidate, a retired engineer who was born and raised here, a man whose name invokes history, Rick Bryson, of the Bryson City Brysons.

But no one would donate to his campaign. “It’s a lost cause,” people said. “We can’t beat Meadows.”

And you know what? We didn’t because we went into it believing we would lose and we were unwilling to fight.

This is why I considered leaving the party. I’m damn sick of this we-can’t-beat-them attitude.

Damn right we can’t beat them, not unless we actually try. Bryson called Meadows out on his misogyny and on keeping a sexual predator on the payroll for months after the man’s aggression was made public, but his voice was barely heard because it costs money in this climate to have any voice at all.

But that’s not enough. We have to call him out on his claims of being Christian and pro-life because he is neither.

I’m not good at raising money. It’s just not a talent I possess. But I am good at calling people out on hypocrisy, and Meadows is about as hypocritical as it gets.

Meadows claims to follow someone who told us to feed the hungry, care for the sick, visit people in prison and love one another. He shows no evidence of doing any of those things.

Two years ago, I went to one of his town halls. I was the second person in the door and I was told I had to write down my question. So I asked whether he was planning on fixing the flaws in the Affordable Care Act, you know, since he was a follower of Christ, who instructed him to care for the sick.

I was told the questions would be asked in the order they were submitted, good or bad. My question was submitted second and eight questions were asked. Mine was not among them.

So I walked up to Meadows afterward to ask him why he lied, but I never got the chance. I got as far as introducing myself and he said, “Oh, I know who you are,” and he turned his back to me.

That was it. “I know who you are.”

He knows I’m the woman who lost her son to a broken health care system, but he doesn’t care about that. He cares about getting more money for himself and his cronies and the rest of us can die for all he cares.

This is my Congressman and I’m supposed to shrug and say, “Oh well, we can’t beat him.” Really?

There has to be someone in the 11th district who has the know-how to do this. Gerrymandered or not, it can be done. We ousted Tim Moffitt from the North Carolina House in 2014, even though we were told it was impossible. The district was gerrymandered and there was a ton of money behind Moffitt. He was next in line to be speaker of the House. But Brian Turner and his volunteers made calls, knocked on doors, held town hall meetings — in short, we worked our butts off. And we won.

It can be done. We don’t have to settle for such an immoral man. Meadows does not represent us; he represents the people who fund him.

We can do this. We can defeat him. We should at least try.

 

 

Don’t celebrate too hard

These thugs may indeed have the last laugh. They can still destroy the ACA. We won a small battle, that’s all.

 

It looks like Trumpcare is dead in the water.

It’s fine to take a little time to breathe a sigh of relief, but this fight is far from over.

The thugs who want to destroy the Affordable Care Act are still busy wreaking their havoc.

Already, the occupant of the White House has directed the IRS not to enforce the mandate to buy insurance. That means the law will fail as young and healthy people bail out because they won’t face consequences for doing so, and that alone is enough.

Sure, the thugs didn’t get their tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, but they have plenty of time to do that.

Even if 45 is impeached for his collusion with the Russians, and he’s removed from office, we have to deal with Pence, who is every bit as dangerous. If it turns out Pence was involved in the Russian scheme and he goes, too, that leaves us with the sociopathic Paul Ryan.

Sociopaths and psychopaths seem normal. They appear healthy, but they have no empathy. They can only feel what affects them directly. That’s what made Ryan able to have his drunken college frat boy fantasies about pulling the rug out from under people in need. And his peers consider him to be the smart one. This brain malfunction is how he can call himself a “Christian” but follow none of Christ’s teachings. Because Christ never actually said, “I got mine, get your own.”

The Republicans who were going to vote against Trumpcare, members of the so-called Freedom Caucus, were doing so because it didn’t go far enough. It allowed poor people access to addiction treatment and mental health care. Apparently, my representative, Mark Meadows, head of the so-called Freedom Caucus, thinks more people should die from lack of access to care, not fewer.

They still want to change Medicaid to a block-grant program, which would offer set amounts to the states, and those amounts won’t grow even as the need does. That means fewer people will be served and more will die.

They still want to close women’s health clinics, which for many low-income women are their only lifeline to health care. Without these clinics, the women who use them will have no access to birth control, to mammograms, Pap smears and other diagnostic tests. They won’t have access to safe abortions, and if you really want women to bear every child that’s conceived, shouldn’t you want them to have access to care so those babies will survive? Apparently not.

This crowd also wants to de-fund WIC, which provides pregnant and nursing mothers and their babies the nutrition they need. It is one of the most efficient and successful of all the government programs, but these thugs want it gone.

And, then there’s Meals on Wheels, which 45 de-funds in his budget. Yes, it gets most of its money from private donations, but it still needs the money it gets from the government.

These thugs have an agenda. One tiny piece of it has been thwarted, and we can and should be happy about that, but they have any number of means to achieve their goals. They are not done. We can not claim victory until they are gone.

So, stay active. Register people to vote and then help them get to the polls. Run for office yourself if you can — any office, including city council or school board.

And above all, stay woke. That means pay attention to what’s going on. The thugs are not done.

 

‘Was he working?’

I have spent the last nine years telling my son’s story to try and persuade lawmakers to increase access to health care. He called it “playing the Dead Kid Card.”

 

Nine years ago yesterday, Mike told me to tell his story.

It wasn’t in so many words, of course. He told me I was about to be dealt a card that was pretty hard to trump: the Dead Kid Card. He had been playing the Cancer Card for three years. Every time he didn’t want to do something, he pointed to his chemo port and said, “But I have cancer.”

It was meant to amuse more than anything else, and it did amuse him no end. But on this day nine years ago yesterday, he was serious.

“I don’t want that card,” I said.

“Too bad,” he countered. “It’s being dealt and you can’t stop it. You have to do something positive with it. You have to figure out how you can use it for good.”

I have played that card by telling his story, by using his face to tell people what happens when access to care is denied.

Yesterday, I was in Raleigh for an advocacy day sponsored by the NC NAACP. Most of the legislators I spoke to are in favor of expanding Medicaid, but one was not.

“Was he working?” the legislator asked me when I started to tell Mike’s story.

“He was working and he was a full-time student,” I said. “And he was a volunteer, and through all of it he had a 3.75 GPA.”

And then I took it one step more.

“And perhaps you can tell me when not working became a crime worthy of the death penalty. I thought that was reserved for murderers, not people who are lazy,” I said. “Oh, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to work and not depend on handouts.”

He was a little taken aback, but he looked at Mike’s picture again.

“Did he try to buy insurance?” he asked.

Of course he tried to get insurance, but no one would sell it to him because a birth defect was a pre-existing condition.

He wanted to know more about this tragedy. That’s when I explained to him that this is not a unique story, that up to 2,000 families in North Carolina face the same thing every year because we haven’t expanded Medicaid.

“I’m a navigator, so I help people enroll in insurance plans through the Marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. But if someone’s income doesn’t rise above the poverty level, I have to break the news to them that there’s nothing I can do to get them access to health care.

“Do you know what that does to me?” I asked. “Do you have any idea how it feels to tell someone they can’t have the care they need? It’s like sentencing someone to death even though they’ve done nothing to deserve it. It breaks my heart every time because I know the odds are that they or someone in their family will suffer and perhaps die for no reason other than the people in charge in their state don’t care whether they live or die.”

These are real people, dying at the rate of up to five a day, I told him. Every day in North Carolina. They die from cancer that was diagnosed too late, from complications of diabetes that isn’t controlled because the patient can’t afford the glucose testing supplies, from strokes brought on by undiagnosed or uncontrolled high blood pressure, from heart attacks brought on by untreated high cholesterol.

The legislator listened to me. I’ll give him credit for that because most of them won’t talk to me. In fact, two have had me arrested for waiting outside their offices to talk to them, as is my right under the state Constitution.

So, I was pleased that this man would see me and hear me out, that he appeared to listen to what I had to say.

After the legislative visits, I spoke at a press conference. After Rev. William Barber invoked the passage in Isaiah about unjust laws that cause pain to the poor, I invoked the Judgment Day passage from Matthew.

I envision Jesus saying to these politicians who put political ideology before human life, “I was sick and you repealed the Affordable Care Act or you refused to expand Medicaid. I was hungry and you voted to cut food stamps and Meals on Wheels …”

I don’t know if I changed anyone’s mind yesterday, but perhaps I planted a seed. Maybe that one legislator will see Mike’s photo in his mind and he’ll begin to understand that we’re dealing with real people’s lives here.

Nine years ago yesterday, it was Friday. We would have just 11 more days with him.

 

 

The Angel Mike

I was visiting my family in South Georgia a couple weeks ago, playing with my brilliant and beautiful great-granddaughter, Reaghan, when she noticed the pin I wear every day.

“What’s this?” she asked tapping on its face.

“It’s an angel,” I said. “I wear it all the time.”

“Why?”

I knew there would come a day when I would tell her about Uncle Mike. I wasn’t sure where to start. She’s almost 4, so she understands that people die. I wasn’t sure how to tell her why he died, though.

“Well, did you know Pop-Pop had a brother? His name was Mike.”

I told her he got sick and no one would take care of him.

She looked shocked.

“Why not?”

“Because he wasn’t rich enough to pay them,” I said. “To some people, money is more important than anything else. Uncle Mike didn’t have much.”

I wanted to focus more on who he was, though, so I told her he was the silliest person any of us had ever known — a real goofball.

She wasn’t sure she believed that.

“Oh no, Grandma’s right,” my son said. “Uncle Mike was a goofball.”

I brought out my phone, where I have a bunch of photos stored. There was one of him in a flower petal bathing cap, another of him making a goofy face, one of him and me making faces …

“He was a goofball,” she said, giggling.

I told her I’d had another angel pin, but it fell off and I never found it, so a man I know who makes jewelry made this one for me.

Reaghan dubbed the pin, The Angel Mike. He watches over all of us, she said, now that he’s a real angel.

Mike and Meghan

That’s when my granddaughter, Meghan, told me she’ll have a memorial table at her wedding next month, and on it will be her favorite photo of her and Mike. It was taken a few days before his wedding, on the day I gave him the handmade quilt that I had just given her as a wedding gift.

When Mike died, Janet gave the quilt back to me because she wanted it to be handed down to another generation, and they had no children.

When I asked Meghan if she would like to have Mike’s quilt instead of me making her one, she cried.

“You’d give that to me?” she choked.

“You’re the first one to get married,” I said. “This is meant to be handed on.”

If only Mike had lived long enough to meet Reaghan. If only he had been here to see Meghan get married. If only … if only …

Nine years ago today, James and Janet went to Goodwill and bought a wheelchair, which they dubbed the Mike-around.

Mike was too weak to walk very far, so they thought the wheelchair was just the thing to get him out onto the deck and into the fresh spring air.

Nine years ago today it was a Thursday. We had 12 days left with him.

Nine years ago today

This is my son, Mike, a kind and wonderful young man. Nine years ago today, I brought him home to die.

Nine years ago today, I brought my son home to die.

In my heart, I feel as though it could have been yesterday.

I remember everything about the day because it’s etched on my heart as the day his impending death became real.

We had coffee in the living room of his apartment after his roommate and best friend, James, left for work. From across the room, Mike looked up at me and said, “I’m ready for this to be over.”

I was not ready. I would never be ready. I’m still not ready to be without him.

We had an appointment for his third chemo infusion, hoping to give him a few more weeks or months.

But he hadn’t gained any weight at the last appointment, and his doctor had said he needed to put on two pounds. I had gone to the Duke Chapel to pray for those two pounds. It didn’t seem like too much to ask. Two pounds.

But it wasn’t to be. We drove from Cary to Durham to the cancer center at Duke University Medical Center. We passed by Mangum Street and he laughed and asked what I though man gum was.

“I can’t help it,” he said. “I think that every time I pass that street.”

We got to the clinic and he stepped on the scale. He had lost another pound.

“I tried!” he said. “I really tried!”

I’ll never forget the look on his face — frustration, disappointment, disbelief.

Dr. Herb Hurwitz came in and told us there was nothing more he could do. His eyes filled with tears as he said, “You’re a good person, Mike. You don’t deserve what’s happening to you.”

I remember thinking it would have been nice if Dr. Patrick Hammen in Savannah had felt that way. Perhaps if he had, Mike and I wouldn’t he hearing these words from Dr. Hurwitz now.

But Hammen had given up on Mike before he even started treatment for his recurrence — which wouldn’t have happened if Hammen had been willing to take payments instead of demanding cash up front for a colonoscopy three and four years earlier.

Hammen had been very matter-of-fact when he told Mike the cancer was back and a cure was unlikely, and he never came back to check on Mike during his nine more days in the hospital.

And here, Dr. Hurwitz was weeping as he told us there was nothing more left to do and that Mike should come home with me and enjoy what time he had left.

As we were leaving the clinic, I was pushing Mike in a wheelchair and he looked up at me.

“How much time do you think I have left?” he asked. “Two weeks?”

“I hope it’s more than that,” I said.

But it was not.

We called James and Janet and they both met us at the apartment. They had packed up a few things they knew Mike would want, including his gaming computer, his game console and games, a few books and all his plaid flannel pajama bottoms and T-shirts, underwear and ostomy supplies. It all fit in the back of my Honda CRV.

At that point, these few things were about all he owned, except for a massive antique desk, which would go to Janet.

James and Janet would come out to Asheville the following day; Mike and I would do the four-hour trip alone, stopping at an outlet store about halfway home so I could get a memory foam pillow for his bony butt. I think it was as much an excuse for him to have a cigarette as any soreness in his backside, but I was willing to indulge him.

He weighed about 102 pounds at this point, but he would lose more since his body had stopped absorbing any food.

For the next two weeks, I would share him with friends and family from as far away as New York and New England, from Savannah and Cary, and from Asheville. All of us tried to soak up as much of his presence, wisdom, humor and love as we could. We knew it would have to last us a lifetime.

Nine years ago today, he came home to die. I would have given my own life to spare his, but it was not to be, and the pain of losing him has not abated. I was so unwilling to imagine life beyond his death that I convinced myself my heart would stop when his did. It didn’t, of course, and all I know to do now is to fight for access to health care for everyone because no one should have to go through what my family has endured.

On the day he died, some 45,000 Americans were dying every year from lack of access to care. Things are somewhat better now because more than 20 million people have access to care than had it then, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

But the occupant of the White House, the Speaker of the House and other Republican politicians want to go back to that. Perhaps if they had to watch their own children die the way I had to, perhaps if they had to live with the unspeakable pain I do, they would change their minds.

But I wouldn’t wish that on anyone — even on them.

Nine years ago today, I brought my child home to die.

We would have two more weeks with him.

 

 

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.

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