Whose fault is this, anyway?

This is my son, Mike, a very wise young man. I continue to be influenced and informed by his compassion and love.

This is my son, Mike, a very wise young man. I continue to be influenced and informed by his compassion and love.

My late son came to me in a dream last night. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, he usually has something profound to say.

I have been so discouraged since the election, which to me is the death of tolerance and inclusion in America. Yesterday, after seeing footage of followers of the man who would be president doing a Nazi salute, I was thinking that I don’t even want to live to see what happens.

Really. I’m 64 and I’ve lived most of my life in an America that was working to make itself better. Women managed to claim sovereignty over our own bodies. The Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, the rights of interracial and LGBTQ couples to marry, all happened within my lifetime.

And now this: a common criminal, a con man, misogynist, racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic narcissist is elected to the highest office in the land.

I have been furious at people who voted for him, even though I love some of them as friends and family members.

But Mike had something profound to say again: “You can’t blame sheep for being led to the slaughter.”

People have been fooled by this con man, and his accomplices at Fox News, CNN and all the other corporate “news” outlets that gave him free time, that promoted his candidacy as entertainment and that refused to investigate his shortcomings and crimes.

To make things worse, the corporate media played Hillary Clinton as a villain — a nasty woman. News of her private e-mail server (the same one used by her Republican predecessors at the State Department) was all over the news, as were the charges that she had something to do with the four American deaths in Benghazi. For 30 years, she was portrayed as a shrill, conniving bitch, and the American public bought that, even though she has been a dedicated public servant.

As for whether Bernie Sanders would have won — and he was my preferred candidate — do you think these people making Nazi salutes would have let a Jew into the White House? Really?

The corporate media have led the American public to the slaughter. They have shrugged off their responsibility to investigate and inform, and instead have gone for lies and profit.

They have peddled the false equivalency of “both sides do it,” until people believed it was equal, and they continue to do it as they claim I have no right to be angry because the other side hated Obama.

Obama isn’t a criminal. He didn’t have to settle a fraud lawsuit before taking office. He was never accused of rape. He never cheated on his wife — his only wife, by the way.

Mike was right about that, but as he said he had to leave, I told him once again that I didn’t want to be here, especially without him, and he answered the same way he has before:

“That’s not an option, Mom. You have work to do.”

I have work to do.

I told a Muslim friend this morning I will go with her to the grocery store or anywhere else she is afraid to go alone. She was born in Pakistan and still wears traditional clothing — a sari and hijab. But she is an American citizen. This is her homeland now, but she is afraid to be here.

A Jewish friend says the raised arms of white supporters of this man at a political rally remind him of the tattoo on his mother’s forearm. If you don’t know what that means, look it up. He said it also reminded him of the hatred in his schoolmates’ eyes when they beat him up because he was a Jew — and he went to school in a middle-class, suburban town.

Another Jewish friend was followed by a pickup truck, plastered with bumper stickers for this man and sporting two Confederate flags, as she left her synagogue with her 7-year-old grandson. The truck pulled up beside her and the two white men inside started screaming anti-Semitic insults at her.

I have felt compelled, as a survivor of sexual violence, to help other survivors cope with this sexual predator by starting a support group called #IBelieveTheWomen, as this man promises to sue and ruin all the women coming forward to tell of his unwanted sexual advances toward them.

I will not accept that this country really wants to be led by this criminal. I will not be sweet and give him a chance to govern when I know what he is and what he wants to do.

But I will stop blaming the voters when the culprit is the slaughterhouse personnel at Fox News, Breitbart and other peddlers of right-wing bullshit.

I will blame The New York Times and other so-called mainstream media for giving this man a pass until it was too late to turn the ship around. I will blame corporate newspaper companies for laying off reporters and editors at a time when our country most needed real information.

This will not end well. The right controls all three branches of our federal government now. These people will not give up the power they have attained, and some of us will die fighting them.

Just look at what’s happening in North Carolina. Our governor has lost a close race, and the state Supreme Court has gone to a Democratic majority. The governor has refused to concede and the GOP legislature is hinting it might add two justices to the court to give the Republicans the majority again. And there’s talk of throwing the gubernatorial race to the legislature, which would appoint the Republican governor to another term.

Now legislators are denying they will have a special session to increase the size of the court and stack it, but they have called special sessions before to push through unpopular and ill-considered legislation.

Those of us who still have critical thinking skills need to use them now. Our very existence as a nation depends on it.

Leaving now is not an option. We have work to do.

 

 

 

A message to Millennials about disappointment and revolution

bird party

You so wanted Bernie. I know. I did, too.

But I also wanted Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern.

My generation had the Vietnam War, as seemingly never-ending as Afghanistan is today.

We had the draft, and rich kids got out of it because they could afford college and then grad school and medical deferments.

Today, college is even more expensive — much, much more expensive, actually — giving most of your generation the choice of military service or a lifetime of debt.

The system is even more corrupt and you feel powerless. Bernie was our best hope of fixing it, but the system crushed our hopes. The DNC steam-rolled the primaries, I believe, because Hillary was promised the nomination this time for stepping aside last time. The media, which worked hand-in-hand with Wall Street and Big Money, ignored Bernie and focused on the circus that is Trump.

I do get it.

And I’m not going to tell you that you HAVE to vote for Hillary, even though I believe we can’t allow Trump anywhere near the White House, nor can we allow any Republican to appoint justices to the Supreme Court.

But you have thought about that, and your attitude is NOT that of a spoiled child. Don’t let anyone tell you it is.

Perhaps we really do need for the current system to crumble before we can build a better one. I hope for your sake that’s not the case.

You’re scared about what’s happening to this country because you have to live in it for the next 50 or 60 years — that is, if you can survive on starvation wages and without access to quality health care.

So what do you do?

Well, we all work together.

Bernie started a movement, and perhaps, like Moses, he won’t lead us into the Promised Land. Perhaps it’s up to the next generation to finish the work he has started. Maybe we need to build on his work at the local, state and Congressional levels.

There are a number of candidates running for offices down-ticket who share Bernie’s views and passions. Vote for them. Get out and work for them. Do phone banking for an hour or two a week. Knock on doors. Donate to their campaigns if you have a spare few bucks.

Don’t let any right-wing candidate run unopposed. Find a candidate, either in an established party or in a third party. Even now, when it’s too late to get on the printed ballot for November, we can — and must — run write-in campaigns for good candidates. Local and state elections are our best hope right now, and the best way to build a viable third party.

The right built its success over many years, quietly winning local elections, then seats in state legislatures and finally taking Congress.

I’m part of the Moral Monday Movement, which is a fusion movement. Together we work on health care, voting rights, common sense gun laws, education, LGBT rights, the campaign for a living wage, safe housing …

The most frustrating thing about the Movement is that it takes time.

It’s important to not listen to elders who tell you that you don’t know how to make these changes, because the phrase, “that’s not how we did it,” is so dangerous.

We did make change, but we didn’t finish the job, obviously. We changed laws and the right wingers gained power and chipped away at the changes we made.

But we are fighting back. Yesterday, I was in Richmond, Va., in federal court, listening to the NC NAACP’s lawyers challenging North Carolina’s voter suppression law. I think it went well. I think we have a good chance of overturning most or all of the provisions.

In fact, most of the worst of the laws these clowns in North Carolina have passed are working their way through the courts, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

I hate that it takes so much time to do this work, but I will stay in the fight because I’m fighting for your generation more than for my own.

And I want you to know that there are more people of my generation who understand than you think, and we want to work with you.

With our experience and your fresh ideas, this revolution (actually, more of an evolution) can’t fail.

The death of American journalism

Corporate-Media-control

So, here’s what we’ve come to: Donald Drumpf’s penis size is all over the news this morning, but Bernie Sanders, who’s talking about real issues, real problems and real solutions, can barely get the time of day.

I get it; penises sell. Everyone’s interested in the discussion about penises.

A responsible Fourth Estate, however, would walk away from the circus and talk about income inequality, systemic racism, the lack of access to health care, the ravaging of our public education system, endless wars, the rampant destruction of the natural world, climate change, poisons in our food and water, voter suppression …

You get the gist.

What we get instead is the distraction, what my late son used to call “sparkly issues.”

“Ooooh, look over here. The leading Republican candidate is talking about the size of his penis. Sparkly!”

I worked in newspapers for 30 years before I volunteered to be laid off so I could pursue a life of activism after the death of my son. I’m deeply grateful I left when I did.

I was fortunate to be a reporter at a time when news stories might shame state and local officials to do the right thing. Stories my colleagues and I wrote helped to change state policies.

But those stories took time to research and write, and they weren’t sexy. It was my job to explain complex government policies and how they affected real people. My colleagues and I were given the time it took to do the research and write the stories.

Today, my former colleagues work harder than ever, but they aren’t often given the time for investigative journalism. Corporate overlords have cut newsroom staffs to the bone and then some. Older reporters who remember what it was like to write about corruption or bad policy are overloaded with work. They can be disciplined for not having enough bylines. Story count means more than content.

Too often, today’s journalists aren’t encouraged to tackle the issues; they’re asked to contribute to the drivel that distracts people from the real issues. I have some very frustrated friends in the business, and none of this is their fault.

When I criticize the corporate media, I am in no way blaming the front-line people for what has happened.

The decisions about what will be at the top of the news don’t rest with reporters, or even most of the editors who work with them. Much of it comes from the corner offices in the form of kudos for the number of page views online and demands for more of the same.

My former company, Gannett, is in no small part responsible for this mess. Newspapers aren’t dying; they are being suffocated. Gannett demands obscene profit margins, and when the profits aren’t big enough, the company boots a few more reporters and copy editors to the curb. Employees may be loyal, but the company most certainly is not.

News became a product, not a mission, and that’s what is killing newspapers.

So, my former colleagues work in a pressure cooker, where they face increasing demands, minuscule raises that don’t keep up with inflation and the constant threat of unemployment, no matter how good they are.

Most reporters are still trying to do good work, and some have left corporate media to pursue good journalism.

Here in Asheville, we have Carolina Public Press, a nonprofit headed by a former Gannett reporter, and The Asheville Blade, a one-person operation covering local government and issues. We have some great bloggers who are as likely to break stories as the local paper or TV or radio stations.

This well may be the future of journalism, but it has a lot of noise trying to drown it out, and the rise of Donald Trump and the coverage of his penis size is sad proof that we may not return to civilized, responsible journalism any time soon.

 

 

 

‘I’ll do anything’

A rainy Monday in Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC. Occupiers believe they're about to be evicted and arrested, even though they were told they could stay for four months just a few weeks ago.

I drove some winter tents and heaters from a military tent surplus store near my house to Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC, last week. As I was in the office arranging to have my U-Haul loaded, a man came in, cap in hand, and asked if the company was hiring.

“We might be soon,” the woman said. “But it’s really hard, heavy work.”

The man looked to be in his 40s.

“That’s OK,” he said. “I can do that. I’ll do anything.”

He hadn’t worked in a year, and because the job he had before that — setting up mobile homes — was as an independent contractor, he wasn’t collecting unemployment benefits.

That’s a trick contractors play often. You can work for the same place for years, be there on time every day and work hard, and still not be able to collect when you get canned. They avoid paying benefits and they avoid having any responsibility if something happens to you.

The man had applied to several home center stores, but was turned away because he had bad credit. That’s right, Home Depot does a credit check on you when you apply for a job and then turns you away if your score is too low.

He’ll stop back in at the tent surplus company and maybe they’ll have a job for him. They won’t do a credit check, either.

It stiffened my resolve to stay involved with the Occupy Movement, and to be more involved with the one here in Asheville.

The 1 percent is getting out its big guns to get rid of us, though. Reportedly, the federal Department Homeland Security has been advising mayors on conference calls about how to break up the camps. Here in Asheville, ours has moved a couple of times and dozens of people have been arrested.

Occupy is not going away, no matter how many camps are broken up. We will gather elsewhere. We will gather on private property if we have to — there are churches and other organizations that support what we are doing. We will continue to educate people about the many ways the 1 percent is screwing us. We will continue to have direct actions.

This movement is not fading away as the media would have us believe. There were more tents in Freedom Plaza when I was there than there were when I left six weeks ago, and McPherson Square is even more crowded. Both camps have received notice that they will be broken up, but neither is moving. No one is afraid of being arrested because we all are committed to making meaningful change.

The media keep demanding a list of demands. We keep telling them what’s happening to Americans and they say we’re unfocused. Perhaps it seems that way because there are so many things wrong. We all have our favorite issues — I have worked toward quality health care for all Americans, others have worked for a living wage, safe and affordable housing, labor rights, education, mental health and disability rights, a cleaner environment and a move toward sustainable and renewable energy sources. None of us has made much headway on any of these justice issues. The 1 percent’s corrupt money is like a brushfire. No sooner do we put it out in one place than another flame pops up.

Under the banner of the Occupy movement, we are working together now, and we are not going away.

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