You can’t erase their lives

Me, singing as I was arrested for the fifth time for trying to talk to lawmakers about fixing our broken health care system.

I got arrested again.

For the fifth time, I was arrested for trying to speak to lawmakers about the mess that is our health care system.

They don’t care.

They don’t care that tens of thousands of people die prematurely every year, and that millions can’t afford the care they need, even with insurance.

They practice the religion of I-got-mine-get-your-own, as they and their families all have the best care this country has to offer.

I was a speaker at the Poor People’s Campaign rally in Washington on Monday, and we had a coffin in front of the stage to illustrate the fact that innocent people are dying every day from lack of access to health care and from industrial pollution.

And as these things happen, those in power continue to roll back environmental regulations and chip away at the Affordable Care Act, which has given millions of Americans access to the care they need.

As I was about to step up to the microphone, the police told organizers that they had to remove the coffin.

Several times, I have been denied entry to legislators’ offices and public events because I won’t surrender the photo I carry of my late son. That’s why I have the T-shirt with his photo on it. So far, no one has tried to confiscate that. But the forced removal of the casket became the same thing as the attempted confiscation of my son’s photo.

Something in me snapped.

It’s as though they want to erase the lives they have sacrificed on the altar of greed.

I stepped up to the mic.

“You can force us to remove this symbol, but that doesn’t change the fact that my son lived!” I said. “He DID exist. He was here. He was loved. And he was murdered by a broken system.”

The crowd began to chant, “SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!” But the casket was removed anyway.

The problem is, these people who have the power to save tens of thousands of lives a year refuse to make any move to do so. In fact, the “Justice” Department has announced it no longer will defend the Affordable Care Act in court when states challenge it.

These powerful people call themselves “pro-life,” and “Christian,” as they try to take away women’s rights to control their own bodies, and I’m not just talking about abortion. I’m talking about attacks on contraception and on women’s health clinics, which are the only access to health care many poor women have.

As it says on the T-shirt with my son’s photo on it, “When you take away access to care, real people die.”

And closing women’s clinics is taking away access to care.

When you care more about whether a woman is having “moral” sex than her very life, you are not pro-life.

When you care more about whether a business has to serve a gay couple than you do about real people’s lives, you are not pro-life.

When you think people should have to work three full-time jobs at minimum wage just to make a living wage, you are not pro-life.

When you attack education, you are not pro-life.

When you attack Meals on Wheels, food stamps and free and reduced-price school lunches, you are not pro-life.

When you put people who have committed nonviolent crimes into for-profit prisons, you are not pro-life.

When you think we’re OK spending more than half of all our nation’s discretionary dollars on the war economy, you are not pro-life.

When you tear children from their parents’ arms and place them in cages in an old Walmart, you are not pro-life.

When you hate someone because of the color of their skin or the name of the god they worship, you are not pro-life.

When you rob people of the right to vote to determine the destiny of their own nation, you are not pro-life.

When you’re OK with children’s lives being snuffed out so that you can continue to have unfettered access to high-powered, military-grade guns, you are not pro-life.

When you think it’s perfectly OK to poison the water and the land of poor people, you are not pro-life.

These murderers seem just a little uncomfortable being reminded of the lives they have been responsible for ending.

Bad public policy is lethal, and they don’t want to be reminded of that. They only want to think of themselves and how much more money and power they can amass.

But people are beginning to rise up. Thousands have been arrested during nonviolent protests in the last month, and more are coming.

We are coming for the corrupt people in power.

We are coming to end the greed that fuels our government now.

We are coming to save the lives being lost to that greed.

We are the ones who are pro-life.

We are the ones who are moral.

We are the ones you should fear because we will win, maybe not in November, but eventually.

Your days are numbered.

We. Will. Win.

You can take away my son’s coffin, you can try to confiscate his photo, you can call me names, you can arrest me.

But you will not erase my beloved son’s life. I will not allow that.

 

 

 

 

On Memorial Day, we should stand (or kneel) with those who protest racism

This was never about the national anthem or disrespect for the flag or the military. It is and always has been about systemic racism, and the racist response of the NFL proves that we have a problem.

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: The protest of taking a knee while the National Anthem plays is not directed at the anthem or the flag, nor is it meant to disrespect the military.

Colin Kaepernick originally stayed seated on the bench to protest the police killings of unarmed black men and boys. When a veteran asked him to kneel instead, that’s what he did.

Now the NFL has banned kneeling, and people are screaming that it’s unconstitutional to do so.

That’s not so. Employers are allowed to ban certain behaviors by employees while they’re working. As a newspaper reporter. I was banned from supporting candidates publicly — and that included having political bumper stickers on my car or signs in my yard.

In more and more states, people can be fired for any reason — or for no reason. These are called “right-to-work” states because they ban mandatory union membership.

If the NFL wants to fire people who protest unjust executions and racist policies, it can do so.

That doesn’t make it right.

I am boycotting the NFL because of this and because of its cover-up of the devastating brain injuries its players suffer, not to mention its extortion of money from taxpayers for the construction of stadiums.

But let’s get something straight about those players taking a knee during the anthem. The protest was never about disrespect for the flag or anyone in the military, but about the lives stolen from us by trigger-happy cops who seem to believe these young men and boys’ lives are worthless.

It is almost without exception that young white men who actually have killed people are taken into custody, but young black men like Michael Brown are shot dead in the street for no good reason.

After Brown’s murder, a video of him arguing with a store owner surfaced, as though that justified his slaughter. Dylan Roof executed nine people in a church in Charleston, SC, and he was given a bulletproof vest and fed a burger and fries on his way to jail. But Michael Brown was executed and people used a tussle with a shop owner to justify it — but the cop who murdered him had not seen the video and had no way of knowing the tussle had happened. Michael Brown, an 18-year-old boy, was tried, convicted and executed for walking in the street.

Stephon Clark was slaughtered for having the temerity to use his cell phone in his grandmother’s back yard at night.

Philando Castile was murdered during a traffic stop after telling the officer he had a gun but was not reaching for it. His girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter witnessed the execution.

Tamir Rice was just 12 years old when he was shot and killed by a police officer while playing with a toy gun in a park near his home.

In Charlotte, NC. Keith Lamar Scott was shot and killed while sitting in his car.

Eric Garner was choked to death by a New York City police officer after being accused of selling single cigarettes.

In Baltimore, Freddie Gray died mysteriously while being transported in a police van.

None of the cops responsible for these murders was convicted of a crime.

In 2012, I attended a gathering to talk about poverty in an African-American neighborhood a few miles from my home. I noticed pock marks in the side of the church where we were meeting. Across the street, an apartment building had the same pock marks and there were holes in the glass.

All of these were caused by bullets, shot by police officers who were chasing a young man suspected of stealing a $300 game console. Fortunately, none of the 76 bullets they shot hit the suspect or anyone else.

When I rose to speak about poverty and health care, I opened with the fact that this would never have happened in my neighborhood because my neighbors are white.

Last summer, here in Asheville, two cops accosted a young man who was on his way home from a 12-hour shift at a local Cracker Barrel restaurant. They beat and tased him. Someone leaked the body camera footage six months later, and the officer, who had been allowed to resign after a four-month internal investigation, was finally charged with assault. His trial hasn’t happened yet, so he still could get off. Despite other officers taking part in the crime and the cover-up, no one else has been charged. And when City Council proposed some changes in policy to reduce the likelihood of this happening again, the police union threatened to sue to stop them.

What we have here is racism so pervasive that it touches people of color every day of their lives — which are all too likely to be cut short by that racism.

So, on this Memorial Day, I will grieve not just for the soldiers killed in our overseas adventures, but also for the innocent African-American men and boys slaughtered by our unjust “justice” system.

May they all rest in peace and may their loved ones find comfort.

These hate-filled racists are not Christians

There’s something you need to know about the Evangelicals who support the racism and hate of the Republican Party: They’re not Christians. And with this statement, I’m looking right at you, Franklin Graham.

Jesus said we would know a tree by its fruit. Well, the fruit of these people is about as rotten as rotten gets.

I’m not someone looking at this from the outside — I was raised among these people. They have been with us all along, but they lay low for generations, just waiting for their time.

In the 1960s, I heard them talking about “taking over for Jesus,” but they never understood that Jesus never preached hate or violence. Jesus taught his followers not to hate, not to exclude.

They would make prayer mandatory in schools and turn their backs on science. They would make sure all our elected officials were of a mindset similar to theirs.

They shunned “worldly” things like dancing, movies, playing cards and going to the beach.

As a child, I was handed religious tracts to hand out to strangers on street corners. There was some adult supervision, but by the time I was a teenager, I had learned to tell adults I was going with another group and then slip away with a couple of friends.

The religious tracts were all about how most of us would burn in hell. The illustrations were more than a little disturbing. We were being scared into following their version of Jesus.

The scare tactics didn’t work for those of us who could think critically, but they did their best to squelch any critical thinking skills in their children. Books other than the Bible or other approved Christian books were all but banned. I remember reading George Orwell’s “1984” as a freshman in high school and a girl from my church approached me and told me I should return the book to the library because it was “from the pits of hell.”

When my best friend became pregnant at age 16 and decided not to marry the father, her father was asked to resign as a deacon. When she lost a set of twin boys in her seventh month, one of the church ladies told her, “See? God punishes.”

We were Daughters of Eve, and we were guilty of Eve’s original sin, which was seduction. Sex was always our fault, even when it was unwelcome, even when we were children. It was dirty and not spoken of aloud, but we got the message that any encounter was our fault and not the man’s, and it was a filthy sin.

We judged everyone. Even TV newscasters. The Vietnam War was a good thing because we were killing those Godless (racial epithet for Asians). That was actually said from the pulpit by a guest preacher when I was 17, and when I called him out after the service by saying I don’t think God wants us to kill any of God’s children, I was told in no uncertain terms I should show more respect.

“I AM showing respect,” I replied. “Anyone who condones the murder of any of God’s children is the one lacking respect.”

That’s when I decided I was done with Christianity, or at least the Evangelical brand of it.

I continued to follow the teachings of Christ, and I still try to be that loving, nonjudgmental person I am called to be. I don’t think poor people are lazy. I don’t think criminals should be locked away and treated like slaves. I don’t think the current occupant of the White House is sent by God — unless, of course, God wants to punish us for being such assholes.

I don’t understand how anyone thinks Jesus said God rewards us with material goods for being good Christians. That’s called prosperity theology and Joel Osteen has made millions off it.

You can pick and choose your scriptures to say just about anything you want. The Bible has been used to rationalize slavery, war, the death penalty and the greed of the uber-wealthy.

But my life is guided by the tale of Judgment Day in the Gospel of Matthew, where we are told that whatever we do to “the least of these, my brothers and sisters,” is what we do to Jesus himself. You can’t claim to worship someone and then be abusive to that person.

I don’t do the justice work I do to get into Heaven or because God the Father is watching everything I do. I do it because we’re all human. I do it because no one deserves to be in poverty.

When Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you,” it was an admonition to work to abolish poverty, to set public policies that lift people out of poverty instead of keeping them down by just throwing them scraps.

If you think Jesus is smiling on the United States, you are the problem. You are not Christian, you are part of the evil that’s gripping this nation right now.

I refuse to identify with Christians anymore because this group of right-wing, hate-filled, ego-driven people do. I call myself a follower of the teachings of Christ.

And I work to change these evil policies that mire people in poverty and hopelessness.

I know I’m not supposed to judge, but the hatred I see around me every day is closing in on me. I am frustrated and angry.

I’m looking at you, Franklin Graham. I’m praying you might see the light.

 

 

Officials don’t have the luxury of outrage when they’re the ones who failed us

Racist violence by police has been with us for a long, long time. The Civil Rights laws of the 1960s were supposed to end that. Unfortunately, it’s still with us.

 

Last August, Johnnie Jermaine Rush, a young African-American man, was walking home after work. It was late at night and I imagine he was tired and ready to kick back and relax.

He walked across the street near McCormick Field, and he was stopped by Officer Chris Hickman and an officer trainee who was with him that night. They claimed he was jaywalking, which isn’t really possible where he crossed because there’s no crosswalk. To make the charge even more absurd, tens of thousands of baseball fans cross in that same spot every year before and after baseball games, and there are no jaywalking tickets issues to any of them.

Rush got scared and ran. I say he was justified, especially since Hickman caught up with him and beat the crap out of him.

The incident wasn’t made public. The supervisor who interviewed Rush when he complained didn’t believe him. That interview was part of the “change” in procedures when a citizen complains, and the sergeant who interviewed Rush called him a liar.

To be clear, I think real change means that any new procedures have to work, and I think the sergeant who called Rush a liar should be fired. That’s the only way you prove we mean it when we say zero tolerance.

Asheville Police Chief Tammy Hooper took away Hickman’s gun and put him on administrative duty and reassigned the trainee to another officer. It took four months for officials to decide he should leave the force, even though a review of all his body cam footage revealed other incidents, and he was allowed to resign. The body cam footage was not made public, thanks to a law passed a couple of years ago by the state’s Republican-dominated General Assembly.

Two months later — six months after the event — someone leaked the footage to the Asheville Citizen-Times, which made it public.

The first reaction of those in power was that they wanted to investigate who leaked the video.

But the pressure was on, so everyone began to act outraged by the video. They were shocked, shocked, I tell you, that such a thing could happen.

But this is not a new problem. Malfeasance has been discovered again and again, the most recent fiasco being the disaster that was the police evidence room, where record keeping was so bad that no one was able to figure out what was missing.

So the mayor and city council released a statement saying how angry they are.

I say they don’t get the luxury of anger because their job was to prevent this kind of incident. They are responsible, especially Mayor Esther Manheimer, and she needs to resign. The police chief needs to go, too, and any member of City Council who knew about this. They don’t deserve another chance.

The video was shown to an assistant city manager and an assistant city attorney, who I’m betting told their bosses. The footage and the incident were kept quiet.

Now that it’s out there, the mayor and council are outraged, of course, and the statement again made a promise of zero tolerance for this kind of thing. Meanwhile, Hickman, 31, was still free and not charged with any crime.

Perhaps because officials finally realized that actions really do speak louder than words, Hickman was arrested and charged with felony assault by strangulation, and misdemeanor assault inflicting serious injury and communicating threats. He is free on $10,000 unsecured bond.

The statement released Wednesday by the mayor and city council promises we’ll do better, but those promises have been made before.

You want us to believe you mean it? Disband the entire police force and don’t rehire anyone who doesn’t pass a rigorous psychological evaluation. Get rid of the bullies and amend the union contract to prevent these violent, racist people from getting away with this kind of behavior.

The council’s statement said, “… Finally, a word to our police officers who viewed this video and were angry or ashamed, or otherwise rejected what you saw. We say thank you. We welcome you to stay and continue the transformation of our police department into one that reflects the best policies and practices available. Likewise, to any officers who may not have been disturbed by this, we want to make it clear that Asheville has zero tolerance for racism or excessive use of force by our officers.”

These words are meaningless when incidents like this aren’t dealt with until someone leaks the video to the press. And when officials’ first reaction is to call for an investigation into who leaked the footage, when it takes a full week for the mayor and council to issue a statement, you’ll have to excuse my cynicism when I call bullshit.

I want to know how many more incidents like this — or even worse than this one — are being kept secret. Just because body cam footage isn’t in the public domain doesn’t mean you can use that to hide violence and racism on the force. I want to know if there are corpses hidden in secret video footage. I have no trust left. None.

I am angry. I am outraged. And I am furious at that statement because I don’t want anger from city government, I want results. Period. I want the mayor and the police chief to resign. I want the police sergeant who called Rush a liar fired, and I want the trainee who didn’t stop the beating to be fired.

Finally, I want assurances that council will implement real change instead of just talking about it.

 

 

 

 

We can’t go much lower

Jesus wouldn’t want anything to do with this, I guarantee it.

 

The level of hypocrisy is breathtaking.

Republicans say Al Franken needs to resign because he may have kissed women (adults) without permission and he was in an extremely inappropriate gag photo.

But they believe Jesus supports Roy Moore, who was banned from a shopping mall for stalking teenage girls when he was in his 30s and who has had nearly a dozen women come forward to report inappropriate sexual advances toward them when they were under age 18. Moore also was removed from his court bench twice for failing to follow court orders to remove Christian symbols from his courtroom.

That’s not the Jesus I know.

The Jesus I follow (not worship — he never wanted to be worshiped, he wanted to be followed) demands we care for the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and give drink to the thirsty. He demands that we love our enemies. That’s the one I have trouble with when my enemies want to strip 68 million Americans — including 9 million children — of their access to health care, to keep millions of people in poverty while further enriching the 1 percent at the top of our deeply immoral economic system.

For decades, the policy of the Republican party has been to take from the poor and middle class and give to the very wealthiest. They don’t care if people die, just as long as every pregnancy results in the live birth of a person they can neglect and kill later.

The so-called tax “reform” bill is proof of that.

The failure to reauthorize funding for CHIP and community care clinics and the sustained attacks on the Affordable Care Act prove that.

It is more important to Republicans for these deeply unjust and immoral policies to be carried out than the saving of my life or yours.

I walked through all three Senate office buildings in Washington yesterday, delivering letters begging for the re-authorization of CHIP and community care clinics and the shoring up of the Affordable Care Act. The letter had a photo of my late son and a reminder that when you strip access to care away from people, they die.

Republicans care more about moving wealth up than they do about any human life, and then they call themselves “pro-life,” and Christian, when they are neither.

As a party (and I won’t judge the intent of individuals here) Republicans are anti-life. They are pro-war, pro-death penalty, pro-gun and pro-corporations. They choose support for these things over support of human life every single time.

Every. Single. Time.

And then they invoke Jesus.

Well, when Jesus said to care for the sick, he didn’t mean to turn people who can’t pay away. He didn’t mean to attack systems that help people who aren’t wealthy so that tens of thousands die from medical neglect every year.

When Jesus said to clothe the naked, he did not mean that we should keep minimum wage at about one-third of what it actually costs to live and then criticize people for not being able to buy coats and shoes for their children.

When Jesus said to feed the hungry, he did not mean we should cut food stamps, Meals on Wheels and free and reduced-price meal programs in schools.

When Jesus told us to visit people in prison, he did not mean we should turn over control of prisons to profiteers, who would starve prisoners to squeeze a little more money out of it.

When Jesus said to give drink to the thirsty, he did not mean offer only water laced with lead to poor children in Flint, Michigan.

When Jesus said to spread the Good News of redemption, he did not mean to discriminate against people who don’t have white skin or discriminate against people who don’t share your religious views.

When Jesus said not to hate, he meant you should go ahead and make that wedding cake for the gay couple who want to celebrate the joining of their lives.

When Jesus told us to love one another as he has loved us, that is precisely what he meant. He did not mean we should elect sexual predators to powerful positions because they are as mean-spirited and hate-filled as Republicans are today.

He didn’t support unfettered access to guns.

He didn’t support corporations as people.

He didn’t support racism.

He didn’t support misogyny.

He didn’t support war.

He didn’t support fascism.

He did not support the economic terrorism of keeping people who can’t make bail or who can’t pay court costs for minor infractions of the law in jail for months or years.

Jesus wants nothing to do with today’s Republican party, I guarantee you.

Jesus is weeping for the poor in this nation. And he will judge the people who have harmed them.

Get ready to sit with the goats on Judgment Day if you support the likes of Roy Moore or if you believe Jesus would. If you call yourself Christian and you don’t know what that means, read Matthew 25, starting at verse 31.

If you really want to work toward a more just society, join the Poor People’s Campaign (www.poorpeoplescampaign.org).

 

Stop minimizing trauma if you haven’t experienced it

In Chapel Hill, NC, a statue known as Silent Sam sits on the campus of the University of North Carolina. Activists want it removed and people are holding vigil there until it is gone.

 

Twice this morning, I felt compelled to answer memes about how people who are triggered by events or even physical things in their paths should just quit whining.

One of the memes had a white woman crying with a caption about how we should feel sorry for her because of the statues.

My reply was that she was white, so it was highly unlikely it was from statues of people who owned and hideously abused her ancestors. Science has found the trauma from that is still encoded into the DNA of the descendants of slaves.

Most of these monuments were erected either during the Jim Crow or Civil Rights eras. They were put there to remind people that even though the Confederacy was gone, its rules still applied to black people and that those rules would be enforced — with force.

They were meant to instill fear in people of color. That was their purpose. Get it?

The woman in the meme — and the person who posted it — didn’t lose a great-uncle to lynching in the 1940s or ’50s. Her mother never suffered the indignity of being sprayed with a high-pressure fire hose to “cleanse” the streets of her and her friends.

She never had to attend a school named for the oppressors of her ancestors or listen to her parents talk about being beaten and jailed for trying to register to vote.

She has not had an unarmed uncle, a brother or a cousin shot by a cop who thought he might have smelled pot and then gotten away with it because the victim reached for his wallet and the cop “feared for my life.”

She never had to go to a segregated school where everything — from the building itself to the books and equipment — is inferior. And although this was addressed with desegregation in the 1960s, schools are very nearly as segregated now as they were in the Jim Crow era.

People of color are 16 times more likely to be shot and killed during a routine traffic stop.

The corporate-run prisons use fourth-grade reading test scores of students in these segregated schools to determine their future prison populations.

My reply ended with, “But OK, stay in your cozy little world where nobody ever tried to kill you because of the color of your skin. It must be very nice and warm and cozy there.”

The other meme was about how people can choose how to respond to triggers by choosing to be OK.

My response was, “Obviously you’re never been raped or lost a relative to lynching.”

I can’t choose to be OK when some trigger takes me back to the moment of my son’s death or to being molested as a child. That’s why these things are called triggers.

When you pull the trigger to a loaded gun, it goes off. Those traumas are the bullets. Get it?

You have no right to tell anyone else how to react to walking by a statue every day that glorifies the people who caused your trauma — the trauma that’s written in your DNA because this person who’s being glorified was among those who fought for his right to own you. And you walk on a street named for another of them and go to a school named for yet another …

You’ve never been followed by security guards when you walk into a store because you’re black so you must be a criminal.

You have no right to tell a person of color the cop isn’t going to hurt him after you’ve seen on video the murders of innocent people who look like you and then seen the victim vilified in the media because he might have been jaywalking or the cop thinks he might have smelled pot, and then watched the murderer walk free, even with video evidence against him or her.

In the NFL, murderers, abusers and other criminals get to play again, but a single man who knelt rather than stood for the anthem of the nation that still oppresses people who look like him is blackballed.

It is time for these monuments to be removed from the public square and placed in context in museums and cemeteries.

We need to start thinking about how to replace the monuments to hate with monuments to the courageous people who fought — and continue to fight — racism and oppression.

We need to build monuments to the people who were bought and sold and endured hideous torture before perishing as the property of others.

We need to build monuments to the abolitionists.

We need to build bridges of understanding so more of us understand the trauma others endure, even if that trauma doesn’t affect us. That’s called compassion and empathy. We should try that for a change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were 700 of us and 30 of them, but the anarchist youths who came to Sunday’s peace vigil in Asheville succeeded in disrupting the vigil with violent chants, air horns and drums.

 

We held a peace vigil in Asheville on Sunday and about 700 people came out to denounce racism and violence and to remember and honor the three who died in Charlottesville, Va.

As we were about to start, a rowdy group of about 30 young people came running onto the scene carrying banners. Most of them weren’t old enough to vote and most of them were dressed in black. All of them were white. Some covered their faces with bandannas.

When we started speaking, they started blowing air horns, drumming and chanting violent slogans.

They told us they were Antifa, short for anti-fascists. They’re also anarchists. They came to disrupt and they did.

Unfortunately, the amplifier we have used for rallies for eight years died on us, so we had to try to speak over their noise. They wanted their voices heard and they were intent on blocking anyone who disagreed with them.

So we sang. We sang “This Little Light of Mine,” “We Shall Not Be Moved” and “We Shall Overcome.”

And we chanted: “We will not condone violence,” as they chanted, “Black Lives Matter! Blue Lives Don’t,” and “Kill the cops!”

A number of us tried to talk to them one-on-one, and what they want is chaos. That was their answer. They want to “tear it down!” They want to kill all police. They want government gone because our current government is corrupt.

I allowed them to speak as long as they didn’t promote violence. One of them came up and grabbed the microphone, which was sitting on the ground. She thought she was going to take over the vigil. I offered her the “stage,” a 2-foot wall at the front of the space near the Vance Monument, and she spoke about how she thought all white allies were racist because they have no idea what black people want (she was white).

When I talked to one young man about my commitment to nonviolence, he called me a coward. I thanked him for talking to me and walked away.

They appropriated other people’s belongings (including my umbrella) to hold up their signs and then called us names when we wanted our things back because we were leaving. One young man accused me of assaulting the woman who had my umbrella when I took it from her. But it was fine for them to assault a news reporter who came to cover the vigil.

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a ruder, more inconsiderate group of people, or people who are so fully unaware of their own privilege.

We welcomed them when they arrived, we were happy to have them participate, but they didn’t come to participate, they came to disrupt.

Several people I knew who came for a peaceful demonstration left. Others tried to talk to them but came away with the impression that they only want their views to be heard and no one else’s thoughts mattered.

The group that pulled down a Confederate statue in Durham the next night also identified as Antifa. They at least were a diverse group and from what I hear, they weren’t chanting, “Kill the cops.” So, while I’m happy to see the glorification of a system that owned human beings shut down, I’m not happy to see the kind outburst I saw on Sunday from a group of people who are doing all they can to promote violence for their own glorification.

These young people — most of whom were not old enough to vote — think violence and chaos is the solution to the world’s problems, as though they have the experience or the wisdom to solve the complex problems we face as a nation and as a planet.

Our government is corrupt as hell. Our entire economic system is a nightmare for most of the population right now. But to tear it all down and say we should each fend for ourselves is not a solution.

But there was no reasoning with the members of this group. I tried to speak to several of them and not one wanted to hear what I had to say. They shouted me down, calling me cowardly, racist and homophobic.

Yes, I’m white. So are they. There was not a person of color among them. I’d be OK with that if they weren’t calling me and others these hateful things as though they were the only ones who could be allies against the system.

The Vance Monument, which towered over us, is a tribute to a slave-owning former governor. The ground on which we stood still carries the shame of having been a slave market. I suggested we could consecrate this ground and rededicate it to justice and equality. The crowd applauded, and the Antifa folks chanted, “Tear it down!” But they weren’t talking about just the monument, they were talking about everything — all of it.

We held our vigil in spite of them. We will do the same if they show up again. Only next time, we will have an amplifier, and we will spread our message of peace.

I was so disheartened by what happened on Sunday, as were my fellow organizers. I want everyone to have a seat at the table, but I can not ally myself with people whose only aim is the violent overthrow of everything, and the members of this group who I spoke to on Sunday advocated nothing more than violence.

Violence begets violence. Hate begets hate.

There is a better way.

Love trumps hate. Yeah, that was another one of our chants.

 

This can not be allowed to abide among us

Carrying cheap citronella torches and shouting racist slogans, white terrorists held a rally. Not surprisingly, it turned violent.

 

Last night in Charlottesville, Va., a mob of white supremacists, mostly young men, marched to protest the removal of a statue glorifying the Confederacy on the eve of a rally to celebrate white power and their fear of losing it.

Marchers surrounded a church where people were praying for unity, chanting “We will not be replaced,” “White lives matter,” Jews will not replace us,” and other slogans, as they marched.

The issue is that the city voted to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, which protesters say offends their delicate white sensibilities. The statue is still in the park, pending a court ruling on whether the city can remove it.

I understand that some white people are afraid of the future because they don’t consider people of color to be their equals and they don’t want to cede their white privilege to them.

Life was easier for them when the color of their skin gave them a pass they didn’t necessarily deserve. Now they have to deal with removal of the symbols of their former unquestioned power and it scares the hell out of them.

Change is never easy, especially when you believe you’re being suppressed simply because you no longer have the power to keep others down.

Their fear is real, but it is misguided. You don’t have to give up your rights to allow others to have theirs.

Perhaps they fear that minorities are becoming the majority and if they behave toward white people they way they themselves were treated, there will be trouble.

When you hold power and misuse it, I suppose you should fear what happens when you lose power.

But here’s the thing: Those people in the streets last night, carrying cheap Home Depot citronella torches and Nazi and KKK banners, chanting racist slogans and threatening the people inside that church — I have friends who were in that church, and they were scared — did so with the help of police, who didn’t disperse them immediately.

I have seen reports of just one arrest, and a friend who is there now warns us to stay home because both sides have provocateurs and both have weapons. It is not safe there.

What happened last night — and continues today — is a page right out of 1930s Germany, and the Republicans (and most of the Democrats) in Washington have yet to roundly condemn it.

Where the hell is the outrage?

Yes, all my progressive friends have called this out.

But those in power — the people with real power — have done little.

Had those protesters been carrying a Black Power banner, immigrants’s rights pickets or a Quran, the National Guard would have been mobilized and we would be cleaning the blood of the protesters off the streets of Charlottesville this morning.

I know this is true because I live close enough to Charlotte, NC, to have been there the day after police shot an unarmed black man, and the Guard was mobilized within hours to combat people who were protesting the death of an innocent man, not just the removal of a symbol of white power (the kind of power, by they way that allows for police to get away with gunning down unarmed black man after unarmed black man after unarmed black man).

Can you see the racism yet?

Too many white people go on about their business after these murders, relieved that it isn’t their sons being shot in cold blood because a cop says he smelled pot and feared for his life. And to rationalize their complacence, they vilify the dead black man. He was selling illegal cigarettes. He smelled of pot. He might have stolen a couple of cheap cigars. He was jaywalking.

What these people don’t see, sometimes even after it is pointed out to them, is that jaywalking is not a crime punishable by death, and not just that, but without so much as a single day in court.

The white mob in Charlottesville last night was a terrorist mob. If Muslims had done that, we certainly would call them terrorists. But when white people do it, they’re just voicing their discontent.

Violence erupted when the white marchers encountered counter-protesters, one of whom apparently sprayed the demonstrators with mace, and fights broke out. I don’t condone that. If we are to rise about the hate of the alt-right, we must not be violent. Violence is what we are protesting. If we commit it ourselves, we become that which we oppose.

But there were no reports of arrests.

Imagine no arrests if the protesters had been black.

Wouldn’t have happened.

Imagine the outrage if the protesters had been anything other than white. Can’t you just hear Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell calling for stern reactions and punishment to the greatest extent the law allows? Can’t you just imagine the Twitter storm emanating from the White House?

But the White House embraces the fascist movement. Staff members working for the Occupant are more than a little sympathetic.

Overt racism has been rude and inappropriate for the last several decades, but it is enjoying a return to power under this administration, which emboldens racists. They know they can get away with their hate when the people in power share their views.

Frankly, I think the divisions in the Democratic Party are promoted by these people so we can’t interfere with their rise to power, nor their hold on it.

We must work together to defeat this. We can not bicker over whose fault it is that this administration even exists.

We have to work as one. We have to rid ourselves of this hate.

This can not abide.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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