To love each other, we must seek justice for everyone

Demonstrators in Minneapolis demand justice after the murder of George Floyd by four police officers who ignored his pleas for almost nine minutes.

I’ve seen a meme on Facebook this morning, posted by several friends, calling on us to love one another.

But as sweet as it seems, it just calls on us to agree to disagree, and that will never contribute a thing to the justice oppressed people are seeking.

“We’re one race—the human race. You want to support President Trump? You do you. It’s your choice. You want to support Biden? Fine… also your choice! You want to believe in God? Okay, believe in God. You want to believe in magical creatures that fly around & sprinkle fairy dust to make life better? Awesome… you do you.

“BUT stop thrusting your beliefs on others & not being able to deal with the fact that they don’t have the same exact mind-set as you. Having our own minds is what makes us all individual and beautiful.”

I have a problem with this — a big problem.

The entire thing (it has several more paragraphs) seems sweet, but it isn’t. It offers a pass to racists and bigots.

“Just do you …” means I’m not going to challenge your beliefs that people of color are stupid or lazy, that poor people don’t deserve more than slave wages or that they don’t need a decent place to live or healthy food and clean water, that immigrants belong in cages because they came here seeking safety and perhaps a better life for their children — the same thing every one of our ancestors came here seeking.

“Just do you …” means I’m OK with your bullying demonstrators and legislators by carrying a military-grade assault weapon around and demanding we reopen the economy in the midst of a deadly pandemic because you want a haircut.

“Just be you …” means you’re OK with cops killing unarmed black people and then looking to justify it by saying, “he had pot in his system,” or “he was arrested for breaking and entering six years ago …” None of these things is a capital crime, and everyone deserves a trial, not summary judgment and execution.

“Just be you …” means you’re OK with the 1 percent grabbing all the stimulus money and leaving small-business owners desperate enough to feel they have to open up or starve.

“Just be you …” means you’re privileged enough not to be experiencing these horrors.

We need to be talking about inequality.

We need to talk about how we love and support people who are forced to work low-wage jobs or starve in the middle of a pandemic.

We need to talk about those who are fine with children, stolen from their parents and held in filthy cages, are being lost in the system or dying from preventable causes.

We need to talk about the number of unarmed people of color shot and killed by cops, who then face few, if any, consequences.

We need to talk about people who are marching for their very lives are being doused with chemical weapons (tear gas is a chemical weapon that’s banned in war by multi-national treaties) and shot with rubber bullets.

We need to talk about poisoned water in Flint and other cities.

Yes, the meme is sweet and feel-good, and it’s privileged.

Those of us who have enough food and water, who can feel safe walking or jogging pretty much anywhere, can feel this way and feel good about calling to love everyone.

But to love everyone, we have to advocate for those who aren’t privileged. I don’t feel like pointing that out is “thrusting an opinion” on anyone. People are dying because of inequality. Love can only solve these problems if we who have privilege act to secure what we have for those who are oppressed.

My faith calls me to do that. What about yours?

Dear white people: Please listen to people of color

George Foster is just the latest in a very, very, very long line of people of color lynched by cops or former cops. As angry as I am about all this, I must listen to people who are directly impacted by racism before I start designing and demanding a solution. I can be an ally, but I can’t take the lead.

Ahmaud Arbery.

Breonna Taylor.

George Floyd.

Three more in a long, long, long list of casualties of systemic racism.

Today, I’ve seen a lot of white people lamenting that we need to do something about this, but then disagreeing with things people of color had to say.

This is not how we fight racism, white people. We are the problem here if we don’t listen to what people of color are saying.

An African-American friend posted that she won’t get in line to vote for Biden. She listed her reasons, and while I may not see things exactly as she did, I also never have experienced racism.

I’ve experienced sexism and misogyny, and I know how furious I get when a man tells me it’s not so bad. I can’t imagine telling someone who fears for her life every day that she can’t fight racism in the way she wants (short of violence).

Someone used the analogy of giving a demanding kid candy, even when you know he won’t do what he promised he’d do to earn it.

Neither party has been willing to stand up to racism the way it needs to be done. We need to see cops who shoot unarmed people convicted of murder and sent to prison.

The woman in Central Park who called police screaming because a black man wanted her to leash her dog was completely unaware of — and uncaring about — the likelihood that this man could be murdered because of her actions.

Can you just see the courtroom scene as the audio of the 911 call is played?

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, can’t you hear the utter fear in her voice?”

And the knights in blue armor rushing to defend this poor white delicate flower come off as heroes.

In Charlotte, Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed by an officer who claimed he feared for his life because he smelled pot — and the officer got away with murder.

In Cleveland, Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old child playing with a toy gun was shot and killed by an officer who claimed he thought it was a real gun. The child’s family got as $6 million settlement, but the officer walked free.

I’ve lost a son to injustice, although not like this, not so sudden and utterly shocking, and I can tell you, $6 million wouldn’t make it better.

So what do we, as white allies, as anti-racists, do?

Well, first we listen.

This is not within our realm of expertise.

We do not live in fear of being murdered by cops (or ex-cops) who detest our very existence.

Second, we listen some more.

We do this because trauma is best addressed by allowing people to speak about it.

Then, we ask what we can do to stand with and fight with oppressed people.

Finally, we do what we’re told we’re needed to do (short of violence).

Here are a few things I’ve learned we can do:

Speak out when you see racism and call it what it is.

Don’t call the police when you see a person of color in your way. In fact, unless it’s a matter of life and death, don’t call the police at all.

Be public about being anti-racist. Show up at demonstrations because the racism in our justice system will rear its head and hurt demonstrators more quickly if no white people are there.

Join and donate to organizations that fight racism. A year’s membership in the NAACP ( https://www.naacp.org/ ) is just $30. Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ, at https://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/ ) is actively fighting injustice in cities across the country. The Poor People’s Campaign (http://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org) works on issues of social justice on a state and national level.

Donate to funds that raise bail money for poor people who are awaiting trial in jail because they can’t come up with $500 bond for a nonviolent crime. These people, too many of whom are innocent of any crime, and none of whom have been convicted of anything, lose their jobs, their homes and their children.

Finally, if you are white, understand your privilege. What that means is that even if you’re dirt poor, you still have more power than a person of color in your same situation.

It means that if your ancestors were in this country before or during slavery, they benefited from the economic conditions created by enslaving human beings of color — whether or not they enslaved anyone — and all of us here now benefit.

It really means you have to check that privilege before you open your mouth to criticize how a person of color reacts to racism and oppression.

If we want to end racism, we must confess that we live in a racist society, that racism is pervasive, and that when someone of color tells us something is racist, they probably know more about it than we do, so stop defending it.

The least we can do is listen to each other

I offered Pete Buttigieg a photo of my late son to remind him that we need to fix health care now. He accepted the photo. I hope he looks at it now and again and understands the urgency.

The first thing I noticed about Mayor Pete Buttigieg is that he’s not much taller than I am and that I probably outweigh him, unless his bones are made of lead. I could whup him in a fair fight — if I weren’t committed to nonviolence.

He came into Greenleaf Christian Church on Sunday and took his seat in the pew cross the aisle from me. He struck me as humble. He smiled at the people around him and waited for the service to begin.

He looked a little overwhelmed as his Episcopalian sensibilities were rocked by the jubilation of worship at Greenleaf, a church led by a black pastor but with a diverse membership of people of all races, from all kinds of backgrounds, gay and straight, able-bodied and with disabilities, rich and poor. But as the singing continued, he smiled and eventually got to his feet and clapped and rocked with the rest of us.

Mayor Pete had been invited to speak and answer questions at the Poor People’s Campaign Moral Congress in June, but had been unable to attend. When Rev. Dr. William Barber II, co-leader of the Poor People’s Campaign, invited him to answer the same questions as the other candidates fielded, Mayor Pete, accepted.

I never got the sense that this was a dog and pony show, produced to make us believe Pete Buttigieg is the answer to all our prayers. He sat through a two-hour service, sang with us, listened to the sermon and seemed to enjoy it.

I never got the sense that Rev. Barber wanted to promote him or tear him down. The Poor People’s Campaign is political in that it works to change the public policies that impoverish people, but it does not endorse candidates.

Rev. Barber has no problem with Mayor Pete’s (or anyone else’s) sexuality. Instead, he explained why sexual preferences and/or identity aren’t important to him.

“I don’t ask an airline pilot if he’s gay,” Rev. Barber told Buttigieg. “I ask whether he can fly the plane. I don’t ask a surgeon whether he’s gay, I ask whether he can do the operation.”

I don’t agree with Mayor Pete on some of the issues, but he appears sincere in his desire to serve and to try and tackle some of our biggest problems.

My problem with his policies is that he’s advocating incrementalism in the minimum wage and in health care, and I’m done waiting.

People who make $7.25 an hour — less than half of what it actually takes to live in any county in the nation — deserve to have relief now, not in four years, because by the time a $15 an hour wage is phased in, living wage will be $20. It’s not a matter of waiting patiently to be able to feed your family, it’s a matter of economic justice. People need relief NOW. So, how about we redirect a small percentage of our bloated “defense” budget to subsidize small businesses and nonprofits for a couple of years instead of making the poor wait?

So, I’m sorry, Mayor, but we need better on wages.

We also need immediate action on health care. A single-payer system was advocated by Theodore Roosevelt more than a century ago. I think that’s long enough to wait.

My patience left me with the unnecessary death of my son in 2008, and it has not returned as the death toll continues to mount — a half million Americans dead since my son’s heart stopped beating.

I was privileged to talk to him about health care for a minute. I told him about my son as Mike’s picture appeared on the screen. I told him a half million people have died since I had to do something no parent should have to do — bury my child.

I wanted to ask him, “Isn’t that enough? If not, when will it be enough? After we lose another half million? “

Instead, I stuck to the script and gave him the facts on what’s happening here in North Carolina, whose legislators have steadfastly refused to expand access to health care to a half million of the poorest people in our state. Three of them die every day. I asked him what he plans to do to assure every human being on American soil has access to health care.

His answer was a public option that would allow the wealthiest among us to keep insurance companies in business and in control.

He did say that if someone shows up sick and isn’t insured, that person will be enrolled, retroactively, in the public plan.

“Everyone will have insurance,” he said.

My problem is that as long as these greedy, immoral thugs are allowed access to our health care system, they will continue to work to pervert it to serve their needs, not those of the people. We can’t allow them so much as a foot in the door.

Health insurance companies need to be banned. For-profit providers need to be banned. Health care should never, ever, ever be for-profit because profit-mongers will always find a way to deny people what they need to make a few more dollars of blood money.

At the end of the event, Mayor Pete came over to shake my hand and say how sorry he was about my son.

“You’ve already been graced with four more years of life than he got,” I said. “So, if you would like, if you think being reminded of how bad things are in our health care system will help you move us forward, you can take my photo of him with you. Look at it. His name was Michael and he was dearly loved.”

Mayor Pete reached out and took the photo, thanked me and then stood for a moment looking at it.

I believe he’s sincere, and he wants to, as he put it, “be useful.”

I want him to be more bold. I want him to stand up to the immorality of the 1 percent and say we need to address these issues now, and not some unspecified time down the road.

I am glad I met him. I found him intelligent and sincere in his desire to address these problems; I just want him to be more eager to get it done now.

When I put a photo of Mayor Pete on my Facebook feed yesterday, it blew up with people being disrespectful. That really bothered me. To me, when someone reaches out and wants to talk, I want to listen, even if we disagree.

There are people who don’t deserve my respect and one of them is squatting in the Oval Office right now; another leads the Senate, and still more of them are in our courts and legislatures. They spew hate and seem to enjoy the cruelty of racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation for profit. These people don’t deserve respect.

On the other hand, someone who is well intentioned, but with whom I disagree, I will treat with respect.

Perhaps being a reporter and having to treat people with whom I disagree vehemently with respect taught me to listen better, to understand that the only person who agrees with me on everything is me.

I still will not vote for someone who won’t support Medicare for all in the primary, and I’m not sure what I’ll do in he general election.

But I liked Mayor Pete personally. I believe his desire to turn things around is sincere. I also think he might come a little closer to my views with time and maturity.

I had one prayer going into yesterday’s event: that we might move him toward a vision of a better nation, a more just nation, and that he might drop his incremental approach to racial, social and economic justice.

Stop denying your privilege. It’s truly offensive.

Last night, somebody shocked me by telling me I was talking “nonsense” when I insisted out current health care “system” is broken, and that we have to move to single-payer.

“We need to preserve our system,” she said, and proceeded to try and shame me into supporting Joe Biden or another “moderate” who’s beholden to the profit-mongers currently in charge.

I was appalled that anyone knowing how I lost my son to this mess would say that to me.

I told her she was talking privilege.

She has the privilege of being covered by an insurance plan she can afford, co-pays, deductibles and all.

She has the privilege of not needing immediate help that’s just unavailable because she can’t afford it.

She has the privilege of not having watched someone she loves more than life itself draw his last breath because nobody would help him.

She has the privilege of being able to wait for politicians get off their asses and do something about the 35 million Americans who have no insurance, and the millions more who have insurance with a deductible so high they can’t afford to use it.

She claimed she has no such thing as privilege, that she just wants people to be able to get health care.

But she can’t see that tens of millions of Americans are going without while she calls me stupid for wanting them to get immediate access.

She probably thinks we can wait a few years for the minimum wage to hit $15, too. But if you’re making $7.25 an hour, you can’t wait for that raise. You need that money now. If you think otherwise, your privilege is showing.

If you hold the people at our borders in contempt because they walked a thousand miles with their children to escape drug gangs — gangs that are the direct result of US drug policy — your privilege is showing.

If you think our policy of incarcerating people — non-citizens or citizens — in private, for-profit prisons, not feeding them enough (I know about conditions in private prisons because my brother is in one) and then “contracting” their labor out to the highest bidder, your privilege is showing.

If you think the people in Flint and other cities with lethal contaminants in their water can wait for it to be fixed, your privilege is showing.

If you think it’s OK to keep somebody in jail for months as they await trial for a nonviolent misdemeanor like falling asleep on a park bench, causing them to lose their jobs, housing and even their kids, just because they can’t come up with $250 cash bond, your privilege is showing.

If these things and other atrocities perpetrated by the fascists in Washington are OK, it’s because you have a warm bed, clean water, access to health care, reliable transportation, enough food — in other words, privilege.

If you think poor people are just lazy and only want a handout, your privilege is showing big time.

And if you’re white and male and you don’t see any problem with the way things are, you’re particularly privileged.

When you have such privilege and you deny it, I find that deeply offensive. When you call me stupid because you can’t see your privilege — even when it’s pointed out to you, you are even more despicable to me.

When you have such great privilege and you deny it, you are willfully ignorant, and there are few greater sins in my book.

I know it’s hard to recognize our own privilege, but we must if we are to move toward a just society for everyone, not just for you.

It’s OK to feel overwhelmed. We all need relief.

You needed this. You’re welcome.

We’re all feeling it — that sense that something’s about to come crashing down.

I find myself checking my phone for headlines far more than I ever did before, wondering what fresh hell awaits as I do it.

I wake up with a sense of dread over what the fool in the White House is going to do today, and I go to sleep fearful of what he’ll do before the sun comes up again.

Day after day, the outrages pile up — the refusal to disavow racism, and in fact, a flaunting of it, from calling a political opponent Pocahontas because she claims some Native American heritage to saying “some good people” were among the fascists marching in Charlottesville, Va., and calling a black man a “son of a bitch” for taking a knee in protest of racism in America. He refers to countries where people of color are in the majority as “shitholes.”

Every day, some important regulation is rolled back, regulations that govern our treatment of the environment, the food supply, labor, students, women, immigrants and children. If it’s there to protect us from corporate greed, it’s a target.

And Mitch McConnell, a man I like to call Traitor Turtle, protects him at every turn, helping him to dismantle the government. His hypocrisy is breath-taking.

Still, a vocal minority supports them, probably because they love to hate. They love having permission to hate anyone who disagrees with them or doesn’t look like they do. They embrace ignorance, and the Republican party  McConnell leads celebrates their ignorance.

Remember, the Creature admitted to being a sexual predator before he was elected, and he shows no sign of having any respect for women as human beings. He appointed a sexual predator to the Supreme Court and mocked the man’s victim — and the Republicans in the Senate voted to approve this completely unqualified nominee.

I keep asking how much damage will be allowed before we finally put a stop to it.

But there are some bright spots. We’re finally beginning to see some rebellion against the Creature currently squatting in the White House, and it’s great fun to see Nancy Pelosi toying with this overgrown toddler. Her expertise in politics and her intellect stand in stark contrast to his immaturity and ignorance. He’s used to being the boss and of being able to fire or sue anyone who displeases him, and he can’t do that now. The best part of it is that she obviously doesn’t care what he thinks of her. She will not permit him to interrupt or talk over her. She calls him out on his lies. And she does all of it without raising her voice.

And then there’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who’s driving the patriarchs crazy with her refusal to bow to their idea of how a “lady” behaves in the House and her popular ideas for fixing our broken systems. She just might succeed in leading us away from oligarchy and fascism. I love her mocking of Mitch McConnell. Give her a few years’ experience in the House and I’ll support her for whatever higher office she wants.

In the 1960s, the top photo helped to change people’s minds about civil rights. Let’s hope the lower photo makes us wake up to the hate that lives among us now.

There’s the way the kids in MAGA hats taunting a Native American went viral with its condemnation of the kids, the school, the young man’s mother blaming Black Muslims for her son’s racist behavior. That kid’s nasty smirk is up all over social media, as are those of his classmates. His racism, his sense of white entitlement, have been roundly trashed.

But too many Native Americans still live in abject poverty as our government keeps trying to exploit their sacred lands for profit.

Too many African-American children go to schools that are ill-equipped and falling apart, and then are targets for cops with guns, who claim to be in fear for their lives even though the victim was unarmed — and then they get away with murder.

Too many LatinX people are afraid to live their lives — whether or not they are documented.

Too many people of every race and ethnicity are poor or living on the edge while our government refuses to raise minimum wage to a living wage. Instead, they cut taxes on the wealthy and impose more taxes on the poor, all while calling people who need help “lazy.”

Too many young people are forced into the military to fight our needless, profit-producing wars on foreign soil through the poverty draft — a promise of benefits after four or five tours of duty in combat zones. And when these young people finally come home, suffering from depression and PTSD, we ignore them.

And, still, too many people are dying from lack of access to health care.

Yes, I’m overwhelmed.

No, I won’t give up, and neither should you.

 

 

The time for resistance is now

A white male terrorist killed 11 people in a synagogue on Saturday, and the pretender in the White House responded by saying they should have hired an armed guard.

I don’t even know where to begin. The violence of the last week has hit me in the heart so hard, I can’t even begin to put the feelings washing over me into words.

Children in cages and the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice who was so obviously unqualified for the job, despite the objections of millions of women and men, and bombs being mailed to prominent Democrats, weren’t bad enough, now we’re killing black people and Jews just because they’re black people and Jews.

We have a pretender in the White House claiming that armed guards would have prevented the unspeakable tragedy in Pittsburgh, even though the white male terrorist shot three armed cops.

What’s worse is the thought that people should have to worship behind armed guards. That’s preferable to banning military-style assault weapons in this country because the NRA owns Congress.

It all goes back to who has the money and power in this country, and in the last four decades, that money has bought all the power.

This is NOT the last gasp of white supremacy. This is the ascendance of absolute power for upper class whites and the war economy.

The overwhelming majority of Americans want sensible gun control laws, but we can’t get them through Congress.

The majority of Americans want campaign finance reform, but we can’t get that done.

Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election, but the Republicans cheated and placed their pretender in the White House, and they’re cheating in this election by tampering with voting machines, suppressing the vote and intimidating voters.

We have 800 military bases around the world. No one else has anywhere near that number. We are wasting our resources on a war economy because that’s what the ultra-wealthy want to protect their resources. War means profit, and they don’t care how many lower-income people die for their profit.

We don’t matter to them. We are expendable.

And even though we have abolished the draft, lower-income people have no other recourse if they can’t afford college. It’s called the Poverty Draft when the only way to a better life for young men and women is to go into lifelong debt or risk their lives in overseas adventures set up by the Pentagon.

When our nation spends about two-third of its wealth on the war machine, it prevents us from modernizing our infrastructure — or even keeping up with its decay. It takes money from research into renewable energy and necessitates our war-for-oil policies. It takes money from education — which the ultra-wealthy see as welfare, anyway.

And it makes us a more violent nation, especially when our so-called leader refuses to roundly condemn violence and racism — when he is, in fact, a violent racist and misogynist.

And the fact that he gets away with his violent rhetoric, with putting children in cages, with insisting we need a wall to keep immigrants out because they are “other,” means we no longer can call ourselves a functioning Democracy.

When he was a candidate, he said he could shoot someone in the middle of Manhattan and get away with it, and he was right. The Republican Party has condoned his every evil move.

Violent racists have been emboldened by his insistence that “there are good people” among the Nazis chanting, “Jews will not replace us.”

Back when racism and violence were considered inappropriate behavior, we thought we’d never see the likes of Nazis again, but now we’re nurturing them.

When George W. Bush was in the White House, he suggested we might “reform” Social Security and his approval ratings tanked. But now, when Mitch McConnell (the man who broke the Senate) suggests it, there’s hardly a ripple.

With the lack of regulation in the markets, we’re being set up for the worst economic collapse in history. The Great Recession will look like a little dip in comparison.

And it’s all because avarice, racism and disregard for human life are the new normal.

I’m not sure voting will be the solution anymore. We have broken down the walls between the branches of our government. If the Liar in Chief wants to nullify the elections, he owns the Supreme Court now, so he can.

We have been warned repeatedly, but we have ignored it. Remember the derision Hillary Clinton faced when she talked about a vast right-wing conspiracy? They don’t care who knows about it now because their takeover is pretty much a done deal.

And now, white male terrorists aren’t seen as the ones at fault when they walk into a synagogue and declare open season on Jews. The fault lies with the victims because they didn’t choose to worship behind armed guards.

Well, I stand with my Jewish siblings today, and my black and brown siblings because we are all children of God.

When you attack them, you attack me. I will not be silent in the face of fascism.

 

 

 

 

 

Incivility as the new “normal.”

When you see abuses like this, speak up. We can’t allow these terrible things to become the norm.

You never know who has a gun.

That’s what I told the sheriff’s deputy I spoke to yesterday when I called 911 to report a woman who tailgated me for several miles, shaking her fist and taking photos of my license plate with her phone.

We started out at a stoplight, and when it was safe to go, she just sat there, so I beeped. She didn’t move, so I beeped again, and when she still didn’t move, I drove around her, thinking maybe she was broken down.

As soon as I pulled out, she laid on her horn and took off after me. Every turn I made, she followed. At one intersection, I put on my turn signal and she did the same, so I went straight instead. She followed, still shaking her fist and  taking photos of my car with her phone as she followed a little too closely.

When we had to stop for road construction, I’d had enough. I opened my car door and hollered, “I’m dialing 911 NOW!” I held my phone up so she could see me dial, just as traffic started to move. She turned left and took off like a bat out of hell.

The sheriff’s deputy I spoke to said I had done the right thing. If I’d been able to get her license plate, she’d have had to answer for her actions. But she was behind me and North Carolina only requires one plate, on the rear of the car.

She got away with her aggression, but maybe the fact that someone dialed 911 instead of being intimidated by her threats will make her think before doing it again.

I don’t usually call police on people  but when I feel the person really is about to become violent toward me or someone else, I’ll do it. And by that I don’t mean being black at a swimming pool, napping in one’s own dorm, delivering newspapers or otherwise making racists uncomfortable by existing too close to them for their comfort.

And it’s not just violence that’s increasing. More and more, people are just plain rude and deliberately mean. Just last week, I was visiting a friend in the hospital. The friend is a transgender woman. A woman. But one nurse, a middle-aged woman, kept referring to her as “he.” I politely corrected her the first time, as did my friend, who said, “It’s she. I am female.”

Not five minutes later, the nurse did it again.

“It’s she,” I said, a little more firmly than the first time. The nurse said she was sorry.

Within a minute or two, she did it again. This time I was firmer.

“The proper pronoun here is she. You need to use it, this time and every time.”

It was not a mistake on her part. When you do it three times in five minutes, what it says is, “I don’t get trans because I’m not, so you will conform to MY reality and if you don’t like it, I really don’t care.”

Had she done it again, I would have gotten up and gone to Human Resources to report her. My friend has enough problems battling serious health issues with no health insurance, without being disrespected by her caregiver.

People see the rude, uncivilized boor in the White House and assume it’s OK for them to go with their basest instincts. It’s fine to just say whatever mean thing is on your mind. It’s OK to hate people who aren’t like you. It’s OK to threaten violence — even commit violent acts — if you feel like someone has dissed you, even though you’re free to dis anyone else because, well, you make America great again by doing that.

These behaviors must never be seen as normal, even when they happen routinely. We need to call them out each and every time.

So, with that said, what about interrupting the dining experiences of Mitch McConnell and others who are slashing this nation’s safety net, robbing Americans of their rights to vote and to control their own bodies, whose policies push people into poverty and then punish them for being poor? Is that too rude?

I say it’s not the same thing as threatening violence on someone who just drove around you when you were taking pleasure on holding them up at the light.

I say it’s not the same thing as disregarding someone’s humanity and making it conform to what you think it should be.

The abject cruelty of Republicans at this point in history must be confronted, and its perpetrators made to feel uncomfortable.

They have stripped millions of people of their access to health care. In my book, that’s murder.

They’ve done nothing to stop ICE from stealing children from their parents at the border and then losing them in the foster care system. Stories of the abuse come to light every day — from the toddler who apparently was never bathed in more than two months of custody, to children in cages and the 1-year-old forced to appear in court as a defendant without representation. How does one defend oneself in court when one is too young to talk?

We have to challenge these abuses every time we see them. We have to stand up, even when it’s just one nurse disrespecting one patient.

This is something each one of us can do.

If you’re feeling paralyzed by the enormity of fascism taking over, remember that you can speak up about the smaller, everyday indignities these people are foisting upon us.

The creature currently squatting in the White House has emboldened the haters — the racists, homophobes, misogynists, gun-toting “Christians” and other small minds, the liars, the haters of every stripe. They think they’ve won, and if we don’t fight back at every turn, they will be victorious.

These are dark days, but our country has been through times like these, although not with someone so incompetent, so cruel, so inept, so dishonest, so small-minded in the White House. That part is unprecedented.

But we abolished slavery, we outlawed Jim Crow, we gave women the vote, we freed the captives from Japanese internment camps.

We can do this, but we all have to work on it, every moment, every day, every time we see it happening.

If you see a white person harassing a person of color, step up and defend the person of color. If a white person calls the police on a person of color for walking, napping, swimming, eating or otherwise just living, speak up.

This meanness must be challenged. Every. Damn. Time.

 

Now is not the time to panic

We have much work to do. Let’s get to it.

Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring, and on hearing the news, most of the people I know and respect felt utter panic.

I felt it too, but then I calmed down a minute and thought about this.

We have had a court with a 5-4 conservative majority for years, even before the creature currently squatting in the White House soiled the linen there.

Justice Kennedy has been a pretty reliable conservative vote. Sure, he saved us a couple of times, but Justice Roberts was the one who saved the Affordable Care Act, not Justice Kennedy.

It was Kennedy who handed the nation to the oligarchs with his Citizens United vote. It was Kennedy who handed the gutting of the Voting Rights Act to the institutional racists, who then proceeded to dismantle voting rights with utter impunity.

Elections have consequences. And to all those who wadded up their panties and stayed home on Election Day because the Democratic Party overruled their choice and instead put up a highly qualified, albeit flawed, candidate, this is the consequence — a “leader” who tears children from their parents and puts them in cages in detention centers and makes them go to immigration court alone and unrepresented, a man who brags about his violent tendencies and his sexual adventures, a liar, a racist and a sociopath.

We have this man who has appointed the least appropriate person to every job he could. Every department is headed by a person who wants to dismantle it.

We have a creature who should be impeached for his lies and his profiteering, and a Congress that just wants to take advantage of the chaos to make a profit before retiring.

But now is not the time for panic.

Panic is exactly what the enemy wants to instill in us.

Now is the time to stand up and do the work.

Register people to vote. Knock on doors and make phone calls to educate people. Take to the streets to protest.

We have been in this dark place before. Read the Dred Scott Decision. Read up on the Civil War and its real causes (Hint: It was only about states’ rights insomuch as it meant states had the right to enslave human beings). Read up on how the Chinese were excluded from participation in society in the 19th Century. Look at the numbers of people who were lynched during Jim Crow. Read up on how German-Americans were treated during World War I, and the kind of pressure exerted by Woodrow Wilson to get us into that war. Look at how Japanese-Americans were herded into internment camps during World War II, just because the land of their ancestors was now our enemy. The Muslim ban is nothing new.

This is America, a nation that tends to drift toward its worst nature. We committed genocide to capture this land and used enslaved people to build it. This is our legacy.

But we have shown that we can rise about our worst nature. We have stood up as a people and cried, “No more!” Time and again, we have shed blood to put this country on the right path, and it appears it is time to do so again.

During the 1960s, we committed atrocities in Vietnam and in our own country. We sent the National Guard onto college campuses, and they killed innocent college students at Kent State in Ohio. I still remember the images, the horror I felt that our government would kill its own youth to hang onto an unjust and unpopular war. We beat protesters of that war senseless in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention.

We have been here before. We likely will be here again.

Now is the time to work.

I have made a commitment to nonviolence and I will stand by that commitment. Nonviolence is what got us civil rights in the 1950s and 60s. Nonviolent protest ended the Vietnam War. Nonviolence won India’s independence from Great Britain.

Nonviolence isn’t inaction, it’s action that rises above our basest instincts.

We all need to stand up and register voters, take to the streets, speak our truth to power.

We need to take back the narrative about what’s moral and what isn’t.

Denying health care to millions of people isn’t moral.

Sabotaging public education isn’t moral.

Denying a living wage to full-time workers isn’t moral.

Denying the vote to millions of people isn’t moral.

Handing tax breaks to billionaires while allowing children to go to bed hungry isn’t moral.

The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice, as Martin Luther King said.

I am going to keep doing the work. I’ll get arrested again because the immoral people in power right now don’t want to hear my truth. I may wind up with some real jail time, but I will not stand down.

Democrats in Congress need to stand up RIGHT NOW and play hardball. We all do.

So, instead of allowing panic to consume us, we need to strengthen our resolve and do the work. It’s our only hope.

 

Whom do you serve?

Was it OK for the owner of the Red Hen in Virginia to refuse service to Sarah Huckabee Sanders? While a part of me cheered, I have to say, no, it was more like stooping to her level.

 

I was away for a week, camping at Acadia National Park in Maine with no phone service or Internet. It was a much needed break from social justice work and I come back ready to fight again.

Probably the biggest story while I was away was that the owner of the Red Hen, a restaurant in Virginia, asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave.

So, while the right-wing “Christians” celebrated that the Supreme Court decided in favor of a gay-hating cake baker, they cried foul over the left refusing service to someone who supports all the hate-filled policies of this administration.

As usual, the hypocrisy is breathtaking.

It’s just fine for a “Christian” to refuse to serve two men who are committing to share their lives, but we who believe Jesus wants us to heal the sick, feed the hungry and welcome the stranger have to serve a hate-peddling public official.

Yes, she probably should have been served with love, which is what we are told to do. We are held to a higher standard.

But we are human. I cheered a little inside when I saw the story. Sanders doesn’t even begin to see the irony in the situation. That is born of selfishness. It’s only about her and what she wants:

“I want to eat here. I want what’s mine and as much of what’s yours as I can grab, especially if I see you as ‘less than’ in some way.

“I am superior because I am in this country already.

“I am superior because I am white.

“I am superior because I am rich.

“My god is superior to yours and you have to see my god the way I do because I have more power than you.

“I can mistreat anyone for any reason because my god says I can.

“My god says my privilege comes from moral superiority and that the poor are lazy and that gays are going to burn in hell and immigrants deserve to lose their children.

“And I am not going to share my privilege with anyone.”

My God tells me to share what I have, to feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked, embrace the stranger.

This is a woman who defends taking children from their parents, who defends banning Muslims from this country, who defends suppressing the vote along racial lines, who defends taking access to health care away from millions of Americans, tens of thousands of whom will die. This is a woman who defends a racist, misogynistic, toxic sociopath — Every. Damn. Day.

We could feed every hungry child, pay every person who works full time a living wage, make sure every human being has access to health care, fully fund every school, allow every adult access to the vote, all while spending less on war and promoting peace.

But we choose immorality as a public policy, and when people who disagree with these immoral policies stand up and do what little they can do, we call them exclusionary, all while cheering for a ban on Muslims, for ripping children from their parents, for suppression of the vote and a Supreme Court decision allowing a homophobe to use religion as a cloak to peddle hate, we are not Christian as a nation. We are not moral.

Those of us who are frustrated beyond words at the immoral direction of this nation and its devastating policies, we feel helpless. We feel as though we can’t shout loudly enough to drown out the hate Americans are cheering for right now.

As Rev. Dr. William Barber says, “We Christians are called on to love everybody.”

It’s that simple.

It’s also incredibly difficult. How can I love and serve a woman who stands against everything I believe? How can I be kind to someone who thinks the way my son died is OK?

I am not perfect. I am striving to live out my ideals — those ideals preached by Jesus, whom I follow.

I am exhausted, but I am not going to give up. If Sarah Huckabee Sanders is hungry, I am called to feed her, like it or not. I am called to love her, and perhaps my example will touch her.

Jesus didn’t say I can’t talk to her about the error of her ways and try to reach her with that love. In fact, he tells me that’s the only way.

I have to agree with Rev. Barber: “Standing down is not an option … I would rather die having tried and see nothing change than to live, not try, and see nothing change.”

That’s why I’m back. That’s why I fight. That’s why I’ll never stop fighting.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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