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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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