I don’t even know where to begin. Fifty people dead at the hands of a religious zealot in Florida and everyone wondering how this could happen.
I do have some thoughts on how this came about, and what we might do as people of conscience.
First of all, understand that Muslims are not the only religious zealots. So-called Christian zealots who denigrate LGBT people are as much at fault as Muslim zealots.
Zealots of any stripe are dangerous. Timothy McVeigh was a terrorist and a “Christian.”
So this man was a zealot who happened to be Muslim. It is not a reason to hate all Muslims, and be assured that the majority of Muslims are not happy with this man, who, by the way, I refuse to name. He doesn’t deserve the publicity.
Next, every one of us who supports restrictions of any kind on LGBT people can share in the blame for this. Did you vote for Amendment One in North Carolina? That was a vote to deny LGBT people equal rights under the law. And if your religion is the reason you voted for Amendment One, you need to go back and read about the separation of Church and State in the Constitution.
Do you support the bathroom restrictions in North Carolina’s Hate Bill 2? Then you support singling out people who pose no threat. You also support further marginalization of an already marginalized group of people and you target them for harm by making them “less than” or “other.”
These kind of actions feed the hate of zealots, makes them feel more comfortable in their hate, and in their mind, justifies it.
My late sister was married to the love of her life, who also happened to be a woman. Her marriage in 2007 was one of the happiest days of MY life because it allowed her the protections that come with legal marriage. She deserved that as much as any straight person I know.
Next, let’s talk about support of the NRA and its extremist agenda of assuring unfettered access to guns for everyone.
Not everyone should have a gun. Mandatory background checks and regulations specifying who can not have a gun are a necessity if we are going to keep people safe.
The man who killed 50 people and injured 53 more in Orlando was on the no-fly list because of suspected terrorist leanings, but he was able to buy a gun capable of that carnage. A friend on Facebook asked why this guy wasn’t on the FBI’s radar, but he was; he was just able to buy that gun because the NRA has bribed so many members of Congress that we can’t even have a law denying a gun to suspected terrorists.
And please don’t give me crap about Second Amendment rights because you’re probably one of those people who voted to restrict the rights of LGBT people to marry, and that’s a violation of their First Amendment rights. You can’t worship the Constitution in pieces — you either want the rights it conveys or you don’t.
You also need to realize that the Second Amendment conveyed the rights of gun ownership within “a well regulated militia,” not unfettered access to every weapon ever devised.
Perhaps we need to start listening to reason. Perhaps we need to start showing respect for each other and listening to real concerns on both sides.
I don’t want to take everyone’s guns away. I choose not to own one, but if you are a law-abiding citizen who wants to hunt or who wants to own a gun for personal protection, I don’t have a problem with that.
I do, however, have a problem with semi-automatic weapons.
I do have a problem with people being able to buy a gun without a background check.
I do have a problem with a suspected religious zealot being able to walk in and get a gun even though he is considered too dangerous to get on an airplane.
We have become a circus in this country. A crazed, insane, zealot-run circus. We refuse to talk to each other and what’s worse, we refuse to listen to each other.
These 50 people are dead because we can’t get Congress to pass a law denying guns to suspected terrorists.
These people are dead because we allow the vilification of innocent LGBT people without challenge under the guise of “religious freedom.”
Well, your freedom of religion should not restrict the rights of others. That’s what freedom of religion means. You worship in your way and you don’t get to impose your beliefs on me. You don’t get to have a theocracy that aligns with your beliefs.
It’s time to start having a real and reasoned conversation in this country, about guns and about religion.
Let’s lock out the NRA and other powerful, moneyed hate groups and start to talk to each other, and more importantly, to listen, with respect, to people’s concerns.
This morning it looks as though hate has won in North Carolina as the General Assembly met in special session to pass a bill that prevents local governments from banning discrimination against LGBT people.
The hate started flowing when Charlotte passed an ordinance allowing people to use the rest room of the gender with which they identify. Apparently some people worry that the person in the stall next to them either has or doesn’t have a penis. Somehow, they seem to think having someone whose gender isn’t what’s on their birth certificate in the next stall diminishes their bathroom experience.
And, in that vein, are we now going to have people at the doors of rest rooms across the state checking people’s birth certificates? “Hmmm, you look a little masculine to me. Let me see your proof of gender.”
Immediately after Charlotte passed its nondiscrimination ordinance, Gov. Pat McCrory decided to call the legislature into special session to overrule the ordinance. But the state legislature took it another step, making discrimination illegal on the basis of “race, religion, color, national origin or biological sex,” deliberately leaving out sexual orientation and gender identity and making it legal for businesses and others to discriminate against LGBT people.
In short, House Bill 2 is the most sweeping anti-LGBT law in the country.
Defenders of this abominable law claim it will protect people from sexual predators, but people intent on preying on others will still do so. What this law actually does is make it easier to flaunt prejudice against people who are “other.”
People who are transgender are not any more likely to be predators than anyone else. The middle-aged man in the men’s room is just as likely to prey on your son as the woman who identifies as a man — possibly more so.
In fact, the woman who identifies as male is probably more likely to keep to himself, fearing people’s reactions. That’s because he’s more likely than most other people to be harmed just because of who he is. (And yes, if someone identifies as female, it’s likely that person’s pronoun is “she,” whether you like it or not. Let’s say your name is Deborah, and you pronounce it the Biblical way — de-BOR-uh, but someone claims you can’t pronounce it that way and repeatedly, deliberately mispronounces it. Disrespectful, isn’t it? People who identify with the opposite gender deserve the respect of being addressed in their preferred way.)
The new law nullified nondiscrimination ordinances in 17 municipalities, according to Equality NC, an LGBT advocacy group.
I looked at the Facebook feeds of a few of my friends this morning and my heart broke at the hurt they’re feeling right now. I can’t imagine how defeated and broken they must feel today.
Imagine if something about you, something beyond your control, became OK to hate, OK to discriminate against. What’s next? Will it become OK to hurt people we consider “other?”
Eleven Democrats voted for the bill — the rest of the Democratic caucus walked out in disgust and held a news conference to talk about their stand against hate.
I will fight this law any way I can. I might not be able to make a huge difference, but I will boycott any business that discriminates against LGBT people. I will let business owners know why I won’t patronize them anymore, and I will spread the word.
It’s been about 10 years since an anti-gay group took out a double-page ad in the Citizen-Times, signed by hundreds of people and businesses. I still have the ad and I refer to it before doing business with someone. Anyone who signed that ad lost my business permanently. I don’t have a lot of money, but I will not let a penny of it go to a bigot if I can help it.
I will join any protest of this law I can because I am compelled to speak out against hate and bigotry.
I’m not alone in my disgust — national organizations are looking at boycotting North Carolina. The NCAA, which has playoff games scheduled in the state in the next two years has said it is monitoring the situation here. American Airlines, Wells Fargo, Apple and Microsoft were among corporations that issued a statement against House Bill 2.
This will not be good for the state’s economy; hate rarely is.
“Corporate leaders are speaking out against bills that could allow individuals and businesses to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and other minorities – versions of which are actively being considered in states across the country,” the statement said. “This proposed legislation is bad for business.” (Read more here:)
Perhaps this latest national embarrassment will motivate voters to get rid of these hatemongers and elect people who really do care about all of the people of North Carolina.
I met Keshia Thomas in the heat of summer, walking along roads in eastern North Carolina with America’s Journey for Justice, a march from Selma, Ala., to Washington, DC. I was impressed immediately with her kindness and wit, and not at all surprised to learn about her “15 minutes” of fame.
Keshia was just 18 when she put her life on the line to protect a white supremacist who was being beaten by an angry mob.
She covered this man with her own body to protect him from the mob, even though she knew he hated her because of the color of her skin.
A human life is a human life, she says, and no one should have to suffer violence.
Today, Keshia travels the country and abroad, speaking about kindness and respect, doing what she can to help bring about peace and justice.
“I’ve always believed in justice,” she says. “I’ve always just wanted to be of service. Anybody can do it; you don’t need a PhD, just a desire to be of service in any way you can, large or small, every day. It’s the foundation of everything.”
In Baltimore, during the unrest after Freddie Gray died in police custody, she took a young man by the hand and told him not to throw the rock he was holding. She taught him how to protest peacefully and encouraged him to shake hands with the police.
“I left behind a young man who will work for justice in the right way, a young man who has no police record to hinder him,” she says.
So it came as no surprise when we were talking politics that she’s supporting Bernie Sanders in this presidential election.
“Bernie’s one of us,” she says. “When he says, ‘not me but us,’ I believe he means it. This isn’t about Bernie’s ego, this is about what we can all do together to bring about change.”
When Sanders was asked about fracking, his simple answer was, “No.” He knew the damage fracking can cause because he consulted scientists.
“He didn’t consult the DNC to ask about Democratic policy, he talked to scientists and made up his own mind.”
Of course, a vote for president is just one piece of every American’s responsibility, Keshia says.
“It’s about Congress and it’s especially about your vote in local elections,” she says. “The way the Tea Party gained power was to start in local elections — school boards, town councils — and work their way up. That’s what we have to do now if we want to see things change.”
In short, Keshia works for the peace and justice she wants to see in the world. Sometimes that means helping one person in a small way; sometimes it means supporting a candidate in whom she sees her own ideals.
Change can be large or small, and often big change comes in small increments. You can change one person’s view on one issue, and if you do that one day, and again the next and the next and the next, that kindness and respect will spread like ripples on a pond from a single pebble dropped into the water.
Another person on the Journey for Justice, the late Middle Passage, was a perfect example of spreading love one person at a time. M.P. often chest-bumped or hugged police officers, knowing their positive encounter with him might change the way they see black men.
Donald Trump’s nasty rhetoric is contagious, but so is kindness. We can combat vitriol with small acts of kindness, and with a vote for a kind and sensible man.
Instead of walking away from Trump’s mean-spiritedness, we can find something in common with everyone we encounter and build on that. In fact, that might be the only way we will bring about positive change.
The first time I heard those words, I was disturbed.
Was it a call for armed revolution? Was it an invitation to overthrow the current order?
As it turns out, it is neither.
It is a call to treat all human beings with respect.
As it is, people in this country live without hope of things ever getting better. Unless you have experienced hopelessness, you can not understand what it can do to a person.
Let’s say you live in a poor neighborhood where there are few, if any jobs. You’re told if you stay in school things will get better, but you stay in school and you’re still treated as though your life doesn’t matter.
People with authority and power treat you as though you’re worthless. They can stop and frisk you for no reason and shoot to kill if you don’t comply.
It’s completely arbitrary. You can walk through the neighborhood one day and get stopped and humiliated the next.
When you walk into a store, people assume you’re there to steal and you get followed as you browse.
These indignities add up, one by one, day after day.
Michael Brown stayed in school and was about to start college, but that didn’t give him immunity from being shot six times by a white police officer.
The prosecutor said the police officer saw that Michael Brown matched the description that had been sent out as someone who had robbed a convenience store.
First of all, it has been established already that the officer did not have the description, and that, although there was an altercation at the store, the film appears to show Michael Brown putting money on the counter.
Second, if Michael Brown did steal cigars, that should not mean he gets the death penalty.
This is what I mean about living without hope that things will ever get better.
This child’s body lay on the street for four and a half hours. Is it any wonder that residents of Ferguson believe the police were fixing “evidence” while he lay there?
How can anyone be at peace when they live with the disrespect these human beings face every day?
Meanwhile, the people with power have to protect what they have. They have to make it appear that Michael Brown deserved to die and that the officer was completely justified in using deadly force.
How can they have any sense of peace when they’re living in fear of an uprising because of the injustices they perpetrate?
When I say, “No justice, no peace,” I mean that we can’t have peace on either side as long as part of the population lives with intimidation and fear, underpaid, disrespected and with no hope of anything changing.
Had Darryl Wilson been indicted and a trial held, even if he was exonerated, at least there would have been an open debate about what happened. We might not have been happy with the results, but there would have been at least a modicum of respect for Michael Brown and his family.
Instead, he will walk away, his actions condoned. That sends a powerful message to people whose lives are affected every day by indignities and disrespect. When you remove hope from someone’s life, they have nothing to lose by lashing out in anger. Their neighborhood feels like a prison, so what do what have to lose by rioting and lighting fires?
We can’t live in peace if a minority of the population spends all its time trying to protect itself and its power and wealth by denying the rights of others to live a decent life.
Things won’t get better until we truly understand the meaning of “No justice, no peace” as a call to respect others and not as a call to rebellion and violence.
Matt and I disagree on a lot of political things, as do his producer, Agnes Cheek, and I.
But it’s OK. Matt understands my mission to get access to health care for all Americans, and he even agrees with me on some points.
The thing is, I treat Matt and Aggie with respect and they do the same for me. We listen to each other’s point of view and don’t talk over each other. We don’t raise our voices. It’s all about constructive conversation.
He posted on Facebook that I was there, and within a few minutes, two people posted questions for me, which I saw when I got home.
One was a woman who wanted to know why New York City is so intent on limiting people’s access to soda.
I explained that my specialty is access to health care, and although I think sugary sodas are bad for people, I won’t try to answer for the government of New York City.
The other was someone who asked me to name one government program that works.
So, I explained that Medicare spends 97 percent of what it takes in on direct services, and the people I know who use it are pretty glad it’s there.
That wasn’t good for him because Medicare is about to go broke.
So I explained that we need to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, since no money is trickling down anyway, and close up corporate tax loopholes so we can shore up Medicare.
That wasn’t good enough for him either because he wanted me to name anything the government does that works.
So I did: Child labor laws, water systems, roads, employee safety regulations, Social Security, schools (until we began de-funding them), federal drug safety laws, police, fire departments, the military, the WIC program, libraries …
They’re no good, he said. They’re all broke.
Well, I said, that’s why we need to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and close corporate loopholes.
No. Taxes are bad. Oh, and the government’s broke. We need to pay down the deficit.
I explained that he seemed to be talking in circles and spewing talking points rather than having a sincere conversation and that I would disengage.
He sent me another message that all he wanted was the answer to his question.
“I gave you several answers,” I wrote.
That’s the problem with people who insist on using talking points; they can’t stop. They just go from one to the next and back again. Did this man even know what WIC is? It’s one of the most efficient and effective programs out there, offering nutrition education and food to low-income pregnant women, and it stays with them after their babies are born.
And why didn’t he answer to child labor laws? Are they bad too? How about the military and cops and firefighters?
There was no thought in his responses. Nothing the government does is good, we’re broke and need to pay down the deficit and we can’t raise taxes on the “job creators.”
If he wants to continue the conversation the way it was going, he can just go back and read it again and again. I’m too dizzy to stay engaged with him.