We can’t let all this become normal

At a time of year when we’re supposed to be celebrating the life of a baby born in a stable because no one would offer his parents shelter, we are ripping children from their parents’ arms and incarcerating them in for-profit prisons.


It’s been awhile since I posted anything, mostly because I just don’t know what to say. Outrage after outrage happens daily and there’s no sign of it letting up.

We’re all waiting for Robert Mueller to lay his cards on the table, tantalized by the morsels he’s tossed out so far.

Meanwhile, children are being held in for-profit prisons for the crime of having parents who want a better life for them. Some of them are dying.

Republican legislatures continue to try and suppress the vote even as we’re left reeling from the level of their election fraud — hundreds of thousands of votes suppressed in Georgia by a Republican candidate for governor, enough to steal the election; thousands of uncounted absentee ballots in Florida, enough for Republicans to steal the election; a couple thousand absentee ballots tampered with in North Carolina, probably enough to steal the Congressional election.

In Wisconsin, the Republican lame duck legislature ripped authority from the incoming Democratic governor, just as they did here in North Carolina two years ago.

And in this Christmas season, when Christians are celebrating the birth of one whose parents could find no room at the inn, we turn away desperate people whose homelands are made treacherous by our imperialistic policies. We call them criminals and rip their children from their arms.

And because of the administration’s Muslim ban, a woman from Yemen can’t get into the country to say goodbye to her dying 2-year-old son. This is cruelty at its ugliest.

Meanwhile, we allow this administration to destroy the planet with its policies that are bought and paid for by Big Oil. We allow the carnage caused by unfettered access to guns to continue. We allow huge chemical companies to poison our food and water with pesticides and herbicides.

The thug currently occupying the White House spews hate and threatens our First Amendment rights, appoints people to positions where they can pillage our heritage, and people who claim to be Christian cheer him on, vilifying the poor and the immigrant as though the poor and the stranger are the people who are ruining this nation.

This country was built on the backs of slaves, indentured servants and immigrants, but few of them attained any power because that was already reserved for white men, who feel free to abuse everyone else at will. Although we claim to be a land where anyone with drive can make it big, we reserve wealth and power for the few.

Just thinking about all we have to overcome to bring about justice can seem overwhelming, but if we don’t bring about justice for everyone, the 1 percent will be the only ones to prosper.

We can’t allow all these outrageous behaviors become the norm. We can’t accept this deep, deep immorality.

I still have hope that we can fight the 1 percent and win such humane policies as a living wage for everyone, safe housing, a good education, health care, universal suffrage, a justice system that works for everyone, a reduction in the military budget …

We can’t effect these changes through social media, although it’s a great tool for educating — or mis-educating — people, as Russian hackers know all too well.

We have to show up. We have to vote in such numbers that their cheating won’t be enough to keep them in power.

We have to take to the streets when they steal elections. We have to be ready to do nonviolent civil disobedience.

And we have to stop accepting their lies. That means we have to work to learn the truth, and we have to call out lies.

There are some people who won’t accept the truth. These people are known as the Republican “base,” and they account for no more than 30 percent of the voting public. They won’t be convinced they’re wrong by anything we say or do, so we have to work to educate the people who will listen, who will see the injustice of putting children in for-profit prisons, the insanity of unfettered access to guns and the immorality of keeping people in poverty.

I believe we can do this. That’s why I work to organize for the Poor People’s Campaign. I’ve been arrested numerous times trying to talk to legislators about health care, and I have no plans to stop trying to speak truth to power.

Please understand that you don’t have to be arrested to work toward justice. Those of us who don’t stand to lose out jobs can do that.

But you do have to show up. You have to vote in every election, and you have to educate yourself before stepping into the voting booth. You have to let your legislators know you’re watching through phone calls, letters and e-mails. If you can, you need to show up at rallies and other events. The more people they see in the streets, the more they know we mean what we’re saying and we have the support to get rid of lawmakers who vote for unjust laws and policies.

In this coming year, I refuse to let up. I refuse to be quiet. I refuse to stand down.

As one of my favorite freedom songs says, “I am not afraid, I am not afraid. I would die for liberation, for I know why I was made.”




So, we’re at “war” again

Really? You're outraged over a coffee cup design? Perhaps you need to rethink the meaning of "Christmas."

Really? You’re outraged over a coffee cup design? Perhaps you need to rethink the meaning of “Christmas.”

Once again, “Christians” are claiming they’re being attacked, this time because Starbucks has introduced plain red cups for the holiday season.

Let me say a few words to “Christians” who are disturbed by this.

First of all, Starbucks is a business that serves people of all faiths,” not just yours.

Second, if you are so self-centered that you think your particular brand of Christianity is the only faith that ought to be recognized, you are about as far away from the teachings of your “Savior” as it gets.

Jesus taught humility. He taught love and acceptance. And he didn’t celebrate Christmas. He did celebrate his birthday, I imagine (I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t), but it was at the time of harvest — most likely in September, not December.

The celebration of Jesus’ birth was moved to December to recruit Pagans into the new religion, since this is when most major religions celebrate the winter solstice, or the return of the light. The Christmas tree is another Pagan tradition. You don’t think Jesus actually bought an evergreen tree and decorated it do you?

As for the Christmas avarice, that’s a relatively new invention. Originally, there was a feast to celebrate the birth of the Christ. Then people started giving foods — nuts and fruits, mostly. Then came small gifts — children left their shoes or stockings out to be filled.

Then came the greed. By the mid-20th century, people were going into debt to buy crap recipients didn’t need and often couldn’t even use.

Now comes the hubris of demanding everyone recognize your holiday, whether they observe it or not. Jews, Muslims, Pagans, Buddhists, atheists — it doesn’t matter. Not only are they expected to wish us a merry “Christmas,” we are allowed to wish them the same, no matter what they observe.

And “Christians” seem to see nothing wrong in this. They have become so self-absorbed that no one else matters — the exact opposite of what Christ (whom they claim to worship) taught.

So, yes, I will wage war against “Christmas,” as long as it is a celebration of greed and consumerism.

I will, however, celebrate Christmas. I will spend money only on materials for handmade gifts. Sorry, kids, no Target gift cards this year. Perhaps I will give you art and craft supplies and offer to teach you to knit or crochet. Perhaps, if you have asked me for recipes, I will print our a bunch of mine and put them in a binder so you can start your own cookbook.

When my younger son was alive, he celebrated Christmas by making a huge dinner and inviting people who had nowhere else to go. And he was never, ever offended by someone who wished him happy holidays, because like me, he believed that phrase included every holiday between Halloween and Martin Luther King Day.

This “war on Christmas” was designed to distract people from real issues like disastrous social, economic and ecological policies. You can’t fight for the climate, for education, for health care, labor rights, voting rights, etc., if you’re obsessed with fighting a supposed war on a holiday.

You claim to worship Christ, then perhaps you should look to the red print in the New Testament for guidance on how to treat people and for the real reasons to be outraged, because you should be really furious about the things going on around you.

I am outraged by the war on the poor, and even more on the impoverishment of millions of people whose jobs were shipped overseas and then replaced by low-paying jobs that don’t provide enough to make ends meet, even though people are working harder.

I hate everything “Christmas” has come to stand for in our culture. I hate the must-have attitude. I detest the car commercials that suggest someone deserves a $25,000 gift for Christmas. I hate the way children start making lists in September because they’re taught greed is good.

I hereby declare a war on “Christmas,” so that I can celebrate Christmas.

I will not set foot in a mall between now and New Year’s. I will go to the yarn store and the art supply store. I will buy handmade from local people or make it myself.

I will not go further into debt.

I will drop off some handmade scarves and hats at Beloved House here in Asheville to help keep people warm instead of vilifying poor people and blaming them for their circumstances. After all, I don’t recall Jesus asking people if they made bad choices as teenagers before he helped them.

I will send cards to Christians wishing them a merry Christmas, but for those I know to celebrate other holidays, I will send cards wishing them happy holidays. I will not take offence at cards that wish me happy holidays.

I will attempt to be kind and generous in the spirit of the one whom I celebrate.

So, to all my Christian friends, I wish you a merry Christmas; to those of other faiths, I wish you the happiest of holidays.


One outraged citizen at a time

I’ve been feeling pretty hopeless lately, what with the successes of the right wing in strangling unions, reducing federal programs for people in need, cutting Pell Grants and other programs that help get people through college, sabotaging health reform …

They’re getting away with murder, even though most of the American people don’t want the things the right is doing. Most of us want Medicare left alone; we don’t want to see Social Security privatized, and we certainly don’t want to see Donald Trump as president.

This is a man who lives like a billionaire using other people’s money. He’s been broke for years, but his investors keep pumping money in so they won’t lose everything. He is everything those on the right say they hate about the government, but they seem to love him because he started an “investigation” into President Obama’s birth certificate.

The investigation that really needs to be going on is the one into the judicial election in Wisconsin, where several thousand votes suddenly appeared on the private laptop computer of a GOP operative who has worked for the candidate who will make decisions in favor of Gov. Scott Walker’s immoral cuts to workers rights.

Meanwhile, the government nearly shut down last week as the religious right in the house tried to insert language into the bill that would de-fund Planned Parenthood because they don’t want government money going to any organization that offers abortions, even though not one penny of government funding goes to abortion. Planned Parenthood has to be able to prove that, so where each dollar goes is carefully tracked. Planned Parenthood has never been accused of using government money for anything other than what it was intended for — well, except for people who have no proof of anything to support their false accusations.

Americans want to see the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share of taxes, but government doesn’t care and continues to slash health and mental health programs, jobs programs and infrastructure repair (which really does create jobs).

Yeah, there’s plenty to be upset about if you’re an average American.

What we need to do is take this outrage we all feel and turn it into action. One outraged citizen at a time, we can come together and fight the incursions on our rights. We can decide whether we want to be a nation in community or a land of greedy, I-got-mine-get-your-own bastards.

The March 7/14 issue of The Nation contained an exceprt from the Stéphane Hessel’s book, Indignez-vous!, that I found absolutely inspiring.

Hessel, 93, was a member of the French Resistance during World War II. While Nazi sympathizers ran the “official” government, Hessel and others were with the government-in-exile, battling seemingly insurmountable odds to defeat the Nazis.

Hessel believes our outrage must take a positive form because anger only fuels more anger.

“We must realize that violence turns its back on hope. We have to choose hope over violence—choose the hope of nonviolence. That is the path we must learn to follow. The oppressors no less than the oppressed have to negotiate to remove the oppression: that is what will eliminate terrorist violence. That is why we cannot let too much hate accumulate.”

My late son, Mike, believed the same thing. Days before he died, he asked me to “play the dead-kid card” in a positive way, to try and use the energy of my grief to create positive outcomes.

We can put a stop to this if we’re willing to work together in positive ways to educate voters, then get them to the polls. If we need to help people get photo IDs, then let’s do it. If we see irregularities, we need to report them.

We need to be LOUD, but we have to keep our message free of violent rhetoric.

We can do this, one energized, outraged citizen at a time.